“Indigenous, Immigrant, and Multilingual American Poetry” Free online course –February 8 to March 4, 2020.
For a description of the course and a sampler of poems that will give you a sense of what might be included, visit this page to peruse and learn more: https://jasonzuzga.com/indigenous-immigrant-and-multilingual-american-poetry-february-8-april-4-2020/
I’m teaching a “slopo” season course this winter/spring 2020 for Coursera and Al Filreis’s Modern and Contemporary Poetry class. You can jump in at any point. To get to the course page, you’ll need to register on Coursera as a student (for free – and the class and materials are free).
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, as soon as you have a chance, to express your interest and get on the course news email list, which I’ll be relying on to convey to you important course news and information.
Before February 8, please stop by the course’s dedicated area on the ModPo website and just say hello; feel free to offer any introduction to yourself and/or your thoughts about the course! Starting on February 8, that’s also where you will go to access the Week One material and find the discussion forums. The actual link to the course’s homebase is https://www.coursera.org/learn/modpo/discussions/forums/yR5RvK-EEeaElQ6tBsFbjg
This year’s class will be focusing on non-European traditions and emergent poetries in or translated into English, using as a starting point Jerome Rothenberg’s anthology of American-Indian poems (mostly) in translation, SHAKING THE PUMPKIN: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americans, as a starting point. We will discuss Rothenberg’s concept of “ethnopoetics” and consider the quandaries of putting oral tradition and place-based performance onto the printed page.
Each poem we will read, from some angle, engages with the poetics of multilingualism and cultural collisions where conventional English cannot be taken for granted as neutral. The English language evokes its own history and summons questions of identity, selfhood, and voice to be played with and against in the crafting of the poem. How can we close read these poems without incorporating their own invocations of context and history?
We will read contemporary various indigenous poems written primarily in English by people of descent from different tribes–Inuit, Mohawk, Kumeyaay, Navaho–from people rooted in different locations–Hawaii and Guam. We will read, listen to, and watch poetries from the post-slavery, post-colonization Caribbean, such as M. NourbeSe Philip’s “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” We will sample Kamau Brathwaite’s HISTORY OF THE VOICE and Louise Bennett-Coverley’s beloved performances of poems in Jamaican patois. We will consider poems written by African-American descendants of slaves transported by force. We will read poems written by first and second-generation immigrant poets, Asian-American, South-Asian-American, Middle-Eastern-American and Latin-American. We will consider the negotiation of identity and the ways in which these poets engage “Correct” English and Western conventions.
Other poets from among whose poems we may read: Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gloria Anzaldúa, dg nanouk okpik, Heriberto Yépez, Nathaniel Mackey, Fred Moten, Morgan Parker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, Ocean Vuong, Craig Santos Perez, Monica Youn, Arthur Sze, Tommy Pico, Myung Mi Kim, Eduardo Corral, Jericho Brown, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Douglas Kearney, Cecilia Vicuña, Franny Choi, Sawaka Nakyasu, James Thomas Stevens, Safia Sinclair, Anne Tardos, Mark Nowak, Layli Long Soldier, Zeina Hashem, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, Mahealani Perez-Wendt, Li-Young Li, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Divya Victor, and Lillian Allen.
You will have the option of writing a poem in a poetic form, the ghazal, popularized in the United States and written in English by the Kashmiri immigrant poet Agha Shahid Ali — a poetic form that has impact on questions of voice. The ghazal is not from the British and American traditions but is a form that developed in Arabic and Persian with its own strict rules that one might find disorienting or not, ours to freely adopt, or adapt to, or with it hybridize. We will be meta-poetically aware of a poem as an active site of resistance and emergence. We will pay attention to how a poem enacts, performs, struggles and negotiates with the ever-ongoing flux of such concepts as voice and self, identity and language.
