You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2011.

What thoughts do you have about the relationship between the body and experimental writing?

For seven years I mentored teenage writers in Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles. These writers included a girl who lived in a remodeled garage, and who usually had so little food available that she regularly suffered dizziness and headaches, and was sent home from school after fainting, even though school offered her her only hot meal of the day. On the few occasions that I was able to give her money, she used it to buy food for her younger siblings. You will never know what a great poet she was, how she transported audiences with her joyful cadences. Writers of her potential are working in kitchens, cleaning offices, fighting in Iraq. If writers with her potential were not censored throughout the inner-cities of America, generation after generation, what is now marginalized “experimental” writing wouldn’t have a marginal significance. Those superficial categories would have been replaced by deeper, more viable literatures.

foto by Ronaldo Oliveira

Here is the publication schedule for the next volume of Christopher Higgs’ ongoing series “What is Experimental Literature? {Five Questions}” which promises to be dynamite, thanks to the amazing contributions from the writers who have graciously joined the conversation. New writers, new questions!

Week of June 6th
Brian Evenson
Dodie Bellamy

Week of June 13th
Eileen Myles
Evan Lavender-Smith

Week of June 20th
Johannes Göransson
Sesshu Foster

Week of June 27th
Dennis Cooper
Selah Saterstrom

Week of July 4th
Vi Khi Nao
Michael Martone

Christopher Higgs is pursing a doctorate in twentieth century literature and critical theory at Florida State University. In his right hand he holds an MFA in Fiction from Ohio State; in his left hand he holds an MA in English from the University of Nebraska. Combined, these degrees amount to a wealth of knowledge in the field of useless things, as well as a strong commitment to poverty. He writes stuff and also curates the online arts journal Bright Stupid Confetti.

What is Experimental Literature? {Recap: Five Questions Vol. 1}

In case you missed any of them, below you’ll find links to each of the 10 writers who participated in the first edition of my [Christopher’s] series of interviews aimed at expanding our understanding of experimental literature. We generated a heap of conversation and interest, not only here but all over the web: from Ron Silliman to The New Yorker and elsewhere. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from this series, I have decided to keep it going. I’m currently in the process of creating the questions for the second round of the series, which I’ve decided to formulate by using the answers given by the writers from the first series. This way, hopefully, it’ll feel like an ongoing conversation. You can expect the next edition to appear in the month of May, and to include ten new writers of experimental literature. My thanks to everybody for participating. This has been a really great experience. I’m looking forward to presenting the next edition!

Bhanu Kapil

Danielle Dutton

Debra Di Blasi

Miranda Mellis

Kate Zambreno

Susan Steinberg

Tantra Bensko

Amelia Gray

Alexandra Chasin

Lidia Yuknavitch

mas chromium
mas look for a job, 54 years old
mas that
mas silver nitrate
mas perchlorate
mas baby baby
mas Ginsberg
mas pink
mas 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles
mas 30,000 gang members in Los Angeles
mas human papillomavirus
mas spokesperson
mas alternative
mas outside
mas wake up
mas cry
mas century

mas guerra
mas luv
siglos mas siglos
mas tortura mas escuela
mas universities mas tiny spiders
mas toilets flushing ammonaic vast night ponds of cattle waste immense stench filtering purplish
mas IKEA 1.8 million square foot distribution center 370,000 square foot solar panel array 6th largest in the nation opened in 2000 on 60 acres 5 in the united states
mas y mas please don’t stop
mas breath
mas coca cola classic rock disturb
mas columns of black smoke rising from
mas lies you can believe whatever you want to
mas organic zucchini mas Runge and Drager were left alone at the post, the latter told Runge that if he (Runge — trans.) did not carry out the orders then Drager himself will kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg with his bayonet. To which Runge replied that ‘the order has been given and I will carry it out’
mas after a few minutes the director (his name is not established) of the hotel walked out of the main entrance. He was on the right, in the middle was R. Luxemburg and to the left was lieutenant Vogel, who pushed R. Luxemburg out of the hotel directly towards the guard Runge. Runge was prepared for the murder and with the full swing of the hand struck Luxemburg with the butt of the rifle on the left side of her face and shoulder, under the impact of which the latter fell to the ground, but was still alive and attempted to stand up.
mas 4 soldiers came out of the hotel, and along with lieutenant Vogel dragged R. Luxemburg into the same car in which she had been brought to the hotel. They themselves got into the car. Vogel took out a pistol and in that very place shot Luxemburg in the head.
mas the following persons walked out of the hotel: captain-lieutenant Pflugk-Hartung, his brother, captain Pflugk-Hartung, Oberlieutenant Rithin, oberlieutenant (illegible in the original document), lieutenant Shultz, lieutenant Liepmann soldier Friedrich and among them was K. Liebknecht who was taken away by them in a car parked on the other side of the road.
cell phone towers
students wearing earphones
street corners
cells dividing production of images
private detention centers
ideological tendency
chew gum
mas y mas y mas

