50s in Orono-the Reviews

50s in Orono: the Reviews

>Date: Sun, 23 June 1996
>From: Loss Pequeño Glazier (lolpoet@acsu.Buffalo.EDU)
>Subject: 50s in Orono - the Reviews

H  O  W  L  A  N  D
I saw the best minds of my generation, deployed by mini-vans,
        coffeeless, hysterical, rained on,
dragging themselves through the forested lanes at all hours looking for
        101 Neville,
angelheaded readers burning for the fifties heavenly connection
        to the dripping dynamo in the machinery of print,
who lost meal tickets and many-panelled and saying hi sat up smoking
        in the supernatural darkness of cold watery dorms floating
        across the tropes of trees contemplating Sagetrieb,
who bared their brains to slideshows in the Aud and saw
        Mohammedan angels staggering in NPF hallways
who passed through the university with radiant lobster eyes hallucinating
        Poetics and Blake-light ecstasy among the scholars of 
        Tolson, Niedecker, O'Hara, & endles bunches o' guys,
who were expelled from their own academies for crazy & publishing
        articles where certain words had equal signs between their letters,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in long underwear, burning their money
        on meal tickets and listening to the slams of doors thru the wall,
who got busted for genderism returning through Laredo
        with a belt of hubris for New York,
who ate danish in academic corridors or drank turpentine coffee in Hilltop,
        behind schedule, or purgatoried reading abstracts into night,
with dreams, with speeches, with waking nightmare references to rhyme and
        meter and peter and endless halls, packs, and simpsons,
INCOMPARABLE great streets of shuddering words and lightning wit in the
        mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson & Liberia,
        illuminating all the motionless world of the Web between,
Listserv soliloquies of halls, backyard green tree campus dawns, staggering
        bleary-eyed for bone dawn rituals of eggs and toast ...
COMING to a listerv near you.

>Date: Sun, 23 June 1996
>From: Chris Stroffolino (LS0796@CNSVAX.ALBANY.EDU)
>Subject: some questions from orono (tentative toe testing)

