Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HPR's The Conversation: interview on _Jack London is Dead_

This morning I talked to Chris Vandercook on Hawai`i Public Radio about our forthcoming anthology of writing by white poets (and two fiction writers).  You can access the December 18 interview here.  And the book is here.  Chris was intrigued by the subject matter, the conversation that never really happens in Hawai`i among artists, namely what it's like to write while Caucasian.

Tomorrow my family and I leave for a 17 day trip to Cambodia. I hope to be able to post here and there, but we will be in rural areas and in no-star hotels (we're going with our friend Hongly Khuy and his group of local Cambodian Baptists), so I may have to do my writing old-style, with pen and paper. For the nonce.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our new website

Tinfish Press is pleased to announce our new website. Click on it!

The process of moving from our old website to the new one was long and arduous.  Jeff Sanner was the designer, Luanna Pescador our intern (who did the moving from one to the other site).  On our web committee, which met several times at Coffee Talk and Glazier's Coffee in Honolulu were my colleague, John Zuern, and future Tinfish poet, J. Vera Lee.  I so appreciate their eyes, their opinions, their hard work, none of it for pay.

We have two new books.  Ya-Wen Ho's book is available in material form, and Jack London is Dead: Contemporary Euro-American Poetry of Hawai`i (and some stories) will be arriving very soon.  I will be on HPR's The Conversation tomorrow to talk about that last book. Podcast to follow.

There are numerous freebies on this new site, including the entire set of Retro Chapbooks from 2010-2011, as well as a pdf of Sarith Peou's Corpse Watching.

Please help us out by buying books and by hitting the donate button at the bottom of the page.  Any amount helps.  Jack London is our biggest book yet, our most expensive to produce & to ship.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Forthcoming books from Tinfish Press

 Tinfish Press will be rolling out our new website soon.  Many thanks to those who are making it happen: Jeff Sanner, Luanna Pescador, John Zuern, and Vera Lee.

Here are two books you will find on that new site (as well as the one that is still running at tinfishpress.com):

TO PURCHASE THESE BOOKS, GO TO http://tinfishpress.com, FIND A PURCHASE BUTTON, THEN GO TO THE END OF A LONG LIST.  Our new website will make this all a lot easier.

Coming soonest:

last edited [insert time here], by Ya Wen Ho

Ya Wen Ho's poetry sits on the (pointed, unsturdy) edge of the spoken and the digitized word. In last edited [insert time here], she presents performance texts based on google searches, drawing out accidents that occur when words crack and blend together. In his work on Shakespeare, Garrett Stewart termed this process “lexical bucklings and permutations.” Hence, for Ho, “18 is XVII- / '(aye)_-da' translated into English means 'to take a / sound / beating_two eggs and a wife together,” or “anger / 'issues'_rhymes with 'tissues,' which can either refer to / a class of soft, absorbent, disposable papers or / an ensemble_of jazz musicians played at his mother's / funeral_home directors earn on average...” This short book is a romp through contemporary life, mining the spot where virtual and actual cannot be wrenched apart, except between the syllables of quickly streaming words.

ISBNs: 978-0-9824203-9-3; 0-9824203-9-0

43 pages, $13


from “today I will stop procrastinating and clear my desk”:

desk_top pot plants thrive in her new corner
office_politics destroys many a work
ethic_ally I find the planting of trees with fermentable fruit in public places objectionable for the sake of alcohol-poisoned
birds_of a feather flock
to gather_one ounce of rose essential oil requires
60,000 fresh
roses_are red, violets are blue, sugar is 1sweet and so are
You_tube is a hugely popular video-sharing platform. Other notable examples include Dailymotion, Flickr, Photobucket, Vimeo and
more_than 15,000 works are held within the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o
Tama_gotchi is a virtual digital pet.

Poet bio:

Ya-Wen Ho graduated from her BA/BFA(Hons) at the University of Auckland in 2012 and  works as a writer, editor and independent publisher of chapbooks and zines. She has previously been published in The DeformedBravado,JAAM and Poetry New Zealand.


Ya-wen Ho's last edited [insert time here] sits in a complex place, and how fortunate for us that this poet negotiates these intricacies with smooth turns between playful, intelligent, and funny. Ya-Wen Ho's poetry stream of conscious word play rushes us through everything from pop culture to population control in China to PhDs driving taxis asking us to try and not "detonate the sleeping dog" and have a fabulous time while (not) doing it.

Lyz Soto, author of Eulogies, Co-Executive Director of Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi, and Co-Founder of Pacific Tongues

Coming in the new year:

Susan M. Schultz, Editor
Tinfish Press

ISBN: 978-0-9824203-7-9
Copyright 2013

 Many white (or, as this anthology calls them, Euro-American) poets have made Hawai`i home, either permanently or for a significant portion of their lives. But in a place marked by communities of writers marked as Local or Asian or Indigenous, there is no such community of Euro-American writers. Euro-American poetry seems to exist at two poles, either as the writing still to be resisted by non-white writers, or as work that comes from somewhere else, and is thus not relevant to Hawai`i’s literature.  This anthology features seventeen writers of poetry (and some prose), as well as their statements about being a Euro-American writer in Hawai`i. It looks at what happens after Euro-American literature has been de-centered, de-canonized.  Jack London is Dead presents writers whose work has been deeply influenced by Hawai`i, and whose poetry adds valuable voices to a complicated mix of ethnic cultures. Featured in this volume are the more experimental of the myriad Euro-American voices among Hawai`i’s many exciting writers.

