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the truth and life of myth
a robert duncan symposium

chicago poetry project

co-sponsors:
writing program, school of the art institute of chicago
poetry center of chicago

april 22-24, 2010
chicago

participants

Keynote speakers
Nathaniel Mackey
Michael Palmer

Presenters
Faith Barrett Stephen Collis Joseph Donahue Amy Evans
Norman Finkelstein Stephen Fredman Karl Gartung Siobhán Scarry
Margaret Sloan Brian Teare

schedule

Thursday, April 22

Evening performance
Duncan play. Medea at Kolchis.
Directed by John Beer.
RSVP for Location
Players to be determined.

Friday, April 23

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Morning panel.
Columbus Auditorium
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
280 S. Columbus Drive

Presenters: Stephen Collis; Stephen Fredman; Siobhán Scarry.

Lunch 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon panel.
Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection
5th Floor, 37 S. Wabash Ave.

Presenters: Joseph Donahue; Amy Evans; Norman Finkelstein

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Columbus Auditorium
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
280 S. Columbus Drive

Nathaniel Mackey, reading.
Michael Palmer, Keynote Address:
“Robert Duncan and the Invention of Childhood.”

8:00 p.m.
Group poetry reading w/food.
Green Lantern Gallery
1511 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd floor.
{Green Lantern is above the Singer Sewing Machine shop; the doorbell doesn’t work but
the door will be open.}

Stephen Collis
Joseph Donahue
Siobhán Scarry
Brian Teare

Saturday, April 23
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

All events at the Columbus Auditorium
280 S. Columbus Drive

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
Afternoon panel.
Presenters: Margaret Sloan; Brian Teare; Faith Barrett & Karl Gartung.

2:30 – 4:30
Michael Palmer, reading.
Nathaniel Mackey,
in conversation with Joseph Donahue and Peter O’Leary

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The Truth and Life of Myth: A Robert Duncan Symposium

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Michael Palmer
“Robert Duncan and the Invention of Childhood.”

Nathaniel Mackey
in conversation with Joseph Donahue and Peter O’Leary

PRESENTERS

Faith Barrett & Karl Gartung
“In Words War: Writing through the Duncan-Levertov Correspondence”

In words
w a r
is not

contained

Inwards
war is

)not
contained(

Three or so years ago, we (Faith Barrett & Karl Gartung) thought to write a play from the Duncan/Levertov correspondence. When that failed we, nevertheless, continued in this collaboration. A correspondence is a kind of collaboration, and to that extent, we wished to correspond, to co-respond. In a conversation, a dialogue, what is said is not really said by the one or the other, but what is between them. “Let’s keep it between us,” the song says. Keep love and language and passion and disagreement. The hope always is to lessen the “small distances” which divide us, which divided them. In the case of Duncan and Levertov, what divided them was not so much, really.

It is amazing, really, to see her first criticism of his political stance in “Earth’s Winter Song” (Letter 363) mirrored in his withering attack on her war poetry in the late stages of their debate over response(s) to the Vietnam War. The difference seems to come down to her public participation and endorsement of the antiwar political movement versus his adherence to individual anarchist and aesthetic principles. But even here the differences did not really hold. He also took part in antiwar readings, etc. In this we do not look to agree or to disagree. That we do or not seems beside the point. We, of course, were drawn, considering the present state of war, to their controversy, that tragedy.

Watching, as if from a corner, or under a table, as parents fight, crockery is broken.

Those we love, those we do necessarily love.

Collaborating, it’s not an argument we’re making but an argument that is made.

Stephen Collis
“Duncan Etude – Truth and Life of a Potential Poetry”

Starting with the first line of Duncan’s essay – “Myth is the story told of what cannot be told” – I argue that Duncan’s discussion of “myth” is really a discussion of the potential state of poetry (which, following Agamben, is simultaneously a state of “impotentiality”). I draw this out towards a reading of Duncan’s poetics (and politics) of incompletion in the PASSAGES poems, and intersect this discussion with reflections upon my own efforts to write a poetry of (im)potentiality in “The Barricades Project.”

Joseph Donahue
“Like Capricorn: Robert Duncan and the Poetics of the Vertical”

That concern would be what I’m thinking of as a post-Duncan ascensional poetics, looking at the whole realm of the vertical, of flight, of out of the body travel, of all that is associated with that most ancient and most discredited area of poetry, rising upward.

