Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999
Subject: A Barnard Report


>>> "Maria Damon (Maria Damon)" damon001@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU> 04/20/99 07:56pm >>>
did you perchance see either of the papers on Hannah Weiner that were to be presented? if so, any remarks worth making about them? charles, or others, if you're out there, can you pitch in on this one?

I was at Camille Martin's "Julia Kristeva and Hannah Weiner: A Poetics of
the Multivocal Semiotic." Martin introduced herself as "a graduate
student" from Louisiana State. She was one of the few presenters to
use an overhead projector.

She began with a sort of apologetics, about why theorists of Language
Poetry, despite their penchant for French post-structuralism, have largely
ignored the sort of psychoanalytic (or para-psychoanalytic) outlook of a
Kristeva, herself a professional psychoanalyst. Martin's conjecture was
that the triadic Oedipal matrix dervies from too narrative a sense of
self for the sort of "subject-less" ideologies of Language Poetry.
Nonetheless, he advanced their viability.

She went on to give an overview of Kristeva's theories, mainly, to my
memory, concerning the concept of the chora. (For my sake, I am left
slightly perplexed, as the direction in which Martin took the idea of
chora was different from my impression of what Kristeva's chora
were: vestiges of the pre-Oedipal stage [and hence pre-verbal]). Then,
to be plain about it, she started putting transparencies of Weiners' poems
onto the machine, realized they were upside-down, had to turn the slide
every which way to get it right . . . {non-verbal memory interference
here} She went on to pick out some of the currents of voices that ran
through the sample poems. She referred to Weiners' "clairvoyant" seeing
of words everywhere, and on her forehead, as a "gift," almost
enviously. The word "heteroglossia" seems to linger from what Martin
said ( . . . which brings up other dissonances, since "heteroglossia" is
more, to my knowledge, a term of Bhaktin's).

Basically speaking, it was a tidy presentation of Kristeva's themes, and
then a matching or patching of those themes onto Weiner's poems. I do
not remember the presentation to have diverged from that sort of
one-to-one explication. Martin seemed, perhaps, somewhat new to
Weiners' poetry. (The poem she used was, I thought, one I recognized as
anthologized.) Some of my vagueness about the presentation may come
from a slight bewilderment at how little the talk acknowledged Weiners'
sense of humor, which is a big part of my reading of her. I hope I'm not
overlooking too much.

Just FYI: that presentation was preceded by Mary Jo Bang on "Elliptical
Writing," and followed by Ira Sadoff's "Inside/Outside."

Mary Jo Bang took the envigorating (confrontational) tactic of facing the
opponent head-on: She cited a poem by Robert Pinsky, "The Green
Piano," as an example of what's wrong with "lyric tradition." Bang was
rather wry in reducing the characters of the poem to the equivalent of a
"television sitcom." -- "Elliptical" referred to -- who is the British writer? --
So-and-So's essay re-classifying American modernists/post-modernists
as "elliptical," but tracing the origins of that post-modernism to a very
limited primogeniture of only three or four Founding Fathers, including
"sometimes" Auden. Bang critiqued that historiography for overlooking
entirely the more important influences that exploded (ex nihilo?) from the
'50's on.

The microphones weren't working at the table that had been set up on
the auditorium stage, and each of the three speakers assumed positions
elsewhere in the hall, for acoustical reasons, some standing on stage,
some on ground level with the audience, Sadoff sitting on the edge of the
stage. Bang apologized for her "tiny" voice.

Sadoff: "Inside/Outside" is a distinction he borrowed from Jazz. My
memory of his presentation is rather eclipsed by an interruption that
Sadoff was comical about. While the luncheon was being prepared, the
other group having a banquet and filling up the conference rooms as
soon as we evacuated them appeared to be -- in Sadoff's words -- a bar
mitzvah! The noise from that group was becoming audible in our
auditorium and slightly drowning out his presentation, which he joked,
jumping to his feet, was some sort of "revenge," something come back to
"haunt" him, as a Jew (the unheimlich).

I'm drawing from (my rather flawed) memory a week-and-a-half later,
rather from than notes, so I apologize if this sounds like a
block-headed synopsis.