CRTW Faculty Carla Harryman and Christine Hume both released new book/CD combos earlier this year. Check them out if you haven’t already:
Ventifacts by Christine Hume (Omnidawn)
Ventifacts begins the year Christine Hume’s daughter develops a wind phobia, but quickly blows into lyric investigations of the wind in art, politics, and literature, highlighting the currents between imaginary relations and physical conditions.
Open Box by Jon Raskin and Carla Harryman (Tazdik)
Three years in the making, Open Box is one of the most exciting and successful collaborations of poetry and music ever made. With meticulous attention to detail, Jon Raskin has set the genre-busting poetry of Carla Harryman to music ranging from rock and metal to jazz and free improv. As radical as the writing, the music is brilliantly arranged, and interacts with the texts in a variety of dynamic ways. Each track is a world of its own, and moves forward with a focus and direction unprecedented in music/poetry collaborations. Featuring Raskin’s all star west coast quartet, and the poet herself reading from some of her most cutting edge works, this is music-poetry at its very best.
Creative Writing Professor Carla Harryman will be among the faculty featured on Thursday, April 7, 4:00-5:30 p.m. in Halle 320 as part of the Faculty New Publications Lecture Series. This series spotlights recent faculty publications across periods, genres, and program areas, as well as provides graduate students with a sense of the different kinds of research faculty do and what constitutes a book-length research project in the field today. Light refreshments will be provided. Read more about Carla’s and other facutly work that will be presented below:
Carla Harryman: The Wide Road: A Collaborative Picaresque (co-written with Lyn Hejinian)
What would have happened had Thelma and Louise not driven off the cliff but stayed on the road? Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian’s picaresque novella, The Wide Road, chases down this question in its exploration of how friendship lives on to follow eros through a polymorphic landscape where a fearless, inquisitive “we” encounters “hunger in two places at once.” Carla will be sharing selections from the novel and talking about the process of writing collaboratively.
Cheryl Cassidy and Andrea Kaston Tange: Children and Empire
Professors Cassidy and Kaston Tange will be sharing selections from their newest publication, Children and Empire (History of Feminism, Routledge), a four-book series that comprises primary sources from the 19th through early 20th centuries. Primary texts in the collection come from both the American and British empires and include fiction as well as non-fiction letters, biographical information, reports, and articles. Cheryl and Andrea will also be discussing the works’ scholarly introductions and will be sharing some of the engravings and photographs that illustrate the collection.
Two more reviews to wrap up the semester…EMU student Wayne Westcott reviews a couple BathHouse readings from this past Fall:
I first met Julie Patton while escorting her to the bathroom. I have a thing about bathrooms. I hate them. They make me feel awkward in my own skin, and if there’s ever someone else in the bathroom, well I can forget about going to the bathroom.
On the way to said bathroom, I began talking to her about higher education, art, writing, etc. Everything about her demeanor made me feel like ’it will all be ok’ somehow. By the time we reached the bathroom, I was relaxed, I was excited, I was giddy like a damn school girl getting her first Hello Kitty lunch box. Julie Patton was already influencing me. She was already in my head.
I mention all this, because I feel the need to expose my feelings before going to her reading at the Sponberg Theater in November, as part of the BathHouse Reading Series. I went into Julie Patton’s reading an absolute fan of Julie Patton as an overall human being.
So on that November night, when Patton began crawling around on stage, as well played guitar sounds mixed and mingled with her words, I was hooked. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it. It was organic(hate that word), it was sensual, it was cool and hip and shit like that. Most of all though, it was just plain fun.
There was a tremendous sense of improvisation, and every time it seemed to work in Patton’s favor. Things such as having the audience communally play various instruments together, began to make me think about my writing. More than that, they made me think about the ‘performance’ of my work. I started thinking, what can I do to make my work seemingly come to life like she does.
When her performance ended, I was left sitting there, worn out by so much energy being given and taken from Patton. I wanted to ask her if I could come with her. Go back to the building she shares with other cast-aways and persons on the fringe of society. I didn’t ask though, because at the end of the day, that world is hers, not mine.
After seeing Patton perform, I realized I have to create my own world. I have to surround myself with positive like-minded individuals. I need to try and be more organic (still hate that word).
CREATIVE WRITING FACULTY
I have to be honest. I wasn’t quite sure how the night would go when walking to Sponberg Theater for the fall semesters first BathHouse Reading Series performance. These were the people I would taking advice and instruction from at a graduate level for at least the next two years. These were the people who would be shaping and influencing my writing the most for the time being. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
Christine Hume’s performance took me by surprise. She engaged the audience by including a sort of ‘sound track’ created for the work. This really added to the work. It created an atmosphere that really took the work further. I think for about a week after that, I kept hearing an odd voice saying ’fisting’ at random moments. That’s when I knew that her performance had really stuck with me.
