Reminder: BathHouse Reading, Tue, Jan 18, 6:00 p.m. – Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten

BathHouse Reading Series 2011

Don’t miss the first BathHouse reading of Winter semester!  This reading will feature Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten and takes place Tuesday, January 18, at 6:00 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium.

Visit the BathHouse page on the Creative Writing web site for more information about this and all other BathHouse readings.

Winter 2011 BathHouse Readings

BathHouse Reading Series 

Get ready for BathHouse readings this Winter semester!  The Bathhouse Reading Series brings in a number of writers and artists—both innovative established writers and exciting up-and-comers—who perform readings of their work at EMU. See video of past readings and performances here. For more information on these readings, contact the EMU English Department at 734.487.4220.

All events are free and open to the public.

  • January 18, 6:00 p.m., Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten, Student Center Auditorium
  • February 17, 5:30 p.m., Cathy Park Hong, Student Center Auditorium
  • March 22, 6:30 p.m., Brenda Iijima, Dreamland Theater

Eric LorbererEric Lorberer will give a multimedia presentation on poetry and the public space, specifically John Ashbery’s poem strung across a bridge in Minneapolis. Commissioned by renowned sculptor Siah Armajani, this untitled poem works with an arresting visual design to create a total piece of art that dramatically inserts poetry into the public sphere. Eric holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and has published poems in numerous journals including American Poetry ReviewBloomsbury ReviewColorado Review, ConduitDenver QuarterlyExquisite Corpse, and Volt. He lives in Minneapolis, where he edits the award-winning quarterly Rain Taxi Review of Books and directs the annual Twin Cities Book Festival, which takes place in the shadow of Ashbery Bridge.

Barrett WattenBarrett Watten’s presentation, “The Author as Site,” includes visual and verbal elements that play in the creative and critical spheres. Barrett is a “language-centered” poet and critic of modern cultures. His most recent study, The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics (Wesleyan University Press 2003), received the René Wellek Prize in 2004. His creative work has taken the form of experiments in and between genres. They include the early collected poems, Frame: 1971–1990 (Sun & Moon, 1997), Bad History (Atelos, 1998), and Progress/Under Erasure, (Green Integer, 2004). He has collaborated on two multi-authored experimental works, Leningrad: American Writers in the Soviet Union (Mercury House, 1992) and The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco, 1975–80, a ten-volume serial published between 2006-2010. With Carrie Noland, he edited Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement (Palgrave, 2009; paperback, 2011). Plasma/Parallèles/“X” appeared in French translation and Italian translations in 2007. Guide to Poetics Journal and Poetics Journal Digital Archive is forthcoming from Wesleyan Press in 2011. He was a 2005 Fulbright Scholar at Universität Tübingen and is a Professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Cathy Park HongCathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo’um (Hanging Press, 2002) and Dance Dance Revolution (WW Norton, 2007), which was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Hong is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a Village Voice Fellowship for Minority Reporters. Her poems have been published in A Public Space, Poetry, Paris Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, Harvard Review, Boston Review, The Nation, and American Letters & Commentary, among other journals. She has reported for the Village Voice, The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, and Salon. She serves as a poetry editor for jubilat magazine and is an Assistant Professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Brenda IijimaBrenda Iijima was born in the hardscrabble town of North Adams, Mass. She is the author of Around Sea (O Books, 2004), Animate, Inanimate Aims (Litmus Press, 2007), Subsistence Equipment (Faux Press, 2008), Revv. You’ll-ution (Displaced Press, 2009) and If Not Metamorphic (Ahsahta Press, 2010) as well as numerous chapbooks and artist books. She edited the collection Eco Language Reader (Nightboat Books, 2010). Currently, she is working on a body of work entitled Some Simple Things Said by and About, a chronicle of how humans have used animals as surrogates. She is also doing research on women who were murdered in North Adams during the 1970’s when she was growing up there. She is the editor of Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs (

Wayne Westcott reviews Julie Patton and Creative Writing Faculty BathHouse readings

Two more reviews to wrap up the semester…EMU student Wayne Westcott reviews a couple BathHouse readings from this past Fall:

I first met Julie Patton while escorting her to the bathroom.  I have a thing about bathrooms.  I hate them.  They make me feel awkward in my own skin, and if there’s ever someone else in the bathroom, well I can forget about going to the bathroom.  