This course is something that you will enjoy–the poems and issues they raise are thrilling. Use the course in whatever way you’d like! You can just read samples or the full array of freely available course poems and text, you can dip into the discussion forums and read along with the ongoing discussion, or you can fully dive in, posting your own responses to the poems and to other students’ comments — ultimately the course’s ethical foundation is collaborative, open learning developed through interactive discussion. Optimally, you should read what’s already posted in response to a topic or poem and engage what has been raised, be part of the conversation, as well as adding your own new observations, experiences, and questions about the poems. But simply do what you can. The best approach is the one that fits you most comfortably depending on your available time.
The FENCE podcast has begun! More episodes are in the works.
FENCE 35 is FENCE’s first podcast episode (containing the print issue’s contents read by each of the writers) segmented, for your convenience, into easily navigable chapters you can jump identified by writer.
On the iPhone Apple Podcasts app search for: “FENCE Magazine.” (when you get to the episode, scroll up to the description and contents.)
You can also find it, with handy, easy access to the chapters at either:
More episodes to come!
On the websites, the player looks like this:
FENCE 35 Winter/Spring 2019
DECEMBER 24, 2019 SEASON 1 EPISODE 1
This podcast contains nearly the entirety of the works in the print edition of FENCE Magazine 35, Winter/Spring Issue of 2019. Writers include Edgar Garcia, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Tess Brown-Lavoie, Laura Sims, Eleni Sikelianos, Leah Dworkin, Rachel Levitsky, Christopher Patrick Miller, Blake Butler, Tamara Barnett-Herrin, Nora Toomey, Ji Yoon Lee, David Blair, David Alejandro Hernandez, Nawal Nader French, Jenessa VanZutphen, Robin Clarke, Brian Kim Stefans, Wendy C. Ortiz, Jesse Nathan, Abby Minor, Gary Lundy, Margaret Johnson, Amy Lawless, Emmett Gallagher, Matthew Moore, Steven Alvarez, Sam Truitt, Josh Kalscheur, Joanna Fuhrman, Tasia Trevino, James Tate, Nicole Burdick, Desirée Alvarez, Nat Suffrin, Alison Wellford, Liana Jahan Imam, Bonnie Chau, Steffan Triplett, Dan Chu, Serena Solin, Erica Hunt, Timothy Otte, Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, and BC Griffith. Music provided by the permission of Matmos. This audiobook/podcast has been gathered and assembled by (me) Jason Zuzga. He is one of the print journal’s two Other/Nonfiction Editors along with Sarah Falkner.
In continuous publication since 1998, FENCE is a biannual print journal of poetry, fiction, art, and criticism that redefines the terms of accessibility by publishing challenging writing distinguished by idiosyncrasy and intelligence rather than by allegiance with camps, schools, or cliques. FENCE also publishes a range of books and additional digital content, such as Fence Streaming Posts, Afrosonics/Mythscience, Elecment and The Constant Critic. FENCE is committed to publishing from the outside and the inside of established communities of writing, seeking always to interrogate, collaborate with, and bedevil all the systems that bring new writing to light. FENCE is edited by Rebecca Wolff.
Last year’s ModPo SloPo class:
Mina Loy, Barbara Guest, and Alice Notley: The New York School and the Body of the Poem
There is no poem without form, yet often the assumed body of the voice behind the poem is a straight male one. Dickinson intervened, writing without restraint but within constraints tilted at through her open dashes, opening spaces of possibility for the reader. The queer male poets of the New York School intervened, playing with subjectivity and assumptions about voice and desire. In this course, we will look at three poets who open the body of the poem, who craft deep explorations and creations from the limits of form and gendered expectations, the voice, the senses, and embodiment. Among other works, we will read (proto-NYSchool) poet Loy’s “Partuition,” a poem about pregnancy and giving birth, Guest’s poems in which she builds open, dynamic structures from words, and Alice Notley’s astonishing feminist epic poem The Descent of Alette. We will read a few pieces of feminist writing, that is to say, these poems, along with a few portions of other material. Along with robust discussion of the poems in the forums, the instructor will hold facebook live sessions twice a week (which one the student attends based on what works best with that student’s schedule) to foster ModPo’s active, open collaborative discussion.