Though I can not offer a full report of even the fraction of the
official activity I witnessed and to some extent participated in
at the 50's poetry conference, I want to try to make sense here of
some of my impressions. In the first place, it was absolutely great
to meet y'all in person as it were. Unofficial events were really
fun. Fie on the rumours that academics are dry personalities!
(I'll elaborate on this later). As for content of the panels,
some of the issues that are "hottest" and most volatile in my
mind at present would include the RACE question. Aldon Nielsen
chaired a very good panel on Stephen Jonas, Russell Adkins (atkins?)
and Melvin Tolson. Very informative and provoking. It seemed the most
sensitive issues surrounding "race" however were tied in with
discussions on Frank O'Hara. Nick Lawrence (who i didn't see) and
Katherine M. Davis, Steve Evans and Ben Friedlander all dealt extensively
with the race politics involved in O'Hara's work. Though I do not
want to generalize about these three papers---which took different
positions on race and theorized O'hara's position to race quite
differently--after the smoke of intensity cleared I found myself
asking about the relation of the EROTIC to the question of RACE
POLITICS. In fact, the relation of the erotic to POLITICS in its
"broader" concerns became a large question that seemed to loom over
the conference as a whole and for the most part seemed to be answered
or theorized unsatisfactorily for me. Of the papers and speeches I saw,
with the notable exception of Rachel Blau Duplessis's excellant talk
about the sexual politics that informed Olson, Creeley and others,
most of the papers seemed to invert the old "THE PERSONAL IS THE
POLITICAL" battle cry. Perhaps invert is the wrong word. By "invert"
I mean that the personal address in the lyric poems of O'Hara and
Creeley etc was often read as a thinly veiled allegory of the artist's
struggle with the repressive climate of the 50's (Michael Davidson
here, but others). Thus THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL, but it's not POLITICAL
as PERSONAL. In such formulations, the "personal" becomes marginalized
and is "revealed" to be an introjection of the "political." Basically,
there is no "personal" in such a formulation. The RELATIONAL sphere--
"the only reality is face to face" (or body to body, etc.), and the
erotic sphere can only PROPERLY be called POLITICAL if read in terms
of "larger" sputnitbeatnickcivilrightsafricanliberationidentitypolitics
(etc.) Perhaps this is the NATURE of a conference that is based around
an HISTORICAL ERA. I do not mean to absolutely INVALIDATE such modes
of thought. I was very provoked by these papers, but to open up a
question of race, specifically on O'hara, again (echoing a discussion
Aldon and I had a few months ago), I have a hard time seeing the
value in GLOBALIZING or generalizing from such erotic fantasies of
race relations (or racial fantasies of erotic relations) especially
when the questions of SEXUAL POLITICS (whether hetero or homo) seem
to be not touched on at all. The question of the politics of eros
too easily gets obscured. Furthermore, I sensed at times, a kind of
moralism (whether by apologists for O'hara's views on race as progressive
for his time or by more critical stances towards such views) that
marginalizes the specifically amoral (extra-moral qualities) that
O'hara's poetry so blatantly announces itself as (the thing about
the "tight pants" as a kind of Shellyean INTELLECTUAL BEAUTY or
Stevensian "jar"). What does moralizing a blatantly amoral poet
do? (such questions are not specific to O'hara--nor is O'hara ALWAYS
amoral--just USUALLY). What assumptions inform an academic urge
to "EXPOSE" one's sexual preference--one's "object choices."
I am genuinely curious here. Also worried about what I see is POSSIBLY
an academic urge for REVENGE against, er, "poetic license"--the "freedom
of the poet" etc--Revenge through creating a climate of critique that
if taken TOO SERIOUSLY by poets (realizing that "theory" does not
always "follow" "practice"--and that certain poets write a certain
way BECAUSE of the theoretical climate, and the "war" between "poetry"
and "theory" which I believe is still "not over") can become a TABOO
as if one shouldn't write about sex or love AT ALL anymore except in
the most goody-goody of ways and not dare saying anything that might
be perceived as racist or sexist etc. What IS racist, or sexist? The
fact that less than 1% of the people who gave papers at ORONO were black
(african-american) may have been the MOST RACIST thing about the
conference--at least as racist as the mostly DEAD POETS being discussed
(we can't change the past, but we CAN change the present). When we're
dealing with the subtlety of O'hara can a white person really determine
what is racist? Or what IS the point? The Gender question, however,
is different---1) because there were more women at the conference (though
still far less than men) and 2) because the poets of the 50's--again
as DuPlessis shows--or at least many of the male poets of that period--
did not seem to problematize gender very much at all----in fact, a poem
that was read from the Rothenberg Joris anotholgy became a hot site
of contention among many women in a conversation I witnessed. It was
a poem that it seemd was picked for its "humour" value--but the assumptions
that poem seemed to make about "little ladies" did not seem to be
questioned AT ALL. Yet, why do I consder the feminist critiques to be
more valuable than the race-based ones? Perhaps because WOMEN made
the former while WHITES made the latter. Well, surely that would never
hold up in an academic court. But, as the court jester, let me throw
it out and hope it will be taken seriously. Also, becase the feminist
critique PERSONALIZES the political in a way the racial critique doesn't.
In terms of O'hara (the poet for wom the strongest racial critiques
seemed to be made), I think as much can be learned (if academically
analyze we must!) from contextually race in terms of sexual politics.
Because he was gay, the feminist strategy of the MALE DOUBLE STANDARD
in terms of objectfying woman can not be levied as much. But how does
QUEER THEORY deal with a man objectifying another man? An open question...
And what ever happened to the "separate spheres"? I.e.--in one's
"political" poems, a very different attitude may present itself than
in one's "amoral, sexual" poems. Why does such an attitude seem so
discredited. I was talking to Paul Naylor about this seemingly MARKET
demand for "theoretical consistency" and its discontents. I thought
that Robert Von Hallberg actually made an interesting gesture in this
respect that can actually be quite revolutionary. He did a reading of
ROBERT HAYDEN'S "aspiration to universality." And read some poems by
Hayden that can be seen as, if not ENTIRELY ahistorical, at least not
entirely race based (though I would argue that even "those winter
sundays" is CLASS based. Yet, he also read some poems by HAYDEN that
were quite specifically UN-UNIVERSAL. Showing that hayden spoke from,
as, different "subject positions." The idea that a poet can speak
as a "human" at one time, speak as a "BLACK man" another time and
as a black MAN" another time--to name just three overlapping ones.
It seems each poem demands a different way of reading it. Of course,
I'm just fostering my own agenda that privileges poetry over theory
as such. ----
This has gone on way too long (joe amato-esque), and barely scratched
the surface--but I hope some of these questions will be taken seriously.
(even if you gotta ASSASINATE ME BORROWED ORCHARDS). I also have notes
about Perelman's and Altieri's (to my mind) somewhat parrellel attempts
to question the cult of the avant-garde hip-straight division by arguing
that Rich and Plath respectively need to be taken at least as seriously
as Olson and Creeley and O'Hara. That's part of how I read their papers
anyway......(chris stroffolino)

>Date: Mon, 24 June 1996
>From: henry gould (AP201070@BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU)
>Subject: Re: some questions from orono (tentative toe testing)

>>On Sun, 23 Jun 1996 22:59:42 -0400 Chris Stroffolino said:
>>Also worried about what I see is POSSIBLY
>> an academic urge for REVENGE against, er, "poetic license"--the "freedom
>> of the poet" etc--Revenge through creating a climate of critique that
>> if taken TOO SERIOUSLY by poets (realizing that "theory" does not
>> always "follow" "practice"--and that certain poets write a certain
>> way BECAUSE of the theoretical climate, and the "war" between "poetry"
>> and "theory" which I believe is still "not over") can become a TABOO
>> as if one shouldn't write about sex or love AT ALL anymore except in
>> the most goody-goody of ways and not dare saying anything that might
>> be perceived as racist or sexist etc.

