Category Archives: Dialogue Diary

My personal form of flailing about involves initiating lots of dialogues. For a variety of autobiographical, psychogeographical, socio-political reasons, I most recently have flailed since mid-2015. This “Dialogue Diary” project tracks these hopefully generative flailings, channeling them into four separate though related interview series, with each exploring (in varying proportions) poetic, critical, philosophical, and civic aspects of dialogic exchange. Dialogue Diary operates from the premise that pursuing untapped potential for constructive conversation may be just what I (perhaps not only I) need most right now. By Andy Fitch.

Try to Get Some Distance Between Yourself and Your Moment: Talking to Anthony Reed

By Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on Anthony Reed’s Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing, winner of the Modern Language Association’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize. Reed, an Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale, is currently completing a study of how recorded collaborations between black poets and musicians refract historical shifts in the aesthetic and political possibilities available to these artists and to broader cultures. Many related concerns arise amid the dense texualities read closely in Freedom Time, Reed’s first book. Continue reading

No Single Kind of Discourse Will Be Believable By Itself: Talking to Susan Gevirtz

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Susan Gevirtz’s hybrid critical collection Coming Events. From her childhood experiences on the Universal Studios set, to her graduate-school assignment TA-ing for Norman O. Brown in UC-Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness program, to her incisive editorial trajectory at HOW(ever), her pedagogical engagements at California College of the Arts, and her current residency at Headlands Center for the Arts, Gevirtz has participated within and helped to shape some of California’s most influential interdisciplinary institutions. As a result, it seemed only fitting for our discussion to track philosophical, scholarly, cinematic, novelistic, poetic, performative, and architectural concerns often within a single exchange. Gevirtz’s publications include Nightboat’s Hotel abc, as well as the poetry books Aerodrome Orion & Starry Messenger (Kelsey Street, 2010); Broadcast (Trafficker, 2009); Thrall (Post-Apollo, 2007); and Hourglass Transcripts (Burning Deck, 2001); and the critical study Narrative’s Journey: The Fiction and Film Writing of Dorothy Richardson (Peter Lang, 1996). Amid these ongoing omnivorous explorations, Coming Events’s deft assemblage of a wide-ranging inquiry, combined with Gevirtz’s lucid, generous, engaging live presence, couldn’t help but prompt constructive conversation. Continue reading

This Isn’t a Problem that Can Be Blamed on Somebody Else: Talking to James Forman, Jr.

By Andy Fitch 

This conversation, conducted this summer, and transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, focuses on James Forman, Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. After graduating from Yale Law School and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Forman joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., representing juveniles and adults in felony and misdemeanor cases. Forman loved his work as a public defender, but quickly became frustrated with the lack of education and job-training opportunities for his clients. In 1997, along with David Domenici, Forman started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, for students who had dropped out of preceding schools and/or been arrested. Since 2011, Forman has taught at Yale Law School, offering, for instance, a seminar titled “Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Issues in Criminal Justice,” which brought together, in the same classroom, 10 Yale Law students and 10 men incarcerated in a Connecticut prison. Locking Up Our Own, Forman’s first book, has been longlisted for the National Book Award and the American Librarian Association’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and shortlisted for the Stephen Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. You can connect with Forman via Twitter (@JFormanJr) and through his website, which includes a list of upcoming speaking events. Continue reading

Seeing Ideas as Operative: Talking to Melissa Lane

By Andy Fitch

This interview, conducted in December 2016, transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman, and all the more pertinent in our ecologically precarious present, focuses on Melissa Lane’s book Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living. Lane is the Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University, where she is also Director of the University Center for Human Values. Over the past two decades, Lane’s inventive scholarly projects have tracked the political imaginations of pivotal historical epochs, and her poised critical interventions have sought to clarify the political imagination of our own present. Eco-Republic epitomizes such concerns, particularly since it opens onto broader Platonic questions concerning how topographical, climatological, cultural, linguistic, textual ecologies shape the human agents operating within them, as well as how these agents reciprocally might shape their environment. At the same time, Eco-Republic exemplifies Lane’s dexterous ability not only to assimilate a wide range of classical and contemporaneous discourses, but to speak directly (she does so through public engagements as well as published texts) to leading figures in the fields of science, government, business. Lane’s books include: The Birth of Politics (Princeton University Press, 2015); Plato’s Progeny (Duckworth, 2001); and Method and Politics in Plato’s Statesman (Cambridge University Press, 1998). And eco-coproduction, as Lane defines, deploys, and embodies this term, can’t help but make for high-quality conversation. Lane will deliver the Carlyle Lectures in 2018 at Oxford University. Continue reading

