Monday, May 6, 2013

Breaking News

News items of immediate concern to the P&PC reader:

NASA lets poets / send haiku to Red Planet / on a MAVEN's wings

"Poets, take note: NASA is looking for a few good haiku to send to the Red Planet aboard its Maven orbiter this fall.... An online public vote will be conducted beginning July 15 to select the top three haiku poems."

New Jersey Mayor Wrote Hilariously Unromantic Poetry to Mistress

"During the affair, he would write the assistant, Corletta Hicks, romantic poetry that wonderfully mixes the lofty and mundane."

Johnny Depp is Heard over heels in love again

"The actress [Amber Heard] had vowed to stay single after her split from the Hollywood star but crumbled after he sent her a handwritten poem and a bouquet of roses every day through September."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back to The New Northwest: Suffragist Poetry in the Gold Man Review

Regular P&PC readers will remember our ongoing interest in the poetry published in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in The New Northwest—a weekly suffragist newspaper published out of Portland by Abigail Scott Duniway, a leading voice in the fight for Oregon women's suffrage. Between 2010 and 2012, we did a four part series on this poetry, which oftentimes appeared on the paper's front page, which was frequently written by Willamette Valley writers long before folks like William Stafford put Oregon on the national poetry map, and which was sometimes sourced or cut-and-pasted from other newspapers around the country (a common practice in an age when poets and their publishers didn't seem to care about regulating the circulation of verse via copyright laws). Then, in 2012 and 2013, we collated a set of these poems for use in the development of Brightly Dawning Day: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Oregon, an original and experimental script produced at Willamette University earlier this year in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of Oregon women's suffrage.

Now Salem's start-up literary magazine, the Gold Man Review, has joined in the fun, reprinting a portfolio of seven suffragist poems from The New Northwest in its second issue—the one with the snazzy cover pictured above, which puns on the design characteristics of mass market women's magazines to transform the Gold Man pioneer who currently tops the state's capitol building into a Gold Woman pioneer. Themed around the "pioneer spirit," the issue joins the work of nineteenth-century poets with over twenty-five pieces by people writing in Oregon today, and it's also got a long interview with P&PC about The New Northwest, the history of women's suffrage in Oregon, the situation of American poetry in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and the poems P&PC selected for reprinting in Gold Man with the assistance of students in a "Poetry of the Pacific Northwest" class we taught last Spring.

When you get a chance, pick up a copy of Gold Man Review for yourself. In the meantime, we're giving you a small taste of our interview here—a portion that we think displays some of the best of what an interdisciplinary liberal arts college can offer students: experience working with and using archives, in-class study, cross-departmental collaboration, research into the historical forms and genres of poetry, and engagement with social and community endeavors. We here at P&PC don't talk about the pedagogical possibilities of popular poetry all that frequently, but here's an example of what we do when we're not running the office and bringing you your weekly fix.

Gold Man Review: Why did you and your class decide to pick these poems [for republication in Gold Man Review]?

Mike Chasar: In addition to studying the poems, the most recent instantiation of my "Poetry of the Pacific Northwest" class also partnered with an experimental scriptwriting class in the Theatre Department that wanted to create a play about the history and legacy of women's suffrage in Oregon as one way to mark and commemorate 2012 as the one hundredth anniversary of Oregon women's suffrage. (See Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote 1912-2012 for other such events.) As part of the experimental nature of the script, the Theatre class thought it would be cool to start with a bunch of poems from The New Northwest, using them as raw material to collage, break up, or interlace through the script in funky and innovative ways. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out what to "do" with archival materials other than, well, archive them and study them; so we thought it would be interesting to motivate them in another way, too—toward the creation of a new piece of art.

So, our first goal was to select poems to present to that class, and toward that end we had two main priorities: 1) select poems that surveyed the different types of arguments being made at the time for extending the vote to women; and 2) select poems with varying poetic strategies, rhetorical components, and performance possibilities. We thought the former would gesture to some of the political complexities of that historical moment that get lost in a debate framed simply as "for" or "against" women’s suffrage. (As with the debate about healthcare today, people aren't just for or against it, but have different reasons for being for or against it, or partly for it and partly against it—you get the idea.) And we thought the latter would shine a light on the diversity of styles and poetic techniques of popular verse, which oftentimes gets characterized as entirely "sentimental" and generally homogenous in style, format, rhetoric, etc.; in actuality, the poetry is pretty diverse—song lyrics, persona poems, narrative poems, lyric poems, satire, dialect, etc.—so we wanted to honor that aspect of the writing.

I made the selections for Gold Man keeping these two elements in mind as well, so that we have inspir- ational song lyrics ("Campaign Song"), two very different dramatic monologues that make different arguments about women and the vote ("The Perplexed Housekeeper" and "'Siah’s Vote"), a serious narrative with children as main characters ("Reasons"), a humorous narrative ("Wife Versus Horse"), a romance ("Katie Lee and Willie Grey"), and a lyrical extended metaphor ("My Ship").

In addition to the generic diversity— all are also part of a culture of poetry that lent itself to oral delivery or performance—the poems also make a pretty wide variety of arguments for how and why women should get the vote: "The Perplexed Housekeeper" suggests that women are already excellent multi-taskers and won't be burdened with the additional responsibilities of voting; "'Siah’s Vote" argues that women already participate in voting via the advice they give to their menfolk; "Campaign Song" says women will help clean up a corrupted culture of voting, but also makes the problematic claim that "John Chinaman" can now do the work once done by women and thus free women up for public life; and "The Ship" shows us a character abandoned and forlorn because what must be the "ship of state" mentioned in Duniway's poem never comes for her. That's just a quick overview, but you get the idea: poets are using different poetic strategies to make different types of arguments about the political enfranchisement or disenfranchisement of women.