This reminds me of something someone mentioned to me at another conference (the Hoboken Russ-Amer conference). Elena Shvarts (loosely translated for me by Tom Epstein) was saying she was interested in the concept of scandal as the motive force of change in life. Her example was a very traditional authoritative one : Jesus (the Master) washing the feet of his students. People are scandalized by the immoral - but also by the threatening, the different. And the two become confused. And so we have the scandal of the scandalized (the main engine of literary canonization). Mandelstam wrote that there are 2 kinds of literature - the official and the unofficial; the first is trash - the second, stolen air. This is the 3rd level - the scandal of officialization (or scandofishingfortroublization) - Henry Gould

>Date: Tue, 25 June
>From: Burt Kimmelman (kimmelman@ADMIN.NJIT.EDU)
>Subject: orono thanks

It occurs to me to mention (at the risk of stating the obvious, perhaps) that the overwhelmingly positive responses to the Orono conference being posted here should also be duplicated in hard copy, with letter-head when possible, and sent to Burt Hatlen and Sylvester Pollet so they have a record for when they need to explain themselves to their administration, grant funding agencies, etc.

Now, let me also take this opportunity to say electronically that the conference for me (unfortunately I did not get there till friday afternoon) was utterly thrilling and nurturing. I found the quality of the work presented to be at the highest level all around, and getting to meet so many people in the flesh was fantastic. Overall--and here I must say that this seems typical of NPF--it is a real feat to be able to have a conference that is warm and generally on a human scale and yet that is criticaly rigorous. I only feel bad that I missed so very many things that I wanted so much to catch, and that I did NOT get to meet some of us on this list. But then, this is an embarrassment of riches, and ultimately to be hoped for.

Burt Kimmelman

>Date: Mon, 24 June 1996
>From: David Kellogg (kellogg@ACPUB.DUKE.EDU)
>Subject: my hero barry watten

You know it's time to change your .sig when someone you've only met over email quotes it EXACTLY the first time he meets you. Well Chris Strofollino was furrier than I thought, and the drinking was fine. Some excellent papers, but some, including my own, indifferent or underthought. Thank God nobody was there, the spouse of the other presented taking furious notes. But the papers were not the point. The intellectual and other conversation that surrounded them will sustain me for many weeks, perhaps months. Hence my title. I wasn't at his talk so I can't comment directly but the tone of the reponse by those who were offended seemed astonishingly narrow. Thanks to George H. for his post. OKAY, well the thing about the conference was Barrett Watten was always and everywhere "on," ready to talk, and that's why he's my model for intellectual engagement. It's not pro wrestling; it's the news. We'll see how long that lasts. High point for me: Rachel Blau DuPlessis's excellent talk, which I will abstract when I have more time. Also Bob Perelman's revealing summary of Louis Martz's talk in conversation, which made me doubly glad I didn't go. And meeting all of you, each of whom I adore.

Negative effect of the conference being sleep depletion, which I mean now to correct. More elaborations later.

Cheers, David

>Date: Tue, 25 June 1996
>Subject: Oronomics

Just thought I'd chime in on the Orono conference, which was, for me, the best academic conference I've attended. Most conferences make me think seriously about returning to my career in auto part sales -- they typically seem to be more about networking than connecting. Orono struck me as more about the latter than the former: connections between generations (at least three, maybe four, says Keith Tuma) and traditions (connecting not via some essence but, as Wittgenstein would say, via family resemblances), between ways of writing and reading and disseminating, etc. Since I don't live in or near a poetry hotbed like Buffalo or San Francisco or Washington D.C., experiencing some of those connections was as nourishing as it was exhausting.

My only suggestion is that next time we sell official conference underwear with the names of the non-plenarians emblazoned thereon.

Paul Naylor

>Date: Tue, 25 1996
>From: Hank Lazer (HLAZER@AS.UA.EDU)
>Organization: The University of Alabama
>Subject: Re: Oronomainia

I second Paul Naylor's sense of the conference. I too found it to be one of the best I've ever attended. Extremely high quality papers being read. Listening to Sharon Thesen's paper on the Olson-Boldereff correspondence, I sat there certain that I was hearing about research that would fundamentally alter the way we read Olson's early work, especially the development of the Maximus poems. A brilliant paper. As one plenary speaker (one of the T-shirted Elect) remarked to me, the session papers were usually much better than the plenary addresses.

