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


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.

BathHouse Reading – Christian Bök – Oct 19, 6:30 pm

BathHouse reading series 

Christian BökThe next BathHouse reading is coming up, featuring experimental writer and sound poet Christian Bök.  This reading will take place on Tuesday, October 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sponberg Theater at Quirk Hall.  This reading is free and open to the public.

Christian Bök is the best selling author of Eunoia, the winner the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence, and Crystallography, an encyclopedia of “pataphysics,” a parody on metaphysics and the nature of reality. Bök has created artificial languages for two Canadian television shows, Gene Roddenberry’s “Earth: Final Conflict,” and Peter Benchley’s “Amazon.” Bök has also earned many accolades for his virtuoso performances of sound poetry, particularly the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters. His conceptual artworks, which include books built out of Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks, have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City as part of the exhibit Poetry Plastique. The Utne Reader included Bök in its list of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” He is currently working on “The Xenotext Experiment”— a project that involves the creation of a “genetically engineered poem” for implantation into the genome of a bacterium. Bök teaches English at the University of Calgary.

BathHouse Readings are sponsored by the Department of English Language and Literature and by the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Program Development Initiative Grant.  For more information about the BathHouse Reading Series visit:

Great Lakes, Great Times Reading Series

826Michigan has announced a new reading series, the Great Lakes, Great Times Reading Series. Join 826michigan this month for its first reading in 2010: January 23, 7pm: Brian Evenson, Joanna Howard, and Blake Butler! Admission is free, and the public is welcome, however, unless otherwise noted, these readings are generally not family friendly.

NOTE: Brian Evenson, a stellar fiction writer, is reading this month; and ex-EMU faculty Jeff Parker is reading in April.

Readings will be held at 826Michigan, 115 Liberty Street, Ann Arbor.  Call 734-761-3463 for more info.

The Great Lakes, Great Times Reading Series:
1/23, 7pm: Brian Evenson, Joanna Howard, and Blake Butler
2/27, 7pm: Blake Nelson, Kevin Sampsell, and Chelsea Martin
3/20, 7pm: Dan Chaon, Laura van den Berg, and Robert Lopez
4/24, 7pm: Deb Olin Unferth, Jeff Parker, and Kendra Grant Malone
5/22, 7pm: Ander Monson, Kathryn Regina, and Matt Bell