From the Goddard BFA Faculty Poetry Reading: PoemCity 2014 (4/16/2014)

•August 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This video is from the BFA in Creative Writing faculty member reading at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vermont. It was part of PoemCity 2014, with additional readings by Michael Vizsolyi, Arisa White, Wendy Call, and Janet Sylvester.

The first poem I read first appeared in the excellent but now-defunct Pindeldyboz, and the second poem, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008, first appeared in Opium Magazine; both can be found in my first book e.s.p., which is available from Silenced Press.

Alan Bigelow’s “This Is Not A Poem”

•July 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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My short article “The Poetry of Non-Poetry: On Alan Bigelow’s ‘This Is Not A Poem’” was published today in Goddard College’s BFA in Creative Writing Blog. “This Is Not A Poem” is a fantastic appropriation of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem “Trees.” It’s a digital poem that’s well worth interacting with and performs a creative critique of–for better or worse–one of the most well-known poems in American literature.

Amy Catanzano’s “The Periodic Table of Poetry”

•June 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Amy Catanzano has a very interesting piece in Jacket 2 called “The Periodic Table of Poetry,” which is part of her series called “Quantum Poetics,” in which she “will write as a ’pataphysical correspondent, speculative documentarian, and poetry informant, reporting on largely under-acknowledged questions about literature and science and drawing from quantum poetics.”

Catanzano discusses Cutting Time with a Knife in the context of quantum electrodynamics:

In contrast to classical electromagnetism, a branch of theoretical physics that relies on the outdated ideas of Isaac Newton’s classical mechanics, which, using Leong’s language, operates as an “economics of only and also,” Robert Feynman’s quantum electrodynamics, the quantum mechanical version of classical electromagnetism, describes how electrically charged particles interact by exchanging photons. Poetry is also an exchange between the text and thinker, and Cutting Time With a Knife, so named after Burroughs’ statement that “If you cut into the present, the future leaks out,” creates an exchange between poetry and science; in these ways and others, I see Leong’s project having a mechanics that is more quantum than classical.

Catanzano ends by mentioning a work-in-progress by Adam Dickinson that sounds extremely cool–Anatomic: Biosemiotic Bodies and Chemical Environments. Dickinson explains, “This is a research-creation project that involves biomonitoring and microbiome testing to produce a book of poetry that reframes the body (my body) as a being overwritten by toxic chemicals yet constantly subject (in necessary ways) to the biosemiotic interference of other microbial lifeforms. My objective is to combine innovative trends in contemporary poetics with science and environmental ethics by researching and writing poetry that will emerge (in terms of themes and methodological approaches) from a toxicological and symbiotic map of my own body.”

Genet Redux

•June 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My review of Chris Tysh’s creative translation Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic (Les Figues, 2013) was published today in Hyperallergic Weekend.

Here are two excerpted paragraphs:

In an online interview about her conceptual trilogy Hotel des Archives, of which Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is the second installment (her rendering of Beckett into verse tercets, Molloy: The Flip Side, appeared in 2012), Tysh said, “I extend the concept of translation toward what we might call a transcreation, or a transcultural dialogue….In this type of relational poetics, I try to maintain the narrative spaces and affects, while finding a new set of porous networks – lyrical trajectories that pass through various signposts of the text.” Tysh’s “transcreation,” in the words of Les Figues’ press release, entails a “compressing” of Genet’s text into “cuttingly charged verse.”

Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is an “exercise in style” in the strongest, Queneauian sense of the phrase; Raymond Queneau’s Exercices de style [Exercises in Style] (1947 / 1958) retells the same short anecdote 99 different times in such styles as “litotes,” “metaphorically,” “couplets,” “cockney,” and “sonnet.” In Queneau’s work, the original story seems epiphenomenal to the production of its proliferating versions (Barbara Wright, Queneau’s English translator, remarks that “the story as such doesn’t matter.”) But Tysh’s choice of Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers for her restyling is not arbitrary: it is a text that, like its protagonist, tends toward “being multiple.” Indeed, in Our Lady of the Flowers, Genet writes of a “hundred Jean Genets,” and Tysh has given us a provocative glimpse of one of them through her bold, kaleidoscopic verse. Once complete, Tysh’s Hotel des Archives will no doubt constitute one of the most significant exercises in style of the early twenty-first century.

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Linh Dinh Erasure

•April 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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I own four poetry books by the always provocative Linh Dinh; but not willing to pay an inflated price for the out-of-print American Tatts (“Vault Media,” a seller on Amazon, is, for example, asking $782.60 + $3.99 shipping for a new copy), I checked out the copy at the Mid-Manhattan Library. I was amused to find this little note by a previous user above.

Dinh, indeed, can elicit a strong reaction and that, I think, is one of his virtues. In a way, it seems that this example of vernacular lit crit by way of graffitied marginalia is fitting since “What’s At Franks?” – a poem from American Tatts – ends by quoting a bathroom graffito: “‘Full pelvic undulation will help to dissolve / All neurotic personal armor,’ someone has written / With a Magic Marker over the broken sink.”

