Sunday, November 19, 2006

WaPo: "The Meaning of Work" + Ana Lara's Debut + Paul Hoover on QuickMuse

"The Meaning of Work"
In Washington, DC's Ward 3, the unemployment rate is 1.5%. In predominantly Black Ward 8, the rate is 16.3%. In "The Meaning of Work," Washington Post reporter David Finkel writes a superb article today about one young man from the second neighborhood, Chris Dansby, and his struggle to find and keep work. One quote, from a moment where Dansby and a friend consider their lives in light of the ruins of a housing project where they and others grew up:

"But I don't know," Chris said. "That's the thing that's beating me up. I don't know, man. I don't know. What's my purpose? You know what I'm saying? I'm just a speck, man. I feel like giving up sometimes. I feel like I be in limbo. Like nothing sinks into me. Like why don't I remember this? Why don't I remember that? All I remember is bad. I don't want to be that way, man. My two options, I really feel in my heart, is to make it, or to die. Just let go. For real."

Ana-Maurine Lara's Erzulie's Skirt Debuts
Erzulie's SkirtWriter Ana-Maurine Lara's début novel, Erzulie's Skirt, has just been published by Redbone Press. When I met Ana several years ago through a mutual friend, she mentioned to me that she was working on a novel and talked about some of her aims with it. She discussed its setting in her native Dominican Republic, and how she was linking the narratives of several generations of women across time and space. Then, at the university's Black Queer Studies conference last spring, a young scholar offered a insightful analysis of Ana's unpublished novel that situated it within and recognized its important new interventions to a larger body of African Diasporic women's fiction. Redbone Press and GuyLaine Charles held a book release party this past Friday in New York (I wished I could have attended), and now Erzulie's Skirt is available for purchase and review. Ana also is a co-founder of bustingbinaries, which aims "to build a community of resistance by addressing the binaries in our movements." Congratulations, Ana!

Paul Hoover on QuickMuse
I hadn't heard of QuickMuse, but here's the premise. Two (established) writers have 15 minutes to take a series of words and terms generated by a random search, draft and then post a final poem. Or as QuickMuse itself puts it

QuickMuse is a cutting contest, a linguistic jam session, a series of on-the-fly compositions in which some great poets* riff away on a randomly picked subject. It's an experiment, QuickMuse, to see if first thoughts are indeed the best ones. We're not entirely sure about this, but we suspect QuickMuse will bring readers closer to the moment of composition than they have ever been before. Best part: our "playback" feature lets you watch the poems unfold, second by second. Or as Thlyias [sic] Moss says, it's "the chance for a poem to find its/audience fast," in which words don't "have as much/time to stale, pale/lose the relevance of the moment" to which they belong.

Paul Hoover recently dropped an email to point to what he and Brad Leithauser, with whom he was paired, devised (Paul's poem is a gem). Prior QuickMusers include Kevin Young, Thylias Moss, Charles Bernstein, Marge Piercy, and peoply primarily writing prose fiction [*], like Rick Moody. Does this really bring a reader any closer to the "moment of composition"? As for the competition, which agons are really being exposed?

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