Composing With Words: Experiments & Wagers — Master Class with Joan Retallack

For millennia our species has believed in, counted on, the transformative power of words even while our daily uses of language beckon the revenge of the real. In this charged period of our history, with millions of our own and other species suffering from large-scale human meanness and folly, is it possible to compose our linguistic selves into poetic conversations with our own cultural silences? As poets its our humorously grave privilege to try. If to compose a language game is to compose a form of life as Wittgenstein suggested, let’s see what we can do with that prospect in a workshop of experiments and wagers. Some probable navigational aids: Wittgenstein, Gertrude Stein, John Cage, Mahmoud Darwish, NourbeSe Philip.

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Joan Retallack

Joan Retallack is author of The Poethical Wager and Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d / – an Artforum Best Book of 2010. Other poetry includes Memnoir, Mongrelisme, How To Do Things With Words, Errata 5uite, and Afterrimages. She collaborated with John Cage on MUSICAGE – a volume of their conversations published by Wesleyan University Press – and has written extensively, pleasurably on Gertrude Stein.