Review of Janet Kauffman’s, Eco-dementia and Joanna Ruocco’s Fiction Reading

By: Maria Kornacki

The main takeaway I got from Janet Kauffman’s Eco Dementia reading was the power of bringing people and environments together through writing.  Not only through writing, but through visual media to help make connections to our world. Janet Kauffman began her reading performance with defining her own term “Eco-Dementia” as being the “condition of humanity; a love of the living world while causing hurt and suffering its destruction”.

If I hadn’t gone to this reading or been a part of the creative writing community, I probably would not have gained insight from her thoughts about the environment.  The ability to share my personal view about society and the world is a writer’s gift, which has helped shape me into a better writer.  I have been gradually getting better at sharing my inner thoughts with others instead of just writing them down or not writing anything at all.  Her presentation was successful in fostering a sense of community and shared endeavor because we are all capable of learning from our surroundings through our senses.  Learning through observing, feeling, smelling, hearing, and even tasting allows us to make connections to the world around us.  Janet Kauffman explained the environment she lived in that was sort of a carley for how Eco-Dementia came about.

Kauffman is surrounded by land and described the importance to protect farmlands and wetlands in Michigan.  Kauffman’s environment placed prominence on connecting to the sense and physical world.  I thought it was a key note when she said she dislikes it when her poetry is described as “nature poetry” because it sounds more flowery in terms of really getting underneath all of the dirt and issues that come along with nature, which is what Eco-Dementia exhibits.

I then attended Joanna Ruocco’s reading on October 24th at 6pm.  Her reading was successful not only in fostering a sense of community, by helping foster young writers’ individual voices.  The pieces she read were lengthy, but each sentence was packed with experimental language to keep the audience engaged.  I noticed several people, including myself that laughed and smiled while listening to her read, particularly “My Future Boyfriend”(her “Dan” excerpt was also humorous).  This piece formed through a response to artwork, which is a similar to a writing/photography class exercise I have participated in at our EMU galleries.  If I have learned anything about Joanna Ruocco’s work, it’s to hone in on finding your voice as a writer while also being open to other possibilities for different styles of genres.

As a creative writing major, my college experience has been about finding my voice through writing and both bathhouse readings have helped me learned how to think outside the box in terms of getting the audience to be invested in my own writing style.  Expansion of the mind and the words on the page go hand-in-hand.  Ultimately, writing should be a way to bring an audience together and leave them thinking about the meaningful questions the work provoked.

Review of Janet Kauffman’s in-class discussion of ‘Eco-dementia’ (9/26/17)

By: Adam Malinowski

FERN VERSE

“i believe any string of words put together makes meaning” — Kauffman, at Emu, 9/26

the image of the fish (or, the logic of k=q=e) is the magical manifesto of Janet Kauffman’s Eco-dementia, a book of poems where all things—language, life, and all beings—are equal. Kauffman’s poetics nestle language thick inside the ecology of the physical world we all inhabit, but are quickly losing touch with, quickly forgetting, as we deepen our de-realization with life, the body, and the infinite bodies within and beyond us, committing ourselves (those of us plugged into the techno-capitalist machine, the majority of us) to technological alienation. Kauffman’s critique of positivist technological utopianism was best summarized when she stated, “physicality is much more important than meaning.” Meaning being the universal sign, the rationalist logic of the prevailing sexist, racist, homophobic, and imperialist social order. The body is in opposition, always & already, to this logic of domination. The body lies still in a thicket, in wildflowers and wild weeds, laying still beneath the sound of geese flying south in October. Delayed migratory patterns. Delayed apprehension of the materialist logic of late capital, misunderstood best in the deep seat of the thicket.

“Caught between rocks, the blue

mud ushers in

glacial till.” (p. 4)

Language is an aural medium for Kauffman. Perhaps she herself is a medium of sorts; her poems are best understood as spells, operating w/in a magical logic of associative verse and making something happen in the world that otherwise is imperceptible. Kauffman previously worked with an environmentalist group in lower Michigan that lobbied Lansing politicians to change pollution laws (her farm is somewhere along the watershed of the Maumee river, which connects to Lake Erie, and experiences huge algae blooms due to industrial pollution). although k=Kauffman knows her poems won’t change policy, she begs the question: on what level can they effect change, on what level are they affecting? Kauffman’s poetry, in her own words, is an assemblage of language tantamount to the “collections of talismans people places on their windowsills”—for Kauffman, poetry is memorious and felt, guiding our way, like crystal magic does, through the loss of contact with the physical world (home reduced to 4 walls and a front door) into the expansiveness of the planet as home, where our shared ethic is invisibility.

Kauffman’s poems are also informed not just by the loss of contact with the world, but by her own loss, the death of her father, who lived at the end of his life with dementia. her father would never know where his home was, and neither do we. place is not the highway, not the car, not the suburb, or the city. it is the ecosystem that underpins our artificial environs, the biosphere that sustains us all, that we are currently placing in peril. what grows at the side of the freeway? herbs and flowers and bushes and waterfowl and wildlife and kinds of trees. someone once told me St. john’s wart, an herb to ward off depression, is often found at the sides of Midwestern highways. the earth responds, poetry responds, but do we? only under conditions of immense psychological change, do we begin to respond differently. Kauffman felt less in grief about her father than she spoke about him in awe. The way he saw the world was not inaccurate, but less easily understood to humans living in present reality. Rather, Kauffman suggests, he may have seen the world in a less filtered, less mediated way. He would see things that were not “there,” or comment on things “not going on.” The poems respond similarly—to that which we cannot see, but which are, in fact, part of our reality.

