Undergraduate Capstone 2021

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We are thrilled to present the Capstone Projects of Four Emerging Writers. Join us in recognizing the achievements of our Spring 2021 undergraduate writers!

Madalyn Brown, M. Ottenbreit, Claire Schallhorn and Louie Watkins, have all been studying with Professor Rob Halpern during the Winter 2021 Semester. Their work in Creative Writing, represented in Virtual Celebration by readings and media pieces, can be viewed on our Instagram Channel, with the IGTV platform. You don’t need an IG account to enjoy these pieces.

Thank you for joining Creative Writing @ EMU in congratulating our graduates!

Madalyn Brown is a fourth year student at Eastern Michigan University, double majoring in creative writing and media studies and journalism. For her Capstone Project, she has written a series of personal essays titled “Non-Local Consciousness of Near-Death Experiences,” which is written in prose and list form.

Madalyn writes:










Madalyn Brown in a recent photo. Follow this link to enjoy Brown’s Reading.

“The personal essays follow my journey around mental and physical illnesses I live with every day and how having repeated colon infections and COVID-19 this year have changed how I think and feel about specific aspects about my life and life in general. The piece I’ll be reading is titled “The Form of Un-,” which is a transformative piece starting with self-harm until reaching social transformation and healing. “

M Ottenbreit shares their project “Eggs,” and this anecdote:

“When I was in fourth grade, for career day, I wore my dad’s tweed jacket with a name tag that said “author” in big letters. Almost a decade later, I am close to a degree in 2D Design and Creative Writing. I can confidently say I am an artist and a writer who is mentally ill and queer. My recent writing has been directed towards autobiographical poetry and prose on subjects of life as a queer person in America, not just the pain of it but the joy of it as well. Eggs explores themes of body dysmorphia, trans love, loss, and the modern coming out.”

They can be found on social media on twitter and Instagram with these handles.
Twitter: @mirlinbluee; Instagram: @mirlinblue. Below, M’s artwork represents their project, “Eggs.”

Enjoy M’s piece here.

Claire Schallhorn‘s project “Vukovich Verisimilitude” explores and questions the nature of heritage and the effects it has on family dynamics. Of her Capstone piece, Claire writes:

“To do this, I use a mixture of both prose and verse poetry. Poetry, for me, has become a space to safely question and explore my confusion on the notion of heritage. Prose on the other hand, has become a place for me to ground my thoughts and reflect. Many of my prose pieces look back on how my process and research this semester impacted my writings as well as myself. I also wanted to include in my presentation images of where I grew up alongside my pieces dealing with family relationships to further explore what heritage means to me.”









Claire Schallhorn in a recent photo.

Enjoy Claire’s Capstone Project Here.

Louie Watkins has always found himself to have a peculiar relationship with the objects that surround him, and has decided to explore and examine this relationship through his capstone project, simply titled Objects. Utilizing both prose and poetry, Louie pokes at the knicknacks, memorabilia, tools, and all else that occupies his space, discovering the ways in which they affect him, and how he affects them in turn. 

Outside of the Capstone project, Louie will be graduating this spring with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Entertainment Design & Technology, will continue writing, and will continue to collect.










This still life depicts some of Louie Watkin’s Collections.

Enjoy his Capstone video here.

Master of Arts Showcase Announced

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Four | Not Square | A Literary Reading and Virtual Graduate Student Showcase

will take place on Zoom on Thursday April 22, 7-9 pm

Email to receive the link for the Showcase by 11:59 pm on 4/21/21 if at all possible. Late responses may not be received in time for the event, however every effort will be made to admit all who wish to attend.

Ciara Garrett is a poet, fiction writer and playwright. An excerpt from her script Places Yet Unturned will be first on the program.

Pamela Mohar is a creative non-fiction writer and poet. A selection from libretto, a guide will be performed at the Showcase.

John Ballard Pecora’s Memoir/Prose piece Book of Mom will be shared next. The image of the sunflowers represents a favorite painting of John’s mother, to whom the piece is dedicated.

