I probably wouldn't think anything of it, were I not lesson-planning for tomorrow's #Milton class, and this song just happen to come shuffling across my iTunes, but how seriously wicked it is, and how typical. I don't know anything about Greg Holden, apart from the fact that he made this song and Insound (where I buy my records) is giving it away for free. It's a beautiful tune, and a heartfelt, bold delivery, even if it's full of annoying non-sequesters, but when the chorus comes, it is perfectly diabolical.Read More
Well, that was quick. On Wednesday, I received my copy of this month's Poetry Magazine, and read the criticism first, as is my custom. There, I found a blistering--not for its spirit, but for its force--critique of a new anthology called Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, edited by Paul Hoover. It was authored by one Michael Robbins, whose poem book, "Aliens vs. Predator," I ordered immediately.Read More
Thanks to the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington, I was able to attend this year's Digital Humanities Summer Institute, hosted by the University of Victoria in B.C., just up the proverbial street from Seattle. While I learned a lot (and was bewildered often), perhaps the most helpful aspect of the DHSI was incidental to it.Read More
Among the many assignments for the course on Scottish Literature I taught in Winter term for the University of Washington, my favorite was the creation of a Complete Works of Alexander Smith. mith (1830-1867) is a marvelously gifted poet of the Scottish working class who exploded onto the worldwide literary scene in the 1850's and was hardly ever heard from again, despite pleas every 30 years or so, by someone who actually read his work, for people to appreciate his genius. (For more on this phenomenon from a scholarly angle, see LaPorte and Rudy eds. Special Edition of Victorian Poetry vol. 42.4 2004) The pleas are ignored of course, and nothing of Smith's has been in print for 100 years. As a class, we took it upon ourselves to make a scholarly edition, (of James Thomson B.V., in another section) complete with introductions and footnotes, transcribing from scanned manuscripts where necessary.Read More
Most best-of lists come out in December, I know, but since my birthday happens in January, I've always done the requisite reflecting on l'anee passe a few weeks late. Here then is what mattered most in the poetic year, offered for those of you who don't live near a superlative reading series, or great bookstores.Read More
The people over at Wolverine Farms Publishing put together a spectacular little magazine in Boneshaker, full of narratives, diagrams, a very beautiful full-color poster, and two poems of mine: "Surface Tension" and "Counter-argument." You can order a copy here, or, if you're in Seattle, stop by Hub & Bespoke, which you should probably do anyway, because it's a lovely shop.Read More
So should we save an absence? Should we save the void and this nothingness at the heart of the image? -Jean Baudrilliard
Last month, I flew down to Phoenix to give a paper at ASU staged by the International Conference on Romanticism, on the broad topic of "Catastrophes." I've attended the ICR once before, when it was held at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, and had a collegial and intellectually-rewarding time, and was eager to find myself in such company again.Read More
This week, I resumed my reading of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, from a new copy I picked up at Elliot Bay Book Company, having left behind the Tübingen Library's copy in Germany, at...the...Tübingen Library. For a bookmark, I am using a postcard from the Linda Hodges Gallery here in Seattle that was an advert for a painting show by Christopher Martin Hoff.
Every day this week, when I picked up the book to start reading, I glanced at the reproduction and said to my wife, "we really have to buy this painting; this guy is amazing." Yesterday, I found out that the artist died this year, quite young, but apparently of natural causes. It was sad to hear not only because he'd been, weirdly, on my mind all week, but because his work was so good, and because he was apparently a thoroughly decent human being. The city was better for his being here.
This is my tenth year of teaching at the university level, and while I usually have students make some kind of project in addition to writing essays, the projects for the class I've just finished were exceptional, for the clarity of thought that went into them, and the sheer import of the undertakings.
The class was called Texting: Writing about Digital Humanities, and the idea was to introduce students at an early stage in their academic careers (this was my first time teaching Freshmen in quite a while) to the plethora of tools available to them during this explosion of all things digital, but also to the problems surrounding the humanities generally, and the digital ones specifically. Not least: what are they?
