Brandon Gorley reviews Christian Bök and CRTW faculty BathHouse readings

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.

Gerard Breitenbeck reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

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.

Kathlyn Snow reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

Another student review of the recent BathHouse reading that featured Creative Writing Department faculty, this time from Kathlyn Snow:

The BathHouse reading program opened for the fall of 2010 in the Sponberg Theatre on The Eastern Michigan Campus to a full audience.  Staff from the Creative Writing Program presented some of their work.  The acoustics were great but I had a hard time hearing the names of the pieces.  The authors tended to drop their voices when introducing their works, so please forgive me if I have the names wrong.

Hume opened with readings from her book of poems, Shot. She accompanied her reading with soundtracks in the background.  The backgrounds blended with her words, although sometimes it was hard to catch the words.  Her work Election, was hard to understand the connection between the word and the background.  I would have liked to have read the book first to have had a better understanding of the reading.  Other works, Soggy Muff and Self Stalked, worked better with the background.

Harryman read her Light Poem with the intensity of a flash of light: quick, brilliant and intense.  The selection form her work Babyo, was interesting.  A line from Interview with Teenagers stuck with me, “ Everyone has  a baby in him or her.”

Halpern finished the evening with Love Song to My Fallen Soldier. His explanation of he inspiration for his poetry, Katrina and death of a friend drew me into his reading.  His lyric style and gentle swaying caught the audience’s attention.

Ashleigh Smith reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

EMU student Ashleigh Smith reviews the recent BathHouse reading that featured Creative Writing Faculty: 

In my opinion faculty readings are kind of like running into your teacher at a bar; you never really know what to expect or how the night will turn out. After a bit of a late start Christine Hume performed some pieces from her latest work Shot. I really enjoyed the soundtrack that went a long with her reading. The works she read were hazy and haunting, sort of like those moments right after waking up from a surreal dream. The soundtrack engulfed the room and intensified each phrase. The pieces Hume read had a sort of funky elegance; they were easy to dive into. By the time she was finished reading I had a page full of scribbled words that stood out to me and phrases that I didn’t want to forget. I thought her poetry had a certain dark tenderness to it.

Carla Harryman was up next and after a little finagling with the microphone she spoke about light poems, breath, and non-narrative work. She introduced us to a character named Baby who she said was many and all things at once. “Baby is a figure, a word, a character and much more,” she said. Harryman described the piece she read from as a lean into the poem in prose.  Her work was detailed and took me through a bit of a word journey. Sentences and phrases lost themselves within each other, the moment I thought I had latched onto a narrative she went in a completely different direction. The part of Harryman’s reading that stood out to me the most was Baby’s “Interval with Teenagers”; it was as if Harryman was a fly on the wall in someone’s living room. Her description of the event was so clear and well defined.

Rob Halpern was an interesting contrast to both Hume and Harryman. I found the entire thing very sexual to say the least. The way Halpern swayed and rocked while saying things like, “…let’s make love like poems…” and “Whose bowels still hold my son?” His reading was smooth and almost hypnotizing. I found myself being mesmerized by his tone and especially the way he moved with the words. I admire Halpern for braving an especially touchy subject in Love Song to My Fallen Soldier, which was the first piece he read. He used a lot of language the some people would consider shocking or inappropriate but I never felt like he was trying to be that way. All in all I have to say, I enjoyed the reading and I was glad I got to see the faculty in a different setting and really gain an understanding of why they have the authority to teach us.

Stephanie Walla reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

EMU student Stephanie Walla reviews the recent BathHouse reading featuring the Creative Writing Faculty: 

The Bathhouse Reading at Sponberg Theater on September 29th featured three of Eastern Michigan’s Creative Writing faculty- Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpurn. Christine Hume opened reading pieces from her book, Shot, which was accompanied by soundtracks made especially per piece. Each soundtrack acted as a main support to each poem, and occasionally as background, always to enhance the reading and the experience of hearing each piece read. For instance, in the first poem the soundtrack was of another woman’s voice repeating the poem just behind Christine’s reading; in another it played eerie music to match the language. Adding the soundtrack made the reading multidimensional so that the audience was submerged in the language, inspiring a need to create sound within the poems that static words simply written on a page can’t produce.

