Saturday, September 27, 2008

Richard Loranger, Mammal of Verse

When I first met Richard Loranger his book Poems for Teeth was just released. That the work, structured as celebrations of the teeth he’s lost and invocations of those he retains, hasn’t received the attention and admiration of a larger audience of readers seems like one of the greatest tragedies of contemporary verse. His is an eruptive poetry of lightness where being is lifted skyward by a parade of ardent words. In “I Want a Poetry,” which appears in Correspondence No. 1, he declares, “I want a poetry that runs off the page, across the wall, around the corner, onto the floor, leaps out the window and onto the street where it goes for a stroll, meets new friends, takes a wrong turn, and finds something shiny on the curb.” It’s what he desires and, I think, what he practices. His poetry is lively, epiphanic, and it embraces the unnamable slipperiness of what he would call the mammalian condition with vigorous compassion. Poems for Teeth is full of yelps, and stories, and songs, and awareness. Many lesser poets have or attempt Richard’s unbridled energy, but few possess the same exquisite formal ability that turns electricity into something diamond-shaped. For about three years, until he escaped Brooklyn for San Francisco, he was around to act as a sort of patron saint to our band of noisy, youthful poets. Time was when we held an obstreperous reading series at the Bethesda Angel at Central Park (illegal at least for the public drinking); Richard attended a few of those and oversaw them delightfully. His visitation resulted in the writing of a poem (which he insisted would include the use of a z in the plural form of kid⎯I thought he was joking until I saw it) that he gifted us with. Poems for Teeth is an important book for any reader of contemporary poetry (Richard wouldn’t like me using the word contemporary, I’m afraid), seven of his most recent pieces are found in Correspondence No. 1, and here’s the Angel thing:

October 5, 2006: Kidz These Days
by Richard Loranger

I dive into a whirligig of hair & teeth & minds
to trek toward an angel we call eye⎯
aye, eye not I, for we traverse light as a matter of kind,
arching archly toward the metamorph
the gleams a frank identity far more
apocalyptic than the dull drone of one,
drinking a joyous multitude⎯the midnight sky
gorging through a pupil of a moon

A bridge will suck all streets towards itself,
as do these kidz, frolic of the time
formidable & strong strange luminous
free from rank formality the infants need
crying in time the dull drone of one,
yet kidz not these, dodging nothing, no knowing,
not need nor knot that incubates the sky,
a multitude alchemical, a magic cry, an arch.

Here in Foreverland,
Saran Wrapped in the comic clock of I,
you, ewe, bleat a tiny woo of hence & heretofore,
resignedly await the final shear⎯
while on the angel pours a cataract of kidz
masticating all the world as loving siblings do,
feeding the angel’s eye as one anticipates the day,
heaving justly intermingling selves into the mind:
kidz frank, kidz alert, kidz in the kind.

Related Links:

Poems For Teeth on
Richard Loranger at We Press

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two Announcements and an Announcement

1. The Corresponding Society Reads In Brooklyn

If this were The New York Times, the title of this announcement would be “A Reading Grows In Brooklyn.” Anyway: we’re entirely pleased to announce that we’ll be holding a reading on the campus of The Pratt Institute in the verdant Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn (that’s near the Clinton-Washington stop on the G train). The reading is open to the public and will occur in the Alumni Reading Room of the Institute’s quite beautiful library. Copies of the first issue will be available for purchase. Please refer to Pratt’s website for detailed directions, or contact us via email. Here’s the rundown:

Reading at the Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn
Tuesday, October 7th at 5pm
Matthew Daniel
Chanelle Bergeron
Robert Snyderman
Lonely Christopher
Adrian Shirk
Christopher Sweeney

2. Call for Submissions

Queerly enough, we’re more or less on schedule for our second issue of Correspondence. One of the things that means is that we’re currently accepting submissions. We’re mainly looking for poetry, short fiction, drama, and critical essays (though, as evidenced by Tallon’s work in the first issue, we’re also interested in hybrid pieces). Please email us your submission (thecorrespondingsociety [at] in the form of a single, clearly labeled .doc file; you are also encouraged to include a short personal statement. Ten to twenty manuscript pages is our standard length per author. The official deadline is October 1st.

3. From Our Friends at Small Anchor Press

A word from Jen Hyde (director of Small Anchor Press):

Small Anchor Press, a Brooklyn based independent press, announces the publication of Mike Heppner's novella, Talking Man on September 30th 2008. It can be preordered now right here. You are cordially invited to Talking Man's press release party and reading at Freebird Books & Goods in Brooklyn on October 3rd at 7:30pm and a Small Anchor Brunch with Mike Heppner on October 4th at 1:00PM. Seating is very limited, please visit our website for further details. Go to for directions to the reading, or to Mike Heppner’s website for more information about his project. Small Anchor, Mike Heppner and Freebird Books look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Conversation with Sweeney

Christopher Sweeney, the reclusive director of The Corresponding Society (and editor-in-chief of the journal), was recently caught on tape in a conversation, with this blog’s web editor, which addressed specific issues related to our press and journal as well as broader considerations of contemporary poetics and the processes of younger writers. Characteristically he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Lonely Christopher: How would you define The Corresponding Society?

