This is Larry Sawyer's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Larry Sawyer's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Larry Sawyer
Recent Activity
The Chicago School of Poetics survived the “terrible two’s!” According to WebMD, this is a milestone in our cognitive development, even if it feels like we’re sometimes running out of energy. At age three, kids tend to let their imaginations run absolutely wild, and we’re no different. That’s why you should join us for our current master class with CAConrad on Saturday, October 18! Your writing will absolutely benefit from a jolt of imagination with CAConrad as your guide. Plus, educators get a 20% discount! Description: Study with CAConrad in this one-day online class, RADICAL INSISTENCE: A (Soma)tic Poetry Workshop. (Soma)tic poetry rituals provide a window into the creative viability of everything around us, initiating an extreme present where we learn how even in crisis we can thrive through the poems, as well as learn to collaborate in unexpected ways with other artistic disciplines. In our Chicago School of Poetics workshop we will take notes together for the poems, but we will also talk about how to always be able to see the poems around us. We will discuss the places that seem to prevent us from writing, and we will build rituals within those very places, because if we can write there we are free to write anywhere, whenever we want. A poetics of autonomy is a poetics of RADICAL INSISTENCE, and it is for all of us. Reserve your seat now (click here). (Class sizes are limited to maximize interaction with the instructor.) Class Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 Time: 1 p.m.– 4 p.m. CST Duration: 1 day (class meets once, for 3 hrs.) Instructor: CAConrad Location: Online Thanks to all who have helped us reach our mini-milestone! Here’s a brief Q&A about the School's mission and format with the School’s founder/director, Francesco Levato. Larry Sawyer: What makes the online instruction at The Chicago School of Poetics so different? Francesco Levato: I think there are a number of aspects of The Chicago School of Poetics that work toward differentiating our programs. Our instructors are all publishing poets who are also very active in the literary community as editors of literary journals, curators of reading series, and as performers themselves. This allows us to offer our students insight into, and advice for working with, publishers and the larger literary scene. Our video-conferenced classrooms allow students from anywhere to work with instructors they would not otherwise have the chance to work with, and to do this in a face-to-face setting. This system also allows us to provide students with access to poets like Charles Bernstein, Eileen Myles, Pierre Joris, Ron Silliman, and CAConrad, through our Master Class series. We have had students attend these and our regular classes from all over the world. It’s a unique experience to be able to work with a poet like Bernstein from my own home while sharing my work with classmates from Japan, Australia, and Morocco. Also, for what students are getting from the classes, it's much more affordable than instruction found elsewhere. We... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Now in its second successful year, The Chicago School of Poetics (CSoP) is kicking off 2014 with truly unique online course offerings and amazing opportunities to work with leading international poets in an intimate and collaborative setting. From the comfort of your home or a nearby café, you can participate in courses using our innovative and user-friendly program—choose face-to-face, real-time video or simply listen in. Join an international conversation—courses have included students from Morocco, Canada, and Australia, as well as from the United States. This is a friendly environment for anyone who is looking to refine their work and connect with others. In order to give students more opportunities to work with our faculty, we have initiated a new 6-week shortened course format that costs less and requires less of a time commitment. We’ve also streamlined our website, so courses are easier to find and registration is only a click away. Click here to register now: Class sizes are limited to maximize face time with the instructors. Also, check back at for registration information about our next master class with Pierre Joris on April 26. The glowing space is ours. CSoP showed the way! —Eileen Myles This is what a school truly should be – think of Black Mountain College – beyond all the boundaries & borders.
