In Our Words: Austin Bragdon

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Austin Bragdon at work
Austin Bragdon, personal photo

Poet, editor, translator, journalist, and teacher Austin Bragdon was born in the largely french-speaking rural expanse of northern Maine. He currently lives in Ypsilanti Michigan, and is a current creative writing graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, where he teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as editor-in-chief of BathHouse Journal. His work has appeared in The Open Field and elsewhere.

Here is the thought-provoking text Austin wrote for Sarah’s recent visit to campus.

Welcome everyone to the first of three events featuring Sarah Schulman. Tonight we are here to listen to Sarah Schulman read from and talk about her 2016 book, Conflict is not abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair. Sarah is a distinguished professor at the College of Staten Island. She is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, AIDS historian, journalist, and active participant citizen.

Sarah Schulman

Conflict is not Abuse, forces us to ask questions about the violence and conflict we see in the world around us. It forces us to wonder why institutions have so frequently become the arbiters of our personal relationships, and how our failures to successfully navigate conflict within our personal lives bleed into the larger social landscape. Rooting her perspective in queer and feminist analyses of power, Schulman explores how the dynamics of conflict in the personal sphere replicate power dynamics in the larger social landscape. As a writer, this perspective, placed outside what pop-culture might view as the normalizing structure of the family, allows her to write the characters she does, with different identity markers, all while being open to and accepting of the mistakes she makes while creating those characters. As humans who may or may not be writers, this kind of openness allows us the vulnerability required to navigate conflicts which we may otherwise dismiss reflexively.

Who, for example, hasn’t known a stalker? Or at least, someone your friend calls a stalker. Clearly, your friend believes, the only answer is to shun and condemn the stalker, potentially to report them to the authorities, to allow the state to arbitrate any conflict involved. Schulman suggests that this reflexive use of the word “stalker” to address what may be a nuanced conflict would be reductive to those who have experienced genuine violence and abuse at the hands of real stalkers. Instead, in order to make a real judgement, assessment, and potential resolution of this kind of conflict, you must risk the most frightening social dividend — honesty. She also explores how our understanding of honesty itself might be flawed, showing how our distorted thinking might lead us to think we are being honest, when really we are being honest about the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Navigating the kinds of conflict which might have led to the original confrontation, which may or may not be justified, requires vulnerability, and honest, genuine communication — the willingness to admit fault, to learn, to transform, and to understand. It may well be that the impetus to reach for the word “stalker” so reflexively, stems from an inability to correctly assess threat, an inability that can lead to the failure of a relationship.

In Conflict is not Abuse, Schulman explores this inability to assess threat at all levels of society, from our interpersonal relationships, to the governmental lack of ability to assess threat which lead the Canadian Government to require those living with HIV to report their status to the government, to invoke fear in their citizens and establish punitive measures for those living with HIV, rather than encourage more open communication between people, as Schulman writes “imposing itself as a substitute for learning how to problem solve.”

Schulman writes that “this is not a book to be agreed with.” It’s not composed of hard evidence, and it is not a list of facts. Instead it is designed to be engaged with, to provoke discussion, and to get a bit closer to understanding human behavior, so we can learn, both as writers and as people, to listen more closely to the stories of those around us. As Schulman writes, “it is the cumulative juxtaposition that reveals the story.”

On a more personal note, I found the process of writing this introduction difficult — the personal revelations this book provokes has made me rethink past and current conflicts with my partner, my friends, my students, my parents — the book often feels like years of therapy packed into a smaller, and frankly, much cheaper module, and it’s brought out a lot of guilt and curiosity, and optimism, much of which I’m still working through — I even found myself concerned for the person who flipped me off in traffic yesterday. It is my sincere hope that it can bring you towards the same kind of emotional labor it’s inspired in me. With that in mind, please join me in welcoming Sarah Schulman to the stage.

To purchase Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is not Abuse, visit the publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press. To read more of Austin’s work, click here.


Literary Events Calendar: Tuesday, June 14 – Monday, June 20

SUPPORT YOUR FELLOW STUDENTS!
 
Chelsea Lonsdale (current senior – undergrad Creative Writing), will be a featured poet alongside WL Bush for a reading at the  Lawrence Street Gallery, 22620 Woodward Ave # A, Ferndale. Friday at 6:30 p.m.
 
