Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wonderful Projects

After ages going by without my posting, I have almost too many amazing things to start at any one place. First, there's the fact of summer break, bringing sun and a cumulus wonderland to the sky outside. Then, there are the following:

1) Form: In Atlanta, at AWP, Annie Finch, the poet most known for her formal work, as well as The Exultation of Forms, a book on form, approached me and asked if I wanted to edit a journal. The journal would (and, now, will) embody the poetics of radical formalism, which Annie codified in an essay, and elsewhere. In the last several months, it's begun to take shape, in wonderful, exciting ways. Marilyn Hacker, the master of form, translation, and more, has agreed to be on the advisory board. Paul Hoover, the master of formal and experimental uses of beautifully lyrical language, has agreed to the same. The board of contributing editors will include Steve Schroeder, Chad Davidson, Josh Kryah, and more wonderful people.

More awesome news: Jacket, the superb online journal, will run a feature on us, probably in the fall. We're tentatively planning to call the journal FORM--elemental, nominative, imperative, and true to what we're doing. Next steps: web design, nonprofit research, grant research, and much reading of radically formal poems.

2) The Symposium on Ellipticism: Several months ago, I realized that Elliptical poetry has had an interesting trajectory since 1999. That's when American Letters & Commentary published the article by Stephen Burt, announcing its criteria and the poets he saw as some of its primary practitioners. In that same issue, essays by Cole Swensen and others added dimensions to the discussion, that seemed, to some, to put the issue to rest.

For many others, though, Elliptical poetics have persisted in some form. When Charles Wright came here (to Mizzou), he mentioned that one of his undergraduate students had turned in a poem, and Wright said, "What's that? I've never seen anything like it." The student said, "It's elliptical." Wright read Burt's essay, and found it compelling. Other poets are very familiar with it--Wayne Miller's essay in American Book Review calls it the new Modernism. Many others draw on the practices of the poets called Elliptical--Lucie Brock-Broido, Cole, and others have influenced a wide range of poets.

This diverse discourse seemed to me to be wonderful fodder for a symposium, so I approached Wayne and Stephen about it, and it's taken off wonderfully since then. Now, what was planned as symposium will be symposia, appearing in more than one journal in 2009. Colorado Review and The Laurel Review have been wonderful enough to volunteer page space, and Joan Houlihan has graciously offered to post all symposia on Boston Comment. Among the participants are Joan, Wayne, Steve, Michael Dumanis, Mark Bibbins, Alex Lemon, and some of the poets mentioned in the original essay--Liam Rector, Mary Jo Bang, Forrest Gander, and more. It should be a first of its kind, in several ways, which is terrifically exciting.

More wonderful things have been happening, but, for now, there is sunshine to be absorbed, and weight machines to be exercised.


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