Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day + Anne Carson's Nox + My First Literary Agent, the Crack Addict + Gordimer on Books & Libraries

A listing of all the young women and men soldiers who've lost their lives in the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ( US and Coalition Casualties)

A op-chart graphic on the dead and unknown dead in the US's wars, from today's New York Times, by Robert M. Poole and Rumors presents the country's military history in a metaphorically arresting, unforgettable way. (Cf. above, at right, and click on the link for the larger view.)

Finally, here's a Memorial Day post written by veteran and progressive Todd Theise, who's running against Democorporatist Scott Garrett in New Jersey's Fifth Congressional District.  (H/t Digby!)

* * *

Memorial Day concerns remembering, memorializing and, to some extent, grieving, which brings me to the lone book not associated with any aspect of my teaching, writing, committee work, or university visitors that I've managed to read over the last 3 months, and it took just an evening: poet and classical scholar Anne Carson's extraordinary new work, which I will not call a book of poetry, though it is a highly poetic book, Nox (New Directions, 2010). The book has been covered extensively around the Net, so I'll describe it in a few words: in the way that only Carson can, the book combines an elegy to her deceased brother (the dedication, to "Michael," is "Nox Frater Nox" (or Night Brother Night), and a record of her translation of a particularly difficult Catullus elegy, Poem 101, "Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus." She translates the opening line as "Many the peoples many the oceans I crossed," and the rest of this short poem, a little beyond halfway through the book, surrounding it with a variety of other texts. There's a method that's quickly discernible: on the left pages, she usually (but not always) places lexical entries for each word in the Catullus poem, and on the right side, she features journal entries, snippets of notes to herself, very brief poems, visual images by and of herself, and sometimes of her brother, her own artworks, or any of these elements in collaged combination.

In and of themselves, these aspects of the book, especially by a writer of genius like Carson, would make for a worthwhile read, but the real showstopper is the book's physical form. The designer Robert Currie assisted Carson in creating the sort of affordable book-as-art you rarely see today (and sadly, especially at a time when physical books are facing possible disappearance as digital technologies increasingly dominate). The pages are full color, at times nearly convincing you that you're looking at Carson's journals instead of photographs of them, and the entire book is printed in accordion fashion, as the photos below show, and then placed in a gray oystershell box, which serves as a perfect bed for the reader to flip through it and enjoy it. You can lift it out of its box, of course, like an oyster, and it expands like a bellows, but having handled it a bit, it works fine either way.  For weeks, as the pressure to get through mounds of fiction kept growing, I found myself stopping and examining this work every time I was in the bookstore (always a refuge for me), and eventually, as I was dawdling amid a stack of stories, I picked up a copy. Despite its format, the book falls within the current price range for hardcover books, at $29.95. It reminds me of another remarkable, widely available work, British postmodernist B. S. Johnson's (1933-1973) 1969 novel The Untouchables, which consists of 27 sections held together by a removable wrapper and placed in a similar clamshell box. In the UK Secker and Warburg originally published this work, and Picador published the British reissue in 2008, while New Directions published the US version.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Photos: AWP Conference

Here they finally are! I'd almost forgotten that I took them, or how enjoyable the conference was. Denver!

