Monday, March 29, 2004

Here are the notes I took at the two most interesting AWP panels I attended (very disappointed to have missed Jordan and Shanna's panel, but there was simply too much going on). In the first panel's case, actually, only one presentation caught my ear; and wouldn't you know that it came from blogland's own Mairead Byrne. The second was the predictably interesting "Outsider/Insider" panel featuring presentations by Eileen Myles, Bob Perelman, Roberto Tejada, Elizabeth Willis, and Peter Gizzi:


Mairead Byrne—inspiring talk on the cross-fertilization of poetry and scholarship (or as she prefers to call it, "research"). Writing on Frederick Douglass' four months in Ireland in 1845 (the the beginning of the potato famine).

Propositions: little headlines which often get repeated in the body of her text.
I prefer writing to reading.
I prefer writing to teaching.
I prefer writing to speaking.
I do not prefer writing to eating.
Research could result in poetry, a song cycle, a paper, "even a novel."

Breaking down binary "constructs": poetry is emotional, scholarship is rational, etc.

How is hers an immigrant's story?

She has "a particular love" for the work of Paul De Man.


Eileen Myles—individual as institution (Ginsberg, Berrigan, et al).

poetry as neighborhood—MFA poetry as "prepared neighborhood" (gated community)

university as corporate workplace—c.f. The University in Ruins

mission: to unprepare students

Bob Perelman—"Avant-Garde, Avant Grade, I Want a Grade"

Proceeds alphabetically.

"free-born joy, the moment of desire"

"creating writers" rather than "teaching creative writing"

progressive vs. avant-garde
democratic vs. anti-democratic (an interpolated eltie, "those who get it")

cites Steve Evans and the Fence controversy—not necessarily "the narcissism of small differences" but a product of the contradiction that exists between the demands of the (authoritarian, oppositional) avant-garde and the practice of (democratic, progressive) pedagogy. "Blasphemy" of asserting continuity between the two projects.

academy as production site for one's literary values

neither literature nor creative writing have coherent intellectual structures—lit crit is a succession of scholia

tact, modeling—teaching

"students who have written poetry are better equipped to read it"

"Ern Malley as ideal creative writing student—discuss."

site of deepest conflict between democratic-progressive impulses and avant-garde exclusionary community. . . could it be. . . pastoral?

Robert Tejada—

"the waning of the conditions of possibility for bohemia"

"obsolete before it has ossified"—a Marx quote applied to the historic avant-garde. What was the avant-garde?

"ethics of the translator as a possibility" (not necessarily referring only to one who translates)

"modern culture is critical culture"
"over-investment in the rhetorical"—?

Elizabeth Willis—"an inveterate crevice-monger of academic situations"

Academia as "a form of employment that may come to prey on our artistic production"

"I'm not sure if teaching is any more or less ethical than working on a chicken farm." Is this a dig at Purdue (every possible Purdue)?

using institutions rather than being used by them—to be conditioned by the possibilities of the academy is "a failure of imagination"

"Al Sharpton World"—when asked how he felt about not being taken seriously he said, "That's not the point—none of us are being taken seriously."

liberal arts education as an absolute good

Montaigne: "A strong imagination creates the event, saith the scholars."

(In "Lycidas," isn't the pastoral scene that has been disrupted by death academic? The Cambridge of "old Damoetas.")

Stein: "How do you like what you have? Anybody can ask anybody."

Peter Gizzi—"I came here today out of friendship."

Chomsky: "The American language is a dialect that contains an army and a navy."

"the field is haunted"—field as scene of military operations (penetrated by an avant-garde?) but also a scene of freedom and, natch, opening

editing & teaching—"reading in a plural way"

The writers one reads "give one coverage in the world." Integration of one's mental life into one's daily life—it just happens. "Composition" as essential to life.

Teaching & editing as additional means of "composing" than writing.

"war is the constant and we are the variant"


Bob—"the university is an amplifying device." Quotes Hejinian: "the avant-garde is always pedagogical." But teaching is "always remedial," "expansively democratic."

(Jefferson as democratic pastoralist embedded in fascist Cantos?)

Bob: "We teach judgment."

Willis—increasing professionalization of everyone (in response to a question about the professionalization of poetry)—the internet—importance of blogging from work? stealing time from the machine. [My thoughts, not her words.]

Bob: the market for visual art makes innovation desirable—but isn't this the perpetual revolution that perpetuates that market? Whereas the reward system for poetry isn't geared that way. But rather than a truly alternative economy, the current system means that un-innovative poetry is what gets rewarded.

Gizzi: Mentions essay (not his), "Give My Regards to Eighth Street." Basically saying character is destiny—Bob finds this a dangerously regressive concept—character changes into itself.

Eileen Myles: "Every poet who doesn't write poetry gets famous."

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