Tag Archives: spring 2004

Bluett's Blue Hours

Buy this book from Amazon.comThomas E. Kennedy
Wynkin deWorde (£21.72)

by Linda Lappin

Thomas E. Kennedy, an American writer based in Denmark, has just come forth with the second volume of his Copenhagen Quartet. This ambitious and multifaceted project follows on the modernist tradition of novels celebrating the spirit of the world's great cities, with their many moods and stories: Joyce's Dublin, Durrell's Alexandria, Anais Nin and Henry Miller's Paris.

In the first volume, Kerrigan's Copenhagen, an American writer romped in picaresque style across the city, researching a book about the bars and eateries of his adopted home. Accompanied by a seductive Research Assistant, Kerrigan led the reader on a series of gourmet and erotic adventures, while offering a whirlwind introduction into the cultural history of this Northern capital. Set in spring, the novel told the story of autumnal lovers reawakening to the pleasures of life.

Bluett's Blue Hours, by contrast, is set in mid-winter—when the long Nordic nights drive the wolves out on the prowl in search of satisfaction. Essentially a mystery, it explores the darker moods of Copenhagen en noire. Bluett, an American translator adrift after his divorce, gropes through a mist of vodka and jazz trying not to lose contact with the few things that keep him human: his children—at once affectionate, exploitive, indifferent— his sexual appetites, and his only real friend, Sam. Sex-starved and lonely, Bluett looks up an old flame, but her demands for commitment put him off. Sam instead embarks upon an exciting affair with a mysterious Russian blonde, arousing Bluett's envy. Soon after, Sam is found dead, with his head in a plastic bag and his hands bound with a necktie.

Sam's unexpected death drags Bluett into the eerie underworld of Copenhagen's sex clubs. Bluett's most unsettling discovery is Sam's diary recounting a life-long battle against self-depravity. Disbelief, pity, disgust, curiosity—a prickle of jealousy and a dash of voyeurism—all spur Bluett on to investigate Sam's secrets, putting his own life at risk while grappling with a troubling question: how far can the pursuit of pleasure go between consenting adults before becoming destructive? With one eye focused on the corruption within and the other on the dangers without, Bluett stumbles on towards an acceptance of human carnality and relationship, our heritage of "mire and blood."

A key theme in Kennedy's work is the search for verisimilitude—the means through which writers create a semblance of reality and transform the stuff of life into a fiction. In Kerrigan's Copenhagen, Kennedy structured the novel like a tourist's guidebook; each chapter is set in a bar or eating place, the name and address of which are printed in the heading. In Bluett's Blue Hours, music, especially jazz, sets the tone for many scenes, while the chapters bear the names of songs. Instead of a table of contents, a "soundtrack" appears at the beginning of the novel, so that readers can imagine (or even listen to) the selections, thus entering into the proper mood as story progresses. These strategies eke away the boundaries between reality and fiction, while drawing the reader even deeper into the narrative web.

Only halfway through his projected Quartet, Thomas E. Kennedy presents a complex picture of contemporary Copenhagen. His characters—spiritually dispossessed, victims of cancer, crime, divorce, exile, and political persecution—struggle through solitude and hunger to find a simple and stark faith in life. Joy, love, fear, rage, lust, horror: all find a place in these rich and insightful novels.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Denny Smith

Buy this book from Amazon.comRobert Glück
Clear Cut Press ($12.95)

by Gail Scott

For me, the arbitrary status of The Review as respected judgment based on common notions of value seems disingenuous. Reading is a conversation, a dance, and the music in our reading-heads a potpourri of the cultural, historical space we read from—and toward. I will say right away that for some time I have been in conversation with Robert Glück about innovative prose, and I am a fan of his limpid, textured, and very funny fiction. Not that we agree about everything. I come from northeastern predominately French-speaking Québec, and Bob is a Californian: we pull the narrative blanket in different directions. Yet reading his fiction utterly satisfies both my Euro-inflected desire for writing-as-thinking and my North American love of glass surface. Denny Smith, Glück's most recent collection of stories—the first in 10 years, just published with novelist Matthew Stadler's new publishing company, Clear Cut Press—is impressive in this respect.

The 12 stories here are gems of plastic composition, of remarkable narrative adeptness, complete with the diversionary tactics, the asides, the aphoristic pauses that multiply layers of awareness and reading pleasure in the best contemporary fiction. In prose, it is extremely difficult to offer pleasure and the contradictory path to knowledge in the same breath. How—without missing a beat—does the lover in the title story, who is being dumped in a pretty café garden, end up in a compromising conversation with Imelda Marcos, wearing a polka dot scarf, picking a thread off his jacket and calling him a Momma's boy? "We don't talk about betrayal, but I wonder, Can I talk about my life without altering it?" asks the narrator after losing his half-crippled father's money to a boardwalk con artist to whom the wayward son is attracted. Another story, "Batlike, Wolflike (A Memoir)," beats a desperate moonlit tune as the excessively earthy narrator rushes to meet the classy lover known as Your Majesty. What is incredible about this story is the way the subtitles (Edible, Tasting, Waiting) and the movement of sentences emphasize the "animal passions" while the narrator participates in the usual civic gestures, such as getting on and off planes: "Yes, that's him, sprawled at the back of the waiting area in Newark, someone's smoke drifting across his lack of expression."

These stories are as private as autobiography yet splayed into culture. Everywhere the lover's greed is framed by the kitschy articles of consumerism that help construct him: the triangle of lime in the plastic cup; the plaid seat airplane upholstery; the blue bubbles in the glass of Calistoga on the café table when Denny Smith is dumping him; the "American" boys in the recycled porn magazine he masturbates to in "Workload." One of these boys, J.T., "visits me after this story is published—things like that happen. My pain does not diminish; it continues as its own story read at the same time as other stories. If they all take the shape of J.T. getting fucked, perhaps there is more content in the world than form . . ." This last might be read as a dig at the Language poets, with whom Glück, as a "new-narrative" writer, found himself arguing at the beginning of his career. Or it might be about balance and proportion in any work of art. Does the hero lack an identity, a Dad? whines the narrator. And empathy does a two-step, somewhere between pity and laughter.

