Starting in Summer 2012, I sent out roughly 200 invitations to a slew of poets to contribute to an anthology on the avant-garde, empire, and accessibility. Soon after, I invited Lily Hoang to co-edit a second volume on the same topics from the prose perspective. This was the solicitation we sent out:
In a recent article in The Boston Review, Marjorie Perloff argues that “by definition, an ‘avant-garde mandate’ is one that defies the status quo and hence cannot incorporate it.”1
For Alain Badiou, in his final thesis on contemporary art, “It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent.”2
With these two claims in mind, I am writing to ask you to contribute a short piece on what you believe to be elemental about your work as a writer:
- What does Perloff’s ‘avant-garde mandate’ mean for your own work?
- Should a writer be accessible in their writing and what does this mean to you?
- In light of Badiou’s claim, what is imperative to you about a poem/prose in terms of the political, the social, the unconscious?
- How do you navigate the tensions between audience, your compositional practices, and your imagination?
- In short, what compels you to write what you write and why?
Originally conceived of as a double-volume—one on poetics, one on prose—The Force of What’s Possible: Writers on the Avant-Garde and Accessibility (to be released this month with Nightboat Books) emerged as a single concentrated edition. For the next three months on The Volta, we’ll feature responses to these questions by a range of writers.
JMW, Tucson, October 1st, 2014
1Perloff, Marjorie. “Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric.” Boston Review. May/June 2012.
2Badiou, Alain. “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art.” Tr. Peter Hallward. Lacanian Ink. No. 22. Fall 2004.