Tag Archives: Tom McGrath

The Los Angeles-Minnesota Connection

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Emerging Writers” Grants in Minnesota

In less than four weeks, I will have students asking, “So what did you do during your summer vacation, Professsor Mohr?” and I’ll respond that “vacation” will deserve yet another set of scare quotes. It’s been several decades since I had a summer off. This year, I had originally hoped to visit two former students in Croatia and spend a couple weeks reading and writing at an arts colony they founded a couple years ago near Pula, but the illness of one of Linda’s sisters impinged on those plans, and so we have stayed in Los Angeles County this summer. I ended up teaching a summer course in 20th century American literature in June and early July, during which time I began reviewing the applications of over 200 writers who live in Minnesota. As is well known to writers in California, Minnesota is the land of milk and honey in terms of literary support. Of course, we who labor at any art other than screenwriting in California tell ourselves that Minnesota has to bribe its writers to stay there. Unless an economic infrastructure provided some cultural largesse, why else would one endure those endless winters?

All envious kidding aside, I was very happy to serve on this panel because I have long felt a kinship with the literary community in Minnesota. I first noticed the editorial hospitality of Minnesota towards poets based in Los Angeles in The Lamp in the Spine, a magazine edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl in the 1970s. Their issues included work by Doren Robbins, Holly Prado, and Ameen Alwan. Subsequently, I visited The Loft in 1986 along with Doren Robbins to contribute to an two-day celebration of Tom McGrath’s poetry on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Two hundred applications, each with an average of 20 pages of writing, is quite a pile to go through and comment on, so being on the panel turned out to be a major undertaking, but it was also very gratifying to see how much good work is being done in Minnesota by writers who have not yet published a substantial amount of work. The grants were for “emerging writers,” which meant that these applicants did not necessarily have to compete with those whose precocity had already allowed them to flourish. Many of the applicants whose work I read in the past couple months will not have to wait too long for a book to come out, however. I spotted at least two dozen manuscripts, in the samples of these portfolios, that will no doubt end up published or scheduled for publication by the end of this decade. For those not chosen for the award, please know that I read carefully, and I truly wish I could have doubled or tripled the number of awards. While a total of fourteen people were listed as winners, alternates, finalists, or deserving of honorable mention, there were at least a half-dozen others whose writing I found memorable. I wished, in fact, that I could have them as students in a workshop and watch their work grow even more compelling and intriguing.

The Loft has released the names of the writers selected by the panel for the “emerging writers” grants in 2017, and I will let its announcement speak for itself.

https://loft.amm.clockwork.net/_asset/4440d4/Winners-of-the-2017-Emerging-Writers-Grant.pdf

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

w/

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.