Amy Evans
“The Adoption of Influence: Robert Duncan, Derivation and the Writing Woman”

My presentation grows out of the importance of many women poets, artists and thinkers in Robert Duncan’s poetry. Within a landscape of Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, Helen Adams, Jane Harrison, Denise Levertov and others, I will focus on H.D. as both a poetic influence and a complex dramatic figure in Duncan’s work. First, I explore how Duncan’s H.D. provides the groundwork for a pervasive, mythic female in his poetry. Secondly, I consider matters of gender and sexuality with regard to H.D.’s significance, reading Duncan’s poetry alongside our expectations of both the New American and ‘queer’ post-war poetry. Linking the two parts, I will suggest that Duncan’s writing of the female poet is unique, and still highly political for the twenty-first century: I ask if it presents fresh approaches to academics’ and readers’ existing notions (as well as personal experiences) of the canon, the tradition and the muse.

As part of this presentation, I will introduce the correspondence between Duncan and the leading figure of the British Poetry Revival, Eric Mottram, during the 1970s, relating it to my work on Duncan and writing women.

Norman Finkelstein
“Robert Duncan’s Oracular Contradictions”

According to Robert Duncan in his essay “Changing Perspectives on Reading Whitman,” “The oracular mode enters poetry and history where profound contradictions come into play.”  Duncan is writing about both Whitman’s poetry and his own. Deeply influenced by Whitman (“in the course of writing The Opening of the Field…Leaves of Grass was kept as a bedside book”), Duncan is acutely sensitive to the contradictions in his precursor’s stance, especially in regard to the issue of American democracy.  This sensitivity is due in part to a fundamental contradiction in Duncan’s own discursive practice at a crucial point in his career.  Although he wishes to assume to the mantle of an American bard, he is also steeped in a much older tradition of hermetic utterance, in which, as he notes in “The Truth and Life of Myth,” “the truth of things was esoteric (locked inside) or occult (masked by the apparent).”  Paying particular attention to Duncan’s essays on and addresses to Whitman, this talk will consider the ways in which Duncan negotiates these contradictions to achieve his own oracular mode.

Stephen Fredman
“In Robert Duncan’s ‘Anima Rebellion,’ Denise Levertov Meets the Goddess Kali.”

Siobhán Scarry,
“Cruising the Archive with Duncan’s ‘Night Scenes.’”

In 1959, Duncan writes: “I would leave, as I do, a vast nervous contradictory record of the worldly life I have come to celebrate, almost to worship. Not to seek a synthesis; but a melee.” Duncan’s serial poem “Night Scenes” from his 1964 collection Roots and Branches provides us one of these vast records, a single poem that becomes, through Duncan’s poetics, an act of criticism, translation, citation, letter writing, and friendship as much as it is also a single poem. My talk will trace the poem’s genetic history and share a number of constellatory materials from the archive – among them, a previously unpublished poem and translation of Duncan’s, and a number of unpublished letters – in order to open a reading of the poem that may expand the critical conversation about both the textual practices and political import of derivation in Duncan’s poetics.

Margaret Sloan
On Duncan’s Voice

Brian Teare
Robert Duncan’s Tribunals: Techne, Poiesis & the Fate of the Book.”

In addition to the presenters speaking at the Robert Duncan Symposium on April 22-24, CPP is proud to announce our very exciting (and very famous!) keynote speakers, Nathaniel Mackey and Michael Palmer.  Please find their bios below.

Michael Palmer is invoked by name in Robert Duncan’s “In Wonder [Passages],” from Ground Work II: In the Dark. (“FOR MICHAEL PALMER     who also   may    work     alone.” His association with Duncan was longstanding, stretching back to the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, continuing through shared time on the faculty at San Francisco’s New College. Palmer has been a steward of Duncan’s work in the years since his death, most recently providing an introduction to the single volume publication of Ground Work by New Directions in 2006.

Palmer is the author of many books of poetry, including Company of Moths (2005); Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988 (2001); The Promises of Glass (2000); The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995 (1998); and At Passages (1996), all published by New Directions; Sun (1988); First Figure (1984); Notes for Echo Lake (1981); Without Music (1977); The Circular Gates (1974); and Blake’s Newton (1972). In 2008, New Directions published Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks.

He lives in San Francisco.

Nathaniel Mackey’s involvement with Robert Duncan’s poetry began with the dissertation he wrote at Stanford University on Duncan’s Open Field poetics. His essays on Duncan’s poetry, especially its serial component, are groundbreaking; his monograph “Gassire’s Lute: Robert Duncan’s Viet Nam War Poems” is one of the best sustained readings of Duncan’s poetry we have. In his own poetry, Mackey has expanded the open field of Duncan’s poetry but has also struck out for new territory, discovering places uniquely his own in an ever-expanding body of work.

Mackey’s books of poetry include Splay Anthem (New Directions, 2006), which won the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; Whatsaid Serif (1998); School of Udhra (1993); and Eroding Witness (1985). From a Broken Bottle, Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, his series of epistolary novels, has four parts so far: Bedouin Hornbook (1986), Djbot Baghostus’s Run (1993), Atet A.D. (2001), and Bass Cathedral (2008). His essays have been collected in Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993) and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (2005).