For me, Ted Enslin's reading was extraordinary. I have lots to learn from Ted's intricate musicality--a beautiful continuity of Zukfosky's micro-musics and the current work of John Taggart. Many many other gems at the conference--any naming will be incomplete, idiosyncratic, etc. I too was moved to see that a number of younger poet/critics have dedicated themselves to working with some older folks to keep the writing alive, edited, in print--for me, most movingly, Joel Kuszai's work with Mac Low's archives (of the 1940s and 1950s) and Mark Nowak's work with Ted Enslin's poetry. Mark is editing Ted's poems for a _Selected Poems_ from the National POetry Foundation. (There are over 1800 pages of Ted's poems in print, not counting his long works....)

Like Paul Naylor, I live in the hinterlands, so the learning at events sustains me for many months. It also felt like Poetry Camp. Breakfast at 7AM; last session or reading usually ending around 11:30, followed by the cash bar. Long days. So many high quality talks it was impossible to be at all of them, even if one chose to panel-hop to Lynn Keller on Guest, Joan Retallack on Mac Low, Ben Friedlander on O'Hara, Aldon on Russell Atkins, Mark Scroggins on Jonas, Maria Damon on Kaufman, Lorenzo Thomas on Tolson (surely one of us can be effective in bringing Tolson's work back into print!), and on and on. I certainly reached times when I could no longer follow sentences, so went for a walk or took a nap. Ah, the dorm rooms: the ceiling of mine adorned with glowing planets and stars and comets.

In the aftermath of the Friday night group reading, a big snapshot of writing now, I find myself mulling over the place, nature, and preponderance of humor & satire in current poetry.

And the cold weather, the rain, the fog.... Now back in muggy Tuscaloosa, heat index over 100, written interrogatories to do for a pending lawsuit, lots of office correspondence, and a lobster-fueled desire to read, read, write, read, write.

Oh yes, one interesting materialistic note: chief sponsor of the event? Stephen King. I sure hope Loss's photo of King & Dorn turns out....

Lots more to add, so, others, please do....

Hank Lazer

>Date: Tue, 25 1996
>From: Kevin Killian (dbkk@SIRIUS.COM)
>Subject: Fashion Report, dateline Orono

This is Kevin Killian speaking. I know I was assigned to write the fashion news of the Orono Conference, and Dodie Bellamy was going to assist, but I'm sorry, Loss . . . there's too little to report. This was not the event to send the designers of Milan and New York scurrying for another profession. Everybody looked okay, but the weather was too hot, then too cold, so what could we do? It was so cold I saw all these people formerly with good sense descend on the Student Union and buy these terrible oversized sweatshirts and sweat pants, etc., then they wore them in public, and I couldn't blame them.

The only person who kept a style throughout was the mysterious Starr Black, who kept appearing in one variation after another of an essentialist Starr Blackness. Even if you didn't know her name, you know exactly who I'm talking about and the kind of Ralph Lauren meets Alexandra Neel outfits she wore. Those green mossy skirts and heather Fair Isle sweaters and the pins and cameras. As far as I'm concerned she was the fashion triumph of the week.

Runners-up: Roger Conover, resplendent in emerald green, his fringe of hair tied back a la Hal Robins from the Church of the Sub Genius; Nick Lawrence, dapper as a villain in an Edith Wharton novel; Sharon Thesen, who arrived in the middle of the night in a slinky cocktail number from Vicky Tiel.

Here's Mr. Blackwell's final category: The Fabulous Fashion Independents. This prize we award to two unidentified men seen one night at the dorm cash bar extravaganza animated in complementary patchwork madras-plaid jackets. Does anyone out there know *where* these jackets are popular or indeed manufactured? I want one! E.T. call home! Speaking of origin, does anybody know why those ethno-poetic guys all carry the same hippy bags? Jerome Rothenberg, you're on this list, did those bags come with a gamelan inside?

Fashion disaster? No question about it: the official conference T shirt which, I see, has already been alluded to several times in previous posts. On the front it says, you know, "National Poetry Foundation/conference/American Poetry of the 1950s/June 19-23, 1996/Orono Maine" and on the back it has a list of the twenty or so soi-disant "plenary speakers"-no, not a list, a constellation, for each name mounts or falls on its separate diagonal, all in this revoltingly un-designed plain serif typeface, italics galore. From the moment I saw those T-shirts neatly stacked on a long deal table, all folded in a variety of Maine colors-Martha Stewart colors-I knew I had to have one. When you see it you will rub your eyes thinking, "It had to happen!" Clever Bruce Campbell was spotted wearing a T-shirt from a previous conference, must have been on Pound, that said "Make It New" tempered with a line of bold Chinese ideograms.

More later on more "heady" topics.