Transcript from Live Webcast 11/17//18 from Coursera’s FREE Modern and Contemporary Poetry class run by brilliant Prof. Al Filreis
@Afilreis of UPenn. Join online intensity in fall, online minicourses off-season: http://modpo.org @ModPoPenn. I’ll be teaching an eight-week course in the Spring of 2019.
Today, July 18, 2018, while hiking with me in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, my friend Eric nearly stepped on this fine snake.
from Eurydics: Snake
Large green-tailed lizard, zucchini-mottled
flicks and swirls. But, no! It’s not some random lizard:
that’s the snake! A rill of water falling up the stone,
he’d heard my light, quick foot as human-hard…
I publically defended my dissertation with an illustrated presentation. You can read and see my presentation, a highly abridged version of the monster manuscript here: Uncanny World — Dissertation Presentation
My Ph.D. Dissertation, Uncanny World: Envisioning Nature in Documentary, was awarded the Diane Hunter Prize for Best Dissertation, 2017, from the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania. The dissertation was supervised by Prof. Charles Bernstein (Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature), with the additional guidance of committee members Prof. Karen Redrobe (Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Endowed Professor in Film Studies) and Prof. Timothy Corrigan (Professor of English, Cinema Studies, and History of Art) and honorary member Prof. John Tresch (Associate Professor of the History and Sociology of Science).
The citation, written by Hunter Prize judges Prof. Rita Barnard (Director, Comparative Literature Program; Professor of English and Comparative Literature) and Prof. Rita Copeland (Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities, Professor of Classical Studies, English, and Comparative Literature), reads as follows:
“The committee was extremely impressed by the range and quality of the work submitted for the award. We extend our sincerest congratulations and admiration to all of the nominees, whose collective work is testimony to the intellectual energy and rigor of Penn’s English department. We agreed, however, to name Jason Zuzga’s “Uncanny World: Envisioning Nature in Documentary,” as the winner of the prize for the best dissertation.
“In ‘Uncanny World,’ Jason Zuzga gives a deep history and wide-ranging examination of the genre of the ‘Nature Documentary.’ He offers fresh and revealing engagements with the older standards of the genre, films by Jean Painlevé, Jacques Cousteau, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, as well as more recent iconic works from ‘The Nature Channel,’ including March of the Penguins and the Blue Planet series. But Jason opens the generic limitations of the ‘nature documentary’ to include a remarkably larger corpus in a variety of modes and media. One aspect, treated in Chapter Three (“A History of Nature Documentary: Taxonomy, Predecessors, Tendencies and Survey of Critique”) is the much longer history of representational forms that aim to document nature, from Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals and Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things to Erasmus Darwin’s The Loves of Plants, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin and Species and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. This history extends further to other crucial nineteenth century figures like Alexander von Humboldt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Jason’s study also encompasses Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porn, the Australian aboriginal film Two Laws, and animated simulations used in molecular biology.
“His capacious presentation of the genre of ‘nature documentary’ develops into profound and considered reflection on knowledge, experience, and technology. Behind his arguments lies a vast repository of theoretical reading, which he controls with maturity and activates in precise and fresh language. His insights into familiar figures like Freud and Zizek are surprising and informative, but he also brings critical thought about the aesthetics of representation into dialogue with neuroscience and environmental studies. He raises the profound questions about how our organs of perception and ways of seeing shape our world and how we may begin to engage with the strange worlds that other perceptual modes could give rise to. Ultimately, Jason arrives at the following paradox: that documenting nature is impossible given the constraints of our perceptual toolkit, but that the impulse to document nature is a necessary and ethical one: it motivates us to develop new ways of seeing.
“In his acknowledgements, Jason thanks his cat Tracey for asking him the most probing questions. Hats off, therefore, to his cat, and also to his dissertation director, Charles Bernstein.”
