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Archive for December 2015

Anis Shivani interviewed in Huffington Post by Loren Kleinman

 Anis Shivani is the author of several books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011), The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (2012), My Tranquil War and Other Poems (2012), and Karachi Raj: A Novel (2015). Forthcoming books include Soraya: Sonnets and Literature in an Age of Globalization. Books in progress or recently finished include Death is a Festival: PoemsPlastic Realism: Neoliberalism in Recent American Fiction, and the novels A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or LessAbruzzi1936, and An Idiot's Guide to America. He's the winner of a 2012 Pushcart Prize. Anis lives in Houston, Texas.


Loren Kleinman (LK) Can you talk about the importance of conversation in poetry? Which poem is your favorite conversation with a poet? 

Anis Shivani (AS): I'm someone leery of viewing my own emotional experience as unique and unidentifiable. It's all been said before already, and all we can do is repeat--one hopes in signature new style, but still it's repetition. The ancient bards already said it better than we can replicate. So I want to believe that conversation lets me tap into the terrifying original fount of poetry: it's the same eternal source where it all comes from, and it's a way of shunning narcissism. I'm very afraid of narcissism! 

I like the poem "the death of frank o'hara" as a way of dipping into a little of O'Hara's manic wit, his speed of processing ideas and images, his helter-skelter generation of new perceptual entitlements on the go: and I set the poem in the hours of his death, because to die like O'Hara, caught unawares, celebrated and mourned by friends at the peak of one's powers, should be the wish of every poet. 

LK: My favorite poem in Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish is "confessions." The poem feels like a ghazal and a narrative. Can you talk about the line: "i was an ardent Frenchman and thus avid for the news I had left"? What's the conversation?

AS: Persecution, or the sense of it, real or imagined, is an essential foundation of modernism. Rousseau was terribly influential on me in college. Inhabiting a persecuted mode is a completely valid approach to being a writer (there are other more interesting mindsets than the bourgeois one, you know!), viz. Philip K. Dick, perhaps the most indispensable post-war writer. 

Rousseau ran from place to place, exaggerating the designs of his enemies, and thriving on it, making it the motive for his art and ideas. It's all the more interesting when imagination collides with reality and persecution becomes real (and this is bound to happen if the artist puts his money where his mouth is): then you can really create art. 

In the line you quoted, I'm conveying Rousseau's constant yearning to be where he is not: by the way, this is an entirely found poem from the root text, his Confessions, and it's interesting that you noticed it's almost a perfect ghazal, I hadn't seen that at all! Ghazals can be pretty self-centered, so it makes sense. Can confession not be self-centered? Why are we so invested as liberals in sordid disclosure? Is the age of Rousseau never going to be over?

Read the Whole interview here

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Flutes and Tomatoes by Wade Stevenson reviewed in Green Life Blue Water


Flutes and Tomatoes – A Memoir With Poems

Originally posted on bookscover2cover

“I became sensitive to every vibration in the air, to every nuance of the changing light. It would be late afternoon. It was then that the snake of emptiness would tighten around my throat. It was hard to breathe. I didn’t know if I could make it to the next day. There was a bottle of red wine on the chair. I grabbed and gulped it and enjoyed the warm swish of the liquid down my throat.” Wade Stevenson, Flutes and Tomatoes, A Memoir With Poems

                                                                 Read the review here…

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Michael Boughn interviews Kent Johnson in Rain Taxi!




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


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


Eileen Tabios engages COMPOS(T) MENTIS by Aaron Apps



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