Carla Harryman followed, reading several pieces from multiple sources. Jackson MacLow’s Light Poems inspired one where she used the same general idea, but different techniques. Playing off of the different definitions of light like MacLow, Carla read her poem in a list format, reading off each enjambment definition as they played on each other. MacLow’s version was slower and more elaborately defined whereas the speed at which Carla read was captivating, proving the usefulness of hybridity- his idea with her presentation created an entertaining performance. She ended by reading from Baby, a serial work of poems. The work emphasized the world through the intrinsic and unique perspective of “Baby”- an infant observing the world and applying her own politics as she views it.

Finishing the reading was Rob Halpern who read from a book of poems he wrote inspired by the affects of September 11th. His work highlighted the use of serial works- although each piece had its own image, the feeling of the whole book was produced through the pieces being read one right after another. Specific people were mentioned liked soldiers and survivors but they seemed secondary to change and difference, longing and loss, which took form and were their own characters in his performance. His use of enjambment allowed the images of economy crisis to merge with war scenes with a lilting rhythm that creates a nostalgic longing for the past and calls for a direct path for a changing future.

David Boeving reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

David Boeving reviews the Creative Writing Faculty’s recent reading that was part of the BathHouse reading series: 

Christine Hume opened the staff BathHouse reading at The Sponberg Theater on September 29th with a mix of audio samples and live performance poetry that steadily spiraled into a type of hypnotizing poetic oblivion. The backing audio, which consisted mostly of recordings of Hume’s own work being read by another, as well as ambient noise tracks, at most times augmented the overall dreamy feeling of her own words. Although at times this mix of ambient audio clips and defamiliarizing poetry did grow to a near overwhelming level, most of the collaboration existed as dense and intriguing. In all, Hume’s inspired and experimental reading started the night off on a powerful level, opening the room up for the next two Eastern Michigan University staff readers, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern.

Carla Harryman read next, performing a number poems, mostly ones of a serial nature relating to a character of sorts, ‘Baby’. What struck me most about Carla was her overall energy and articulation, as well as her ability to theme a portion of her performance around said, ’Baby,’ character. Clara read her work with a great gusto and confidence. It was this coolness and character that really kept the rhythm of the night flowing. Although her ability to keep my attention did not seem as high as that of Hume, Harryman still performed in a way that kept the energy of the night alive. Sadly though, it was during Harryman’s performance that I began to notice a certain amount of disrespect from the audience.

Throughout the performers present that evening, and well before the conclusion of the night, a surprising number of listeners migrated ill-discretely towards different exists about the theater. This strange appearance of behavior displayed a great degree of disrespect toward not only the performing poets, but also toward those that were there and intently viewing the aforementioned  performers. Such occurrences might have been due to the fact that the Learning Beyond the Classroom signup sheet was lain out previous to the beginning of the reading, but this is only a speculation. Regardless, not only was such behavior disrespectful to each reader of the evening, but to a certain degree, distracting to the entire performance. Rob Halpern was the final reader of the night, and sadly enough, he was no exception to the aforesaid disrespect.

Regardless, Rob’s poetry and overall performance could be described as nothing short of captivating and emotionally driven. Maybe it was his physicality; while reading his knees bounced awkwardly as if he were marching in place, augmenting mentions of war and violence within his work. These movements matched so well the theme of his work, that one might leave wondering if he had not rehearsed the performance in such a way. Or maybe it was his decision to not use a podium, thus reading close to the audience, establishing a more personal type of bond between his work and those present. Or maybe it was a combination of both those ideas, working in cooperation with his almost cryptic poetry that seemed to be both physical and personal, as well as large and worldly. Rob’s performance, consisting of not only already published work, but also some new material from his upcoming book, “Music for Porn,” was powerful, to say the least, and a perfect conclusion to a vast and eclectic evening.