Slideshow of images from the making of the dissertation and from the dissertation itself:
Lemon writes, “…I love Heat Wake because of the many ways it loves…Heat Wake is filled with wondrous poems that speak directly about love/being love/the misfirings of love, but there is so much more adoration in this collection. These poems love language and verbal play, the panoramic intellect, humor, moments of doomsaying and this complex and fractured world that is slipping through our hands. I’ve spent hours with the many lenses through which we see Eros in Zuzga’s book: the speaker addressing Rimbaud in ‘Homage,”’the sensuality of cleaning someone’s ear in ‘Ear,’ or ‘I was angry at myself for being a teenage mermaid,’ the awesome beginning to the Tilt-A-Whirl movement of ‘Love Poem,’ or one of my favorite’s, the speaker alive beside a [queer] intimate inside the body of an extinct Stellar’s Sea Cow in ‘Extinction Narrative…’ Heat Wake is one of those rare books that works in manifold ways—it gives to the reader, on every level—it is energizing, alive and deeply layered with knowledge and sensuous. This collection thinks and breathes in ways that make impossible not to feel, impossible not to read a poem and smile or sense the start of something burning in the chest.”
Saturnalia Books, 2016
Full Disclosure: Jason Zuzga is a friend of mine, but I have no connection to Saturnalia books.
It is such a pleasure to finally see a Jason Zuzga book in print. To say this book has been long-awaited by many, many poets is an under, understatement. I was in grad school with Jason in Tucson, 2001. I loved his work back then; everyone did. I don’t know why this collection took so long to bring into the world. Maybe Jason wasn’t submitting enough. Maybe presses couldn’t see what a wild, original, talented mind this guy has. Or maybe the book just took this long to come to its final form. I’m hardly one to talk about publishing slowly.
Anyway, it’s here now and it’s really good.
Heat Wake is everything I am excited about in poetry now. The poems feel odd as the spores on a fern plant at one moment and polished as a limousine the next. You just have no idea where he might go next in such a delightful way. And it always works because the poems are extensions of life and personality more than exercises in craft (though they are also very skillful). I guess what I’m trying to say is that they’re not trying to be something. They are that thing. That is Zuzga’s mind. There are fun, wild associative leaping and tender personal moments, history and science; and everything odd seems personal and everything personal odd. And there is a closeness and humanity to it all underneath. Quoting lines don’t do his work justice, so I’m just going to quote a whole poem here.
Your Age on Other Worlds
Greased surfers on the right,
oil pumping up the left – you drive down the crease
of California as the convexities of boys become
heightened on the waves.
I will guess your age on other worlds.
Stretched into sixteen on all of them. Mine.
When Neptune hurls back around to where it is now
these boys will be decaying
not tucked into their skins not tucked into their wetsuits
not sixteen not alive not riding the waves off California
rubbing itself the way a back shifts.
One night one boy is hurling through time to
the instant he will pass you in the supermarket.
His liverspotted hand a vortex shoves you through
gliding up the crest of time to California.
The pumpers suck sweet sip of time’s decay.
The car drives past you down the crease burning rubber.
The oncoming night glides open and closes and pulses.
Observers lightyears away longingly watch wave
lift you. Look back now to where we were before
this got started – star collapsing,
insane and greedy in the dark.
I mean who does this! Who connects time travel and the sleek bodies of surfers and drive down the coast in such a strange and beautiful way? This collection gets me really pumped about poetry again. Seriously, I would trade this one poem for a dozen other full collections I have read in the past year.
I could go on and on about all the poems in this collection, but this collection makes you want to write your own poems because it just humms with an infectious vitality. So, just use your internets and order it now. You must have it in your life and on your shelf.
In the window, in good company….