He lives in Santa Cruz and teaches at the University of California.

CHICAGO POETRY PROJECT: POETS TALKING series returns for the spring season!

Since 2001, the Chicago Poetry Project has brought locally and nationally significant poets to Chicago audiences. This year, the Project initiates a new series of poet’s talks. In the tradition of Bob Perelman’s Folsom Street talk series, but without the book & DVD package, or the lectures of Prof. Irwin Corey, but without the academicism, the series aims to generate discussion of issues in poetics among writers and readers outside the university umbra. This inaugural year will take up the issue of education: how does a poet get educated? and how might he or she work as an educator, in and outside of writing?

Talks will take place at the Green Lantern Gallery, 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave.

March’s talk, “Epitaph, deixis and inscription in a few poems,” will feature Judith Goldman on Tuesday, Mar. 16, at 7:30pm.

From the speaker:
Feel free to bring examples of poems that are inscriptions (like Wordsworth’s “Inscriptions Written with a Slate Pencil upon Stone”)–including any of your own!
Feel free also to bring examples of paintings that contain text (not paintings that are primarily text, but paintings that are primarily figural/representational and contain text).   I’d love to see any of these beforehand, my email is: <jgoldman@uchicago.edu>.

Judith Goldman is the author of Vocoder (Roof Books 2001), DeathStar/rico-chet (O Books 2006), and a chapbook, “The Dispossessions” (Atticus/Finch 2009).  l.b.; or, catenaries will be out from Krupskaya in late 2010.  She coedited the annual anthology War and Peace with Leslie Scalapino (#4 appeared in June 2009).  She teaches as a professor/Harper Schmidt Fellow in the arts humanities core and the creative writing department at the University of Chicago.

Upcoming:

4/20 Johannes Goransson
5/18 Jenny Boully
6/15 Brenda Cardenas

Bios of presenters for the Robert Duncan Symposium are listed alphabetically by last name, below.
(For all things related to this event, please click on the “Duncan Symposium” category link on the right side of this webpage)

Faith Barrett-Faith Barrett is an associate professor of English at Lawrence University, where she teaches courses in American poetry and creative writing. She is currently completing a book project that analyzes how poets position themselves in relation to the construct of the nation during the American Civil War; examining a cross-section of literary and popular poets as well as unpublished soldier-poets, this study argues that poetry plays a vital role in defining new versions of American identity in the late nineteenth century. With Cristanne Miller, she coedited /Words for the Hour: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry/ (U Mass 2005). Her chapbook of poems, /Invisible Axis/, was published by Etherdome in 2001. With Karl Gartung, she is currently working on a collaboratively written sequence of poems responding to the Vietnam-era correspondence of Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan.

Stephen Collis- Stephen Collis is the author of four books of poetry, Mine (New Star 2001), Anarchive (New Star 2005), which was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, The Commons (Talonbooks 2008)– the latter two forming parts of the on-going “Barricades Project”– and On the Material (Talonbooks 2010).  He is also the author of two book-length studies, Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks 2007) and Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism (ELS Editions 2006).  A member of the Kootenay School of Writing, he teaches American literature, poetry, and poetics at Simon Fraser University.

Amy Evans- Amy Evans co-edited The Unruly Garden: Robert Duncan and Eric Mottram, Letters & Essays (Peter Lang: 2007). Her art-work, which is collagist responses to twentieth-century poetry, has featured in Jacket magazine (Issue 38, Late 2009) and her poetry has been published and performed as part of a film by the Openned Series in London (2008).
Amy’s work on Robert Duncan and H.D. has appeared in The Wolf magazine (Issue 17, April 2008), the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory (Issue 10.2, Spring 2010) and the London Beyond Text: Spiritualism and Technology (2009) series. She is currently completing a PhD entitled ‘“And to Her-Without-Bounds”: Robert Duncan, the Female Poet and the Divine Feminine’ at King’s College London, where she was a Teaching Fellow, 2007-2008. Alongside academic work, she works in London as a classical singer. Amy is excited to be part of this symposium and visiting both the Chicago Poetry Project and Chicago for the first time.

Norman Finkelstein- Norman Finkelstein is a poet and literary critic.  His books of poetry include Restless Messengers (Georgia, 1992), Passing Over (Marsh Hawk, 2007), Scribe (Dos Madres, 2009) and the three-volume serial poem Track (Spuyten Duyvil 1999, 2002, 2005).  His most recent collection, Inside the Ghost Factory will be published by Marsh Hawk in the fall of 2010.  He has written extensively about modern and postmodern poetry and about Jewish American literature; the most recent of his five books of criticism is On Mt. Vision: Forms of the Sacred in Contemporary American Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2010).  Recent poems, essays and reviews have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Cincinnati Review, Contemporary Literature, Colorado Review and on the website of the Cultural Society.

