Friday, February 7, 2014
I recently unearthed, or rather unstacked, this list of "forbidden words" that I've used over the years with beginning poetry students. It's interesting how often, in young writers' reach for the grand gesture, they dip into this gothic vocabulary. I did. And some of the most promising young writers do, too. Unfortunately, instead of the drama we hope to produce, we get melodrama. The words, by the way, were collected from an anthology of "best" high school writing.
I often assign students to use as many of these as possible. Hilarity, as the movie blurbers used to say, ensues!
Friday, January 31, 2014
This past month's Yawp Barbaric dealt not with a New Mexico poet, but with a poem by the little-known poet Terry Stokes that my younger brother carried in his wallet. And with Julia Kristeva's theory of language, and with guidelines for the care and feeding of poems. Read it here: The Yawp Barbaric
Monday, December 30, 2013
JANUARY 2014 WRITERS FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
[All events free and open to the public. All events in the Center for Lifelong Learning Common Room unless noted.]
Saturday, January 4, 6 p.m. Natalie Diaz & Jon Davis
Natalie Diaz grew up in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. After playing professional basketball in Europe and Asia for several years, she completed her MFA in poetry and fiction at Old Dominion University. She has been awarded the Bread Loaf 2012 Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry, the 2012 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Literature Fellowship, a 2012 Lannan Residency and the 2012 Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her first book, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published in June 2012 by Copper Canyon Press. The winner of a 2013 Pushcart Prize, Diaz currently lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, and directs a language revitalization program at Fort Mojave, her home reservation. There she works and teaches with the last Elder speakers of the Mojave language.
Jon Davis, Director of the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing, is the author of four chapbooks and three full-length collections of poetry—Preliminary Report (Copper Canyon Press 2010), Scrimmage of Appetite, for which he received a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry, and Dangerous Amusements, for which he received a G.E. Younger Writers Award and the Lavan Prize. He has also received two NEA Fellowships, a Lannan Residency, a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a residency at Cill Rialaig in Ireland. He has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts since 1990 and is currently Santa Fe Poet Laureate.
Sunday, January 5, 6 p.m. Chris Merrill & Melissa Febos
Christopher Merrill has published six books of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and books of translations; and five works of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars and Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain. His latest prose book, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, chronicles his travels in Malaysia, China and Mongolia, and the Middle East, in the wake of the war on terror. His writings have been translated into twenty-five languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government. A member of the National Council on the Humanities and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, he directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). Her work has been widely anthologized and appears in publications including Glamour, Salon, Dissent, New York Times, Kenyon Review, Post Road, Bitch Magazine, The Rumpus, Drunken Boat, Hunger Mountain, The Portland Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Chronicle of Higher Education Review. She has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, Anderson Cooper Live, and elsewhere. The winner of the 2013 Prairie Schooner Creative Nonfiction prize, she is the recipient of a 2012 Bread Loaf nonfiction fellowship, and 2010 & 2011 MacDowell Colony fellowships. Melissa is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Monmouth University and MFA faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). A member of the board of directors for VIDA, Women in Literary Arts, she grew up on Cape Cod, and lives in Brooklyn.
Monday, January 6, 6 p.m. Gabrielle Calvocoressi & Ramona Ausubel
Gabrielle Calvocoressi's first book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart (Persea Books, 2005), was shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award and won the 2006 Connecticut Book Award in Poetry. Her second collection, Apocalyptic Swing (Persea Books, 2009), was a finalist for the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Calvocoressi's awards and honors include a Stegner Fellowship, a Jones Lectureship at Stanford University and a Rona Jaffe Women Writers' Award. Her poem "Circus Fire, 1944" received The Paris Review's Bernard F. Connors Prize. She teaches at the MFA programs at California College of Arts in San Francisco and at Warren Wilson College. She also runs the sports desk for the Best American Poetry Blog.
Ramona Ausubel is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. The novel was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post Best Book of the Year. Her new collection of stories, A Guide to Being Born, was also a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Story Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, One Story, The Best American Fantasy and shortlisted in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading.
Tuesday, January 7, 6 p.m. Joan Kane & Chip Livingston
Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. She received a 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award for her first poetry collection, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, published in its first edition by NorthShore Press Alaska and in its second edition by the University of Alaska Press. Her second book, Hyperboreal, was chosen as the winner of the 2012 AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She has received an individual artist award from the Rasmuson Foundation, a fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Native Writers on the Environment award, a Literature Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She is the School for Advanced Research Indigenous Writer in Residence for 2014.
Chip Livingston is the mixed blood author of the mixed genre collection Naming Ceremony, forthcoming in February from Lethe Press. He’s also published two poetry collections – Crow-Blue, Crow-Black and Museum of False Starts. Chip has received writing awards from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, the AABB Foundation and University of Colorado. Chip divides his time between Montevideo, Uruguay, and Lakewood, Colorado.
Wednesday, January 8, 6 p.m. Sherwin Bitsui & Ken White
Sherwin Bitsui is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He is Dine of the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl’izilani (Many Goats Clan). He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). His recent honors include a 2011 Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and a 2011 Native Arts & Culture Foundation Arts Fellowship. He is also the recipient of a 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award.
Ken White is a poet and screenwriter who divides his time between Montana and Southern California and teaches Screenwriting in the MFA program at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He co-wrote and co-produced the feature film Winter in the Blood, and has adapted Debra Earling's Perma Red for the screen, which he is attached to direct. He is currently adapting the YA novel Stolen for the screen with Lucy Christopher. He is the author of one book of poems, Eidolon (Peel Press 2013).
