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Vsevolod Nekrasov: Nothing on the page

The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? — Ecclesiastes 6:11

What does poetry do with language? This question, shouted and shrieked by various avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, became increasingly relevant for Russian poets during the Soviet period. In the 1920s and ’30s, many learned that even as poetry uses words to forge alliances and break windows, words in poetry can also cause serious trouble: they can get you fired or exiled or killed. In the slightly warmer but artistically stifled atmosphere of the mid-1950s, the poet Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934–2009) started asking: what can poetry do for words?

'Invictus' and the negotiated revolution

Or Clint Eastwood's idea of the lyric poem

William Ernest Henley, author of "Invictus."

Queering racialized bodies

Disidentity in the works of Akilah Oliver and Ronaldo Wilson

Isaac Julien. Photo by Sammlung Goetz.

After some time browsing through pages, staring out the window, and drifting over question after question, the idea of the borderlands became something I latched on to despite these unfamiliar cultural experiences and references. It occurred as I repeated the phrase: a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural border.

I find myself going back into the past. In absence.

 What haven’t I looked at thus far? What remains

 (mostly) unquestioned in examining what queer

 representations are? Race. Ethnicity. My white skin.

 I must dig deeper.

The very variants: A few revisions to Lorine Niedecker's 'Collected Works'

This is a note to readers of Niedecker, particularly those who use the early printings of the Collected Works published by University of California Press in 2002.

A prefatory digression: in 1992, The Library Chronicle of the University of Texas published my account of the Lorine Niedecker holdings in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. I titled the essay “‘The Very Variant’: Lorine Niedecker’s Manuscript Collection,” meaning to echo her line “the very veery” in the poem that begins, “We are what the seas” (240) and to re-echo Niedecker’s play on Stein’s “The Very Valentine” — the precise, the singled out, the necessary, the insisted upon, etc.

Why the witch-hunt against Gertrude Stein?

In 1934, Gertrude Stein was invited to the White House to have tea with Eleanor Roosevelt. Stein was on a triumphant lecture tour across the United States, following the success of her bestselling Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and her fashionable opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The American press proclaimed, “Gertie is Gertie is Gertie!” In the thirties, Gertrude Stein was America’s quirky darling.

How times have changed.

On May 1, 2012, the celebration of Jewish Heritage Month began with an official statement from the White House: “From Aaron Copland to Albert Einstein, Gertrude Stein to Justice Louis Brandeis, generations of Jewish Americans have brought to bear some of our country’s greatest achievements and forever enriched our national life.”