Thursday, January 16, 2014

Meta/discourse syllabus

Visual Poetics
Thom Donovan
wildhorsesoffire [at] gmail [dot] com

Course Description

In this class I would like to foreground poetic writing as a social phenomena, especially with regards to technological trends (from cinema to sampling techniques to social media) and with regards to questions of how art is conditioned by the event of community, friendship, and encounter. In the first weeks of the class we will take up a few theoretical and non-literary texts that will help us ground what I am calling “metadiscourse,” by which I mean any mode of communication (aesthetic or otherwise) concerned with examining its own reason for being. We will look at a series of poems from the 1930s until the present, which incorporate correspondence (epistolary) and other forms of direct communication with an addressee/interlocutor. We will also spend some time thinking about recent poetries that have laid bare their own discursive frameworks through the use of the space of the page, typography and other design elements, and through the provision of certain paratexts, by which I mean texts supplementary to the primary content of a particular work (bibliography, index, footnotes/endnotes, etc.). Whether it be rap, or Internet poetry, or poetry that draws upon social networks and community participation for its content, I am primarily interested in examining the ramifications of how writers make visible their apparatus, whether that be the page, screen, online platform, or physical (‘real life’) milieu. How does this ‘making visible’ produce authenticity—a feeling that something is being immediately communicated—through what would seem a paradoxical means: the artful display of a work’s technical mediation? To what extent is metadiscourse ethical inasmuch as it prioritizes forms of intimacy, friendship, and relationships that sustain and nourish community? Can we also consider a politics of metadiscourse, if only a micropolitics—a politics practiced on the scale of localized, particular relationships among individuals and groups?

Required Texts

The Yale Anthology of Rap (ed. Bradley and DuBois)
Etel Adnan’s Of Cities & Women (Letters to Fawwaz) 
Douglas Kearney’s The Black Automaton 
Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too 
Dana Ward’s The Crisis of Infinite Worlds 
Stephanie Young’s Ursula or University 


January 16th    Introduction

--What is metadiscourse? Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera with Chris Marker’s The Last Bolshevik and Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer (excerpts)

Readings: M.M. Bakhtin’s “The Problems of Speech Genres” and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Quotation and Originality” (

Janaury 23rd   What is Metadiscourse? cont’d

Readings: Kristin Ross’s The Emergence of Social Space (excerpts) and Arthur Rimbaud poems (TBA)

January 30th     Language and the Creation of Social Space (I)

Readings: Excerpts from Louis Zukosfky’s “A”, William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, and Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems, Langston Hughson’s “Theme for English B,” and selections from Frank O’Hara’s work (TBA)

The Letters of Emily Dickinson (ed. Johnson)
Viktor Shklovsky’s Third Factory
Viktor Shklovsky’s Zoo, or Letters Not About Love
Jack Spicer's "After Lorca" from The Collected Books of Jack Spicer
Ted Berrigan’s Dear Sandy, Hello
Arakawa & Gins’ Making Dying Illegal
Bernadette Mayer’s The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters
Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy
Charles Bernstein’s “Dear Mr. Fanelli” (from All the Whiskey in Heaven)
Eileen Myles’ “An American Poem” (from Not Me)
Dodie Bellamy’s The Letters of Mina Harker
Julia Bloch’s Letters to Kelly Clarkson
Dana Ward’s “Between Here & There” (from This Can’t Be Life)
Karen Weiser's Dear Pierre
Esther Lee’s The Blank Missives (
Joseph Mosconi’s Tender Comrade

February 6th    Composition Through Epistolary (I)

Readings: Susan Howe’s “Eikon Basilike: a Bibliography of the King’s Book” with Rachel Tzivia Back’s Led by Language (excerpt)

February 13th  “Small trespas to misprison”: Mis/quotation and Meta/discourse

Readings: Tyrone Williams’ “I am not proud to be black”

February 20th  Citationality and Social Space

Readings: The Yale Anthology of Rap and Rap Genius (

Tricia Rose’s Black Noise
Jospeh G. Schloss’ Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
Adam Krims’ Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity
Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (
Josh Kun’s Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America

February 27th  Rap as Metadiscourse

Readings: Douglas Kearney’s The Black Automaton and Dan Thomas-Glass’ The Great American Beat Jack

