[The following conference report chronicles — “for the record” — the range of events at last year’s Outside-In/Inside-Out festival of outside & subterranean poetry in Glasgow. The starting point of course was Barbaric Vast & Wild (Poems for the Millennium, volume 5, Black Widow Press, 2013), coedited by myself & John Bloomberg-Rissman — a small move toward what John and I were calling, unabashedly, an omnipoetics. (J.R.)]
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.
On November 11, 2008, the Kelly Writers House hosted a program called “William Carlos Williams and the Women: The Legacy of WCW at 125.” Sarah Dowling, Jena Osman, Pattie McCarthy, and Michelle Taransky. Here, above, is a portion of the video recording of this event — Jena Osman’s talk on sentimentality and objectification in Williams’s imagism.
“Blackness is speaking: Echo North is an attempt to reflect the sound.” Chaun Webster, poet, publisher, archivist, and graphic designer is creating an oral archive and visual re-mapping of North Minneapolis. The project, which he calls a “ritual of resistance,” is an attempt to re-hear the absent, but not silent, sounds of the neighborhood’s histories of black social life, to hear and offer the stories that the city has failed to archive, failed to record, and failed to recognize.