READINGS, PERFORMANCES, & BOOK SIGNINGS 

  • Novelist Karen Simpson at Nicola’s Books. 2513 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com   Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.
  • Novelist Danielle Sosin at Nicola’s Books. 2513 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
  • Poetry in the Garden at CCMA: A Reading with Keith Taylor and Laura Kasischke. 7101 West Liberty Road, Ann Arbor. http://ccmarts.org  Friday at 7:00 p.m.
  • Rhythm, Roots, and Rhyme Poetry Slam Showcase presented by the Detroit Jazz Festival.  At The Music Box at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave, Detroit. http://DetroitJazzFest.com Friday at 7:00 p.m.
  • Conversations with Poets: Keith Taylor. Copper Colored Mountain Arts, 7101 West Liberty Road, Ann Arbor. http://ccmarts.org  Saturday 10:30 a.m. – noon.
  • Novelist Tayari Jones at Nicola’s Books. 2513 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com  Monday at 7 p.m.

OPEN MICS: 

  • Open Mic Night (music and poetry) at Solid Grounds Coffeehouse, 133 W. Main Street, Ste. 222, Northville. http://www.solidgroundscoffeehouse.com Tuesday starting at 6 p.m.
  • Next Shit Poetry Series / Starvin’ Artists Slam. Hosted by fluent with DJ Sicari. $5. 5Elements Gallery, 2661 Michigan Avenue, Detroit. Wednesday – no time listed.
  • 7 p.m. Open Mic (Music and poetry). Borders Books, 43435 Ford Rd. Canton. 734.844.2090
  • Bare Soul, a weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians hosted by Black Ink Collective.  $5 for an advanced ticket; $10 at the door. Hosted by poet Ben Jones and comedian Josh Adams. At 1515 Broadway, Detroit. (313) 799-4109. Thursday beginning at 9 p.m.
  • The Main Course: A weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians. At They Say, 267 Joseph Campau Street, Detroit. (313) 446-4682. Thursday – no time listed.
  • Creative Juicez Live Poetry Night : “Live poetry & singers; open mic backed by a live band. Affordable cuisine by Chef Chris; filled with spoken word, live jazz, visual art, R&B, and WHATEVER ELSE YOU BRING!” $10 / “slightly lower for open mic selectees.” At  17340 Lahser, 1 block north of Grand River, Detroit. (313) 544-0848. Saturday from 9 p.m. – 2 a.m.
  • Open Mic (poetry and music). Sign up begins at 7:30, performances start at 8. The Coffee Bean, 884 Penniman Avenue, Plymouth. http://www.plymouthcoffeebean.com. Monday from 7:30-11 p.m.

If you know of an event you think would make a good addition to the list, e-mail Aylen Rounds at aylen.rounds at gmail dot com.

Local Literary Events – Tuesday May 10 to Monday May 16

Here’s the lastest literary events calendar from grad student Aylen Rounds.  Aylen’s looking for feedback on these lists of events:

If you have a minute, I’d really like YOUR input on what you’d like to see on future calendars. So far, I’ve been limiting it to events that in my own judgment are “literary arts” events – specifically those affordable events focused on fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. But that does mean there are lots of events being left off the calendar. For instance, there’s a literary arts dinner this week that I left off ($100 a plate), and a handful of book readings from people like a doctor reading from his book about carbs and protein and a well-balanced diet, and a historian reading from her book about WWII. Two weeks ago I left off a reading being given by a nationally-recognized beauty pageant queen who wrote a book about why a girl should wait to lose her virginity until her wedding night. Would you like to see more of these types of book-related events? Let me know! Thanks!

You can message Aylen with feedback at aylen.rounds @ gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 10
 
6 p.m. – Open Mic night (music and poetry) at Solid Grounds Coffeehouse, 133 W. Main Street, Ste. 222, Northville       http://www.solidgroundscoffeehouse.com
 
6:30 Poetry Workshop with Dawn McDuffie. Every Tuesday until May 24. Virgil H. Carr Cultural Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave, Detroit. http://www.springfed.org
 
7-9 p.m. Book event with novelist Jane Bradley, who is also Creative Writing faculty at University of Toledo. Nicola’s Books, 2513 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com/
 
7-9 p.m. Poetry Night at Lighthouse Coffee Company, 9 West Main Street, Milan. http://www.lighthousecoffeeco.com

Wednesday, May 11

No time listed. Next Shit Poetry Series / Starvin’ Artists Slam. Hosted by fluent with DJ Sicari. $5. 5Elements Gallery, 2661 Michigan Avenue, Detroit. 