On the way to said bathroom, I began talking to her about higher education, art, writing, etc.  Everything about her demeanor made me feel like ’it will all be ok’ somehow.  By the time we reached the bathroom, I was relaxed, I was excited, I was giddy like a damn school girl getting her first Hello Kitty lunch box.  Julie Patton was already influencing me.  She was already in my head.

I mention all this, because I feel the need to expose my feelings before going to her reading at the Sponberg Theater in November, as part of the BathHouse Reading Series.  I went into Julie Patton’s reading an absolute fan of Julie Patton as an overall human being.

So on that November night, when Patton began crawling around on stage, as well played guitar sounds mixed and mingled with her words, I was hooked.  I didn’t understand it, but I loved it.  It was organic(hate that word), it was sensual, it was cool and hip and shit like that.  Most of all though, it was just plain fun.

There was a tremendous sense of improvisation, and every time it seemed to work in Patton’s favor.  Things such as having the audience communally play various instruments together, began to make me think about my writing.  More than that, they made me think about the ‘performance’ of my work.  I started thinking, what can I do to make my work seemingly come to life like she does.

When her performance ended, I was left sitting there, worn out by so much energy being given and taken from Patton.  I wanted to ask her if I could come with her.  Go back to the building she shares with other cast-aways and persons on the fringe of society.  I didn’t ask though, because at the end of the day, that world is hers, not mine.  

After seeing Patton perform, I realized I have to create my own world.  I have to surround myself with positive like-minded individuals.  I need to try and be more organic (still hate that word).

I have to be honest.  I wasn’t quite sure how the night would go when walking to Sponberg Theater for the fall semesters first BathHouse Reading Series performance.  These were the people I would taking advice and instruction from at a graduate level for at least the next two years.  These were the people who would be shaping and influencing my writing the most for the time being.  Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Christine Hume’s performance took me by surprise.  She engaged the audience by including a sort of ‘sound track’ created for the work.  This really added to the work.  It created an atmosphere that really took the work further.  I think for about a week after that, I kept hearing an odd voice saying ’fisting’ at random moments.  That’s when I knew that her performance had really stuck with me.

Carla Harryman’s performance shocked me in a good way.  Her work had language engaged playfulness that I was used to, but in no way put off by.  In particular, her reading from the title Baby had a lasting effect on me.  The way the text seemed to be chewing on words, it was just a great feeling to hear from the author herself.

Then, taking the stage, was Rob Halpern.  Rob was the faculty member I knew absolutely the least about.  I truly didn’t know what to expect from him.  Rob took me by surprise with a type of intensity I had forgotten could be a part of readings.  His language was shocking in a sense that it was unexpected, and that the way it was used and delivered, almost inoffensive.

Overall, the faculty reading really started the BathHouse Reading Series off with  some bang.  It was a reading that made me think about my influences and what I would gain from being at Eastern.  Needless to say, I’m excited to be here.  This reading was just a refreshing assurance of the confidence I have in the education I will be receiving here.

Aaron Diehl reviews and CRTW Faculty and Julie Patton BathHouse readings

EMU student Aaron Diehl offers up two reviews of BathHouse readings from this past semester:

On October 29th, I wandered down to Sponberg Theatre to catch the EMU faculty reading. The performers for the evening were Rob Halpern, Christine Hume, and Carla Harryman.

Christine Hume opened the night with selections from her book Shot. She did an interesting hybrid performance of sound and spoken word. The prerecorded material was played from her laptop, and included ambient noises and a double of her voice reading the piece. I thought it was very successful, as it added a bit of surprise and energy. It was also impeccably executed, as she kept her reading in time with the recording. I was impressed.

Carla Harryman was second, and was probably my favorite performance. She seemed extremely comfortable and confident on stage, and also appeared to be having a lot of fun. Her piece was about a baby, and it was very humorous and enlightening. It was basically a baby thinking way beyond his years. I liked it.

Rob Halpern was third, and read a few pieces, all of which were very sexually charged. Very dark and sometimes disturbing, they dealt with sex and violence. The first piece he read was about a soldier and it was very powerful. He had an odd presence on stage, moving his legs as if he was marching and staggering his speech in awkward increments. He was very successful in a disturbing sort of way.

