Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Website (playing around)


--> T I N F I S H __ P R E S S

Tinfish Press was founded in 1995 to publish experimental poetry from the Pacific region. We began with a thin journal that was xeroxed and stapled, and moved into chapbooks, then into full length volumes of poetry. Our designs, all by artists with ties to Hawai`i, are strikingly non-standard. We publish work that focuses on place, language issues, anti-colonialism, Buddhism, and poetic form. Above all, we seek to create alliances between writers whose work crosses national and aesthetic borders.



Honolulu Advertiser
Honolulu Star Bulletin
Hana Hou
Honolulu Weekly
What Edit Grrl Reads
Susan M. Schultz interviewed by Al Filreis
The Writers' Center discovers Tinfish Press
Jennifer Feeley in Full-Tilt
Tinfish Editor's Blog, 2012 Best Local Literary Blog (HonoluluWeekly)

Contact T I N F I S H:

You can buy Tinfish Books directly from this website or from Small Press Distrubution in Berkeley, California. If you use books in your classroom, please order from SPD at, or at 1341 Seventh Street, Berkeley, California 94710-1409, 510.524.1668 800.869.7553 (Toll-free within the US).
Our land address is 47-728 Hui Kelu Street #9, Kāne`ohe, HI 96744
Readers in the United Kingdom can order Tinfish titles from Word Power Books in Edinburgh.



Editor & publisher, Susan M. Schultz lives in Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi and teaches at the University of Hawaiʻi. She is author of Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series (Singing Horse Press, 2011), Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press, 2008), Memory Cards & Adoption Papers (Potes & Poets Press, 2001), And Then Something Happened (2004) and Aleatory Allegories (2001), both from Salt Publishing, and editor of The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry (University of Alabama Press, 1995).  A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry was published by the University of Alabama Press in 2005. She lives with her husband, son and daughter and cheers for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series and Dementia Blog are available from Singing Horse Press. And Then Something Happened and Aleatory Allegories are available from Salt Press and Small Press Distribution. Aleatory Allegories is also available from and
Memory Cards & Adoption Papers is available through Small Press Distribution.
Interview of Schultz by Jessica Nalani Lee (pdf)
          Tinfish Editor's Blog

B O A R D _  F _ D I R E C T O R S
Susan M. Schultz, Gaye Chan, Masako Ikeda, Jon Osorio, Bryant Webster Schultz, John ZuernS U P P O R T E R S
Tinfish was supported from 2006 to 2008 by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA), celebrating over 40 years of culture and the arts in Hawai‘i. The SFCA is funded by appropriations from the Hawai‘i State Legislature and by grants from the NEA.



The journal ceased publication after issue #20 came out in 2011.
         Chapbook and Book
         Submissions by invitation.
Send a query letter and a brief sample of your work to Susan M. Schultz (editor) at

         Before submitting to any small press, be sure you've read their website and some of their          publications. Be aware of their mission statements.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature: forms or identities?

The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature is both a book I want very much to read (check out the price, though) and to throw across the room. The introduction, by editors Joe Bray, Alison Gibbons, and Brian McHale has been posted by Charles Bernstein on the jacket2 website, along with the book's Table of Contents. While it's hard to judge a book by so little evidence, I sense that the volume weaves unsteadily on a familiar tightrope that runs between issues of form and identity. It's not a tightrope that we haven't seen many times before, though it's one I'd like taken down, or at least moved to a chasm between newer skyscrapers.

