Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten

EMU grad student Gerard Breitenbeck reviews the recent BathHouse reading that featured Eric Lorberer and Barrett Watten:

Ned Randolph introduced first Eric Lorberer who went on to speak about public art, art in a shared space and related questions of ownership and permanence vs. ephemerally. He focused on the Ashbury Bridge in Minneapolis. A person crossing it should look at it differently than the artist who created it. Armajani is an Iranian born artist who gravitates toward art for purpose and public consumption. He loves gazebos, plaza, and especially bridges. His professed hope is to create works “Halfway between sculpture and architecture,” works which only get their full meaning through their pragmatic use.

Lorberer describes how the Ashbery Bridge was created jointly between worlds of politics and art, as well as the combination of three different bridge structures: steel tresses, suspension bridges, and arch bridges. One of the governing notions is the collision or joining of multiple worlds, as shown in the bridge’s mirror effect, the colors light blue and light yellow, and the use of beams and spaces as poetic breaks (ashora). All of which makes the bridge both an operational bridge and a living mediation on “bridgeness”, the idea of bridging and crossover and connection itself.

Lorberer takes us visually through the poem Ashbery wrote for the bridge. While most public poems duplicate the experience of the page, here the poem as traverses the length of the bridge. Overall, Lorberer demonstrates how Ashbery and Armajani present a bridge as something more than just a way to get from one place to another. Not only does it frame the city around it,  it is a site unto itself, a location to visit for the sake of it’s art and beauty; and yet to experience it, one cannot help but find themselves on the other side, having used it for what it most basically is.

After a short break, Ned Randolph then introduced Barrett Watten, a founding L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet. Watten focused his talk on the author as site. He began by discussing some of Robert Smithson’s works, including the site-specific pieces Broken Circle, Spiral Jetty, Buried Shed; as well as non-site works such as the Mirrors series. Watten then showed how Smithson began moving the mirrors outside into physical landscape, incorporating nonsite work in the site specific. He spoke of the entropic nature of much of Smithson’s work, such as the Glue Pour; that is, pieces which draw attention to the irreversibility of artistic creation.

Watten spoke of the visual component of the work of language poets, as is evidenced in Smithson’s Heap of Language. He then showed us three sites in which Watten’s poetry had been transformed into site-specific art. The first was the Addison street project in Berkley, which utilized small plaques in the sidewalk with poetry embossed on them, a direct mimicry of the page. Next came the Introduction to the Letter T, an Amajani project, in which a lengthy original poem had been distilled into a series of tiled images into a walkway, as well as two whole lines from the poem: “Things should correspond to open doors” and “There should be more outside.” Last came the Des Moines public library chess courtyard, in which various lines of another lengthy poem were incorporated into fences outlining the environment.

Watten closed speaking of the poet Laura Riding Jackson’s final and uncompleted  project, a dictionary called “Rational Meaning,” which endeavored to be the last word with proper meaning of words, conceiving that in any given context there was but one ultimately correct word. For instance, Jackson would contend that the words “Structure, building, edifice, form, and construction,” aren’t interchangeable. In other words, Jackson came to believe that Language rather than usage defined meaning, which is a curious position for a modernist to take, and opens up a host of interesting questions with respect to how we conceive of the role of language in art and our lives, as well as the location and possibility of artistic intention and meaning.

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.

Rain Taxi

If you’re looking for reviews of small press books — including graphic novels, art books, philosophy, as well as fiction, poetry, and nonfiction — here’s a journal you might want to check out.

Rain Taxi banner

Rain Taxi is edited by Eric Lorberer (who will be one of readers in the BathHouse series this semester; see the post below).  It is available in both print and online editions.  The Winter 2010/2011 edition includes reviews of fiction by Paul Auster, Louis de Bernières, Dawn Paul, and Gina Frangello, as well as a feature on photographer Alec Soth.

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 (