About

 

About

 

 

Sarah Rosenthal interviews contemporary experimental American writers about art and life.

 

A Community Writing Itself fills a major gap in contemporary poetics, focusing on one of the most vibrant experimental writing communities in the nation. It features internationally respected writers Michael Palmer, Nathaniel Mackey, Leslie Scalapino, Brenda Hillman, Kathleen Fraser, Stephen Ratcliffe, Robert Gluck, and Barbara Guest, and important younger writers Truong Tran, Camille Roy, Juliana Spahr, and Elizabeth Robinson. The writers discuss vision and craft, war and peace, race and gender, individuality and collectivity, and the impact of the Bay Area on their work. The book’s introduction places the interviews within the context of the history of experimental writing.


 

 

“…vivid commentary on the state of the art…” – Charles Bernstein

 

 

“…an invaluable resource of ‘deep talk’ for writers, scholars, and fans alike.” – Anne Waldman

 

 

“…a liquid, prickly conversation…” – Bhanu Kapil

 

 

“If one is interested in the evolution of American poetry since 1950, it is necessary to engage these
conversations.” – Claudia Rankine

this is the dialog test text
I’ve always been attracted by the nontraditional in art and by contemporary work that finds meaning—even necessity—in testing the established, pre-approved limits of its medium.
I did not think there was an “I”—a self—that existed apart from representations—texts of one kind or another—but I was urgent to “tell my story,” a completely different kind of truth, the strange story of the marginalized experience of a sexual minority whose existence was rather experimental itself, and had yet to appear in our literary forum.
Each generation [of poets] has a necessity that it has to work out for itself. And the intelligence will only help you so far in that task, and then you have to reside in your imagination.
Our very greatest human thing—which is language to me—musicians would say it’s music, but I think it’s language—our very greatest human thing is wild. Uncontrollable. It is impossible to put boundaries on your words, even if you make a poem.
I’ve heard people who do in poetry something that emulates what Coltrane does. They’ll actually scream, do things of that sort…. My screaming is … the fraying of meanings; it’s the colliding of sounds that creates certain consternations of meaning that might be the counterpart of the scream, analogous to the scream.
I have an ironic relationship to figures of speech as they are in the world, and a fascination with the mystery that occurs as we reframe them. We let them pass as everyday-life words, and yet if we pull back just a step, they acquire a kind of poetic estrangement.
The world out there can’t ever be exactly reenacted. But through working in these repeating forms over a long period of time, I’m exploring how the things of the world can be enacted in language.
I would argue that poetry-making is not a solitary but a communal activity. Part of our ethical work as writers … is to engage with that, to be good readers and responders, to participate in some way.
I am not of the school that one ought to run around trying to have extreme experiences in order to become a more interesting person. I do think, though, that when things go really, really wrong, and people act out violently, it’s in those moments that you see the playability of reality.
I think people being actively aware are jumping out of a propagandized state of social conventions. Writing could be an active state outside social convention. Yet it is not to be alone, not to withdraw, or to fail to pay attention. In that case one couldn’t write, because what would there be to write?
My drive in thinking about writing something is the question, How can I look at this information and re-sort it in a way that helps me to understand it? I’ll think, Oh, gee, I’m really confused about colonialism and my role in it; I’m going to sit down and try to think about some ways that I can gain an understanding of it.
Speaking English was the way that I separated myself from my parents…. Becoming a writer was a way to further separate … especially because in my writing I examine issues such as being gay and being raised Catholic. But … the more I’ve written, the more I’ve circled back to the connections and stories that originated in my family.