T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”
John Taggart’s Loop
Tan Lin’s “Disco as Operating System” (
Rodrigo Toscano’s “Transitions of Capitalist Hyperspace (shake your booty) [part 5 of 5]” (
Latasha N. Nevada Diggs’ TwERK
Judith Goldman’s l.b.; or, catenaries
Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts: the Remix
Dana Ward’s “Poppy” (
Paolo Javier’s 60 lv bo(e)mbs

March 6th        SPRING BREAK

March 13th      DJ Poetics

(visit from Jamie Kelly)

Readings: Etel Adnan’s Of Cities & Women (Letters to Fawwaz)

Etel Adnan’s To Look At The Sea Is To Become What One Is: an Etel Adnan Reader
Ammiel Alcalay’s After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture
Jalal Toufic’s Vampires (2nd ed.)

March 20th      Composition Through Epistolary (II)

Readings: Jack Frost’s The Antidote, “Poetry During OWS” feature at Rethinking Marxism (, and other Occupy materials TBA

March 27th      Language and the Creation of Social Space (II)

(visit from David Buuck)

Readings: Dana Ward’s The Crisis of Infinite Worlds

Jack Spicer’s The Collected Books of Jack Spicer
Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke With You”
Bruce Boone’s Century of Clouds
Robert Gluck’s Elements
Eileen Myles’ The Importance of Being Iceland
Tyrone Williams’ Pink Tie
Fred Moten’s B Jenkins
CA Conrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon
Julian T. Brolaski’s Gowanus Atropolis
Brandon Brown’s The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus
David Wolach’s Hospitalogy

April 3rd          Poetics of Friendship

Readings: Excerpts from Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social (

April 10th        Network Poetics (I)

Readings: Tan Lin’s HEATH (

Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius: Poetry By Other Means in the New Century
Tan Lin’s Tumblr site (
Craig Dworkin’s No Medium
Brian Reed’s Nobody’s Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics
Christopher Alexander’s Panda and interview with Kristen Gallagher (
Cory Arcangel’s “A couple of thousand short films about Glenn Gould” ( and website (
Danny Snelson’s Heath, prelude to tracing the actor as network (
Rhizome (
Dexter Sinister’s Dot Dot Dot and Bulletins of the Serving Library (

April 17th        Network Poetics (II)

Readings: Stephanie Young’s Ursula or University

Samuel R. Delaney’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue
Suzanne Lacy’s Leaving Art
Tom Finkelperl’s What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation
Juliana Spahr’s The Transformation
Life as Form (ed. Nato Thompson)
Renee Gladman’s Newcomer Can’t Swim
A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area (ed. Rosenthal)
Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (ed. Peterson and Tolbert)
Thom Donovan’s The Hole

April 24th        Writing as Community Practice

Readings: Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too

Andy Warhol’s A: a Novel
Ray Johnson’s Correspondence School
Hannah Weiner’s Clairvoyant Journals (in draft form:
Ed Friedman’s Telephone Book
Kevin Killian’s Amazon reviews
Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick
Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the Aunt
Rob Fitterman Now We Are Friends (
Flarf Collective (
Anselm Berrigan's & Jonathan Allen's Loading
Kristen Gallagher's We Are Here (
Anne Boyer’s “The Day Steve Jobs Died”
Sue Landers’ What I Was Tweeting While You Were on Facebook
Joseph Bradshaw’s “Of Being Numerous” and “The New York School” (
Jackqueline Frost’s The Soft Appeal
Kate Durbin's "Tumblr is the only place I don't pretend I'm okay" (
Trisha Low’s The Compleat Purge

May 1st           Poetry after Social Media

            (Final work due)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Woolsey Heights reading at A Voice Box

Here is a reading I gave this past spring at Woolsey Heights in Berkeley, recorded and mixed by Andrew Kenower and posted to his website, A Voice Box.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Sorry not to write you back sooner...

Sorry not to write you back sooner
I have been a bit spaced-out
I saw a picture of you and Marianne on FB recently—
You look great together!
Ugh, not looking forward to breaking this news to a triple Scorpio
At the castle now it is weird to have time to do anything I want
Sort of freaks me out, though I guess I should enjoy it

How is everyone? Are we still feeling this?
Just wanted to make sure I didn't lose track of you
I have been in Europe and not in New York
Lovely picture of the girls
Let's take a walk when I get back... long overdue! 
Glad you are finding a little time to relax with Mel,
And hopefully some poetry

This looks great!
I can't believe my time is already up at the castle
I think this will definitely up the ante...
I hope the holidays have been grand in Greece!
Things were pretty quiet here.
A bunch of us cooked followed by karaoke.
I can't remember the last time I karaoked.