Contributors: Scott Abels, Diana Aehegma, Margo Berdeshevsky, Jim Chapson, M. Thomas Gammarino, Shantel Grace, Jaimie Gusman, Endi Bogue Hartigan, Anne Kennedy, Tyler McMahon, Evan Nagle, Janna Plant, Susan M. Schultz, Eric Paul Shaffer, Julia Wieting, Rob Wilson, Meg Withers.

 To contested questions of agency and authenticity in contemporary Hawai`i, this collection makes an important contribution. By clearing a public space for White authors to think (and write) through issues of a positionality compromised by the ruptures of historical violence and present day colonialism, editor Susan M. Schultz has done a brave thing. There are those who will object to this project by challenging the right of non-Indigenous “others” to write about Hawai`i. However, the sensitivity of featured authors to the complex instability of their own standing as White writers in Hawai`i offers a nuanced, layered response to that call of challenge. Without closing our eyes to history, without denying any legacy of oppression or cooptation, and as citizens of the 21st century with so much at stake for a shared planet, it seems to me that this conversation may be one of the most important and difficult, yes, but necessary ones before us.

--Caroline Sinavaiana, author of Alchemies of Distance; Side Effects, A Pilgrimage; and co-author of Mohawk/Samoa: Transmigrations.

The volume exemplifies ways in which ethnicity and ethnic identities are indeed fluid and historically contingent. Through this “experiment,” we see a poignant example of how the positionality of ethnic identities tends to shift quite quickly when one factors in the political, social and cultural circumstances in which such identities are formed and experienced in the contexts of power, discrimination, and belonging.
--Elisa Joy White, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, author of Modernity, Freedom and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris

This anthology sets itself the ambitious task of convening a group of white (Euro-American) writers for the purposes of a poetic conversation, both with Euro-American and Hawaiian literary traditions and cultural histories. In convening this assortment of writers – which it hesitates to label a community - its project is not so much to map a genealogy of whiteness as to open out new perspectives on white writers who may find themselves inhabiting positions as both majority and minority practitioners, who may index white hegemony while simultaneously being marked by a lack of legitimacy. The writers represented in this book defy easy categorisation in spite of the apparent self-evidence of the subtitle.
--Anne Brewster, Associate Professor, School of English, Media and Performing Arts at University of New South Wales

While many of the writers are stylistically “experimental,” aiming to convey new experiences of being, the Introduction and Author Statements provide inviting roadmaps that actively include readers—a poignant reversal of the theme of racial and cultural exclusion often expressed here. Jack London is Dead is essential reading for anyone interested in discovering the best of contemporary writing. How we mythologize ourselves and others, the difficulties of expressing our identities in language, the relationship between humans and nature, the sense of being and not-being part of where we are, the complexities of aesthetic heritage—these are abiding themes of art addressed by the exhilaratingly varied writers in this anthology. This volume feels both rooted in a place and rooted in its creators. This collection will be a classic.

--Lauri Ramey, author of Slave Songs and the Birth of African American Poetry, Director of the
Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, California State University, Los Angeles

Both books were designed by Allison Hanabusa.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A sestina!

My students in History of Poetic Form seem especially intrigued by the sestina--two of them wrote their own, unbidden.  So our last class was devoted to generating six words (out of 20 or so), forming small groups, and then writing sestinas.  The students came up with wonderful end words, several related to the Halloween season.  You can imagine the pies made of phalanges, the manatees in graveyards, the zombies in Paris.  Each group performed their sestina.  The class was so successful that I'm taking them pie tomorrow, pumpkin, not phalange.


And here is the sestina I wrote. I feel very sheepish in noting that I've never before written a sestina.  But what fun!

Manatees & Zombies in a Parisian Graveyard

A horrible, hot Florida vacation. All I saw was a manatee
who lolled in the rancid water like a zombie
trolling around a 19th century graveyard,
all the bodies decayed, except for some stray phalanges--
is that a word you'd use in Paris,
I wondered, when you're asked for tart, or pie?

We drove past Pres. Nixon's favorite bakery for key lime pie
still seeing in our mind's eye the bulbous manatee
wearing a whisker as stylish as any Paris
haberdasher sews, the slow-moving zombie
drifting among fans of hands wearing their phalanages
underneath gloves as gray as any graveyard

when, through the hard rain, we spied a graveyard
and decided it was just the place to eat our pie,
taking care to keep clean our smudged phalanges
lest they get lost like dice, like a manatee
that earned a big prize as Zombie
of the Month at a prime cafe in Paris--

I do so miss the Spring in gay Paris,
Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison in Pere Lachaise graveyard.
Pedestrians near the Eiffel Tower look like zombies
out in search of a proverbial pie
made of cherries, apples, strawberries, or manatee
jam that really stickies your phalanges.