The problem, as I see it, is this: on the one hand, experimental or avant-garde literature gets discussed as a series of formal issues. On the other hand, where gaps appear in the form-only mode, they are soon filled with work about identity positions, usually grouped together and somehow operating in an outer loop of the central formal issues. And so we see that, according to these editors, experimental literature can be characterized according to the following categories (and these are just a few):

--OuLiPo and Proceduralism
--Altermodernist fiction
--Concrete poetry and prose
--Found poetry, appropriation
--Visual art
--Genre fiction
--Interactive fiction
--Digital fiction
--Computer gaming

These headings suggest that we are entering a world where rules are paramount. Experimental rules are different from traditional ones. A noun + seven exercise is not a sonnet. The editors assert that what happens when you move from sonnet-world to noun + seven land is that "fundamental questions" about literature are "unrepressed," and "everything [is] open to challenge, reconceptualization and reconfiguration. And so verbal art gets thrown in the air, all the words of a Shakespeare sonnet tossed to the winds, and only a few gathered up to be re-placed on the ground as another poem, not about love and immortality, but about the words themselves. So far so good; I'd hardly disagree. I want to read the book, remember?

But somewhere in the middle of this table of contents the content shifts, briefly, to "experiments with identity." We've left the world of rules and words and entered a more real world, we sense, one where what's at stake are persons with marked identities. This is the world we live in, where more than linguistic rules apply, even when they remain crucial. Hence, we get a chapter by Ellen Friedman on "women's avant-garde writing in the 20th century," another by Aldon Lynn Nielsen on African-American avant-garde poetics and a third on "language and innovation in anglophone postcolonial poetry" (a behemoth of a topic on its own). The tension surfaces in the titles here: "experiments in identity" are not necessarily experiments in language, and vice versa.

But we turn back as soon as the next section is announced as "The New Experimentalism," which has nothing to do--it would seem--with race or gender or post-coloniality. There is but the word "globalization" to tease us. The editors say in the introduction that the globalization chapter is about "complex connectivity" and "proximity," but nothing about how those connections move across real differences. What is in the chapter may contradict my impression, but the introduction leaves me to think that what the last chapter promised of "identity issues" has now moved into something more theoretically abstract, namely, "an implicitly politicized aesthetic resistance to globalization," as Gibbons characterizes it. There is one paragraph in the introduction about "political subversion," but that relates solely to postcolonial literature and a critique of hybridity. What of uses of experimental poetry by white poets on behalf of the Occupy movement, or by Asian-American poets to write about the internment experience? By Hawaiian and local Asian poets to resist rampant land development? What about Kaia Sand's Tinfish book, in which she--a Norwegian American--writes about that internment camp experience and uses experimental techniques as buffers against the ethical pitfalls often fallen into by writers of her identity position?

If one were to launch a critique of the volume's identity politics, one might well wonder what happened to Asian-Americans, Hispanics, queers, and other minority groups in late 20th century (or even earlier) literature. And, if one were to critique the emphasis on form, one might ask, what are the intersections between identity and form, even outside of these minority categories? What is European about the avant-garde, anyway? Is it largely based on the appropriation of African art? Are all minority uses (appropriations!) of avant-garde techniques rebellions against it, or against other identity positions? How can avant-garde techniques be considered absolutely integral to the practice of writing realism about post-colonial situations that more resemble than differ from the writing of a European avant-gardist than one might think? If process is so crucial, then why is it used by persons from different cultures in different ways? Is experiment ever a form of content? What is content in an experimental poem or prose piece? The questions are legion, and I don't see evidence of them here.

At the end of a section on "The Persistence of the Historical Avant-Gardes" I find one root to the problem, a metaphorical root.  Let me quote: "The persistence of the historical avant-garde into the present guarantees a sort of family resemblance among the contemporary varieties of experimentalism. As with real families, resemblance here is not a matter of everyone possessing some essential feature common to all types of experimentalism; rather, it involves a series of overlapping similarities--common threads, some of which connect one subset of experimental practices, whiles [sic] others connect other subsets." The metaphor is family. If traditional, mainstream literature is one family, the one that doesn't question its own terms, then the experimental family breaks these terms open for inspection. Why then, are we using the identity-bound metaphor of "real family" and "resemblance," this very real adoptive parent wonders, rather than thinking of experiment as composed OF differences, and of a way to make connections (paradoxically, yes) across these differences? If family represents a kind of coherence, then what has it to do with a tradition of coherence's breaking? What happens when a member of that family suffers from dementia, loses his or her identity, begins to speak as if she is writing an experimental poem? The difference of one self to itself is surely part of what makes experimental writing necessary? It was to B.S. Johnson, who is quoted in the introduction, in his House Mother Normal, but the quote is about his dislike of the term "experimental writing" and not its uses.

