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November 09, 2010

James Brasfield Reading for NVWN.

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James Brasfield

I am really pleased that tonight I will be introducing a reading by the poet, James Brasfield, for the Nittany Valley Writers’ Network. It’s taking place in the Schlow Library in State College (in the Children’s Room) at 7.00pm.

A native of Savannah, Ga., Brasfield will read from his 2010 debut collection Ledger of Crossroads (Louisiana State University Press, 2009) and will discuss the craft of writing poetry as well as his experience of publishing. His poems have appeared in many publications, including Agni, Chicago Review, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, New Orleans Review, Seattle Review, STAND, and The Southern Review.

James Brasfield studied poetry and translation with Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, Daniel Halpern, and other luminaries. He served as an editorial assistant for poetry at The Paris Review. He has received fellowships in poetry from The National Endowment for the Arts and The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Most recently, from 2008–2009, Brasfield served as Visiting Poet at The University of Memphis. He is married to the fiction writer Charlotte Holmes.

Twice a Senior Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, Brasfield has taught at The Yuri Fedkovych State University of Chernivtsi and at The National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In the article PSUkraine (in Research/Penn State, Vol. 17, no. 1 (March, 1996)), David Pacchioli interviewed Brasfield about his experience of the Ukraine, and I quote from the interview below:

There is, of course, another dimension in which we may hope to gain from crossing cultures with a place like Ukraine. That dimension shines clear from the experience of Jim Brasfield, a poet and lecturer in English at Penn State who spent the 1993-94 school year in Kiev as a Fulbright lecturer.

“I can’t describe the devastation, what’s left after the fall,” he says of his first impressions of the newly independent Ukraine. “You wonder how the Soviet Union lasted as long as it did.” In Kiev, crumbling infrastructure and bleak Soviet architecture overlaid the faded splendor of the old Byzantine city. A typical rural dwelling, he found during his travels, consisted of two un-plumbed rooms, one upstairs, one down. In one such home he remembers seeing “a color TV in the kitchenette running American movies that were all dubbed by a single voice.”

“Capitalism has exploded there,” Brasfield reports. “At the same time there is a very old culture that has survived despite Communism. Entrepreneurs are transporting contemporary American free-market culture – its most vulgar aspects – straight into a setting that is virgin to the hard sell.” The resulting clash, he says, is ruthlessly one-sided.

Still, Brasfield’s Fulbright posting was to one of the current bright spots in Ukrainian intellectual life: the freshly reopened University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy. Dating to 1615, closed down by Czar Alexander III almost two hundred years ago, Mohyla was re-chartered in 1992 as a semi-private university, the first in the history of Ukraine. “The reopening meant a lot to Ukrainians,” Brasfield says, “because the university pre-dates high Russian culture.”

Only two languages were allowed in Mohyla when Brasfield taught there: Ukrainian and English. The faculty was a broad mix of westerners, from Germany, Canada, and the United States. The 250 students, Brasfield says, were the “cream of the crop” of Ukrainian youth.

Although he had received a creative arts grant from the Fulbright foundation, and had submitted proposals for a course in translation and a poetry workshop, “When I got there,” Brasfield says, “The dean of humanities told me that what they needed was a good survey of American literature.” He had to scramble for books, but with the help of the U.S. Information Service and America House in Kiev, the cultural arm of the American embassy, he was able to pull together a course including Melville and Dickinson, James and Pound.

“In classes, they were sheer joy, very eager,” he remembers of his students. Used to attending classes without texts, depending solely on lectures, “they loved the open western style—reading and asking questions.” At first, in fact, he was taken aback by how hard his students worked. “They don’t have the diversions that we have here.” With his leftover book allowance, he helped the students publish a literary magazine, the first in Mohyla’s history.

Outside the classroom, Brasfield was quickly introduced into Kiev’s community of writers and artists, and made to feel at home. “I was very lucky,” he remembers. “I just slipped into that world.” Traveling to Kosiv in the Carpathian mountains and to Lviv with the poet Oleh Lysheha, he saw something of life beyond the capital. After 10 months, Brasfield came away profoundly affected.

