Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prolegomenon to future blog posts

--The frequent gap between Tinfish Press's mission or argument and the way in which our books are read and used by poets, readers and teachers. While we publish books by authors who are not usually in conversation with one another (Hazel Smith & Meg Withers; Craig Perez & Norman Fischer; Barbara Jane Reyes & Sarith Peou; the Tinfish 18.5 crew & Linh Dinh), I find that readers often peel off the section of the orange they want to eat, rather than contemplating the whole [navel]. So, where we are not a press devoted to any identity other than "Pacific region" or "experimental poet fascinated by language(s)," many of our readers choose to read our books as representative of ethnic writing or queer writing or Buddhist writing. Each book is like a poem, consumed on its own, where the press is more like a book, composed of many poems in dialogue with each other. While poems are wonderful on their own, one wants always to point to the book! I suspect that this tension is here to stay, and would be curious to talk to other editors and publishers about their experiences of misprision by readers.

--How to get students to make poems out of documents. I assigned them to write documentary poems and am mostly getting (very clever) collages of found texts. Will have to talk to them about editing out excess, and editing in some lyric moments. Having tried to steer them away from the lyric for several weeks, it's time to let a few personal pronouns into their writing. Another strand in the weave. Will start with a Ronald Johnson moment of erasure. Then have them write a lyric poem off of their documents, so that their investments in the material is more clear to them, and then to us as they weave their voices into the documentation.

--Speaking of collage poems, my students in Poetry & Politics will be talking to Mark Nowak on Skype this coming Friday. One of the more provocative questions posed already in discussion had to do with the manipulative nature of his method, using "objective" sources toward very "subjective" ends. Helped me realize why my former student, the retired Catholic priest, may have so loved Nowak's Shut Up, Shut Down as a righteous screed!

--I do not want to think about greatness in poetry, but David Orr in the New York Times is still at it. Read John Emil Vincent's response.

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