—> in this sense, the poems are interventionary.

“because nothing makes a sound not one of us

animals in the end behind walls even the air

drowned out mouths open in every cell” (p. 47)

This poem (c. 2004), written under conditions of personal illness, rampant corporate pollution in lower Michigan, and the horrors of U.S.-sponsored torture in Abu Ghraib overseas, in particular, not just responds to these events, but if we take the poem as a discrete spell, a discrete aural and linguistic event, intervenes in our reality (or in reality), shaping our heads and twisting our brains, giving us new sense, like all good poems ought to do. My question now is: who do these poems ask us to become?

POETRY AT LITERATI: DONALD DUNBAR, CHRISTINE HUME, BECKY WIN

Our very own creative writing professor Christine Hume will be reading at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at 7:00pm, alongside two poets, Donald Dunbar and Becky Win. Literati Bookstore is located at 124 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Christine Hume is the author of The Saturation Project (Solid Objects, 2019), a lyric memoir in the form of three interlinked essays, as well as three books of poetry. Her chapbooks include Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008), Ventifacts (Omnidawn, 2012), Atalanta: an Anatomy (Essay Press, 2016), and a collaboration with Jeff Clark, Question Like a Face (Image Text Ithaca, 2017). She teaches in the interdisciplinary creative writing program at Eastern Michigan University.

Question Like A Face, by Christine Hume and Jeff Clark, is the second in an ITI Press series of pocket-sized, hard-bound, image-text collaborations between a writer and a visual artist. In powerful prose, Christine Hume looks at gender violence and complicity within the intimate and immediate interiors of a small city in Michigan. Like any tale of power, this one begins with the careless dismissal of a whole life.

Compelled by the constantly defaced and reappearing face of a young black woman shot by a white cop, whose image is affixed to walls around her community, Hume summons her visage as a call to outrage against her own complacency and against the silence surrounding our culture’s unending violence against women, especially women of color. She writes, I am living in a city that proliferates a question like a face. Her face appears and disappears on civic surfaces, her face replaces a blank space; her face replaces the city, piece by piece, claiming it, because her face is half hidden, in the half-light of waiting, half blowing in the wind, half stuck to the present, near a house where my family lives, where a young girl can look at it and think “not me.” A sequence of domestic photographs from police evidence files–hauntingly selected and cropped by Clark, punctuate Hume’s accounts with their simple, familiar violence.

About Shot: In alternating currents of prose and verse, SHOT reaches beyond the tradition of the nocturne to illuminate contradictory impulses and intensities of night. SHOT inhabits the sinister, visionary, intimate, haunted, erotic capacities to see and hear things at night, in the fertile void containing our own psychological and physical darkness. Via Levinas who locates self-knowledge and ethical contract in insomnia, this darkness is one “stuck full of eyes.” Here the insomniac falls into a Beckettian pattern of waiting, in an inextricable dialogue with a selfhood that cannot settle down. In a perpetual play between empirical and abstract knowledge, tantrum and meditation, SHOT creates torque that drives beyond material experience.

Please click this link for more details. http://www.literatibookstore.com/event/poetry-literati-donald-dunbar-christine-hume-becky-win

 

Bathhouse and more

This week is jam packed with creative writing.  Bathhouse reading series presents  two performers. November 28th will be a reading featuring Dimitri Anatasopoulo, Camille Roy, and Rachel Levitsky.

Then, join us on the 29th for a panel discussion with our presenters moderated by our own Carla Harryman entitled: Intersections: Community, Politics and Art.

The event takes place at Roosevelt Hall from 4-6pm both days, so if you cannot make one there is another. For more information be sure to check out the reading series page.

But wait, there’s more! After the Bathhouse reading EMU’s Nicholas Mourning will be performing at Wednesday Night Sessions at the Mentobe Cafe in Farmington. This is the final reading of the year so be sure to catch it if you can. Other “fantastic” authors include Steve Gillis, Mary Minock, and Horam Kim. The event beings at 7pm and should run about one hour.

In other news Dr. Rob Halpern has recently been awarded the Sexiest Poem Award! Congrats to Rob, one of the Creative Writing faculty here at EMU.

An account of the events of September 21st by Rebecca Hughes

One never knows what to expect when they show up to a reading, but you know when it’s a Prof’s house, that the A-game will be brought.

First Wendy Kramer presented, “The Morton Salt Girl Monologue: NaCl and the Meaning of Her Mark” accompanied by collaged trademark images she had created of the changing icon over the years. In a performance including visual and auditory cohesion and dissonance, she read both stage direction and script of a constructed text for the girl. This was followed by David Buuck who presented “We are all Sound: Poetics and Public Space in the Occupy Oakland Movement” which expressed an “on the scene” accounting of the challenges of creating and distributing poetics that can attempt to convey, do justice to, or maybe even not to do too much justice to, the movement.

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