April 2nd, 7pm: BELLADONNA/AAWW READING with Betsy Fagin, Cathy Park Hong, Michael Leong, and Dorothy Tse

•March 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment
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Asian American Writers’ Workshop. October 24, 2013.

 

I’m excited to return to the AAWW for a reading next week with some great writers.  I’m also looking forward to reading from a brand new project (for a sneak peek–an excerpt of it is on the Silenced Press website).

Thursday, April 2, 2015 7:00pm
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop
110-112 W. 27th Street, Ste. 600
New York, NY 10001

We join forces with feminist poetry collective Belladonna for a night of surrealist and experimental writing by Betsy Fagin, Cathy Park Hong, Michael Leong, and Dorothy Tse, who is visiting from Hong Kong. Founded at Bluestockings in 1999, Belladonna has showcased over 200 writers internationally, who all share an intense desire to be as “dangerous with language” as possible. We’ll have specially produced Belladonna chaplets of work by Michael Leong for sale at the event!

Poet Cathy Park Hong–an early fellowship recipient from AAWW–most recently published the essay “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” an explosive essay that called out the experimental poetry establishment for racially discriminatory practices. She’s the author of Engine Empire, a poetic guide through the fictionalized boomtowns of the Californian old west, present-day industrialized China, and the digital future. David Mitchell deemed it “a brainy, glinting triptych about what powers ‘progress,’ what its human costs are, and where it might be taking our species.” ★ Dorothy Tse’s short story collection Snow and Shadow re-imagines Hong Kong as an eerily captivating dreamscape, where limbs are chopped off and used as currency and the forests are patrolled by dwarves. As Dorothy writes, “Like the city itself, the language of Hong Kong writers should be described as floating as well, a language that is in-between. It is dangerous to hang in the sky, yet it is this dangerous situation that makes the miracle of the city, as well as its literature, possible.” (Read her poem in our Hong Kong protest poetry portfolio.) ★ Michael Leong’s most recent book Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions 2012) is a daring and playful work of visual collage and conceptual poetry that remixes T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” with images from the Periodic Table. He edited our Visual Poetry portfolio here. ★ Poet Betsy Fagin served as the Librarian for the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street through the consensus of the New York City General Assembly. She’s the author of several books and chapbooks including rosemary stretch (dusie, 2006), which is available online, and All is not yet lost, which Brenda Coulras calls “a luminous love letter to revolution, of resistance to a slow death in capitalism’s arms… this book is a song for office and kitchen workers as well as a challenge to the powers that be.”

Save a seat here!

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Grist 8

•March 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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The new (and beautiful looking) issue of Grist is now out in the world. My contribution is “The Poem and Mis-en-page,” a craft of poetry essay which argues that in the composition of poetry mise-en-page can be just as crucial as more conventional concerns such as rhythm, rhetoric, and subject matter. Relevant examples of expressive spacing and typography come from such diverse poets as Nathaniel Mackey, David Antin, Bob Kaufman, Ronald Johnson, Stephen Crane, and Estela Lamat. This essay also examines what happens to the meaning of texts which rely on unconventional spatial arrangements when they are digitized for databases such as Proquest’s Literature Online (LION). Thanks to editors for their suggestions and professionalism.

Fruits and Flowers and Animals and Seas And Lands Do Open

•March 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Thanks so much to Sid Miller at the Burnside Review and to Rory Sparks for the exquisite work on the cover.  Much gratitude to Hannah Gamble for appreciating the work and for the very gracious and sensitive blurb.  Finally, thanks to Jenni B. Baker at the Found Poetry Review, whose “Pulitzer Remix” project provided the impetus for the writing of this.

The title of the chapbook (which was written during April 2013) comes from a phrase attributed to Verrius Flaccus, who supposedly thought “April” came from aperire, “to open,” since in it, as he noted in the Fasti Praenestini, “fruits and flowers and animals and seas and lands do open.”

Fruits and Flowers and Animals and Seas And Land Do Open
by Michael Leong

Winner of the 2014 Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. Chosen by Hannah Gamble.