Thursday, May 12
 
7 p.m. – Book Event with novelist Amanda Hodgkinson. Nicola’s Books, 2513 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com/
 
7 p.m. –  Poetry and Prose at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center. The Springfed Spotlight Series continues with focus on writing instructors, hosted by Kresge Fellow Vievee Francis. Presentations will include poetry and prose. Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave. Detroit. (248) 589-3913.
 
9 p.m. – 2 a.m (? Time not listed on events calendar – call in advance to confirm) Bare Soul, a weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians hosted by Black Ink Collective.  $5 for an advanced ticket; $10 at the door. Hosted by poet Ben Jones and comedian Josh Adams. At 1515 Broadway, located at 1515 Broadway, Detroit. (313) 799-4109
 
No Time Listed. The Main Course. a weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians. Free. At They Say, 267 Joseph Campau Street, Detroit. (313) 446-4682

Friday, May 13
 
6-10 p.m. Emily Dickinson Readathon sponsored by Inside Out. During the evening, members of the community will give voice to the poems of Emily Dickinson.  Readers of all ages are encouraged to drop in and share a poem.  Detroit Institute of Arts, Family Room (2nd level), 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit.

Saturday, May 14
 
2:30-4 p.m. Buddha’s Birthday: A Two-Day Celebration for the Whole Family: Ninth Annual Poetry Event. Zen Buddhist Temple, 1214 Packard Street, Ann Arbor http://zenbuddhisttemple.org/locations/annarbor/index.html
 
No time listed – Open Mic (poetry, music, etc) at Maxwells Art and Treasures, 32416 Industrial Road, Garden City.  http://www.maxwellsartandtreasures.com/events.html
 
9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Creative Juicez Live Poetry Night (weekly): “Live poetry & singers; open mic backed by a live band. Affordable cuisine by Chef Chris; filled with spoken word, live jazz, visual art, R&B, and WHATEVER ELSE YOU BRING!” $10 / “slightly lower for open mic selectees.” (weekly) 17340 Lahser, 1 block north of Grand River, Detroit. (313) 544-0848
 
10-4 Photography and Poetry Exhibit at Copper Colored Mountain Arts (CCMA): “India – A Light Within”. Photographs by Charlee Brodsky with writing and poetry by Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph. Exhibit is open every Saturday from 10-4 now until June 15th. 7101 W. Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor. http://www.ccmarts.org
 
10-4 Photography and Poetry Exhibit at Copper Colored Mountain Arts (CCMA): “India – A Light Within”. Photographs by Charlee Brodsky with writing and poetry by Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph. Exhibit is open every Saturday from 10-4 now until June 15th. 7101 W. Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor. http://www.ccmarts.org

Monday May 16
 
7:00 pm to 8:30 pm – Novelist Sebastian Junger discusses his new book “War” (another of Junger’s books is The Perfect Storm.) Ann Arbor District Library, downtown branch, multi-purpose room, 343 South Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor. http://www.aadl.org.
 
7:30 p.m. Book discussion and signing – Charlaine Harris at the Michigan Theater. Charlaine Harris is the author of Sookie Stackhouse novels, the basis for the “True Blood” television series. Tickets – $12 – $38.50. Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor. Sponsored by Nicola’s Books: http://www.nicolasbooks.com.
 
7:30 – 11. Open Mic (poetry and music). Sign up begins at 7:30, performances start at 8. The Coffee Bean, 884 Penniman Avenue, Plymouth. http://www.plymouthcoffeebean.com

Ongoing

April 20 – May 15th “Working Class Heroes.” An all-media juried exhibition honoring the working class, inspired by ML Liebler’s book Working Words: Punching the Timeclock and Kicking Out the Jams, a compilation of writing from local, national and international poets and writers. Scarab Club Gallery, 217 Farnsworth St. Detroit. 313-831-1250. http://scarabclub.org.

Literary Arts Events: May 3 – May 9

More literary events taking place this week, brought to you courtesy of grad student Aylen Rounds.  If you have something for next week’s calendar, drop Aylen a note at  aylen.rounds @ gmail.com by Sunday, May 8.
 
Tuesday, May 3

7-9 p.m. –  Inside Out presents a Night with poet Jimmy Santiago Baca – Hear how poetry transformed award-winning poet Jimmy Santiago Baca from a young man sentenced to a maximum security prison stint into a metaphor for the power of language and self-expression. Suggested $5 donation. Proceeds benefit Detroit’s 2011 Youth Poetry Slam.  Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Avenue, Detroit.
 