Alison Meyers and Duriel Harris at the Cave Canem Booth
Cave Canem director Alison Meyers and Duriel Harris at the Cave Canem booth, at AWP
At Leela's, a really cool spot
At Leela's, a really cool little Denver café
Forrest Gander and Dan Beachy-Quick
Forrest Gander and Dan Beachy-Quick
Young poet and Treasure Williams
Treasure Williams (at right), and another poet (I cannot recall her name)
Young poet and Jericho Brown
The one and only Jericho Brown, in foreground
Hannah Tinti (my former grad school classmate)
Hannah Tinti, my former grad school classmate, and editor of One Story
Tim Liu and Nathalie Stephens/Nathanaël (fellow panelists)
Timothy Liu and Nathanaël, who were on a panel I organized, on LGBTQ translation
Nightboat Books crew, including Stephen Motika (at right)
The Nightboat Books crew, with writer Edwin Torres (at left), and editor Stephen Motika, at right
Saeed Jones (snapping a photo), a friend, Cyrus Cassells
Saeed Jones, a friend, and Cyrus Cassells
Mitchell Douglas and Indigo Moor
Mitchell Douglas and Indigo Moor
Duriel Harris and Indigo Moore
Duriel Harris and Indigo Moor
Randall Horton reading at the Cave Canem table
Randall Horton, reading at the Cave Canem booth
Tiphanie Yanique
Fiction writer Tiphanie Yanique
Amina Cain at the AWP Book Fair
AWP Book Fair, with Amina Cain approaching the camera (in the sunny blouse)
The Translating Contemporary Literature from Latin America panel
Translating Contemporary Latin American literature panel, with Kristin Dykstra at the podium, and l-r (unknown poet, Daniel Borzutzky, Monica de la Torre, and Urayoán Noël)
Anne Waldman
Ann Waldman, reading at the Mandorla reading at the Denver Center for Contemporary Art
Mónica de la Torre
Mónica de la Torre, reading at the Mandorla reading at the Denver Center for Contemporary Art
Steve Thomasula
Steve Thomasula, reading at the Mandorla reading at the Denver Center for Contemporary Art
Gabriela Jauregui
Gabriela Jauregui, reading at the Mandorla reading at the Denver Center for Contemporary Art
Dawn Lundy Martin
Dawn Lundy Martin
Patricia Smith, and a fellow poet
Patricia Smith, and a fellow poet, posing for a photo
Denver by night
Denver night streetscape
Gar Patterson at the Black Nature panel
Gar Patterson, speaking at the "Black Nature" panel
Cyrus Cassells at the Black Nature panel
Cyrus Cassells, who chaired the "Black Nature" panel

Photos: Readings, Events Since April

I managed one post, I think, if even that, from the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Denver before I had to shift to intermittent blogging, but I have been snapping photos of lots of events since then, so here are some photos from the last few months. The AWP photos will appear in a separate posting.

Jennifer Karmin introducing the Red Rover Experiment #36 event
Jennifer Karmin introducing the Red Rover Series Experiment #36 event, "Textual Ecologies & Contaminations," featuring Jennifer Scappettone and Asimina Chremos
Jennifer Scappettone setting up
Jennifer Scappettone setting up her performance of Exit 43
Performing Jen Scappettone's piece (Jen in green blouse) at Red Rover
Jennifer and part of her chorus performing her piece, Exit 43
Jennifer Scappettone's piece at Red Rover
One of Jennifer Scappettone's really beautiful, complex "stills," a pop-up from/within Exit 43
Asimina Chremos
Asimina Chremos, introducing her piece, a collage text with performances (one via Skype)
The audience, between performances
The Red Rover loft audience, between sets
At Jennifer Karmin's book launch
Kathleen Duffy, Jennifer Karmin, and Chris Glomski, performing a quarto from Jennifer's new book, Aaaaaaaaaaalice (Film Forum, 2010), at its launch
At Jennifer Karmin's book launch
Kathleen Duffy, opening the program
Krista Franklin at Jennifer Karmin's book launch
Krista Franklin, at Jennifer Karmin's book launch (Krista, Chris Glomski, Kathleen Duffy, Laura Goldstein, Joel Craig, Lisa Janssen, and I all participated/collaborated in this event)

