National Book Critics Circle Awards Ceremony and After Party, Tonight!

One-third of the finalists for the awards are small press books. Bravo, N.B.C.C.!

While  I’d love to see Paul Beatty’s The Sellout win the fiction award, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me the criticism, tonight, I’m rooting for the small presses: the following books in their respective categories:
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A David Bowie of Literature?

Is there a David Bowie of literature?—such an asinine question, as dumb as asking, “Is there a Virginia Woolf of music?”—arguing against it arguably as asinine as answering it at all, even on its own terms, which is to say, which “David Bowie”? which “literature”?; not to mention the problem of even locating a “there” with any kind of certainty, and of establishing what and/or where or whatever “Is” in this case is.

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Barzakh: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS!

The editorial staff at Barzakh is happy to announce that submissions for Issue 8 are now open!

As a multigenre, interdisciplinary journal with an internationalist stance, Barzakh is looking for
critical and creative works that pry wide the liminal spaces between aesthetic modes, fields, and archives, that plumb the nooks and crannies of experience where the estranged and the
uncanny reside, and which trace and transcend the boundaries that define what we as artists
do.

We want your fiction, poetry, art, criticism—you name it—that pushes against complacent
taxonomies and finds itself well off the beaten path. We define ourselves as an “isthmus,” a
space of crossings and connectivity, between histories, articulations, media—making of these
frontiers a site of play and revitalization.

Our past issues have featured the works of Nathaniel Mackey, Bernadette Meyer, Vernon
Frazer, Edwin Torres, Jena Osman, and Lydia Davis.

Please send all submissions as an email attachment to barzakhmagazine@gmail. com. The
deadline for submission is 3/7/16. The issue will launch with a reading from Elisa Albert at the
UAlbany EGSO 14 th Annual Graduate Conference on April 1 st , 2016.

For more information about Barzakh , please visit barzakh.net.

Why bpNichol Still Matters

Last month, the New York Times ran an interesting piece by Alexandra Alter with the heavily alliterative and assonantal title “Web Poets’ Society: New Breed Succeeds in Taking Verse Viral.” Alter describes how Instagram and Tumblr poets with thousands of followers are becoming “best-selling celebrity poet[s].” The article begins with a profile of Tyler Knott Gregson, whose first book “has more than 120,000 copies in print” and whose new book All the Words Are Yours: Haiku on Love had a first run of 100,000 copies (those figures are not typos):

On a recent Friday night, Tyler Knott Gregson, a blond, tattooed poet from Montana, took the stage at a Manhattan bookstore and beamed at the crowd that had come to celebrate his new haiku collection.

“This is rad. I appreciate it,” he said, taking in the roughly 150 people who had crowded into Barnes & Noble. The response from the mostly young, mostly female audience amounted to a collective swoon.

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On Names

I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
--from "Facing It," Yusef Komunyakaa

Last month when the Best American Poetry 2015/Michael Derrick Hudson scandal broke (Hudson, who had been included in the anthology, admitted that he employed the pen name Yi-Fen Chou “as a strategy for ‘placing’ poems”), the Asian American Writers’ Workshop launched, in a parodic move, a White Pen Name generator. I just used the generator and got the name “Richard Anderson.”

But I was recently reminded that we don’t always need to deliberately generate a white-sounding name; sometimes it gets generated for us:

Capture

Seeing the above typo from the New Directions website made me mentally chuckle as I considered how having a white pen name could be a great strategy for “placing blurbs.” I also remembered that when I was in grade school, my last name would routinely be confused for “Delong,” which, from what I can gather, is a surname of French derivation.

The Best Am Po 2015 controversy makes me think of another public controversy–the one surrounding the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The now iconic Memorial Wall was designed by Maya Lin, who won, through anonymous entry, the 1981 design competition as an undergraduate. According to Lin,

The memorial’s starkness, its being below grade, being black, and how much my age, gender, and race played a part in the controversy, we’ll never quite know. I think it is actually a miracle that the piece ever got built. From the very beginning I often wondered, if it had not been an anonymous entry 1026 but rather an entry by Maya Lin, would I have been selected?

I remember at the very first press conference a reporter asking me if I did not find it ironic that the memorial was for the Vietnam War and that I was of Asian descent. I was righteous in my response that my race was completely irrelevant. It took me almost nine months to ask the VVMF, in charge of building the memorial, if my race was at all an issue. It had never occurred to me that it would be, and I think they had taken all the measures they could to shield me from such comments about a ‘gook’ designing the memorial.

Had Michael Derrick Hudson been an architect, would he have submitted to such a competition (that was non-anonymous) with the name “Yi-Fen Chou”?

Of course not.