 —Ron Silliman I am surprised at how much I have learned and how much my writing and editing process has evolved. —Angie T. I felt lucky to receive such input from an established poet and the price was a bargain because I felt I gained a lot from the class. —Michael S. Winter 2014 Course Offerings Poetics Level I with Kristina Marie Darling Saturdays, February 22 – March 29 Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST Blending lecture, written exercises, and in-class feedback this course is designed to help you view your poetry with the cold eyes that are necessary to make instinctual edits based on the many tools at your disposal. Poetics Level II with Larry Sawyer Saturdays, February 22 – March 29 Time: 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. CST Poets use techniques such as automatic writing, random effect, shifts in writing method and even location, personal archeology, access to a wide variety of secondary source texts, found language, investigative poetry techniques, journal keeping, experiments with the basics of traditional forms, list poems, etc. Pulse Poem Pulse with Barbara Barg Mondays, February 24 – March 31 Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. CST Language is a poet’s instrument. This class focuses on developing dexterity and creativity with the rhythm, texture, and tonal qualities of language. Students will break language down to its melodic and percussive elements and explore rhythms and sounds from diverse, sometimes unusual sources. Red-Headed Stepchild: The Unholy Spawn of Poetry and Story with Sharon Mesmer Tuesdays, February 25 – April 1 Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. CST Students will examine some very early examples of what we now think of as “hybrid” writing, then blend the hallmarks... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Perhaps the archetypal “feel-good” family situational comedy, the television show Leave it to Beaver first aired on April 23, 1957 and provided viewers with a peek into the inner melodramatic turmoil of the Cleaver family at 485 Grant Avenue in Mayfield. Few at the time knew that “beaver cleaver” was a euphemism for a penis but the show’s writers didn’t stop there. (An early episode found June asking Eddie Haskell about his rubbers.) The most famous double entendre from the show dialogue surely must have been a concerned June Cleaver scolding “Ward, weren’t you a little hard on the Beaver last night?” Although in the late 1950s the media was strictly censored, this type of innocent raunch still flew stealthily right over home plate. The very few who did scratch their head or bat an eyelash or crack a smile at the realization that all the talk about Beaver wasn’t perhaps so innocent didn’t quite mind enough to report their suspicions to the censors, so the cast enjoyed a healthy run of six seasons. By the last season Theodore Cleaver’s day-to-day melodramas finally started to seem canned. When the last episode aired on June 20, 1963 the nation had no idea that a president’s assassination was to be waiting on its doorstep just a few months later and that a war in Vietnam would soon be broadcast daily on every television screen, which had once been merely the source of idyllic scenes from other family-oriented sitcoms and variety shows. Nearly every episode of Leave it to Beaver culminated in an absurdist epiphany from the “little goof.” Beaver’s illuminations offered proof that the outside world made absolutely no sense until his judgment of it was offered, and during the delivery of each epiphany, time nearly stopped until all those within earshot of the proffered wisdom had duly noted its relevance. Beaver’s mini-sermons-on-the-mount were always ludicrous yet often they were also right on the money. In the Cleaver household, where all except Wally had already resigned themselves to absolute entropy, Beaver’s asides resembled aphorisms, maxims, and even an absurdist version of Hindu darshana. According to Wikipedia “In many cultures, including Samuel Johnson’s England, many East and Southeast Asian societies, and throughout the world, the ability to spontaneously produce aphoristic sayings at exactly the right moment is a key determinant of social status. Many societies have traditional sages or culture heroes to whom aphorisms are commonly attributed, such as the Seven Sages of Greece, Confucius or King Solomon.” A maxim, uttered to advise, is succinct and offers little wiggle room for the listener. From the Latin maxima propositio, or “greatest premise” the most effective maxims seem like completely closed systems. Theodore Cleaver, however, in the delivery of his random epiphanies always gave the impression to viewers that he would be perfectly fine completely contradicting himself the following day—or even in the next five minutes. This utter adaptability made Beaver seem more advanced than the other members of the cast. Like a true Postmodern,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