Julie Patton’s performance on November 9th was very interesting. I go into these reading not knowing what to expect, as they tend to be very diverse. This performance was certainly unique.Julie had an extremely loose demeanor on stage. She was aided by a guitarist, who added an ambient, melodic texture behind her powerful voice. She did not let her writings hold her back on stage, choosing to read what she wanted and riff off the top of her head when she thought necessary. She basically spoke free form, playing with language and sound flawlessly. She was like a combination of singer and poet, with a major focus on the sound of words.At the end of her performance, she pulled out a bunch of instruments and had several people from the audience come up front and just bang away. They made a considerable racket. She danced along and loved every minute of it.

Her performance was inspiring to witness because she was entirely genuine and heartfelt about what she was doing on stage. Very intelligent, interesting, and honest.

Shaun Williams reviews Julie Patton BathHouse reading

EMU student Shaun Williams reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

I thought the reading to be an ethereal and engaging experience that started off rather shaky. The reason I say this is because the vast majority of the audience was turned off toward the beginning. I especially did not understand her lack of organization and fluidity, and I viewed Patton as a strange presence up on stage.

Then she proceeded to lay down on the stage, still reading her work, and at this point the audience in attendance was extrememly interested and awakened. When she was not standing right in front of you, you basically forgot she was there. You put her out of your mind, and in the process, you started focusing on the words as resonating, persistent beings in themselves. This was the highlight of the experience for me. I really found myself drawn into the spectacle of what she did. I believe she got down in a position like that because she wanted her words to transcend her own borders, and she could only do that by keeping out of plain sight.

Patton’s reading was not a reading. It was a play on the audience, and like Shelley and Spielberg, she really created a monster in the form of her words. Never before have words so clearly stunned me before, and it was all because of her dispositions on stage. The sounds were amazing, and it was quite a lively show, not to say that the other two Bathhouse events were not, but rather, Patton’s was far more rejuvinating. Looking toward the stage and around the audience, I could not help but think that the event was a social/creative experiment of some kind. I know that in my own writing, I would like to try to focus on what is created rather than what I am doing or what I am putting into it. All in all, the reading was a strange, vivacious blend of humor, euphoria, and when it was all said and done, excitement.

Jessica Buterbaugh reviews CRTW faculty BathHouse and Jeff Kass readings

EMU student Jessica Buterbaugh reviews a Jeff Kass reading and the faculty BathHouse reading from this past semester:

The first BathHouse Reading of the semester on the 29th of Sept. in Sponberg Theater was the faculty reading with Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern. Each faculty member had a distinct style and subject matter that enabled the audience to get a good idea of the talents of the creative writing department.Hume started the night off with a selection of her works mixed with audio tracks.  The soundtrack, which was made for her work and sometimes incorporated actual phrases from it, was an interesting device. It enhanced the overall mood of the language she was using. I particularly enjoyed her piece where she talks about a recurring dream she’s had all her life.Harryman gave the next performance, which was based on “working non-narratively”. She made ample use of repeated words,  alliteration, rhyming, and sound reiteration. Much of her work had a driving, almost frenetic quality to it. It made the times she slowed down stand out that much more. “Baby” was particulary interesting, and featured several phrases that caught my attention, like “regression was a word that gave babies a bad rap”. It was a fascinating look at life/society through the eyes of Baby.

Halpern was the only one of the three that I hadn’t had a class with, so I was very interested to see what his work would be like. Intensely personal are the words that immediately come to mind when describing his reading. Though I sometimes found the eroticism of his work to be a little overwhelming, it was a very moving and engaging reading.

Overall, the faculty reading was a success and had a good turn-out. It was amusing hearing people talk next to me who had no idea what they were about to hear before the reading started, as well as their reactions afterward. I felt like I was able to learn more about the personality of the faculty members outside of the classroom through their writing and performances.

Jeff Kass’ performance of Wrestle the Great Fear on Sept 15th in the Student Center auditorium was highly energetic, motivational, and fun. He tackled hard issues that his high school students face, and that the adults who work with and mentor them face. He remarked in the performance that he’s “trying to be the teacher he never had” for his students. His performance included videos, songs, recitations, anecdotes, and physical performances. His subject matter, while centered around a high school enviroment, ranged from the serious to the slightly risqué, to the flat-out silly.