“My sense of art changed, my sense of what poetry is,” he says now. “A sense of a life in art was given to me in a new way.

“Artists don’t make a place in their lives for art,” he explains. “Art is their lives, despite all the difficulties.”

Which is not to romanticize, he insists, or not too much. When his ten months were up, Brasfield was ready to come home. “The intensity of living in what were often third-world circumstances just wore me down,” he says. “You spend a great deal of time and energy each day just foraging for what you need.”

But living with the Ukrainians, he adds, he came to “a better understanding of what’s important in life.

“They depend on each other. They have to.

“And they get by.”

Brasfield is also an expert translator of poetry. He has received The American Association for Ukrainian Studies Prize for Translation, a Pushcart Prize for translation, and The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for The Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha. Oleh Lysheha (born 1949) and Paul Celan (born 1920) seem to be powerful influences on Brasfield’s poetic imagination.

Oleh Lysheha offers a poetic refusal of modern commercialism. Writing about Lysheha for Poetry International Web, Andriy Bondar describes the poet as a reclusive dissident:

“I live in places with no Microsoft or McDonald’s. Archaic is my ideal,” he likes to repeat. Indeed, Lysheha is the Ukrainian Henry Thoreau of the beginning of the 21st century. The way of life of ordinary people does not seem to apply to him. He exists in a parallel universe – he likes to walk barefoot in the city, to swim in the ice-cold river in winter, he catches fish with his teeth, knows how to make paper from mushrooms, never uses public transport, and does not have a job.

Paul Celan, on the other hand, is not so much a dissident as a singer of human pain, expressing, in poems like Death Fugue , the nullity of human endeavours and yet the indomitable human desire for life. Celan appears in Ledger of Crossroads as an awe-inspiring figure of fascination.


Read James Brasfield’s poems ‘Heart of Dixie’, ‘Waynesboro’ and ‘Czernivtsi’ on the Here, Where I Am Blog

June 18, 2010

Launching the First Issue of Polarity.

Writing about web page

I recently became a contributing editor on the new magazine Polarity. The mission statement says:

Polarity Magazine UK sets out to fill a hole in the soul of today’s culture-kestrels. Sitting somewhere between McSweeney’s magazines (The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern) and that dark blend of European surrealism forefronted by Georges Bataille (Documents, Story of the Eye), Polarity aims to tickle its readers’ hearts, minds and rude bits, with a selection of visual art, poetry, prose and articles. Appearing three times a year, or as often as we can manage, each issue will be organised around two falsely polarised concepts, forming an artefactual expansion of the metaphorical substance of each.

The first ever issue (on the theme of Death vs. Taxes) is out this month and I have had a sneak peek! I can tell you that it looks mind-blowing, so if you can, try to make the launches. There is one on Thursday June 24th, at the Writers’ Room, Milburn House, University of Warwick, and another at the Slaughtered Lamb Pub in London on Sunday 27th June.

Here’s the official blurb about the launches from the editors, George Ttoouli, James Brookes and Neeral Bhatt:

Death Wrestling Taxes in a Bathful of Eels

We’ve updated the “website” with some sample content from issue 1. And please do spread the word if you like what you see, we’d be very much appreciative of your support.

Issue 1 Launch details below. The first issue comes with a free pamphlet titled A System of Taxation Upon the Internal Mind, or Pulling Britain Out of Recession: A White Paper on Thought Taxes and will cost you one crumpled note of the ten pound variety.

Polarity Magazine London Launch
Sunday, 27 June 2010 6pm-8pm
The Slaughtered Lamb Pub
34-35 Great Sutton Street

To the tune of coffins opening like red briefcases, we are proud to present the first issue of Polarity: Death vs. Taxes, for all your morbid and economic needs. Solutions to the current recession, and mortality, included.

Tickets to this underworld do not exist, yet passengers are advised to arrive promptly, 6pm, to ensure they do not miss the boatman. Bring thy pennies, for the ferry has an onboard bar. Passage is free for a limited period, though the dead may expect a levy of £10 to acquire the limited edition manual to the underworld and its economy. This is of course why the birds have fallen frozen from the branches of the money tree to claim their passage. A free copy of a government proposal for a System of Taxation Upon Thoughts will be provided with your manual, subject to economic flow.