You might not think of this 1981 dab of pop schmaltz served up by the Philly duo Hall & Oates when you think about the National Security Agency but the song makes a point. Other than its obvious message about stepping out on a lover and the mayhem that ensues, in the context of our Chicago 100,000 Poets for Change event tonight it’s being used to spread a message that as our local, state, and federal governments become less and less transparent in their activities they are spending huge sums of money in their efforts to watch us. (Recent headlines also show that government employees have also been using their increased reach not only to spy on potential threats to national security but also ex-girlfriends and wives.) It’s worth mentioning that increased surveillance to some degree does make our world a bit safer, but the larger question is what are we sacrificing for this safety and where is the line when collectively Americans need to say enough. From the elevated train you rode to work, to the convenience store where you bought a bagel, to efforts championed by some health insurance companies that would require potential customers to provide DNA mapping, technology and our efforts to make urban environments more livable are colliding in sometimes strange ways, indeed. Poets, artists, and musicians worldwide tonight are getting together to talk about the issues that affect their communities for the third installment of the global 100, 000 Poets for Change. Join us! Details follow. (I’ve also included a journal entry about participating in my very first 100, 000 Poets for Change event three years ago.) TONIGHT: Private Eyes (They’re Watching You): A special event in conjunction with 100 Thousand Poets for Change, 7pm at Outer Space Studio 1474 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago near the CTA Damen blue line suggested donation $4 About: On September 28, 2013, thousands of poets around the world will make their voices heard. To declare the change they'd like to see most in the U.S. and throughout the international community, events are being staged worldwide as part of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. This night of poetry and activism in Chicago asks the questions: What is freedom of expression? Is surveillance dangerous? Who chooses the information our government can access and censor? When has it gone too far? FEATURING: Darren Angle, Barbara Barg, Joel Craig, Nina Corwin, Adrienne Dodt, Rey Escobar, Cean Gamalinda, Laura Goldstein, Jeanette Gomes, Kevin, Gunnerson, Nathan Hoks, Felicia Holman, J'Sun Howard, Noël Jones, Jennifer Karmin, Emily Lansana, Daniela Olszewska, Matthias Regan, Timothy David Rey, Larry Sawyer, Jennifer Steele, Keli Stewart, Russ Woods, and Lina Ramona Vitkauskas **all proceeds to be donated to Kiva** Logistics -- near CTA Damen blue line, third floor walk up, not wheelchair accessible Co-sponsored by the Chicago Calling Arts Festival & curated by the 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Chicago Community Council 2013: Barbara Barg, Laura Goldstein, Jennifer Karmin, Timothy Rey, Larry Sawyer, Keli Stewart, and Lina Ramona Vitkauskas... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
For decades Andrei Codrescu has seen many roles: cultural commentator, witness to the fall of the Soviet Union and communism in Romania, erstwhile comedian, filmmaker, respected literary editor, and educator but he's always primarily been a poet. When speaking of memory or social history, it's difficult to assume now that a collective we exists let alone for younger generations to understand older and vice versa. There is a certain randomness to memory. Codrescu opens his new and selected with a short aside on the ever-changing nature of the pronoun "I" and how over his years spent in America that "I" has changed. What the eye sees and what the mind remembers has changed with the takeover that technology has meant in our lives but we, as 21st century humans, are nothing if not persistent. As the pace of life seems to quicken, each moment takes on a seeming greater importance as the flickers of our existence speed up. Technology has closed gaps but also created a new abyss. The original daft punks, poets have traditionally held as one of their roles gatekeeper for collective memory, although poetry also obviously provides pleasure and has no need to be useful in a strict sense. Andrei Codrescu's poetry serves several