Author: EC

Modernity Explains Unfortunate Events // Heather Altfeld

  Modernity Explains Unfortunate Events:  The Poetics of a Would-be Anthropologist It’s hard to figure out the exact moment when I decided not to be an anthropologist.  This was the distinct career direction I had finally chosen by the time I actually made it to Columbia University as an undergraduate eight years after my departure from high school.  It might have been the precision necessary to measure brain cases, one by one, for a required course in physical anthropology, or the arduous memorization of lemur species and their diets, a task I insisted on documenting with the creation of the Lemur Culinary Gazette, a project my professor did not have the patience or vision to appreciate.  While neither of these endeavors in the field were particularly suited to my temperament, I believe that the most likely moment of my breakup from Anthropology occurred during a senior ethnography course, where we read an ethnography primarily focused on the study of pee. 

The Poetics of Taxidermy, Part I // Heather Altfeld

  Dioramas, Snowpack, Photography, and Nostalgia:  A Snapshot of Longing I’ve been pondering some of the fascinations and fastenings of my recent poetic life, and have come to the conclusion that it is not entirely an accident that I am currently working on several seemingly disparate subjects.  Chronologically speaking, it is probably true to say that the first began when I was almost eighteen and had arrived in New York City for the first time.  I was en route to Copenhagen, after exchanging my babysitting savings (slated for my first year’s tuition at Humboldt State) for a one-way airplane ticket and a four-month Eurail pass.  I wandered into the American Museum of Natural History hours after experiencing my first mugging on the third floor of Grand Central near the lockers; I was having, it might be said, the quintessential New York tourist experience.  But I found the Hall of Mammals, the Akeley dioramas, and I spent hours standing in front of them, shooting them with my Pentax K-1000 as though it were possible somehow to …

Notable Books: Christine Deavel, Jorge Carrera Adrade, Ernst Miester, and The Open Door

NOTABLE BOOKS 2012 Christine Deavel’s Woodnote (Bear Star Press, 2011) is a remarkable book—a book about, among other things, the legacy of books. In vision, and as a physical object, it is a mindful handful: a big square picture window of a book, drawing together many styles. In five sections we encounter an acute, discerning lyricism (“Hidden / as a toy balloon in the sky is / and is not”), personal essay (“But to walk through it, to walk through the snow as it falls, is to walk through another’s memory, even if it is only the land’s”), excerpts of historical records (“The cessions are as follows: / … The December end of the portage place. / Also the overlapping voice of all the lakes”), and, importantly, selections from the diaries of a relative (“A gloomy day :: a delightful day :: A heavy frost but nice day”) who died the year the poet was born. The cumulative effect of these styles is astounding. Piece by piece, in palimpsest, an image emerges, both vibrant and …

Afterwords // Last Year in Quotes! (We’re Glad We Took Notes.)

January 5 Jason Witmarsh, Writers on Writing Lecture Series “Occupy that critical part of your brain–the thing that says, ‘this is useless’–and give that part of your brain a crossword puzzle, while the other part writes.” (J.W. on: writing in form) January 6 Rebecca Albiani on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Frye “William Blake couldn’t stand falsity in anyone . . . and so he was a difficult companion.”  March 11 Barbara Courtney, Tiny House Reading Series, hosted by Emily Johnson “You will have to learn . . . how to dispense with teachers, even me.” April 14 Troy Jollimore, Seattle Arts & Lectures “Any really good poet has to be philosophical . . . if you pursue any field long enough you eventually end up doing philosophy.” April 16 Andrew Feld, Open Books “I don’t think there are that many people these days writing narrative-poems-in-heroic-couplets-that-are-visionary-quests. So, I sort of enjoy doing that.” April 22 Gregory Laynor, Tiny House Reading Series “I think I’m more of a worry doll than a poet . …

Pen to Palette // A Visual Inventory of Gustave Flaubert’s Personal Belongings at the Time of His Death

“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your own work,” wrote Flaubert in a letter to Gertrude Tennant, December 25, 1876. Joanna Naborsky, a “book lover’s illustrator” living in New York,  was rifling around in the Brooklyn Public Library recently and stumbled across Geoffrey Wall’s biography of the writer, Flaubert: A Life, which she claims sort of fell from her hands and opened itself to an index of Flaubert’s personal belongings compiled 12 days after his death. Wall describes this index as “a strangely cold mirror of the life that had unfolded in and amongst this elegant constellation of things.” We love Naborsky’s colorful, wiggly renderings of Flaubert’s panama hat, his 48 porcelain dinner plates, his tiger, lynex and bear skin rugs, his arrows, his mandolin, his axe, his Basque drum, and etc. In an interview with the Paris Review, Naborsky said what drew her to the project was that “the list is barren, orderly, lyrical. It spoke of a life in the way ‘That vase’ speaks of …

A Night of Poetry to Benefit Humanities Washington, July 19

Poets, Powerpoint & A Delightful Misuse of Company Time What happens when a poetic imagination is given access to PowerPoint and far too much free time? The Ethereal Mutt Ltd. presents an evening of poetic explorations in slideshow form with Poets, Powerpoint & A Delightful Misuse of Company Time on July 19, 2012 at 7:30pm at West of Lenin in Fremont. Tickets to this one-night-only event are $30 and proceeds benefit Humanities Washington. The evening was conceived by West of Lenin proprietor and Humanities Washington trustee A.J. Epstein and Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken. Featured presenters include Flenniken, Keri Healey (local playwright recently shortlisted for The Stranger’s Genius Awards) Peter Pereira (family physician and Copper Canyon Press poet), Martha Silano (most recent collection is The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception), Molly Tenenbaum (author of The Cupboard Artist), Barbara Earl Thomas (writer and painter whose work was appeared at Seattle Art Museum) and other special guests. Each writer will present original work accompanied by a digital slideshow, melding visuals and words into Powerpoint poetics. …

Review // Sierra Nelson’s I Take Back the Sponge Cake

  Reviewed By Kristen Steenbeeke, Contributing Writer I grew up on choose-your-own-adventure books, and now that I’m older, it seems poetry has always been a choose-your-own-adventure lying in wait. You know: the wordplay inviting one to interpret the work how they wish, then that interpretation branching off into some other dimly-lit pathway, which branches to another, and sooner or later one ends up out of the forest altogether and at some dark-blue lake, teeming with fish. This is why Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdrich’s poetry/art collaboration book “I Take Back the Sponge Cake” is so enticing: The poems are like tiny jigsaws in themselves, connected by choose-your-own-adventure snippets, such as “____ the night from day, O dreamers,” with the option to choose “Rest: to repose” or “Wrest: to take by force.” Depending on the reader’s choice of homonym, they are led to another page, another poem, another of Erdrich’s whimsically sad watercolors. The poems are small and concise but chock-full of their own wordplay and tricks. One highlight was “Pseudomorph,” a word which means “a cloud …