Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cam Scott : SUPPLY CHAIN TANKA: On Working, Walking, Writing

In November of 2018, I attended a poetry reading at The People’s Forum, a “movement incubator for working class and marginalized communities,” on New York’s 37th Street. One braces to emerge from Penn Station into the evening din, and it’s true that there are few such hospitable cracks in midtown’s commercial veneer. But wherever the wealthy live or play, there are sure to be more signs of resistance than acquiescence. New York is first and foremost a city of cab drivers, janitors, nannies, line cooks, and countless other service industry workers, many of whom are also artists.

This evening’s readers were from the Worker Writers School, convened by poet Mark Nowak, which organizes with trade unions and progressive labor organizations to facilitate the creation of work about work, among other topics of lived concern. In a recent book, Social Poetics, Nowak describes these workshops as “new spaces for imaginative militancy,” extending the mandate of poetry beyond quiescent reflection and inviting solidarity between participants from across the world.[1]

Workers’ Tanka

On this particular evening, working poets read from several booklets of tanka—a form of imagistic concision, inherited from Japanese verse. Classically, tanka are poems of thirty-one syllables distributed across five lines, intended to distill a mood or occasion. Meaning “short poem,” tanka was but one genre of waka, or “Japanese verse,” although these terms became more or less synonymous between the ninth and nineteenth centuries. The perennial appeal of this classical form, such that one finds the Tanka Workers Collective writing class-conscious and emotionally relevant tanka today, results from a thoroughgoing modernization throughout the first half of the twentieth-century, many examples of which have been translated by Makoto Ueda and collected in the anthology Modern Japanese Tanka. Nowak names this collection as a point of inspiration, as Ueda places proletarian writing groups alongside and within a broader culture of Modernist experimentation.[2]

According to Ueda, tanka was resuscitated as a modern genre in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the poet Yosano Tekkan and a number of other youthful voices set out to update the form amid anxieties about national decline and impending war. Tekkan’s own neo-romantic reforms are better exemplified by the poems of his partner Yosano Akiko; but the template that endures today surely descends from the mandate of Masaoka Shiki, who proposed a writing of “shasei,” or sketching from life. In addition to vernacular reforms, Shiki’s realism advocated a close observation of nature, seeking to unify the popular appeal of haiku with the courtly connotations of tanka. As biographer and critic Janine Beichman explains, this initially meant combining the content of haiku with the diction of tanka.[3] At the time of his 1898 work, Letters to a Tanka Poet, Shiki advocated for a thirty-one syllable haiku, simply extending its thematic concerns into a longer, theretofore rarefied form. Eventually, however, Shiki conceded a difference in suitability, and Beichman describes a split between his poems of objective description, evacuated of a personal pronoun or standpoint, and poems of subjective interest, juxtaposing the author’s vantage with a consoling surround. In Beichman’s observation, tanka tends to the latter, reflective approach, often providing a personal gloss on a miniature vista. In either case, Shiki’s staunch naturalism and insistence on formal transparency typifies the genre to the present day.[4] 

Shiki was notably liberal for his context, but some of the most politically suggestive writing of this renaissance follows the social realism of Ishikawa Takuboku, who eschewed natural scenery for depictions of personal desperation and class struggle. Ueda translates one of his most famous verses as follows:

I work

and work yet my life
impoverished as ever

I gaze at my hands [5]

This poem of personal contemplation certainly belongs to the subjective mode, as a first-person contemplation of reality; but the external world under examination is represented by the poet’s own hands. Subject and object at once, divided against itself, this is an extremely economical figure of the poet’s alienation qua worker. In Social Poetics, Nowak describes a writing exercise undertaken with the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, in Albany, New York:

I brought in copies of a tanka by Kunio Tsukamoto, a writer born in 1922 in the Shiga prefecture, who had witnessed a devastating air attack on his naval base in World War II. In Ueda’s translation, the tanka employs parallelism; each of the first four lines begins with the structure “hands [verb] …” and ends with an object with which these hands have interacted.[6]

Over the course of Tsukamoto’s brief poem, hands are multiform, as likely to injure as to give pleasure, and by no means express one’s own agency. The translation that Nowak distributes reads as follows:

hands picking a rose
hands holding a shotgun
hands fondling a loved one
hands on every clock
point to the twenty-fifth hour [7]

