Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On Writing #153 : Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Writing, Attention and Words from the Wise
Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Every so often something shatters like ice, and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware.  Louise Erdrich

Why do I write? I think it’s because writing forces me to pay attention. The worn decals on the repairman’s flatbed truck, a grimace on the face of the young mother struggling to lift the rain-soaked stroller into the bus, the nest of tubes hooked up to my mother’s arm in the ER. These moments of human despair, joy, resilience and triumph are atoms in our macrocosm, ordinary stardust, according to theoretical physicists--and, of course, Joni Mitchell. They’re the basic stuff of life. Paying attention, according to philosopher and activist Simone Weil, is the purest form of generosity.
When I turn the pen inward, paying attention to my own responses to losses or grief or perplexity, I am buoyed by the revelations; buoyed, that is, until the words begin to ask me uncomfortable questions. Who do you think you are? What have you learned? Are there other perspectives you’re not listening to?
Or, as Lee Maracle says: Where do you begin telling someone their world is not the only one?
When I read poetry and prose, I am, to paraphrase the Brazilian activist Paulo Freire, reading worlds. I’m in the hold of the ship with Aminata Diallo, at the Colonel’s table with Carolyn Forché as ears fall to the floor, walking in the reserve’s graveyard with Louise Bernice Halfe.

I linger inside the richness of another universe, admire the exquisite workings of the human imagination.
Reading can challenge me, but writing seems to ask more. If I truly attend to what’s going on around me, my assumptions will be pried apart and I’ll be pushed into uncertain territory. Most writers know this uncertainty. And, as Pema Chödrön says: Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos.
And, lately, that’s where my mind is: in chaos. Climate disasters, political goat rodeos (as one wag put it), shootings, unsafe water in countless Indigenous communities, the volume of the abhorrent and absurd raising higher and higher. Add to those the cold breath of mortality—time is short. If it’s critical that I pay attention now, and I believe it is, how much attention -- and to what -- is too much? too little?
Chaos finds me measuring out my life in the online equivalent of Eliot’s coffee spoons. My mind floods with inchoate fury at another incidence of violence against women, BIPOC and non-binary people; erasures of whole communities; and the rising tide of everyday mean-spiritedness and injustice. I am over aware.
And torn: the written word seems impotent.
Yet more necessary than ever.
Enter the uncomfortable questions. Who needs your privileged tears? Yes, you’re mortal, so where will you focus your efforts? Why can’t you, like the inimitable Diane Lockhart advises, work on keeping your own little corner sane?
Albert Einstein was right: The only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.
I admire writers who overcome their uncertainties and work their way through chaos. I’ll start with Einstein’s word, lucidity –a word whose origins refer to light.
Simone Weil said only beauty and affliction can pierce the human heart. When I first began to write, I felt that truth in my bones. If I can step away from the clamorous racket around me, if I am to effect any change or wrest any beauty out of the goings-on in my corner, I have to return to the elemental, to small illuminations, seek meaning again in particulars. My Métis grandmother’s enigmatic smile in the last and only family photograph. The frenzy of gulls behind my neighbour’s fishing boat, returning home.
Word by word by word by uncertain word.  

Lorri Neilsen Glenn’s latest book is Following the River: Traces of Red River Women (Wolsak and Wynn), a multi-genre memoir about her Cree and Métis grandmothers and their contemporaries. Professor Emerita at the Mount, Lorri is the author and editor of fourteen titles, and her award-winning poetry and prose are widely anthologized. Lorri has led writing workshops across Canada, and in Chile, Ireland, Australia and Greece. She teaches in The University of King’s College MFA program in creative nonfiction. @neilsenglenn