Sweeney: It’s a project that was conceived in, probably, November 2007 amongst a group of writers⎯six of us, I would say, who’ve been living in Brooklyn now for a long time. The group itself began before that with a reading series we started called The Gates Salon (which is basically an open mic for friends, associates, and really anyone who wants to come). I think, to some extent at least, it’s an attempt to begin more concretely developing a community of writers⎯not necessarily along any specific aesthetic lines or particular approaches to craft, but a young group that’s Brooklyn-based (although we don’t exclude people from other locations).

LC: What are the purposes or functions of Correspondence?

Sw: I think the hope is probably, on one hand, that it’s intended to be an outlet for publication for young writers (that’s how it is mostly right now, but we also feature older, more established writers) that we know and are excited about; the second thing is to begin to encourage a journal that is really focused on an advanced development of craft and formal ability.

LC: What makes our establishment of a group (a press) relevant or appropriate considering that the ideologies and formal directions of all the members are so dissimilar?

Sw: I think that it’s obvious looking at The New American Poetry anthology, which published a lot of work at the time focusing on many different journals, and throughout much of the last half century’s work, that oftentimes literary groups don’t form along specific aesthetic lines; often it’s just a lot of talented individuals that grow out of an engagement that does not necessarily translate into congruent ideas. I think it’s often the conflict of ideas, opinions, and styles that leads to better work and better engagement than a sort of unanimous consent or congruence.

LC: How do you feel literary journals function in the landscape of contemporary writing as you understand it and, considering possible paradigmatic shifts that have occurred over the past century (especially re the Internet’s influence), do they function as vitally as possible in our contemporary context?

Sw: I don’t know for sure; I’ve actually had trouble with this question for other journals⎯and our own. In general my experience with literary journals coming out recently is that it’s been pretty bland. Poetry in general has not excited me much in the last fifteen years of work that I’ve seen. I think most of the time literary journals have no effect or no meaning. It’s difficult to maintain a literary journal for its own sake⎯more or less, anyone publishing in a journal, particularly anyone of note, is also publishing elsewhere; so there’s little to distinguish one journal from another. I think one possible use of a journal, one of the better uses that I can currently think of, is as a formal documentation of a literary community through time. I don’t think there is any journal or that there’s going to be any journal that necessarily stands out. I think, in a lot of ways, that a simple documentation of a group is a worthwhile goal for a journal.

LC: What are your expectations and hopes for The Corresponding Society?

Sw: I certainly would like to continue publishing. Our schedule for the journal right now is biannual; I think the ultimate goal is for it to be quarterly. Also the press wants to begin publishing novels and book-length poems or collections soon. Furthermore, the hope would be to increase circulation.

LC: How would you describe an ideal reader of Correspondence?

Sw: I think in some ways the best readers so far have been the people involved. It’s been rewarding and interesting to hear the responses of contributors. While I know just about every contributor, not all of them know each other; it’s been interesting to introduce writers to each other.

LC: Isn’t that a little hermetic?

Sw: Yeah, certainly. I guess I don’t know what expectations to have for a wider reception of the journal.

LC: How does geography relate to the Corresponding Society⎯that is to say are we mostly localized or do we represent work being produced in various locations and coming together through a medium of communication such as the Internet?

Sw: It’s certainly based in Brooklyn⎯but in the first issue we published work by a handful of people from Connecticut, from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Denver, San Francisco, Scotland, and Paris. In a lot of ways it extends beyond Brooklyn; for some involved we communicate primarily through the Internet and the press. The hope for the future is that it will extend even further.

LC: How do you perceive the state of the arts in Brooklyn (especially concerning the writing community, which is so often marketed as strong and important here)?

Sw: It is often marketed that there are strong writing communities here⎯I personally have no idea what those people are talking about. There certainly are writers in Brooklyn, there are many, but I don’t think many of them are interesting. For me, and there’s certainly something I could seriously be missing, but the two dominant trends that I see from where I stand include a style of work which⎯I know you won’t like this⎯harps on experimentalism and novelty for its own sake (as far as I understand it), and then there’s confessional or memoir-based writing that’s more about telling and sharing personal stories than it is about direct engagement with craft (and I don’t find that interesting either).

LC: How do you see your peers developing as writers in contradistinction to your ideas about writing?

Sw: There are actually few people developing along the same lines as myself. I think Dave Swensen (a contributing editor) is someone often working in a similar vein, but that’s pretty much it. I mean, you are someone whose work is very obviously developing in a different direction than mine⎯it’s work that’s really engaged with innovative formal elements. Chanelle Bergeron (a writer in the first issue) is going in another direction still⎯whereas I often take Pound, Eliot, and Crane as my models I see a lot of cummings in her work. I see a sort of wordplay and imagination that I don’t feel I currently have. Then there are certain writers, Matthew Daniel and Robert Snyderman, who I think are⎯certainly not disengaged, but maybe I don’t even understand fully the formal direction by which they’re approaching their work. Robert’s work is somewhat similar to mine in that he takes dialogues from Persephone, Hades, and Demeter⎯but he’s pushing it in a more experimental direction. I’m not really sure.

