Catherine Wagner - Writing Workshops
"Taking with one hand what they give with the other, Wagner's poems are full of vehemence and disdain and tenderness and somewhere, in some inexpugnable part of the body of language through which so many discomforting feelings pass, a thorny kind of joy. This is my idea of great poetry: in which 'The actual is / flickering a binary / between word and not-word.'" Barry Schwabsky, Hyperallergic
Catherine Wagner is the author of four full-length collections of poems including, Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012), My New Job (Fence, 2009), Macular Hole (Fence, 2004), and Miss America (Fence, 2001). Her work has been anthologized in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry (second edition, 2013); Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America and the UK (second edition, forthcoming); Gurlesque, Poets on Teaching, Starting Today; Best of Fence; Best American Erotic Poems, and elsewhere. She edited, with Rebecca Wolff, Not for Mothers Only: An Anthology of Poems on Child-Bearing and Child-Rearing (Fence, 2007). With Cara Benson and Elizabeth Bryant, she edited a 2010 tribute to poet Leslie Scalapino on Delirious Hem, and she introduced and edited a collection of previously unpublished work by poet Barbara Guest for a special issue of Chicago Review. Her performances and poems are archived on the PennSound, Archive of the Now and Poetry Foundation web sites. Wagner received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah, M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, and a B.A. from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Currently, she is professor of English at Miami University and lives in Oxford, Ohio with her son.
What do we make of where we are? when we are here and elsewhere (and we are always both). An acrostic in three parts, this workshop will be built around anagraphy (the art of cataloguing) to help us keep our writing grounded in its situation. We'll be generating writing out of and back into Oaxaca.
Workshops will begin with a brief reading and outdoor writing exploration (see below). We will regroup for reflection on what we’ve made and what we might make out of it, and segue into a brief revision session in which we prepare work to share. Finally, we’ll read our work, discuss it, and figure out what we can steal from one another.
I’m counting on you not to be nervous of the big words and kooky assignments below. I love kooky words, but I don’t talk with them most of the time, and the assignments are there to get us outside (ourselves), attending hard to Oaxaca and our writing. You’ll find them very flexible. Bring a notebook you can write in while moving around. Four 2.5-hour workshops
Anagraphy (sound walk)
We’ll go on a sound walk, mutely, and then write at breakneck speed a catalogue of what we sense of Oaxaca and our far-brought thoughts and bodies moving through it.
Anagraphy (strange birth catalogues)
“Xenogenic” means “strange birth.” We’ll do a strange birth catalogue, out in the city, where you’ll notate (in narrative form, or as you please) the repeated birthings of you (baby animal, consumer, monster?) by what’s in front of you.
Anagraphy (recombinatory revisionaries)
It’s hard not to be wrong when you’re out of place, but writing goes better when it’s allowed to go wrong. “Catachresis” derives from the Greek for “wrong use.” We will sample from our own and one another’s writing, crashing categories. Recalling our sound walk, we will hear the combinations we generate as information.
Nervous Device from City Lights ""Taking with one hand what they give with the other, Wagner's poems are full of vehemence and disdain and tenderness and somewhere, in some inexpugnable part of the body of language through which so many discomforting feelings pass, a thorny kind of joy. This is my idea of great poetry: in which 'The actual is / flickering a binary / between word and not-word.'"—Barry Schwabsky, Hyperallergic
"Using complex systems of collage, deconstructing the blurred lines between audience, poet, and poem, and pointing a sexual/political microphone to the face of our collective desires and fears, Wagner presents an invasive, self-conscious body of work." --Nora Toomey, Eleven Eleven
"In the 8th installment of the new City Lights Poetry Spotlight, we are introduced to the vibrant voice of Catherine Wagner. Nervous Device, inspired by William Blake, is a compelling collection of poems that twists the abstract echoes of language into the full-body of a deep and hopeful vision. Here, Wagner looks to propel the poem across the audience, drawing it from the confines of the printed page into the clearness of space where its multitude of perspectives can be sampled by the masses. Ultimately, Wagner's poetry is about performance and sound and the way that things move. Jumping through scenes like a new-born fawn, she blends her airy-cool ethereal style with this sharp set of eyes – a wholly original poet roaming a tired and broken countryside." —John Aiello, Electric Review