“‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis” in Genre

My essay, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis,” has been published in Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 54, no. 1 (April 2021): 139–65. This issue is the first of two special issues on “Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women,” edited by Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler. The second issue will be released in July 2021. I also have an interview with DuPlessis forthcoming in boundary 2. I’ve included an abstract of my essay below, along with a table of contents.

I am particularly proud of this essay, as I wrote it predominantly during the summer of 2020–the height of lockdown–and during which we had no childcare and I couldn’t access the library nor my campus office, including its books. Lots of people to thank, consequently, but particularly Racheal Fest, Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler for their hard work putting this together during an incredibly difficult year, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Dawn Baker, Hartwick’s interlibrary loan librarian. (There are more acknowledgments on the first page of my essay.) This essay is also the second published chapter from my work in progress, Too Big to Read: The Megatext in the Twenty-First-Century. For other related work on megatexts and hyperarchivalism, see:

“Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.’”

“Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature.”

“Coda: Writing Briefly about Really Big Things.”

“The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar.”

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism.”


Abstract

In the twenty-first century, digital technologies have made it possible for writers and artists to create massively unreadable works through computational and collaborative composition, what the author has elsewhere called megatexts. The ubiquity of texts appearing across media that are quite literally too big to read—from experimental novels to television, film, and video games—signals that the megatext is an emergent form native to the era of neoliberalism. But what happens to other long forms, such as the twentieth-century long poem, when written in an era of megatextuality? Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s work, including Drafts (1987–2013) and Traces, with Days (2017–), readily suggests itself as a case study for thinking through a megatextual impulse in the twenty-first-century long poem. Though her work is plainly indebted to its modernist precursors (H.D., Pound, Williams, etc.) while disavowing at every level of its composition a patriarchal will toward totality, DuPlessis’s various experiments in the long poem are also thoroughly contemporary and respond to the economic, military, political, and environmental transformations of the neoliberal era by drawing upon and producing fragmentary, megatextual debris. This essay positions DuPlessis’s work amidst a larger twenty-first-century media ecology, which includes both the megatext and the big, ambitious novel, and argues that rather than simply (and futilely) resist the neoliberal cultural logic of accumulation without end, DuPlessis hypertrophically uses the megatext’s phallogocentric form against itself in order to interrogate more broadly what it means—socially, culturally, economically—to write a long poem in the age of hyperarchival accumulation.


“Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women, Part 1,” Genre 54, no. 1 (April 2021).

James Zeigler, “Introduction: Big Novel Ambition without Apology.”

Maaheen Ahmed and Shiamin Kwa, “‘Kill the Monster!”: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel.”

Patricia Stuelke, “Writing Refugee Crisis in the Age of Amazon: Lost Children Archive‘s Reenactment Play.”

Katarzyna Bartoszyńska, “Two Paths for the Big Book: Olga Tokarczuk’s Shifting Voice.”

Marjorie Worthington, “‘We’ll Make Magic’: Zen Writers and Autofictional Readers in A Tale for the Time Being.”

Siân White, “A ‘Hair-Trigger Society’ and the Woman Who Felt Something in Anna Burn’s Milkman.”

Bradley J. Fest, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis.”

“2020.01,” “2020.02,” “2020.03,” “2020.04,” “2020.05,” and “2020.06” in Always Crashing

I didn’t get a lot of writing done this year, but some of the little I did is out today near its close. I am thrilled and honored to have the first of my pandemic sonnets—“2020.01,” “2020.02,” “2020.03,” “2020.04,” “2020.05,” and “2020.06”—in the online arm of Always Crashing. I also had important poems from the sonnet project, including the “long sonnet” “2016.36: Preface,” out in issue three of Always Crashing earlier this year. Thanks so much to the editors’ ongoing support of my work and this project.

“Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter” in Poetics for the More-than-Human World Anthology

“Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter,” poems from my current ongoing project, Postrock, have been reprinted in Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary, edited by Mary Newell, Bernard Quetchenbach, and Sarah Nolan and published by Spuyten Duyvil.