>Date: Mon, 24 June 1996
>Subject: Colloboration POEM

Colloboration POEM composed on BUS 210 en route to the Heaths of Cadillac Mountain ("methinks the ground is flat"---KING LEAR) by, I think, every bus member and read by Nathalie and Michael Basinski--

       anthem for doomed youth like a truck stop siren
       but she bought four burps and a bitch
       so they decided simply to shut up and do it
       oh, the flight of the candor
           pass water
       I have boring bees she sd.
       and then came up from seeds
       prune the main roads into wet curls
       please don't sit on the waterbed of roses
       Sometimes I look up and smile for a satellite photo
       from the spiky (+++++++ untranslatable) of peg's toil
       to the lathe booo mooose, buffy, now stuck in the zoo
       green hat blue noise.
              What whiteness like this whiteness,
              what candor?
       Bar harbor. Bah humbug!
       Every toenail throbs like a sparkler.
       Poems aren't found they are MADE
       The first point is the nation from which the demon(?) dawn
       may be seen the hive that is a mummy's mask
       but only when viewed by a mummy
       what thou lovest well in Maine?
       lordly women to heaven overgiven
       "I'll trade you a winter for two summers"
       until the wall waits to window childlike
       I myself am smell/well/fell/dell/George
       spilling its ashes(?) of jam at the MLA convention
       (ALMS) and, with a scream, collecting coke bottles,
       the armless cowboy ignites a marshmellow and mosies away
       "old people should be forced to watch"
       But what?
       ------------------------------(i don't know all the authors names)

>Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 22:04:33 -0700
>From: Aldon L. Nielsen (anielsen@email.SJSU.EDU)
>Subject: Re: blame it on the lossa nova

The Day Louis Simpson Died

It is 12:20 in Orono a Saturday
three days after Burt's greeting, yes
it is 1996 and I go get a lobster
because I will get off bus 320 in Bar Harbor
at 5:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people I will feed with

I walk up the muggy street beginning to rain
and have a hamburger and a malted (Loss ate my lobster) and buy
an ugly FORMALIST to see what the "poets"
in "America" are doing these days
I go back to the bunk
and Ms. Perloff (first name Marjorie I once heard)
is so bored by the speaker that she doesn't even look up for once in her life
and in NEVILLE I go to a little session
featuring Maria with a diatribe by von Hallbeg although I do
think of "_____:____," trans. Joan Retallack or
Enslin's new sequence or "Moonscapes" or "The Edge of Time"
of Foster, but I don't, I stick with Maria
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Loss I just stroll into Boardman
Hall and ask for "AD VALOREM CAGLI" and
then I go back where I came from to 402 Neville
and the student at the book table and
casually ask for _Niedecker: Woman and Poet_ and a copy
of Ronald Johnson's _Ark_, and a hurt book with his face on it

and I am sweating a lot now and thinking of
leaning on the john door on the first floor
while he recited endlessly from inside a stall
to the long-suffering Hank Lazer and everyone and I stopped breathing

>Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 23:48:55 +0100
>From: Kevin Killian (dbkk@SIRIUS.COM )
>Subject: General Report, dateline: Orono

This is Kevin Killian speaking. Hope my previous fashion report didn't scare anyone off, but why else have there been so few reports from the Orono Conference? Anyhow, I thought of some more things to say.

I wasn't spending all my time gazing rapturously at the scenery. I actually did get to some panels, believe it or not. The most exciting one was the panel on Frank O'Hara, in which this fellow from Penn, whose name I did not write down, but who was very smart, spoke about O'Hara and Larry Rivers and one being the ventriloquist for the other and how 6 weeks in 1959 were quite jam packed ones for O'Hara, and either the best time of his life, or merely quite typical for any six weeks in his life. This talk made me get into the idea of trying to figure out which six weeks of my own life future critics will think was the most exciting, and I came to the conclusion that they hadn't occurred yet. Then Ben Friedlander spoke about O'Hara and the "race question," followed closely by Steven Evans on the same topic-they built up the panel, moment by moment, into this tremendously thrilling event like a horse race of ideas. Ben Friedlander can write up a storm. Every sentence he spoke was like a poem. Listening him speak I had the same feelings of awe with which I imagine Oscar Wilde would regard Lord Alfred Douglas in their early days of first knowing each other. I had simply never thought of O'Hara's work in this light and now I am convinced. It was a stunning moment.

Dodie went to the panel where Joan Retallack rehearsed Jackson Mac Low's "Virginia Woolf Poems," a reading through The Waves. I was not there but heard plenty about this later and how great it was. Joel Kuszai gave a rare look at Jackson Mac Low's early career, long before Kuszai was born. Or Dodie either, practically speaking.