Thursday, January 9, 6 p.m. Linda Hogan & Santee Frazier *In IAIA Auditorium*
Linda Hogan, Writer in Residence for The Chickasaw Nation, is an internationally recognized public speaker and writer of poetry, fiction, screenplay, and essays. Her books include Rounding the Human Corners, a Pulitzer nominee; People of the Whale; Mean Spirit, a winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, the Mountains and Plains Book Award, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Solar Storms, a finalist for the International Impact Award, and Power, also a finalist for the International Impact Award in Ireland. WW Norton has published her fiction. In poetry, The Book of Medicines was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other poetry has received the Colorado Book Award, Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, an American Book Award, and a Lannan Fellowship. She has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, The Wordcraft Circle, and The Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association.
Santee Frazier is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Syracuse University. He is the recipient of various awards including: a Syracuse University Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, The School for Advanced Research Indigenous Writer in Residence, and a 2013-14 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Literature Fellowship. His poems have appeared in American Poet, Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review, Ploughshares, and other literary journals. His first collection of poetry, Dark Thirty, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2009.
Thursday, January 9, 8:30 p.m. Student Showcase
Students in the Institute of American Indian Arts' Low Residency MFA Program will read from their works.
January 10, 6 p.m. Sherman Alexie *In
Fiction writer, poet, performer, screenwriter, and filmmaker Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene) is the author of twenty books, including, most recently, Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories from Grove Press; War Dances, stories and poems, from Grove Press; and Face, poetry, from Hanging Loose Press. He is the winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Award, PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, American Book Award, and a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award. He was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Fiction. In 1999, he was selected by The New Yorker as one of its “20 Writers for the 21st Century” and, in 1996, Granta named him one of the “Twenty Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40.”
A Poem is Not a Puzzle to be Solved, but a Chocolate to be Savored
In the third installment of "The Yawp Barbaric," I discuss Dana Levin's poem, "Moo and Thrall." I've been trying to foreground a discussion of the pleasures of poems rather than their thematic concerns, though the two are, of course, entwined. As the poet John Ciardi wrote long ago in his essay "How a Poem Means": "The human-insight of the poem and the technicalities of the poetic devices are inseparable. Each feeds the other. This interplay is the poem’s meaning, a matter, not of WHAT IT MEANS (nobody can say entirely what a good poem means) but HOW IT MEANS–a process one can come much closer to discussing." At any rate, this is an old-fashioned idea with feet stuck in what some would call the mud of New Critical reading.
In fashionable classrooms these days, we're apt to leap straight to the "social position" of the author, the political context in which the poet authored the poem, and the way the poem circulates in society--how it challenges or supports the power structure. And that's a valid enterprise. Certainly languages are socially constructed and carry the weight of imperialism, occupation, and border negotiations; and the author is partly socially-constructed, either carrying or rejecting (but never stepping entirely outside) historical and cultural circumstances. But this process commodifies the poem, asks What kind of product is this? It's a useful approach if your interests are political, but what if you're interested in everything about the poem?
We may, in fact, at least sometimes, not be bearers or resisters of power. We share most biological traits across cultures, and we have made our various rituals around births, comings of age, marriages, funerals, and our negotiations with the universe. All of this living can, of course, be seen through the lens of power, but as with any single lens, we miss more than we see. A wedding, for example, involves all sorts of powers--a battle between church and state over the right to sanction the wedding, a ritual whose existence might be traced to either patriarchal concerns about womens' independence or the tribe's concerns about the men's commitment to their families or both, etc. etc. But also, within that arena, a man and a woman (or, at last, a man and a man or a woman and a woman) vow to remain together, often in total ignorance of the historical conditions that precede and surround them. And if you asked them whether their kiss was the pope's or the king's... Well, you do want to stay for the reception, don't you?
So I have chosen the lens of pleasure, the lens of the kiss. Depending on who you talk to, the lens of pleasure is a decadent distraction, the only lens (because meaning is illusory), or one among many qualities that make a poem a poem. Which raises another unanswerable question: What is poetry? We humans created and keep recreating poetry, but like the economy, we don't always agree on what it is or how it works. In most ages poetry is marked by an intense interest in life (and, Lorca reminds us, death), in embodying aspects of life and death in language, and in bringing an intense focus to the language we use in this process. Finally it's the intensity of the tradition that distinguishes the poets. As the poet Chuck Calabreze likes to say, "Poets experience life more intensely than the rest of us--and then make us feel bad by writing about it."
Avoidance and Confrontation: Dana Levin takes on women's rights in the age of spectacle
Sunday, December 8, 2013
On Sunday, December 15, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, in the Common Room at the Institute of American Indian Arts' Center for Lifelong Education, City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Jon Davis will host “Santa Fe Poets 2,” the second of six readings that will take place over the next nine months at various venues in and around Santa Fe. Each reading will feature a different group of five poets reading with the poet laureate. Readers on the program for Santa Fe Poets 2 are Lauren Camp, Joanne Dominique Dwyer, Jamie Figueroa, dg nanouk okpik, and former Santa Fe Poet Laureate Arthur Sze.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The second installment of "The Yawp Barbaric" introduces "[Malinche]" by Carmen Gimenez Smith. My historical account is, of course, much compressed and simplified. La Malinche was placed in a difficult situation--abandoned, disinherited, and enslaved. Her rapid climb from slave to power broker led some feminists in the 80s to reevaluate her legacy, but it's a difficult legacy to approve, given the consequences. Gimenez Smith's poem looks primarily at the role of language in the conquest: The Yawp Barbaric.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The first of my monthly columns, called either "The Yawp Barbaric" or "Poetry Unexplained" (I'm leaning toward the latter, since it suits my sense of irony) came out in the Santa Fe Reporter yesterday. This one discusses "Horse Face" by Santa Fe's first poet laureate, Arthur Sze. The column will appear the last week of each month at least until June, maybe longer. You can read it online here: The Yawp Barbaric.