From this template, Nowak instructs his workshop participants to imagine their own fixed-based tanka, using their hands as a medium of recollection. One writer, credited pseudonymously, produced the following poem, his first in English:

hands hold phone
hands cook rice
hands touch door
hands point to the home in Iraq
hands write sentences [8]

In Nowak’s reading, the self-reflexive concluding line refers not only to the composition of the poem, but to the mortal hands of legislators, who have the power to mete out punishment by writ. The ambiguity as to just whose hands carry out each of these tasks complicates the deceptively humanist conceit of the poem, which nevertheless alludes to the possibility of taking in hand the materials of one’s own life, from utensils to directions and desires.  

What commends contemporary tanka to work, and work to tanka? Occasional in inspiration, intended to distill something of the everyday, plain in diction and general in address; in any language, tanka would seem to support an adaptable realism, establishing a clear relation of the lyric subject to the external world. In a poem by Paloma Zapata, from a Tanka Workers Collective booklet, the trademark epiphany before nature takes place on ‘stolen’ time:

Make up for lost time
I rush winter leaves from my feet
Don’t leave me, don’t leave
White rabbit just make it be
10 minutes late for my shift [9]

Throughout the group’s stapled anthology, flashes of poetic insight punctuate the strictures of shift work. As a writing of and on the clock, each poem conveys something of the parceled and pre-allocated time of personal epiphany, especially precious where the writer’s attention is elsewhere obliged. At the reading I attended, cab drivers, nannies, a “former school secretary turned daycare provider under duress,” and other workers presented their class-conscious poetry to peers and comrades, while others had to leave the daylong proceedings early to attend their jobs.

For the staple imagery of shasei, these poets employ symbols of a second nature—that of the workaday and capital. Dollar amounts and rent prices stand in for natural signs, recurring throughout the group’s output as a gesture toward the effacement and monetary abstraction of the concrete particulars that poetry more often strives to represent.

Urban Tanka

Poet Harryette Mullen describes her 2013 book Urban Tumbleweed as a “tanka diary,” corresponding to a series of daily walks around Los Angeles. If the impetus to this approach—a peripatetic attempt to meld thought and matter, “head and body”—is restlessness before an unfamiliar outdoors, the resultant writing offers as much clarity as complication. In a considered foreword Mullen troubles the categories upon which the micro-genre appears to depend:

What is natural about being human? What to make of a city dweller taking a ‘nature walk’ in a public park while listening to a podcast with ear-bud headphones? What of a poet who does not know the proper names of native and non-native fauna and flora, who sees ‘a yellow flower by the creek’—not a Mimulus?[10]

Mullen’s more-than-rhetorical questions challenge the implicit nominalism of poetry, which deals less in taxonomy than the particularity of sense impression. This, too, doesn’t entirely translate, and a reader greets a description of an impression; language as second nature. When Mullen speaks of each poem as an “occasion for reflection,” one might take this somewhat literally: the poem is a contemplation of reality in a different, facing medium. Thus tanka betokens an ideal alignment of at least two objects, one of which is a poet, or poem.

The author’s initial lack of conversancy before the local flora is perceived as an obstacle to poetry, and a fortunate condition of globalization: “Trips to the botanical garden are opportunities for learning the names of plants from all over the world that have found a home here in California,” Mullen says in her introduction, “a place defined as much by non-native as by its native species.”[11] Los Angeles is a node of migration, overwritten by a multitude of languages and names. If anything, this ought to produce more and greater differential effects, multiplying signifiers over signifieds; and Mullen’s point of departure for her tanka poems is already cosmopolitan, in spite of her self-professed insufficiency.

