Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interstitial Arts Foundation: Interfictions Zero// Call for Papers

Lobster and canary are members of the Working Group for the Interstitial Arts Foundation. The IAF just issued a very interesting call for papers, which we reprint in full below (for more, click the IAF site here):

"Interfictions Zero, to be edited by Delia Sherman and Helen Pilinovsky, will be published online by the Interstitial Arts Foundations in late August of 2010.

Submission Guidelines for 
Interfictions Zero: The Virtual Anthology of Interstitial Writing and Original Essays

What Is Interstitial Writing? Interstitial writing breaks rules, ignores boundaries, cross-pollinates the fields of literature, and helps them grow and develop. It’s about working between, across, through, and at the edges and borders of literary genres. It occurs in the cracks between other movements, terms, and definitions. Interstitial isn’t a genre, but many interstitial pieces serve as the germs of new genres that develop over time.

What is Interfictions Zero? Interfictions Zero is an online virtual anthology, comprised of a Table of Contents listing seminal pieces of published interstitial writings (with live links to those texts where possible) and original essays about the focus pieces listed in the TOC. With the online publication of Interfictions Zero, the Interstitial Arts Foundation will begin to create a historical context for how interstitial writing affects the growth and development of literature over time.

What Are We Looking For? We’re seeking original essays that examine seminal pieces of interstitial writing.

What piece should you choose to examine in your essay? Our only requirement is that the piece must have been published before 2009 and that it can be considered interstitial for the time it was written. Focus pieces can be from any genre or form, including but not limited to fiction (contemporary realism, classic literature, mystery, historical, fantasy, thriller, western, whatever), poetry, non-fiction, plays, and graphic novels/series.

If your essay is accepted for Interfictions Zero, the title of your essay’s focus piece will be added to the Table of Contents for the virtual anthology. Your essay will be published online as part of Interfictions Zero and linked to the Table of Contents. It will be featured on our blog and it will be archived in the Recommendations section of the IAF web site.

Who Are We Looking For? We’re looking for writers and academics who have a critical interpretation of a piece of interstitial writing that challenges genre tropes and expectations.

Practical Matters Our submission period will be from June 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010. Electronic submissions only. Overseas submissions are welcome. Send your essays as Word or .rtf attachments to: interfictions@interstitialarts.org. You will hear from us after July 31, 2010.

Submissions should include a 750-2,500 word essay that examines why the focus piece is interstitial and discusses its relationship with the writer and/or the writer’s body of work and/or other writing contemporary with the piece.

Please follow standard manuscript formatting and submission conventions: ie, double-spaced, with 1” margins, and the title of the essay on each page. No simultaneous or multiple submissions. Payment will be a $25 honorarium per essay for non-exclusive world anthology rights, payable upon publication.

Any questions? Write to us at interfictions@interstitialarts.org

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Bird Song, People Song

[European Song Thrush singing]

[European Blackbird, i.e., also a thrush, singing]

[American Robin, i.e., also a thrush, singing]

[American Mockingbird, a close cousin to the thrush]

Canary is very happy, thinking of Earth Day just passed and anticipating World Migratory Bird Day nearly upon us (May 8/9)...we in the Northern Hemisphere thank our friends in the Southern Hemisphere for sending us the thrushes, the warblers, the wrens, the chats, the finches, the flycatchers...

Already the Robins and the Mockingbirds are singing, freshets of song that lace the sounds of traffic and construction here in Manhattan...listen carefully and you will hear the first White-throated Sparrows of the season in the underbrush of the parks...

Parched after a long winter, we northerners are like Beren in Tolkien's Silmarillion , spying Luthien for the first time as she danced in the glades of Doriath "at a time of evening under moonrise":

"Keen, heart-piercing was her song as the song of the lark that rises from the gates of night and pours its voice among the dying stars, seeing the sun behind the walls of the world; and the song of Luthien released the bonds of winter, and the frozen waters spoke, and flowers sprang from the cold earth where her feet had passed."

(Beren named her "Tinuviel," which is "Nightingale" in the Gray-elven tongue; Luthien's singing conquered the lord of torment, rescued Beren from death.)

The song that trickles up-- I know it, as Wallace Stevens knew it in "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird":

"I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know."

As Mary Oliver knows it in "Goldfinches":

"Is it necessary to say any more?
Have you heard them singing in the wind, above the final fields?
Have you ever been so happy in your life?"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Poetical Round (Dawes, Rich, Muldoon)

[Stanley Clarke and Steve Gadd conversing via bass and drum, c. 1980, riffing off "Lopsy Loo" from Clarke's first album, or maybe something from his School Days album.]

Lots of chocolate in the coffee this morning, to stave off the cold outside...

Lobster and canary have been riffing all week about poetry, partly in honor of National Poetry Month.

We've been feeling out how poems emerge, their genesis in memory, as scattered home-words that live in the heart, words that coalesce when separation through time and space suddenly or slowly reveal their value.