It's rare that fiction mirrors the immortal authors who get quoted in exegesis. This book is a breathing exposition of the Artaud citation introducing "Forced Story: Conviction": "From this pain rooted in me like a wedge, at the center of my purest reality, at the point of my sensibility where the two worlds of body and mind are joined, I learn to distract myself by the effect of a false suggestion. . . ." Its fey gay narrator makes us glad an older man is writing about sex, his stories jerking and loving their way through adolescent memoria, suburban tracts, a Tijuana shopping arcade, a Women's Clinic (where the narrator's a hapless sperm donor) until he becomes one of "The Purple Men" and "Purple Men 2000," the lovely end pieces of the collection. These are tableaux vivants, bathed in purple, decomposing and recomposing; they could be paintings. But the pretty opening tableau, starring Trent and Daryl, turns out to have been inspired by a 1978 scientific experiment that caused purple dye to spread through whole bodies when painted on two gay men's anuses before sex. In a typical Glück turnaround, the piece builds into a wonderful inside/outside portrait, tracing gay history from the halcyon pre-AIDS period, through AIDS and beyond. I will end with its opening sally, which says more than I can about how Glück's narrating, proceeding with clear little baby steps, sends us flying into the abyss that underscores history:

They are not entirely purple yet. They have purple shadows and the space around them protects and simplifies their nakedness with pinks and salmons of undifferentiated flesh. One man reaches through the other's crotch to pin down a wrist, getting a spot of purple, I guess, on his forearm. The scene may be naturalistic, but it conveys the interior effulgence of the lovers, sensual immersion akin to repose, power unconfined by definite boundaries. Really they are just wildlife in the garden. They strain away and toward and also try to remain still. White-coats-of-objectivity peer through one-way glass.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

The Book of Ten Nights and a Night

Buy this book from Amazon.comJohn Barth
Houghton Mifflin ($24)

by Alicia L. Conroy

The world of letters would be noticeably more tame without John Barth—erudite, playful, enamored of adolescent sexual punning, foot soldier in the vanguard of postmodernism. We have come to expect that he will tilt at windmills for us, wake us from complacency with a cold splash to the face. Said Barth's appeal is both limited by and centered in his practice of metafiction, in which the puppet-master is part of the performance and the show celebrates artifice. For this, writers often love to read Barth, while readers who prefer the captivating dream of verisimilitude run screaming.

Barth's new collection of short stories is likely to ruffle feathers, and for all the wrong reasons. What will unnerve some is the author's attempt to recognize and react to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Barth doesn't provide a catharsis of the kind that many readers will demand—especially in response to events whose very date has become a code-word for atrocity—yet his approach is as honest as any anguished outcry because it is so characteristically his.

The tales in Barth's first fiction collection, the brilliant Lost in the Funhouse (1968), offered a range of positions on the experimental spectrum. The superb formal structure of the collection enriched the stories and delivered that holy grail of overall unity; moreover, Funhouse asserted that the need to tell stories, and the mode of their telling, were subjects as valid as the mimicry of life. Barth's most recent novel, Coming Soon!!! (2002) continued to mine the vein of metafiction with its tale of an aging novelist and his protégé, a showboat, Edna Ferber's Showboat, and . . . well, it's Barth. One mere linear sentence won't carry it off.

The title of Barth's new collection, The Book of Ten Nights and a Night, showboats a reference to mythic yarn-spinner Scheherazade for a reason. Like the classical Thousand and One Nights, these stories are framed within the time-honored narrative basket that characterizes the tellers—pilgrims en route to Canterbury, captive Arabian sex slave, etc. With typical Barthian complexity, there's an unnamed Original Author; his narrator, Graybard; and the muse of imagination, classically female and Barthically tagged WYSIWYG (i.e., what you see is what you get). The September 11 attacks interrupt the Author's progress, thus permitting Barth to involve those tragedies in his character-author's life through the frame-episodes.

The stories themselves are "vintage" Barth, both in the sense of a distinctive voice and approach, and in the sense of invoking age and its perspectives as a subject. Characters in these mostly metafictional tales, many of them "seniors" sandwiched between middle age and deathbed, are wistful and sometimes feisty. No rage against the dying of the light—just harmless fantasies of sexual infidelity and other might-have-beens. Barth has never been a writer of passion; rather, a restless intellect pondering passion and other curiosities. Highlights include the imagined-infidelity tale "The Ring," which expostulates on narrative structure and free-associates on the theme of rings in literature. "Click" is another fun foray attempting to replicate in linear text the fronded structure of hypertext, while gently lampooning electronic addictions. The story "9999" somehow turns mere numerals into poignant vocabulary through a math-obsessed couple who measure life events around numerically interesting dates.

The stories fit firmly within Barth's playful, thought-provoking catalog, but it's the ambitious frame-episodes that carry the emotional and philosophical freight of the book. Here, the character of the Original Author reflects the shock of a nation and the dilemma of the artist in the wake of 9/11/01. He is overwhelmed by a sense of irrelevance: "Impossible to concentrate in those circumstances: people doubtless still dying at Ground Zero with his every vainly scribbled word." When he's able to reenter his fictive world, his narrator Graybard and the personified muse carry out the Original Author's internal debate: Is it irrelevant or even sacrilegious to carry on with his project—with heedless life—in the wake of disaster? The dialogue of muse and narrator develops a defense of art as a necessity, not a luxury nor mere escapism.

The touchstone is the image of Scheherazade "telling marvelous stories with the ax virtually at her neck and the kingdom on the brink of collapse," a feeling shared by many in the terrorist age. But, as WYSIWYG asserts, "to tell irrelevant stories in grim circumstances is not only permissible but sometimes therapeutic. That their very irrelevance to the frame-situation may be what matters, whether the frame's grim and the tales are frisky or vice versa." At first, this sounds like a flip endorsement for escapism. But Barth doesn't provide blissful forgetting for long, nor does he makes terrorism's threat his sole subject, and for this, some readers will toss his work aside.

The frame is meant to be a jarring juxtaposition of two realities—continuance and loss. During these debates between storyteller and muse, Barth reminds readers of the attacks explicitly or through the subtle device of a blinking clock that repeats "9:11." The events won't be forgotten, but Graybard, like Scheherazade, must go "on with the story" (to quote the title of Barth's second collection), whether in denial or bravado. The first mentions of "9:11" prompt a reader's indignant thought that catastrophe deserves more airplay—something to vent sorrow, rage, and fear. This plaint is answered by the continuing narrative, which asserts there is another story beyond the searing national epic of loss.

