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A puncept on the name Amiri Baraka. Byron Hawk.

27 Aug

 

baraka

 

 

The “puncept,” a term coined by Gregory Ulmer, is the focus of Hawk’s “Hyperrhetoric and the Inventive Spectator: Remotivating The Fifth Element” chapter in The Terministic Screen (and in his work elsewhere).

What have you kept secret? A Prints Project poem from Heather Hallberg Yanda.

24 Aug

What have you kept secret?

Where are you looking, Emily?
Beyond some tree in your
Amherst neighborhood?
How safe, your home, your
family, the few you love.
Or are there others you’ve
kept secret from us all?
What love have you had?
What love have you given?
What keeps you clutching
that thing with feathers?

emily

Timothy Kenny. Walt Whitman. The Prints Project.

19 Aug

Walt Whitman

The Walt is a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike, largely indistinguishable from its eleven brethren: squat, southbound, slightly forlorn, two up from Clara Barton, “angel of the battlefield,” one down from James Fenimore Cooper, famous for writing “The Last of the Mohicans,” a novel that few are steady enough in their reading habits to finish anymore.

Walt Whitman, American poet, would be amused at New Jersey’s naming of highway rest stops that include his own, along with Woodrow Wilson, president and (uncomfortably for us) a bigot; the poet Joyce Kilmer, who was not a girl; and Grover Cleveland, the two-term Democrat who lived in the White House for eight years but not consecutively. Each lived or slid through New Jersey for varying amounts of time, some more deeply involved in the state than others.

Take Walt Whitman. For one thing he is Walt, not Walter, his hard-drinking carpenter father. Teetotaler Walt in older age wore a crazy-ass, startling beard that color-matched gray hair, once-dark, offset by the dazzle of intelligent eyes, the lightest of blue, eyes we all wished we had. The Walt pictured in the first “Leaves of Grass” – right hand on hip, left hand hidden in a pants pocket, black hat cocked at an angle, neatly trimmed beard – that Walt, that thirty-five-year-old world-beater Walt, insouciant and posed, is not our rest-stop Walt. Early-poet Walt is a different sort of Walt from the one whose name graces a New Jersey wayside.

Walt worked in words from a young age, touching them as a printer, speaking them as a Long Island schoolhouse teacher, editing them as a short-tempered newsman who complained unceasingly about the unfairness of 19th century life as he swept through a string of New York newspaper jobs until he wore out his city welcome. He penciled words into compact notebooks to be opened later. They festered, flowered, flowed into big ideas that he turned into sentences, paragraphs, thoughts that filled thinking Americans with new notions about literature, life, perhaps love.

Walt had his troubles. His alarming, off-kilter poetry earned little praise in his lifetime, although there were moments. Walt — bearded, belittled, sometimes fawned over (Abe Lincoln was a big fan, although the two never met) — was fired from a bureaucratic government post that paid the bills, all because his best known song of himself was just that off-key to some. That workaday Walt eventually arrived in New Jersey.

The rest stop honor no doubt would please him. “God bless ’em, it’s better than nothing.” Maybe he’d say that. Walt had a common man strain about him, his psyche stippled with the usual anxieties and narcissism of poets, not to mention that the Revolutionary War hero Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, once picked him up, literally, when Walt was six, holding the lad aloft during a Lafayette visit to New York City. Walt took delight in telling the story, which may be apocryphal, but who’s to say facts should get in the way of a good yarn. Walt used to be a journalist after all.

Walt also had itches; he scratched.

“Leaves of Grass,” self-published in 1855 after years of the aforementioned journalism and some wandering through America’s eastern woods, was a constant, unremitting undertaking. Walt could not let it be. He tinkered ceaselessly, tweaked and altered, deleted and added and republished the damn thing until one day he up and died over the constant fixing of it; or maybe that’s just me. Really, it was a stroke that left Walt lifeless in Camden in 1892, age 72.

His stunning, flowing poetry was startling in his day; it remains extraordinary in ours. Few readers found a middle ground after reading “Song of Myself.” The poem moon-barks, crows at dawn, cowers, offends, transforms us. Still, Walt got fired for it; that led to a lesser clerk’s position for a while, until finally he packed himself off to New Jersey to care for his ailing, eighty-eight-year-old mother. Walt seemed okay with it; his family was not an easy one. Somebody always seemed to need something. Besides, despite a kind heart and a deep understanding of human foibles, Walt could be prickly.