So Insistently Focused on the Daily: Talking to Andrew Epstein

By Andy Fitch

This conversation  focuses on Andrew Epstein’s Attention Equals Life. Attention Equals Life provides an innovative, eloquent account of how 20th- and 21st-century poets’ conceptions (and/or representations, and/or performative embodiments) of attention have overlapped with a philosophically inflected form of everyday-life theory as developed by figures like Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre. Epstein’s expansive scope stretches from the psychological formulations of William James, to the cinematic essays of Jean-Luc Godard and Agnès Varda, to contemporary everyday-life poetic experiments by Brenda Coultas, Claudia Rankine, and Harryette Mullen. Perhaps most importantly, Attention Equals Life offers the galvanizing example of an omnivorous yet meticulous scholarly study that poses direct questions to readers about how best to live out one’s own everyday. Epstein is a Professor of English at Florida State University, and the author of Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006). He blogs about the New York School of poets at Locus Solus, and his critical work has recently appeared in Contemporary Literature, The Wallace Stevens JournalComparative Literature Studies, American Literary History, Journal of Modern Literature, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Continue reading

Already Intertwined: Talking to Daniel Borzutzky and Brenda Lozano About Lit & Luz

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Nightboat author Daniel Borzutzky’s work with novelist Brenda Lozano on organizing the 2017 Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature, and Art. Held each fall in the U.S. and each winter in Mexico, Lit & Luz offers a unique series of readings, conversations, performances, and multimedia presentations featuring renowned authors and visual artists from Chicago and Mexico City. From October 17th to 21st, more than a dozen Lit & Luz events will take place in Chicago galleries, college auditoriums, classrooms, bookstores, and museums. The festival will conclude with its “Live Magazine Extravaganza Show” finale at Co-Prosperity Sphere, featuring debut multimedia collaborations between the Mexico City-based and Chicago-based participants. This year’s festival theme of “Belonging” celebrates the richly diverse sustained interconnections of custom, community, and culture between Chicago and Mexico City. At the same time, “Belonging” poses questions about what it means to be excluded from a community, a city, and a nation.  Continue reading

Inextricably Interwoven: Talking to Brenda Iijima

By Andy Fitch

Amid a recent stretch of ominous, climate-change inflected environmental disasters, and amid an ongoing history of environmental imperialism intensifying the impact of such disasters upon communities of color, economically marginalized communities, and interspecies communities, it feels especially pertinent to return to Nightboat Books’s )((ECO (LANG) (UAGE (READER), edited by Brenda Iijima. Iijima’s public engagements occur at intersections of, and amid mutations of: poetry, animal studies, ecological sociology, histories of activism, and submerged social histories. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, and numerous chapbooks and artist’s books. Her most recent book, Remembering Animals, was published by Nightboat in 2016. Iijima is the editor of Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, located in Brooklyn. Continue reading

We’ll Revise Our Views Along the Way: Talking to Emily Bazelon

By Andy Fitch

This conversation focuses on Emily Bazelon’s diversified professional practice, as well as her sustained commitment to constructive public dialogue. Bazelon, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest, Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, co-founder of Slate’s DoubleX section, and former law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 1st Circuit, is currently working on a book about prosecutors and prospects for criminal-justice reform. Continue reading

A Two-Way Street: Talking to Josiah Ober

By Andy Fitch 

This conversation focuses on Josiah Ober’s books The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, and Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule. Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, focuses on the contemporary relevance of the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world. From probing the complicated (and intellectually generative) social status of economically powerful yet politically marginalized elites, to prioritizing democratic-tending Athens’s distinct capacities for producing/sharing both practical and specialized fields of knowledge, to reconceptualizing the commercial prowess and relatively egalitarian distribution of wealth across ancient Greece’s diversified macro-ecology, Ober consistently has prompted new methods for rethinking when, how, and why dialogue might open up eudaimonic possibilities within the lives of its participants. And even as these methods have received praise across numerous academic disciplines, Ober never has lost his deft touch for showing why our own ever-provisional democratic culture (both inside and outside the academy) ought continually to look to classical precedent as one practical means for engaging the most pressing social questions of the present. Ober’s latest book Demopolis: Democracy before Liberalism in Theory and Practice, recently published by Cambridge University Press, will be the subject of a sequent conversation. Continue reading

Total Junk Rubbing Up Against Glorious, Gorgeous Lyricism: Talking to Daniel Kane

By Andy Fitch

This present conversation (transcribed by Phoebe Kaufman) focuses on Daniel Kane’s Do You Have a Band?”: Poetry and Punk Rock in New York City. More than once, I have picked up a Daniel Kane book and realized he somehow had anticipated just what I (and many poets, scholars, artists I know) would most want to read about. “Do You Have a Band?” certainly falls into that category, as did All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s (University of California Press, 2003), and We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Cinema and Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2010). Kane is Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Sussex. My admiration for his own interview work made this particular talk a particular pleasure. Continue reading