“Michael Leong’s vocabulary is totally stuffed/ multiplying in mirrors/ scattered over hillsides/ bubbling right over the top, and he’s going to give it all to you—he’s generous. He’s generous and funny and a little troubled—and “a little troubled” is, of course, the most logical and authentic response we could hope for anyone who’s examining life and poetry and personhood and artist-ness. This book is so enjoyable—like I said, giving and funny, but also very unlike anything I’ve read lately. It promptly wins the reader over.”

-Hannah Gamble

Michael Leong is the author of two books of poetry: e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009) and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions, 2012). He has also written numerous other chapbooks including The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-Composition as Explanation: A Poe and Stein Mash-Up (Delete Press, 2011), which won an &NOW Award, and Words on Edge (2012), which won the 9th annual Plan B Press Poetry Chapbook Contest. An additional chapbook is soon forthcoming from Belladonna*. He has taught literature and creative writing at Rutgers University and Goddard College and will join the English Department at the University at Albany, SUNY as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2015

Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry

•March 4, 2015 • 2 Comments
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Christine Wong Yap. Untitled (one half gallon), 2006, paper, 8 x 8 x 1 inches / 20 x 20 x 2.5 cm.

 

The folio “Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry,” which I guest edited for The Margins, has just been published. There’s some really outstanding work featured by the artists and poets below alongside beautiful and provocative images. While I sought to bring together a lot of previously published work, the folio contains some brand new writing.

Christine Wong Yap
“Cloud”

Debora Kuan
“How to Take Black-and-White Pictures” | “How to Make Bells” | “Pastoral” | “TV Room”

Eileen Tabios
“Athena’s Diptych”

Jennifer Hayashida
“On Peter Saul (Laughter)”

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
“I Love Artists”

Shin Yu Pai
“Lunch Poem” | “After Toshiko Takaezu” | “Dear Juan” | “the great figure” | “prime”

Walter K. Lew and O Woomi Chung
“Moss” | “The RV Projects”

John Yau
“Further Adventures in Monochrome”

After Translation

•February 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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My review-essay on Ignacio Infante’s After Translation: The Transfer and Circulation of Modern Poetics Across the Atlantic (Fordham UP) was just published in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Here are the first three paragraphs:

EZRA POUND occupies a central place in discussions of experimental modernist translation — and rightly so. In “Translation Wounds,” poet and translator Johannes Göransson writes, “Pound used radically materialistic forms of translation such as homophonic translations or the use of deliberately exotic or archaic words. The ‘meaning’ may have been ‘lost’ but the materiality of the text is brought to life.” We can think of, for example, Pound’s translation of the Old English wrecan into “reckon” in his version of “The Seafarer.” This lineage of what Göransson calls “materialistic” or homophonic translation can be traced from Pound through Objectivist Louis Zukofsky to the language poets David Melnick and Charles Bernstein and beyond. We are, in fact, in the midst of a renaissance of experimental translations. (Göransson writes of Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, a creative translation of Georg Trakl.)

To be sure, the radical tradition of liberating the sonic from the semantic in both poetic and translational practice is an important one that has ongoing implications for contemporary experimental writing. However, the role that translation has had in 20th-century transatlantic poetics — especially if we widen our scope beyond an Anglophone focus — is extremely varied and exceeds the well-known Poundian model, which privileges the materiality of the signifier.

Ignacio Infante’s recent book After Translation: The Transfer and Circulation of Modern Poetics Across the Atlantic reminds us that

the case of Ezra Pound as a transatlantic writer whose own poetry and poetics is intrinsically connected to the experience of interlingual translation is not an exception. Many other modern transatlantic poets […] conceived their own poetic practice in part as a very serious linguistic engagement with various foreign languages and poetic traditions.

