Tuesday, July 16, 2013


After Cara Mujer

some silences, like soured linens,

the too long gone on


in dreams, smells become characters

that speak and move

one of you, in a house

of so many empty rooms you offer

but my child will not sleep

a billowing curtain is some

historical, hysterical woman

in a red floral print

she will not quit her haunting

until a tall opera singer

blasts the hallway with her clear

supersonic voice

one of you, you come to my house

while it is being built, I have

to wrestle the door moulding from your hands

and ask you to leave

one of you, I find you dressed as a teacher in the back pews of religious high school assembly with my old bible/computer science instructor, and I mutter through the sermon and the children ask me to leave

these vapors

and their faces

take so long to wash out

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Women as Mythmakers: Brenda Shaughnessy's flying women in "Calling Her Home"

A Response to "Calling Her Home," Brenda Shaughnessy, Interior with Sudden Joy

It's a familiar story.

From the small room,

the women go flying,

the lost mothers,

a brief selection:

as when a little girl

how can I breathe!

What song, devil, is best

flying off, her mouth opening

haunting the black air.

Each one, a benediction, a blood stain.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Some Presses I'm Ogling

Able Muse

Ashland Poetry Press

Bona Fide Books

Brothel Books

Carolina Wren


Evening Stree Press

Folded Word


Marsh Hawk Press

Imaginary Friend Press

Cold Line

Medusa's Laugh Press


Paris Press

Exterminating Angle Press


Mayapple Press

Bargwrn Books

A Midsummer's Night Press

Matter Press

Sibling Rivalry Press

So to Speak

Feminist Review

Hireaeth Press

Pleasure Boat Studio

The Feminist Wire

Convulsive Editions

Crisis Chronicles

Etched Press

Wild Embers

Koan Books

Keyhole Press

Kore Press

Perugia Press

Patasola Books

Lumonox Press

Liquid Lights Press

Ugly Duckling

Friday, May 10, 2013

Woman Writer: Susan Rich

Some lovely poems by Susan Rich:

"Cloud Pharmacy," "The Invention of Everything Else" Susan Rich

What I most love about these poems is their complicated relationship with desire. Resistance and fascination tangle in these poems about female speakers and their desire for their male beloveds--and yet the discourse of romance isn't untroubled, easy, taken for granted. Instead there are complications, threats, perhaps even structural ones bigger than individuals: "an all-embracing/ ocean view" and "The pharmacist’s paper cone/ parsing out a quarter cup." Agency is complicated in these lyrics, and so, somehow, more accurate to the language of desire.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Poem on Poem Ekphrasis: Brian McHale's Feminist Reading of Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet

In Brian McHale's The Obligation toward the Difficult Whole: Postmodernist Long Poems, he starts his chapter on Susan Howe's The Europe of Trusts with a short introduction to the idea of silence of women and the canon, describing "Berryman's 'Homage'...as a kind of parable" of "the received version of literary historiography" in which women are silent or overwritten (205). McHale argues that Berryman's "poetic 'homage' to the precursor-poet consists in silencing her." (205)

Anne Bradstreet , in "Upon a Fit of Sickness" writes, 'Bestow much cost there's nothing lost,/ to make salvation sure,/ O great's the gain, though got with pain, / comes by profession pure."

In "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet", Berryman says as Bradstreet's persona "Hard and divided heaven! creases me. Shame /is failing. My breath is scented, and I throw / hostile glances towards God. "

You might be wondering, but what does he say about Howe? I have an annotated bibliography coming up that I'll put on my website. But I thought this brief framing of feminist poetry with the context necessary to know the constructed void of silencing that Howe is writing into is a great example of how (unfortunately) necessary it is to bracket feminist recovery projects with the (often unacknowledged) context of suppression in which they become even more valuable as art pieces.

Here's a post I wrote on Susan Howe's Singularities.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jennifer Knutzen, one of the students in the War Stories course I TA'd for, made this presentation that I wanted to share with you all. If you are interested, as I know many of you are, in teaching ethnography as part of composition studies, on approaching veterans in your classroom respectfully, or in teaching creative writing to students who are survivors of trauma, there are resources and links in this prezzi for you.


I love to garden. Seeing things grow you understand things about how this world works, where beauty comes from, and what life is.

Here is a beautiful essay by a gardener who explains how gardening forced her to confront the reality that fruits and vegetables need animal remains--and how she accepted mortality as a part of her diet and how this gorgeous world consumes everything in order to make any other lovely thing.

