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Michael Boughn interviews Kent Johnson in Rain Taxi!

 

THE HOLE OF HYPOCRISY: A CONVERSATION WITH KENT JOHNSON ON THE U.S. “AVANT-GARDE” AND OTHER FICTIONS

kentjohnson-gander

photo by Forrest Gander

by Michael Boughn

For anyone paying even the remotest attention to the U.S. poetry scene over the last twenty years, Kent Johnson needs no introduction. Described variously by certain parties as “thuggish,” “an unchained pit bull tossed in a schoolyard,” “a troublemaker,” and “criminal,” and by others as the “gadfly we deserve,” “refreshingly disturbing,” “preeminent,” and “vital,” his take-no-prisoners assault has continuously gone after the complacencies, stupidities, and hypocrisies of American life. Reinventing satire for the 21st century, his fiercely moral gaze and his imaginative invention of new forms of post-Fluxus agitation have drawn attention to the mass, blind obedience of Americans to the military/security state, as well as to the complicit, moral compromises of artists and writers in their drive for “success” in the contemporary cultural industry.

Johnson’s most recent book, I Once Met: A Partial Memoir of the Poetry Field(Longhouse Books, $20), is something of a departure. On one level, it collects reminiscences about his meetings with various poets around the world over the course of his poetic life. On another it invokes a generous, sometimes tender, sometimes tough, always honest portrait of the intricate, irreparable relations that constitute community. As much a prose poem as a memoir, it lovingly (and humorously) paints a rich tableau of the irreducible complexity of what might be called, following Giorgio Agamben, the coming community—including an unforgettable encounter with Emily Dickinson poolside in a bikini.


Michael Boughn: Kent, in some ways you are unique in the current “post-avant” poetry world: An intelligent, cosmopolitan, multilingual scholar who writes poetry and non-fiction, who is an accomplished translator and anthologist, but who is a loner with no group affiliations, just an ordinary guy who works in a small college and lives in a small mid-western American town. The pieces that make up I Once Met: A Partial Memoir of the Poetry Field reflect that relation to the ordinary, at least in their mode of address—2 am kitchen conversation over bourbon and a little smoke—an intimate familiarity of relation (even in its tender ruthlessness) that is so much part of our condition. What is your sense of the significance of the "ordinary" in our situation, both in terms of art and writing, and the larger realities they are part of?

ioncemetKent Johnson: Thank you for the words “cosmopolitan” and “accomplished,” Michael, even if—knowing myself better than you do—I can quickly think of a dozen much less flattering adjectives to go along with them. Not that I’m the only one who could. Some of the others would be fellow poets, I’m afraid . . . Don’t traffic these days in satire, / poet, unless you desire / to be a small-town loner, / like William Stoner.

Now, I like your notion of “ordinary” in relation to I Once Met. I think, yes, that its various entries all seek, in their different moods, to engage the quotidian and everyday of the poetic field, which is, like all things sociological, poignantly ordinary and human beneath the posturing at its surfaces. And in so doing, the entries try to find some measure of common hilarity or surprise therein, whatever it might be, using perfectly common parlance as the instrument of view. Of course that view is necessarily skewed by my own eccentricities and neuroses, though thankfully I don’t have as many of those as most other poets. No, just kidding.

But seriously, the decided drift of “experimental” poetry in the U.S. has been, for the past forty or so years, toward the smug, esoteric, and quasi-teleological range of affect, I’d say, its adepts sporting their crème de la crème presumptions with an importance of being earnest little seen since the fin de siècle. Albeit without a guiding temper of satire and wit to comparably recommend it. In any event, the tendency at issue is fairly contrary, safely said, to basic senses of the ordinary. A fair number of these writers are terrifically gifted, to be sure, but that’s neither here nor there.

It used to be that heterodox poetry, at least in the U.S., had some serious interface with the ordinary, and was more all-embracing for it. Think of Whitman and Dickinson and Williams and the Objectivists, for example. Or of the New American Poetry period, not so long ago—so informed, across its schools and strains, by everyday life, demotic language, and a decidedly non-professionalized sociality. But that down-to-earth ambience of the field more or less went poof with the ascent of Language poetry and its obsessive conflation of poetic vocation with theory à la mode (much of the latter of pseudo sort, we now know). Not that we don’t want theory. It’s that now, much due to that overdo, “avant-garde” verse has moved on to get conflated, rapidly and willingly, with the Academy, to the point where we haven’t had an institutionalized habitus like it since the New Criticism. Penn is our new Kenyon, and the prominent Presses, Literary Prizes, and State or Corporate Fellowships leash the values of attention.