Maybe something along the lines of what Kwame Dawes relates in his memoir of immigration, A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock:

"We recited these tales of remembrance as people trying to ensure that the memory of our origins was not lost. It was part of who we were and we had no good reason to battle that nostalgia for it sustained us. So the names of our relatives, our cousins, our friends had the sound of a litany--a strange cadence that remained locked in the mind like a song. Nostalgia was rich: the fufu, the banku, the kenke, the kelewele, the okra soup, the palm nut soup, the groundnut soup, the yoyi tree, the akra, the garri done a million ways..." (pp. 70-71).

From the arterial clay of memory comes the rough cast; the poet shapes and sorts, molds and discards. Adrienne Rich says:

"What poetry is made of is so old, so familiar, that it's easy to forget that it's not just the words, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech in its first endeavors (every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome), prismatic meanings lit by each others' light, stained by each others' shadows. In the wash of poetry the old, beaten, worn stones of language take on colors that disappear when you sieve them up out of the streambed and try to sort them out."

---(from Rich, "Someone is Writing a Poem," in her What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, pg. 85).

Origins and drafting are hard enough to discern, let alone practice...what about the poet's search for a poem's ending? (Why do Clarke and Gadd end when they do, not earlier or later?) Paul Muldoon has spent great imagination on this question, and offers some provocative suggestions about "a poem that resists coming to a close, or drawing its own conclusion":

"My theory is that, as it comes into being, the poem is marking and measuring itself against a combination of what it might now be and what it might yet become. [...] My conclusion, insofar as I have a sense of it at this juncture, will be that the idea of anything 'designed and instituted' by a poet will almost certainly run counter to what I believe to be the 'object for which' poetry exists."

----(Muldoon, "Poem of the End; Marina Tsvetayeva," in his The End of the Poem, pg. 299).

Canary is very quiet as he assimilates this idea, that his song may have a purpose of its own. The poet is the vessel of the poem, the memories live in words that have no ending...

Lobster pauses in his search for sand-fleas and other cephalopods, trying to perceive the wave as distinct from the water.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"The Very Narrowest Alphabets"

Canary has been ruminating over this line, from Liesel Tarquini's translation of Silke Scheuermann's poem "The Sadomasochistic Grammar of Dreams":

"Lost to language we conjugate the very narrowest alphabets."

(Published in Lit, the journal of the New School MFA in Creative Writing Program, numbers 15 & 16, winter/spring 2009, pg. 93).

An alphabet of brute sensation, thus no alphabet at all...a (non)language of rage, hurt, and hunger...a separation of ourselves from thought...

Scheuermann's original German uses the compound word "Sprachfremd," which Tarquini translates deftly as "lost to language." "Fremd" also has the literal meaning "strange," "alien." Alienated from meaning, from language itself...

No conjugation but only ballistics and the trajectory of force...

Yet Scheuermann's poem is about the "grammar of dreams"...Canary wrinkles his feathers...for him the dreaming is where pure language emerges, where the Ursprache reveals itself with its infinite conjugations and branching alphabets, a thousand thousand meanings in each fleeting combination...

Wondering what others think on this?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: "Cosmic Strut," Poetry, Translation

[Mahavishnu Orchestra, "Cosmic Strut," from Visions of the Emerald Beyond, 1975].

Canary sips thoughtfully at a cafe con leche...while lobster wishes grumpily for aquatic doughnuts...

"Cheer up, lobster! It's still National Poetry Month!"

As Dryden wrote in the introduction to Absalom and Achitophel:

"Yet if a poem have a genius, it will force its own reception in the world; for there's a sweetness in good verse, which tickles even while it hurts..."

How about this, "Cadmus Reminisces" by Sandra Kasturi? (You can find it in her collection, The Animal Bridegroom).

"Dragon's teeth
sown in our backyard
produced such an inundation
of small, fat iguanas
that Mother and Father
had several suitcases made."

Or this, "Small Moth" by Sarah Lindsay in her Twigs & Knucklebones collection?

"She's slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full-on --
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again."

Edith Grossman's just-published Why Translation Matters (Yale University Press) gets a good review from Richard Howard in this morning's New York Times (click here for the entire review). Howard highlights this quote from Grossman:

“Where literature exists, translation exists. Joined at the hip, they are absolutely inseparable, and, in the long run, what happens to one happens to the other. Despite all the difficulties the two have faced, sometimes separately, usually together, they need and nurture each other, and their long-term relationship, often problematic but always illuminating, will surely continue for as long as they both shall live.”

Canary goes for more coffee, and says to lobster-under-the-waves: "See, my dear, I love you thus!"

Lobster waves one slick-mottled claw...and foregoes dreams of doughnuts.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Raden Saleh, Milton, and a Tiger Couchant

[Raden Sarief Bustaman Saleh, "Javanese Landscape, with Tigers Listening to the Sound of a Traveling Group," 1849; being auctioned at Christie's in Hong Kong next month, after being in private hands since it was painted].

