The range of Bruce Andrews’s work is fairly well represented by the recordings available on his PennSound page. The earliest recorded reading we have dates from late 1977, the most recent (as of this writing) is from 2008. Generally it is true that PoemTalk’s format – the choice of a single short poem for which a recording exists – will tend to misrepresent the whole of the poet’s work. Fortunately it’s not the aim of PoemTalk to represent the whole, but to have a good and earnest listen and look at the single instance along the way, Having done this 35 times in this series, we find, mostly to our surprise, that tenable general statements of a poet’s mode and aesthetic disposition do come through the back door of low conceptual expectations. Surely that’s what happened here, when Tan Lin, Chris Funkhouser, Sarah Dowling and Al Filreis took on a single poem from Andrews’ sequence called Moebius. Moebius was written in the late 1970s but not published until 1993, when a chapbook appeared from the Generator Press in Ohio. On November 10, 1977 Andrews came to the Ear Inn in New York, performed at a reading alongside Ray DiPalma and Michael Lally, and gave us fine readings of many of the Moebius poems, including “Center,” which is the piece we discuss in PT35.
First we found something we took to be unusual in Andrews: the emphasis on distancing goes along with a tone of softness and wistfulness (as Sarah suggests), perhaps even vulnerability notwithstanding the aggressive idiom (“I make the rules here”). But soon we sensed we were seeing the Bruce Andrews we would know from later works. Naturally one asks if the speaker of these masculine phrases--all this deliberate 70s guy talk--is an individual, a single subject. No, Tan Lin suggests, the poem’s phrases comprise not those of an individual speaker but identify the language production we associate with a particular kind of speaker. So the poem is a meta-statement on how language is generated and that, in turn, constructs a kind of identity, although that identity is never really offered. As Chris points out, the poem feels like an aggressive encroachment on the white space of the page. The poem, spiraling down the page, forces one to think of a moebius shape which claims centrality (has a center but yet doesn’t quite). Such a claim, because of the moebius, will seem repeatedly arbitrary, and so does the normative standard for the discernment, by socio-linguistic cues, of a fixable speaking identity, and so that (the emptiness of that effort) is your center. (Which is to say: what center? why are you looking here for one?)
This coming Wednesday, April 21 on the UPenn campus, Danny Snelson has organized an evening to celebrate Tan Lin’s recent book publication, Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking [or 7CV] through the event series he curates, EDIT: Processing Network Publishing. Instead of a typical book launch, the event Wednesday seeks to enact and extend a poetics of distribution and/or metadata. Which is to say, a poetics that foregrounds problems of data description/retrieval, information processing, and the status of the book as an administered object. Through the event, an impromptu workshop will be created (picture a nerdier version of Warhol’s Factory), which will extend Lin’s book through various hand-made printed objects as well as digital ones.
I was asked by Tan Lin to write a short essay for this event. I had to choose from a list of topics and I had to write it straight: accessible, informative, normalized.
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Commercial entities run what they call seminars. You can attend them at corporate headquarters, in the "seminar room," or in meeting rooms at hotels specializing in hosting such professionalizing gatherings. Perhaps the term came into use in this context because its progenitors sought to yield some of the academic connotation from the university. In the early years of the 21st-century, the word in its business context has come to mean a commercial event.
Most people, when using the term, mean a recurring meeting, a series. At American universities it has come to mean something of the opposite of "the lecture." Here there is an expectation that learners will participate in the making of the lesson. Often this counter-intuitive methodology is never explained; the reversal of expected roles is simply assumed. When a teacher lectures in a seminar it is deemed inappropriate.
Business-school pedagogy has positioned the seminar exactly halfway between its new corporate and its traditional academic connotations. Here the learner is expected to think "out of the box," while the pedagogy is said to be both "open" and "Socratic." But the so-called Socratic Method (favored by law schools) leads learners through a discussion in which freely volunteered answers to questions lead inexorably to the lesson the teacher had in mind from the start. Thus it can be said that the seminar has become the perfect tool of hegemony: open by process, closed by content.
It is easier to lecture than to lead a truly open discussion (in which the endpoint topic cannot be predicted at the outset). It is easier to transfer the power of certain knowledge by the open-closed method than by the closed method.
The word "seminar" is derived from the Latin seminarium, a seed plot. In the post-agricultural economy of the United States - an era rung in by Berkeley chancellor Clark Kerr as the time of the university as "Knowledge Factory" - idioms making use of the seed plot have withered and died. Essentially the only remaining idiom in this connotative family is "sewing seeds of destruction."
In some European countries, the seminar is not at all what it is in the U.S. It is a lecture class (often "given" by a super-eminent figure) in which there is no discussion, but a synthesizing paper (a seminar paper) is due at the end of the course of meetings. The eminence sows a seed; the learner, silently gathered around, is the relatively fertile or infertile furrow set to receive it. In this the trope makes clear sense: the lecture is given and (as certified more or less by the term-ending paper) it is received. The seminar in Europe continues to be associated with old concepts of authority (gone to seed, we might say). But in the U.S., while it would seem that the seminar augurs a new kind of authority in which listener can be talker and talker listener, the seed is gone from the scene.
TAN LIN is coming to to the Writers House. On Wednesday, April 21st, the EDIT series (Danny Snelson) will host this poet, whose work, says Charles Bernstein, “sparkles with unoriginality and falsification.” Join us for a live publication event entitled “Handmade book, PDF, lulu.com Appendix, Powerpoint, Kanban Board/Post-Its, Blurbs, Dual Language (Chinese/English) Edition, micro lecture, Selectric II interview, wine/cheese reception, Q&A; (xerox) and a film.” A reception will open at 6PM, to be followed by Q&A;, printing, and micro-lectures beginning at 7PM. For more information call 215-746 POEM or email email@example.com.
Tan Lin's Chalk Playground and LitTwitChalk. November 14 brought a live poetry chalking event at PS 2 in New York. Here are photos. Tan writes: "Charles [Bernstein] and Bruce [Andrews] have particularly stunning work, as does Joe Amrheim who chalked an enormous Futurist manifesto."
The live chalk writing event is part of the Performa events this year. It's the leading performing arts biennial in the US and about 55 or so NYC poets participated. This event was co sponsored by a number of Asian American organizations including the Museum of the Chinese in America, the Asian American Writers Workshop, and others.
The Performa 09 CAST included: F Alarcon, Bruce Andrews, Charles Alexander, J Amrhein, Susan Bee, Anselm Berrigan, Charles Bernstein, J Blachly, Lea Ann Brown, E/G Bumas, Eleanor Clark, C Churchouse, K Estefan, Rob Fitterman, S Gambito, Kristen Gallagher, P Javier, De-Quan Jenkins, S Jost, A Lin, J Legaspi, A Maier, D Machlin, S Naeem, J Perry, G Picinic, D Rosenfeld, E Sanchez, B Sanders, K Sanders, O/P Shao, J Sigler, Lytle Shaw, Danny Snelson, J Tsuei, D Yarbrough, H Zhang.