You! with the oddly bent phalanges,
your arthritic hands like a bare tree in Paris
that one winter we went from manatee
to zabronkey in the dictionary's graveyard,
slowing down only once for pie
and a hard look at the word zombie.

Zombie Land's the new Disney, where Phalanges 
is a rollercoaster ride, the Pie a bird in Paris, and climate 
change a graveyard for my late pet, Manatee.

I'm not sure my last three lines follow the directions very well, but there you have it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bob Holman & R. Zamora Linmark rock the classrooms of UHM

[Bob Holman, top; Zack Linmark & Amalia Bueno, bottom]

The heavens aligned yesterday in a marvelous twofer of guests in my classes, English 353 (History of Poetic Form) and English 273 (Documentary Writing).  The early class--it's an 8:30 class in a city with too much traffic in an engineering building classroom with no windows, dingy white paint, and aged plastic coated desks--found themselves confronted by Bob Holman, slam poet, poetry enthusiast, defender of endangered languages. I'd suggested he was welcome simply to talk story, and that my students lit up most when we did a unit on signifyin, rap and performance poetry. And perform he did. The opening act was Holman as Benjamin Bratt (6' 2" white guy) as Mikey Pinero (5' 2" Puerto Rican guy). Holman played both roles, Pinero as himself, Bratt as Pinero. Then he played himself--older hipster, slam poet, charismatic teacher--to a group of students wearied by a long semester and still smarting from a recent unit on the elegy.  (I just got off Facebook where Kathy Lou Schultz was lamenting that her students may never come back to her class after reading elegies.) 

Holman recounted his ur-moment as an oral poet, when he found himself dancing to a poem by Kurtis Blow, "These are the breaks." One student in class helped him chant the poem. He then riffed into the following topics: the sound of Lower East Side in Nuyorican English (Loeesida); how he started memorizing poems after his first attempt to read a poem beneath lights that flashed too much for him to see his own text; how what you do if you are a poet is what a poet is; his work with PBS's United States of Poetry, which included videotaping Lois-Ann Yamanaka's "Boss of the Food"; his experiences with a blues poet; signifyin' two levels of a single story, one X-rated, one not; orality not as poetic form but as consciousness; Homer; how he was left out of the second edition of the Ron Padgett book of forms we're using in the class; the question of how many languages there are, and the fact that we're losing one language every two weeks, and are slated to lose 1/2 of all languages in the next 60 years; corporate global capitalism; his study with a griot; how poets are paid in West Africa; the difference between an epic that is "long long long" (oral) and "very long" (written); how a poem shifts from day to day because each day is different, according to his griot mentor; Hawaiian orality and literacy; digital consciousness; how literature comes through the body; multi-linguality as a natural tradition; kids as sponges; the sadness of being the last speaker of a language; talk story vs. talk stink; how he was left out of edition #2 of Padgett; rainforests and cancer treatments, both of them being life forms out of control; Welsh; definitions of poet; verb tenses in the Amazon; ecology of consciousness; his courses on "exploding texts" (Columbia) and "poetry census" (NYU)

and then he was gone.

Zack (aka R. Zamora) Linmark came to my early afternoon class, where we've been reading his new novel, LECHE.  The course is on documentary writing, so the mix of history, postcards, tourist tips, and other documents, real and imagined, made the book fit the syllabus nicely.  Many of the students are local Filipino, and most of them are from Hawai`i, so the book is close to home for them. (Its central character, Vince, comes to Hawai`i from the Philippines as a child, and is now returning for a visit, only to realize no one in the Philippines considers him anything other than American.)

After my students had finished taunting me over my Cardinals' pummeling at the hands of the Giants, Zack began talking about homecoming narratives, starting with those by Homer; about how the motherland often rejects the traveler; how he detests linear narratives; how digressions and plot are related; how it took him 12 fucking years to write the book, which he started as a UH student; how it only took him one year to write Rolling the Rs (a book he says he detests); how LECHE is a prequel and a sequel to that book; how this novel relates to Gulliver's Travels, which the students have not read; how Vince is Gulliver; how he also uses elements of Dante's Inferno; how he used Swift's model in the long long scene of Vince trying to take a shit but finding no toilet paper; about how Vince's story is developed through nightmares, tourist tips, and postcards sent home; how he uses 3rd person, 2nd person, 1st person and dialogues in the book (this fit in well with the fiction-writing tips Donovan Colleps had offered the class period before); how difficult it was to divorce himself from the main character; how much research he did on history, popular culture, the US military, superstitions; how he has no audience when he writes, but means for more than Filipinos to enjoy the book; how place is not setting but character; Kalihi, Manila; how he had to become a sociologist/anthropologist to write the book; the signage he saw in Manila ("Elizabeth Tailoring"); on how his next novel will be set in Tokyo, a city he only lived in for six months; how you need eight pairs of eyes in Manila; how the energy of his prose is intended to echo the frenzy of Manila; how to develop character through dreams; a dream he had about shitting in his pants while naked; the reading his friend, Justin Chin, gave of this dream; procrastination; satire; how to spell "da kine" or "da kind"; how people don't speak in italics; how texting is unfixed, like language

and then he was gone.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An open letter to Wanda A. Adams of the _Star-Advertiser_

This morning's Star-Advertiser (10/14/12) contained a review of the 100th imprint of Bamboo Ridge Journal of Hawai`i Literature and the Arts. Penned by Wanda A. Adams, the awkward headline, "Points of entry are myriad in 100th Bamboo Ridge issue," is prescient. For Adams's review contains several lines of thinking that prevent much of the literary world in Hawai`i from moving anywhere but closer to the comforts of home.  She takes swipes at experimental writing, nay, even poetry and short stories, acknowledging her preference for "long, character-rich novels and deeply researched non-fiction" of the realist kind.