Keeping in mind that it is National Poetry Month here in the U.S.A., the lugubrious lobster selects a passage from Milton (from Book IV of Paradise Lost):

"So spake the Fiend, and with necessitie,
The Tyrants plea, excus'd his devilish deeds.
Then from his loftie stand on that high Tree
Down he alights among the sportful Herd
Of those fourfooted kindes, himself now one,
Now other, as thir shape servd best his end
Neerer to view his prey, and unespi'd
To mark what of thir state he more might learn
By word or action markt: about them round
A Lion now he stalkes with fierie glare,
Then as a Tiger, who by chance hath spi'd
In some Purlieu two gentle Fawnes at play,
Strait couches close, then rising changes oft
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground
Whence rushing he might surest seise them both
Grip't in each paw: when ADAM first of men
To first of women EVE thus moving speech,
Turnd him all eare to heare new utterance flow."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: "Tightrope," and a Flood of Poetry

[Janelle Monae, "Tightrope," featuring Big Boi, 2009: "The Palace of the Dogs Asylum-- Dancing has long been forbidden for its subversive effects on the residents and its tendency to lead to illegal magical practices."]

Fogged in this morning...a lone Robin singing down below, calling out perhaps for a mate who cannot find him in the greyness...

Listening to the stylish, interstitial Janelle Morae. (Thanks to N.K. Jemisin's Facebook reference!) Her musical mini-dramas feel like Calvino or Cortazar-- "Many Moons" might be Philip K. Dick crossed with Kara Walker. If you like Grace Jones, David Bowie, Bjork, Outkast, Prince, you'll like Morae.

In honor of National Poetry Month, the lobster and the canary suggest these from among recent publications:

Sonya Taaffe, "Idle Thoughts While Watching a Faun," (March 29, 2010 in Strange Horizons). It opens this way (click here for the rest):

"He should be ice in a northern garden,
a moss-flanked marble whose fingers cling
as stilly to his flute-stops as last night's rain
between the bowing heads of roses,
sheltered forever by a symbolist's afternoon
from November and the winter's stripping chill,
yet here he lounges in an abstract of boxwood
and holly, under a slate-lid sky,
the black of his pelt like the soft lees of Setinum,
his horns as sweetly whorled as pinecones,
a gold annealing in the slots of his eyes."

J.C. Runolfson, "Phineas Gage Blinks For Eternity," in Goblin Fruit (Winter, 2010). Click here for the rest, if you like this beginning:

"After the iron,
the fire.

Saw it coming, that eye, peripheral,
too quick for the man himself to know,
but the eye saw, told the brain,
and the iron drove straight through.

The eye and the brain kept their secrets."

Diane Gage, "Sign Language, in Perigee (vol. 7, issue 3). Canary likes this excerpt-- for the entire poem click here.

"This is one of those
the kind told in riddles
and slivers of old bone
in some quiet room
off the main road"

Rachel Swirsky, "Mundane," in Ideomancer (in its lovely new format!, Feb. 18, 2010; vol. 9, issue 1). Click here for the entire poem.

"Our exploration limps, inert
and monotonous. We fill empty hours
imagining mirages that sparkle bright
beneath dim stars. We approach each
to measure and retreat, disappointed
as potential vanishes to dark."

Erika Lutzner, "The Great Mother Has No Face," in eclectica (Jan./Feb., 2010). Here it starts (click here for the rest).

"Do you believe in rebirth?
the goat asked the stone as they lay
by the river taking in the noonday heat"

Lynne Thompson, "Lament: I am Implication-," in Rattle, originally issue # 23, summer 2005, posted on Rattle's great new e-version, April 1, 2010. Click here for more.

"an afterthought,
meat gone rancid,
Anna Karenina in blue hose,

Every need I’ve declined to marry
has failed me: moonrise and the milksops

I would have loved. Every daughter
who could have been my revenge."

Gwendolyn Clare, "Uttu's Garden," in Abyss & Apex (Issue 33, First Quarter, 2010). For the full poem, click here.

"The hummingbirds return each year
on Mother's Day, knowing how their thirsty industry
is a gift to her. The only gift
she receives, but it is enough..."

Lobster closes today with a bit of a poem not recent but this week Web-posted: "quilting" by the late Lucille Clifton, first published in 1991, now poem of the week at Cave Canem:

"somewhere in the unknown world
a yellow eyed woman
sits with her daughter

Saturday, April 3, 2010

National Poetry Month

[John Keats, played by Ben Wishaw, and Fanny Brawne, played by Abbie Cornish, in Jane Campion's 2009 film, Bright Star]

[Natasha Trethewey on history, place, reading and making, interview at the University of Oklahoma, 2009].

[W.S. Merwin on country life and meeting his wife]

[Louise Gluck, on the importance of a single line, interviewed at Smith College, 2004]

[Rita Dove on the importance of music to her work; at the inaugural Poets Forum, convened by the Academy of American Poets, and held at Marymount College, NYC, October 20, 2007]

April is National Poetry Month. For more, go to the Academy of American Poets site, here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fiction and Evolutionary Psychology

"It’s not that evolution gives us insight into fiction,” [Professor of English at Brandeis University, William] Flesch said, “but that fiction gives us insight into evolution.”

--In "Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know," by Patricia Cohen, in The New York Times, March 31, 2010.

The second-most e-mailed NYT article today.

Key words: literary Darwinism, "mapping wonderland," cognitive psychologists, memory, visual cortex, levels of intentionality, mechanics of reading, "altruistic punishers."

For the full story, click here.