How to enjoy the normalcy of life when terrorism has taken aim at one's home? "On the other hand, how not proceed with such innocent, pleasurable, irrelevant routine, savoring it all the more for its very irrelevance?" asks the Original Author. As the book's ending illustrates, it's a question that can't be completely answered, because the characters (and readers) are unsure—we don't know where the end is. We, like they, fear a chapter has been opened, not closed, and we're unsure whether perseverance is defiant or escapist.

It's hard to find peace with a book that leaves a bruise, insisting on remembrance without breast-beating catharsis. But the very gap between the dream of "irrelevant" stories and the world in which they are told has resounding realism. Perhaps now, more than ever, we need ringmasters like Barth. His stories remind us to examine the conveyance, wrapping paper, and price tag as part of the parcel of message. Ultimately, The Book of Ten Nights and a Night doesn't achieve the elegance of the earlier Funhouse; at the same time, its effort and concerns seem more vitally important.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
Purchase this book at your local independent bookstore.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Clumsy | Unlikely

Buy this book from Amazon.comClumsy
Top Shelf Productions ($10)

Top Shelf Productions ($14.95)
Jeffrey Brown

by Jennifer Przybylski

Autobiography is the longtime province of underground comics, and pioneers such as Harvey Pekar, Chester Brown, and Joe Matt alternately bore variations on the discursive, sometimes sour, human condition. Licentious tics, relationship fumbles, and self-loathing are the elements of their style; read it and be glad there is no marked resemblance.

Part of a more recent wave of self-aware diarists, Jeffrey Brown is unlike any of the above mentioned names on the roster. While his work is equally unexpurgated—girlfriend-boyfriend sex, drug use, and drinking to excess appear throughout—his panels are more about documenting shared intimacies in a soft, searching light. Clumsy, Brown's debut graphic novel, records Jeff and Theresa's long-distance relationship. While one might be initially tempted to criticize the rudimentary drawing style and crooked panels, the unschooled manner serves the narrative perfectly. Take the pyramid of spirited lines that jets from the rear of jockeying stock cars as the couple go lap for lap—the simplistic measure of velocity from a high school physical science text, and a fitting visual metaphor in Brown's nostalgia-driven work.

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Clumsy is like listening to a personal account of a friend's breakup without the padding of consolation. All of the unthinking relationship breaches are catalogued: remote phone conversations; needing the other person more than they need you; trying to control their behaviors. But there are some really warm moments too: Jeff helps Theresa paint a table full of "Kitty Pots" for her pottery sale; Theresa cuts Jeff's hair and he actually likes it; the couple attend a taping of "The Jerry Springer Show," whooping and guffawing at the ridiculousness. Despite their closeness, however, it is easy to divine when the pulling away begins—a tribute to the universal nature of this story. Brown dedicates the book "for everyone who has ever loved and lost."

Unlikely is the aptly named prequel to Clumsy. Brown again recounts a failed pairing, this time with a cute girl named Allisyn. The style and panel structure remain loose, although Unlikely maintains a linear movement while Clumsy's moments seemingly dissolved into each other, moving forwards and backwards.

Unlikely reminds us that a get-together at a friend's house might end with five people, still clothed, in the same bed. Relationships aren't so much pursued but fallen into; the progress from marathon phone calls to uneasy lovers is a natural one. Yet the feeling that Jeff is more invested than the troubled, evasive Allysin is apparent almost from the start. The supportive bubble he extends to her is easy to understand, even when the reach is smacked away. Some of it is almost shaming, especially when Jeff and Allysin attempt to sleep with each other (it's his first time) and it goes badly: the stark panel of Jeff crying in the dark while Allysin sleeps is numbing. Movie tickets, Necco Valentine Hearts and a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's are all lovingly rendered in miniature on the endpapers as "what is left" from their relationship. The knowledge Jeff arrives at might have come sooner if he were older, if this wasn't his first time. The dedication here reads "To everyone who ends up looking at the sky."

Jeffrey Brown's work is not precious, broken-heart type stuff, but instead renders the terrific blanches and indelible happiness one can inflict upon another. Perfect love is a ruse imagined by those who have never fallen. Together Clumsy and Unlikely consider the brilliance, the missteps, and the wrenching terminus.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Immigrant Blues

Goran Simic
Translated by Amela Simic
Brick Books ($15)

by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

On a continent where so much seems assured, the threat of devastation is exotic, shot through with a drama that can hardly be imagined. Consequently, we have long found our more compelling writers in translation and from regions at the edge of the industrialized Western world: South America, Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Balkans.

This is not to say that exoticism is necessarily all that is involved. One need only consider a few of the names: Milosz, Neruda, Borges. There is something about the telluric experience that is fertile soil for poetry. Ironically, war, oppression and cobbled-together smokestack economies laid over centuries of agglomerate history somehow come together to produce such uniquely human figures.

Goran Simic is a Bosnian poet. His blunt poems about living in war-torn Sarajevo have gained him considerable reputation in Europe. His present volume—Immigrant Blues—promises to extend that reputation. Now seven years a Canadian immigrant, his work has gained an ease and a wider range of tone.

The war poems are clearly the best in the volume. "The Book of the Rebellion" bears comparison to Borges:

A man shoved it into my hands
warning me to forget his face that very instant
and making me swear that the book
would never get into the hands of the police.
I didn't even manage to tell him
how proud I was at joining.
He disappeared the same way
I disappeared the following week
after handing the book to somebody else.

To be more exact, these are poems about the aftermath of war. There are no longer bloated corpses everywhere along the way to buy a loaf of bread. "The Book of the Rebellion" is a poem with the advantage of distance, a stylized version of an absurdity the poet has intimately lived.

While "The Book of the Rebellion" suggests a level that Immigrant Blues does not achieve again, poems such as "The War is Over, My Love" are deeply human:

I enter an old clothing shop
and on the hangers I recognize my neighbors:

Ivan's coat. We used the lining for bandages.
Hasan's shoes. Shoelaces are missing.
And Jovan's pants. The belt is gone.