So the “experimental” has moved, by and large, more and more away from the ordinary, I’d propose, to become increasingly mandarin, highbrow, and recuperated in its forms and dispositions. Recently dead-by-its-own-hand Conceptual Poetry showed us, and with insufferable Warholian hauteur, the clearest, most cynical acquiescence to those ideological conditions, even as the group’s proponents proclaimed their devotions to the banal and prosaic.

I like this word ordinary, now that you’ve raised it, Mike. Yes, it seems to me the next avant-garde, should we get one, will need to be ordinary with a vengeance.

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Hurray! Several BlazeVOX books are reviewed in Galatea Resurrects #25

 

Hurray! Several BlazeVOX books are reviewed in Galatea Resurrects #25

 Do check out these fine reviews at a wonderful journal.

 


Michael Boughn reviews KA 21st Century Canzoniere by I Goldfarb

http://galatearesurrection25.blogspot.com/2015/11/k-21st-century-canzoniere-by-i-goldfarb.html


Eileen Tabios engages FLUTES AND TOMATOES: A MEMOIR WITH POEMS and The Color Symphonies, both by Wade Stevenson

http://galatearesurrection25.blogspot.com/2015/11/two-books-by-wade-stevenson.html


Eileen Tabios engages COMPOS(T) MENTIS by Aaron Apps

http://galatearesurrection25.blogspot.com/2015/11/compost-mentis-by-aaron-apps.html

 

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Virtual Worlds Virtual People by Kay Porter Winfield Now Available!

Poetry and video games don’t often occupy the same space at the same time, but Kay Porter Winfield’s Virtual Worlds Virtual People proves once and for all that they can (and maybe they should). These poems rocket with character-driven action and conflict: electrical shocks, diabolical plots, flashing swords, and cliffhangers galore. But they’re also full of moving, emotionally charged resonances that wobble back and forth between cartoonish overabundance and real pathos. This book is a cathartic reminder that reading is one of the oldest video games of all, but also that the virtual worlds and people we encounter in play are sometimes more real to us than we are to ourselves.

—Matt Hart


In her exciting debut collection, Virtual Worlds, Virtual People, Kay Porter Winfield takes the archetypal characters and scenarios of popular video games and spins them into bold new narratives that comment on contemporary society. Mythic in nature, the poems offer keen and poignant observations that spark a new way to investigate both the world of virtual reality and the world of human character. Readers, whether seasoned gamers or novices, will find throughout this collection an inquisitive longing to engage with our humanity even in the wake of our deepening technological landscape. With unforgettable imagery that neither shies away from nor succumbs to violence, Winfield’s poems center on personas who navigate love, grief, loneliness, and despair in order to formulate identity and promote equality in worlds that, though virtual, are heartbreakingly recognizable.

—Christine Butterworth-McDermott


Poetry isn’t the only tradition Kay Porter gives homage to in this debut collection. Virtual Worlds, Virtual People may be the first book of its kind – one that unabashedly gives praise to the cult of video games while simultaneously deconstructing the roles of players and avatars. Equal parts poet and gamer, Porter’s no stranger to the terrain: from Tetris-blocks-in-love to plumber-saving-Princesses, these poems portray a version of 21st century reality where “boys laugh at player pictures, / men discuss the right angle to hold the stick / for optimal fire. My trapped screams / crackle as static over the headsets / as the next match starts without me.”

—Gary Jackson

Kay Porter Winfield lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. She is the managing editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. She holds a MA degree in English from Stephen F. Austin State University. Her poems have appeared in BlazeVOX, Psaltery & Lyre, and SunDog Lit. She enjoys hot tamales, musicals, and League of Legends.


Book Information:

· Paperback: 58 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-189-4

$12

 
 
 
 
 

Virtual Worlds Virtual People by Kay Porter Winfield Book Preview

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Kristina Marie Darling interviewed at TCJWW

 

Interview: Kristina Marie Darling

November 25, 2015

|

Andrea Dickens

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Night Songs (2010), Compendium (2011), and The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments (2011). She has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation, as well as grants from the Vermont Studio Center and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her poems appear in Third CoastBarn Owl ReviewRHINOCider Press ReviewGargoyle, and many other journals. (Bio adapted from Barn Owl Review). 