Onboard entertainment may or may not include poetry, stories, music (piped from the living, dead, and those in debt), as well as a sneak preview of material from the future musical warzone of issue 2: Arms vs. Song.

Dress code: birdmasks optional.
(Slaughtered Lambs are purely metaphorical, the underworld is strictly Pythagorean.)

Performing on the night…

Music from Peter Blegvad, singer-songwriter and cult comic strip artist. See Leviathan and Amateur Enterprises .

Poet Carol Watts will be reading .

As will poet Charlotte Newman. Other guests TBC, but maybe Frank Key , and some stand-up comedy to close. And some exclusive preview material of the bonus CD coming with Issue 2: Arms vs. Song.


Polarity Magazine Coventry Launch
Thursday, 24 June 2010, 6pm-10pm
Writers’ Room
Milburn House, Milburn House Road
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL

A BYOB end of year party, with launches, guest readers and musicians, and open mic slots. Bring instruments, bring poems, flash fictions and bottles.

Performing on the night…

- Arrive prompt to catch Kit a.k.a Amanda Hopkins, with a short set from her new album, ‘The View from Here’.
- Readings from Issue 1: Michael Wilson, Jessica Vickerage, Ivan Juritz, and anyone else who turns up.
- Readings by two WWP graduates, now published poets: James Brookes (Eric Gregory Award 2009) and Simon Turner (second collection, Difficult Second Album published by Nine Arches Press)
- And a showcase of work by this year’s creative writing students, including the MA in Writing cohort. Open mic slots available, so bring something to share, 3-5min, any genre.
- And music from Conrad Bird as well.


Hope to see you at one of the events, but if you can’t make it and would like a copy of the magazine, you can post a cheque (payable to ‘Polarity Magazine UK’) for £10 (free p&p to mailing list – put a note on the back of the cheque) to:
49 St Michael’s Road, Coventry, CV2 4EL. Or keep an eye on our website for online payment details.

And the drawbridge raises like an imitation-leather hardback, once again.

George, James & Neeral

Polarity Issue 1

April 10, 2010

Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore

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The University of Northampton is pleased to announce the first international academic conference dedicated to appraising the work of perhaps the most influential figure to emerge from the comics medium, Northampton’s own Alan Moore.

Moore has consistently been at the forefront of the graphic novel medium for almost thirty years, being the iconic figure behind such pioneering works as Marvelman and V for Vendetta, the revolutionary Watchmen, to From Hell, Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and, most recently, Lost Girls to name but a few. Alongside his work in the comic medium he has written one novel, Voices from the Fire, and is subsequently working on the ambitious Jerusalem project. He has also worked as a graphic artist, performed and recorded a series of musical collaborations largely related to site-specific events, and in recent years has become a magician.

While Moore’s contribution to the comic medium is undisputed, academic appraisals of his work have been fragmentary and there have been no dedicated scholarly events to date that seek to give an overview of his oeuvre. As such The University of Northampton is pleased to announce Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore, an interdisciplinary conference that will bring together not only appraisals of Moore’s comic works, but also his wider cultural manifestations and their significance at the start of the 21st century. Given his burgeoning literary and cultural importance, Moore’s significant profile in the wake of several recent Hollywood adaptations of his work (despite his own antipathy towards those adaptations and their place within the culture industries), and the relationship to Northampton’s cultural landscape (both physical and psychic) that recurs throughout his work, both the time and location are fitting for a dedicated appraisal of his cultural legacy thus far.


The conference takes place over Friday 28th May and Saturday 29th May 2010.

The cost of registration is £60 (£45 for students or the unwaged) which includes registration for both days of the conference, lunch for both days and refreshments throughout. Delegates are invited to attend a dinner on the Friday night at a local restaurant, however the cost of this is not included in the registration fee.

To register for the conference please download and complete the Registration Form and send it with payment to:

Magus Conference,
Nathan Wiseman-Trowse,
The School of the Arts,
The University of Northampton,
St George’s Avenue,
NN2 6JD,
United Kingdom

The Centre of Contemporary Fiction & Narrative (CCFN)

To contact the conference organisers please email:

March 24, 2010

Five Decades of Innocence and Experience: The Work of Eva Figes.