The review begins with a note of comfort: 100 is a pleasing number, Adams writes, because it's so round, so base-10, and "the least you can spend on a good dinner for two" (where on earth does she eat?). While she notes that compared to earlier issues of the journal, this one contains "more troubling places and no fear of going there; less nostalgia, more nuance," she then eases back into well-worn slippahs.  Let me quote: "Some works are so spare and experimental, I frankly couldn't understand them. Others fit like an old slipper, worn ball-and-heel grooves, straps that slide between the toes, so familiar they're like wearing nothing. You put on these pieces and you know just where they'll slide over your consciousness and tuck into your experiences."

No nostalgia there, but also no nuance. Failing to make the link that could be had between "experimental, spare" and "less nostalgia, more nuance," Adams promptly runs back to those pieces "so familiar they're like wearing nothing." Granted she's writing for a deadline (though the issue has been out for weeks now), but am I not alone in NOT wanting to read work so comfortable that it seems not to exist? "There's more enterprise in walking naked," Yeats wrote, but his nakedness was not dreamed of in this philosophy.

Adams finds a moment in Albert Saijo's work--which I'm delighted to see Bamboo Ridge has published, likely against Saijo's own posthumous wishes!--that rings a bell for her: "I WANT THERE TO BE NO DIFF BETWEEN WHAT I THINK AND WHAT I SPEAK . . . NO BELLE LIT IDEAL--JUST UTTERANCE--LIKE BOW WOW LIKE MOO." That mini-rant of Saijo's may seem to chime with Adams's notion that writing should fit like a slipper, but of course it absolutely does not.  Saijo's work is searing, angry, strips naked our notions of authority ("DIRECTED THINKING LIES AT THE BOTTOM OF ALL OUR ILLS"), decorum, pretentiousness, and yes, comfort. Saijo's nakedness, the big caps that are all revelation, no hiddenness, is an ornery stew. NO BELLE LIT, but also no BULL SHIT.

Still, the reviewer slogs on, quoting from some slips of paper she used to take notes, which bring her back to her discomforts and possible ways to justify them. She admits to preferring fiction to poetry, development to spareness, then comes around to a defense of poetry that might make Shelley et al flip in their watery graves: "But this 280-page anthology proves short works can be valuable scraps, vital scraps, even if elusive, like the piece of paper with the phone number on it you just have to find. At best they leave you with a thought, an impression, an uncomfortable feeling, an aha that flirts with your mind's edge, sometimes for days." As someone who tries to show her students that the telephone number on a scrap of paper is found poetry, I find myself oddly in agreement with Adams. Yes, the short form is vital. And yes, fragments are a significant literary form, one that opens poems to the reader, "sometimes for days"!, but "scraps"??

My problem with this review is not the review itself; god knows, I've read enough of these in the past two decades to see them coming, predict the next paragraph, realize that anything but easy, narrative, non-scraps will please most local journalists. But really? In a place so complicated, with so many stresses, so many competing (or neglected) communities, is this the best one can come up with?  I am not one to savage Bamboo Ridge: I know far too well how hard they've worked, and how much shit they've caught over the years, sometimes for good reason, other times because it's easy and comfortable to call them "bourgeois." And I also know that the "darknesses" of this issue, the ones Adams brings up and then neglects, are crucial. Amalia Bueno writes in this issue about women in prison; Wing Tek Lum writes about the Nanjing Massacre; even the typical BR-funny stuff ain't so funny if you really listen to it. I'm looking at you, Lee Cataluna.

So yes, this issue deserved a better review. But, more importantly, Hawai`i's literary scenes merit better journalism and listeners with fresher ears, like the ex-UH football player I met at the reception after one of the readings for this issue, spoke with some eloquence, in response to what he'd heard, about his own growing up in Ka`u, where a local politician had tried to impose a rocket project, only to be turned back by citizens he later savaged at a talk in Honolulu. It's not even that we need to read more work published outside the state, it's that we need to read, and attend to, the work right in front of us.