And when you said I pleased you, I looked aside

at the hot town and the fearful grove on its orange plain;

here was an end of confusion, beginning of pride,

the present was born and the past had subtly died

and you were beside me in Spain.

When you said you loved me, I saw the future stand up

free and alive, but through the open window

the railroad tracks led into silence, a wild cup

of silence held the year whose fires would not stop

while the world lay under war-shadow.

When I left you, you stood on the pier and held

your face up and never smiled, saying what we had found

was a gift of the revolution—and the boat sailed

while for a moment my sons emerged and stood in the world

as a line of shadows that fell back in the ground.

—(previously unpublished poem 1936 – 1939?)


Otto Boch, Bavarian socialist, Olympic distance runner and internationalist volunteer, was killed with 600 others in battle on the Sargasso Front on the Rio Segre in the Spanish Civil War.

Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative features extra-poetic work — correspondence, journals, critical prose, and transcripts of talks — of New American Poets, their precursors and followers. These primary documents are uncovered in archival research and edited by students and scholars at The Graduate Center, CUNY, as well as visiting fellows and guest editors, and prepared by Ammiel Alcalay, General Editor. Lost & Found puts into wider circulation essential but virtually unknown texts to expand our knowledge of literary, cultural, social, and political history.

Series II (Spring 2011)

Series ISBN: 978-0-615-43350-9

Selections from El Corno Emplumado/ The Plumed Horn
ed. Margaret Randall

Diane di Prima: The Mysteries of Vision: Some Notes on H.D.
ed. Ana Božičević

Diane di Prima: R.D.’s H.D.
ed. Ammiel Alcalay

Barcelona, 1936: Selections from Muriel Rukeyser’s Spanish Civil War Archive
ed. Rowena Kennedy-Epstein

Jack Spicer’s Translation of Beowulf:Selections
eds. David Hadbawnik and Sean Reynolds

Robert Duncan: Olson Memorial Lecture #4
eds. Erica Kaufman, Meira Levinson, Bradley Lubin, Megan Paslawski, Kyle Waugh, Rachael Wilson, and Ammiel Alcalay

Series I (Fall 2010)

Amiri Baraka & Edward Dorn: Selections from the Collected Letters, 1959–1960
ed. Claudia Moreno Pisano

The Correspondence of Kenneth Koch & Frank O’Hara: 1955–1956 (Parts I and II)
ed. Josh Schneiderman

Darwin & the Writers: Muriel Rukeyser
ed. Stefania Heim

Philip Whalen’s Journals: Selections (Parts I and II)
ed. Brian Unger

The 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference/Robert Creeley’s Contexts of Poetry: with selections from Daphne Marlatt’s Journal Entries
ed. Ammiel Alcalay


Berlin authorities have seized what is believed to be the corpse of the post-World War I German communist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, according to a report published in Thursday’s edition of the mass-circulation daily Bild. The public prosecutor’s office reportedly took possession of the headless, handless and footless torso of “Red Rosa” after a judge ordered an autopsy that will allow the body to be buried.