Amateur entertainment winners, Chris Stroffolino's barrelhouse piano with Alan Golding and Joe Donahue singing, or shrieking, Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," with Geoffrey O'Brien chirping in at the cue about "the colored girls sing." It was this terribly Frank O'Hara masquerade of values and atonality.

An Oscar to Rachel Blau Du Plessis's plenary talk about gender relations in the 1950s, esp. her daring use of John Wieners' later "Woman" as the exemplum of everything that went wrong with poetry's challenges as a result of the social stratification of the period. The room went deadly silent when she got to this part, a reaction I suppose to her daring to question the all-male cast of John Clarke's plan for the "Curriculum of the Soul." There, all of a sudden, en plein air, was this really weird fact that no one had ever, I suppose, tried to make sense of before. In this paper, Wieners came off very seedy, whereas in Michael Davidson's beautiful talk given on a previous evening, he was the culture hero I have admired for so many years.

Another plenary people were talking about was Alicia Ostriker's talk on Ginsberg and Lamentations. I saw men and women coming out the hall, heads shaking with admiration. I liked the Ann Charters talk a little, tho' I do not think she should have named it "Charles Olson/Ann Charters/Herman Melville." It just sounds silly.

The Niedecker panel I attended was very fine. Jenny Penberthy told us all about the "For Paul" poems, which she kept calling the "For Pauls," in my seat I was thinking, sounds like the Beatles. Those For Paul poems, JP kept saying, are Niedecker's worst poems and they are horrible (she said). Made me want to read them! How bad could they be? Susan Dunn's paper was good, too, tho' like most of us she bit off more than she could chew! And then Glenna Breslin spoke. Because I have been writing a biography, and because, as Chris Stroffolino noted earlier, this was kind of a personality-based conference, some of the very best papers were given by biographers, and this was one of them. Breslin went to Fort Atkinson or Blackhawk Island and tracked down this man, Aeneas McAllister, who had known Niedecker as a young handsome sensitive stud. "He was young, dark-haired, slim-hipped, with a sexy smile," said Breslin, studying a photo of Aeneas, and I don't mind saying, I just about swooned. He and his family lived next to LN in 1954 . . . she was fifty, he was 27 . . . nature took its course . . . When Breslin's biography is published Hollywood should make a film of this chapter with Jessica Lange as Lorine Niedecker, and maybe Keanu Reeves as Aeneas, except I don't know if Keanu Reeves can play the piano, because one night Aeneas was playing Beethoven on the only piano on Blackhawk Island, and Lorine came to the door at midnight, tipsy, blonde, disheveled, and said, "You play?" Maybe in 1954 these parts could have been played--hell, WERE played--by Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. Aeneas also described to Glenna Breslin the visit of Louis, Celia and Paul Zukofsky to Wisconsin and how Lorine was subdued, and Aeneas took Paul on a kayak trip and Louis & Celia came running out of the cabin and started hollering, "Paul! Your hands! Your hands!" thereby spoiling the fun of the young boy prodigy violinist. Louis: Harry Dean Stanton. Celia: Kate Nelligan. Paul: Macaulay Culkin. Anyhow it was a great talk.

I didn't go to Sharon Thesen's talk but sure heard plenty about it, for she, Thesen, is writing the life of Frances Boldereff, the mysterious woman who befriended the youngish Charles Olson and influenced, understatement, Olson's thought. And who is still alive, in Illinois or somewhere.

I did go to Barrett's talk. (For me a great thing about the conference was its reunion aspect; I mean no one enjoys meeting strangers more than I do, but I certainly enjoyed seeing my homeboys Watten, Friedlander, Perelman, etc after long separation). At first I misunderstood the comcept of "hailing." I thought Hailing, or Heyling, was some kind of contemporary of Althusser, and being "Heyl"ed was an affectionate diminutive. Now I see I was just plain dead wrong. Gee, do I feel dumb! Anyhow one woman got up from her seat and said, "There is no 'moment of incest,'" and also she thought that BW had committed a terrible wrong against all women and all conference attendees. It was very dramatic and kind of sweat-making. And this was because Barrett showed about thirty stills of the 50s model Betty Page, in provocative 50s poses, often nude or in sexy bondage outfits, meanwhile telling us with a more or less straight face that she, Page, was in charge of her destiny and in control of her own sexuality. I don't see why Page was freer from the objectifying gaze than any other photographed woman of the 1950s. She just looks like she's enjoying herself, she doesn't look terrified. So? However, the material about the elephant, the sardine can, the family photo album of televised images of Duke Ellington, and Joe McCarthy, put all this sex material into a certain context which made it all make sense, at least on a poetic level. But how else can Lacan be read, except as a great 1950s poet of the fractured thought and image?