Mullen writes: “So I began the diary despite being able to recognize only the most common creatures, and feeling that I lack a proper lexicon to write about the natural world, when what we call natural or native is more than ever open to question.” Accordingly, Mullen’s tanka offer a “record of meditations and migrations” across diverse terrain, unevenly effaced by capital and industry.[12]

Perhaps the expectation that nature should have the consistency of names presumes a level of cognitive subsumption. But this sense of estrangement becomes a topic of concern throughout the 366 poems gathered here, which in exemplary Zen-like fashion baffle any ideology of nature-as-given. Nature is already a specialism, marked apart from daily routine as a kind of privileged reading:

Instead of scanning newspaper headlines,
I spent the morning reading names
of flowers and trees in the botanical garden.[13]

Mullen’s writing of landscape includes multiple figures of enclosure and subdivision: “Chain-link fence, locked gate protect this urban/garden,” she facetiously implores.[14] An overarching theme of neighbourliness issues from this navigation of partitions:

Yes, it is legal to harvest the overhanging fruit
Of your neighbor’s avocado tree.
Just don’t smuggle it out of state.[15]

The stateline is another arbitrary threshold superimposed on a teeming underneath, and picket fences appear as a scenic counterpart to razor wire throughout this writing. Mullen’s snapshots of surroundings, however modest themselves, convey the suburban property owner’s stake in nature to the nativist claims of the nation-states that such urban settlements recapitulate in miniature. This tanka reflects the plainspoken civics of Robert Frost’s well-known poem, ‘Mending Wall,’ in which a speaker contemplates the adage that “good fences make good neighbors.” [16] From the first line of Frost’s verse, the wall is an object of suspicion, and yet remains an object of mutual repair. “Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/And to whom I was like to give offence,” Frost’s speaker opines.[17] Needless to say, walls are a charged symbol in the political imaginary; and any so-called neighbor who requires one on principle is probably some sort of leering fascist.

Conversely, Mullen writes to welcome: “Native or not, you’re welcome in our gardens.”[18] The natural repletion that exceeds an all-too-human economy becomes an object of comparative appreciation throughout these poems. On a bus, the “ladybug clinging to the window/didn’t need to pay a fare.”[19] Likewise, the natural world serves as a vessel for the poet-perceiver, whose attention is carried along by the objects she encounters on her way.

The demonstration echoes June Jordan’s epistolary poem, ‘Letter to the Local Police.’ Written in conservative persona, from the perspective of a suburban property owner, the poem is an archly facetious takedown of the NIMBY type; an anti-neighbour, self-deputized and determined to control. “Dear Sirs,” the poem begins:

I have been enjoying the law and order of our
community throughout the past three months since
my wife and I, our two cats, and miscellaneous
photographs of the six grandchildren belonging to
our previous neighbors (with whom we were very
close) arrived in Saratoga Springs which is clearly
prospering under your custody

Describing a well-kempt enclave as a legal ward or captive of the state, Jordan’s speaker boasts of their own amateur snoutery and surveillance before coming to the point of complaint: 

I have encountered a regular profusion of certain
unidentified roses, growing to no discernible purpose,
and according to no perceptible control, approximately
one quarter mile west of the Northway, on the southern


As I say, these roses, no matter what the apparent
background, training, tropistic tendencies, age,
or color, do not demonstrate the least inclination
toward categorization, specified allegiance, resolute
preference, consideration of the needs of others, or
any other minimal traits of decency[20]

Jordan’s complainant addresses the wild roses as an anthromorphized rabble, which eludes an attempted floral profiling. Like Mullen, Jordan sees human variety reflected in an extra-human surround, such that its fanatical management analogizes the pathology of racism and prejudice.

          A Hodgepodge of What Lies Outside”

Mullen’s synthetic tanka nonetheless gather around a seasonal word, or kigo—a fixture in traditional Japanese poetry and many English language forms derived therefrom. Mullen, however, allows the formal determination of the poem to convey her language to the season, rather than presuming vocabulary to have transparent purchase on reality. One understands the poem to index the natural world, such that whatever it names becomes a facet of nature, placed at a remove from the poet.

This subtle reversal of lyric directionality contracts nature to the poem as an object belongs to a subject, or an outside to interiority. Many ideologies of nature issue specifically from the condensed attention marked by language: nature, Jacques Lacan quips, is “that which one excludes in the very act of taking interest in something, that something being distinguished by bearing a name. By this procedure, nature only risks being characterised as a hodgepodge of what lies outside nature.”[21]

The extra-textuality of nature makes an ideal object for poetic speculation. But Mullen enrolls her poems in this relative hodge-podge, depicting a natural world that is more recursive than continuous. One could as soon imagine this work continuing on the model proposed by Donna Haraway, of a cyborg ecology that repudiates any hard and fast distinction between human and non-human, natural and unnatural, which Mullen’s own ruminations invite. But Urban Tumbleweed offers no metaphysical ruling upon reality; rather, these poems hew to individual perception, and the sum of these moments is only implied.