It was extremely moving to hear him talk about his wonderful, amazing, so talented, so creative student named Angel. A student who had lost her mother, but made it into a strength for herself, and who wrote and performed poetry so well that he wished he never had another student like her because it was too hard. Later in the show there was a video montage of various students of his performing their pieces and Angel on that video is just as amazing, raw, and powerful as Jeff Kass describes her. It was no surprise to me that many of the questions in the Q&A session afterward focused on her.

I loved the video of the piece of gum in the girl’s mouth. I thought it was clever to have a piece of gum narrating its experience insider her mouth as a way to bring up teenage attractions, hormones, and feelings. The nerd song was also very hilarious and entertaining. I liked his view on nerds, that anyone who is extremely dedicate and/or good at something, anything, is a nerd. It was particularly amusing when he called Michael Jordan a nerd, and Steven Spielburg a super nerd. The fact that it was a song only made it more memorable.

He kept the audience captivated the entire show and was truly engaging. I regretted that it was not the full performance, because what I saw was so powerful (and funny!) that I wanted to see more.

Dan Turvey reviews Julie Patton

A few more reviews are coming in of the various BathHouse readings this semester.  Below, Dan Turvey reviews Julie Patton’s reading:

I will admit that I was unable to stay for the entirety of Julie’s performance but from the forty-five minutes or so that I was able to attend I was washed in sight and sound.  At first I was rather taken aback by what seemed like a lack of organization on Julie’s part.  Her materials were in disarray and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to her selection of pieces being read.  The guitarist in the background was playing notes that at times seemed to compliment the pieces sound and voice and at others felt as thought they disagreed.  I liked the ebb and flow between the two; it added a very well planned third dimension.

As Julie continued with her performance she did another unusual thing.  She assumed the fetal potion on stage, hid behind her basket and continued with reading her pieces.  At this point she began to more actively engage the audience.  I felt myself starting to become part of the performance rather than just an outside observer.  The haphazard selection of the pieces being read then became clear.  It was not about performing in a linear fashion but rather smashing linear conventions and letting the sounds work their magic.

In my opinion the reason she performed in the fetal position was to minimize her physical impact on the stage and let the sound of her words become the star of the show.  I found it rather distracting to continue to try and focus on Julie while she crouched on the stage so I closed my eyes and let the sounds run free.  This is where the success of her performance lies.  For me she brought to light the power of word selection and the impact of such on the reader or listener.  I no longer take for granted the sounds of the words that I write but rather I try to incorporate them into my work.

Overall, I enjoyed the performance and would suggest that anyone who is serious about experiencing the impact that sounds can have on ones own work to attend a Julie Patton reading.

Kylie Hoey reviews Julie Patton

EMU student Kylie Hoey reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

The Bathhouse Reading with Julie Patton was a very unique experience; I don’t think that I will ever experience something like that ever again.  Julie Patton concentrates on sound poetry and prefers to improvise during her performance.  Patton began standing at the microphone down center stage holding a few pages that she was reading from.  She mixed the words and materials in a way that created an entirely new piece.

As the reading went on, however, Patton began to sink to the floor.  When she switched from one book to another, she started dropping things so she ended up on her knees.  At the ending of the reading, Patton was lying completely on her stomach reading for her piece she titled “Blue.” 

Patton’s words were sometimes recognizable, but most of the time it reminded me of sound poetry.  She would say one word and then play with the sounds of that word for the next few minutes.  Patton also rarely spoke the words; she sang or crooned her poetry instead.  This presentation of the poem contributed to the unique experience Patton gave to the listeners.

Before her final piece, Patton pulled obscure musical instruments, and a few conventional ones such as maracas and a tambourine.  She then handed these out to different members of the audience and brought them up in a line in front of the stage.  They made noise with the given instruments while Patton lapped the stage, moving up and down the platforms.  She began to run faster and faster, losing her shoes on the upper platform at one point, screaming.  Finally, she lay collapsed, exhausted.

