Monday, June 8, 2015

Poetry Project Emerge-Surface-Be Fellowship Interview

Belladonna* finance director Krystal Languell, formerly a Poetry Project E-S-B fellow, recently interviewed Morgan Vo and his mentor Brenda Coultas about their experience in the Project's fellowship program. The conversation follows.

Watch for the application deadline for next year's fellowships! The deadline is usually in August or September.

KL: How did you use your time together? And Morgan, if you can offer a particular nugget of wisdom you got from Brenda this year, would you?

MV: Brenda and I met on a monthly basis, primarily at Physical Graffitea on St. Mark's Place. At one point we worked on a collaborative poem, and I think we met three or four times that month to figure that out. Otherwise, it was once a month to share work with each other. It wasn't just me bringing poems—Brenda would bring in examples of her work in progress, too, which was extremely useful to see.

One thing I've picked up from Brenda is that curiosity can be a sort of embodied position you put yourself in. You can physically spark the action of writing by actually going to places that evoke desire.

BC: Morgan defined the our meetings very well.  We had meant to take a trip to the Hispanic Society in Washington Height because its such an odd and neglected site. And to visit the neighboring grave of John James Audubon at the Trinity graveyard, but the rough winter never let up so we based a collaboration on the trip we never made.

On one occasion we visited Simon Pettet in his old tenement apartment in the famous E. 12th St. poet's building that was home to Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. Morgan had an upcoming reading with Simon and I thought it would be great to introduce them before hand. Simon served us tea and gave us an intimate history of the East Village poets. 

KL: What has changed for (either of) you as a result of this fellowship? Morgan, do you feel better equipped to surface and be?

MV: I think being told that other people believe in my writing has been a really encouraging event for me. There's always been an approachable nature to the Poetry Project, but all the more so as I've gotten to participate more regularly. The Project is mostly filled with people who are giving kind but stern attention towards poetry. I think there's hope that an incredible meaning will come out for if we all listen well, and it's been easier to be a poet the more I see that in the community.

BC: Literary transmission is essential for any community to survive, and in meeting Morgan, I found a younger generation of serious readers and artists.  It was a valuable experience in all; listening to Morgan's take on poets that I've known for a decade or two and to see that a younger generation found the work of my peers and my seniors as worthy as I do. 

KL: To what extent is mentorship hierarchical? Did you adopt any practices to subvert this in your meetings/exchanges?

MV: Brenda started the mentorship with very little intention of enforcing hierarchy. In terms of working through poetry, she really leaves it to me to take her advice or not, and to work on my own through any problems she might raise. But on the other hand, for me, it's incredibly useful to recognize her as a writer to admire and look up to. Writers can be so different from each other, but certain traits come up a lot. All writers have curiosity and rhythm, for example, but practiced writers have specific ways that they handle those things, and I can learn from that because I'm still working it all out.

BC:  I wasn't sure what a mentor is/was? I did not approach this as a teacher/professor, but as a friend, a bit more seasoned in the community.

KL: To my knowledge neither of you has what's become the 'conventional' poet's life of academia / adjunct scrambling (maybe I'm wrong). How did this fellowship fit into your lives alongside your professional, maybe also personal, commitments?

MV: I think that my work as a creative person is right now the most pressing aspect of my life, but I don't think I will make a move to finance my life through creativity any time soon. At this point in time, pursuing one's life as a poet (particularly as a young one) is weirdly complicated by how defined that track can be. There's so much pressure to be involved in higher education. And I really believe in education, but I'm more interested in self-education and community education. At the time I applied for the fellowship, I had been taking workshops regularly at the Project for three years. They have always been good models for me of communal learning, in that they don't define a lot about what you are required to do, but instead provide a lot of opportunities to participate. The fellowship has been an experience just like that, generous in terms of personal freedom, and generous in terms of opportunities to participate. I don't know if academia is good or bad for poets. Probably both. But I do know that I wanted very badly to proceed as a writer, and that I felt uneasy about submitting myself to a larger institution in order to make that progress happen. I like having a job and being a poet, and seeing where those meet, as well as where they can't meet. The most special thing for me about the fellowship has been the feeling that I am able to be taken seriously as a poet, solely based on the work I do as a poet. I think that has a lot to do with the fellowship, but probably has more to do with the Poetry Project in general.

BC: I do teach but I teach what I call meat and potatoes (basic comp and survey literature courses to non-writers who are preparing to enter the medical fields).  I don't have tenure or other forms of security that a university might ensure; however, I am rewarded by teaching at a college with one of the most diverse student populations in the city.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

AMONG GENRES EVENT at Unnameable Books

Belladonna* Collaborative presents: Among Genres
featuring Amanda Davidson, Stephanie Gray, and Jess Arndt

3 writers; 3 chaplets; 1 night

Join us at Unnameable Books (600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY) on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 7 PM

Check out the Facebook event here 

My Summer at Belladonna* by Liat the Intern

Hi everyone! My name is Liat Kaplan, and I've been interning behind the scenes at Belladonna* this summer. I'm a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and I'm originally from St. Paul, Minnesota.

As a dual literature and gender/women's studies major, Belladonna* was an ideal place for me to have a summer internship. I had the opportunity to learn some of the ins and outs of the independent publishing world while immersed in an intersectional feminist environment. I also got to read a lot of poetry, which is a pretty great job perk.

