Articles

A toast to Chip Delany

Chip started teaching at Temple University in 2001. His office is next door to mine, so I know he gives great phone interviews. And I know that no matter who wanders in looking for him — whether an eager fan or a teenage student who hasn’t yet read any of his works — they will receive the same enthusiastic greeting and invitation to come in and sit down. No matter how busy he is, he can always make time to talk about literature. 

Samuel R. Delany's worlds: An introduction

One of the great joys, if you’re lucky, of being in academia is being able to thank people and an even greater pleasure to be able to thank the mentors of your mentors.

When Charles Bernstein approached me about organizing this text-based raising of the glass to Samuel R. Delany (aka “Chip” Delany) I was nervous, humbled, and grateful for the chance. This came on the heels of the passing of two other people I looked up to, José Muñoz and Amiri Baraka, whose work Chip also admired. The magnitude of thanks takes on this bigger quality when the air is suffused with the ephemera of those who aren’t corporal, those who inhabit the same space in your heartspace that great art pervades. 

One of the great joys, if you’re lucky, of being in academia is being able to thank people and an even greater pleasure to be able to thank the mentors of your mentors.

Captions without images

On Robert Fitterman's 'Holocaust Museum'

Rob Fitterman reads at the Poetic Research Bureau, Los Angeles, 2008.

As Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag amongst others have told us, when it comes to photographs, the caption is essential in relation to what we think we see: if the contextualizing text is changed, the meaning of the work as such will change significantly. In this light, it might be interesting to ask: what happens to the caption when there is no longer a photograph to contextualize? When the caption is isolated, it now refers to a referent that is no longer there. That is one of the issues raised by the American writer Robert Fitterman in his book Holocaust Museum, first published in 2011 and reprinted several times since in the US and in Great Britain.

'Absolutely temporary'

Spicer, Burgess, and the ephemerality of coterie

Jack Spicer.
Jack Spicer.

In an unpublished letter to Robin Blaser and Jim Felts from the mid–1950s, Jack Spicer cautions his addressees against preserving their correspondence for posterity. “This will become a literary document,” he warns, “if you don’t burn it.”[1] Similarly, in a list outlining “What to do with the Boston News Letter” scrawled in one of Spicer’s notebooks, he advises readers of the poetry pamphlet to “[p]ost whatever pages of it you think well of in the most public place you can find — i.e. an art gallery, a bohemian bar, or a lavatory frequented by poets,” and to “[b]urn or give away the pages you do not want to make public. Do not keep them.”

Time-lapse poemography

Ron Silliman's poetry of accretion

Two poems in Ron Silliman’s poetry collection The Alphabet,“Jones” and “Skies,” are yearlong projects. For “Jones,” as Silliman writes in his notes, “Every day for a year I looked at the ground,”[1] and similarly for “Skies,” “Every day for one year I looked at the sky & noted what I saw” (1060).