LC: As somebody who is deeply invested in the model of high modernism, do you think contemporary poetics are problematic and if so, how⎯and what must young writers do to engage with poetics in a more important/relevant way?

Sw: Well, I have spent a lot of time studying, working, writing through the high modernists. I think I’m trying to begin to step out of that⎯not that it’s gone too far but one poet I’ve been reading a lot of recently is John Berryman, who has traces of high modernism but begins moving it in a much less romantic, much more colloquial direction. I think the fact that I’ve been so obstinate with the high modernists has been a fault in some ways, yet in some ways I do get the impression that a lot of the time young poets are not making the necessary commitment to discovering and studying the poetic tradition that precedes them; they sort of skim through, or skip over entirely, Eliot and Pound simply because at first glance it’s difficult. Often it’s those same writers who don’t do much reading of earlier poets. One person I began reading a lot of in the last year is John Donne. So I think there needs to be a more effective engagement with the historical tradition of poetry, and I think there’s just a fundamental danger with attempting to found your poetics solely on the current decade or two of work. The danger with reading contemporary work is always the fact that it’s easy to get caught up in trends and fads and to not be able to discern what’s enduring about any given poet. Unless you can begin to do that you don’t really even have a grounds on which you can judge contemporary work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Theater on YouTube and in Long Island City

YouTube Follies

Something I forgot to mention was that the Institutionalized Theater, an affiliate with this very press, presented two one-act plays at The Bowery Poetry Club at the end of August. Gay Play, written and directed by this self-same web editor, was unfortunately not recorded for posterity⎯but the other piece, Slump Boat Sway, was filmed on some sort of cheap digital camera and is now available online. The monologue was directed by (presumed Corresponding Society member) A.E. Wilson and features performances by Lonely Christopher and MK Chillemi. Although the image is pixilated to the point of abstraction and the sound quality is so poor it sounds like I have a serious speech impediment, interested parties are yet welcomed to check it out at the following links: Part I, Part II, & Part III. And since I am on the subject of video clips of Institutionalized performances that are available on YouTube, I might as well mention some older material as well. The following clips are from our very first show (which was a scrappy endeavor that ended up the subject of at least one major scandal) that culminated in a cacophonic madhouse of a dramatic event called Morning Morning, conceived by Corresponding Society member and Poem Shop writer Robert Snyderman. You can watch the end here: Part I & Part II. It’s peculiar how much stuff ends up on this YouTube. Somebody even took the time to post a video of me tripping over a difficult poem after somebody set a camera flash off in my face at a Small Anchor Press reading a while back (though I won’t post the link to that out of embarrassment). Of course YouTube is all well and good, but I would recommend UbuWeb, an archive of avant-garde materials managed by Kenneth Goldsmith. PennSound, directed by Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis, is also a tremendously valuable resource.

With Golden Thread on One End

This isn’t really related to matters of the Corresponding Society or its affiliates, but certainly worth mentioning. I am currently working as an Assistant Stage Manager on a play, presented at The Chocolate Factory (it’s in Queens!), titled 1965UU. It’s by Mac Wellman, directed by Steve Mellor, and stars Paul Lazar. The show is basically a monologue; the text is quite dense and linguistically tangled, but it still manages to be playful, marvelously humorous, and ultimately profoundly ruminative. The show is running Thursdays through Saturdays until October 4th⎯go see it. For the occasional reader who (for whatever inexcusable reason) does not live in New York City (it’s okay if you don’t live in Queens, Queens is weird), I wholly recommend picking up a copy of Wellman’s collection The Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds (from which 1965UU is adapted). The book is among the few that make me feel a little better about the state of contemporary short fiction (the only other two that occur to me right now are selected bits of Gary Lutz and Girl with Curious Hair by the recently departed David Foster Wallace). Working with the likes of Mac, Steve, and Paul has been a really exciting and beneficial experience for me. Here’s a picture of Paul in costume as the ingenuous Dr. Ravenello:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Three Articles

1) For those of you patiently waiting to receive your copy of Correspondence No. 1 in the mail, know that you shall presently (or as soon as the Postal Service allows, though I certainly accept the blame for running away from the local post office, clutching a stack of packages, at the slightest line [that being the primary cause for any delay]). We are delighted by your order and pray you enjoy the contents of our inaugural issue. 2) If, dear reader, the above address did not apply to you for the simple reason that you have been dragging your feet (as the expression has it) in the matter of ordering a copy (by emailing us) then please note the following: we are finally nearer to a dwindling supply and anticipate selling out the entire print run before the second issue premieres⎯thus it would be apt for anyone to place his order sooner rather than later if he truly desires to possess a copy. 3) Although! We are pleased to announce that Correspondence No. 1 is now for sale at the Bowery Poetry Club, so if you’re strolling down the Bowery you now have the option to forgo the wait to receive a copy from us by mail. The journal might begin to appear in a few other places and we’ll certainly note it here when that happens. It’s also worth mentioning that the first issue is available through Poem Shop, which can be found sporadically in public parks around Manhattan.