unique functions in addition to providing pleasure. It's an invaluable record of what the writing life of this poet became, which is transformative, as well as the details of how life on planet earth has changed in the past few generations as our 21st century lives become more complex. All of these facets are preserved here. Yet (p. 166) memory disregards context it is an enemy of experience therefore unreliable and since basic memory is a condition of survival i assume that we survive in spite of experience when one forgets as a philosophy each forgotten thing is raised to the status of a god (i.e. objective condition) and makes everyone else remember< things that they haven't experienced some memories bring with them brand new experiences different from the original contexts in which they occurred and thus set up the conditions for brand new memories most things endowed with memory die prenatal memory is common property but it is not objective words and pictures are the only things one can forget at leisure and look up later His underlying worldview always seems a bit more Buddhist and less Freudian. Codrescu emigrated to the United States in 1966 from Romania and his time here has sharpened his eye rather than dulling it. If he sometimes seems like the canary in the coal mine of our consumer driven society, he performs that operation with much humor, although of the black variety. (p. 256) a petite histoire of red fascism All connections are made by energy. The inert masses know nobody & not themselves. Nobody & Not Self are well worth knowing but connecting them takes energy so they are known only by their masks of inert proletarian matter--Bolshevik statues. The people with the most energy... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I was recently marveling over this poem by Dylan Thomas, “Who are you who is born in the next room...” (published in 1945) from a series of pattern poems called Vision and Prayer because of what it does or enacts so successfully, and in doing so, how it transcends its arbitrary form. I don’t have the entire series in front of me, so it may be that this particular shape has some relevance that isn’t obvious when it’s viewed out of context because apparently these shapes form a series. What seems most interesting to me is how this writing works so well to set a scene and create a poetic equation with an ending that comes as somewhat of a surprise in a visceral way with such depth of metaphor, while it almost completely resists its own rhyme scheme. It provides an almost perfect balance between meaning and form that still manages to raise interesting questions because of certain effects. I’m drawn at the outset to the two somewhat cavernous caesuras. The first comes after “In the birth.” It seems appropriate that the poet creates this gap in the line after the word birth (where the reader nearly falls in), and the second occurs after the word “alone.” Both caesuras offer a perfect physical illustration of what is being described (the pregnant pause) because the reader is forced to involuntarily pause after these words, which not only gives them emphasis but reemphasizes in a very graphic way the visual provided a few lines earlier with “I can hear the womb opening.” From the poem’s opening there is a double meaning established because of the dramatic tension inherent in the first three words. The intentional ambiguity almost has the reader questioning himself or this might also be Thomas asking the question of himself. Dualities cascade throughout. In the idea that Jesus was God’s word made flesh. The two physically separated rooms exist showing the reader as separate from what goes on in the other room. Also, the mention of a “wall thin as a wren’s bone” seems to underscore a difference between what the speaker perceives as the natural and unnatural world. It’s quite marvelous that “Wren bone” is an anagram of “new borne.” Other imagery underscores an idea that this event on some level is holy but, again, a duality within the structures finds the reader noticing a shift of perspective in the mirror image of the poem that begins as the lines reach a midpoint and then recede in the second half. The poem’s structure mimics what is described, i.e., the poem itself is turning or shifting. These lines could be read in multiple ways “In the birth/bloody room/unknown to the …” or “In the birth bloody/room unknown to the…” The poem, although only 71 words, does start with a vision and end with a sort of prayer but is Thomas describing his own thoughts on his own life that started with a similar birth but resulted in the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Two of my favorite poets. Thanks for the kind words!
