Barrett Watten

Barrett Watten, 1999

Photo from the Poetry Project

In this 1999 reading, Barrett Watten collages poetry and criticism from 1-10 (1980), Bad History (1998), Poetics Journal 10: “Knowledge” (1998), and criticism eventually collected in The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics (2003).

Barrett Watten
The Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania, November 15, 1999
Introduction by Carine Daly
Reading:

  • Mode Z (1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Non-Events (stanza 1; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • “Does poetry have any knowledge […]” (“What I See in ‘How I Became Hettie Jones,’” Poetics Journal 10: “Knowledge,” 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 2 and 3; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History IV: “Museum of War” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 4 and 5; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • “It is important that the graphically modified noun language […]” (The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics, 2003)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 6 and 7; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History X: “The Executor” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 8 and 9; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • “There is a competing possibility […]” (“What I See in ‘How I Became Hettie Jones,’” Poetics Journal 10: “Knowledge,” 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 10 and 11; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History Section E: “Event” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 12 and 13; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • “Instead of ant wort I saw brat guts […]” (The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics, 2003)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 14 and 15; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History XIX: “Free Trade” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 18 and 19; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History XXI: “Vulture” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 16 and 17; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)
  • Bad History XXII: “Fantasia” (Bad History, 1998)
  • Non-Events (stanzas 18 through 25; 1-10, 1980; Frame (1971-1990), 1997)

Watten begins with “Mode Z,” the first poem in 1-10, the book strategically chosen to begin the non-chronological Frame (1971-1990). Watten adapts this organizational gesture to the composition of the poetry reading. “Mode Z” consists of New Sentences calling for the clearing of the past and the agency to construct the present: “Could we have those trees cleared out of the way? / And the houses, volcanoes, empires?” “Prove to me now that you have finally undermined / your heroes [….] Start writing autobiography.” Its repetition in 1999 reaffirms its permanent revolution, self-critically exceeding Watten’s own subjectivity, since in the nineteen years since 1-10 a new generation of poets has developed with Watten as a hero to be potentially undermined, evidenced by the adulatory introduction by the younger Carine Daly.

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