Friday, April 4, 2008

Upcoming conference plans: Little Magazines before and after the Web: The Case of Robert Gibbons

A month ago I posted about my plans to present a paper on the prose poetry of Robert Gibbons, seen as a form of life writing. Due to some shuffling of workshops and some wheeling and dealing behind the scenes I have instead been sold down the river to a workshop with a more overt cultural history and politics perspective, so that my paper now will have the title indicated in the heading for this post. That is fine by me - I intended all along to write a longer piece (and who knows, maybe a proper book) on Gibbons' fascinating practice and poetics - including a focused look at how his poetry is both political and personal.

On my university homepage I keep a log of my lectures and other speaking engagements. I now feature a page on ESSE-9 in Aarhus where I am going to first present my Gibbons-paper...

Here is the abstract:

The Survival of a Dissident Poet: Life in the Little Magazines before and after the Web – the Case of The Evergreen Review and Robert Gibbons

Robert Gibbons’ new volume of poetry Beyond Time – New and Selected Work 1977 - 2007 forms a rare vantage point from which to open a discussion of the themes proposed for this seminar on innovative voices on language and self. Over four decades Gibbons has remained an unincorporated, strongly political, and consistently dissident voice in the American landscape of little magazines and independent publication. Unaffiliated with any formal movement or coterie Gibbons has instead focused on developing his personal poetics of nonconformity, specializing in the hybrid form of the prose poem.

While being forced early on to depend on the acceptance of journal editors to find publication outlets, Gibbons has latterly begun utilizing internet and web-based publication options to a much larger extent. His spontaneous composition ideals make his output, which at times mimics forms such as the journal, the almanac and the blog, ideally suited for a quick turn-around in terms of publication. His confessions and reportage from a place-bound life on the streets of his favorite cities and among clean, well-lighted book-stacks balance carefully between the personal and the political, detailing the vagaries of having a compulsion to write for dear life while simultaneously being compelled to work for a living.

Parallel with his increasing utilization of ‘fast’ media, Gibbons has continued to work within more traditional little magazine outlets, such as The Evergreen Review, where recent poems have just appeared. The multiplication of publication outlets provided by the Web means that publication and gate-keeping in the arts have changed completely, and that whole new rules for peer, coterie and/or self-publication are now in place. Gibbons has navigated this new multifaceted field in a manner that could well be characterized as a celebration of 'indefatigable privateness', i.e. the visions of the individual – yet equally so as an indefatigable political commitment to a community, both local and global.
Some of my previous work on Gibbons can be found here:


The Atlantic Community

Gibbons' previous book, Body of Time, is reviewed here in The Evergreen Review

And here in Cercles by Camelia Elias in her inimitable fashion...

More info on Gibbons' work can be found here...

Here is how he presents his view on work, language and self at his relatively new web site:
Language having more to do with blood than dictionary, physical as much as cerebral. Spontaneous more than calculated. Rife with sensuousness. As internal as dream, eternal as memory. The insistence of pulse, breath, & bodily fluid. Blood of Love, I wrote once, dripping it repeatedly down the page, Blood of Love, Blood of Love, which could have culminated in a yell, “Stella!” If that were her name. Always the feet tracing streets from Paris to Barcelona; a dialogue of the citizenry of self with city & history. Skin & bone & wound. Letter by letter back home documenting experience. The second life of writing, as intense, or more so, than living. Aesthetic based on the tactile. The chew of the word. A certain taste, not always familiar. I’d film words like Godard, if I could, chant like Coltrane, if need be, paint a sign like Kline, however one has to get it down, send it out, make a note. Thrust & parry, the battle & pleasure.
Check out the rich vein of poetry flowing to his readers from his daily Log... A recent poem:
The Pleasure of the Text
Thursday, March 27,

She arrived via the elevator of the dream announcing that my sources were in order, which meant the latest stack of books included the Goya amidst the foundation of black notebooks, Black Sun, again by Kristeva, the newly added Basic Writings of Nietzsche, & topped off by a little yellow paperback version of The Pleasure of the Text by Barthes, intimating that this latter held the greatest interest for her. Just the night before we’d already spoken of the transparency of the Soul, whenever it appeared in dreams, whether the rose enclosed in double panes of glass floating down the aisle of a public bus, or the vitrine that appeared after I told her I also loved the back side of her Soul. Now, for Barthes, the pleasure of the text culminates in the unveiling of the sex, but such an exposure that cannot come too quickly, & must be justified by the rhythm of the language leading up to its revelation, whether it be the rhythm of the dance, the musical counterpoint of Debussy humbly seeking to give pleasure, voyeuristic clothesline strung taut in a long novel, or the slow emergence of ideas from the body, which he says differ from those of his own.

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