Rob McLennan has Susan Tichy up for his 12 or 20 questions blog … she got 19, lucky woman. For one such questions he asks, and she responds:
6 – Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am interested in collage as a practice that draws its material from the environment, from which its material identity never entirely separates. This alters the claims of imagination away from individual creation toward acts of perception and collection, but not away from the idea of individual experience. Beyond found text, collage composition is a way of thinking, retaining respect for the thingness of things as well as the thingness of words-as-sounds. Abstraction is an essential act of mind, but I want it to take place the same way it takes place in experience—not in the diction of the poem, which remains concrete, but in perception as it crosses the great or small distances between phrases, images, sounds. I link this to Taoist ideas of the ten-thousand-things, whose ever-moving relationships constitute and reveal the essential un-thingness of reality.
Tichy’s recent collection, Gallowglass (the term “gallowglass” is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic gal-óglac, a foreign soldier or mercenary, as she informs us in the book’s notes) is evidence that her understanding of collage is felt so securely that it is justly embodied in the work. I say this in contrast to many poets for whom I feel the thought and theory behind the work is either unhelpful because it is misplaced or skewed in the work itself, or that the thought and theory’s brilliance far exceeds the poems themselves. Tichy’s language combinations are at once lyric and sterile, emotional and instructional. The poems radiate polyphonic language from an undetermined number of sources/voices but the point is not chaos, but necessity. Perception has an origin, but is not singular. The priority we might otherwise place on the individual voice (especially where personal material involved) is insufficient.
The poems radiate the possibility that in the midst of trauma, war, personal suffering, and history an assemblage is the only accurate means of finding understanding. The fact that much of the collection is ordered in ghazals is apt. The couplets are meant to be discrete units, individual worlds that feel whole and complete until you consider them in conjunction with the other world sitting right next to it. These individual worlds feel tense in the way that things without slack are tense — secure but not safe.
In Tichy’s collection, the personal is but one point of access to a complex network of language/thinking. We sense origins so that Tichy’s collage is a form of repeating, a mantra-making, note-taking as a metapoetics of capture, a capture that may, perhaps, always remain tense. As the collection ends, “This is the image of pause / This is the image of step.”
These books are beasts. These beasts are books.
Join us for the Book Beats and Book as Visual Language exhibit and reception on Mason’s campus. You can then maybe see the stuff I’ve been doing while I have not been blogging (tweaking the manuscript and visual poetics take up a lot of time!). Works include: small books (accordions, perfect bound, sewn, glued, signatures, hidden books, pop-outs, etc), erasure, visual poems, installations and poem objects, constraint and procedural work, and a myriad of examples in between.
The new DIAGRAM is out (10th Anniversary!) and it features my good friend Emily Viggiano Saland, with excerpts from her verse biography of Evel Knievel. It’s AH-Mazin. Check it out. It also features a bad-ass collaboration between Blake Butler and Davis Schneiderman, and the hybrid essay contest winner, Cheyenne Nimes. I love this journal, you should, too.
This Saturday is the opening of the Call and Response exhibit at the Hamiltonion gallery at 1353 U Street NW, Washington DC. The project paired 16 writers with 16 visual artists – or, rather, 16 visual artists chose to pair themselves with the writings from 16 writers – in a somewhat blind collaboration. The result is bound to be fascinating. See a good set up of the exhibit over at BrightestYoungThings.com
Several friends and friends of friends are featured in the exhibit, and I’m so thrilled to see how it all turns out. Please join me on Saturday to find out for yourselves, too.
*** UPDATE*** Phoebe’s Greg Grummer deadline has been extended to January 15th! See http://www.phoebejournal.com for details ****
Forgive my absence from blogging but I’ve been quite busy traveling and sitting in on interviews with potential poetry faculty, and (of course) writing “the book”.
Some photos and notes from my travels to Central Park are forthcoming, but I have many messy notes to sort through before I can form thoughts enough to share them with you all… needless to say I have been feeling Olmsted so very clearly since spending a whole day wandering the landscape he crafted.