One of the great values of this study is that, in exploring such “other” poets, it gives us a richer and more detailed history of how translation has played a vital role in modern poiesis around the Atlantic, and does much to remedy what Lawrence Venuti has called the “continuing marginality” of “modernist experimentalism in translation.” In fact, Infante rejects the terms “modernist” and “modernism” altogether (in favor of “modern”). The field of Anglo-American modernism, he claims, fails to satisfactorily account for the transnational, interlingual, and transhistorical dimensions of major cosmopolitan writers who continue to get neglected within mononational and monolingual paradigms.

Congratulations to the 2014 NYFA Poetry Fellows!

•January 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Poetry
Albert Abonado (Monroe)
Rosebud Ben-oni (Queens)
Emily Blair (Kings)
Charity Coleman (New York)
John Coletti (Kings)
Corina Copp (Kings)
Amanda K. Davidson (New York)
BC Edwards (Kings)
Simone Kearney (New York)
Dawn Martin (Suffolk)
Rachel McKibbens (Monroe)
Judah Rubin (Queens)
Beth Steidle (Kings)
Stacy Szymaszek (Kings)
Vincent Toro (Bronx)
Karen Weiser (New York)
Matvei Yankelevich (Kings)

Finalists
Cynthia Manick (Kings)
Idrissa Simmonds (Kings)
Michael Leong (New York)

Panelists
Jose Perez Beduya (Tompkins)
Nathaniel Otting (Kings)
Marc Straus (New York)
Ellen Graf (Rensselaer)
Tonya Foster (Kings)

 

“Work itself is given a voice”: Labor, Deskilling, and Archival Capability in the Poetry of Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak

•January 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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My article “‘Work itself is given a voice': Labor, Deskilling, and Archival Capability in the Poetry of Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak” has just been published in Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture Vol. 14, No. 4.

Here’s an excerpt from my second paragraph:

…I will analyze and put into critical dialogue the long poems of two very different writers, one associated with conceptual poetry (and the championing of what he calls “uncreative writing”) and one associated with, however reductively, investigative or documentary poetry (and the championing of labor rights): Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak. Goldsmith is best known for his massive transcription projects such as Traffic (2007), a word-for-word transcription of traffic reports over the course of a day, or the forbiddingly long book Day (2003), an 836-paged transcription-it must surely be one of the longest poems so far in the new century-of an entire issue of the New York Times (Goldsmith transcribed all available text in the paper from photo captions to advertisements). Day was, importantly, “written” against Truman Capote’s famous quip about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: “That’s not writing. That’s typing” [2]. Nowak, on the other hand, is best known for documenting working-class experiences in books such as Revenants (2000), which explores Polish communities in Western New York, and Shut Up Shut Down (2007), which details the hardships and complexities of the labor movement along a deindustrialized rust belt. Both Revenants and Shut Up Shut Down are collections of long, serial poems that, while immensely shorter than Goldsmith’s conceptual projects, nevertheless present length as an indicator of sustained socio-cultural ambition. In reviewing (favorably) Nowak’s most recent book Coal Mountain Elementary (2009), a collocation of found texts about the global coal mining industry, Maurice Manning begins by acknowledging the extreme uncertainties regarding evaluation, genre, and authorship I mentioned above: “To call Mark Nowak’s haunting new book a collection of poetry would be a bit of a misnomer. It would also be misleading to say Nowak is its author.” This would seem to put Nowak firmly into Goldsmithian territory; the trajectory from Revenants to Coal Mountain Elementary certainly suggests a clear turn away from the recognizably poetic toward an aesthetic of extended citation or copying. Nevertheless, on the level of theme or content, the difference between the two writers seems glaring. On the surface, it looks like we have, on the one hand, a poet who radically re-conceptualizes the labor that a poet can and ought to do through a fastidious engagement with ambient, everyday textualities (newspapers, traffic reports, etc.), and, on the other, a poet who explicitly thematizes labor and worker’s rights as fundamental and pressing concerns. In short, it appears that we have two poets interested in labor but one whose interest is primarily technical (as it relates to poetry’s method) and one whose interest is primarily thematic or content-based. But such an understanding, while tempting, would be naively incomplete.

 
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