 

TCJWW: How did you conceive of Failure Lyric as a book-length project? Was it before you began writing these poems, or after you had a group of poems? How do projects for books usually find you (or you find them)?

 

Darling: That’s a great question. Failure Lyric actually began with a writing prompt from the wonderful poet Allison Titus. She challenged me to map my heartbreak across its many locations in time and space, to chart the crazy orbits that grief set me on.  It wasn’t long before I started writing poems about a relationship and various cities that it took me to:  Burlington, St. Louis, Iowa City, and the now infamous Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The work began as disparate fragments and bits of what would later become poems, so it was a joy to discover the larger narrative arc as I wrote. This is usually how my book projects unfold. While I work in long poems and extended sequences, I always feel as though I’m discovering the project, or the larger concept behind the work, as I write. 

 

TCJWW: The poems in this book both show quite a range of form and also a strong consistency of voice. I’m curious how your poems came to take their current shapes and find their voice.

 

Darling: The book does encompass a range of forms, including lyric fragments, prose poems, and prose sequences. The more fragmented pieces are actually erasures, which came into being when I took a black marker to my four-year correspondence with a male poet, who out of respect for his work, will remain unnamed. Erasing the various letters, inscriptions, and messages was initially intended to help me move past my grief, but it did much more. It gave rise to the poems that you’ll find in the middle sections of Failure Lyric, in which I tried to weave together memory and imagination, grief and hope, to create meaning from what seemed like a heap of shattered glass and dead lilies. 




READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE



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New Issue of BlazeVOX now online!! Happy Fifteenth Anniversary!

 IntroductionIntroduction

 
Hello and welcome to the Fall issue of BlazeVOX 15. Presenting fine works of poetry, fiction, text art, visual poetry and arresting works of creative non-fiction written by authors from around world. Also presented are previews of our newly released books of poetry and fiction. Do have a look through the links below or browse through the whole issue in our Scribd embedded PDF, which you can download for free and take it with you anywhere on any device. Hurray!
 

Happy Fifteenth Anniversary 
Hip Hip Hurray!:
 

I have been sitting at my desk typing away on my large screened apple computer dreading what I am about to write. BlazeVOX is now in its 15th year of operation. We have great moments to look back upon in our history, as well as some moments that bear careful consideration. It seems incredible to me that we are not merely still in operation we are vividly alive! 
 
To commemorate who we are at 15 we plan to celebrate. We are planning to have some special events throughout the year. We plan to have readings, videos and even a party sometime in the fall. Keep an eye out for your invitation it will be a year to revel!
 

And before I go, I would like to thank you all for your wonderful support over the years. You are an important part this press and your help makes a real difference in getting innovative works by undervalued writers read worldwide. Your act of reading our work is incredibly helpful means so much to me but even more to BlazeVOX authors whose work might not see the light of day without your giving us a part of your time, a part of your day! We thank you a thousand times.

Rockets! Geoffrey Gatza, editor

Table of Contents
 
 
Poetry
 
 
 
Fiction 
 
Patrick Chapman— Juniper Bing
 
Nicholas D. Nace— from [Vic]
 
Alexander Beisel — Delenda Est
 
C Davis Fogg — Electric Jesus
 
Daniel Adler— The Acheron
 
Erika G Abad — Corners
 
Jamie McFaden — Three Flash Fiction pieces
 
Christien Gholson — Trinity-Site’s Last Stand
 
Jessy Brodsky Vega — White Thoughts
 
Josef Krebs —Body of Work
 
Kristen Clanton— Who are the Fantasy Girls?
 
Jingjing Xiao — The Lives of Flowers
 
 
Text Art
 
 
Soil
 
 
5 visual poems, asemic
 
 
Creative Non-Fiction & Reviews
 
 
Jennifer R. Valdez — Lady Liberty Meets Big Ben
 
Susan Wiedel — Concetta
 
 
 
 
15 Questions | Interviews with BlazeVOX Authors
 
 
 
BlazeVOX Interview with John Tranter on his forthcoming book Heart Starter
 
 
 
 
 
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Extra Pages

Photos on flickr