Feminist Mythmakers: Forrest Gander

from,  "To C"
 by Forrest Gander

"Inside, inside the return, inside, the hero diminishes./

Over her vessel they place a veil"

What a difference a pronoun makes...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Today in Women Writers: "American Novelists" Means Men, Duh

E tu, Wikipedia?

Thanks to Amanda Filipatcchi, for noticing "something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. "

"Men" isn't subcategories, it is THE category. "I am the universal standard," dudes of the internet whisper, one woman-obscuring edit at a time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Women and Myth: Margaret Atwood and Circe

Circe, by Wright Baker

"One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.

Feminist Ekphrasis: Margaret Atwood and Manet's Olympia

Margaret Atwood confronts the male gaze directly in her poem, "Manet's Olympia."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Poets Responding to the Female Canon: Emily Dickinson

She's one of the super-stars, influential to both men and women. Today I want to highlight poems that respond to Emily Dickinson because my first poetry teacher, Carol Ann Davis, has a poem up at APR. But because I am also trying to find a Rita Dove poem for my website's discussion of women and the body (which still evades me) I also came across this poem by Dove. There, that's two awesome poems responding to an amazing poet.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Compulsory Motherhood

The piece about the British mother who publically admits to regretting ever giving birth to her children came to me via a second blogger, this one a single woman who is grateful for the validation that she may never in fact want to have children.

The British mother always knew that she didn't want children, but married her high school sweetheart who wanted a large family. They both thought the other would change. Within a few years, the woman decided she couldn't deprive her husband of children and bore him two. The people who told her that once she became a mother, she would be happy she did were wrong. She loves her children and raised them, but regrets ever having them.

The second woman also knows that she has never wanted children. She isn't married, but expresses the input she receives from society and family that she is wrong in her evaluation of her own feelings. She is told that she will change her mind about children, that she is a bad person for not wanting children, that she is missing out, or that once she has children she would change. She wrote her essay to thank the older woman for reinforcing her resolve to trust her own knowledge of herself and her own vision of her future. A future without children.

As these two very different women were describing the pressures they felt to live a life adverse to their desires, I remembered an Adrienne Rich essay that I read last fall, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."

Let me quote some of it, and substitute motherhood for heterosexuality: "The bias of compulsory motherhood, through which non-mothering experience is perceived on a scale ranging from deviant to abhorent, or simply rendered invisible, could be illustrated from many other texts than the two just preceding" (632)

I don't mean to suggest that motherhood and heterosexuality are completely interchangeable throughout the essay--but I do mean to push on Rich's idea that heterosexuality, as a default position, exerts certain pressures on women to set aside their misgivings and conform. Motherhood also seems like a default position in our culture, and the narrative of childlessness is often attended by a similar spectrum of reception as lesbianism, ranging from sympathy for the infertile as tragically damaged to portrayals of the childless-by-choice as unnatural or even monstrous. To really explore the dark waters of this rhetoric, check out the anti-birth control discussion that is directed at the Affordable Healthcare Act.

A lot of people feel the pressure to be accepted and normal, or question their own feelings and desires when the majority of people say they are missing out on something good or are actively doing something bad. If you are pretty sure you don't want to drink coffee, but you've never had it, and everyone you know loves it, you'd probably think about trying it. But a kid isn't something you can try, says our culture. It's not the same experience to babysit someone else's kid. So you hate being around other people's kids, our culture says, but you'll love your own. Trust us.

To which the British mother's piece, despite the generous amounts of hateful comments, is trying to assert itself. Don't trust our culture, this woman says. You will regret it. Trust yourself.

I always thought that I'd have children some day, although there were times when I wasn't sure how I would manage it. I grew up watching Murphy Brown carry on raising her child despite the off-camera posturing of politicians, and watching one of my own aunts struggle with the decision to give up her hopes of building a family through artificial insemination thanks, at least in part, to pressure from my family. I didn't think I had much chance of meeting a man who would want to start a family with me, so I was mentally preparing myself to do it on my own.

I'm not sure if this makes me as clueless about how others perceive me as the women in the Dove experiment, or if my husband is just some sort of lucky fluke. But either way, I was married at 23 and asking my husband to make babies with me before we had even set the date. We were married in spring and by fall we were expecting our first child, due a few months after our first anniversary.

