A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

I think we should read only those books that wound and stab us. If the book we read doesn’t wake us up with a punch to the head, why are we reading it? In order to make us happy, as you said? We would be happy even if we had no books at all, and as for books that might make us happy, we could, if necessary, write them ourselves. We need books that affect us like a misfortune, books that make us deeply mourn, as with the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, or like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. So I believe.

—Kafka, Letter to Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904

Literary festival to feature poet Mihaela Moscaliuc April 3

Literary festival to feature poet Mihaela Moscaliuc April 3

Mihaela Moscaliuc headshot

Mihaella Moscaliuc
3/26/2012 —

In honor of National Poetry Month, Penn State Brandywine will welcome poet Mihaela Moscaliuc as the featured reader at its 16th annual Litapalooza Literary Festival at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 3, in the Tomezsko Classroom Building lounge.

The open mic portion of Litapalooza encourages students to read, recite, narrate, rap or sing their own creative compositions. The festival strives to highlight and celebrate the creativity of Brandywine students.

Penn In Hand, the campus’ student literary publication, will be distributed at the event, which is free and open to the public. Penn In Hand is a collection of students’ creative works and is published by Penn State Brandywine students in conjunction with the English department.

Moscaliuc is the author of Father Dirt (winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award). Her works, which include poems, reviews, translations and articles, have appeared in numerous poetry journals, including The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, New Letters, Poetry International, Arts & Letters, Pleiades, Connecticut Review and West Branch. She has taught at Monmouth and Salisbury universities; she currently directs the Drew University Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Poetry Program.

Litapalooza is funded by the Brandywine Student Activities Fund. For more information, please contact Distinguished Professor of English Adam J. Sorkin at [email protected] or 610-892-1444.


on writing freedom this Thursday, March 15th at 7pm at the Mess Hall

Hey, everyone:

Please join our conversation on writing freedom this Thursday, March 15th at 7pm at the Mess Hall.

A while ago, we discussed Kapil’s “Style Handbook for New Immigrants to the US” through Joris’ “Nomad Manifesto.” In these times of multiple values, questions about how we value multiplicity bubbled up: how do we write without a native home or a center (since a center, at its most proximal, is delayed by perception) and is there ever a story without a return home and what should we make of our longing to return home?

Two weeks later we read across Heysoon’s “Rhythm” and Zizek’s “Deleuze and the Lacanian Real” in a lively discussion about how words mediate what they mean and vice versa. We considered the “Western” need for clarity in the presence of “Oriental” ambiguity. We also questioned the moral good of the illusionistic image. Don’t we often associate a sense of satisfaction with the reification process that takes place in imagistic poetry (imagistic poetry, after all, renders abstractions as physical objects)? We also talked about how rhythm relates to the goal of protest poetry to provoke readers’ empathy.

Last time we met, we overlapped Derrida’s “Phenomenology and the Closure of Metaphysics” with Stevens’ “Sunday Morning.” What a gorgeous mess that was! We talked about how the formal closure of poems maintains the sociopolitical status quo and how we may move toward alternatives such as ambiguity (or toward the shapes and sounds and looks of other freedoms). We grew suspicious of the stealthy ways poetic forms (stealthier than poetic contents) insinuate readers’ support for a kind of unearned death-knowledge. What is more suspicious than an object someone has imbued with spirit or sentiment or pause? We also talked about numbers, objectivity and the consequences for thinking people heralded by the end of science as a positive pursuit.

This week is my final textual orchestration. I’d like to sandwich Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto 1918” with Dale Smith’s “(Hoa Enters the Kitchen)”. I would really be remiss not to explore with you, arguably, the most important text to the most important cultural movement of the 20th century: Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto 1918”. Also, Tzara’s witty rage pools together the themes around which we’ve been organizing: the skeptical quest for potential freedoms in poetry, the horrific anthropocentric conflation of technological progress with moral progress, and the power of doing things with words.

1) Writing prompt (during workshop): “Poetry can go without the image by treating language as an object.” Rosemarie Waldrop
3) Critical text: Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto 1918”:  http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai/DadaSurrealism/DadaSurrReadings/TzaraD1.pdf
2) Creative reading: Dale Smith’s “(Hoa Enters the Kitchen)”: http://liminalities.net/3-2/DS-4.htm

More info:




I look forward to our conversation,
Gene Tanta

Reflections on “The &NOW Festival of New Writing” in San Diego, 2011

So, I just got back from attending my first &NOW Festival of New Writing in San Diego. Overall, I enjoyed the balance of panels celebrating experimentation and panels attempting to engage texts or movements more critically. I am writing to document my interactions with Johannes Göransson and Vanessa Place, not because I have a rigid plan to offer, but because we need to find ways to have such difficult and complex conversations, rather than tending to shy away from them feeling relatively justified in the sacred name of our pleasure. Poetry and poetics matter because words create the contours of what we can do.

Continue reading.

Why do I use the Socratic Method?

Why do I use the Socratic Method? I use it because when I pose questions, I am modeling how and why students would be better off asking questions themselves rather than making declarations. Is this not a less didactic, and therefore a more ethical, way to make people think together (because they end up emulating my form, but not my content)? In other words, students learn how and why to think, but not what to think.

Employing the poor to make art with the trash of the wealthy

First-generation American immigrant artist Vik Muniz’s recent art-social project has been documented in the film Waste Land (2010). His idea was to photograph Rio’s garbage pickers and then to employ them to make art by arranging refuse items into patterns that recreated their own portraits. Photograph prints of the arrangements of trash-likenesses are being sold with some of the proceeds going to help these particular garbage pickers. Muniz hopes that the gap created between self and knowledge by this experience shows how art can change what is possible. This process is an example of how the dialectic of form and content can be used to show that the human experience is both aesthetic and political.

Writing AT the Movies

Writing AT the Movies

Tue, May 3, 7:00 – 9:30 pm

As part of Mess Hall’s 2011: Year in Experimentation, the first 4-session series of Researchers-at-Large will be curated by filmmaker Irina Botea and framed by poet Gene Tanta.

Participants in this workshop will use as our point of departure Andre Breton’s surrealist montage technique of dropping in and out of a single linear film narrative: “Reenactment” by Lucian Pintilie. For the first half, we will screen the film. All are invited to imagine means, modes, and other multiplying factors of looking at flickering light on a screen. As filmic form hiccups on screen disrupting the illusion of intention, we describe what we see and hear.

We will write in response to these moving images and sounds, striving for a precise or even a phenomenological (suspending our assumptions) description of what we see and hear. For the second half, we will perform and discuss what we produced (no limits on theme or form). Free & open to the general public! Everyone is welcome to attend!

Noam Chomsky is a humanist because he believes in a human essence

My response to a recent attack on Noam Chomsky on Facebook: humanists are people too — and they can offer piercing insights as well as nihilists, liberals, undeconstructed apologists, drunken goats (given the right conditions).

Humanism: our tendency to relate our sense of the expanding universe (space and time) with moral progress. Why?