The sympathetic identification of a person with her or his clothing is surely as old as clothing itself; in mall-less regions the identification remains particularly vivid. The effect on us, at the desensitizing distance of excess, remains strangely affecting.

The immigrant experience is sosufficiently foreign to our own that it makes for a promising subject. Poems such as "My Accent" and "An Immigrant Poem" introduce us, with uncommon success, to that world where everything is out of place. Yet there is a final category of poems in Immigrant Blues, those written (some even in English) by a surprisingly acculturated ex-Bosnian. These poems are neither about war nor the immigrant experience, and tend to have less to distinguish them from the vast number of poems written out of recognizable landscapes. They are predictably the least effective poems in the volume and their failures may imply the challenge Goran Simic faces in the work that lies ahead.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
Purchase this book at your local independent bookstore.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Involuntary Vision: After Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

Buy this book from Amazon.comEdited by Michael Cross
Avenue B Books ($12)

by Mark Tursi

Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams is an enthralling exploration of humankind's relationship with the imagination and the unconscious, as well as with the natural world, so it's no surprise that eleven cutting-edge poets have paid homage to it in this new anthology, aptly titled Involuntary Vision. As editor Michael Cross notes in his introduction, Kurosawa uses a poetic logic that is rich in "image, sound, ethos and texture"; like Kurosawa's characters, these poets reveal that the tragic and monstrous in our world is always inextricably, instinctually, and inexorably human. Their evocation of Kurosawa involves a critical exploration of human experience through oneiric and often apocalyptic language.

Though each poet presents a themed sequence, the collection is extremely diverse, ranging from the quirky sonnets of Julia Bloch to the language-centered prose poems of Geoffrey Dyer to the fragmented verse of Cynthia Sailers. With some of the poets, the connection to Kurosawa is completely explicit, as in Tanya Brolaski's "We Disparate Hellenism," which explores each story from the film with penetrating insight while calling attention to the way in which language destabilizes and disrupts perception and understanding: "Japan is too small, and in a sick red light. So I glutted (ate) my heart out. It began to leak toward morning, instructing me to Taiwan. Your embrace was almost too vicious. The breaking of certain blood vessels that made the time travel stop."

However, with many of these poems, the link to Kurosawa is implicit, tenuous, or seemingly non-existent—though the anthology remains a welcome and wonderful collection of "post-language" writers whose voices consider this inheritance and tradition, and then diverge from it in exciting ways. The book is essentially an anthology of the "New Brutalists," which as Cross notes is a name that was appropriated from Ashbery, and points toward a group of writers from the San Francisco Bay Area who, though fascinated with the processes of thought and imagination and how these impact the relation between reality and the 'self' via language, are equally interested in distorting and amplifying our understanding of human experience. (It is this distortion, and their concern with the tragic aspects of the human condition, that makes them "brutalists.") Although some of the writers in the collection might resist the label—and, as many other critics and reviewers have noted, a label such as this often amounts to nothing more than a marketing strategy—I would argue that it actually does describe an exciting new trajectory in contemporary American poetics. Like the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets before them, the New Brutalists exhibit an inherent suspicion in the way language filters our perception of reality and, therefore, a keen interest in the materiality of language. Yet, they depart significantly from the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E project as they are interested in signifying various aspects of emotion, reality, and experience, and obsessed with representing our cultural milieu in a way that seems more impressionistic than abstract.

Thus Kurosawa is only the lynchpin for the volume; what binds these eleven poets together is a desire to dismantle standard perceptions of reality and blur the boundary between imagination and reality, conscious and unconscious, thought and perception. Elizabeth Willis, for instance, provides a complex and contradictory vision of reality in her "Dream Anthology":

The random village declares itself
an independent blossom
Utopia cannot be seen
but costs you twice
Behind the dream behind the snow
someone closed the greenest door
on artificial islands

Willis casts language as an object in and of itself, while also questioning how language evokes an object or image and the way it supposedly produces meaning. That is, she calls attention to and disrupts standard signification, but she does not abandon it entirely. This intense interest in the materiality of language, coupled with an elegant and imagistic lexis, is as provocative as it is complex.

Stephen Ratcliffe is similarly interested in challenging the way we attempt to represent objective reality via language. In a straightforward and flat tone, he painstakingly describes reality piece by piece: "pink edge of cloud above ridge in the window opposite unmade / yellow and blue bed, sound of birds chirping in foreground / below it, waves breaking in channel." Ratcliffe takes Olson's notion of proprioception to a different level by attempting to capture the moment of the 'real' as it occurs in the always fleeting present.

Julia Bloch's "Strange Yellow Flowers" provokes twists and turns in meaning by exploring the ambiguity of signification and the multifaceted possibilities that emerge when words are assembled, reassembled, and placed in unexpected situations. She writes:

There again I've angered
the atmosphere. But there's
still these hips in long
light. It was a flurry
of news, a digital you,
then the thing itself.
Sounds as though we're
coughing up snow.

Her poems are playful and surprising in regard to the texture and surface of the language, but also disturbing in their vision of our muddled perception of reality.

Eli Drabman's poetry reverberates with the language of Jack Spicer, particularly in regard to what Ron Silliman calls "a vision of absolute Other." As in Spicer, overdetermination, negation, and effacement are Drabman's tools:

I can't even make
sentences correctly because
it seems never clear how
to stop and make some

thing cut through, that
lasts, without throwing up
a dazzle against the dazzle

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

every time the poem makes
an embarrassment of itself
beside what might be real.

Drabman challenges the way that signs have references, but this doesn't mean he abandons meaning for complete abstraction. In fact, he is often at his best, and funniest, when using words to point toward the 'real'. In a characteristically ironic tone, he asks, "Are the headaches I've been having / evidence of emerging genius or just / another clue that I've taken the wrong / path?"

These poems and others in Involuntary Vision introduce a new and exciting poetic sensibility that subverts stable notions of identity and challenges any certainty in the way we perceive reality or our own consciousness. As Cynthia Sailers writes in "The Myth of the Individual," "Like a colony of imaginary friends. We enjoy / These new lodgings. Symbols / For our private lungs, our illuminated rooms."