Editor's note: This issue included three of my prose poems from Memory Cards.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Documentary Poetry & Being in the World

Several years ago, when we still walked our kids to the neighborhood school in the morning, my husband did a photography project he called "sidewalk blog." Each morning he took a photograph of the sidewalk, one of those concrete suburban walkways that runs parallel to the asphalt road. Looking back nearly at random I find these photographs, some of which he thinks I took. No matter:

--A soap bubble
--A bic lighter
--A worm
--Some leaves
--Metal cover
--Pre-paid movie card

And then are the photos that he printed out and hung on the wall, among them:

--A red curb, fluted cement gutter, leaves
--Manhole cover filled in with multi-colored leaves, twigs
--What appears to be a moon crater

The term isn't used in this way, but these are "found photographs," images in which the world rises to meet us, unmediated (except in the angle of the shot). Photographs like these may prove a corrective to what happens when introductory level poetry students are asked to "write a poem." Even after setting up topics that accentuated the documentary nature of the course (English 273: Docuwriting), most students succumbed to the lure of "Poetry." Instead of looking at the world as it is, they did dervish dances of mediation, remediation, imposing their thoughts, feelings and (alas) cliches on their subjects.

But when my Ph.D. apprentice, No`u Revilla, asked these students to take their own photographs of walks they'd been on, they came up with many stunning images.  The ratty stuffed bear who lives under a bench beside Kuykendall Hall, the stylized image of a man's face at the bottom of another bench. They see the world, but can't describe it.
We've set to work removing the veil of anxious subjectivity and clotted multi-syllables from their writing. Having asked them earlier in the class to write verbal portraits of each other (an exercise that caused great consternation), we more recently asked them to compose "verbal portraits or photographs" and to post them on the class blog. I asked them to go for a walk and to take nothing (no phone, no iPod, no iPad, nothing) except for a pad and pen. When they saw an image that they would otherwise take a picture of, they were to stop, sit down, and write the image as they saw it. No commentary. The ticket should emerge from the sidewalk not as evidence of "a lonely night," but as a ratty piece of paper with the numbers 1446-2023 on it.
The results have been good, sometimes stunning.  One that begins with two women talking about pronouns (yes, sound images work, too) includes this series of vivid lines:

Red flowers in clusters, no in umbels,
Behind a brown, rusting fence,
Beneath black lamp posts.
Rows of shrubs line the boundaries of the grey building.
A man in pink picks a leaf.

There are tables shaped as hexagons; there's a girder; there are roofs, pigeons, canoes, a baseball field, motorcycles, a woman in a tank top. Suddenly, we see what we see when we look at the world without so many distractions (such as our electronic devices, our monkey minds). 
Alfred Corn asked on facebook the other day whether we read Stevens or Williams. I responded that I read both, but teach Williams more. In college, when I took a couple of courses from Alfred, I was enamored of Stevens. My poems were full of blue musical instruments, fluttering ideas, lots of ifs. He told me to try to write a poem so utterly like Stevens that I might cure myself of the tendency; at another point, he pointed to Chieftain Iffucan as my muse. I learned later on to appreciate the value of writing about the world as something that was not so much an hallucination behind the eye, but (scary thought when you're 20) a place that confronts the eye, is not the I.
That this is a spiritual, as well as a quasi-scientific, discovery brings the opposition into focus for me, if focus is a kind of synthesis, as I believe it is. This is what I learned best in writing about my mother, that to watch her and to describe her decline as it happened, was difficult precisely because it meant pulling away the veils of my own emotions, memories, desires. Talking yesterday to a colleague in Family Resources with whom I will be teaching a class next semester on Alzheimer's, I was gratified to hear her talk about this act of witness (of a parent's dementia) as one that involves pulling away from personal desires, and of settling into the present tense. Meaning comes after, but only when words themselves can be seen as precisely as that bear who sits under the concrete bench, a companion for the black cat who eats there.

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: press.tinfish@gmail.com

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 spdbooks.org, 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 amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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 press.tinfish@gmail.com

         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.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Wonder blunder and n + 7 therapies

              [At Hamilton Library, UHM, 8/2011--with no change since]

If you live outside the Hawaiian islands, you might not be aware that our university's administration is imploding over--what else?--a Stevie Wonder concert that never happened. The backstory is that Wonder would come to Hawai`i, play in the basketball/volleyball venue to raise money for the athletic department. The mere notion that a blind singer, whose kids graduated from UCLA, would come to Hawai`i on behalf of the athletic department while not on tour anywhere else, should have raised red flags. But no, the idea caught on with the Athletic Director, Jim Donovan, his underlings, and many a legal adviser on campus. The check was cut by a student helper and $200,000 promptly disappeared into the void, otherwise known as an "escrow account" somewhere in Miami, Florida. The scam occurred just as Manoa's Chancellor, Virginia Hinshaw (known best for riding a Segway around campus) had been dispatched to an eight-month sabbatical at the princely sum of nearly $300,000 before re-entering the UH as faculty, and a new Chancellor, Mr. Tom Apple of Delaware, had assumed the reins of power. He or someone near him had the bright idea of firing the AD, Mr. Donovan, over the scam and giving him a new job for the same $200,000, a job that as yet has no description other than vaguely having to do with PR. That was before Pres. Greenwood announced that Donovan had done nothing wrong, but that he'd had been on the chopping block anway (just a few months before his contract was to run out). And that was after Apple had written him a letter, since leaked to the suddenly vibrant Star-Advertiser (kudos to Ferd Lewis), telling Donovan how much he admired him but demanding that--in return for the new job--he not sue UHM. Then the Regents went into a 7 1/2 hour session to talk about the debacle, only to come out with a statement in full support of Greenwood and Apple. Pres. Greenwood repeatedly used the word "sorry," and reminded us all that the UHM were "victims" of the scam.