If the story of how I became a mother ended there, I might have read these two blog pieces today and wondered if I, too, was bum-rushed into motherhood by a culture that tells me it's the best thing I'll ever do. With a two year old who is just beginning to embrace the role propounded by the label "terrible," and a four year old who occasionally forgets himself and likes to join in, poopy diapers to change, and someone waking up in the middle of every other night, it would be easy for me to wonder, is this really what I wanted from my life? Do I, also, regret my children?

That fall, after I learned I was pregnant, I was luminous with joy. I crocheted a baby blanket and bought used clothes of Ebay and tried to plan how to convert the second bedroom of our townhouse from my office into a nursery. But I also had doubts. My husband and I were newlyweds, readying ourselves to be new parents. But I remember after one fight, wondering if I hadn't made a terrible mistake--throwing my life away by becoming dependent on a man I barely knew. I was self-aware enough, at 23, to know I'd taken a huge risk. Raising a child by myself on the salary I could command with a master of fine arts seemed like a pretty bad fall-back position.

I was trapped. Almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind, my pregnancy failed. When I started bleeding, I rushed to the nearest hospital, despite the warnings the midwife we had chosen gave us on our first visit. I didn't care if it was inconvenient for her to coordinate care at a hospital where she didn't have privileges. I was only six weeks pregnant, and I wanted someone to tell me it was all going to turn out fine.

I called my husband and my father on the way to the emergency room. My husband began his long trek across town to hold my hand in the triage room. My father tried to give me the good news I wanted. Maybe it's just placenta previa, he told me, just a little blood from a minor condition that will resolve itself. It's one of three times that my father really came through for me.

In the emergency room, my husband was escorted in by a nurse. They recognized him by his anxiety and his camouflage. The resident, who also attended me when I sliced open my finger on a broken aquarium the year before, read us the results of my blood work. The six color-coded vials of blood that the nursing student next to him had drawn had revealed something that shocked me. "You're not pregnant," the doctor told me. I didn't understand. It took several minutes for him to explain to me that the results showed that I had no HCG in my system, the hormone that makes the plus sign show up on a home pregnancy test, the hormone used to diagnose pregnancy. I told him about our multiple positive pregnancy tests and the confirming test at the base clinic, and all he could do is shrug. "If you had a miscarriage, it was weeks ago," he told us.

In the following weeks we tried to wrap our heads around what had happened, and we also tried to conceive again. We didn't manage it for another nine months. This isn't an unusual amount of time, but it was agonizing to a couple who worried that they might not ever be able to have children. This was the year that Britney Spears' little sister got pregnant at 16, the year in which Pregnant at 16 became an MTV reality TV show. Several actresses over 40 gave birth to twins. I was jealous of everyone. Walking down a crowed Phoenix sidewalk with my husband on the way to a spring training game, I saw a man holding a six month old on his shoulders. I whispered to my husband, "if he drops her, lets grab her and run." I was only partly kidding. My pregnancy had been incredibly brief, but I was already a mother in my heart. Every child I saw was a child I loved. This has not gone away. I'm happy for all the children I see in happy families, worried for the ones who seem to need something more, and willing to take any of them if they need me.

When my son was born, it was 18 months after we learned of our miscarriage. He wasn't an easy baby. He couldn't latch on and he didn't sleep much, even for a newborn, perhaps a couple hours at a time, and had to be held constantly. There were nights I spent as a new mother, weeping while holding an inconsolable baby and debating whether or not to just reach for the formula the hospital sent us home with. Eventually I did, and my husband fed a happy baby while I hooked myself up to a machine, cleaned the machine, and tried to get thirty minutes of sleep before trying to feed him again, failing again, pumping again, cleaning again.

But I didn't regret it. I knew how much I wanted my son, knew from those months wondering if I'd ever be able to bear a child that loving children was a large part of what I wanted out of a full life. It was a really anxious, jealous, and painful part of my life, but this morning I finally fully accepted it as a gift. I don't have to wonder if my life would be fuller or richer without my children. I was given an opportunity to change my mind, to live without regret.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Women as Mythmakers: Lucille Clifton's "Leda"

Lucille Clifton's response to the story of Leda's rape by the swan-formed Zeus, I cannot help but compare to William Butler Yeats' "Leda and the Swan:"

"How can those terrified vague fingers push / The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?"

Honestly, I think "Leda 1" is a direct response:

"there is nothing luminous/ about this."

Clifton gives voices to other Ledas, less victimized than Leda 1. But all of them are attempts to give voice to women's perspective, not that of the swan-god or the onlooker.