Christina-Marie Sears’s Chapter One from subLIMINAL will finish the Showcase program. This is a speculative manuscript which she hopes will grow up into a novel in the near future.

At the end of the readings, we invite comments, questions and general merry-making from attendees. Opportunities to interact with the artists, in true BathHouse Events fashion, will close this Showcase event.

See you at the Reading!

A Conversation with Christine Hume

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According to New York Times’ Book reviewer, Ken Kalfus, ” Saturation Project is sometimes elusive, but there’s no meaning in it that gets lost for long. When Hume’s thematic connections and redemptive insights arrive, it’s with the force of a hurricane.

(New York Times, 2/14/2021.)

By Christina-Marie Sears

Christine Hume is an acclaimed poet, essayist and sound poet. Her work, and the range of her work is exceedingly diverse, spanning critical pieces, reviews, sound poems, essays and poetic texts- her skill in all of these forms is certainly impressive. Hume’s voice is well-defined and distinctive. Saturation Project is packed with evocative nuance, sensory detail, philosophical interrogations of selfhood, woman’s identity, and cultural and material practices of generation, survival, and innovation. This writer has had the privilege of study with Prof. Hume for two courses while at EMU’s dynamic Creative Writing Program. In the course, Community Outreach for the Creative Writer, which is a degree requirement, we Graduate Students had the opportunity to soak in Hume’s broad and inclusive ideas about how to sustain a writing practice which includes sociability and interconnection with others. In the incredible Auto-Theory Workshop, we studied such fascinating writers as Saidiya Hartman, Kiese Laymon and Maggie Nelson. The conversations, book discussions and cozy informal lectures, along with Prof. Hume’s incisive and interdisciplinary articulations of literary theory, promoted scholarship and disciplinary knowledge for all the writers. The memories we made in Prof Hume’s classes will impact me always.

Cover of Hume’s new book of Essay/Memoir Saturation Project, Solid Objects Press, NYC.

Therefore, I am pleased and proud that we had the opportunity to discuss Saturation Project through email interview on February 26th. Without further ado, here are some of the key points of our discussion.

I notice that the prose style in your book is very poetic. It flows smoothly and there’s lots of detail (sonic, visual, proprioceptive) that feels poetic to me. Is this an essential component of lyricism, in your view?

I am fascinated with the sonic magic of language wherever I find it. Sound has privileged access to the nerves; it hits the skin, blood, bones, viscera, subconscious more directly than visual information or maybe any other kind of sensory input. Running our senses over and into language, existing within its rhythms and acoustic structures immerses us in a specialized intelligence. G.M. Hopkins thought that words were alive and sought out like-sounding words in order to enrich and perpetuate them. Their desire for permanence or their insistence on excess was palpable to him. Like Hopkins, I believe the sonic links in words are secret pathways that hold mysterious powers, occult resonances, and understandings we can’t access any other way. There are rhythms that hold everything we know and understand together and others that destroy orthodoxies and conventional thought. Memory, too, has an intense relationship to sound, repetition and rhythm that writing can mine. The sounds of language can lead us in unexpected and previously unknown places.

Do you consider yourself a poet who branches out into memoir and essay writing? Or vice-versa?

It’s a great question, and I just talked about this in a couple other recent interviews, for Pulp, the official blog of the Ann Arbor District Library, and for ZYZZYVA. Luckily, at EMU, the Creative Writing program does not require generic fidelity. We embrace experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to writing! We embrace fluidity among generic (read: gendered) labels!

When you are working with such personal material, how do you cope with difficulties along the way? Do you find your mood is impacted by touching such material, especially when there has been significant trauma behind the events?

One thing that surprised me about the review of Saturation Project in The New York Times is how focused it was on the trauma and more salacious aspects of the book, which to my mind are integrated into a larger story. It also puzzles me when people use words like “brave” and “courageous” to describe writing about trauma as though a normal person would have the good sense not be traumatized or would hide their trauma, stuff it down into dark “private” places and not publish it. It’s that kind of shame culture that greases the wheels of the traumatizers and locks everyone in their path in a private hell. 