M. NourbeSe Philip
M. NourbeSe Philip, at the Poetry and Poetics Working Group workshop, at the university, in May
Sandra Richards and M. NourbeSe Philip
My distinguished colleague Sandra Richards, and M. NourbeSe Philip, after Philip's superlative reading from Zong!, in May
The hosts of the Uncalled For Reading Series
The hosts of the Uncalled For Readings Series at Las Manos Gallery in Andersonville, Tim Jones-Yelvington and Megan Milks, in May
Nathalie Stephens/Nathanaël
The incomparable Nathanaël (Nathalie Stephens), reading from The Sorrow and the Fast of It at the Uncalled For Readings Series at Las Manos Gallery in Andersonville, in May
Trish Bendix
Reader Trish Bendix, reading from her short story at the Uncalled For Readings Series at Las Manos Gallery in Andersonville, in May
Kareem Khubchandani
Kareem Khubchandani, reading from her short story at the Uncalled For Readings Series at Las Manos Gallery in Andersonville, in May
Douglas Ewart's group (Duriel Harris at right)
Douglas Ewart and Company, with Duriel Harris (at far right), at the Velvet Lounge, in April
Joanne Beard  reading during the Annual Writers Festival
Joanne Beard, reading at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April
Frank Bidart, Writers Festival, Northwestern University
Frank Bidart, reading at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April
George Saunders, Writers Festival, Northwestern University
George Saunders, leading his master class, at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April
George Saunders reading during the Annual Writers Festival
George Saunders, reading at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April
Cristina Henriquez, Writers Festival, Northwestern University
Cristina Henríquez, reading at the alumni reading, at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April
Josh Weiner, Writers Festival, Northwestern University
Joshua Weiner, reading at the alumni reading, at the English Major in Writing's annual Writers Festival, in April

Saturday, May 29, 2010

On the Road to Vegetarianism Pt. 2 + An Afternoon at Wrigley Field

A while back I posted about switching over to a mostly vegetarian diet, and now I'm nearing the 6-month mark (June 4, to be exact). I have, to my amazement, kept it up.  For some of these months, I've gone weeks without eating any meat, though I still do have some from time to time (this past week I don't think I had any). I also have almost completely given up all processed, prepared foods, unless I'm getting them at a cafe or restaurant (where I have little choice, though I've been trying to patronize restaurants, when I can afford to, that prepare whole foods on the premises). Since January perhaps the only processed, prepared foods I've bought would be oatmeal (and I do also buy the organic rolled oats from a nearby food coop), orange juice, and a few other items like wine.  I haven't bought any frozen dinners or anything else frozen and processed, though I do still sometimes pick up frozen fruits and vegetables, and fish. Other than chocolate, I've stopped buying any candy, and haven't bought any sorts of chips except tortilla chips from restaurants, or an occasional bag made locally. One of the most difficult things to maintain, particularly over the last month, during which I was involved in several very stressful committee assignments (similar versions of which over the past few years led to my having stopped cooking and ordering out food when I felt most under duress), has been the cooking, breadmaking, baking, and so on, but I'm glad to say that I've kept it up.  I note this not for a pat on the back, but just to acknowledge that it amazes me that I've been able to keep this going.

My diet now consists mostly of those hated carbs, and yet, as I noted before, almost as soon as started eating this way I immediately began losing weight (20 lbs, now close to 24 lbs--I've gone from 220 lbs. to about 196 or so, give or take the day) , and I've kept it off.  I had sworn off potatoes after C passed on an article about how bad they are for you (think heavily starchy root vegetable growing in toxic soils!), but I love potatoes, so I've started to reincorporate them into various dishes, where applicable. I have not, however, had French fries more than 1-2 times over the last 6 months. I eat a lot of bread, as any reader of this blog knows. Since the food coop I often shop at in Chicago has had a regular supply of organic sundried tomatoes, I've been regularly baking whole wheat sundried tomato bread, with a few detours, especially during the colder months, to rye bread (I will probably make a pumpernickel loaf again this summer, just because it was so good) or to French bread (which is one of the easiest breads you can make).