Investigators told Bild that a “formal investigation of the cause of death” will be conducted “by Friday, at the latest.”

In an ironic twist, it was an autopsy report that originally led to speculation that Luxemburg’s body had never left Berlin’s Charité hospital in June 1919 in the first place. In May, Michael Tsokos, head of the hospital’s Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences department stated his belief that a corpse he had found in the hospital’s cellar might belong to Rosa Luxemburg. When examining the medical examiner’s report associated with the corpse, Tsokos noticed a number of suspicious irregularities in both the details of the report and the way one of the originally examining physicians added an addendum in which he distanced himself from the conclusions of his colleague, which Tsokos called “a very unusual occurrence.”

Suspicious, Tsokos had a number of elaborate tests, such as carbon dating and computer tomography exams, performed on the corpse. The tests determined that it had been waterlogged, had belonged to a woman between 40 and 50 years old at the time of death, that she had suffered from osteoarthritis and that she had legs of different lengths.

‘Striking Similiarities’

As Tsokos told SPIEGEL in May, he concluded that the corpse bore “striking similarities with the real Rosa Luxemburg.”

At the time of her death, Luxemburg was the 47-year-old co-founder of Germany’s Communist Party (KPD)*. She suffered from a congenital hip ailment that left her with a permanent limp, which in turn caused her legs to be of different lengths. And after her violent death at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries in January 1919, her body was thrown into Berlin’s Landwehr Canal.

Even the missing hands and feet fit with Tsokos’ theory. When the revolutionary was thrown into the canal, eyewitnesses say weights were tied to her ankles and wrists with wire. During the months her corpse spent under water, they could have easily severed her extremities.

In the spring, when the canal thawed out, Luxemburg’s body was recovered and taken to Charité hospital for an autopsy. Soon thereafter, a body — though presumably not hers — was placed in a grave with her name on it in Berlin’s Friedrichsfelde Cemetery. The site has been visited every year by a procession of old communists and young left-wing activists, who march through the streets of the former East Berlin to lay red carnations on her gravestone and honor her as a martyr to the communist cause. The remains that were once placed in that grave could not be used in resolving the mystery because they disappeared after virulently anti-communist Nazis attacked and plundered the graves in 1935.

*Decades after Luxemburg’s death, the dissidents who helped to bring down the Berlin Wall were fond of quoting her maxim: Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter.

Der Spiegel, 12-17-2009,,1518,667606,00.html

1. Indonesian prison breakfast pause
2. central nervous season spell
3. mayhem accounting lapse
4. spinal neglect tolerance
5. family destruction interlude
6. visceral hope subterfuge gap
7. intravenous sleep tone
8. American marginalization stop
9. concept pulverization series
10. old meat bird concatenation

Alzheimer’s vector hair clogged drain interval
astounding outer space root clogged sewer line frequency
ultraviolet vanished civilization bowel movement cycle
garish geometric blue bottle fly swallow routine
ultramarine oceanic trash vortex corruption period
flood-line somatic transference shadow deadline
impenetrable subsidence ritual intestine holiday
excited bowdlerization committee snit loop
fatalistic death pressure pursed lips jag

Video footage shows Muhammad al-Durrah, 12 years old, as he is shot 4 times by Israeli troops. He died after the father shouted at the soldiers not to shoot and was wounded himself. Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Yitzhak Herzog, said that Palestinian security forces could have saved the boy.

Anti-child-slavery activist, member of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan, 12 year old Iqbal Masih was shot in the back with a 12 gauge shotgun. He was posthumously awarded the World Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child.

Perhaps, finally you read a footnote that means more than the book or the story, or all books, all stories.

I thought the pile of pine needles was a dead raccoon. I thought I would use the iron that I purchased. I felt the great vertical and social faces shone with promise. I thought everyone had more soul than they could ever use, or know. I thought terrific, lasting projects must be improvised out of the materials at hand. I thought I heard someone call out across a middle distance. I thought I would read all the books on the shelves. I thought I had time for any number of things. I felt I could stand it. I thought things would occur by chance. I felt I must contrive a strategy.