6 p.m. – Open Mic night (music and poetry) at Solid Grounds Coffeehouse, 133 W. Main Street, Ste. 222, Northville. http://www.solidgroundscoffeehouse.com
 
7-9 p.m. Poetry Night at Lighthouse Coffee Company, 9 West Main Street, Milan. http://www.lighthousecoffeeco.com


Wednesday, May 4
 
7-8 p.m. Young Adult novelist Laura Resau Reads from her work & Talks about writing. Book signing to follow. Ann Arbor District Library, Pittsfield Branch, program room, 2359 Oak Valley Dr., Ann Arbor.  http://www.aadl.org/events/list/0/11
 
7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. The Old Town Poetry Series hosts a party & poetry reading by Dennis Hinrichsen.His new book, “Rip-Tooth,” will be available at the reading. An Open Mike session will be held after the featured reading. Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., Lansing.
 
No Time Listed – Next Shit Poetry Series / Starvin’ Artists Slam hosted by fluent with  DJ Sicari at 5 Elements Gallery, 2661 Michigan Avenue, Detroit. 
 

Thursday, May 5
 
5 p.m. Citywide Poets Poetry Slam. $5. Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, 311 E. Grand River. Detroit. http://www.artsleague.com (313) 965-8430
 
6:30 Poetry, Pages & Scribes. (Open Mic – Writing and music). Hosted by Ber-Henda Williams and featuring “young poet” Rae. Southfield Public Library. 26300 Evergreen Rd, Southfield. http://www.sfldlib.org
 
7 p.m. An Evening with novelist Colleen Gleason. Barnes and Noble, 3235 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor.
 
7 p.m. Book Talk with novelist Julia Spencer-Fleming. Aunt Agatha’s Book Shop, 213 S. 4th Street, Ann Arbor http://www.auntagathas.com
 
7 p.m. Open Mic (Music and poetry). Borders Books, 43435 Ford Rd. Canton. 734.844.2090
 
9 p.m. – 2 a.m (? Time not listed on events calendar – call in advance to confirm) Bare Soul, a weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians hosted by Black Ink Collective.  $5 for an advanced ticket; $10 at the door. Hosted by poet Ben Jones and comedian Josh Adams. At 1515 Broadway, located at 1515 Broadway, Detroit. (313) 799-4109
 
No Time Listed. The Main Course. a weekly open mic for poets, singers, musicians and comedians. Free. At They Say, 267 Joseph Campau Street, Detroit. (313) 446-4682
 
 
Friday, May 6
 
6 p.m. Book signing with Young Adult novelist Neil Shusterman. Nicolas Books. 2513 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com
 
 
Saturday, May 7
 
10-4 Photography and Poetry Exhibit at Copper Colored Mountain Arts (CCMA): “India – A Light Within”. Photographs by Charlee Brodsky with writing and poetry by Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph. Exhibit is open every Saturday from 10-4 now until June 15th. 7101 W. Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor. http://www.ccmarts.org
 
2 p.m. Meet authors Brian Freeman and Craig McDonald, who will discuss their new books. Brian’s is a stand alone thriller, The Bone House, and Craig’s is the next installment in his series about Ernest Hemingway, One True Sentence. Ann Arbor District Library, Main Branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. Ann Arbor. More info at Aunt Agatha’s website (sponsor): http://www.auntagathas.com
 
3 p.m. Reading by fiction writer Alexander McLeod from his short story collection Light Lifting. There also will be music by Kenneth and Marion MacLeod, Jim and Tom MacNeil. Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub, 612 Woodward, Detroit.  313 961-3043
 
7:30 p.m. House Reading at Rob Halpern’s house – Marie Buck & Amy Sara Carroll.  If you need Rob Halpern’s address, email him: Rob dot Halpern at gmail dot com. Ypsilanti.
 
9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Creative Juicez Live Poetry Night (weekly): “Live poetry & singers; open mic backed by a live band. Affordable cuisine by Chef Chris; filled with spoken word, live jazz, visual art, R&B, and WHATEVER ELSE YOU BRING!” $10 / “slightly lower for open mic selectees.” (weekly) 17340 Lahser, 1 block north of Grand River, Detroit. (313) 544-0848
 
 
Monday, May 9
 
7:30 – 11. Open Mic (poetry and music). Sign up begins at 7:30, performances start at 8. The Coffee Bean, 884 Penniman Avenue, Plymouth. http://www.plymouthcoffeebean.com
 
 
Ongoing

April 20 – May 15th “Working Class Heroes.” An all-media juried exhibition honoring the working class, inspired by ML Liebler’s book Working Words: Punching the Timeclock and Kicking Out the Jams, a compilation of writing from local, national and international poets and writers. Scarab Club Gallery, 217 Farnsworth St. Detroit. 313-831-1250. http://scarabclub.org.