photo (c)Lawrence Schwartzwald How does not having a physical school benefit your students and classes? The online classes simply allow us to invite students into our community no matter where they’re living. With a laptop, students could take a class at home, in a café, or sitting in a car. Anywhere with Wi-Fi really. We’ve had students from Canada, Morocco, and the Philippines in addition to students right here in Chicago. What have you noticed that has changed in Chicago’s poetry scene over the years? There are more reading series, more journals. It’s a destination for poetry now. There has been a genuine influx of poets. I recently covered the Chicago literary scene for Ploughshares and mentioned the wide variety of events and institutions. What event(s) would you recommend to a poet just starting out in Chicago? Go to the readings. There are sometimes multiple events in one night but really try to get out and experience poetry. From Hyde Park to Wicker Park to Rogers Park, there is poetry to be heard somewhere nearly every night of the week. How does Chicago’s poetry community differentiate itself from others like NY and LA? I’m sure there are similarities but the Chicago poetry community is probably more varied. At some point there was some discussion as to whether the poets here constituted a "new Chicago school" but I think stylistically every type of poetry can be found here. There is a long history of poetry in Chicago of course. Going back to Carl Sandburg or Gwendolyn Brooks. In 1920, H.L. Menken famously commented that Chicago was the literary capital of the United States. Other than Sandburg and Brooks, the city has been almost more well-known as a home to novelists but that seems to be changing. In the past 7 or 8 years, more and more poets seem to have moved to Chicago. What’s going on in American poetry now that excites you? Read the work of Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, Dana Ward, Tom Clark or Tracey K. Smith. I always like to see what Johannes Göransson and Bob Archambeau are writing about. The recent bickering about conceptualism has been sometimes interesting. Goldsmith is probably having a good laugh at the ire he’s produced in poets. Lately we were happy to add Sharon Mesmer to the faculty at The Chicago School of Poetics. (Welcome, Sharon!) Also, the events here in Chicago are great. I’m still excited by the readings at Myopic Books. I’ve been curating the reading series there for over 8 years now. I recently hosted my 200th poetry reading there. Also, a few months ago I participated in and helped plan a wake for the famous Irish poet Fallon McPhael. OK, so he never existed. I’m excited to see the late poet Joe Ceravolo being recognized now for his work with a big collected poems. Also, it’s been exciting to see Chicago in the past 10 years become a destination for poetry. I was just talking about this with the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
In writing about themes including the sleaziness of the film industry, war in Afghanistan, the gutter nature of politics, and the absurdity of American life, my book Unable to Fully California seats itself squarely in a tradition of the American grotesque. Of course, Flannery O’Connor once famously stated that the problem for a serious writer of the grotesque is “one of finding something that is not grotesque.” But to point at the existence of the grotesque as observer, i.e. include it as subject matter, creates a critical distancing from it and implies that the observer is not a part of the tableaux that inspired such art. But the waking up from this American dream often includes a tense realization that we are all a part of this intertwined society like it or not. The grotesque exists at the local mall, definitely all over television, in the imminent political primaries, sitting at home by the fire, everywhere except in the wilds. People create a scenario that can be called grotesque, although the wilderness was the first common metaphor that implied a backdrop in front of which the early inhabitants of the newly formed United States enacted their grotesque scenarios. Kenneth Burke in the 1930s called the idea of the grotesque an “attitude toward history” that is evident in contemporary life and a “cult of incongruity without the laughter.” What I sought to accomplish by sticking some pins in the film industry in my own first book. E. H. Gombrich has written of the long tradition of grotesque motifs within the world history of visual art and names some of the work of Albrecht Dürer as being early examples of the grotesque in social settings. The American author most typically identified as writing in a grotesque tradition is Edgar Allen Poe, but to that list could be added Sherwood Anderson, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, and possibly also William Carlos Williams. Grotesque The city has tits in rows. The country is in the main—male, It butts me with blunt stub-horns, Forces me to oppose it Or be trampled. The city is full of milk And lies still for the most part. These crack skulls And spill brains Against her stomach. (1914) The poem still has a slight shock value. But mere shock is never the goal of the grotesque. The poem begins with what could be a description of milk bottles lined up in rows along a city street. A sight probably not seen in the country but we’re left to wonder how the action in the poem will be resolved. It ends with a fairly graphic depiction of violence that might describe the outdated practice of consuming lambs brains during pregnancy. What makes this grotesque