My reading of this poem is hardly original--for some interesting criticism that suggests that Leda 2 and 3 are Mary and Eve, visit Shara McCallum’s “The Volta, the Vulva, Leda, and Lucille” at Voltage Poetry. Note: It was disturbingly difficult to find an image of Leda where she isn't smiling or kissing the swan on the beak. Gross.

Women as Mythmakers: "A Certain Kind of Eden" by Kay Ryan

A Certain Kind of Eden by Kay Ryan : The Poetry Foundation

"you can’t go back and pull/ the roots and runners and replant"

It's hard for me not to read Ryan's poem as a feminist lament. If the foundations of our story are unhealthy and skewed, can't we start a new one? Some people argue that feminism, by always reacting to patriarchy, is restrained from new and original growth. But aren't we bound by our origin stories? We can attempt to change them, recode them, but can we ever destroy a story with the power of Eden?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

To the Future

To the Future (response to the Futurists)

What I mean when I say anything

Is that, in a desert, you need

Water and a compass. To forget this

Is to become suicidal.

When I look at you, I see your skin

With its constellation of moles

And the train-wreck galaxy of eczema

And this is at least part of what defines you

As a “person.” I’m sorry. Without your border

Of skin, you would not be a subject

But a skinless corpse. I apologize again

Because I am no postmodern woman—

I have been told to be otherwise is to be the victim

Of a historical mistake.

I have been fooled by this body

And its insistences, its constant nagging

And miracles.

What I mean when I say anything

Is that I have my ration of truth, or naivete

Or passeism, and I have more, even

More than I need. And I am in a city

That is starving for lack of money

And not of food—and here—

Have some—

What I mean when I say anything

Is that I mean. In this particular desert,

To forget suicide, to embrace an apologetic skin,

Embarrassingly old-fashioned,

The miracle of femininity and sentiment

Nothing like a car riding on grapeshot.

Just a hundred suns of chemical joy

Pumping through our softly-fortified

Animal cells, this life, this glory.

Zong!’s Miraculous Poetics and the Problem of Witnessing

What does it mean to tell a story that can’t be told? In her experimental book of poetry, Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip confronts the impossibility of recuperating the “complete story,” of the massacre of 150 Africans aboard the slave ship Zong and creates a mystical poetic procedure in order to “conjure” and “re-transform” the slave commodities back into speaking human presences (Philip 199, 196).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mansplaining William Cullen Bryant

Get thee to a scanner! Here's a phone pic of my webcomic for Medusa's Head. I think Politics of Poetics might become an ongoing topic.

The poetess is Lydia Sigourney, who was brought to my attention by a very interesting article by Annie Finch. The romantic poet is William Cullen Bryant, contrasted with Sigourney in that same article by Finch.

The dialogue is quoted from Sigourney's poem, "The Orphan," Bryant's poem "The Yellow Violet," Sigourney's "The Butterfly" and Bryant's "June."

For some feminist background on men who know things, check out Fannie's Room's take on the mansplaining phenomenon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

C-Word and Fugue in the Key of Machine

I have a new chapbook coming out, Fugue in the Key of Machine. The chapbook collects the poems I wrote during and immediately after my husband's deployment to Afghanistan, while I was pregnant with our second son. The poems in it are some of the most tense, direct, and angry poems I've ever written. I read poems from the collection for the first time at The Louisville Conference last weekend, and as I was preparing for the reading I was almost overcome by nerves. This chapbook is the dumpsite of the most traumatic things that have ever happened in my life--my anxiety about my husband and my fetus' safety, my deepening estrangement with my father, and the anger I had about the unfortunate detour that my delivery of my son took when I delivered after picking my husband up from the airport in a town hundreds of miles from my supportive Ob/Gyn. I wasn't uncomfortable reading about my anxiety or trauma, as some of the best contemporary poetry is haunted with both. But I was really nervous about talking about my negative experiences as a laboring woman. This is not something anyone wants to hear about, I thought, and as coded and veiled as the poems were in order to allow me to write them (most of the poems in the chapbook are ekphrasic responses to abstract expressionist paintings) the thing that worried me the most was reading the poem where I use the words vagina, labia, and cunt.

I prefaced the reading by saying I was nervous to read these poems that used this language I hadn't entirely given myself permission to use, especially the c-word, which has a complicated feminist history.