Finkelstein was born in New York City in 1954.  He received his B.A. from Binghamton University and his Ph.D. from Emory University.  He is a Professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has taught since 1980.

Stephen Fredman– Stephen Fredman is Professor of English, University of Notre Dame. His first book, Poet’s Prose: The Crisis in American Verse (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983; 2nd ed. 1990), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His second study, The Grounding of American Poetry: Charles Olson and the Emersonian Tradition (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), contains a long chapter on Robert Duncan. His third book, A Menorah for Athena:  Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2001), looks at Objectivist poetry in relation to modern Jewish identity. He has just published a new book, Contextual Practice: Assemblage and the Erotic in Postwar Poetry and Art (Stanford Univ. Press, 2010), in which Robert Duncan is a central figure. He has edited A Concise Companion to Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Blackwell, 2005) and, with Steve McCaffery, the newly released Form, Power, and Person in Robert Creeley’s Life and Work (Univ. of Iowa press, 2010).

Karl Gartung-Karl Gartung is the author of Now That Memory Has Become So Important (2008, MWPH) and co-author of Speak! (a privately printed collaboration with Elizabeth Robinson, 2009). Thirty years ago he co-founded, with Karl Young and Anne Kingsbury, the Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Robert Duncan once visited and read there.

Siobhan Scarry– Siobhán Scarry is currently pursuing her PhD at SUNY Buffalo. She has just embarked on her dissertation project, which focuses on intersubjectivity and visions of community in American experimental poetry. She holds an MFA in creative writing and an MA in
English from the University of Montana. Her creative work has appeared in “The Greensboro Review,” “jubilat,” “Mid-American Review,” “Five
Fingers Review,” “P-Queue,” and “Sentence,” among other journals. Her manuscript “Levering Light” was named finalist in the 2009 May Swenson
first book award. Scholarly articles on the work of Robert Duncan and George Oppen are forthcoming.

Brian Teare- The recipient of Stegner, National Endowment for the Arts, and MacDowell Colony poetry fellowships, Brian Teare is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Sight Map and the forthcoming Pleasure. He’s also published three chapbooks, including Transcendental Grammar Crown and [ up arrow ], which won the 2009 Pavement Saw Press Chapbook Award. His poetry and criticism have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, HOW2, Ploughshares, St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter, Verse and VOLT, as well as in the anthologies Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century and At the Barriers: The Poetry of Thom Gunn. He lives in San Francisco, where he teaches and makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.

As locations become confirmed for the Robert Duncan Symposium, they will be added to the schedule list.  Final locations are HIGHLIGHTED IN RED.

Directions (to be added as locations are confirmed):
Columbus Auditorium, SAIC– Entrance behind the Art Institute of Chicago on Columbus Drive, corner of Jackson.
Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection-37 S. Wabash Ave, 5th Floor (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

“The Truth and Life of Myth”
A Robert Duncan Symposium

april 22-24, 2010 : Chicago

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Presentations are to be formatted in a creative manner, encouraging openness in hopes of preventing a strictly academic tone.  Questions and conversation are encouraged.

Participants
Keynote speakers
Nathaniel Mackey
Michael Palmer

Presenters
Faith Barrett
Stephen Collis
Joseph Donahue
Amy Evans
Norman Finkelstein
Stephen Fredman
Karl Gartung
Siobhan Scarry
Margaret Sloan
Brian Teare

Schedule

Thursday, April 22

Evening performance
Duncan play. Medea at Kolchis.
Directed by John Beer.

Venue to be determined.
Players to be determined.

Friday, April 23
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Morning panel.
Columbus Auditorium
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
280 S. Columbus Drive

Presenters: Stephen Collis; Stephen Fredman; Siobhán Scarry.

Lunch 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon panel.
Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection
5th Floor, 37 S. Wabash Ave.

Presenters: Joseph Donahue; Amy Evans; Norman Finkelstein

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Columbus Auditorium
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
280 S. Columbus Drive

Nathaniel Mackey, reading.
Michael Palmer, Keynote Address:
“Robert Duncan and the Invention of Childhood.”

8:00 p.m.
Group poetry reading w/food.
Green Lantern Gallery
1511 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd floor.
{Green Lantern is above the Singer Sewing Machine shop; the doorbell doesn’t work but
the door will be open.}

Stephen Collis
Joseph Donahue
Siobhán Scarry
Brian Teare

Saturday, April 24
All events held in the Columbus Auditorium, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
Afternoon panel.
Presenters: Margaret Sloan; Brian Teare; Faith Barrett & Karl Gartung.

2:30 – 4:30
Michael Palmer, reading.
Nathaniel Mackey,
in conversation with Joseph Donahue and Peter O’Leary

**Presentation descriptions, final venue locations, and schedules will be posted as determined.