Tom Lutz, editor of the forthcoming Los Angeles Review of Books, is a professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside.

Mad as Hell in California, and Students Should Be, Too

By Tom Lutz

The following essay is adapted from a letter the author wrote to his colleagues and students announcing his resignation from the chairmanship of the creative-writing department at the University of California at Riverside.

I spent most of my academic career doing what most of us do—teaching, reading in my field, doing research, writing books and articles, reading graduate applications and theses, holding office hours. I didn’t pay much attention to the university and its administration. None of us has that luxury anymore. Budget cut after budget cut after budget cut have left us all painfully aware of how the sausage is made, or not made.

Having served in administrative posts for most of the past five years at the University of California at Riverside, I have come to know the budget issues very well. The University of California system, once the envy of the world, is on a rapid downhill slide that will have profound effects for our state, our families, our country, and our world. As of this budget cycle, we are past the tipping point.

In the space of less than a single lifetime, the University of California at Riverside went from being a small agricultural experiment station to one of the top 100 universities in the country. A dense and elaborate web of specialists across all fields of scholarship, science, and the arts was developed, and it took enormous efforts over those years to make it happen: countless hours in search-committee meetings followed by hundreds of thousands of hours of mentoring and reviewing; getting junior faculty financed; and, through tenure, building departments person by person, career by career. The best energies of thousands of people, year in and year out for 50 years.

In less than the four years that it used to take to graduate, this accomplishment is being destroyed.

My department is a great example of the breadth of vision and dogged effort that made Riverside the exceptional place it has been. There are other creative-writing programs in the country, but not a single one anywhere with the range across genres and fields, the breadth of knowledge in world literatures, the diversity of voices, methods, and styles that we have.

And there is not another creative-writing program anywhere—certainly none with our caliber of professors—that is more truly dedicated to its pedagogical mission at every level. I have now taught at every kind of institution—fancy elite universities, small colleges, Big Ten universities, art schools, and universities abroad. I have never been part of a faculty that was this student-centered, this concerned about the educational experience and prospects of its undergraduate and graduate students.

Three years ago, I was offered a job at the University of Southern California, which is much closer to my house and more prestigious as an academic address, and which was offering me more money. Riverside worked hard and did the best it could to try to match the salary, and I stayed. I stayed because I wanted to be part of this project, I wanted to teach a student body that truly represents the community (31 percent of UC-Riverside students are Hispanic, for instance, of whom 85 percent are first-generation college students), students who come not from the richest families in California but from some of the poorest, students who have a greater likelihood than not of coming from immigrant families and from families where English is not the only language spoken at home. I wanted to remain part of one of the greatest democratic experiments in history, the University of California.

If I got that offer today, though, I’m not sure I could turn it down, and, in fact, many people are not turning down outside offers these days. People who have taught here for more than 20 years are now considering going somewhere else, someplace where the future is a bit more certain. These are people who are the best in their fields, and UC-Riverside, and the educational experience at UC-Riverside, is diminished each time this happens. We can’t blame them—they have kids of their own to put through college, they have research projects and labs that require money, they know that to teach the most-complex subjects effectively, they need to run seminars with 15 students sitting around the table, not 150.

The budget cuts of recent years and the ones we know for certain are coming next year mean a gross deterioration of our university. Those faculty who do leave for better jobs, or retire, or die in harness, are not being replaced. Staff who leave are not being replaced—the positions of those who are left are simply “reorganized.” Students at Riverside are having increasing trouble getting the classes they need to graduate, and many of the classes they get will be crowded beyond responsible limits. Departments are being forced to abandon optimal class-size limits for classes two, three, and five times as large.

The library has virtually stopped buying books. We are on a race to become a mediocre university at best, and if the $500-million of proposed cuts in the university system turns into a billion dollars, as they are now discussing in Sacramento, we will be over. The billion-dollar cut translates into thousands of classes across the system. It means creative-writing workshops with 50 students, or, if we insist on maintaining reasonable workshop size, eight or 10 years to graduation for our majors. It means we will cease to be a real university, and will simply become another community-college-level institution at best. Then, maybe, after a few years, with tuition at $30,000 or $40,000 a year, we can begin the slow, arduous rebuilding into a real university, serving a small fraction of the population we now serve.