How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?

Countless. I have heard of writers who have a kind of base minimum number of drafts—one I’m thinking of particularly came to my class and talked about the 9th draft as being the crucial one—but the process of revising is not so distinct for me; it’s a constant wash of returning and experimenting. I think counting drafts would be depressing or at the very least a pointless form of accounting and accumulating. One of the reasons that this particular book had so many drafts and versions, that it required a lengthy process, is that I wanted the essays to do something together that they did not do on their own. I talk about this at Hypertext.

Do you have any writing blogs or books about writing essay that you recommend?

I think you learn best by studying the essays you love, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Three classics that both perform and address ideal conditions for the essay that I love are Emerson’s “The Poet,” Adorno’s “Essay as Form,” and Cixous “The Laugh of the Medusa.” I usually begin my essay class with these along with Montaigne, who coined the term “essay” and brought a rich inner life to an intensely empirical sensibility. 

Finally, how long did you work on Saturation Project? Did you have times when it lay dormant?

By far the longest, most radically transforming book I’ve ever worked on. I wrote each chapter as distinct essays, but they longed to be together (see Hopkins above). The process was truly a saturation, where I tried to soak each piece in the language, ideas, images, off-shoots, sounds, and affective states of the others over the course of at least five years. The beginning was much earlier though: Seneca Review published a nascent version of “Ventifacts” in 2011—a full decade before Saturation Project saw the light of day. An interview that accompanied the essay publication shows clearly—though I hadn’t quite realized it at the time—that I was far from done with it. I also had a very extended version of “Atalanta,” which was really two essays—one of which became my chapbook, A Different Shade for Each Person Reading the Story (which I have revised, as part of another manuscript, since the chapbook came out!). I first had to break that piece free from “Atalanta,” a weirdly painful process. 

Announcing Oana Avasilichioaei BathHouse Guest Artist

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The Creative Writing Faculty is very pleased to invite students, faculty and interested parties
to our Winter BathHouse Event which will feature poet, sound artist, and
translator Oana Avasilichioaei on February 10 and 11.

Of special note is her premiere of  a live (zoomed-in!)  sound performance on February
11 at 3:40 pm.

For information about attending this event and her
discussion of her most recent book, Eight Track,  please consult this image.

About Oana

Oana Avasilichioaei’s  multidisciplinary art practice interweave’s
poetry, translation, photographic and moving image, sound, and
performance. Her most recent book Eight Track is described as “a
transliterary exploration of traces; sound recordings, surveillance
cameras, desert geoglyphs, drone operators, refugee interviews, animal
imprints, and audio signals [that] manifest moments of inspired wonder
and systems of power.”  She lives in Montreal, where she has
translated the work of several Quebecois poets.  For more information
about her books, sound works, performances, and translations please
follow this link: https://www.oanalab.com/

Oana Avasilichioaei
Courtesy of oanalab.com, we are proud to present our Winter 2021 Guest Artist.

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 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.

Undergraduate Capstone Showcase will be April 21st

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This year’s Capstone Showcase will be presented virtually. Writers will be featured on the blog and on the BathHouse Events Facebook page. The event will be “going live” on April 21st, with each writer sharing a selection from his/her/their work.

We look forward to sharing the outstanding creative work our graduating writers with you.

Capstone Poster

In the wake of COVID-19, our April 9th Reading is Cancelled

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Sadly, this amazing opportunity, a reading with Kiese Laymon and Aisha Sabatini Sloan, will not be able to happen this spring. However, we at BathHouse and the Creative Writing Faculty at EMU hope you will be able to enjoy their work from a safe social distance.

Please enjoy the biographies and support the work of our visiting writers.
Books are available from all fine booksellers.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Kiese Laymon 

Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA in Fiction from Indiana University. Laymon is currently the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of the novel, Long Division; the collection of essays,  How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America; and Heavy: An American Memoir, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal.
Visit Kiese Laymon’s website for upcoming events.