is that we don’t quite know. Williams offers this partial portrait to heighten the effect of the grotesque. Taken to its logical conclusion the tradition of the grotesque in America also includes some of the best rock ‘n roll. Musical poets such as the Lou Reed of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Given the difficulty Americans seem to have finding any common ground on the question of gun control, unsurprisingly, as a poet, I hear a particular poem rise up in my memory to provide a quiet but definitive answer. In fact, this particular poem is known for its haunting quality and its orchestral force that contradicts its seeming simplicity. I’m writing about Emily Dickinson’s “My Life It Stood – A Loaded Gun (764).” No one would turn to the poetry of Emily Dickinson to find solutions to the current American gun control issue, which is why the possibility intrigues me. (If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is Florida.) Rather than point to what the poem might mean, I’m more interested in Dickinson’s description, which provides such indelible force. Buoyed by an off-kilter rhythmic sensibility that required extreme daring and skill to execute, the first two stanzas provide some of the best lines of poetry ever written by an American. With a deadpan subtlety, Dickinson’s implication that the mountains’ echo to the report of the gun completes a tableau where the reader is able to visualize the action so seamlessly it actually feels as though we are also a part of that picture caught within the frame of the poem. In fact, the entire poem has a filmic quality. The action that drives this poem could easily serve as the plot for a short experimental film. My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - In Corners - till a Day The Owner passed - identified - And carried Me away - And now We roam in Sovereign Woods - And now We hunt the Doe - And every time I speak for Him - The Mountains straight reply - And do I smile, such cordial light Upon the Valley glow - It is as a Vesuvian face Had let its pleasure through - And when at Night - Our good Day done - I guard My Master’s Head - ’Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s Deep Pillow - to have shared - To foe of His - I'm deadly foe - None stir the second time - On whom I lay a Yellow Eye - Or an emphatic Thumb - Though I than He - may longer live He longer must - than I - For I have but the power to kill, Without - the power to die - With the line “The Mountains straight reply -” Dickinson provides such a convincing psychological photograph that, once this fiery image appears in the imagination of the reader, it’s nearly impossible to extinguish. The image is lasting because it’s provided in such stark contrast: we nearly expect the fourth line of that second stanza to rhyme with its second line because that’s the expectation created by the first stanza. This defiant unexpectedness gives the line its subtle visual force. Edwin Denby, another poet able to do this, wrote poetry known for a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
[Happy birthday, Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880–1918] André Breton's agenda to destroy bourgeois forms of consciousness with the exploration of desire as "a theatre of provocations" is possibly most apparent and memorable in his poem from 1931, "Free Union." In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images on Facebook I came upon a request made by Mark Lamoureux for surrealist love poems for a wedding ceremony and saw a comment by Noah Eli Gordon that Mark ought not to choose "Free Union" because it objectifies women. I would submit that "Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions." So, in Breton's conception of this poem there is no true object. Not in any typical sense. I would argue that in Breton's conception of this poem the images presented and the result is to show through some small crack in our realities that women, men, and all of the objects in our world are much larger than we previously supposed and also conjoined. The lightning released by the poem is bizarre, haunting, and does indeed contain some baroque element of schlock. This is absolutely why I love it. Most have stated that it actually memorializes a particular woman and wasn't directed toward women. Whether modern society has supplanted our primal consciousness with some false rationality is debatable, perhaps, but the poem "Free Union," even its title, seeks to conjoin the disparate elements of our being through an analysis of what drives us on our most elemental level--desire. Reader, please substitute the word "wife" in the poem with "husband" or any other number of words--the goal is some indefinable totality that is supra-conscious. Unlike Thomas Campion's "There is a Garden in Her Face," the famous poem published in 1617, i.e., There is a garden in her face Where roses and white lilies grow; A heav'nly paradise is that place Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow. Breton seeks to cross the chasm inherent in the blason as it existed since Clément Marot's time in 1536 by using an apparition of the form to praise but he does so by skipping a crucial step. To Breton his ... wife whose hair is a brush fire Whose thoughts are summer lightning Whose waist is an hourglass Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut Whose tongue is an incredible stone My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows My wife whose... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Larry Sawyer is now following The Typepad Team
Aug 25, 2013