It's a very sad and sorry story, indeed. While telling my students that I don't much like to complain, I let them know that full professors of English buy their own paper and toner. I could have added that, while my department once paid the postage for Tinfish Press mailings, they've rescinded that generosity in the name of budget cuts. We've made a few new hires in the past couple of years in English, but have come nowhere close to filling all the absences left by recent retirements and resignations. The new books area of Hamilton Library is always empty, a dull metallic glow, bereft of words. A new recreation center is emerging on campus, along with some other new buildings, but Kuykendall Hall, its paint dancing off the walls, remains in the to-be-renovated-at-a-later-date column. Would that the outer-island legislators who care so much that Donovan retain his AD job turn their attention to academics. Fat chance. Football builds machismo, but academics are for sissies.

Enter avant-garde poetic form, my current (or red-currant) therapy for the disgust and distaste I feel over this unethical bungling of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be used better toward actual (sigh) higher education. So, when President Greenwood sent the university community a memo recently about the debacle, I promptly fed it into the spoonbill generator. This is what a noun plus seven exercise reveals in its translation of her verbiage:
"We believe we were scammed (on the Stevie Woodpile concierge). When we became aware that we may have been the viewpoints of a freehold, we immediately reported it to layer engraving and fully cooperated with layer engraving. We also initiated our own internal invite. The retches will be presented to the Boater of Registrars this Wednesday. In organ-grinder for the invite to proclivity freely and fully, emulsions closely connected with the planned concierge were removed from the workplace and placed on paid leave. Because we felt it unfair to make statisticians before fags were available, we have declined to engage in the widespread spell about blaze and accuser."

Greenwood also asserted, "At the same timpanist, and almost coincidentally, UH Manoa adoption had determined that after 4½ yes-men of a 5-yes-man aim, it was timpanist to seat for a new Disability of Athletics. Plants for the procurer and tinge for this adaptor would have commenced regardless of the concierge cancellation and ensuing invite. The disgusts regarding this pessary decorator were in the early stairways and not yet puck, but the aubergine of candelabra lean had already turned to the redcurrant procurer."
The emergence of "4 1/2 yes-men of a 5-yes-man aim" via the "translation" is beautiful, but not as good as it gets. With UHM admin, the good eventually becomes sublime. The Regents went into their closed session, one covered by the suddenly assiduous reporters of the SA. Here's their report, which has survived the money-wall at the paper. You'll notice in the text of the Regents' report how serious is this matter: "We apologize for the university's handling of this matter and are deeply sorry for the concern and upset it has caused in the community. We approve the release today of the redacted report of the investigation and the key findings of the investigation. The report shows a failure of management in the Athletics Department and additional issues with financial controls at several levels." It's redacted! (According to Ian Lind, such redactions violate state law.) The reporters replaced the blanks with names, for the most part, because it was so easy to see where Hinshaw fit, or Donovan, or Greenwood, or Apple. Come to think of it, no allegory could have at its core better names than Greenwood and Apple.

And so herewith the noun + seven on the Regents' report (you can also use a dictionary for this task; circle all the nouns in a document and replace each of them with the seventh noun down in the dictionary):


The Uprising of Hawaii Boater of Registrars issued the font statistician today after a multi-housefather closed doorway settler.

We apologize for the uprising's handling

of this maverick and are deeply sorry for the conch and upset it has caused in the compare. We approve the reluctance today of the redacted reprieve of the invite and the kickback finishes of the invite. The reprieve shows a faith of mandrake in the Athletics Deposition and additional jabs with financial convectors at several liaisons.

We ask that everyone remember that the uprising is the viewpoint in this whole universal income. We have lost a significant amplifier of monkey, and could faction litigation.

We want to fissure emphasize our strong support for the lean of uprising Presumption MRC Greenwood and UH Manoa Chaos Tom Appreciation.

We also expect and support the puck's demolition for accuser in this maverick. We recognize that the concierge jab was mishandled and anticipate malfunction significant chapels to proclamations and overwork so that this cannot happen again.

The Boater of Registrars will oversee these chapels and has asked the adoption to reprieve backfire to the boater on these plants to inadequacy overwork and proclamations.

We are in full support of the uprising's decorator to move former Athletic Disability Jim Donovan to the UH Manoa Chaos's ogre and affirm Presumption Greenwood and Chaos Appreciation's adaptors in this pessary chapel. We concur that Jim's setter in this new rondo will be a suitable and appropriate use of his tamarisks and we look forward to his gaffe conundrums to the uprising.

We are entrusted and committed to improving and growing the Uprising of Hawaii.

Sovereignty: Uprising of Hawaii Extraterrestrial Affinities
Especially apt here is that final line, which grows out of Source: University of Hawaii External Affairs. Apt because sovereignty is such a live issue in Hawai`i. Apt because we need an uprising.  Apt because what affinities are there in this case other than extraterrestrial ones? An email from one of the AD's colleagues, Mr. Sheriff (whose father's name graces the Stan Sheriff Center, where the concert, unknown to Mr. Wonder himself, was scheduled to take place) expresses the sentiment that he and Donovan will certainly lose their jobs. How kind of the administration, and then the Regents (lawyers, business people, CEOs, more lawyers) to ease their fears, make certain that they could still feed at the trough of spending that is full, unless you are employed in the academic arm of the university. 