Most poets are. Most are not Wallace Stevens, a man so outwardly stalwart, train-bound daily into the Big Apple, back again to Connecticut, selling advertising to the many, a man who could still look at blackbirds in a baker’s dozen ways and find much else to write about. But I digress.

Recognition came Walt’s way on occasion. He gave a commencement speech at Dartmouth College; the poetic Rossettis, Dante Gabriel and wife Christina, both liked Walt. Emerson called “Leaves” “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” So that was pretty good. Acclamation remained mostly modest, though. The New Jersey rest stop heralding came much later.

There are, by the way, three categories of New Jersey rest stops, which I have been remiss in not mentioning:

Helpers: Clara Barton, John Fenwick, Molly Pitcher, Thomas Edison, and Vince Lombardi (sort of).

Politicians: Richard Stockton, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Alexander Hamilton.

Writers: Walt and the aforementioned James Fenimore and Joyce.

Walt’s stop is south-bound-only. James and Joyce are both north-bound only. Those names not to be connected, by the way. James Joyce never stepped foot in New Jersey. Service provided travelers at all twelve stops include Public Rest Rooms, Travel Information, Vending Machines, Public Telephones, Food, Gas, and a Gift Shop. I say it’s a clear tie between the toilets and the non-self-serve/cheaper-than-usual gas as to which rest stop benefit is best. Who wants to pump her/his own gas? But who would not want to pull into a rest area that carries his/her own name?

How cool would that be?

Walt would be over the moon, if for no other reason than such a venue is wholly democratic in our modern America way: men of all ages, colors, costumes and cars driven head immediately to the rest stop’s innermost sanctuary to stand alongside their fellows and find visceral relief from the coffee-fueled agonies of the road. Women’s enjoyment of the Walt is similarly provided but with more privacy, dignity, and longer wait lines, what with the stalls and all.

If “Leaves of Grass” is Walt’s enduring prayer to America, the Walt is a paean in return to our greatest poet. Simultaneously it is a salve to our anxious American souls for not having read enough of his poetry, if any.

It is, in our own way, the highest of compliments: We love you Walt, honest.

whitmanprintproject

Timothy Kenny is a former newspaper foreign editor, non-profit foundation executive, Fulbright scholar, and college journalism professor. His narrative nonfiction has appeared in The Louisville Review, The Gettysburg Review, Irish Pages, The Kenyon Review Online, Green Mountains Review, The Pea River Journal, and elsewhere. A collection of his narrative non-fiction essays is forthcoming in spring 2015 from The Milo Press.

Anthony Martin. Response to the Akhmatova, The Prints Project.

15 Aug

I look at her profile and see the place where one must walk, in despair
—maybe only in despair—after those savage boundaries are drawn and
bloodlines diverge, forced to run on each side of arbitrary meridians, one
of them inevitably feeding into an enclosed terminus to fester, to be
confined like the backwater it isn’t, the other free to gully the grey mud
and run where it pleases, but running back, always back, toward the
place where its kindred tributary waits, a river made still—a besmirched
winter puddle—its surface silent but reflecting all the efforts of men to
supplant god on earth, the very ungodly, dreadfully simple weaknesses
woven into things manmade that, by their very nature, doom these
visions of godliness from the start.

I see her profile and think, She didn’t leave.
Anna Akhmatova never left.

 

akhmatovaprint

The Prints Project: an update, 2.5 weeks in

11 Aug

We’ve released four prints into the wild so far: Anna Akhmatova, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, and Walt Whitman. Responses continue to arrive. So if you’ve somehow missed it, here’s what we’ve released to date:

for the Akhmatova:
Ab Davis. Anna Akhmatova Waits In Line Outside the Prison In Leningrad.
Laura Esckelson. By Silence and Words.
Anthony Martin. (coming on 8/15)

for the Pound:
John G. Rodwan, Jr. Questions to Consider in Connection with Ezra Pound.
Edward Hunt. Cage.

for the Whitman:
Corey Mesler. An Encounter.
Jose Padua. A HIGHLY SPECULATIVE CONCATENATION OF WALT WHITMAN WITH THE BIRTH OF PUNK ROCK AMONG OTHER THINGS.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy. American Epic.
Timothy Kenny. Walt Whitman. (coming on 8/19)

We’ve not yet received any Emilys. But we know they will arrive. [8/12 UPDATE: an Emily has now arrived. xx]

Eight more prints are ready for release. You might be on our list to receive one. You’ll know when it arrives in the post. Some people have asked how they might be added to the list. Just email us or DM on Twitter to start a conversation.