Why is this happening? Political demagoguery and corruption. Thirty-five years ago, the University of California received 6.6 percent of the state budget and prisons 3 percent. Now the university gets 2.2 percent and the prison-industrial complex gets 7.4 percent. The Legislature is taking the money that should be used to educate the best of its citizens and using it to enrich the people who make a profit from imprisoning the poorest. The percentage of the cost of higher education provided by the state has been cut in half, cut in half again, and is on the verge of getting cut in half a third time.

The people in the Legislature understand the value of public higher education. The vast majority of them have degrees from our state system, and many of them have multiple degrees, all made possible by the legislators who preceded them—and who had more courage.

Today’s legislators have adopted a drawbridge position—we got ours, and now we’re closing the gates—for a variety of stated reasons, but it is clear that the real reason many do not protect the colleges and universities that made possible their livelihoods and careers is simply this: If they do, they will suffer a flow of conservative attacks and Tea Party racism, the standard price, now, if one stands up for anything that is directly devoted to the commonweal.

In my darkest moments, I think the monied interests working against reasonable taxation are doing so because they consciously, actively seek to make sure we do not have an informed, educated citizenry—the better to extract our collective labor and wealth unimpeded. But such intentionality isn’t necessary. Shortsighted, grab-it-now, bottom-line greed explains their destruction of our culture without recourse to any dystopian conspiracies.

The only thing that has a chance of turning this devastation around is student activism. We in higher education cannot spend millions of dollars on campaign contributions the way the prison profiteers or the medical and insurance and aerospace industries do. We need to find other ways to provide a political counterweight. We need to make our voices heard.

As my last act as chair, I wrote to our students, suggesting that their own self-interest should be the catalyst. No matter what happens this year, they will have trouble finding the classes they need, much less the ones they want. And the chance for them to graduate in a reasonable amount of time is already gone. I suggested they think of what this means for their families, their neighbors, their friends, their own kids when they come of age. I suggested they think of what it means that California has reduced its higher-education budget to among the lowest per capita in the nation.

Because of its education system—a system that, until just a few years ago, was considered the best in the world—California had become among the most innovative and significant literary and cultural centers in the country, and because of this education system, too, California had become the economic powerhouse it has been. We had the best educational system because we were willing to pay for it, and our expenditures were among the highest in the nation, too. Those expenditures are now well below the national per capita average (and the national average is itself down). Only a political movement strong enough to buck the corporate money determining our tax policy can change this downward spiral. Only citizens can make it happen.

We at the University of California have been told, from the top, not to expect a return to “the glory days.” This year was not the glory days. This year we already have discussion sections that are not discussions, fewer classes, an exploded student/faculty ratio, decimated staff; we are very far from the glory days. One longtime faculty member in sociology told me she had not taught a course with under 80 students in five years. Now that an additional $500-million or $1-billion are getting yanked out of the system, the numbers are easy to predict: She will have no classes with fewer than 120 students.

Students’ favorite lecturers will be gone. The class they want won’t exist anymore. Teaching assistants will have twice as many students in their sections. Advisers will have 800 or 1,000 students to advise instead of the 300 we all agreed was an absolute maximum two short years ago. This is the end of quality. And why? Because a few very wealthy people are protecting their wealth from taxes, taxes considered reasonable not only everywhere else in the developed world, but also considered reasonable in America until 20 years ago.

I hope the students finally get angry. I hope they get active. I hope hundreds of thousands of them call and write their legislators, get out in the streets, take back their university. Don’t, I pleaded with them, don’t let yourselves be the last people to have even this chance.

Tom Lutz, editor of the forthcoming Los Angeles Review of Books, is a professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside.


ELADATL Chief Financial Officer Enrique Pico endorses Tom Lutz and this point of view.

June 2011
« May   Jul »