In our morning reading: an interview with Melissa Febos, revisiting W.G. Sebald, and more.
I’m teaching an online poetry-writing workshop. It’s thematized; it’s called “Moderna-ist Literature: The Poetics of the Pandemic.” As you can imagine, enrollment is low; no one, except for me and 6 other people in the world (class caps at 10), wants to think about the pandemic while in the pandemic. I wasn’t hoping to teach poetry about the pandemic – this would be a stupid or at least non-pragmatic hope, insofar as there’s barely any poetry about the pandemic, barely any writing at all, because we can’t think through, or about, the pandemic. It’s the inverse of David Foster Wallace’s story of the 2 fish swimming along, where then another fish crosses their path and says “Hey boys, how’s the water” and continues on its merry way, and then the 2 fish look at each other and one of them says “What the fuck is water?” Here it’s something like “Please do not remind me of this poisoned air, I ask to be distracted from breathing” – but rather to use the conditions of the pandemic as a metaphor for the conditions of poetry writing, e.g. what is the mask of the poem, how does the poem socially distance itself from the reader or, and this is really interesting to me, is the poem vaccinated; does it have symptoms, is it diseased, is it in some way sick. Poems that are experimental or that are translated or that are written by members of a marginalized community – marginalized due to race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, or mental health, the latter two categories being largely the focus of this review I’m currently writing my way into, of Jesi Bender’s wonderful new play KINDERKRANKENHAUS, which revolves around issues of neurodivergence and takes place in a children’s hospital and whose characters are the neurodivergent patients of said hospital, as well as the one doctor overseeing them all.
In our morning reading: new writing by Lincoln Michel, how the pandemic is affecting libraries, and more.
When it comes to books, December often brings the unexpected. This year is no different; even with paper shortages and distribution issues complicating the world of publishing, this month had plenty of notable books to offer. This includes multiple works by certified geniuses and a host of intriguing books in translation. Looking for some cold-weather reading? Read on for our recommendations.
The Parallel of Water & Air
by Jesi Bender
No man’s life is his own. He exists for others, in others. “No man is an island.”
Perhaps he is more the ocean. He touches every edge as an unwalkable bridge. He evaporates, an ether absorbed and expelled. And, of course, he rocks, restless, against, against, against.