In my work as Tinfish's editor and as a teacher of literature and creative writing in Hawai`i, I've found similar resistances to those inscribed in this book, although almost all of them are resistances to the avant-garde and not to traditional forms--which increasingly include Hawaiian forms of orature.  Resistances work against difference, but difference is where much treasure can be found. When a press's last volume is by an author who is a Coptic Christian Egyptian engineer living in Seattle and writing in English, who employs a form something like haiku, and when that combination of terms does not seem so surprising after all, that's when you know there can be no such separation between questions of identity and form as this introduction suggests. It's time to create anthologies that consider all these questions throughout, not simply moving from one to the other as if they lived in separate neighborhoods.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Field notes from the teaching life

The students of English 273: Introduction to Literature and Creative Writing: Documentary Writing, were terrified. My course apprentice, doctoral student No`u Revilla, had asked them to break into pairs and push their desks up against each other, so that each student could look at another student face to face. Nervous laughter. Some blushing. Lots of chatter. They were to spend five minutes taking notes on the other student's face, in preparation for writing a portrait of the other student. (We've been reading Eleni Sikelianos's The Book of Jon, which is an extended portrait of the poet's usually absent, heroin-addicted, father.) The five minutes of observation reminded me of the 4 minutes and 33 seconds of John Cage I imposed on a composition class once. The anxiety became palpable in that class when one football player began drumming on his desk and another leaped to his feet to perform a dance for the others. In this class, the silence was only part of the unease; the rest brought together a fear that often blocks us writers from writing with clarity.

The equation goes like this: observation = judgment. We live in a culture where a famous person can proffer judgment even on an empty chair. We go to college and learn to think critically, which too often gets interpreted as "with moral judgment." Our churches leave out the "lest ye be judged" part of the proverb. Perhaps it would have been easier for each student to write a description of an object: rock, paper or scissors, say. I've had classes do that exercise before, and it works well for generating metaphors. What the portrait exercise achieves is the crisis of associating observation with judgment, when the student realizes that he or she is also being observed. What will my partner (who doesn't even know me!) write about me? Has anyone ever looked this closely at me, or I at them? No`u eased their minds retroactively, when she described these portraits as "gifts" from each student to his or her partner. That's a beautiful way to put what I would describe as a lesson in realizing that the world not only calls out for observation, but that such close observation can be done most lovingly--or merely effectively--if we put aside our fears of being judged.  (I know, that's especially difficult when you're 20 years old!)

Our early discussions of Sikelianos's book were fraught with questions of judgment. One student wondered why Sikelianos sometimes portrayed her father in a loving way, and sometimes called him a bastard. Why not one or the other? Perhaps we can bring this conversation around, pointing to the way in which human relationships are inevitably complicated. But even more instructive is the way in which Sikelianos's book is most effective (to my mind) when she is trying to paint a picture of her father apart from her interest in him. Who was he as himself? How utterly impossible is it to create such a portrait, when you are the neglected daughter? And yet, how beautiful the task of trying to give him back his life.

Ed. note: the morning after I wrote this post, I found something about Maria Abramovic's MOMA exhibition/performance (where she sat and invited people to come look at her for as long as they wanted to) on Andrew Sullivan's blog, with a link to an earlier post about people who began to cry as they looked at her. Find that link here. 


In more personal poetry news, the new issue of NAP, an on-line journal, includes my mash-up of The Little Prince and King Lear, which originally appeared on this blog. The last book her social worker read to her was the pop-up version of Saint-Exupery's book. I bought my own copy to "read along" with them. The new issue (#100!) of Bamboo Ridge includes three of my memory cards from the recent Singing Horse Press book. I will be participating in the September 30 BR reading at the UHM Art Auditorium at 3 p.m. There are two other BR readings, as well, at Native Books and at Kumu Kahua Theater.