If epic is a story of the community for the community, then Event Factory asks the contemporary reader to consider: How does one tell the tale of the community now? In the place of a sure narrative about a place and its people, Renee Gladman’s text presents ambiguities — palpable, permeating, and resonant — that refuse to resolve or settle.
Renee Gladman’s trilogy, Event Factory, The Ravickians, and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, shifts epic’s emphasis on a shared, foundational past to ask how one understands a community’s present. With a different speaker narrating each book peopled with overlapping, recurring characters, the texts, while written in the past tense, thematize and insist on the question of the present moment. And likewise, they insist on the present moment as a question.
In her work, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry, Evie Shockley reads Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Anniad,” Sonia Sanchez’s Does Your House Have Lions?, and Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge as epics. She analyzes how their poetics pressure the genre and how their texts “achieve something with the epic that it was not created to do.” Who tells the story for and about the community, and how it is told, is radically transformed. In her analysis, Shockley is also asking questions about reading. She suggests Brooks, Sanchez, and Mullen “require us to accommodate new kinds of heroes and questions, previously unrecognizable as such because of the race, gender, class, and sexual presumptions that have attended the genre of the epic as it developed within the Anglo-American literary tradition.” What do we perceive and what do we render in advance “unrecognizable” when read through a received lens?
Litia Perta asks us to think about criticism as a practice of care and not as attack. This suggests a type of attention, a generative reading method that moves alongside a work and not against it. When I write about the authors’ works in my project, I am writing alongside and toward.
In the past month, I’ve begun another, not unrelated, practice of breathing more space into my body.
Women experimental writers working alongside-within a poetic genre can breathe space into it.
Written in 2007, Cathy Park Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution is set in a hyperreal, dystopic 2016.
While the text does not self-identify as an epic, the genre tropes are present throughout. There is a quest, a journey, and an invented vernacular that meters many of the lines. We are introduced to the protagonist-heroine guide Chun Sujin, the “talky Virgil,” who prefers to be called the Guide and who will lead a visiting Historian through the Desert city, telling stories about her South Korean upbringing and her current life alongside other Desert city residents.
Frank Stanford is an anachronism in late twentieth-century poetry. Like many of his southern contemporaries, much of his work is driven by a narrative impulse — his poems nearly always have stable, embodied speakers; they tend to use fairly normative syntax; they generally feel grounded in a particular geographic location; and they’re concerned with identity, memory, and depicting external action.
When the feminist poetry press Kelsey St. published Myung Mi Kim’s 1991 epic work Under Flag, a publicity blurb described it as a book that “documents” the “struggle to learn English,” an experience, the blurb goes on to say, that “resembles the experience of innumerable other US citizens in a century that has been shaped by wars and vast human migrations.”