The anthology was originally published online as a special issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars“Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary.” Other contributors include Rae ArmantroutRachel Blau DuPlessisJane HirshfieldCynthia HogueAngela HumeMichael McClureJohn ShoptawStephanie StricklandHarriet TarloEdwin Torres, and many, many others.

“Blason I,” “Blason II,” and “Blason III” in The Second Chance Anthology

“Blason I,” “Blason II,” and “Blason III,” poems from my current ongoing project, Postrock, have been republished in The Second Chance Anthology, which will appear from Variant Literature on August 1, 2020. (Order it here; read it here.) The anthology features “work that has been pulled, withdrawn, [or] removed without notice from” a number of different publications. I’m especially thankful to Tyler Pufpaff and the editors of Variant Literature for finding a new home for the orphaned writing of so many great writers.

Poetics for the More-than-Human World Readings

To accompany the online publication of “Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary” at Dispatches for the Poetry Wars, along with its eventual print publication by Spuyten Duyvil, the editors have organized a series of ten readings over the next few months. The first reading kicks off next week, June 25, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. EDT with Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Patricio Ferrari, Peter O’Leary, Stephanie Strickland, Harriet Tarlo, Orchid Tierney, and Edwin Torres.

On July 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm EDT I’ll be reading with Cara Chamberlain, Petra Kuppers, Jake Levine, Eléna Rivera, Arthur Sze, and Jen Web.

Find our more on the anthology’s Facebook and Eventbrite pages.

“2016.31,” “2016.33,” “2016.36: Preface,” and “2017.01: Afterword” in Always Crashing

More poems from my ongoing sonnet sequence, “2016.31,” “2016.33,” “2016.36: Preface” (a long prefatory poem), and “2017.01: Afterword,” are in the third issue of Always Crashing. I’m delighted to share the pages with Louis Armand, Jill Khoury, Joe Sacksteder, Claire Marie Stancek, John Trefry, and many others.

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There will also be a two night reading celebrating the issues release at 7:00 p.m. on May 28 and 29, 2020, via Zoom. RSVP at https://bit.ly/2WGDD7d. I’ll be reading for a few minutes on the 29th.

“Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter” in a Special Issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars

Graphic from Dispatches

I am totally humbled by the inclusion of my poems, “Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter,” in a special issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars: “Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary,” edited by Mary Newell, Bernard Quetchenbach, and Sarah Nolan. Other contributors include Rae Armantrout, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Jane Hirshfield, Cynthia Hogue, Angela Hume, Michael McClure, John Shoptaw, Stephanie Strickland, Harriet Tarlo, Edwin Torres, and many, many others.

The issue also includes a section of commentary, reviews, and criticism, including a review of Kristin George Bagdanov’s Fossils in the Making (2019), and essays by Lynn Keller, Hogue, Cole Swensen, and (again) many others.


Here is the press release from Dispatches:

Announcement: Release of Online Anthology

POETICS FOR THE MORE-THAN-HUMAN WORLD!

We are delighted to announce the special Ecopoetry issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars journal, titled “Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary,” co-edited by Mary Newell, Sarah Nolan, and Bernard Quetchenbach. The issue offers a core sample of diverse approaches to ecologically oriented poetics, representing 150 contemporary authors from a wide range of bioregions and nations. In addition to poetry, the issue features critical commentary, interviews, a preview selection of Cognitive Ecopoetics,by Sharon Lattig, and reviews of current anthologies.

In this time of planetary challenge from changes to climate and water level, atmospheric pollution, viral scourges, and threats of mass species extinction, our interconnectedness across boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, and other sociocultural labels has been underscored by our common plight. How can we bear witness to this situation, how might we harness our fear, anger, hope, wonder, in ways that will encourage a renewed commitment to live sustainably in our shared home? May this anthology offer fresh impressions of the life of this chaotic but still resplendent planet we share. May you find pleasures, surprises, insights, and inspiration, and may some of the poems resound in you and provide sustenance and energy on your own path toward living conscientiously. Visit dispatchespoetrywars.com.


UPDATE MAY 26, 2020

poeticsmorehumanworld

Spuyten Duyvil has just announced that it will be printing the anthology. Order it here.