In addition to helping with Belladonna's regular daily work, I spent much of my time here converting some of the older out-of-print chaplets into PDFs to make them  available (for free!) on the website. I hope everyone will check it out and enjoy reading them as much as I did.

Thank you to the Belladonna* crew for teaching me so much this summer. And thank you to all the readers and supporters who make Belladonna* possible!

Signing off,


Sunday, June 1, 2014

introduction for Rachel Levitsky by Krystal Languell

May 18, 2014 at Berl's Bookstore
at Lesley Flint Presents, hosted by Joseph Bradshaw

Rachel Levitsky is a visionary.

When I met Rachel, I persuaded her to let me turn Belladonna into a nonprofit.

“Our strategy was later revealed as naïve, but not completely naïve.”

She has written a novel against the arrogant notion that we can act without context,  arguing instead that when we inevitably spill over out of ourselves we are world-building.

“We could not keep all the particulars of it, our suffering, within the confines of our chest”

If we must risk death when we act (and we must),

“there is no outcome other than my death”

then our actions must have purpose in order to validate to our survival.

The book is dedicated to dissent and to the future and its mothers.

If it is not for our food water and shelter or the food water and shelter of others,

Alice Notley writes, “We the men have caused a crisis of money food and shelter, the primal goods, and we the men will fix it. You can’t help because it’s urgent. Only we the men know how to fix the things we broke.”

then it must be FOR AN IDEA with high stakes, with skin in the game, as a sports commentator or financial guru or NY Times columnist would argue—

“…might not we attempt to contribute a future less poisonous, atomized, wasting and ruined for the world into which surely others will find themselves awakening like us, shouldering unknown traits and ways.”

an idea about the future—though this “skin game” idiom, the origin of which is disputed, usually connotes a financial stake, a wager or an investment depending on your tack, while Levitsky’s novel calls for political skin; she asks whether we are willing to stake our freedom from violence—a risk more immediate than what money is capable of.

Can we be activist in our nonprofit management, in our university employment, in our personal lives? Can we be interventionist in our editing and our event curation?

Levitsky answers yes. It may not always be fun or cute or charming to do so, but it is powerful and it means in a higher stakes way, that is, this activism in daily life and circled round in this challenging novel, than most of the text being created and published today. Not just poetics of what are you doing, but a poetics of what are you doing about.

And in terms of collaboration, who are you doing about and with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

LaTasha Diggs at the Walker Center

Not in Minnesota this past month?

See LaTasha Diggs' performance at the Walker Center in MN here!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

introduction to Jamie Townsend, 5/17/2013

Below is Krystal Languell's introduction to Jamie Townsend at the Center for Book Arts on May 17, 2013.

Jamie Townsend's poems give us back our starlets. I feel a particular kinship with his work because he has a poem called "Always be my Baby" and I  have a poem called "Touch my Body," both after Mariah Carey poems.

But what Jamie does for/to/through Mariah/Mimi is to oppose the "Stars! They're just like us!" narrative and offer in its place "Stars! They're from outer space."

Did Mariah Carey invent the selfie? My computer autocorrected to say "Did Mariah Carey invent the self."

Jamie's work enters the mythology of recent-past, even present-moment, stardom by repackaging what we've just started to forget and reminding us of its value. Remember Mariah Carey's falsetto? Now you do. Jamie's work is expansive rather than contained. Other poets are writing about pop culture right now, but Jamie is doing so in a true epic way--Mariah Carey, Barbara Walters, Antony, Mimi from the band LOW, rolling through five or seven pages of fragment and aside--and this is not your MTA Poetry in Motion commodity, this is that rare hot body sitting next to you on the train so that you can't even stare, they are too close, but maybe they are doing an erasure of the Wall Street Journal. You recognize. And Jamie's work gives you back that moment.

Jamie Townsend is the managing editor for Aufgabe, as well as the
co-founder of con/crescent, a periodic hub of creative mumbo-jumbo. He
is author of the chapbooks STRAP/HALO (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs;
2011), Matryoshka (LRL Textile Editions; 2011), and THE DOME (Ixnay
Press; 2011). In 2012 he was selected to be a Millay Colony fellow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

LaTasha Diggs in Spring 2014

You can catch Belladonna* author LaTasha Diggs performing and/or curating at these events in the weeks to come!

April 3, 2014, 7pm
The Department of Performance Studies
New York University / Tisch
721 Broadway, 6th Floor, Room 612

April 5, 2 pm

Tribute to Amiri Baraka
The Poetry Project, Saint Marks Church

April 7, 7pm

The Contemporary Literature Series

In the Undergraduate English Program at NYU
LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Urayoan Noel

April 16

La Casa Azul Bookstore
El Barrio, Harlem 

April 17 & 18

Bentley Theater  
Darmouth College 

New Hampshire

April 22, 7pm 

Belladonna* presents Betsy Fagin, LaTasha Diggs,
Uljana Wolf
Brooklyn Public Library
RSVP on Facebook

April 25, 6pm
Center for Books Arts Broadside Series
featuring Zohra Saed and Mendi + Keith Obadike
Curated by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

April 26, 6pm
Mr. Hip Presents Readings Series
UFORGE Gallery
767 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Get your hands on a copy of TwERK if you haven't yet! Ordering direct from Belladonna* ensures your cash goes straight to the press!