San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Fence V6 N1

[btw: I prefer the "b" tag to the "strong" tag for bolding.]

On a journal-munching rampage this month, most recently feasting on Fence including (some of my favs) Anne Waldman, Eugene Ostashevsky, Eleni Sikelianos, Tom Horacek, Susan Schultz, Joshua Beckman, Neal Gill, Claudia Rankine, Sean Casey, Jeff Johnson, and Morgan Beatty.

Plus a stellar performance by Kristin Prevallet, whose "Other" (a Fence distinction) entitled "Writing Is Never by Itself Alone: Six Mini-Essays on Relational Investigative Poetics" gives much to chew on.

E.g.: "History is what connects a person to space and time; it is not a force that acts upon the individual from the outside. Rather it is story, imagination, poetry--it is a verb meaning 'to find out for yourself.'"

History is evidence-gathering, or documentation, which, adapting Olson, Rukeyser, and Alcalay, she basically states outright later on, adding: "...the Relational poet is concerned with respecting what already exists and translating the content of the borrowed source into a form that usefully complicates apparently simple truths."

Useful complication (as well as translation, refinement) has become something of a mantra for me and other Guild members, especially as we try to imagine ways of translating things like "text" and "image" into realtime dance and gesture. [Come to San Diego in mid-January and "find out for yourself" what the results of this early evidence-gathering will be!]

Also in the issue a provocative set of "What Artists Can Do" statements from Ammiel Alcalay (a poet, translator, journalist, and activist), David Brody (a painter), Mónica de la Torre (a poet, translator, and editor), Alan Gilbert (a poet, editor, and critic), Rachel Levitsky (a poet and educator), George Marshall (an environmental activist), Andrew Maxwell (a poet and editor), Sidney Mackenzie (a psychotherapist), Miranda F. Mellis (an interdisciplinary artist), Rick Moody (a novelist), Chris Offutt (a novelist), David Serlin (an historian, critic, and educator), Prageeta Sharma (a poet, novelist and educator), Susan Swenson (a poet, editor, and gallerist), Rodrigo Toscano (a poet and labor/environmental activist), Anne Waldman (a poet, educator, and activist), and Emma Zghal (a painter).

The assigned task was to comment on "possible programs for the reclamation of rhetoric and the role of the artist in contemporary civic society."

Prevallet's "other" essay was I think the best answer, even though it wasn't officially part of this section. Alcalay also had a lot of important and wise things to say: "we must discover new ways to both renounce and take up power," finding "different ways to cross borders, take risks, and make commitments." Levitsky's directly stated "poetry was born in the political" should not go unheeded.

Also much appreciated was Maxwell's simply-put "The artist must make a vocation of education. The calling is necessary and real." (I note for the record that document technicians [a.k.a. assembly poets] are first and foremost educators, in practice if not in vocation.)

I don't know if she was being serious or not, but I take to heart Mellis's utopian advice that artists should "replace news media as serious investigators and news bearers" (obviously echoing Shelley's "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."). Problems with distribution cannot be ignored, but the effort should be focused there, I agree.

Well, anyway, there's much more to this issue than reflected here. Now I'm off to gobble some more.


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