Literary Arts Events: Tuesday, April 26th – Monday, May 2nd

Creative Writing grad student Aylen Rounds has compiled a calendar of literary events taking place in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area.  This weekly listing appears on the EMU Creative Writing listservs and here on the Creative Writing Blog.  Check it out and see what strikes your interest!

Tuesday, April 26
 
6 p.m. – Open Mic night (music and poetry) at Solid Grounds Coffeehouse, 133 W. Main Street, Ste. 222, Northville       http://www.solidgroundscoffeehouse.com
 
7-9 p.m. – Poetry Night at Lighthouse Coffee Company, 9 West Main Street, Milan. http://www.lighthousecoffeeco.com
 

Wednesday, April 27
 
7 p.m. – Reading with Jeff Kass, poet-in-residence for Ann Arbor Public Schools, founder/director of the VOLUME Youth Poetry Project at the Neutral Zone. Nicolas Books,  2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI  48103, Ann Arbor. http://www.nicolasbooks.com
 
7 p.m. – Reading and book signing with mystery novelist Rhys Bowen. Aunt Agatha’s Book Shop, 213 S. 4th Ave., Ann Arbor. http://www.auntagathas.com/
 

Thursday, April 28
 
7–9:30 p.m. – An Evening of Poetry with with Daniel Kolos, Zilka Joseph, Christine Lord and musician Reka Zoltan (followed by a short open mic session.) Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, 704 Airport Blvd. Ann Arbor. http://www.interfaithspirit.org/
 
7 p.m. – Southeast Michigan Poetry Group: April meetup. A casual get-together for people who write and/or want to read poetry. Royal Oak, Michigan. ***note: this group’s information is from meetup.com, and they ask you to let them know in advance if you’d like to come hang out and share work. They meet up once a month, and this month it’s at a coffee shop. Check them out here: http://www.meetup.com/The-Southeast-Michigan-Poetry-Meetup-Group/***
 

Friday, April 29
 
6:30 p.m. –  Griot Youth Story Slam (“the very best youth storytellers of Detroit”!) Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave. Warren. http://www.chwmuseum.org
 
7-9 p.m. – Wine and Poetry: National Poetry Month Reading featuring Randall Horton (current National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellow) and Detroit poet Daniel Ames, author of a debut collection about Detroit called Feasting at the Table of the Damned. Virgil Carr Cultural Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave, Detroit.
 
7 p.m. – Meet author John Pollack, whose books include “The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History and Made Wordplay More than Some Antics,” “Cork Boat: A True Story of the Unlikeliest Boat Ever Built,” and “The World on a String: How to Become a Freelance Foreign Correspondent.”  Nicolas Books, 2513 Jackson Avenue. Ann Arbor.  http://www.nicolasbooks.com
 

Saturday, April 30
 
10 a.m.-4 p.m. –  Photography and Poetry Exhibit at Copper Colored Mountain Arts (CCMA): “India – A Light Within”. Photographs by Charlee Brodsky with writing and poetry by Neema Bipin Avashia and Zilka Joseph. Exhibit is open every Saturday from 10-4 now until June 15th. 7101 W. Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor. http://www.ccmarts.org
 

Monday, May 2
 
7:30–11 – Open Mic (poetry and music). Sign up begins at 7:30, performances start at 8. The Coffee Bean, 884 Penniman Avenue, Plymouth. http://www.plymouthcoffeebean.com
 
 
Ongoing

April 20–May 15th – “Working Class Heroes.” An all-media juried exhibition honoring the working class, inspired by ML Liebler’s book Working Words: Punching the Timeclock and Kicking Out the Jams, a compilation of writing from local, national and international poets and writers. Scarab Club Gallery, 217 Farnsworth St. Detroit. 313-831-1250. http://scarabclub.org.
 
 
Planning Ahead….
 
Registration is open now For The Metro Detroit Book and Author Society’s 78th Luncheon, being held on May 16th. Tickets are $30 and include lunch and author talks by novelists Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm), Diane Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses), Erik Larson (Devil in the White City),  and Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn). Nonfiction writer John Gallagher will also be featured, and arts grants will be presented. This will be held at Burton Manor Banquet and Conference Center in Livonia. http://www.bookandauthor.org/

If you have an event that you’d like to have added to next week’s list, message Aylen at aylen.rounds @ gmail.com by Sunday, May 1.