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

The To Sound

Buy this book from Amazon.comEric Baus
Verse Press ($12)

by Jane Sprague

We develop in the space between revolving and breath.

In the field of string theory, physicists research the order and organization of the universe on a micro-level. Here, numbers do not adhere to the ordinary rules of mathematics; the sum of three times five is not five times three when the universe is examined at its tiniest seams. In his debut collection, Eric Baus enacts a similar dynamic in poetry, engaging minerals, math, cartography, and sound itself to pull apart the micro-cosmology of language. His poetics is concerned with the meanings made possible through the strings of English syntax.

Arranged as a quasi-epistolary collection of five long poems, The To Sound revels in lyrical language and syntactical displacement as it maps a unique and humanly occupied universe. Aspects of longing and repeated failed articulation, or the attempt at untangling what was said as opposed to what was heard or intended, are woven throughout the book. Key images recur throughout the book: an elusive (and shifty) sister, geometry, alchemy, children, bodies, decomposition and renewal through gloss, through glass, and the constant mapping of space. Through collaged fragmented prose blocks, Baus forges a kind of re-puzzling, not only of language itself but also of human experience. The speaker repeatedly deconstructs and composes experience into language bound up with a spirit of dangerous play. In Baus's world, sometimes birds turn to ash, "eyes are quotation marks pulled across the sky," and compasses point to no true north when aimed at the geography of the human body. Sometimes language fails in its ordinary arrangement, and The To Sound is the answer to this failure, as in "The Sleeper Develops in the Chords of My Throat":

To collapse our necks with glass. To pronounce the latent hive in her chest.

Look we are a loom and a fissure straying.

The voice you hear means blind or ghost. Threads.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

She uses her radio voice to assess the tension in a phonograph.

To collapse her frames with utterance. To assess the embedded throat.

I am a chord and husk of that gloss.

From the section "A Swarm in the Aperture," this poem, like some others in the book, functions as a spin on Japanese Haibun. Thinking of sound as actual waves in air and human voice as thought, as sacred gift, Baus employs this strategy of echoes throughout The To Sound, repeating words (e.g., birds, ash, husk, collapse) that refer to earlier prose sections. Sound itself is used, collapsed, reconfigured, and revealed as the root of language, words becoming vehicles to express the nearly inexplicable task of charting the terrain of thought. Baus's poetry complicates the unpredictable compasses of memory, speech, emotion, and the desire to locate the speaker/voice in relation to human experience:

You are a. Too. Tuned to has. Ash.

You are the you and. The to sound. The utter the.

If I have to spit out all my teeth to stay in the.

The. Is it all to say the weight of the?

If I could stay lost to sound. If a single eye could say two.

Selected by Forrest Gander for the Verse Prize, The To Sound is an impressive debut. In it, Eric Baus gives rise to the alchemical cartography of sound disrupting language to reveal its construction through the complex alloy of the sentence and the potential of the sentence to reframe perspective.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
Purchase this book at your local independent bookstore.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Here & Elsewhere: poetic cul-de-sac

Buy this book at Amazon.comRaymond Federman
Six Gallery Press/Journal of Experimental Fiction ($9.99)

by Karl Krause

Jorge Luis Borges's essay "The Superstitious Ethics of the Reader" identifies literature's ability to "become inflamed with its own virtue, fall in love with its own decline, and court its own demise." If literature is near death, Raymond Federman's Here and Elsewhere fans the flames. Basically a poetic biography, Here and Elsewhere voices memory, theory, metaphors, and devotions—a hodgepodge wrangled by a second, bold-faced voice. As in many of Federman's essays and novels, he includes himself in these voices as a third-personed "Federman." Joining Federman is the character "Moinous," an ominously paired moi and nous (me and we, in French), or, as Federman himself defines it (in "Federman," on www.federman.com), "the secret name Federman gives himself when he pretends to be a spy, or a musketeer, or a paratrooper, or a jazz musician, or a French lover, or an experimental writer."

Federman's reflexive narration reemphasizes the necessity and imperfections of writing, bordering different attempts to create—the artful dodging of inadequacy—with encouragement to forge ahead in spite of failure. For Borges, these failures were "the ocular distraction of metaphor, the auditory distraction of rhythm, and the surprises of an interjection or a hyperbaton." For Federman, the entire act of writing is flawed. Metaphors are hated and incongruous to the self, verbs tangle our world into doubtful relations, nouns cannot name what they name, adjectives and adverbs falsely describe. While not necessarily new, these ideas appear purposefully unembellished in Federman's poetry.

Federman's incessant pessimism for the problems of writing may find some empathy in recognition. Beyond this, Here and Elsewhere manages to become a ________ text (out of respect for Federman, let this blank adjective stand inexactly for something affirming and useful). Remarkable in Here and Elsewhere is Federman's sly working of stylishness—using its deceit and capacity to impress a superficial reading. His initial use of these tricks appears lame and misplaced, using puns ("you're everywhere here / in my house and in me / since you changed tense") and depicting kitschy products ("I had a hot dog smoked a pall mall"). But Federman repeats these superficial techniques to make a point: "a life of words words / that pell-mell babel of / read written spoken words" where his words crash into less obviously meaningful combinations that better carry senses claimed un-formable by nouns, adjectives, etc. These irrational collisions are Federman's most successful experiments: "so you want / a street / named after you / in your home town / when you change tense / Rue Féderman / so be it." Federman uses the falsities of language with precision to create a pointed voice, some harsh ridicule of writers seeking fame, and other wry articulations of popular form.

Theories and precision aside, the memories Here and Elsewhere invent, recall, and denounce are constructive. In a brief section that serves as a sort of devotional to a love interest (likely the "Erica" of the book's pretty dedication), Federman demonstrates a utility and beauty of language in communication and reconciliation: "have I ever told you how appeasing the light of your language is to me / have I ever told you how the smile of your language makes me smile." These lines are long, assured, liberated of concerns from a voice assiduously paired with encouraging censure.