Well, I read the most challenging poem "Improvisation 27: Garden of Love II (1912), Vassily Kandinsky"--but my willingness to talk about, and read in public, about the physical fact of my second delivery is something I still have to work through. Is unsentimental, gory labor taboo? When my college professor/poet Paul Allen published a chapbook His Longing (The Small Penis Oratorio), I happily helped proof the gallies. It didn't offend me and I wasn't particularly afraid for Paul that it would draw too much criticism. But I constantly worry that vagina, labia, and cunt when desexualized by violence, even mutilation--are too much for the audience. I feel a lot of threat in the poem, and I wonder if the tearing vagina is too grotesque, political, and confrontational to gain the acceptance that the small penis (comical, self-depreciating, unthreatening) does.

Annie Finch on Lyric Subjectivity in the Work of a Poetess

Finch’s work on the tradition of sentimental poetry , and Lydia Sigourney in particular, in her article “The Sentimental Poetess in the World: Metaphor and Subjectivity in Lydia Sigourney’s Nature Poetry” positions 20th century poetry and its critics within a Romantic tradition of poetry which demands a certain subject position. Finch argues that the critical rejection of Sigourney and her fellow “poetesses” is culturally constituted by the expectations of the Romantic tradition, a tradition in which all things described or addressed in the poem serve as vehicles to illuminate the state of the subjectivity of the poem’s persona, rather than the conventionality of their religious or moral convictions, which more ego-driven male poets of the time also display even while such male poets continue to be paid critical attention as “serious.”

Finch explicitly connects such lyric personas as both authoritarian and gendered, suggesting that “This egocentric model of poetry is based on the male-defined poetic tradition of romanticism,” was either rejected by or not available to 19th century women poets, a tradition “within which many of the currently canonized female poets established themselves with great difficulty” (4). Finch argues that even those 19th century women poets of the canon “such as Rossetti, Barrett Browning, and Dickinson struggled with the desire to express a subjective romantic lyric authority even though it was impossible for them to adopt that role consistently or unambivalently” (4).

Finch then goes on to describe the sentimental poetry of Sigourney, illustrating through her readings of the poems how Sigourney’s poems approach the natural objects they describe as equal subjects to put in dialogue with the poetic self, sometimes even privileged over that self. Finch describes how this poetic reverses various hierarchies such as reason over emotion. Finch lavishes some attention on how such poetic “effacement” is created by the poet, describing how “metaphor is an indicator of the subject/object relation within a poem, and hence a synecdoche for the way a poet positions her or his poetic self in relation to the world the poem describes” (6). Finch contrasts Sigourney’s poetics with William Cullen Bryant’s speaker’s “appropriation” of nature (7), and suggests that even Sigourney’s metaphors are couched as questions to the natural subject, and refuse to be used as signs for the poet’s lyric subjectivity.

This work by Finch offers a way at looking at the subject position in relation to the ekphrasic object that connects poetics to an appropriative gaze. Second, Finch’s reading offers a way of contextualizing the female exphrasic gazer as an inheritor of a Romantic literary tradition which is often inhabited, as Rossetti, Barret Browning, and Dickinson did earlier, with some ambivalence about their authority in the poem and the creation of the lyric subject.

Finch, Annie. “The Sentimental Poetess in the World: Metaphor and Subjectivity in Lydia Sigourney’s Nature Poetry.” Legacy 5.2 1988. Web. 9 Sep. 2012 JSTOR

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Introduction: Mystique School

“I hurt all over,/ I am so loved” are the last two lines of my first book. I wrote the book at the beginning of my marriage and titled it “Mystery School.” I thought of the poems as diving into the profound mystery of a woman’s experience as wife, mother, bearer of both life and death. It was easy to think, as I was writing the poems, that the sadness I felt haunting my young family was the loss of my first pregnancy and the loss of my family of origin. It’s only years later, with the manuscript still unpublished, that I wrote a comic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and I understand “the problem” causing the deep dissatisfaction running under and through the poems I wrote as a young wife and mother. One of the poems, “Still Life of a Carpet Moth,” ends on this image of neglected and thwarted potential, “the shriveled sapling/ our landlords planted/ before they left.” I offer this introduction, and the retitling of my book “Mystique School,” as an offering of hard-won clarity for the reader. In “Mystery School,” I thought the love of family would reveal to me the meaning at the center of my life, and it is only years later that I realize to my great frustration that love is only almost enough. I believed that if I had love an d a family I would be fulfilled. I didn’t realize, or accept, the point of Friedan’s book, that in devoting myself solely to my family I was ignoring the “work in which [I could] grow as part of society.” I still believe that the love of my husband and children has strengthened me and given me a deeper understanding and love for the human. But love is not the sum of my potential.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Armantrout's Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity

Because it doesn't seem to exist in digital form AT ALL, here's my annotation for this totally foundation feminist poetics essay.

