In her most recent Jacket2 commentary, Kaia alluded to Slow Poetry.A key instigator of Slow Poetry discussions has been Dale Smith, a poet and writer whose thinking and writing about poetry I’ve admired for a long time. Dale is a poet and rhetorical studies scholar who for a while was based at the University of Texas at Austin. In fall 2011 he will start working at Ryerson University in Toronto. He has been involved with contemporary poetry as a publisher, editor, and writer since the 1990s. His book, Poets Beyond the Barricade: Rhetoric, Citizenship, and Dissent after 1960 will be published by the University of Alabama Press later this year. I asked him a couple questions about ideas from this book.
In Distant Reading, Peter Middleton describes reading a poem as though it has a “long biography.” This approach involves “mining what is available of the aggregative textual archive that composes the textual memory of the poem, its showing in magazines, performance, anthologies, its construal in reviews and commentaries and other treatments” (23).
Allison Cobb is an innovative culture worker who deftly blends rigorous research with a poetic sensibility to create thought-provoking writing. Her interdisciplinary, cross-genre book Green-Wood(Factory School, 2010) is a prime example of her ability to write complex texts that weave together personal narrative, political history, and environmental considerations. This book draws from scholarly research on the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn to open up the field of inquiry to wider social processes—such as war, death, and life—and personal experiences—such as attempting to have a child with your partner. This book, which expertly flings socio-political history through the discriminating filter of Cobb’s agile mind, also demonstrates her adeptness at writing both verse and prose. She lives in Portland, Oregon where she is at work on a new book-length project, The Autobiography of Plastic.
Recently I had the good fortune of engaging in conversation with Allison about the role walking plays in her work, how space matters, and why she concertedly pushes for the relevance of poetry in the instant-gratification-is-too-damn-slow zeitgeist.
Kaia Sand: What might a poetics of moxie politik look like? Unlike realpolitik's crushing pragmatism and cunning power grabs, a moxie politik might concern itself with exposing, critiquing and challenging concentrated power. A poetics that emphasizes equality, pursued with moxie, which is, as Jules Boykoff puts it, "pluck in the face of the muck, vim in the place of the grim.”