The first review of Heat Wake, from Publishers Weekly, is in…. read it here and below…
Zuzga’s debut collection grows out of the intersection of myth and nature, like a simmering volcano of animal intensity that occasionally erupts in expressions that alternate between euphoria and lament. He establishes this strange amalgam from the opening lines of the first poem: “All rocks are queer. By this I mean/ I’m gay.” In “Love Poem,” Zuzga recalls a melancholic youth in the dark shadow of an emerging queer identity (“I was angry at myself for being a teenaged mermaid”) and tinges of this same sadness appear at other moments in the collection. “I may have exceeded the number of allowable/ falls-in-love,” he sighs. Animals appear everywhere, including bats, sharks, “hot deer,” and an extinct Steller’s Sea Cow that munches “on sea lettuce the color/ of absinthe.” Zuzga also meditates on the distinctions between human and nonhuman animal as scientists observe an array of marine life. In the title poem, he gets futuristic, imagining the cyborg “not-yet elephants of Mars.” The book’s third section (of six), “Electric Clocks Don’t Tick,” revolves around Zuzga’s suburban New Jersey childhood and features Aunt Dottie’s “sun tea,” adventures with Encyclopedia Brown, and a surprisingly tender bathroom inventory. These gentle touches bloom all the more brightly under Zuzga’s zoological bell jar, placing a real human heartbeat in the menagerie. (Mar.)
Heat Wake was published by Saturnalia Books on March 15, 2016.
The cover image has been created specifically for the book by artist Jim Drain.
Here are some early takes on the book….
“In their movement between animal, human, and mineral, Zuzga’s poems are metamorphic as the salamander who eats a California roll in a food court. A less moral Moore, Zuzga understands that the social and the natural relate in ways science alone cannot realize. Unboundaried, unanxious, his queer imagination finds backdoor correspondences that would make even Baudelaire blush. Heat Wake is not a hothouse gothic. It is a water sports park, full of liking, where one is encouraged to fondle the fauna. Let’s hope the poet has not surpassed “the number of allowable falls-in-love” and keeps exceeding lyrically.”—Christopher Schmidt, author of The Poetics of Waste and The Next In Line
“For the anatomical sensations he observes, in the tenderness of his sentences and white space, in his insatiate curiosity, his experience of surrealism, we might consider Jason Zuzga the Oliver Sacks of poetry. His new book Heat Wake is a miracle of pacing, reflection, action mixed together in scherzo form. I envy him his effects, things I could never get away with, nor even conceive of, and none more than his signature stroke, the noun pressed into service as verb (“One touch hurricanes you open,” “The sky veins with electricity,” et cetera). Heat Wake takes you in all the way to the hilt and returns you to earth a spent homunculus, a will of the wisp, a clown, and you will be thanking Jason Zuzga for your transformation for as long as you emotion your heart and brain.”—Kevin Killian, author of Tweaky Village and Argento Series
“Charming, witty, and science-y smart, these debut collection poems pop with volleys of youthful and wise acts, tactics, maneuvers, catastrophes, scenes, and did I mention love poems overrunning! And anthropomorphism at its finest—“The sounds flick off. Please. The desert would like to be alone.” Reader, you won’t be lonely in this lively tour of a refreshed world. Thank you, Jason Zuzga, for the language to imagine a benevolent universe.” —Jane Miller, author of Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poems and A Palace of Pearls
“Don’t expect to ‘come out’—Zuzga’s closet opens to a queer ocean, and try as we may to grasp at the skeletons we fleetingly see stacked, we fall with him into the unbiographing, inky depths. If he plays with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, it’s merely an octopus floating by; if conceptualist crimes are committed, Encyclopedia Brown solves the case; whatever happens is what is happening, which happens to be what never happened. Not for sure. Heat Wake: the congregation of company this poet accrues in his many deaths, with each page sizzling as a new bolt of divinely mad lightning strikes him—leaving us with not so much a speaker but a folio record of the sensorial events and animalistic upheavals occasioning him. Impossible as a wave to finish, Heat Wake‘s magic will linger like sand between your toes.” — Andy Emitt, Journalist for Pitchfork
Poem “Hoover Dam” has been published on The Awl.
Poem “Your Age on Other Worlds” has just been published on Sixth Finch.
Poems “Northeast Corridor” and “The Blazes” has been published in the current issue of the White Wall Review.
More news to come!