Writing about web page


An International Conference co-organised by:

Division of Media, English and Culture, School of the Arts, University of Northampton (UK), & Departamento de Filología Inglesa y Alemana, Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain)

To be held at the School of the Arts, University of Northampton (UK)

10th-11th September 2010

Photo by Harold Stern

Almost five decades have elapsed since the British writer Eva Figes began her literary career. Born in Berlin in 1932 into a family of assimilated German Jews and forced to emigrate to Great Britain in 1939 due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Eva Figes has contributed to the corpus of contemporary literature in English thanks to her prodigious output as both critic and novelist. In 2009 the British Library decided to acquire the rights to her personal archives, and so we think that this is the moment to give Eva Figes the place she deserves in the contemporary literary canon by organising an international conference on her work.

Despite being an established writer and having won some important literary prizes and titles in England (The Guardian Prize in 1967, the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Brunel University in 2002), her work has received relatively limited critical attention. Figes’ life experiences – her childhood experience of the Holocaust; emigration to a foreign country; being a woman trying to forge a literary career – have left significant traces in all her works. Moreover, Figes’ own writing career which spans the 1960s to the present in many ways reflects the evolution of British fiction in the post-war period. Her work resists classification within a single, unifying category. Whether seen as a feminist inheritor of Virginia Woolf, analysed as an Anglo-Jewish writer, or regarded as part of a postmodernist literary aesthetic, Figes’ work represents a unique contribution to English literature. We welcome approaches to her work from any perspective which provides insight into Eva Figes’ wide-ranging and impressive oeuvre.

Plenary speakers to include:
• Dr. David Brauner (University of Reading, UK)
• Prof. Thomas Michael Stein (University of Mainz, Germany)
• Dr. Julia Tofantšuk (University of Tallinn, Estonia)
•A Guest appearance from Eva Figes to be confirmed

Suggested topics to explore include, but are not limited to:
•Eva Figes in relation to Contemporary British Fiction and the literary canon
•The feminist agenda and the construction of female identities in Figes’ works
•The question of Jewishness and the presence of the Holocaust in Eva Figes’ literary world
•The construction of identity in Figes’ fictions
•The persistence of modernism in Figes’ works
•Eva Figes as a literary critic
•Eva Figes’ relation to postmodernism
•Eva Figes as inheritor of Virginia Woolf
•Eva Figes and Trauma Studies
•The autobiographical aspect in Figes’ novels
•Formal experimentalism in Figes’ novels
•The ethical dimension of Figes’ literary production
•The evolution of Figes’ literary career
•Narrative and story-telling in Figes’ works
•The experience of motherhood in Figes’ writing
•The experience of war in Figes’ works
•Writing as self-healing in Figes’ literary career

Please submit paper proposals (abstracts of 300 words and short bio) to both conference organisers by 1st April 2010:

Dr. Sonya Andermahr (University of Northampton, UK):

Miss Silvia Pellicer-Ortín (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain):


Download cfp in Adobe Acrobat here: call_for_papers_figes_conference.doc sonya.pdf

January 12, 2007

Poetry Recording from Desmond Swords

Writing about web page

I have an 8 minute recording I made with material from the first poetry
gathering at Monster Truck Art Gallery on Francis Street in July last year, when Vermont poet Namaya was the guest. It is a montage I created by cutting up full poems and stringing voice-snippets reading verse of between 10 – 25 seconds long together. They alternate man-woman-man-woman etc, and with a song by Damien Davies in the middle.

Davies was the original musical godfather from the International Bar scene which produced Paddy Casey and Damien Dempsey, but stardom eluded him as he isn’t as photogenic as the aforementioned two, but has – some claim – the better songs. He is awesome live, with a very powerful voice and well worth a listen.