Aisha Sabatini Sloan

Sloan’s first book of essays, The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theater of Black and White was published by the University of Iowa Press in 2013. Her most recent essay collection, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit, was chosen by Maggie Nelson as the winner of the 1913 Open Prose Contest and won the CLMP Firecracker award for nonfiction. She is the Helen Zell Visiting Professor of Creative Nonfiction at the University of Michigan. In 2020, she received an  NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing. Visit Aisha Sabatini Sloan’s website for more.

To join our Mailing List, sign up here. Click here to view our most recent newsletter issue which offers links to local booksellers. Take good care during this difficult time!

Winter Fiction Reading with Hilary Plum and Susan Steinberg Wednesday 2 | 12 | 2020 from 2-4 100 Strong Hall

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Don’t miss this opportunity to hear guest authors read in the recently renovated Strong Hall.

Hilary Plum is the author of the novel Strawberry Fields, winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose (2018); the work of nonfiction Watchfires (2016), winner of the 2018 GLCA New Writers Award; and the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (2013). She has worked for a number of years as an editor of international literature, history, and politics. She teaches creative writing at Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA program and is associate director of the CSU Poetry Center. With Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series at Rescue Press. Recent work has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Full Stop, Poetry Northwest, West Branch, Oversound, the Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. More at http://www.hilaryplum.com/about.html
Samples of Plum’s writing:
www.awpwriter.org/magazine
www.fenceportal.org

Susan Steinberg is the author of Spectacle, Hydroplane, and The End of Free Love. She is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches at the University of San Francisco. More information on her recent novel Machine is available from Graywolf Press.
Samples of Steinberg’s writing:
“Punctuation” and her story collection Spectacle

See you at the Reading!

Winter Fiction Reading

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We are counting down to our February 12th event. We hope you will join us at our first reading of the year, which will feature Hilary Plum and Susan Steinberg on Wednesday 2.12.2020. The event will take place from 2-4 pm at 100 Strong Hall, in the recently renovated auditorium.

Plum and Steinberg’s recent books will be available for sale at the reading. Additionally there will be time for Discussion between the audience and authors, as well as an opportunity for book-signings.

About Hilary Plum
(American Author) Biography: Hilary Plum is the author of the novel Strawberry Fields, winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose (2018); the work of nonfiction Watchfires (2016), winner of the 2018 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; and her first novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (2013). She has worked for a number of years as an editor of international literature, history, and politics. She teaches creative writing at Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA program and is associate director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. With co-editor Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series at Rescue Press. Recent work has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Full Stop, Poetry Northwest, West Branch, Oversound, the Mississippi Review, and elsewhere.


About Susan Steinberg 

(American Author) Biography: Susan Steinberg iis the author of MachineSpectacleHydroplane, and The End of Free Love. She is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Her stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, The Gettysburg Review, American Short Fiction, Boulevard, The Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, Denver Quarterly, and other literary magazines. She teaches at the University of San Francisco.

In Our Words: Vee Kennedy

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Vee, Graduate Student in the English Department of Language and Literature, is an immensely talented author and scholar. Vee identifies with the pronouns they/them and their, and their multiple talents thoroughly benefit three concurrent areas of study: Creative Writing, Linguistics and Compositions. For more on Vee, visit this article.

In September, Vee shared their reading of this eloquent and thoughtful introduction of our Fall BathHouse Events Series. Read the whole introduction below.

Thank you for joining us tonight in welcoming Sarah Schulman back for her second of three BathHouse Events this week. I don’t know about any of you, but I am not particularly well-rested this afternoon. I could barely sleep after last night’s eye-opening reading and discussion of Conflict is Not Abuse, and I don’t foresee this event being any less gripping. This afternoon we come together to hear her read from her most recent fiction works. 