We are so grateful to Ab, Anthony, Corey, Edward, John, Jose, Laura, Leslie Anne, and Timothy for being the first to accept this challenge and share their new work in the form of a response. And we hope you, Dear Reader, love what they’ve created. More is on the way.

Edward Hunt. Cage.

8 Aug

Cage

Facimus:
a face to meet the faces that we meet.
masks to reveal our true selves.
a music language to express what we alone can hear.
cages out of iron, paper, and words.

Logoi:
come back to haunt us.
cage us in a courtyard.
in our heads in a hospital.
impossible to get out the same way they are inside.

Une images de:
self, life, others.
truth, distorted by language.
reality, struggling to escape the mechanical phrase.
singing the song haunting the soul.

Ezra:
do we have the courage not to care and to suffer for it?
do we need others to hear the ruach writhing inside, struggling to escape?
we’re in our cage in a courtyard, grasping the bars, looking out.

 

poundprintproject

American Epic. Leslie Anne Mcilroy.

5 Aug

American Epic

Words and words. Truth as we dress it. Scoundrel and the scoundrel within. O Captain, my Captain, this is death as I know it. This is the final sound. Word upon word upon leaves, upon grass. I DO hear America singing in all its voices, its words. Come to me. Come to me now with your bitter and sweet. You see I died for this alone. To hear you still singing is a plank or a beam, an open mouth. I want like nobody has ever wanted before. Like the star that wants to land, all strung up in heaven with it’s purpose, destination, its filament ever tirelessly speeding it, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys, what the author calls a man’s life. As lilacs once in the door-yard bloom’d, there is a fragrance in the pines, and the cedars dusk and dim. There is the obscene, the everyman’s want. There is the every man and the every woman, the every voice. There is me. I am large, I contain multitudes: I am man and woman and body craving body. Resist much, obey little, except this: You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life. You must tell your story to those who will listen, and tell it again to those who will not.

whitmanprintproject

Jose Padua. A Highly Speculative Concatenation of Walt Whitman With the Birth of Punk Rock Among Other Things.

4 Aug

A HIGHLY SPECULATIVE CONCATENATION OF WALT WHITMAN WITH THE BIRTH OF PUNK ROCK AMONG OTHER THINGS

 

Walt Whitman wrote
“I sing the body electric”
but I wonder if he ever
imagined the power
and possibilities of
the electric guitar.
Could he have been
the one who invented it
if only in his mind
without telling anyone
either friend or lover
or man or woman connected
by soil or blood?
Did his inner ear hear
the shredding,
the solos like an Indian raga,
the power chords
and strummed rhythm,
or maybe even the cry baby effects
of the wah-wah pedal?
Just as we see our souls
reflected in Nature,
we hear them too
in the falling of rocks
the bending of trees in a storm
and the ocean’s steady
breathing and humming
that became the measure
of an old blues song.
And in the time
of short nights and
long days was
it Walt Whitman
who in the midst of
a midnight’s body song
first lifted a bottle of
glue to his nose
and breathed in?

 

whitmanprintproject

Laura Esckelson. By Silence and Words.

1 Aug

Akhmatova’s inward gaze, the face of near sleep is dreaming
of the hand that chooses what appears
and what remains unseen

not breath or tone or warmth but evidence of being
the difference between the sleeper and the one who dreams
between sheets of censure and redemption

composed by the balance of absence
and presence, by silence and words,
a portrait in lines

akhmatovaprint

John G. Rodwan, Jr. Questions to Consider in Connection With Ezra Pound.

28 Jul

Questions to Consider in Connection with Ezra Poundpoundprintproject

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