Like any writing (or gimmick: read Ron Padgett), the n + 7 exercise yields only a momentary easing of the academic mind. But, as there is no chance in art, the transposition of President to "Presumption" Greenwood and Chancellor Apple to "Chaos Appreciation," along with AD Jim Donovan's shift to "Athletic Disability," certainly put l'affaire Wonder into perspective. (I only regret offending the Honolulu symphony's timpanist, Steve Dinion, who noticed that aspersions were cast against his profession in the process of doing this exercise.)

Let's clean house and turn our attention to education.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On planning a course on Alzheimer's literature &

When I said I write about Alzheimer's, Prof. Jon Goldberg-Hiller of Political Science quickly shot me a note. "Catherine Malabou, The New Wounded," it read in cramped handwriting (I thought the name was Maladou, which echoes the illness, the malady). The argument of this book, now in front of me, is at once astonishing and obvious. While her thinking is not all about Alzheimer's, it comes of her experience of her grandmother's disappearance into dementia: "it seemed to me that my grandmother, or at least, the new and ultimate version of her, was the work of the disease, its opus, its own sculpture." This early assertion brings Alzheimer's and art together, but as a form of destruction, not construction. "Behind the familiar halo of hair, the tone of her voice, the blue of her eyes: the absolutely incontestable presence of someone else" (xi).

The larger ambition of Malabou's book is to shift psychoanalysis away from a Freudian model, built on sexuality and a belief in the continuity of self, toward a model based on "cerebrality," or cognition, affect. This model shifts emphasis from the mind as an internal engine separated from the outside, toward one where the brain/mind is susceptible to outside forces, accidents, illnesses. Where the self can change irrevocably. Where my mother, your mother, is not a constant but someone whose identity can change "before your eyes" (my phrasing). As Malabou begins to develop this model, she pauses to reflect on connections between brain injury and political trauma, discovering "the impossibility of separating the effects of political trauma from the effects of organic trauma." As someone who linked my mother's Alzheimer's to the effects of the Bush administrations lies-unto-war, this more intimate link makes sense. Mine was a metaphor; hers is closer to fact. The trauma of that time (including the shock of 9/11) in the USA can be linked to organic dementia, or so Malabou's argument suggests. To say nothing of all the anguish that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A subject who has become someone else (15). That, then, is what is at stake in a course on writing Alzheimer's, along with more practical concerns of caregiving, legal definitions of competency, and the architecture of Alzheimer's homes, among others. (There will be visiting speakers and, I hope, a co-instructor, Prof. Lori Yancura, of Family Resources.) Malabou puts it beautifully, when she describes this process of becoming someone else "not as absence of form but as the form of its absence" (18). Yet, as I found during my time in my mother's Alzheimer's home, that absence is hardly without content--it's full of events and crises and calling out for reasons why we are there, why we are not in our homes, as opposed to the home. The competent writer may be embarked on a search for meaning, but so too are the residents, at least until they lose the language by which to express such longings (and perhaps also the longings themselves?)

Here is a course description with list of readings, so far. I've stolen the title of Lauren Berlant's symposium of last November at the University of Chicago, Losing It, which has the virtues of wit and range.

Prof. Susan M. Schultz (English)
Prof. Lori Yancura (Family Resources)
Spring, 2014

Losing It: Dementia and Questions of Self in Literature & Family Relations

This interdisciplinary honors course will pose the following questions: who is (still) human? Who is competent according to the law? Who cares for the incompetent? What is the politics of care? How can we best write about dementia? How do writers use dementia to reflect on other concerns, public and private? What is the architecture of the care home? Why structure the care home that way? Who grieves, and for how long, when the person who is lost is still alive? We will ponder these questions through the (chaotic) frame of dementia and Alzheimer’s, reading literature by and about Alzheimer’s sufferers; we will also address issues of biology and caregiving. Students will be expected to write two essays, contribute to a class blog, and do a final project that (to some extent) combines the concerns of the course.

There will be guest presenters and speakers throughout the semester, as well as a field trip to an Alzheimer’s care home.

Readings will include (on the literary side):

--excerpts from Self, Senility, and Alzheimer’s Disease in Modern America by Jesse Ballenger (history) and from Catherine Malabou, The New Wounded (philosophy)

--Thomas DeBaggio, Losing My Mind (memoir)

--Samuel Beckett, Rockaby, Footfalls, Eh Joe (on YouTube)

--Walter Mosley, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

--Jennifer Montgomery, The Agonal Phase (video)

--Poetry (Shi), Korean film

How I'd love to include novels by B.S. Johnson, Alice LaPlante, David Chariandy, and Annie Ernaux, and poems by George Oppen, Julie Carr and others.

But for now, back to courses on poetic form and documentary writing for this semester . . .