In the meantime, I wanted to take a minute to speak to (one of) my other job(s), as the Poetry Editor of Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art. We just finished putting together our spring issue and we’re starting to look toward selecting work for fall 2010. We’re currently accepting submissions to the Greg Grummer Poetry Award for this fall issue, and I’d encourage all of you poets to apply.
Our judge this year, I am truly honored to say, is the poetic powerhouse Rae Armantrout whose collection Verse has earned her a position as finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when Rae accepted our invitation to judge this year’s contest.
Here’s the flyer:
As you submit your entries and anxiously await the results, keep an eye out for our spring 2010 issue in print. We just finished sending acceptances and ordering the pages, now it’s just layout and sending it to the printers! Us poets have a translation special feature with collaborative translations from Charles Bernstein and Odile Cisneros, Forrest Gander and Aljaz Kovac, homophonic translations of Beowulf from Theodora Danylevich, and more “traditional” translations from Ranjani Murali and Krista Ingebretson. Other poets who will be published in the issue include Dina Hardy, Keith Montesano, Megan Gannon, Stephanie Ford, Karina Borowicz and MUCH MUCH MORE! Look out for it in early spring 2010!
Well, there goes blogging Fall For the Book… I kind of made it happen.
Saturday’s Fellows reading, featuring the thesis and completion fellowship honorees and hosted by So To Speak, was a lovely event in Old Town Fairfax. It was supposed to be outside in the courtyard, but it was raining so it was moved to the gallery space currently exhibiting lots of paintings of animals looking creepy. I don’t think that was the intended theme, just the theme that emerged organically. It was otherwise a lovely space… oh, except that we were competing with an industrial air conditioner. I couldn’t internalize the words I was saying, but people said it was OK. I read from The Elements and two poems recounting the trajectory of my mfa… one from first year forms, “Shiver” and one from second year “Catching the Bones.” Both are still out with a few publications that are so far hesitating to reject me… please publish me!!!
I read alongside fellow Fellows Rebecca McGill, Hannah Vanderhart, Priyanka Champaneri, and Allyson Armistead. Everyone read such amazing work and I felt truly honored to be reading alongside such talented people. A very humbling experience. Thanks to all who made it out to hear us, despite the weather!
After that was the Breakthrough Poets reading at the Firehouse Grille (now Miller’s Tavern?), including Cathy Eisenhower, Reb Livingston, Chris Nealon, and Mel Nichols. It was an incredible line up and a great time… but I think we were all a little exhausted at that point… but I wanted to make sure to get out and hear Reb in thanks for her contribution to the panel discussion, and was also pleased to hear Cathy read ASS which we published in Phoebe last year. Mel is always so entertaining and I’d never heard Chris Nealon before but he was pretty incredible – a real wit there that I think is tough to acheive though he did so brilliantly.
Now… coming up… LOUD FIRE!!!
The reading series formerly known as the Candid Yak, which was run by myself and Rebecca McGill for two years, has now been passed on to the capable hands of Aubrey Lenahan, Walt Seale, and Nicole Lee (and other helping friends)… The first Loud Fire is tomorrow, October 2nd, in THE SPACE in Old Town Fairfax. Here are the deets:
Attend a captivating reading by several Masters of the Fine Arts of Poetry, Fiction, and Non-Fiction.
On Friday, Oct 2, we will feature:
Alison Strub – poetry
Paul Zaic – fiction
Ben Wilkins – non-fiction
and an Open Mic for all!
at no other than:
the SPACE at Old Town Village
3955 Chainbridge Rd. Fairfax, VA
above the Metro Diner & across from Panera
Bring your favorite beverage to this smoke-free venue and support your writerly classmates!
Although I, sadly, will be heading up to Allentown for my college reunion (eek), I encourage people to go and support my friends… and would someone please take some video so I can be there vicariously after the fact?