The order of voices are Orla Martin – Namaya – Shirley McClure – PJ Brady – Orla Martin – Gareth Murphy – Alva D’Arcy – Namaya – Orla Martin – GarethMurphy – Clodagh Maynan – Damien Davies – Desmond Swords – Orla Martin – Michael O’Leary – Shirley McClure – PJ Brady – Orla Martin – Gareth Murphy – Shirley McClure – Namaya – Shirley McClure – Desmond Swords – Orla Martin – Rob McKenna – Orla Martin – Rob McKenna – Orla Martin – Michael O’Leary -

Go to the link and download it. It is 24 MB and will take 20 minutes to
download at 20kbs, less as the kbs transfer rate increases.

MLA Reading Online

The giant MLA offsite reading from Friday night
is now online and can be listened to and/or downloaded at

Here are pictures from the reading: /silliman/sets/721575944481584 67/

Readers included, in this order:
Aaron Kunin
Adam Fieled
Sasha Steensen
Dennis Barone
Aldon Neilsen
Ben Friedlander
Bill Howe (quartet)
Bob Perelman
Brent Cunningham (phone call with "Chris")
Brian Kim Stefans
C. A. Conrad
Camille Martin
Cathy Eisenhower
Charles Bernstein
Christian Bok
Eduardo Espina
translation by Loren Goodman
Elaine Terranova
Ethel Rackin
Evie Shockley
Frank Sherlock
Hank Lazer
Herman Beavers
Jena Osman
Jennifer Scappetone
Joan Retallack
Caroline Bergvall
Johanna Drucker
John Wilkinson
Josh Schuster
Kathy Lou Schultz
Lamont Steptoe
Laura Moriarty
Leevi Lehto
Linda Russo
Linh Dinh
Loren Goodman
Matthew Cooperman
Michael Tod Edgerton
Nat Anderson
Nick Monfort
Norma Cole
Patrick Durgin
(Patrick introduces himself as Charles Bernstein)
Rachel DuPlessis
Ron Silliman
Susan Schultz
Timothy Yu
Tom Devaney
Tom Orange
Tracy Morris
Tyrone Williams
Carla Harryman
Barrett Watten
Walter Lew
(odd sounds are first: Walter throwing himself
across a grand piano, playing some Miles Davis,
then later rushing out to cut Aldon Nielson's tie in half,
then finally throwing himself back over piano)
Will Esposito
Yunte Huang

Stop by Ron Silliman's page on for other recordings.: _SILLIMAN

And of course Silliman’s Blog:
http://ronsilliman.blogspot .com/

November 03, 2006

Sushi Sandwich

Poet Gary Boswell – fervent supporter of international education – is compiling an anthology in support and celebration of the Anglo-Japanese exchange visit being organised by Grange-over-Sands Primary School in Spring 2007. The book will be called Sushi Sandwich and will feature a collection of poems and illustrations from a diverse crowd of poets and artists of all ages from around the world.

Contributions should be sent to:
Sushi Sandwich, c/o 1 Cartmel Rise,Grange-over-Sands,UK LA11 7JN

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the support fund for the international exchange project. Contributors will receive a free copy. The cover price of the book will be £5 and advance orders can be made from November 2006. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Gary Boswell-Sushi Sandwich’ and sent to above address. Copies signed by authors can also be requested at no extra cost.

June 06, 2006

BBC Wales Reading at the Senedd Tonight

Writing about web page

October 01, 2005

Reading at the Blue Room Sunday 2nd October

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The Blue Room, starts again on Sunday 2nd October at 8.00 pm with: Marion Husband, reading from her acclaimed new novel, The Boy I Love, (recently published by Accent Press), Susannah Pickering and Zoe Brigley reading excellent poetry, and music from the charismatic Celia Bryce.

The Blue Room encourages new women – and men – writers to read their work, and promotes new audiences for live poetry and prose. It is held at 8.00 pm on the first Sunday of the month, upstairs at the Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. The Bridge Hotel is in Castle Garth , opposite the Castle Keep, on the Newcastle side of the High Level Bridge.

August 20, 2005

Green Man – Poetry and Music

Writing about web page

Date: Sunday 19th August 2005
Time: 4:30pm
Location: The Music Room, Baskerville Hall, The Green Man Festival.

The Event: Robert Minhinnick, ZoŽ Brigley, ZoŽ Skoulding and Alan Holmes will perform a mixture of experimental poetry and music.


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