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?

Recap: 2nd Fall 2017 BathHouse Event featuring Joanna Ruocco

Thank you to all of those in attendance at our 2nd Fall 2017 BathHouse event featuring Joanna Ruocco and a special thank you to all of those who participated in the discussion following her reading.  Pictures from the event are posted below. Keep in mind that we are still accepting submissions for reviews.

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

 

Karen Thompson Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

Day 1

On the first day of the Bathhouse readings we listened to Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Camille Roy, and Rachel Letvisky read from some of their past works as well as new pieces either recently published or currently being written. Having four creative writing classes this semester I’ve read pieces from every one of those writers.

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Upcoming Temporal Arts Collective Event

[ a n o c t a v e ]Great news! Upcoming performances by the Temporal Arts Collective. The event, [ a n o c t a v e ], will be taking place Saturday November 17th at 9:00pm 106. N. Adams Apt. 2 in Ypsilanti. The event promises  to be “an evening of contemporary poetry.” A mix of performers, alums, current undergrads, graduate students and innumerable others will be there.  Those reading include, but are not limited to:

  • Kellie Nadler
  • David Boeving
  • G. Matthew Mapes
  • Jonah Mixon-Webster
  • John Farmer
  • Nick Compton
  • Miranda Metelski
  • and Kristen Gines

For more information about the Temporal Arts Collective check out their Facebook page.
If you cannot make it, fear not, the blog will send one of its staff writers to the event.

Upcoming events Week of October 22nd

Hello. Greetings from the ether, this week  are two events that I think the community ought to be aware of. Both will be reviewed by the EMU:CW:B staff and/or its affiliates.

Chronologically the first event is Storytellers Lounge. This event is held in the Student Center room 300 and begins at 9pm October 25th, this Thursday. It is part of an ongoing series that takes place every four weeks. “Storytellers Lounge is a whole new experience for almost anyone who attends. Inspired by the Moth StorySLAM, eight to ten people will have the opportunity to share a real-life story with an audience. The performers will range from emerging writers, performers and artists to EMU faculty, staff and students with the purpose to entertain, inspire and motivate.

The second event I wish to bring to the attention of the community is the Madhouse Poetry Night. More than a few Eastern Michigan University students will be performing at the Ugly Mug Friday October 26th starting at 7:00pm. Be aware, there is a one drink minimum. For more information I’ll leave this link here.

Also, in the interest of keeping the reader engaged I would like to address the banner art for the Creative Writing Blog. We are currently accepting photo-submissions to replace our banner art. If you have a picture/image you feel would work just perfectly in that space please submit via the submissions page.

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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