Rae Armantrout’s foundational essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” offers a way of understanding the social in experimental poetry that is critical of a particular type of lyric subjectivity, described as univocal, closed, Romantic, imperial, and appropriative.

For Armantrout, the stable poetic subject is inherently appropriative, serving epiphany demanded by mainstream form, constructed by metaphor’s appropriative nature. Armantrout specifically calls out the type of poems that most agree constitute conventional poetry of witness: “The conventional or mainstream poem today is univocal, more or less plainspoken, short narrative, often culminating in a sort of epiphany” (Armantrout 288). Elaborating, Armantrout argues that “such a form must convey an impression of closure, and wholeness, no matter what it says” (288). Closure and wholeness are bad things for Armantrout, as she suggests they don’t adequately represent the fragmented reality of a marginalized or oppressed subjectivity.

Armantrout points to the work of Lyn Hejinian as exemplary, a poet who she describes as creating “dynamic, contrapuntal systems in which conflicting forces and voices (inner and outer) are allowed to work” to create paradox and doubt (Armantrout 294). In the other poets discussed in the essay, doubt is stressed as well, using methods described as “counter point,” “epistemological double take” (294), “regression from solution to problem” (294), and finally “ambivalence and doubt” (294). Armantrout seems to reject a subjectivity’s ability to represent reality without doubt and tension.

Armantrout uses a poem by the confessional poet Sharon Olds to convey everything she thinks is wrong with mainstream poetry. In this critique of the use of an extended metaphor, or conceit, in the poem, Armantrout charges: “What the poem seems to imply is that people and things are serviceable, […] ready to be pressed into the service of metaphor” (Armantrout 290). In this way, metaphor, when applied to people, objectifies them. Armantrout continues, responding to a section of the poem where Olds narrates her daughter’s unspoken thoughts, “When Olds claims to know what is in her daughter’s mind […] I am repelled as by a presumptuous intrusion” (Armantrout 290).

For Armantrout, it is not only poems which present solutions instead of problems (epiphanies), or the failures of a univocal poem to present the fractured and doubly conscious reality of marginalized people that is a problem, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a lyric subjectivity which objectifies other people and claims to speak for them.

In her description of mainstream poetry, in which poems see the world only in order to organize it into neat systems of meaning, Armantrout convincingly damns them as appropriative. She suggests a language-based alternative, “another kind of clarity that doesn’t have to do with control but with attention, one in which the sensorium of the world can enter as it presents itself” (Armantrout 290). Armantrout’s critique shows us the ways in which including other’s voices can lead to appropriating them into one’s own meaning-making system. Instead, Armantrout offers a vision of polyvocality which is paying attention to the world that influences the poet’s speaker without subjecting that world, including Other’s voices within it, to appropriation. The key there seems to be that doubt and uncertainty, rather than personal epiphany, allow “conflicting voices” to exist.

Image by William James Topley.

Never Say Dead

It's fun to be engaged in an art form that constantly has its legitimacy questioned. After the inaugural poem, some questioned how important is poetry, really? One of them was this unfortunate Washington Post blogger, and here is her amazing retraction/apology. With so many links to angry poets and defenses of poetry that truly, you will feel sort of like you're engaged in a worthwhile endeavor, my poet friends.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


It's that time, last semester of my MA at Georgetown. I'm part of the group that gets to try out the new way to earn a degree here, with a final capstone project "e-portfolio." I've been working on ekphrasis for about a year, writing on ekphrasic works by Elizabeth Bishop and CD Wright, working on ekphrasic poems for my chapbook Fugue in the Key of Machine, and nonfiction pieces. What is left for my capstone? I could, and probably will, revise my academic work to submit it to literary journals that accept such pieces. But for my capstone I'm debating between two more creative projects. 1. Video-Poem 2. Web-comic


Poetics. I always thought it meant critical and analytical work about the structure and form of poetry. How irritated was I when I plugged "poetics" into my database search and got a bunch of other stuff.

From Wikipedia: "Poetics refers generally to the theory of literary forms and literary discourse. It may refer specifically to the theory of poetry, although some speakers use the term so broadly as to denote the concept of "theory" itself."

My searches yielded a ton of what might be called Narratology. This spring I'm learning about Narratology and efforts to apply its methods and concepts to poetry, and I'll be posting about what I learn here as part of my tutorial.