Born in 1958 in New York City, Schulman published her first novel, a crime novel called The Sophie Horowitz Story, in 1984. Since then, she has published eleven additional novels, numerous pieces of nonfiction, written two plays and produced three more, and served as a screenwriter for four films. She is a prolific writer, AIDS historian and activist, and also serves as a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the College of Staten Island. Her novel Rat Bohemia, written and set in the center of the AIDS Crisis in the 1990s in New York City, was named one of the “100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels of All Time,” by The Publishing Triangle. 

In reading chapter fourteen of Rat Bohemia, I, a Midwestern, suburban white queer born in the years in which the novel is set, with little tie to the AIDS crisis, was struck by Schulman’s frank discussion of HIV/AIDs, and of the greater public discourse surrounding the crisis and possible cures. Like many of us in the audience, until coming into contact with Schulman’s work, I hadn’t thought critically of the messages around and behind most AIDS narratives, and the often perpetuated idea of the disease as being something that can be learned from, that is not an unimaginable burden, and, and I quote, not “just fucking sad.” Schulman writes: “My friend Ronnie LaVallee said that the reason he felt better when he took some useless drug was because it was his father who told him about it, thereby proving that his father actually loved him. So why didn’t newspapers announce the next day that parental kindness helps people with AIDS live longer? Because that’s asking for more than people can do. Love our gay children? Impossible! We just want a pill. It’s easier.” This passage reminds me of the complexities of public health crises often unaddressed by prevention campaigns, and of the immense health care system inequities that exist in the United States. Even if we did have a magic pill, who would have access to this magic pill? What would it cost? What other barriers would patients have to go through to receive it? More importantly, on the topic of cures, are they ever going to make a pill to cure the homophobia crisis?

With her most recent novel, Maggie Terry, Schulman returned to the crime genre with a lesbian detective novel featuring the eponymous detective-turned-private-investigator, fresh from rehab, coping with both the gentrification of New York along with the harsh reality of the Trump Administration. Maggie just wants to rebuild her life and be reunited with her daughter, but she soon finds herself twisted up in a sensational case with a strangled actress and the hauntings of  police brutality that eventually cause her to recognize her complicity in a racist murder. In an interview with author Carley Moore, Schulman stated: “A really long time ago, I stopped writing protagonists that were based on myself, and I started writing protagonists based on people who were driving me crazy.” With this in mind, the book is dedicated to Thelma Wood, the real-life inspiration for the character Robin Vote in Djuna Barnes 1936 novel Nightwood, one of the worst girlfriends in literary history. I find that my experience in reading the character supports this notion. Maggie Terry is not always, or even often, a character I find sympathetic. However, I notice that in reading her, the reasons I find I am disgusted with her are that she resonates deeply with parts of myself I am dissatisfied with. Of the novel, Liz Von Kempeler of Lambda Literary said: “Traversing the personal to the sociopolitical, Shulman’s latest offers a strikingly rich portrait of lesbian identity, as well as a smart treatise on how an once righteous ‘outsider’ can end up at odds with the vital ideals of justice and equity for those who need it most.” Through Maggie, Schulman reminds us that each of us must continually work to fight against injustice, even if we are convinced we are doing that already. Thank you. 

To purchase a copy of Schulman’s moving novel, visit here. The text is available where ever fine books are sold.

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.


Alumni Feature | Two Sonnets

Alumni Adam Malinowski and David Kuhnlein are two poets living and working in the Detroit Metro area. In this rare alumni feature, we share two of their recent formal poems.

A untitled Sonnet

by Adam Malinowski.

Sonnet to the Sea by David Kuhnlein

He wants to know

What words are for

& I speak

Them awfully 

Slowly 

So his

Dreams might remain

Afloat like the alphabet

Grown into the shape of amoebas 

Forgive me

My tongue too much resembles 

The underside 

Beneath your tender

Belly

The open landscape, Lakeside in Summer, inspires poetry, travel and tranquility.

Poetry Fellowship Opportunity

This is the last two days for this opportunity! The 2021 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship is open now and seeks submissions. To apply gather 10 of your strongest poems, and craft a short statement about our work. This Fellowship is open to Emerging Poets, between the ages of 21-31. The Submission Process appears to be free of charge, and the Sub. Period ends on 4/30/2021.