Having to return the book now, I’ve decided to make my own little intervention.

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Magnetic Poetry and Midnight’s Marsupium

•April 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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There’s a somewhat mixed review, written by C.L. Bledsoe, of my chapbook Midnight’s Marsupium (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010) in the current issue of Prick of the Spindle:

The book…never quite manages to delve deep enough below the surface of its playfulness to really connect with the reader in a meaningful way, I felt. Leong is a clever wordsmith, though, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

The issue regarding readerly connection is fair enough.  And, interestingly, Prick of the Spindle ran a review (it was an interesting and well-thought one) of my first book, e.s.p., that made a similar point:

With any experimental poetics, though, the risk is that to proceed by such unproven methods is to court failure: after all, for every light bulb that goes off in the head, any Edison has hundreds of botched trials and burnt-out filaments. Hence, for every polished Oulipo-like loop-de-loop, Leong has another poem that seems too clever by half, by failing to meet its reader halfway.

But whenever I read critiques in this vein I always think of John Ashbery’s famous comment that his poems are “accessible, for those who care to access them.”  I think making the reader work is as important as meeting him or her “halfway.”  I also think it’s interesting that the most prevalent metaphors regarding readerly connection are so thoroughly conditioned by a Whitmanian poetics: “Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, / Missing me one place search another, / I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

My favorite sentence of Bledsoe’s review is the first one:

This brief collection is interspersed with pictures of collage poems that look like those refrigerator magnets arranged into poems, except they contain words I’ve never seen in any set of magnets.

Actually–I composed all of the visual poems using magneticpoetry.com, which allows you to play with virtual magnets online.  There are a variety of sets (“Original Kit,” “Love Kit,” “Poet”); I think I used the kit called “Geek” (or perhaps some kit involving office diction) to make the piece above.  In any case, I’m thankful that Bledsoe took the time to review an older title.

Metamodernism and Andy Mister’s Liner Notes (Station Hill, 2013)

•February 3, 2014 • 1 Comment

My review of Andy Mister’s Liner Notes (Station Hill, 2013) appeared in last weekend’s issue of Hyperallergic.

This is a brief excerpt:

In a sequence of approximately 150 brief, carefully plotted paragraphs which alternate between poetic memoir and non-fictional re-reportage, Mister chronicles what he calls “a catalogue of […] mistakes”: the terse retellings of tragic deaths (often by overdose or intentional or accidental suicide) of figures in the music world, such as Nick Drake, Ian Curtis, and Elliott Smith, as well as personal anecdotes that describe unfavorable situations of varying degrees of severity (“Riding my bike home drunk from a party, I wake up in the emergency room.”)

Liner Notes critiques celebrity idolatry and scrutinizes the mythologized and alluring mystique of — to cite [the gallerist Louis K.] Meisel’s terms — the “troubled and dissolute” lifestyle of the artist/musician. It records what happens once the singing stops, once the collective energy of the audience dissipates into loneliness. “Loneliness isn’t something you feel,” Mister writes, “It’s what you are.”

Liner Notes has been well received by poet/critics of my generation–and rightfully so.  Noah Eli Gordon said, “reading this book that’s so informed by loneliness made me feel so much less alone. Hell, it made me feel. That means something.”  And according to Jordan Davis, “Andy Mister’s book is an order of magnitude more enjoyable than most recent books filed under poetry.”  I–by and large–agree with these reactions and assessments.

Seth Abramson’s review-essay in the Huffington Post, “On Literary Metamodernism” (July 2013), however, had me raising my eyebrow.  According to Abramson, Liner Notes is “one manifestation of metamodernism.”  While I appreciate Abramson’s sweeping ambition and willingness to account for our complex contemporary moment as well as his enthusiasm for Mister’s text, I found his review-essay to be extremely under-historicized.  There is no indication of how Liner Notes is in dialogue with modernism, and indeed, no substantial discussion of modernism in Abramson’s piece.

By contrast, David James and Urmila Seshagiri’s article “Metamodernism: Narratives of Continuity and Revolution” from last month’s issue of PMLA uses the term in a much clearer and useful way in terms of literary history: “Metamodernism regards modernism as an era, an aesthetic, and an archive that originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”  In discussing writers such as Tom McCarthy, James and Seshagiri argue that “metamodernist writing incorporates and adapts, reactivates and complicates the aesthetic prerogatives of an earlier cultural moment.”  They focus on twenty-first century fiction but I do think there is good work to be done on twenty-first century metamodernist poetry (I’m thinking of a book such as Kristin Prevallet’s Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn (A Four Quartets) (2012), which rewrites T.S. Eliot).  

To return to Abramson, I can’t agree that Liner Notes is metamodernist.  If anything–because of its proximity to nonfiction, because its insistent use of reportage–it’s metarealist.       

 
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