We will Skype
Just in case you were wondering what you missed while you were
Away from the castle... 
I was using the site in English and also using Google
Maps with the address you gave
Me, so I really don't know what
I could have been doing wrong

It is a missed opportunity for sure
Send word from the motherland when you can...
I hope you guys won't hate me
I have been completely out-to-lunch
Holed up in the castle. Take a bus? A cab?
I'm looking forward to seeing you
And to having a little adventure...

Late to rise this dreariest of mornings...
Great moves on the dance floor last night!
I would happily attempt to produce my famous chowder
If everyone contributes a bottle of wine and a dessert
Fruit and a flight of cheeses for hors d'oeuvres
And maybe a single malt for aperitif
I will bring the hip-hop mix...

However quahogs may be difficult to come by 
Sorry for being 'complicated'!
Just wanted to check in about plans to visit
I'm sorry for my ambivalence; I bend too easily sometimes
I thought I would wake up and regret what I wrote
In fact, I woke up feeling less angry
But still a little angry at what he wrote

Today's a day I have been putting off for awhile
Wishing it was colder and snowier here
Not the weather I was expecting
Really could use an ocean right now
A forest just isn’t the same
Last night I wrote a poem about seeing The Hunger Games
In German… how that felt.

I just took a big fat shit
I hope this is OK
Typical manager...
Sometimes I feel that if I never hear another word
In German it will be too soon
I tend to agree with you
That we shouldn't let these works go so easily

I want to respect her input.
I am going to follow your lead,
which is basically what I just did in an email
I am a little frustrated that we cannot talk
At this point all I can do is point to the fact
That I feel totally in the dark
All I can do not to lose my temper 

I'm sorry, my brain is warped
I am, in a word, cranky
Will write you a real letter soon
Just had to withdraw from all communication
You will have to tell me about it in person
Regardless, the book will be grand!
Is there something I missed? In understanding,

Got momentarily swallowed up by the castle!
I think this would be a better way to proceed
Everything is very murky right now 
Maybe subtlizing 
I feel really out of the loop
It is totally abstract to me
I just tried calling but your mailbox is full 

I'm very sorry I couldn't visit
A missed opportunity!
I would like to donate
I am in the castle, yes!
Listening to Chopin's Nocturnes and drinking coffee
While I try to write this poem
Which I don't like writing

I started sharing some of these on Facebook
Working through the complicated feelings
I'm attaching that, in case you are interested
I wrote it in like two hours
I also really love the forest
Where I have been jogging
God, every track is so good!

Thinking of you guys from afar
Gosh, I hope it is not too soon to send you this
Since you expressed a curiosity in how I might start
I feel compelled to share
I hope I have not wrongfully depicted you!
I have some notes for how it might continue and expand
I'm home for the evening and will have Skype

Quasi-slavery and male pregnancy—perfect combo!
I had forgotten that he connects us
Very rare in my current life
I can't believe that much time has passed
I also would love to read more
If there is any you'd be willing to to share
The reading you gave at the Poetry Project was extraordinarily moving! 

I have a lot to say,
But am holding my tongue
That a place be reserved for them
As a kind of placeholder
If only their names suspended over a blank page
Here is the initial letter
Hope all is going well with life

I'm quite happy to not be working
I wanted to run an idea past you
Which I hope you will feel
Especially around ideas of "friendship" and "community,"
To play with the idea of how the book emerges
What I would like to do is invite nearly everyone
I've always wanted to collaborate on something

I miss our conversation!
Never mind that last email
Uploading to Facebook
It was super depressing the last time I popped in there
Very few books on the shelf
I actually don't know a word of German
(imagine a lot of pointing and apologizing)

Good to talk about vintage clothing, I Love Dick, teaching, and other
Subjects tonight... I hope you are surviving the endless party!
I let a few things go to waste
I also really would prefer apples, pears, grapes, and bananas
I hope I am not being too picky!
If there is any way to also get something leafy, like some spinach or lettuce, I would really 
Appreciate that

I hope I am not making too many demands on you!
Thank you for your many efforts.