I can say that I eat a lot more squash (especially zucchini and yellow squash, which I loathed as a child), eggplant, and beets (which I also wasn't fond of, though I don't know why). I also regularly devour carrots, one of my favorite foods, as well as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and turnips. I eat grains, including couscous and quinoa, and legumes, like lentils and black beans, that I didn't used to eat so much. I don't, however, eat much salad, which I always associated in my mind with 1) healthier eating; 2) weight loss; and 3) vegetarianism. Occasionally I will have salads, and I'll probably eat more once the summer rolls around, but in general, they're not part of the mix. Another bonus of this approach has been that I spend far less money on a weekly basis on food. The coop's prices are decent, but I always end up paying less than I do at the supermarket, and the food usually comes from local (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, etc.) farms (or organic farms in California, Florida, etc.). Interestingly enough, the fruits often seem to last longer that supermarket fruits, which makes me wonder how long they've been sitting on trucks. When I add up how much I will spend at the coop and, say, at Trader Joe's, it's usually far less than I was spending when I primarily hit the supermarket. (Can anyone tell me how Trader Joe's keeps its food prices so low?)  Even when I factor in an occasional visit to Whole Foods, which I was boycotting for a while, my food expenses are still lower than before; and because the food I cook lasts, I spend far less (often nothing) on a daily basis buying lunch, etc., as I once did. (I also avoid the bleached, excess-gluten bread that's overtaken the US market, making many people sick. I often wonder, if more of us baked our own bread, how widespread would the gluten-related problems be that plague us?)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Classes (Nearly) Over + 2010 FIFA World Cup

Classes have (nearly) come to an end. Or rather, this is the final official week of classes in the College, though I still have one more class to teach next week, during reading week. (We'll be discussing the final three student novellas in workshop.) Now that it's over, I can shout from the blogtops Conceptual Art/Writing class exhilarated me; I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to teach the class, and to have been able to do so with students who were willing to step out, as it became clear, on what sometimes initially appeared to be shifting ice. By which I mean, to be looking at, thinking about and creating work--and whose exemplars--that remain under tremendous contention.  The class served as an intellectual transfusion for me, as it required me to think through a genealogy that was indistinct, but discernible, and put it together, in coherent fashion, for the class, while also making clear that this was only one reading of the history of this constellation of art forms. (It helped too that we have the graduate level Poetry and Poetics Working Group, because its conversations informed those in my class.) Now that I've done it, I feel I have a much clearer and deeper sense of conceptual art's history, its origins and antecedents, and its relation to and phantasmal presence in other canonical and non-canonical artforms. As I was saying to a friend, I feel capable now of reading backwards, before the coining of "conceptual art," to see conceptual practices in many different places and forms. (This was also the first time that I've taught the work of figures such as Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Goldsmith, Rob Fitterman, Mendi + Keith Obadike, and many others.) The students all created 6-8 projects, grounded in language and its possibilities, and it was a delight to read them, and imagine how the ones containing the possibility of performance might be realized. One student proposed realizing them--performing some of them--during the assigned exam period, so we'll see how that turns out. At any rate, the class, like the other one I'm teaching, represents one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching, which is transmitting knowledge to students, watching them learn, grow intellectually and create knowledge, and learning from them in the process.  And who knows, down the road another Yoko Ono or Marcel Duchamp might emerge from this experience.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup begins in two weeks, on June 11, running till July 11, in South Africa. This is the most watched sporting event in the world, and this is the first time it'll be held in Africa, with the host country leading a group of 32 national teams, including prior winners England (1966), France (1998), Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), Germany (1954, 1974, 1990), Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002), Uruguay (1930, 1950), and Argentina (1978, 1986), and stalwarts such as Netherlands, Japan, Portugal, Mexico, Denmark, Cameroon, South Korea, and, interestingly enough, North Korea. Though the opening matches, pairing South Africa and Mexico, and Uruguay and France, will be held in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively, subsequent matches will be held all over the country, culminating in the third place match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, and the championship match at Soccer City in Johannesburg.