John Zorn approached Dan Kaufman to write something for his Tzadik label, the two quickly discovered their shared admiration for the work of Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan. The result is Force of Light, Kaufman's eight-song homage to the remarkable, troubled poet.
Celan: "I have tried to write poetry in order to acquire a perspective of reality for myself."
You were my death:
you I could hold
when all fell away from me.
"One speaks in vain of justice as long as the largest battleship has not been smashed to pieces on a drowned man's brow."
Pretty much as soon as html had been perfected I was teaching it to my students - or, rather, making them go out and learn it. This was to enable them to create web projects based on the course materials and as an aid to discussion and disagreement. One of the students who resisted all this mightily was Amanda Hirsch. Now Amanda, DC-based, is a web consultant! She's one of those very creative people who went into tech. She blogs in order to help "inspir[e] creative living in DC" and indeed the blog is titled Creative DC. She read "Patchen, can't type, turns to picture-poems" and wrote her own blog entry: "Picture Poems, and How Learning HTML Under Duress Helped Me Lead a More Creative Life, or, Thank You, Al Filreis." I'm flattered by the compliments here, thrilled to have been Amanda's teacher, but most of all intrigued by the way she's brought together Patchen's physical duress, which drove him to a new form of writing, and her own real (though not physical, of course) "duress" in the seminar where I tossed the students in the cold dark web ocean, from which she emerged with a way of being creative in the then-newest mode. One move away from the mechanics of writing, another further into it, but both were or are fresh and both enable the visual. So: concrete. Here's Amanda's entry, and here's an excerpt:
Incidentally, Al is the reason I learned HTML, despite ardent protestations at the time. I was in his Literature of Community class, and our final assignment was to create a website reflecting our definition of community. "But we don't know HTML!," half of us protested. This was in '97. "Figure it out," he told us.
Now available on UbuWeb: a short film about the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, Sucking on Words (2007), by Simon Morris. Filmed on location in New York City, February, 2007. Critical Commentary by Bruce Andrews, Barbara Cole, Robert Fitterman.
"The words of Kenneth Goldsmith, described by Juliana Spahr as 'the world's leading conceptual poet', and by himself as 'the most boring writer that has ever lived'. His ideas are being brought to the screen by artist and director Simon Morris in a film to premiere at the British Library in London on Friday 26th October. Christian Bök, one of Canada's leading poets and the winner of the 2002 Griffin poetry prize, said: "Goldsmith is our James Joyce for the 21st century."
'sucking on words' introduces 8000 of those daily words - a flurry of excitement as the climates of conflict and admiration come together around Goldsmith's pioneering conceptual poetics. Shot on location in Manhattan in February this year, 'sucking on words' features interviews with the leading critics and poets Bruce Andrews, Barbara Cole, and Robert Fitterman.
Goldsmith says: "I'm more interested in knowing language better in the way Warhol was knowing image better by simply turning the camera on to it and letting it run."
And Simon Morris adds: "Goldsmith is turning the literary world on its head by encouraging plagiarism and suggesting writers throw away existing notions of intellectual property." As Goldsmith says: "We don't need the new sentence, the old sentence re-framed is good enough."
Conceptual writing is the poetics of the moment. It fuses avant-garde impulses of the twentieth century with technologies of the present. The material morphs between the web and the printed page. It draws attention to the materiality of the word and the conceptual nature of this type of literature - the writing is the idea and the idea is the writing.
I've mentioned the late Bob Lucid several times already here: mentor, sage, quiet educational radical, great citizen of the university. We gathered to remember Bob's life and work on October 19, 2007. The talks were recorded and are available here - both the whole program and individual speeches. Above you see Ed Kane and Susan Small Savitsky, former Lucid students who revered him. Ed and Susan have made generous contributions to an endowment fund at the Writers House in Bob Lucid's memory. This fund will be used every year from now on to create an annual reading/program featuring a novelist of the sort that Bob championed.
Our "We Remember Bob Lucid" web page includes all the links to sound files, photographs and remembrances from Bob's friends, colleagues and students.