If nothing else, I wanted to gain, over the course of the class, an answer to that question, and so we set out, week by week, confronting the memes and websites, databases, archives, and articles that make up the debates surrounding
- Digital Music
- Digital Scholarship
- Digital Poetics
- The New Aesthetic
- News Aggregators
- Centers, Symposia, Initiatives
- DH Resources particular to UW
One student, in a farewell blog post, summed up our project particularly well:
After taking English classes for more than 7 years, I expected to re-learn about things I have already been taught. How wrong I was. My English 111 class's focus was digital humanities; something I've never even heard of. We learned to navigate our way of information, data, history, poems, research, and so much more through the future of the digital age. We live in this digital age and it only grows from here, so I thought that learning about it now will only allow us to strive for greater success later. It doesn't end here. We would take digital works of course, such as articles, blogs, poems and really learn to dig deep into them and read. Read for context, read for analytical purpose, but we also read for style. Like what apprentices do, we learned from people who were better than us, who had mastered what we desired.
The class explicitly aimed at education's not being theoretical. I didn't just want them to know what I could tell them during our ten weeks together, but how to learn/make/do whatever it is they are individually in to better ever afterward. Again, a student summed it up better than I can:
I remember in our first day of class, our teacher told us something that stuck with me. He said, "You can do, what you can do." He put great emphasis on how much impact one person can make if they really wanted to. Throughout the whole quarter, we learned about many great organizations and devices that became successful just because one person had a crazy idea. Due to English 111, I have learned "One person is all it takes", is overused for a reason; because it's true.
You can read more of the students' weekly responses here.
This is the really exciting part. The students completed two large projects for the class in groups; one of them, called "The New Aesthetic Project," I'll have to tell you about later; the other was a Free Project of their own choice and devise. The prompt said simply find something that could be better and make it that way using the tools we've discussed. Here's a sample of what they outlined and built:
- A Facebook page--The Husky Food Project--featuring photos and reviews of every restaurant, eatery, or coffee stand on campus
- A book (pdf preview here), yes, that you can buy in hardback, softcover, or pdf from here, which is a guide to all the public art on University of Washington's campus, featuring pictures, history, and a short description of each.
- A Comprehensive Digital Map of UW building interiors (for finding your class on the first day of school, bathrooms, etc) whose pitch is just a model of professionalism and urgency.
- An e-book about 100 Changes Due to Tech.
- A website listing all the free products available to students at UW
The point is, I was impressed. These students, for many of whom this was their first college class ever, conceived of, argued for the importance of, and executed significant projects they designed, while writing papers, doing readings, and keeping up with the other, rather large project we were working on as a class. Hats off!
This year's Annual Conference of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association was hosted by Seattle University and held October 19-21 - 110th. I contributed a paper on Coleridge to the session "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream."
In Coleridge’s Dream Theory and the Dual Imagination, Kathryn Kimball puts forward the poet’s outline of sense impressions that “arrive constantly,” “whether asleep or awake,” which “the night-working imagination transmutes into dream images,” arguing that, while the poet can be said to have a purposeful theory of dreams, the main reason he was so concerned was that “dreams are an escape from a difficult life.”
Using Kimball’s assemblage, and a section of the Biographia Literaria called "Nihil Negativuum Irrepresentabile," I argue that the arrest of such “transmutations” becomes for Coleridge an aesthetic technique wherein the Imagination is staged as a mediator who is intentionally exhausted by the difficult (or impossible) task it is set. He explains the difficulty of his project: to produce “a body at one and the same time in motion and not in motion,” and his method: to erect “...a motory force of a body in one direction and an equal force of the same body in an opposite direction,” which he argues “is not incompatible, and the result, namely, rest, is real and representable.” The interjection of the man from Porlock, for example, during the composition of Kubla Kahn, like the overvaluation of albatross-hunting, is that second “motory force” which demands that the imagination mediate between the two opposites in an effort to achieve a place of retirement.
This paper reads Coleridge’s failures of thought and willful obfuscations in the Biographia Literaria as Deluzean attempts to construct a kind of black hole in which meaning is itself imprisoned, with the intention of defining the imagination’s mediative role between states:real and unreal, sleep and waking.
- Patrick Randolph: "
Who Are You?" Queerly Destabilizing Identity in Wonderland
“The Scientific Possibilities of Mesmerism”: Dreaming of Utopia in The Diothas
The 'Fever Dream' of the Post-9/11 Cop: Trauma, Personal Testimony, and Jess Walter's The Zero
Special thanks to our panel chair, Lauren Bond (La Sierra University), to the conference organizers from Seattle University, and to the Renaissance Hotel for having us.