Here and Elsewhere, its own critic and constraint, creates a full voice with occasional insights, such as "One can dance / in the dark / one can sing / in the dark / one makes / love in the dark / but poetry cannot / be read in darkness / that is perhaps / its greatest weakness." Assertive and ruthless in reason, Federman shows that literature is not dying. Elsewhere Federman himself has proclaimed the new fiction "will be deliberately illogical, irrational, unrealistic, non sequitur, and incoherent," a magic that Here and Elsewhere is not. By exploring the contemporary, Here and Elsewhere stakes itself deep in the present to make a point, with cautious risks—maybe deep enough to keep its claim from uprooting to future transcendence.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Iraqi Poetry Today

Buy this book from Amazon.comEdited by Saadi Simawe and Daniel Weissbort
Zephyr Press ($16.95)

by Jeffrey C. Alfier

Paul Fussell once described British soldier-poet Edmund Blunden's decision to write the autobiography of his war years as "memory conceived as an act of reconnaissance." In Iraqi Poetry Today, one finds a spirit kindred to Blunden, even though for most Iraqis, war and loss are not events solely relegated to the haunting past; instead, the events are ongoing and in most cases are inherited parts of their futures. It was thus the hope of co-editors Saadi Simawe and Daniel Weissbort that a new translation of Iraqi poetry into English would contribute to the appreciation and cause of peace in the Middle East. Though their dream has been disappointed in the current atmosphere of violence, they still find an abiding faith in the endurance of the poetry they compiled in this anthology of forty poets. Hence, theirs is a serious attempt to "save what remains of Iraqi humanity and culture in the face of a brutal dictatorship and war." Under the current turmoil of post-war Iraq, Simawe and Weissbort's compilation is needed more urgently than ever.

The task of translation is never easy, requiring close attention to the poetic sensibilities and literary traditions of the peoples whose literature undergoes the delicate translation route, as well as to the particular challenges of vernacular language. Simawe and Weissbort's editorial process was complicated further by near endless warfare which disrupted the process of finding sources of Iraqi poetry, especially that written since the 1980s. Yet even after the poetry was found and translated, the editors noted the scant attention paid to poetry in translation by the English-speaking academic communities. Undeterred by academia's rebuff, the volume under review here represents several major styles of Arab and Kurdish poetry, and the range of subjects is expansive.

Structurally, the book is arranged alphabetically by the poets' last names. As an interpretive aid, many of the poems have endnotes to assist the non-Arab and non-Islamic reader. Kurdish poems are noted as such under individual titles, and included in the prefatory material is a brief introduction to Kurdish poetry by Muhamad Tawfiq Ali. The book closes with two commentaries, one on Fadhil al-Azzawi's German poems, and another on Egyptian poet Muhammad Afifi Matar's long poem, "Quartet of Joy." These two additions offer absorbing discussions of the translation process between Arabic, English, and German. There are also biographies of the translators as well as the poets, a feature that helps to inform the context of the poems. Simawe and Weissbort are joined in the translation efforts by many others, including the poets themselves. At the time of printing, all but five of the poets lived in Western exile.

Intelligence operatives looking for Islamic fundamentalists among these biographies will be disappointed. Instead, we have what to some readers may appear as a nexus of contrasts—doctoral students, journalists, educators, a youth counselor and author of children's books, a man who once served as Iraqi Kurdistan Minister of Culture, a computer manufacturer, graduates and students of American universities, poets who are also playwrights and essayists—in other words, a large assembly of prolifically published writers whose world views span a wide breadth of politics and religion. Although broadly regional, the poems are far from being culturally naive or parochial. Rather, they evoke solicitude beyond specific Iraqi locales such as the Tigris or Euphrates rivers, as they embrace the gods, kings, queens, literary dissidents, warriors, and cities of both ancient Iraq and the ancient Western world. This is not to say that these poets are pampered expatriate elitists. On the contrary, most of them are quite familiar—through their own experience or that of their families—with prison, exile, poverty, and war. For many of them, there is no return to Ithaca.

One of the inspiring features of Iraqi poetry is that it is both historically informed and critically powerful, expressed with a refreshing array of complex, compound, absolute/paralogical, and submerged metaphors, all of which undergird a powerfully alluring imagery. As such, many of the poets here exemplify what Arthur Symons once said of William Ernest Henley, that he provided "a daring straightforwardness and pungency of epithet." In "Every Morning the War Gets Up from Sleep," Fadhil al-Azzawi reminds the world:

Every morning the war arrives
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The slain fill the wilderness and the guns howl forever.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Children are raped in prison
while Arab radios chirp about morality.

Evocative as well is the symbolism. Consider, for instance, Mahmoud al-Braikan's "Meditations on a World of Stones," where the poet writes:

A goddess of a forgotten world
had cracked under the reverberation of thunder
and sucked the shapeless lightning.

One of the prime subjects treated by Iraqi poets is the oppressive regime that existed under Saddam Hussein. In "Dragon," Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayyati reminds the world of the man and his reign:

A dictator, hiding in a nihilist's mask, has killed and killed and killed,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Satan used to be an original,
now he is just the dictator's shadow.

Indeed, several poems speak elliptically or directly to such dictatorships whose perpetuity was often reinforced by communal reticence, as Bulland al-Haydari cites in "The City Ravaged by Silence":

Baghdad died of a wound from within
From a blind silence that paralyzed the tongues of its children.

Dictatorship is also impugned for its comprehensive—albeit presumptuous—attack on civil liberties. In Hashim Shafiq's "Picture of a Tyrant," the poet asks:

Why have the landscapes of imagination that used to fly with our
kites disappeared?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Who gave you permission to build all these fences around our mouths
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Why do you always search my poems for weapons?

Under such conditions, war and dictatorship imbue many poems with terrible ironies such as we find in the transcription of Muzaffar al-Nawwab's oral poetry:

A child tried to cover the corpse of his grandmother
For it is shameful for a grandmother's thighs to be exposed
They gunned him down, and he fell, right on top of her thighs . . .
There, there, my son, it's alright, this way
her thighs will be covered.

Such verse is starkly redolent of British Great War poet Siegfried Sassoon's "Glory of Women." Indeed, throughout the volume there are powerful indictments of war's relentless hold on Iraq and the region in general. In "Wars I," Sinan Anton writes:

I saw another war
and a mother
weaving a shroud
for the dead man
still in her womb

Exile, another prominent theme, is often inscribed in subtle depths of elegy. In a dedication to the late Senegalese poet Leopold Senghor, Bulland al-Haydari speaks of how:

From a blind time that sneaks barefoot
From among
The dust of the road and the edge of my broken window.