Carla Harryman’s performance shocked me in a good way. Her work had language engaged playfulness that I was used to, but in no way put off by. In particular, her reading from the title Baby had a lasting effect on me. The way the text seemed to be chewing on words, it was just a great feeling to hear from the author herself.
Then, taking the stage, was Rob Halpern. Rob was the faculty member I knew absolutely the least about. I truly didn’t know what to expect from him. Rob took me by surprise with a type of intensity I had forgotten could be a part of readings. His language was shocking in a sense that it was unexpected, and that the way it was used and delivered, almost inoffensive.
Overall, the faculty reading really started the BathHouse Reading Series off with some bang. It was a reading that made me think about my influences and what I would gain from being at Eastern. Needless to say, I’m excited to be here. This reading was just a refreshing assurance of the confidence I have in the education I will be receiving here.
Creative Writing professor Carla Harryman, together with Lyn Hejinian, recently celebrated the release of The Wide Road, a collaborative work by the pair, roughly 20 years in the making. Here’s the official blurb from Belladonna Books:
What would have happened…had Thelma and Louise not driven off the cliff but stayed on the road? In Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian’s picaresque novella, friendship lives on to follow eros through a polymorphic landscape where their fearless, inquisitive “we” encounters “hunger in two places at once.”
The Wide Road was collaboratively composed by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian between 1991 and 2010. The cover art was drawn for this manuscript by the artist Nancy Blum, and the first edition is printed with two different cover designs.
The Wide Road pre-release date was December 1, 2010. The official release date is March 15, 2011. Find out more at:
EMU student Aaron Diehl offers up two reviews of BathHouse readings from this past semester:
CREATIVE WRITING FACULTY
On October 29th, I wandered down to Sponberg Theatre to catch the EMU faculty reading. The performers for the evening were Rob Halpern, Christine Hume, and Carla Harryman.
Christine Hume opened the night with selections from her book Shot. She did an interesting hybrid performance of sound and spoken word. The prerecorded material was played from her laptop, and included ambient noises and a double of her voice reading the piece. I thought it was very successful, as it added a bit of surprise and energy. It was also impeccably executed, as she kept her reading in time with the recording. I was impressed.
Carla Harryman was second, and was probably my favorite performance. She seemed extremely comfortable and confident on stage, and also appeared to be having a lot of fun. Her piece was about a baby, and it was very humorous and enlightening. It was basically a baby thinking way beyond his years. I liked it.
Rob Halpern was third, and read a few pieces, all of which were very sexually charged. Very dark and sometimes disturbing, they dealt with sex and violence. The first piece he read was about a soldier and it was very powerful. He had an odd presence on stage, moving his legs as if he was marching and staggering his speech in awkward increments. He was very successful in a disturbing sort of way.
Julie Patton’s performance on November 9th was very interesting. I go into these reading not knowing what to expect, as they tend to be very diverse. This performance was certainly unique.Julie had an extremely loose demeanor on stage. She was aided by a guitarist, who added an ambient, melodic texture behind her powerful voice. She did not let her writings hold her back on stage, choosing to read what she wanted and riff off the top of her head when she thought necessary. She basically spoke free form, playing with language and sound flawlessly. She was like a combination of singer and poet, with a major focus on the sound of words.At the end of her performance, she pulled out a bunch of instruments and had several people from the audience come up front and just bang away. They made a considerable racket. She danced along and loved every minute of it.
Her performance was inspiring to witness because she was entirely genuine and heartfelt about what she was doing on stage. Very intelligent, interesting, and honest.
EMU student Jessica Buterbaugh reviews a Jeff Kass reading and the faculty BathHouse reading from this past semester:
CREATIVE WRITING FACULTY
The first BathHouse Reading of the semester on the 29th of Sept. in Sponberg Theater was the faculty reading with Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern. Each faculty member had a distinct style and subject matter that enabled the audience to get a good idea of the talents of the creative writing department.Hume started the night off with a selection of her works mixed with audio tracks. The soundtrack, which was made for her work and sometimes incorporated actual phrases from it, was an interesting device. It enhanced the overall mood of the language she was using. I particularly enjoyed her piece where she talks about a recurring dream she’s had all her life.Harryman gave the next performance, which was based on “working non-narratively”. She made ample use of repeated words, alliteration, rhyming, and sound reiteration. Much of her work had a driving, almost frenetic quality to it. It made the times she slowed down stand out that much more. “Baby” was particulary interesting, and featured several phrases that caught my attention, like “regression was a word that gave babies a bad rap”. It was a fascinating look at life/society through the eyes of Baby.