Mike Moriarty reviews Julie Patton

EMU student Mike Moriarty reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

In her performance on November 9th in EMU’s Sponberg Theater, Julie Patton showcased her unique style and vocal talents while constructing a wild sonic environment that hybridizes music, sound poetry, improv, and possibly some other unnamable genres as well.  Her 1st piece (beginning with “Is it possible that the meaning”) was a brooding soundscape that melted from singing to guttural mumblings.  Words and phrases are broken down into roots and morphed into new linguistic textures.  The possible meaning that is hinted at in the opening line is one that the listener is left to sift for in the shards of language which fall somewhere between obtuseness and depth.

Her strong voice and confident delivery pull the audience into the auditory experience.  Though at some points one’s mind may drift away from understanding in this sea of sound, it is a pleasant drifting.  In another poem she samples Dr. Suess and fuses his playful construction with political commentary “uncle Sam I am…would you eat them in a box comin’ home from Iraq?  Children of Ham.”

Another strength of Patton’s is her ability to engage with the audience, she spoke thoughtfully on communities and the hope of building them through art.  She would later go on to literally manifest a small incarnation of this by walking into the audience, distributing small instruments, and encouraging the audience to make music with her.  This was done with the care and skill of a seasoned performer – simultaneously shaking things up while still allowing people to feel comfortable.  Not only does she engage with the audience, she also engages in spontaneous creation which could be called freestyle, improv or something else entirely.  At one point she couldn’t find the poem she was looking for and said “oh no,”  then began repeating it musically, then mutated the sounds, and then was suddenly in the midst of a poem.  It would be impossible to tell where the extemporaneous words ended and the pre-written poem began – another leap forward in hybridization.

In the poem which began “your language is too flowery” she engages in another playful word collage.  The experience is lush and verbose.  One might speculate that flowers were specifically chosen as the subject because of the beautiful words associated with them, or, as Patton puts it: “divine words grafting one sentence to another.”

Her final piece opening with “What kind of blues you use” periodically meditates on race, music, and blue as an emotive state: “sing disparate Diaspora.”  These kind of poems cover a lot of ground as the language seems to be guiding the direction of the poem.  Although the themes feel grounded conceptually, it is worth considering how her skill and innovative forms could be applied to more narrative storytelling as well.  Regardless, seeing Patton perform is a true experience.  At times it feels like just playing with language and sound, others meaning breaks through making it even more enjoyable.  Put simply, sit back and watch the sound and words wash over you, and through you.

Kylie Hoey reviews Creative Writing faculty BathHouse reading

EMU student Kylie Hoey reviews the EMU Creative Writing faculty’s BathHouse reading that took place earlier this semester:

At the first Bathhouse Reading, faculty from the creative writing program at Eastern read some of their works for us.  Christine Hume was the first of the three readers.  She read primarily from her published work Shot.  All of her poems were accompanied with a soundtrack consisting of sounds, music, and words, both the poem being repeated and words that set the mood of the poem.  The poem I remember the most was “Soggy Muff,” based off of a name in a piece written by Dr. Suess.  This piece talks about how sleep, death, and laziness are inferior to wakefulness.  Hume’s reading was timed well with her background sounds; when the sounds increased in speed and volume, Hume followed suit.  She finished her reading with “I Exhume Myself,” a poem that is supposed to be a play on her last name.

Hume was followed by Carla Harryman.  She began with “Light Poem,” which seemed to consists only of quickly reciting random words and phrases.  This piece reminded me of the play we read in class, “Not I.”  Harryman said that she was trying to repeat the style of another writer, but I did not catch the name.  She finished her reading with many selections from her book Baby.  These pieces got me thinking about what point of view the poems were being narrated from.  Some seemed to be describing the world from the point of a human baby, while others could never make sense from that angle.  I really enjoyed a quote from one of the last bits she read:  “Teenagers are the most mature beings on earth.”  This thought makes me laugh inside, but also think in a different way.

The reading was concluded by Rob Halpern, the newest member of the creative writing faculty.  He began reading “Love Song to My Fallen Soldier” from his work-in-progress book Music for Porn.  The piece made me wonder if the voice was a gay soldier, but I could not decide by the end.  Halpern then read from another of his books that mostly focused on intimate longing.  The thematic elements of this book seem to focus on war and love.  A lot of repetition occurs within the poems and throughout the book.  It did not sound as if a lot of the pieces were titled; this reminded me of A Season in Hell by Rimbaud.  Overall, the reading was enlightening and exposed me to different kinds of writing.