When I finally won an eBay bid for my long-coveted Leica x1, when it arrived, after I finished marvelling at the packaging (what care, what consideration these people have) the first thing I did was to climb online and see if it was fake. Search: "Leica x1 counterfeit scam." Hmm. Nothing. But this camera is so light, surely it's a plastic knock-off of the dignified Leica of which I've dreamt. I snapped a picture of the desk in front of me. Hmm. Best picture I've ever seen. Not fake then. Or at least, a very, very good fake, featuring luxury optics that outperform any camera I've ever held.
It took me about two hours to love everything about this camera.Read More
After a layover in Rome's newly re-imagined Tiburtina--and what times these Romans have ahead of them! Finally, a station worthy of its approach!--my wife and I boarded the new train line, Italo Treno, for Naples. Since the service just launched this Summer, they're offering 20 euro fares to all the major cities they visit (adding Venice and Turin soon), and though my seat faced backwards, which meant I was curled up in the aisle facing front (motion sickness, see?), how nice it was to find oneself on a clean and modern train, to have waited for it in an air-conditioned lounge with free wi-fi before boarding, to have booked tieckets from a beautiful, simple website, and to have been aided by an army of young, smartly-dressed attendants.
I haven't had a proper camera since the digital revolution made my years as film photography student seem quaint, like minoring in tannery, or taxidermy. Granted, there is still great work being done in film, and I'm not sure that even the best digital cameras match it yet--though they're close--but it still feels a little funny having been in likely the last class to learn hand-processing not as some retro-choice, but as the only option for aspiring professionals, just as it must've felt when the French perfected a county-wide canal system just in time for the automobile to render that method of goods transport adorable and less cutting-edge than they imagined and budgeted for.
Since I'm travelling around Europe a good bit this year, I thought it was time to step up.Read More
The train ride from Roma Fuimincino Airport has been bad for decades, but it's gotten worse recently, and now ranks among the worst things to be experienced by the sensual animal. Everything grates: it's filthy as a port-a-john, there's plastic everywhere and graffiti on that; all alert systems are red since it feels both crowded and dangerous. What's more, the A/C is broken, and has been on all five of my trips to Rome, and, somehow, psychotically, they've bolted all the windows shut. The temperature inside hovers around 100 and one thinks she can imagine the smell, but is still surprised experiencing it. And it's slow. And takes you through the worst part of town. And it's expensive: between 8 and 25 euro depending on which line you get in and whether the man working the desk thinks you look like prey. And th ensigns directing you to the "station" are held up with tape. You get the idea. Half of the visitors' Roman dreams are dashed in sweaty Satanic reality before one even crosses the Flaminian gate.Read More
My new essay--"The Breaking Towers: on Hart Crane's Crumbling Muses"--is up now at Monarch Review. Essentially, it's a meditation on the way critics treat artists, especially as seen in the new film Broken Tower (dir. James Franco) and in Paul Mariani's biography of the poet, by the same name.
Monarch is the new kid on the block in the (tough neighborhood?) of literary magazines, and it's based in Seattle, which is why I wanted to publish there. That, and the fact that they've got an epithet from Richard Kenney on their masthead, whose book One-Strand River is, apart from Shelley, the poetry I've re-read more than any other. I'm seriously in the middle of my 16th or so straight read-through and it still chokes me up.
Anyhow, the folks at Monarch are generous and give this content away for free. You can read the whole essay here.
I'm giving a reading next week at the historic Zimmer Theater in Tuebingen, Germany (named for the Zimmer family, the poet Holderlin's caretakers during his madness). I'll be reading with Marcus Hammerschmidt, a local poet with whom I've been working to translate some of my poems into German (we'll debut some translations at the reading).
The Behind-the-Curtain is a fun structure for a Reading Series. The audience doesn't get to meet or see the writers, who read from onstage with the curtain drawn. It focuses the attention more on the verse than on the poor nervous poet; in the second half though, the curtain is pulled back and there are more readings and discussion.
If you're in Southern Germany, come check it out; for those of you who will miss it, I'll post some images to this space and check back in after the fact.
Tuesday, 5 June 8:00 pm
If Dresden had an unreal quality to it, it wasn't because one felt like he was (the troll or the prince?) walking around in a fairy tale, though once it would have felt just that way, awash in Baroque exuberance. Rather, despite its small beauty and typically European good sense, its unreality, its sense of foreignness came from the open space and new construction that made the whole city into an open-air shopping mall. So many perfect surfaces disinvite the imperfect creature from resting, even visually, in the townscape, the way insects feel out-of-place in a clean room.Read More