Note: Many thanks to Shantel Grace for writing about this blog in the Honolulu Weekly's "Best of" issue.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

I stopped blogging this summer. Not by intention, but because I found myself working on projects that didn't lend themselves to blogging. But is that true? Certainly in the Spring, when I was writing for jacket2, the blogging model--write and edit at nearly the same time, then "publish"--was in effect, despite the sensitivity of the material, mostly having to do with Hawai`i's literary politics. So why not-blog? If there are answers, aside from the obvious--getting out of the habit (in more than one way, perhaps)--then they may have to do with questions of time more than of content. Or of how time comes to be content. (I suppose both pronunciations of that last word might apply.)

Blogging is a form that lends itself to honoring the moment as it occurs. When I made books out of my blog posts, I edited a lot out, but never added words, thoughts, exposition. There's an honesty to the present that ought not be altered through future tweaking, unless that becomes another post for another moment. In writing about my mother's condition, I found that Alzheimer's lives only in the present; to write about it otherwise felt less than honest. My problem with Alzheimer's books is more than that they are usually more about the caregiver than about the person with the illness; it's that they are retrospective. Alzheimer's is the disease that erases retrospection, not one that calls for it. My memory cards are also involved in the moment of composition, even as their obsessions are with the past, how it enters the present abruptly, sometimes overwhelming it. These decayed epiphanies comes as much out of forgetting as they do remembering. If your muse forgets, then allowing for those absences of language, event, affect, all matter, even if they are located in the immaterial gaps between sentences. A conceptual Garrett Stewart thesis applies, where it's not the sounds of the words that elide, meaning more than two separate words can. The gaps, whether in blogging or in writing memory cards, create meaning when two moments come together in space, if not time. This is a bit like Ron Silliman's idea of torque, except it de-emphasizes parataxis in favor of conjunctions between seemingly unattached elements.

This summer's projects developed otherwise. One, editing a posthumous collection of poetry by Steve Shrader, a poet who lived for over three decades in Waimānalo, writing amazing, Ashberyesque poems near the end of his life in 2007, turned into a sleuthing project. Shrader, famous among his friends for the precision of his work as a graphic designer, artist, and photographer, left no indication (except one date at the end of a single poem) as to when he had written these pieces. Wanting to find out when and where he wrote the poems, I began driving around O`ahu, talking to his friends, looking at places where he'd lived and worked, trying to reconstruct a time frame. What I found were people summoning up the past--one friend of Shrader's wrote afterward to say that our visit had stirred up his memories, his anger at his friend's leaving him--into a present that doesn't yet exist, that of the poems set inside the covers of a book. Research is what comes between. I could have blogged about that process, but his friends were talking to me, not into a public space that they will enter only much later. While I often want to tell my students that their ethical stipulations about using others' voices are too strong, provide cover narratives for anxieties having little to do with their subject, in this case, I wanted to give these voices their privacy. At least for now.

The second project was to put together an anthology of poetry (and some prose) by white poets in Hawai`i. (I'm calling them Euro-American, because that emphasizes an ethnic, historical background to whiteness.) There's a tenderness to that topic (as in a bruise that's easily poked) that made me want to weigh every word before I set it down, or after I set it down, then threw it across the room like a pitch by a closer with two men on and no outs in the 9th inning. Considering the colonial history of this place, to use a verb like "discover," even when it means "I've discovered where I want to live," can be problematic. There's a reason why we no longer celebrate "Discoverers' Day" in Hawai`i. Tone was an issue, too. The rhetoric (mine and the contributors') could not be angry, needed to be even, fair, self-reflexive. But it also needed to be honest. So the work of balancing flashes of frustration with a sense of our moving toward a constructive goal--alerting readers to the fact that a lot of really good white writers have written in and about Hawai`i, and that their work has been shaped in myriad ways by their experiences of living here--was not easy. While the Shrader project ostensibly recovers a past for readers of poetry inside and outside Hawai`i, as well as showing how radically different traditions can be joined together, the anthology is future-directed. My utopian goal (by now I know it's good to have them, but not to fret too much over the disappointments of not arriving) is to shift the direction of local and Hawai`i writing, to make it--counter-intuitively, considering the limitations of ethnic categories--more open. The projects do come together as a vision of what might be added to Hawai`i's literature. My phrase for this act of editing something into the world is "positive critique." But the time sense involved in these two projects moves in different directions: we look to the past in order to map possible futures. The present, or what might otherwise be blogged, is less crucial to these projects than was the work on Alzheimer's.

The anthology is now with our designer, Allison Hanabusa (who mercifully, perhaps, doesn't fit our category); the Shrader volume will get going quickly once we have the digital copies of his poems. And then there are chapbooks by Ya-Wen Ho and Erin Yuasa to do, and a book by Lehua Taitano. So Tinfish is busy, and the blog is back. I'm hoping to blog about my teaching this semester, along with whatever else comes up that lives inside the moment of considering it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Syllabi, Fall 2012

This coming semester, I'll be teaching two courses, an introductory level course on documentary writing and an upper level course on the history of poetic forms.  The first course is a mixed critical and creative course (the kind I teach anyway) and the second is more of a reading course, though students will have to engage with forms as ways to see the world, if not forms as rules to follow in their own poems. 

353: History of Poetic Forms:

273: Documentary Poetry