Okay, so how about when I looked up from the cocktail party and crossing the room, seeming to head exactly in my direction, I saw Stephen King, and my heart stood still, but luckily circulation restored quickly and I got out my pen and copies of two of his books and pestered Burton Hatlen until he introduced us! I didn't want to say, "Mr King, I'm your greatest fan," because of the way Kathy Bates had made that innocent enough and very true line into some kind of evil meconnaissance of obeisance in the film of King's own book, "Misery." So I just, like, kowtowed and tried to hold my own with Steve, as I call him now. You know, one on one, I'm a novelist, you're a novelist--that kind of thing. Smooth as silk. Lucky the van driver who picked us up from the airport had hinted he might be coming to this banquet, and so, while everyone else was seeing the scenic glories of Bar Harbor, I sneaked into the local bookstore and bought these books, so I could say, "Oh, wow, I was just reading this on the plane" (a white lie if ever I spoke one--or, a premonition, since I did read them on the way home!) But I must have been a nightmare to him. There he was trying to eat his lobster and I came up, dragging Dodie, and said to Steve, "Now that you've signed my book, we're friends and here is Loss and he can take our picture all together!" Then later he was trying to hobnob with Diane and Jerome Rothenberg, and this time I dragged Peter O'Leary with me as I said, "Look, Steve, I found another book by you that you haven't autographed!" The sickly grin on his face turned white, then purple, like a cicatrix, but he obliged. Everyone else at the entire conference acted like this happened to them every day, as though daily they were always rubbing elbows with the most talented thriller writer of all time. Well, I don't think so and I'll be the first to say so.

I am sure I am leaving a lot out, but one more thing I wanted to say was, a) it was great meeting all my net pals face to face, and b) thank you to all who helped me get through the ordeal of my own paper. I couldn't really think while I was there, I was so fretful, like the White Rabbit in Alice, always feeling I was running late, and indeed I was, but everything was all right on the night, altho' who would have thought that my 7 page paper was far too long for the 20 minutes I had to cram it all in, but I think I made too many jokes to try to alleviate for all the terror my subject inspired in me, the misogyny and sexual anxiety of Jack Spicer, and the Frankenstein-like stitches that hold together his 1958 poem, "For Joe."

I'm leaving so much out. I just wanted to write some of it down before my memory takes it away from me, like a message in a bottle that might float back to California someday. I had a great time, wish you were there!

>Date: Fri, 28 Jun 1996 14:42:46 -0400
>From: Steven Howard Shoemaker (ss6r@FARADAY.CLAS.VIRGINIA.EDU)
>Subject: Orono memories / Enslin poems

Reading all this Orono reportage fills me with a mix of envy for what I've missed and nostalgia for the Orono conference of, i think, '93, on American poetry of the Thirties. That one had lots of great panels on the Objectivists, as well as many others. I cld never reproduce all the highlights but judging from recent posts the general air of conviviality, intelligence, and exhaustion was the same at both conferences. It was my very first conference, and only now, having weathered several MLAs can i appreciate how wonderful it really was, especially the lively mix of poets and critics, academics and "non-affiliated" enthusiasts etc. Hell, my father even dropped by to hear my talk and some of the readings and had a good time. And those readings *were* fantastic--Carl Rakosi, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bernstein, Barrett Watten, Joan Retallack and many others. I'm *really* sorry to have missed the current round, which brings me to Ted Enslin...

Hank Lazer's praise for Enslin's reading reminds of how stunning his performance was when I brought him and Taggart to read here at the University of Virginial in April 95'. I've long wanted to plug his work on this list, so will take this chance to mention the two wonderful sequences, "Autumnal Rime" and "Scriptural" that appeared across various issues of Talisman and First Intensity over the last year or two. Tremendous stuff, i think, and their high quality helps to clinch Enslin's status as one of the most ridiculously neglected figures in American writing. I'd also highly recommend a recent chapbook in his more conventional mode, called Songs in the Key of C. I can't lay my hands on this right at the moment but it's very handsomely done by, i think, Bloody Twins press.

Thanks and praise to Mark Nowak for undertaking the Selected.


>Date: Fri, 28 Jun 1996 22:25:05 -0500
>From: maria damon(damon001@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU)
>Subject: oh no orono

