Poetics a la Shira Dentz | The Sun a Blazing Zero |

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When one undertakes a close reading of Shira Dentz’ fifth full-length book of poetry, the sun a blazing zero, published in 2019 by Dialogos Books and Lavender Ink, many questions emerge.

I was lucky to have an opportunity to attend Dentz’ reading via Zoom, through the auspices of BathHouse Reading and Event Series and the EMU Department of English.

During the reading, which Dentz shared with poet Kathryn Cowles, Dentz read three poems from her book. During the first poem, she employed sensory devices over zoom. Readings during COVID-19 are an unusual sort of animal, with the strong possibility of poetry’s impact dissolving over the micro-fiber optical transportation of text fading through technology and transmission. However, even with the sociability of writing diluted through contemporary presentation strategies, the poetic language, performed by the originator rang through.

I mentioned Dentz’s choice to add an additional sensory device: in true avant-garde fashion, Dentz grasped a sheet of paper and rumpled it in front of the computer camera as she read the opening poem of “Black Flowers” (p. 32) The sound of paper, deconstructed into percussion instrument, enhanced the opening lines of the poem.

My bubby a black pump marked with

creases an array of streets, now and then

overlapping. Her name changed, rounded

to Mary. A stew of scribbles. Her pumps,

stretched wide open, excited; black flowers.”

from the poem Black Flowers

On the page, the first stanza is nearly crowded out by a graphic design elements, lines smooth and sloping intersecting with jagged peaks. The thin black lines might have been created by the hand of a very old woman, or a very young child. When my children were young, I respected their writing, and we (together) gave it a special name: “scribble-scrabble.” The image of lines on the page, and the sound of the paper being shuffled and animated by Dentz’s hands gave a perfect multi-sensory impression of “scribble-scrabble.”

What other readers/listeners made of the noise of “scribble-scrabble” over zoom technology is impossible to access without deeper inquiry. However, my inquiry and immediate appreciation of the sound as an aligning symbol, which pointed to the marks Dentz manufactured to accompany her poem seems to be an important chain of events in how the poetic can transcend the page and enter the body of the recipient.Permit me one more note about mark-making and its relation to lived-time: learning to make marks on the page is as foundational, as elemental, as all of the developmental steps of movement. When an infant, especially an infant about which you personally care, your own small child, or perhaps a child with a kinship relationship, attains steps of discovery and self-actuality, those milestones give the day a special marker of particularity. Rolling over, discovering the axial midline of the body is truly a skill to celebrate. For without discovery of the body’s axial mid-line, there will be no crawling, no sitting, no standing, no walking.

Therefore, scribble-scrabble is not a random choice for juxtaposition with the poem Black Flowers. Rather, it is an embodied choice. Whatever we called it, whatever our mothers or fathers responded when they saw it, whether we, as preschool writers were praised for it, or ridiculed for it, scribble-scrabble is the universal mark-making of aging. The infant ages into a toddler, and the mark-making is a beginning step of literary consciousness.

November 12 Join us at Poet Rachel Levitsky’s Reading

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Tomorrow at 11:00 am, the Poet Rachel Levitsky will be giving a reading and talk in Professor Carla Harryman’s Creative Writing class.

Places are still available for guests to enjoy this reading via Zoom. Email Prof. Harryman to register and request a link to the event.

A Conversation with Rosie Stockton, Poet and Alum

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Rosie Stockton, (they/them/theirs) is Alumni from the Creative Writing Program, 2017 who is currently pursuing a PhD at University of California, Los Angeles. They (RS) take a few moments to chat with current blog writer/admin staffer, Christina-Marie Sears (BH). We discuss their work, current practice, and time at Eastern Michigan University. Proudly we share this news:

Rosie Stockton’s recent work: Permanent Volta won the Sawtooth Prize and will be published soon by Nightboat Books.

This conversation began via email and continued with a real-time interview. We had a lovely chat, and hope that you will find this post informative and as enjoyable as our meeting.

BathHouse: What is your daily practice like? Do you write in solitude or do you enjoy a community or peer relationship with other artists?

RS: I write alone and journal alone. But I love writing with other people.

Poetry is grounding and ritualizing for me.

One of my daily rituals is- I get up and I journal. It’s not narrative. Journaling for me is a stream-of -consciousness and image-focused practice. I have a really active dream life and I just wake up and write before I even look at my phone, but of course on some days that doesn’t always work.

We laugh.

BH: The vitality and somatic grounding of your manuscript is so vivid and engrossing. What kind of effect or reaction do you wish to stir in the reader? Or is that not a consideration?

RS: When writing, I’m not thinking about the reader at that moment.” They elaborate, describing some pivotal experiences with Professor Rob Halpern at EMU- Daily practice was kind of drilled into me.

They go on to share that this Poetry manuscript developed out of their Master’s Thesis project, with Carla Harryman, Language Poet and Professor, advising. However, the draft from the thesis was one of four sections of this final manuscript. And RS has made many revisions over the years.

Permanent Volta refers to a kind of eternal revolution.

Towards that end, I wonder:

What can poetry accomplish?
What does it do and how does it contribute to literature?
To society? To social action?

