Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I'm happy to announce that the University of Montana has invited me and other recent grads with books (including Richard Greenfield, Nils Michals, and Sarah Gridley—Sarah, if you're out there, phone home!—to come do a reading at AWP in Vancouver. Montana doesn't have any money, though, so I'm going to have to try and hornswoggle Cornell into paying for the plane ticket. I was already trying to put together a panel on "The New Nature Poem." Basically I'll do anything to get to Vancouver. Not just because of how beautiful it's supposed to be, or because I'm nostalgic for the Northwest—though these things are true. But because it is the city deeply described in Lisa Robertson's astonishing Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture. Here are a few of the knockout sentences that I've encountered so far:
The truly utopian act is to manifest current conditions and dialects. Practice description. Description is mystical. It is afterlife because it is life's reflection or reverse. Place is accident posing as politics. And vice versa. Therefore it's tragic and big (16).

What if there is no "space," only a permanent, slow-motion mystic takeover, an implausibly careening awning? Nothing is utopian. Everything wants to be. Soft Architects face the reaching middle (17).

Belief is difficult. It suits us to write in this raw city. Maybe it's the spanner-framed and buttered light slabbed or trickling into soot, soft clicking of louvred Chanel billboards, puce sky swathing the night-time overpass where on every radio of every taxicab Rousseau croons "we are born innocent" over and over in whining vibrato (25).

We will commute between our desire and our economy (27).

While "equilibrium" is a lovely suburban word—with its horse-games and moot-courts and love-games and libraries—it seems sad and impossible that this interminably symbolic landscape finally does not refer to anything other than itself (27-8).

Soft Architects believe that this site [New Brighton Park] demonstrates the best possible use of an urban origin: Change its name repeatedly. Burn it down. From the rubble confect a prosthetic pleasure ground; with fluent obliviousness, picnic there (41).

On our civic peninsula modesty always becomes potently ironic (53).

The artful redirection of liquidity may seem like a small thing—after all, what status do today's theorists grant fountains?—but for us, rising jets, downward falls, combinations, an oddly issuing spray, divert attention from the great constant impersonal desires so that we may notice and enjoy the supple nap and receptivity of human thought (54).

Why shouldn't we seek to describe happiness? (55)

Nevertheless, flow in itself, with its fatal grandeur, does not interest us; we prefer to describe obstacles to flow, little impediments, affect-mechanisms, miniaturizations of sublimity. In a certain way we adore each century through its impediments and fountains as also we can now feel an agreeably improper affection for the corporate grid (59).

Because we are both passive and independent, we need to theorize (77).
So, stoked am I. I'm also pleased, belatedly, to point you toward some new poems of mine over at Typo (along with work by John Latta, Christopher Janke, Aaron McCollough, G.C. Waldrep, and other friendly faces). And so to bed.

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