Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lifting Belly High Plenary: Poetry & the Visual

The second large plenary of the day after a workshop and lunchtime readings by Mei Mei Brussenbruge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis (is it possible that I could be her when I grow up?), and Annie Finch.

Elizabeth Frost showed images of women writers and artists working with photography and other visual elements and combining them with text. She had incredible images from Jo Spence, Leslie Scalapino, and Lorna Simpson. As a result of this presentation, I have a new Vulvalution plan that I hope to work on in the next few weeks. So stay tuned for that.

Adalaide (Dee) Morris is brilliant. Let’s just start there. Her lecture was called “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess: web3 and 3rd wave feminism.” She spoke in the most cogent fashion synthesizing theory and practice and making the world seem understandable and complex simultaneously. (She’s another one that I would be happy to be when/if I grow up.) Morris talked about the need to theorize the category of women’s poetry in particular to look at ways that digital media is restructuring print contexts and fusing images and texts. She showed examples from the Electronic Literature Collection, volume 1 and read part of it using feminist frameworks. Then she referenced the conclusion of H.D.’s Helen in Egypt and showed how H.D.’s imagery can best be understood through diagrams of net connectivity. It was brilliant. Finally, she outlined this way for thinking about the internet:

web 1.0 - connectivity
web 2.0 - building relationships and connections/collective intelligence

the next wave
web 3.0 - intelligible web; intelligent people with intelligent computers

She framed her work using Donna Haraway’s work and noted that with Haraway, while we lose the goddess, we don’t lose the politics. I’m happy to increasingly be a cyborg with Haraway and Morris leading the way.

Lynn Keller did one of the bravest things in her comments: she reflected on work that she had done and questioned if it was done “right.” Keller talked about writing about “page poems” and efforts to make sense critically of what poets are doing with the visual on the page. She said that while she has written about this recently, she is not sure that are methods are reliable and responsible. I thought that this was incredibly insightful and thoughtful for her to contribute. She discussed different ways visual elements could be read and called for greater attention and theorizing and dialogue about this in order to build new tools.

Alan Golding talked about avant garde poetics and pedagogy and brought a sample from Kathleen Fraser’s work. He talked about how the theme of the work was order and what was at stake was authority. Golding raised a series of interesting questions: What challenges do we face in teaching visual poetics? How do we read the illegible? How are these questions imbricated with sex & gender? How do we read the blank page? Full? empty? Female? Male? Written? Unwritten? Erased?

Finally Kathleen Fraser spoke with the clear assertion that she is “a poet, not a scholar.” Fraser talked about how her work began with pleasure & the touch of the pencil and the pen to the page. She said that she learned to love the revision of poems as much as the transmission. (I just loved this line.) She said that throughout her work she’s privileged touch and celebration as a result of these early beginnings of pleasure and touch. Fraser then looked at five samples of new visual/experimental poetry.

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