If you have a collection 10 poems, and meet the age requirements, consider applying for this Fellowship. The call and submission guidelines can be reviewed here.

Good luck!

Thank you to Photographer Andrea Piacquakio for her image, entitled “Couple Reading…” Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

Featuring Candace J. Anderson

Hello my name is Candace J. Anderson, and I am honored to be featured in the
Bathhouse Blog. My family and I live in Ann Arbor, and I have been a teacher at St.
Paul Early Childhood Center and Preschool since 2017. I am a graduate student at
Eastern Michigan University in my third semester of the Creative Writing Program. I am
truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in a wonderful program with professors
who have shown me the limitless possibilities in Creative Writing, and have helped me in
my continued growth as a writer.

About the Poems

And Still We Wait, and And Still We Wait (Reprise)

These poems were written in response to our current social and political climate within the African-American community that has often transitioned into different forms of enslavement and oppression throughout history. Though these works, I hope to give a reader a glimpse into that systematic oppression.

My goal is to be able to provoke thought, and possibly start new conversations about the work that still needs to be done by all Americans, in our fight for true freedom and equality.

Candace J. Anderson, Poet, February 19, 2021

And Still We Wait

Browbeaten under the festering pustulous sun

wading in the recesses of history expunged a

cerebrally castrated apparition  

husk of humanities vermin 

hollowed and left to

toiling like a stoic effigy

corralled livestock 

undertow, governed

And still we wait

rebellion cleaving to the western blot 

scourged with fire 

branded by emaciation

underbudded iniquities putrefied

And still we wait

bifurcating our native tongue

a prosodic dysfunction that leaves

the central binary form scattered to the west impotent

ravaging our idiomatic expressions

casting it into swine

scavenging marrow abrasions

undergirded while birthing your disruptions 

And still we wait

circadian rhythms

underfonged

binded by covetous

abhorrent reverie slothering

heterogeneity morphing state 

dropping into quiet sleep 

Splintered 

And still we wait

tongues clucking, clicking

utterances groaned in spirit

interceding 

the lingual frenulum affixed 

 singing praises of a

 paradoxical dysarthria

aphasic and depleted

under siege by the harvest

waiting reap a reward is not in or of this life 

And still we wait

listening lapping up dry morsels  

creature comforts

listless

underseeing the overseer

plucking motes from the eyes of 

these man-made God’s while using one hand to

place cotton to balance the scales of justice

with rubbed raw pink fleshy cuticles and wielding a shotgun in the other

We will wait no more

like dogs gnawing on bone

 with ulcerated bleeding gums

gritting through sawed down teeth while being

undervalued and desensitized to our own plight an

induced hyperreal simulacrum burdened to break free 

fortified

 


The Poet in a recent photo.



And Still We Wait…(Reprise)

And still we wait…

Still, sorrowful, silenced 

Souls war down 

Heels cracked thorns in feet

Immobilized 

Transitioned from one form of captivity to another

Slavery, sharecropping, the new jim crow

Sowing blood soaked seeds

Harvesting on borrowed time 

Freedom bathing us in blue 

Batons tenderize our meat

Hair conditioned with yolks and scalding coffee

Cleansed with fire hoses and spittle

German Shepherds lapping at our skin

Puffed up lungs exuding chants that 

blow out burning crosses 

Black leathered gloved hands signaling retreat 

Pig squeals through hate sealed eyes 

Using mulatove cocktails to illuminate our path as we

cut that mutilated strange fruit from rope dangling on trees 

Bodies cured by the sun, charred by blazing gazes

fingers pointed with affixed poses, gleaming smiles 

Camera flashes at the pedestrian attractions 

Retrieving bloated bodies from rivers

baptized in blood

Rebellion spilling into the streets 

Kinky coily crowns that defy gravity stretching towards the sun flow in unison 

Fists lacerate the spaces between the wind 

Boots March in unison standing face to face with ballistic shields and masked faces 

Trudging through chitterlings, malt liquor, and crack