yes it's all true, the conference was fantabulous. someone mentioned the preponderance of males; yes the testosterroneous level was tres gratifying, i got more male attention than i have in a while, and some of the other chicks felt the same way (alicia tickled that the alter cockers thought she was "really on to something" with her ginsberg stuff). had fun processing "the barry thing" with many, including the watt himself, on a long bus ride in the mist, the cruel wind and the rain. jumped up and down on top of mt cadillac thinking of bruce springsteen. learish, very. loved hanging out w/ aldon, bob p, barry, michael davidson, was thrilled by lorenzo thomas's talk and embarrassed by the paucity of a presence of folks of color (yes i nailed burton on the way out and stressed the crowded room's collective enthusiasm for a reprint of tolson, thanks for the hot tip aldon), was blown away by the whaples/friedlander/evans o'hara panel. must admit when i saw the author-based program my heart sank, but after that, getting to the conference, was a steady climb to apotheosis; what a way to cap off a sabbatical. Also grooved on hanging with armand schwerner, seeing marky mark nowak again (he and hs wife carolyn are the best thing about the twin cities), snapping pix of lossy loss and his double lobsters, camping for barry's camera happy as a clothed clam, seeing rachel bdp again, and alicia, grooved totally on the jewish american panel, twas funfunfun and full of yakking folks tho i take exception to the separation of aesthetics from cultural studies that emerged...enjoyed meeting those panelists too, maeera and steve fredman and eric salinger...got a lot of needlepointing done. enjoyed also the groovicious company of ronna johnson my roommate, kerouac scholar and womens studies heavy, lily phillips, kathy crown, charlie "squeaky" altieri, ADORED joan retallack's reading and her paper on mac low, asking the pedagogically useful q "what do we do with an indeterminate text?" so basic, but so reassuring to students (and me) that it is, after all, a legitimate question. am profoundly gratified by marjorie perloff's apparent leftening up --stanford's influence? that pernicious "cultural studies" ambience insidiously making her smarter and smarter and even smarter? twas trippish meeting kevin and dodie, my e-comrades, and david kellogg, my cult-stud ally on this here list. good to see walterkalaidjian, i'm glad he's finally out of st cloud and at a real place, tho we didn't get to talk in any depth about his work on trauma theory and the armenian genocide. always good to see bob von hallberg who despite his self-inflicted role as the voice of the liberal conscience is an extremely good guy, in my experience. The coffee was EXECRABLE, burt, tho everything else was pretty swell to fab. Real whipped cream in the salad/dessert bar, can't beat that. and good, rich, fruit shortcake desserts. lobster was great, even got as much green stuff as i wanted/could handle. showed victoria rosenthal how to eat a lobster, thus i hope redeeming myself in ml's eyes (i had inadvertently insulted him within his hearing at an earlier mla and was mortified). as i drove back down to boston, the rothenbergs (diane at the wheel) passed me doing at least 80 mph on rte 95 in their spiffy little white rented mustang. loved jerry's "toiteen liddle ol' ladies" routine. and had never heard dante read aloud in translation--only knew of the prose translations, sinclair and singleton --thank you armand, paolo and francesca and then brunetto latini, all those old favorites from the days when i was smart... by the end of the conference, even the poundians from my department were talking to me --no mean feat to create an atmosphere of such conviviality that that could happen.
what else...lyn keller and i shared a delicious "sole marency" or something weird-sounding like that in bar harbor, everyone else ate lobster except aldon who ate rum and coke, enjoyed seeing my old grad school jack-spicer-robert- duncan-special-collections-at-berkeley researching friend joe conte, and confessing to him after all these years that as a chick i'd felt excluded from the poetry clique...like the guys felt it would be indecorous to include me or something...but we shared greenstuff and redstuff at the banquet, or at least said we were going to, which is just as good. chaired a good session on duncan, yum yum. let's see what else...oh yeah, as i told barry, i don't think people objected to his talk because he showed girlie pix, but because there was a way that the mastery, complexity and "rigor" (a word he used repeatedly) --which is what made it a compelling talk --also seemed to hold at arms' length and function as a disclaimer for the more charged elements of his talk --the autobiographical cynicism, the mention of sexual trauma, the insistence on "agency" (tho i don't think he actually used that clumsy word) --all seemed to add up to something that was a brilliant performance but troubled in a way that put the burden of "troubledness" on the audience, so that he was the cool, in-control white male authority and those of us who felt troubled or questioned the performance were hysterics. (not that this is what he said or even implied, it was more of a dynamic that threatened to duplicate much power stuff that cleearly and rightly troubled everyone including bw --kinda like lacan?). so, i admired the performance and got much frm it but also felt it was incomplete, not in the sense that an unmediated confession would make it complete, but somehow --constituting his belief in betty page's power as itsself (the belief, not the power) an object of inquiry might have made the presentation more even, richer, more balanced...?... anyway...it was a charged event, and one that was useful to process in the ensuing daze.
in the bus someone (barry? michael?) said there shd have been some attention to song lyrics, and that we shd make a point of this at the next conference (presumably on the 60s). george lipsitz wd be fun to hear on that subject. all i all, it was dreamy, esp the whipped cream. sorry if i've left someone out... so here i am back in mpls, it's 102 degrees out, why'd i come back? oh well, it's kinda a nice laid back city, you can wear any old thing and people accept it...esp in this heat... love to all adored camaradoes and camaradas...md ..................................................... Continue with Orono 96...