Sunday, November 29, 2015

Patience Agbabi's "Telling Tales": A fourth excellent Christmas present

Here's a fourth Christmas book suggestion: Patience Agbabi's Telling Tales, her rewriting of The Canterbury Tales for contemporary Britain, which she published with Canongate Books in 2014. Each revision of one of Chaucer's tales is written in its own form and in the voice of a different fictional poet. It's a wide-ranging and highly entertaining book.
(And of course there's also my book of poems.)

Call for Papers: The Beautiful Game: The Poetics and Aesthetics of Soccer in Transnational Perspective

The Beautiful Game: The Poetics and Aesthetics of Soccer in Transnational Perspective
University of Basel
June 30-July 2, 2016

Confirmed Speakers:
Simon Critchley (New School for Social Research)
Eva Lavric (University of Innsbruck)
Emily Ryall (University of Gloucestershire)

This conference, scheduled to take place during the 2016 European Championship and hosted by the University of Basel’s Department of English, takes up soccer with a special focus on its poetics and aesthetics. The conference particularly seeks to scrutinize the poetics and aesthetics of the game in light of comparative as well as transnational, transcontinental, and global perspectives. In doing so, it aims to shed light on the poetics and aesthetics of all aspects of soccer, from the actual game to fan chants and choreographies, from representations in the arts to the aesthetics of media coverage, from the poetics of live commentary to institutional image cultivation (MLS, FIFA, UEFA, etc.), from aspects of design (jerseys, balls) to recent developments in stadium architecture. Given this range and diversity of the forms in which the poetics and aesthetics of soccer manifest themselves, the conference by necessity is interdisciplinary in nature, with possible contributions coming from fields such as literary and cultural studies, philosophy, linguistics, visual studies and the arts, design, and architecture to name but a few.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:
• the poetics and aesthetics of the game
• “skill,” “creativity,” “intuition,” and “style” in soccer
• soccer and the notions of the beautiful and the sublime
• fan chants
• fan choreographies
• Ultra aesthetics
• the aesthetics (and politics) of institutional image cultivation via the staging of events such as opening ceremonies, fixture draws, player award ceremonies, etc.
• languages of/in soccer
• the poetics and rhetoric of soccer live commentary
• the poetics, rhetoric, and aesthetics of soccer media coverage
• representations of soccer in the arts (including literature and film)
• the aesthetics of stadium architecture
• design in soccer: jerseys, balls, gear, club emblems, etc.

In addition to academic talks, the conference will also include an art event, exhibiting some of the original art that is the basis for tschuttiheftli’s sticker collection they create for every World Cup and European Championship (

Please send your 300-word abstracts and 100-word bios to:

The deadline for submissions is December 14, 2015. The conference organizers plan to publish a collection of essays based on selected contributions to the conference.

Conference Organizers:
Dr. phil. des. Ridvan Askin and Dr. Catherine Diederich, Department of English, University of Basel, Nadelberg 6, CH-4051 Basel

Friday, November 27, 2015

C. Dale Young's "Torn": A third excellent Christmas present

Here's a third Christmas book suggestion: C. Dale Young's Torn, his third collection of poems, which he published with Four Way Books in 2011. I also recommend his first two books (The Day underneath the Day and The Second Person), but Torn (as many of my friends know) is my favorite collection of poetry from this century.
And for those who want to read a book that will be just as extraordinary, C. Dale Young's new collection The Halo will be published by Four Way on 1 March, 2016, and you can preorder it now.
(And of course there's also my book of poems. Yes, this is the third time I have repeated this point!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Major Jackson's "Roll Deep": Another excellent Christmas present

Here's another Christmas book suggestion: Major Jackson's Roll Deep, his fourth collection of poems, which he published this year. I also recommend all three of his other books (Leaving Saturn, Hoops, and Holding Company), with Hoops perhaps being my favorite of those three.

(And of course there's also my book of poems. I hope you'll forgive me for repeating this point!)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Claudia Rankine's "Citizen": An excellent Christmas present

If you want to buy a good book for someone this year for Christmas, how about Claudia Rankine's "Citizen: An American Lyric"? I especially recommend it for anyone who has read Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Between the World and Me" (which is another great book to give someone for Christmas).

(And of course there's also my book of poems.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Coates is the Coates of ...

Ta-Nehisi Coates, from Between the World and Me (43, but here copied from the excerpt from the book in the Atlantic):
Serious history was the West, and the West was white. This was all distilled for me in a quote I once read, from the novelist Saul Bellow. I can’t remember where I read it, or when—only that I was already at Howard. “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus?,” Bellow quipped. Tolstoy was “white,” I understood him to say, and so Tolstoy “mattered,” like everything else that was white “mattered.”
And again, from later in the book (56, again copied from the Atlantic excerpt):
It must have been around that time that I discovered an essay by Ralph Wiley in which he responded to Bellow’s quip. “Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus,” wrote Wiley. “Unless you find a profit in fencing off universal properties of mankind into exclusive tribal ownership.” And there it was. I had accepted Bellow’s premise.
And here's the beginning of an article by Felice Léon from The Daily Beast, "Ta-Nehisi Coates on Why Whites Like His Writing":
 “Why do you think that so many white people love what you write?” asked the award-winning New York Times Magazine journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, during a sold-out discussion at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Here are some passages from the article where Coates's response is quoted:
“I don’t know why white people read what I write,” Coates said. “I didn’t set out to accumulate a mass of white fans.”
“I felt like many of the people that I was reading in the ’90s, when I was in college, were very much burdened by the need to explain to white people,” he said. “And that has an effect on your language.”
“The history is what the history is. And it is disrespectful, to white people, to soften the history.”
“I’ve never seen white people embrace the idea of a black man talking about a world in which they are not at the center of the narrative (for better or worse).”
“Who knows what the mentality is behind that [white people purchasing his book],” he said. “You’ll have to ask some white people, but from my perspective I try to give them [white people] the respect that they deserve, as readers.”
My eipgrammatic response to why I read Coates, then, is this: Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus, and Coates is the Coates of whites. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Superfluities, by Major Jackson

I read this poem in Major Jackson's Holding Company this morning, and I went to find it online to share with friends. I found it, but I also noticed that the version that is online has one more phrase than the version in the book, and as the phrase that is only in the book is one that I had stopped to ponder ("ecstasy of fumbling", which comes from Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est"), I wanted to get the book version online. So here it is:


by Major Jackson

This downpour of bad reasoning, this age-old swarm,
this buzzing about town, this kick and stomp
through gardens, this snag on the way to the mall,
this heap and toss of fabric and strewn shoes, this tangled
beauty, this I came here not knowing, here
to be torched, this fumbling ecstasy, this ecstasy of fumbling,
this spray of lips and fingers, this scrape of bone, this raid
of private grounds, this heaving and rocking, this scream
and push, this sightless hunger, this tattered perishing,
this rhythmic teeth knocking, this unbearable
music, this motionless grip, grimace, and groan.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Tag der Poesie, Basel, 12 September 2015

The Tag der Poesie in Basel was revived in 2012 by Alisha Stöcklin and has taken place in September every year since then. The 2015 "day of poetry" with the theme of "Stillstand und Bewegung" ("stillness and motion") takes place on 12 September at Münsterplatz in Basel, featuring over 20 performances of poetry and music, in German as well as in English and Italian. The two readings in English will be at 1 pm (Cecilia Woloch reading from her latest collection, "Earth") and 1:30 pm (Andrew Shields launching his collection "Thomas Hardy Listens To Louis Armstrong").

For complete information (in German) on all the readings and events, check the Tag der Poesie home page.