Poetry is a sensory organ.

RS: Poetry possesses… a different type of knowledge, according to Aimé Césaire, it’s poetic knowledge. The poem knows something that I don’t know. I ask the poem what it needs to teach me.

BH: Do you work with formal structures in poetry? Do sonnet forms and the like impact your work?

RS: I worked (for some time) on the form of the sestina. That was like a machine. The way it churned the language– defamiliarizing it. (Additionally, )

Putting two semantic fields together creates new content and obscures meaning and generates new meaning.

Deeply political and aesthetically innovative, while RS writes alone, she also enjoys community. RS co-facilitated Writers’ Bloc for several seasons. In this program, Professor Halpern and workshop leaders such as Stockton have a close, creative relationship with writers who are incarcerated at Huron Valley Women’s Prison.

RS: In terms of her work with the Huron Valley Writers: this work, writing (in community) tackling prompts with women in the workshop, allowed me to take vocabulary, cogent thoughts, different elements from disparate areas of my life, and create something new.

Additionally, RS notes the importance of non-conscious additions within their poetry. They express interest in accessing latent though and latent feeling. (Deconstruction and alteration) is an important process for my creative thinking.

Breaking sentences allows for new sentences.

Enjoy this excerpt from Rosie Stockton’s Manuscript, Permanent Volta.

“EXCESS”

Your sestina exceeds the bar and I sip. Windy with adjectives, my view of thunder. In
that notebook, what are you writing in that notebook. In the notebook, that book with
notes, which order are the words, which words slight the order.

You need a word for waltz, and I said breeze, breeze or slide, march or breeze or slide.

I sip your excess, your sestina in my notebook, the breeze it says be careful, be careful
with the sestina, the sestina in your notebook.

Where I wonder and I sip, where you got that sestina, what machine gave you that
sestina. You can write a sestina, I demand, you can really write a sestina. In your
notebook with thunder, I sip windily. I waltz to think of your order, the words in the
notebook, my careful sestina.

Your breeze is marching excess, it is slow and pauseful. Always with the pauses, you are
thunder in my bar, and I sip, all excess. All excess and pause. And pause and pause. Be
careful says the sestina, marching along, with all that excess in your notebook, with that
machine that waltzes on.

No pause for the machine, only windy prediction, be careful of that word, or that order. Excessive sestina, bent over the bar. It is writing, writing thunder and care. I sip excess, I
sip carefully, my excess. Windy with order, my excess.”

Rosie Stockton is a poet based in Los Angeles. Their first book, Permanent Volta, is the recipient of the 2019 Sawtooth Prize, and is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2021. Their poems have been published by Publication Studio, Monster House Press, Jubilat, Mask Magazine, and WONDER. They received their M.A. in Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. They are currently a PhD Student in Gender Studies at UCLA.

Here’s more information on Writers’ Bloc

POETRY FROM INSIDE WOMEN’S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY

“Since 2011, The Writers’ Bloc has been nourishing personal and collective evolution through the writing and study of poetry inside Women’s Huron Valley Prison in Ypsilanti. Through the study and practice of poetry, the Writers’ Bloc has discovered that we can transform our relations to ourselves, to one another, and to the social conditions of incarceration. If social justice depends on creating new forms of solidarity, then the Writers’ Bloc writes for social justice from behind prison walls, turning otherwise negated forms of social relation into the stuff of living solidarities. In doing so, we make the prison walls porous, while imagining and enacting new horizons of social and political possibility.”

This statement, emailed to Graduate Students as an announcement of EMU Honors College Star Lecture in the fall of 2019, supports and contextualizes Rosie’s interview comments about the individual writer and the community and sociability of poetic writing. At this event, Prof. Halpern presented and discussed the work of The Writers’ Bloc, and included the project’s facilitators and past participants, as well as the voices of poets inside Women’s Huron Valley.

Works Cited

Received by Rob Halpern, TOMORROW! Star Lecture Featuring the Writers’ Bloc at Women’s Huron Valley Prison, 18 Nov. 2019.

Stockton, Rosie, “EXCESS” a poem selected from their book manuscript, Permanent Volta.

Presenting Shayla Harris

The title of Shayla’s Capstone is Mirror of Freedom

“This capstone project is a collection of poems, sound poems, and performances about the journey of finding freedom by looking at myself in the mirror. “

Shayla Harris is double majoring in Creative Writing and Arts and Entertainment Management. She is an African American woman and Christian who uses poetry to reflect on identity, and she plans to continue writing and travel the world performing after graduation, as well as go full course into artist management. 

Experience Shayla’s Capstone Project, Mirror of Freedom, Part One and Part Two.

Please join us in congratulating Shayla!

Presenting Sierra Brocklehurst

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Sierra’s Capstone Project is entitled: Too Many Projects and Not Enough Time: A Writer’s Story.

This is a hybrid work of narrative, prose, and poetry addressing the nature of writing from a fictional university student’s point of view. Sierra is a third-year student majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Electronic Media and Film Studies Sierra Brocklehurst,  aims to pursue a career as a writer for Cartoon Network Studios.

Please join us in congratulating Sierra.

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