On April 18, 2013, at 12 noon (eastern time), I hosted a live webcast — an open discussion of two poems by Wallace Stevens: “The Plain Sense of Things” & “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain.” I was joined by the ModPo TAs. Participants in this session joined a collaborative close reading of the two poems, and had a chance to email questions and/or phone us to ask questions or make comments. Here is a link to the video recor
Of all the new writing I’ve encountered in the last few years, Aaron Winslow’s is certainly a favorite. It’s post-apocalyptic, full of body issues, and the prose itself, the way it's written, is hilarious — it’s the kind of comic relief I need after a long day at my own job of the great misery. Aaron himself is pretty funny but also pretty humble, so instead of interviewing him I convened a roundtable. I didn't tell our panelists why I chose them — didn't want to put any pressure on — but each of them delivered here exactly what — even more actually — than I had imiagined. I knew these three would produce a great conversational balance together — and you'll see below they did.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Jake Marmer, who has consented to the publication of this essay here. — A.F.
I remember listening to Marc Ribot’s band Ceramic Dog, thinking: My entire brain — the main line and the back corners — is burning to grasp this music. That night, the avant-garde guitarist played what was likely an entirely improvised set with three fellow musicians. I tried to follow each new direction the music took, each new interaction that erupted; I was fully consumed in some new state of attention, witnessing all the multiple levels of the work coming together in front of me.
I wanted to improvise poetry as Ribot had improvised his music. It’s not a new idea. Jack Kerouac, like a number of other poets of the Beat era, wrote ecstatic, unedited compositions that felt raw and spontaneous. Kerouac famously explained that he wanted to be known as the “jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session…” But his improvisation was limited to the writing process. Once finished, these poems remained more or less static throughout the publications and poetry readings that followed.
Wake up to the train, again, running right through town at 6:30 holding up a whole line of 7:00 workers. Just flashed on how Seattle woke to the sun curving round the mountain as I watched the homeless up before workers in the stained-glass dawn. In the dream the woman in my arms remained elusive. I remember hunkering down last night feeling good about myself, but by morning had the task of reassembling all of that. An act of bricolage: place this stone here, try abandoning that pattern, bookmark the page where Freedom calls for novelty, brush the dust off the gladioli, garner a certain selflessness in reassembling the Self.
Writing on Goya
One doesn’t simply run head-on into Goya snorting some interpretation, or other. Nor stroll through the gallery of history as Nietzsche warns against in his UntimelyMeditationswithout suffering life from the ground up. Rather, run gauntlet. Fight against one’s Time. I’m not gazing at any specific work, but Goya’s vicious brushstrokes, fierce blacks, penetrating vortexes, barely audible grunts & barks as titles swirl, hurt brain & viscera, make black blood blue. To get to Goya is to go through Lorca through Guernica through gore of bull & sword, peasant & starvation, through that which is unimaginably worse. One doesn’t simply say rape, torture, mutilation without potential disastrous ramification, but blood is in the veins till running from gash & wound into the ground, when Death grants another pardon in order to lift pen, & crack voice open as vessel. Stark, raving, angered at injustice, typing on the keyboard till fingerprints are raw, then gone.