Armand Garnet Ruffo was born in Chapleau, northern Ontario, with roots to the Sagamok Ojibwe First Nation and the Chapleau Fox Lake Cree First Nation. Ruffo’s first collection of poetry, Opening In The Sky (1994), reveals an abiding interest in the complexities of Aboriginal identity in a multi-cultural society. His second book, the acclaimed Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archie Belaney (1997), is a creative poetic biography that further raises difficult questions about voice and identity, Aboriginal culture, human rights and the environment. Ruffo won the Archibald Lampman Poetry Award for his third collection of poetry, At Geronimo’s Grave (2001), in which he uses Geronimo’s life as a metaphor for resistance and survival. His latest writing project is the much anticipated Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, a creative biography based on the life of the acclaimed Ojibway painter Norval Morrisseau, which was released in the fall of 2014 through Douglas & McIntyre; The Thunderbird Poems, based on the paintings of the artist, will appear in the spring of 2015.
Opening an email conversation on Chain with editors Spahr and Osman, I sent the following two introductory questions:
1) In the final issue of Chain, you note that the intellectual (and actual) climate in Buffalo prompted you to begin the magazine. The first issue — one of only three edited while you were both in Buffalo — presents a brilliant response. Originally slated to publish writing by women, Chain no. 1 features an editorial forum on editing magazines, a transcription of a panel on the ethics of small press publishing, and a series of poems composed via chain letters. Perhaps we can begin with a conversation on your plans for this first issue. What role did you see Chain performing in the poetics community at the time, in Buffalo and further afield?
2) The editorial forum in the first issue is particularly illuminating — offering a fascinating survey of female editors on gender and the work of editing. You interrogate the format of Chain itself in a following section entitled “Editors' Notes: Frameworks,” writing:
It is impossible to make a frameless frame (although that is the vision from which this project derived). We have instead begun the journal with a forum that takes a look at how and why journals are created and in what ways questions of gender have informed those decisions. It sounds absurd to edit a journal that's about the editing of journals — a nightmare of self-reflexivity — and yet it is a way of creating a body that shows its own skeleton.
How do the preliminary editorial statements from the first issue read to you now? Opening with this intensive self-reflexivity, in what ways did surveying experienced editors inform your own editorial position(s)?
In response, I was cheered to learn that these questions in particular were addressed in a short statement the editors penned for OEI magazine. We've decided to reproduce that document in full here. The statment can be read as a retrospective introduction to Chain from the persepective of 2008, resurfacing along with the magazine online today.
Back in mid-March 2010, I traveled to Manhattan and met Charles Bernstein and Robert Grenier at the East Side apartment of Michael Waltuch, Grenier's old friend and collaborator. We recorded part 2 of what is now a long 2-part interview with Grenier about his early years. Part 1 focused on 1959-64, with a bit of a look back to Grenier's high-school years just before that period. Part 2 goes back a bit into the early 60s but then moves forward, covering 1965 to the early and mid 1970s. If last time the central topic was Harvard, this time the central topic, as it emerged, was New England: New England in the specific biographical sense (Bob G.'s wanderings there, especially on trips shooting outward from Harvard) but also in the meta-geographical sense--New England as a haunt, a crucial (it would seem now, in Grenier's way of thinking) ghostly presence in his thinking and in his writerly development.
We are pleased to release this second interview through PennSound - available, along with part 1 and many other Grenier recordings, on PennSound's Robert Grenier author page. It's a long recording (2 hours and 11 minutes) but I hope you'll find listening to it rewarding.
In 2005, a seminar of Penn students and Charles Bernstein spoke with Christian Bok, making a recording that is now part of the "Close Listening" series hosted by Bernstein. Here is the recording and here is more information about the session. Now Michael Nardone has transcribed the interview for later publication in Jacket2 but we cannot resist offering a brief excerpt here:
PENN STUDENT: So, while we are talking about Eunoia, can we look forward to a consonant sequel?
BÖK: A consonant sequel? No, I’ve promised myself that I won’t ever write another constraint-based book again. The blood-pact I have with my peer group is that every book we write will be radically different from its predecessor, that the entire oeuvre should be completely heteroclite. So, the next project requires learning a whole new skill-set and re-training my brain, in effect, to learn something else. I probably would not have the endurance now or perseverance required to actually finish a constraint-based book.
PENN STUDENT: So, clearly, this is very constraint-based, and from what you’re saying, you’re probably going to set yourself a new set of rules every time you write something new. So, are you arguing for something, for going back to sort of the poetic formality that has existed forever, against the tide of free verse, or stream-of-consciousness?
BÖK: Well, actually, I have no problem with those poetic forms. I think my only complaint about those poetic forms you’ve cited is that they are not feeling much incentive to innovate and produce something new and reinvent themselves in a manner which is exciting and stimulating. And to me, it’s not so important that the work actually demonstrate some sort of formalistic character, so long as it has some kind of innovative rationale for its practice. So, I’m not making a case, I think, for a return to rigorous and strict formality. You know, I’m not that fascistic or school-marmish, I think, in my sensibilities. But I did this project thinking that it was a kind of experimental work. I didn’t know if it could be done, and I merely conducted the experiment to see what would happen. And to me, that’s really what writing poetry is about, it’s a kind of heuristic activity where you indulge in a completely exploratory adventure through language itself.
Several times recently I've mentioned Susan Schultz' Dementia Blog here, so I won't repeat the basic information about the project; rather I'll direct you back here. Michael Nardone recent completed transcribing the conversation between Leonard Schwartz and Susan recorded for one of Leonard's "Cross Cultural Poetics" shows. We hope to publish it some day in Jacket2 but meantime here's a preview - an unedited transcription of one portion of the interview.
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SCHWARTZ: So, it's a really rich and complicated weave of things, and so beautifully juxtaposed. You know, you have that section: my empathy is memory, is a container into which your experience sometimes fits, shallow grave or swimming pool, death by water. The mind is a memory of overpasses, not to pass over but under by way of air. The air is human. I am the limbless woman.
Can you say a little bit—-I know this is a, you know, vast and grave question—-but a little bit about your take on memory having moved through this experience with dementia, and on the personal level, your mother's dementia, and the political level, with the Bush administration now reaching its end?
Over at her excellent blog Lemon Hound, Sina Queyras is hosting our talented transcriber of PennSound interviews, Michael Nardone. Michael has selected some excerpts from Christian Bok's discussion with Charles Bernstein's students at Penn a few years back. "Greetings from Blachford Lake," Michael begins, "up near the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Via the satellites, I've been working under the direction of Al Filreis at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, transcribing some recent and classic dialogues on poetry and poetics that will eventually be published in Jacket magazine once the journal takes up its new residence in Philadelphia. Occasionally, I hope to post on Lemon Hound a few excerpts from discussions I'm working on, and wanted to start with these selections from a conversation with Christian Bök featuring Charles Bernstein and students from the University of Pennsylvania." Here is your link to the blog entry. Above: Michael at left, Sina at right.
Below is a small transcribed piece of a "Close Listening" conversation with Wystan Curnow, conducted by Charles Bernstein. The full recording is of course available on PennSound. The full transcript will eventually be published in Jacket2; it has been prepared by the remarkable Michael Nardone.
Here is a short excerpt from a longer interview with Jerome Rothenberg. It has been transcribed by the wonderful Michael Nardone. The transcription is good but it's still a work in progress, and we hope to release this and other interview transcriptions through Jacket2 in the coming months. Meantime, here I am talking with Jerry about writing about the Holocaust.