Poetic Research Bureau

I received a notice about LIFE SENTENCES the other day and can’t think of a better possible way to start posting on my site than to share this announcement.

If I were able to bring in a single poet from anywhere in the United States who would complicate the dialogue aspired to in this upcoming program, Michael Kincaid would be my first choice. I have met him at only one occasion, a celebration of Tom McGrath’s writing that took place at the Loft in Minnesota when McGrath turned 70. Doren Robbins and I flew out together from Los Angeles to be part of the program and one of the people in attendance was a young poet who seemed as equally obstreperous in his poetics as I yearned to be. Kincaid and I corresponded for several years, and I published his chapbook, “Inclemency’s Tribe,” in 1990 as a sort of coda to my work as editor of Momentum Press. He has remained the most stalwart and uncompromising poet-philosopher in contemporary practice. Here is entry number 43 from his most recent book, “LIGHTNING DIALOGUES,” published by Nemesis in Minneapolis.

CHILDREN OF SOCRATES. — From the French dialecticians — Derrida, et al. — to a poet like Jorie Graham, the postmoderns are neo-Socratics, basking in the false prestige Socrates lent to ignorance. They don’t know: that is their claim to admiration, the plot and pathos of their drama. Playing to the mirror, they deconstruct their presence, trading on a politic despair. They flaunt their self-doubt as if uncertainty’s dialectic were a superior form of presence, not its indefinite deferral.

My expectation is that the program announced by the Poetic Research Bureau will offer the crucial variant that gets left out of Kincaid’s summary of postmodern poetics. The desire to know still underpins the writing of many poets who struggle with how to determine the boundaries of negative capability. Of the poets who will be reading this Saturday, Bennett and Bernstein in particular are likely to remind the audience that the yearning for knowledge cuts short the self-serving pose of the neo-Socratics. The advantages of saying “I don’t know” lose their momentum when confronted with the question, “What would it mean if you did know? How would you then be held accountable for having not known?” At the very least, there is a poignant desire to know underlying the work of many poets who get lumped together as postmodern, but who agitate that categorization with their jaunty wit, the one quality that most efficiently redeems the deferral of resolute acknowledgement. Even so, I wish I had the means to bring Kincaid’s critique into the conversation this Saturday, for it would make this event even more deserving of your attendance. Despite his absence, I hope to see you there.

LIFE SENTENCES: An Afternoon of the Epigrammatic
4 hours, 8 readers, 800+ statements


Guy Bennett, Charles Bernstein, Aaron Kunin, Andrew Maxwell, Maggie Nelson, Vanessa Place, Matvei Yankelevich, Maged Zaher

Saturday June 15th, 2013 1pm – 5pm
@ Poetic Research Bureau
951 Chung King Rd, Chinatown, LA

Gnomes, aphorisms, propositions, fragments,
maxims, phrases, epigrams, mottoes, curses,
koans, haiku, quips, dry tweets, pensées.

In sequence, relentlessly, toward 1000 sentences.
Live readers, video people, giving the compressed
form its due, by mouth and by pixel.




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