Halpern was the only one of the three that I hadn’t had a class with, so I was very interested to see what his work would be like. Intensely personal are the words that immediately come to mind when describing his reading. Though I sometimes found the eroticism of his work to be a little overwhelming, it was a very moving and engaging reading.
Overall, the faculty reading was a success and had a good turn-out. It was amusing hearing people talk next to me who had no idea what they were about to hear before the reading started, as well as their reactions afterward. I felt like I was able to learn more about the personality of the faculty members outside of the classroom through their writing and performances.
Jeff Kass’ performance of Wrestle the Great Fear on Sept 15th in the Student Center auditorium was highly energetic, motivational, and fun. He tackled hard issues that his high school students face, and that the adults who work with and mentor them face. He remarked in the performance that he’s “trying to be the teacher he never had” for his students. His performance included videos, songs, recitations, anecdotes, and physical performances. His subject matter, while centered around a high school enviroment, ranged from the serious to the slightly risqué, to the flat-out silly.
It was extremely moving to hear him talk about his wonderful, amazing, so talented, so creative student named Angel. A student who had lost her mother, but made it into a strength for herself, and who wrote and performed poetry so well that he wished he never had another student like her because it was too hard. Later in the show there was a video montage of various students of his performing their pieces and Angel on that video is just as amazing, raw, and powerful as Jeff Kass describes her. It was no surprise to me that many of the questions in the Q&A session afterward focused on her.
I loved the video of the piece of gum in the girl’s mouth. I thought it was clever to have a piece of gum narrating its experience insider her mouth as a way to bring up teenage attractions, hormones, and feelings. The nerd song was also very hilarious and entertaining. I liked his view on nerds, that anyone who is extremely dedicate and/or good at something, anything, is a nerd. It was particularly amusing when he called Michael Jordan a nerd, and Steven Spielburg a super nerd. The fact that it was a song only made it more memorable.
He kept the audience captivated the entire show and was truly engaging. I regretted that it was not the full performance, because what I saw was so powerful (and funny!) that I wanted to see more.
EMU student Kylie Hoey reviews the EMU Creative Writing faculty’s BathHouse reading that took place earlier this semester:
At the first Bathhouse Reading, faculty from the creative writing program at Eastern read some of their works for us. Christine Hume was the first of the three readers. She read primarily from her published work Shot. All of her poems were accompanied with a soundtrack consisting of sounds, music, and words, both the poem being repeated and words that set the mood of the poem. The poem I remember the most was “Soggy Muff,” based off of a name in a piece written by Dr. Suess. This piece talks about how sleep, death, and laziness are inferior to wakefulness. Hume’s reading was timed well with her background sounds; when the sounds increased in speed and volume, Hume followed suit. She finished her reading with “I Exhume Myself,” a poem that is supposed to be a play on her last name.
Hume was followed by Carla Harryman. She began with “Light Poem,” which seemed to consists only of quickly reciting random words and phrases. This piece reminded me of the play we read in class, “Not I.” Harryman said that she was trying to repeat the style of another writer, but I did not catch the name. She finished her reading with many selections from her book Baby. These pieces got me thinking about what point of view the poems were being narrated from. Some seemed to be describing the world from the point of a human baby, while others could never make sense from that angle. I really enjoyed a quote from one of the last bits she read: “Teenagers are the most mature beings on earth.” This thought makes me laugh inside, but also think in a different way.
The reading was concluded by Rob Halpern, the newest member of the creative writing faculty. He began reading “Love Song to My Fallen Soldier” from his work-in-progress book Music for Porn. The piece made me wonder if the voice was a gay soldier, but I could not decide by the end. Halpern then read from another of his books that mostly focused on intimate longing. The thematic elements of this book seem to focus on war and love. A lot of repetition occurs within the poems and throughout the book. It did not sound as if a lot of the pieces were titled; this reminded me of A Season in Hell by Rimbaud. Overall, the reading was enlightening and exposed me to different kinds of writing.