Friday, June 01, 2018

We Who Are About To Die : John M. Bennett

John M. Bennett has published over 400 books and chapbooks of poetry and other materials.  Among the most recent are rOlling COMBers (Potes & Poets Press); MAILER LEAVES HAM (Pantograph Press); LOOSE WATCH (Invisible Press); CHAC PROSTIBULARIO (with Ivan Arguelles; Pavement Saw Press); THE PEEL (Anabasis Press); GLUE (xPress(ed)); LAP GUN CUT (with F. A. Nettelbeck; Luna Bisonte Prods);  INSTRUCTION BOOK (Luna Bisonte Prods); la M al (Blue Lion Books); CANTAR DEL HUFF (Luna Bisonte Prods); SOUND DIRT (with Jim Leftwich; Luna Bisonte Prods); BACKWORDS (Blue Lion Books); NOS (Redfox Press); D RAIN B LOOM (with Scott Helmes; xPress(ed)); CHANGDENTS (Offerta Speciale); L ENTES (Blue Lion Books); NOS (Redfoxpress); SPITTING DDREAMS (Blue Lion Books); ONDA (with Tom Cassidy; Luna Bisonte Prods); 30 DIALOGOS SONOROS (with Martín Gubbins; Luna Bisonte Prods); BANGING THE STONE (WITH Jim Leftwich; Luna Bisonte Prods); FASTER NIH (Luna Bisonte Prods); RREVES (Editions du Silence); NEOLIPIC (Argotist); LAS CABEZAS MAYAS/MAYA HEADS (Luna Bisonte Prods); BALAM MALAB (Logan Elm Press); LA VISTA GANCHA (Luna Bisonte Prods); THE SOCK SACK/UNFINISHED FICTIONS/MORE INSERTS (with Richard Kostelanetz; Luna Bisonte Prods); T ICK TICK TIC K (Chalked Editions and White Sky Books); THIS IS VISUAL POETRY (This is Visual Poetry); EL HUMO LETRADO: POESÍA EN ESPAÑOL (Chalk Editions; 2nd ed. White Sky Books); ZABOD (Tonerworks); TEXTIS GLOBBOLALICUS (3 vols.; mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press); NITLATOA (Luna Bisonte Prods); OHIO GRIMES AND MISTED MEANIES (with Ben Bennett, Bob Marsh, Jack Wright; Edgetone Records); SUMO MI TOSIS (White Sky Books); CORRESPONDENCE 1979-1983 (with Davi Det Hompson; Luna Bisonte Prods); THE GNAT’S WINDOW (Luna Bisonte Prods); DRILLING FOR SUIT MYSTERY (with Matthew T. Stolte; Luna Bisonte Prods); OBJECT OBJET (with Nicolas Carras; Luna Bisonte Prods); CARAARAC & EL TÍTULO INVISIBLE (Luna Bisonte Prods); LIBER X (Luna Bisonte Prods); CUITLACOCHTLI (Xexoxial Editions); BLOCK (Luna Bisonte Prods); THE STICKY SUIT WHIRS (Luna Bisonte Prods); PICO MOJADO (with Byron Smith; Luna Bisonte Prods); SOLE DADAS & PRIME SWAY (Luna Bisonte Prods); OLVIDOS (Luna Bisonte Prods); SACARON NAVAJAS (Redfoxpress); AREÑAL (with Luis Bravo; Yaugurú); LA CHAIR DU CENOTE (Fidel Anthelme X); THE LUNCH THE GRAVEL (X-Ray Book Co.); BRAVÍSIMA RESEÑA (with Diana Magallón; Luna Bisonte Prods); TURNS IN A CLOUD (White Sky Books); YES IT IS (with Sheila E. Murphy; Luna Bisonte Prods); DE LA MEMORIA EL PEZ (with Lola López-Cózar; Luna Bisonte Prods); AMINIMA (with Richard Kostelanetz, Archae Editions); MIRRORS MÁSCARAS (Luna Bisonte Prods); VERTICAL SLEEP (Luna Bisonte Prods); SELECT POEMS (Poetry Hotel Press/Luna Bisonte Prods); THE WORLD OF BURNING (Luna Bisonte Prods),  THE SWEATING LAKE (Luna Bisonte Prods), and OLAS CURSIS (Luna Bisonte Prods).  He has published, exhibited and performed his word art worldwide in thousands of publications and venues.  He was editor and publisher of LOST AND FOUND TIMES (1975-2005), and was Founding Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at The Ohio State University Libraries.  Richard Kostelanetz has called him “the seminal American poet of my generation”.  His work, publications, and papers are collected in several major institutions, including Washington University (St. Louis), SUNY Buffalo, The Ohio State University, The Museum of Modern Art, and other major libraries.  His PhD (UCLA 1970) is in Latin American Literature. 


Where are you now?
In my office at Luna Bisonte Prods in Columbus, Ohio usa.

What are you reading?
L:a Noche de la Usina, por Eduardo Sacheri.

What have you discovered lately?
A mexican potsherd in my garden.

Where do you write?
Mostly in my office; sometimes in a hotel room or wherever.

What are you working on?
Oh many many things: poems, art, sounds, books, articles, presentations, cooking dinner.

Have you anything forthcoming?
Many many things, all over the place. I'd tell you to contact my agent, if I had one.

What would you rather be doing?
Right now, taking a nap; I worked too hard (for my back) in the garden this morning.

flood of moons
     - For C. Mehrl Bennett

the dream of seeing your
parents' basement through a
hole in the driveway

representative of a foaming
,lack of ,chase a lung wh
at columbine gurgles in a
ear a n ear a ear ly snake~ish
sm eared into yr sandwich :my
fellow comb your swallow's ch
ittering air swirls in the
attic lengua p ants st
icky was the tide's gone
out a penciled shadow
and your fought fake lake
is a beehive murmuring in
the wall you sleep against
your hand held in
mud brick palace melts be
fore a mountain wiitz your
speaker's name or antihistamine a
cup of gravel and urine
scr a wl eg
limptner ch ain g loss
tu olvido era ,de
caminar por una playa car
mesí y sumar la arenasca


)your swea
ty shirrt
caps aweigh
dr ink

daw h
um uh
whiffled ear

should neck
short a
mile d

d rim
bas t ante
lento ni
ojo hole

br reach a
f ist br
eath ah
g nat            *

sungg s
nail unh
bag s nore
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