Mahdi Muhammed Ali informs us that sometimes all the exile wants is what is taken for granted in the homeland. As such, in many exile poems there is an intense element of dispossession. Thus, Fawzi Karim writes:

Who are we? Fury of a blind man
being led by a thread of loss,
dice thrown down on the night's page
without even an echo of their

Sometimes abiding dispossession brings about a near uncharacteristic sense of despair, as Badr Shakir al-Sayyab expresses in "Love Me":

I lost faith in the Arabs,
In Mecca, in its prophets,
Its caves and its valleys.

Not all the poems concern homeland, exile, or war; many are simple love poems redolent of a Sufi inheritance, and employ erudition beyond Arab literary and cultural borders (several, for instance, offer allusions to Greek mythology). In addition, as one may expect, the United States is not spared from the poets' inquiry. In "America," Dunya Mikhail writes:

Stop your questioning, America
and offer your hand
to the tired
on the other shore
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Who said that the sky
would lose all its stars
if night passed without answers?

When Iraqi artist Layla al-Attar was killed in her home by an American missile attack in 1998, Jawad Yaqoob referred to Americans as "the lovers of killing." And yet, there are sharp words for mankind at large, such as Murad Mikha'il's "Three Flags," or Salah Niazi's "The Thinker between the Bronze Shield and the Human Flesh."

Some of the volume's entries are simple poems of patriotism, like Kurdish poet Ahmed Herdi's, "God's Freedom Lovers." Related to this, some of the Kurdish poems are more or less common revolutionary polemics such as Jigerkhwen's "I am the Voice," a poem which invokes the revolutionaries of the past. And the compilation has a unique twist in Ronny Someck, an Iraqi-born Israeli Jew whose poems, translated from Hebrew, provide a refreshing psychology to traditional metaphors:

The moon is the nightlight of Dr. Freud.

Intriguing as well is his use of imagery and symbolism:

In the leaves
nostalgia has shut down the wind turbines of the grains of sand

In the Arab world, poetry is not something obscure or circumstantial, relegated to the academy or the back rooms of cafes; instead, it is a vital part of existence and is therefore unquenchable. Those who skip over Iraqi Poetry Today will forgo one of the supreme opportunities of the current hour: to embark on an enriching journey into an often marginalized and misunderstood nation. Simawe and Weissbort's compilation is one of meticulous research and labor that, outside of a few unremarkable poems, is an immense literary contribution to a world with an exigent need for tolerance and understanding.

Click here to purchase this book at your local independent bookstore
Purchase this book at your local independent bookstore.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004

Community & the Classroom: an interview with Juliana Spahr

by Michelle Naka Pierce

Juliana Spahr's books of poetry include the 1995 National Poetry Series winner Response and the more recent volume Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You (Wesleyan University Press, 2001). She taught poetry and poetics in the Department of English at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa up until last year. She currently teaches creative writing at Mills College. She is also an associated faculty member with Bard College's Institute for Writing and Thinking and Goddard College's Master of Fine Arts program. With Joan Retallack, she is editing Poetry and Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary.

In this excerpt from a much longer conversation, Spahr talks with Michelle Naka Pierce, who directs the Writing Center at Naropa University, about enhancing the role of community in the creative writing curriculum.

Michelle Naka Pierce: I just finished rereading Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You the other day and was struck by the language and suggestion of community in the lines, "In culture we reach out to build / ourselves. // In culture we interact." Can you discuss what role community plays in your creative writing workshops?

Juliana Spahr: I think of two sorts of community in your question that matter in creative writing workshops. (1) The community of the classroom. This I think is the easy part. In general, students like to tell each other they like each other or their work. Or at least in my experience they do (although I've heard otherwise from people in intensely competitive M.F.A. programs). Here's a sample of an easy community-building exercise: I often start undergraduate classes with a collaborative writing exercise that I stole from some people at Bard. I give students a range of unrelated and disparate works. These change all the time. The most recent time I did this the works were these:

♦ A list of gods from Greg Dening's Islands and Beaches
♦ A section from B. K. S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga
♦ A short essay on bird song from a PBS program
♦ Lisa Jarnot's "Suddenly Last Summer"
♦ John Ashbery's "Some Trees"
♦ A passage from Jean Luc Nancy's Being Singular Plural.

Then I have participants do various sorts of writing (see handout) and put them to work in writing a collaborative piece. This is both an exercise in editing (what to put in and what to leave out) and in collaboration. The pieces that students create are often amazing. I've had the exercise fail once, the one time I did it with M.F.A. students. They refused to make one piece and ended up with these little segregated sections of pieces. (2) Then the harder issue . . . getting the community into the creative writing classroom. Or getting cultural issues into the creative writing classroom. Or getting students out in the community from the creative writing classroom (poets in schools; poets in prisons; poets in . . . ). These seem to me to be the things that I need to keep working on in the near future and yet find very hard to do because there is so little institutional support and, I have to admit, there isn't a huge amount of interest in those who go to graduate school in creative writing either. I have no clear answers or advice on this topic.

MNP: I'm dialoguing with Thalia Field on similar issues, and she says that "Schools, though often dressed benignly like a village of small merchants and farmers, are financed and manipulated by the state or corporate state-surrogates." Do you agree? Is the dilemma with "community" a deeply rooted one?

JS: I do think that the community building that happens in workshops is artificial, that it risks pacifying participants; and I do think it is hard to move from collaborative classroom models (which even something as traditional as the seminar uses through the model of discussion) to more socially resonant models of community such as activist political movements, social justice movements, etc. I do not at all want to suggest that this is a natural or easy process. I wish I were smarter on this topic, but I am not yet.

So while I do not think that doing a collaborative writing essay in the classroom leads to activist or collaborative work outside of it, I do think it could lead to the creation of a more interesting piece of writing than one person could create on his or her own.

I am still trying to think about how the humanities divisions of universities might be places less for self-exploration and self-betterment and more for outreach. I think prison education programs are one possibility. I have a former colleague here who teaches computer literacy courses at housing projects; that seems another useful model. Another possibility would be to encourage and support more innovative master's projects, ones less paper-based and more outreach-based: such as a master's thesis that organizes a reading series, or a master's thesis that is a documentary film on the importance of literature to anti-colonial political movements, or a masters thesis that organizes a community writing workshop. But I'm still trying to think of other ways.