At the end of the night, it was easy to say that each reader brought something distinct and wholly them to the hearing pleasure of the audience. Christine worked within a multimedia soundscape. Carla applied the idea of serial works. Rob lastly tugged on the heartstrings of the audience with work that seemed to be just as much about war as it was love. The night was a success, to say the least.

Reminder: BathHouse reading today! (Sept 29, 6:30 p.m., Sponberg Theater)

BathHouse 2010 logo

Today’s the triple-H edition of BathHouse (Hume, Harryman, and Halpern).  Come hear Creative Writing faculty Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern at the Sponberg Theater in Quirk Hall, September 29, at 6:30 p.m. This reading is free and open to the public.  Read details about all the readers here.

BathHouse Reading Series kicks off on Sept 29, 6:30 p.m. with EMU Creative Writing faculty

BathHouse logo

The first BathHouse reading will take place Wednesday, September 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sponberg Theater at Quirk Hall. This reading will feature EMU’s Creative Writing faculty members: Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern. This event is free and open to the public.

Rob HalpernRob Halpern has authored several books of poetry, including Rumored Place (Krupskaya), Weak Link (Slack Buddha) and Disaster Suits (Palm Press). His new work, Music for Porn, is forthcoming next year from Nightboat Books. With Taylor Brady, he co-authored the book length poem, “Snow Sensitive Skin” (Atticus/Finch) that will soon be reissued by Displaced Press. Halpern’s work addresses the confusion of current geo-political conflicts, making the fatal abstractions of crisis audible — finance, militarization, war. The short lyric poems that comprise Disaster Suites, for instance, register the rhythms and desires of everyday life as they converge with devastating events from Katrina to Iraq. Halpern is also an essayist and a translator. His essay on Baudelaire’s prose poems recently appeared in Modernist Cultures. The essay, “Realism and Utopia: Writing, Sex and Politics in New Narrative” will appear in the next issue of the Journal of Narrative Theory. He’s co-editing the poems of the late Frances Jaffer together with poet Kathleen Fraser and translating the early essays of Georges Perec. Halpern received his Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz (2006). He is Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program.

Carla HarrymanCarla Harryman is a poet, essayist, and playwright, known for genre-disrupting poetry, performance and prose. She has published 13 single-authored works, including Adorno’s Noise (Essay Press), Open Box (Belladonna), Baby (Zephyr Press) and Gardener of Stars (Atelos). The Wide Road, a multi-genre collaboration with poet Lyn Hejinian, is forthcoming from Belladonna. She is co-editor of Lust for Life, a volume of essays on the novelist Kathy Acker. She is special issue editor of “Non/Narrative” forthcoming from the Journal of Narrative Theory. Her recent articles include: “Something Nation: Radical Spaces of Performance in Linton Kwesi Johnson and Cris Cheek” (Diasporic Avant-Gardes, Palgrave/MacMillan). Her poets’ theater and interdisciplinary performance works have been performed nationally and internationally. A frequent collaborator, she is co-contributor to the multi-authored experiment in autobiography, The Grand Piano, a project that focuses on the emergence of language writing, art, politics and culture of the San Francisco Bay area between 1975-1980. Harryman serves on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at Eastern Michigan University.

Christine HumeChristine Hume is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Shot (Counterpath), and a chapbook with CD, called Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense (Ugly Duckling Presse). She is coordinator of the interdisciplinary Creative Writing Program at Eastern Michigan University, where she hosts Poetry Radio, an Internet radio show and podcast featuring contemporary and historic sound art, performance art, sound poetry, audio narratives, collaborations between writers and musicians, as well as student work.

Find out more about the entire BathHouse series at:

Christine Hume, Christine Monhollen, and Aaron Lowinger at Scarab Club

Creative Writing Professor Christine Hume will be reading at the Scarab Club on Wednesday, May 19 at 7 p.m. as part of The Woodward Line Poetry Series. Christine Monhollen and Aaron Lowinger will also read at the same event.

The Scarab Club is located at 217 Farnsworth in Detroit. Call 313-831-1250 for more info. This is a free event.