Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Brenda Iijima

Another review from Creative Writing grad student Gerard Breitenbeck; this time Gerard reviews Brenda Iijima’s recent BathHouse reading:

Professor Carla Harryman introduced Brenda Iijima to the Dreamland Theater in downtown Ypsilanti, speaking of her strengths as a poet who writes both inventively and politically. Following Professor Harryman, a small group of her undergraduate students presented their own poetically minded introductions, insightful and often surprising soundscapes.

Iijima begins by playing a video of her from Youtube, which depicts her dancing in a flowing dress on the front lawn of her mother’s house, in a salute to women labeled derogatively as witches.

“You might be bored by oxen, or you might be predisposed to oxen.” The Donkey poem explores what it is to be a donkey, or rather, what common language would conceive a donkey to be. Lines like “They are donkeys, they go by the name donkeys, humans call them donkeys, they are recognizable as donkeys” suggest the distance and alienation language affords humanity, particularly from other animals as we reduce them to the most utilitarian conception we can muster.

Iijima continues this theme with meditations on Mules, Pumpkins, Pork, Polar Bears, and Swans; inviting us to consider the nature and implications of how we conceive of the animals and plants around us. By placing under a microscope the reductive, exploitative language we use to relate to other living things, Iijima prompts an internal and external discussion on the nature of how language has been constructed, and for what purposes it finds itself employed. It would seem, Iijima leads us to consider, that like the Donkey and its similarly burdened counterparts, language itself has been subjugated for the purposes of alienation, hierarchy, and patriarchal hegemony.

BathHouse Reading: Brenda Iijima – Tuesday, March 22, 6:30 pm

BathHouse Reading Series 2011

Don’t miss the final BathHouse reading of the Winter 2011 semester featuring Brenda Iijima, taking place Tuesday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Dreamland Theater.

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 (http://yoyolabs.com/).

The Dreamland Theater is located at 26 N. Washington in Ypsilanti.

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 (http://yoyolabs.com/).