As for Thalia's comment, universities and colleges are financed by the state or corporate state surrogates. They do a lot of socializing and policing. They do perpetuate and maintain class divisions (even as they grant many people class mobility). But I think I might be a little more optimistic than Thalia, at least about state university systems (I'm not so optimistic about private universities; the pressure to be responsive to community needs is just not as intense on private institutions and it shows—this is just one more reason that states might want to maintain strong funding support for their universities). I think there can be moments of disruption in them. The U of Hawai`i at Manoa, for instance, has a Center for Hawaiian Studies that basically educates students in anti-colonial resistance. This is an amazing thing, and it wouldn't have happened in a private university or in the private sector in general. The state university system is one of few places where Marxists, Black Separatists, political activists, etc., can get hired for what they think, where this sort of thinking is seen as beneficial, as part of larger conversations that universities need to have.

MNP: I see your work in the tradition of post-language writing. How do you deal with aesthetic issues in the classroom? With "mainstream" and "alternative" writing styles, camps, lineages?

JS: Language writing is just one tradition for my work. It has been a powerful one. Yet I feel that just as powerful have been the traditions of a wide variety of culturally based poetries such as Hawai`i's many local poetries, Caribbean poetries, Native American poetries, and Harlem Renaissance poetries. I have learned a lot about structures and forms from language writing, but I have been pushed just as much to think about poetry's cultural obligations and possibilities by what could loosely be called community-based poetries.

I believe that some of the most important work that teachers can do is to point out to students the wide range of possibilities available to them as writers and how that range can enliven their capacities to make sense of where they are, where they want to go in the world. I work hard to teach a multiplicity of poetries. And I often begin classes with a lecture in which I attempt to map out the often overlapping concerns of different poetries around today. Lately I've been trying out this exercise where I draw an axis on the board. I say that above the horizontal line is conventional or standard language and below it is artificial or nonstandard language. To the right of the vertical line is individualism and to the left is community. I then have students call out poets, and we try to place them on the map (of course we end up with a lot clustered around the center of the cross). But I think that this conventional/nonstandard language issue and this individualism/community issue are two defining ones for contemporary writing.

My goal here is just to denaturalize any single poetry, and to expose students to the wideness of contemporary writing practices. I often try to give students a range of works around a single form in creative writing classrooms. We will look at the sonnet, and we'll read ones written by Petrarch, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Claude McKay, Bernadette Mayer, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lorenzo Thomas, etc. Then we'll list all the different ways the sonnet can be the sonnet. I'm always trying in these discussions to get at a deeper history of form here. To look at how Shakespeare reacts to Petrarch and then how McKay and Mayer react to this same courtly love tradition in very different ways. And then discuss what parts of the sonnet that a tradition like New Formalism is holding onto so tight.

MNP: I was wondering if you could discuss CYBERGRAPHIA.

JS: In some sort of techno-speak short hand, CYBERGRAPHIA is a web-based software platform that encourages students to interact closely with primary texts. The story is this: Bard College got some money from the Mellon Foundation to develop the uses of technology in the classroom. They decided to do something that incorporated the teaching strategies of the Institute for Writing and Thinking. The Institute was set up by Peter Elbow, and while it has morphed into some other thing all together, it is still highly indebted to his sense of the importance of written language as a tool for learning in all subjects. The Institute's workshops offered at Bard as well as on-site at schools are experiential; instruction about theory supports and complements practice. The workshops model the collaborative learning environment the Institute desires to create for students in which reading, writing, and thinking are active processes.

Joan Retallack, knowing I was taking a year off from Hawai`i, asked me if I would be interested in developing something through this grant that would be attentive to the Institute's pedagogies. The website's roots are also in a four-day conference called "Poetry & Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary," organized by Joan, that the Institute for Writing and Thinking (www.writingandthinking.org) held in 2000. It concentrated on how innovative, thoughtfully performative, and critically aware practices of teaching might arise when teaching contemporary writing.

What I did was try to design something that would be specific to Institute teaching tools and take advantage of the Internet as a place for collaborative reading. Working with a programmer, I developed a workshop forum and five online interactive teaching tools. The tools are designed for faculty and students to create, collaborate, and comment on poetry and prose.

Basically, the website lets you do various sorts of collaborative writing. It differs from programs like Blackboard or WebCT in that it is less a place for posting static data or assignments and more a place for various sorts of conversations to develop.

adapted from an Institute for Writing and Thinking Workshop

1. Appoint a facilitator. The facilitator will make final decisions in case of disagreement and keep the assignment to schedule.

2. Brainstorm some possible themes for your writing. You might have more than one related theme. You might not. Then discuss which works you will focus on as a group (a.k.a. "the primary works"). This can be as many or as few as you want. Facilitator makes final decision if necessary. This shouldn't take more than five minutes.

3. Each person then gets a writing assignment. The facilitator facilitates this. Here are the writing assignments:

  • One person tells a personal story related to the theme.
  • One person writes something only using words from one or more of the primary works.
  • One person describes one of the primary works somehow (could use literary criticism; could use imitation; could use some other form).
  • One person puts two of the primary works in dialogue (or if you've only got one, just choose another one on your own).
  • One person does some sort of experiment on one of the primary works.

The writing that is done can be in any genre. It should be creative yet not myopic or overly personal. It can be creatively analytical.


If you've got more than five people, then the facilitator should assign one of the assignments twice. The facilitator should time this writing for twenty minutes.

4. Once done, everyone should read their writing out loud. Then everyone should work together (again the facilitator should take the lead here) to make a piece of writing. There is a good chance that the group will have to make the "essay" multi-genre. The group should make it a point to include writing by everyone, but every word by every one need not be included. The group might also want to work hard at making one coherent piece. They might want to cut pieces up and weave them into something new.

5. If time, read the piece out loud to the group at least once.

6. Facilitator should then invite someone from the group to take the essay home, type it up, and bring in copies for everyone next week.

Click here to purchase Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You at your local independent bookstore
Purchase this book at your local independent bookstore.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2004 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2004