EMU student Brandon Gorley offers a pair of reviews, the first on Christian Bök’s recent BathHouse reading:
Every writer needs to experiment every once in a while, but I think Christian Bok must be an over-achiever – I don’t think he’s ever stopped experimenting. Having read Eunoia and a few of his other works before the show, I knew what he was talking about, but I imagine anyone walking into the show uninitiated would be pretty lost. Hearing Bok perform is a truly unique experience. First off, he performs with his entire body. He’s literally moved by his own words. I wish I could get that into my own work. Also, he has the most gorgeous pronunciation I’ve ever heard (though I guess he’d have to in order to even read his poetry). The OCD-level attention to language is also admirable. Oftentimes I’ll type with a thesaurus in my lap and I can’t come anywhere near his variety. I can’t recall the last time I wanted to look up so many words. Even if you can’t take anything else from a Christian Bok show (and you should be able to), you’re literary curiosity will be piqued.
Next, Gorley reviews the Creative Writing faculty BathHouse reading that took place in September:
I’ve been attending college in the creative writing program for several years, but it isn’t often that I’ve been given the opportunity to hear the work of my professors. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience. I’d had classes with Christine Hume before, but we always studied the work of others. Her language was evocative and attention-grabbing, with an easy, rolling, almost sleepy tone. The listen/talk section in particular was very good. I found a connection to her work, seeing it almost a defense of laziness, certainly something that I can identify with. Also fun was the recording of another writer (sorry, I didn’t write his name down) reading her poetry. It’s always an interesting experience to hear someone else’s take on your work. The long, lolling “Lullaby” section seemed quite appropriate to the piece.
I’ve had classes with Carla Harryman, but unfortunately didn’t find her reading that moving. Nothing really caught my attention, as evidenced by my notes consisting of half a word (crossed out) and nothing else.
As the new teacher on campus, I’ve never had Rob Halpern, so it was interesting to get a look at his work. His language definitely caught my attention, an uninterrupted series of interruptions. “Shit-in-my-mouth world” and “my dreamy fuck” are terms that stick with you. I definitely wouldn’t mind taking a class with him.
Another BathHouse review, this time from Creative Writing grad student Gerard Breitenbeck:
Reading from “Shot,” “The Liberation of Soggy Muff” and “I Exhume myself Depending on my Last Name,” Christine Hume’s multimedia performance conjures the musicality of poetry as it examines what it means to be present in a poetry reading as well as what it means to be present in day to day life.
“If I want to listen, I turn to the left” (repeats over and over).
The multimedia presentation utilizes the repitition of prerecorded sounds or phrases, adding layers to the experience such as startling the audience by anticipating what particular lines will continue to resonate moments after Christine has spoken them.
“If it would fist me.” “If it would fist me.” “If it would fist me.”
In a poem inspired around a recurring dream, brief interruptions of static punctuate the rendition, simulating periodic gaps in dream logic, dream memory, and our waking train of thought.
The poem “I Exhume myself Depending on my Last Name” builds slowly through chanting words such as “Digging, sleeping, starving, drinking, thinking,” buttressed by the rhymic sounds of dirt being dug. At one point, Christine stops speaking and her recorded voice comes in as she waits and then continues. Lines such as, “Under an electric blanket on high in august” provide a good example of the breathless confinement of the piece.
Carla Harryman read largely from a series of works written from the point of view of an infant. The perspective and thought process of the character Baby informs new ways of conceiving the world and ourselves.
Baby believes teenagers to be the most wise type of people due to their brooding intesity, independence, and ability to perceive things as they are. But really it is Baby that is presented as having the most to teach us through her frequency of surprise and the intensity of novelty. Suggesting that “Babies live the longest because Baby continues to live inside all of us,” we look to Baby’s perspecitve as a means of reclaiming or reestablishing a connection with that part of ourself.
“Sin was something associated with being in the world.”
The surrealism of Baby’s associations are both humorous and thought provoking with respect to speculating and investigating where our own associations may have originated, as when she hears about the “Fat Cats” and wants to give pie to them because since they are fat cats they would presumably very much enjoy the pie. This accociation, like many for Baby, are related to Baby’s imaginary companion Tiger. As smells and objects and things overheard provoke conversation with Tiger, the interaction can be seen as the shaping of Baby’s self.
Rob Halpern’s “Love Song to My Fallen Soldier” and other poems create a dynamic conversation about Love and War by using either to examine the other. “Fallen Soldier” ends with, “Singing of shit and all your hemorrhaging affections,” which is an apt example of the feel and thought of the works. In his efforts to elucidate intimate longing with distant wars and disasters, Halpern presents a perspective of sex as war and love as disaster.
“That armored vehicle with the high tech border patrol that takes your body to be something exploited.”
Conversely, Halpern uses the irrational passions of love and longing to draw connections with the myopic dedication of soldiers and war machines, the losing of the self into the thing which you find yourself committed, and the pain and loss of it all coming apart before your eyes.