The object of these poems may be nature broadly construed; and Mullen’s writing attests to the cybernetic diffusion of this object without proffering any timely program of assemblage or hybridity. Rather, Mullen’s writing of the Los Angeles landscape—as so many sites of investment and policing, settlement and extraction, tourism and education, immigration and immiseration—situates it as a hub of international traffic and logistics. Mullen receives signs of globality from her immediate surround: from so-called invasive species to the facts comprising the morning newspaper, which arrives covered in local dew. While many of these sightings allude to a vast and historical movement of people and goods, others arrest the fluidity of contemporary supply chains in a moment’s apprehension.

          Framing Ephemera

Philosopher Alberto Toscano describes the influence of logistical regimes on aesthetics, and conversely, how the real abstraction of space and relation by capital produces correspondent motifs in the visual arts.[22] Toscano is occupied with film and photography, and while poetry is naively presumed to operate at a further remove from reality on account of linguistic abstraction, one might suggest that Mullen’s interest in the plainspoken clarity of tanka as an attempt to faithfully capture “the ephemera of everyday life” places this writing within reach of Toscano’s larger thesis.[23]

Immediately, Toscano claims, the logistical artwork frames a preponderance of infrastructure, as the looming image of dead labor. Such images are paradoxical, attempting to depict hugely diffuse networks of supply and demand, connected by constant motion, in a single frame. With important differences, Mullen’s imagistic writing cleaves to the depicted moment as a flash of inspiration, furnishing images of the city suburb as a complex of relations, and a landscaped efflorescence of accumulated capital. Like the logistical image that Toscano describes, Mullen’s tanka capture the motion of capital at a glance; first as a reified percept, and again as a poem.

In Toscano’s discussion of “the logistical image,” a static representation derives from the larger movement of which it is an interval or node. Mullen’s poems, too, are images arrested from a larger process, to which a sense of movement is restored at the level of the collection. However individually discrete, her daily poems are arranged in a yearbook that assumes the standing of an overarching concept; thus the discontinuous vignettes comprising this otherwise durational address are conveyed to totality at the level of conscious form.

This framework has ample precedent throughout Japanese literature, where multi-authored volumes gather the poetic output of a year. In such collections, the poet’s own contingent sense impressions are organized after a seasonal conceit, such that each moment appears under the auspices of a master referent—a climate or an economy, perhaps, two terms that have merged over the course of the so-called Anthropocene.

One might suggest that the modularity of Mullen’s tanka collection enacts a containerization of affect, situating subjective experience at the level of locality, while an overarching formality connects these moments of intentional perception. Where tanka often addresses itself to a climatological term like the season, it remains an apt medium for investigating the new global weather of the market:

“Where does California’s produce go?”
shoppers ask in supermarkets stocked
with Mexican avocados and Chinese garlic.[24]

Mullen’s mediated nature includes the supply chain in which the various strata of Californian society are differently employed; many as seasonally remunerated agricultural workers, others as consumers of world surplus. The national epithets attached to each product designate the necessity of logistics, but also resonate with Mullen’s earlier poems, addressing the de facto worldliness of a state to which few species and people are themselves native—though in a bitter irony, this relationship is policed by the settler state itself. 

Policing Poetry

Nothing is unnatural in these poems: worker bees are “technological” while a helicopter circling overhead is “a curious dragonfly.”[25] Of course, the helicopter needn’t be analogized to insect life to qualify as natural in itself, hovering by the laws of physics all the same. But this folk figuration is of importance where even money features as a sighting, not a medium of exchange; found bills are “rumpled greenbacks,” not immediately monetary but picturesque, perhaps a shelled insect or a leafy growth. Figurative language already evinces an excess signification that itself belongs to, or denotes, nature; and the metaphorization of money is clever where analogy is itself a form of exchange.

Bertolt Brecht famously cautioned that one “one cannot write poems about trees when the forest is full of police.” But what of a scenario in which the forest itself is a police apparatus? In Mullen’s poems, the helicopter recurs as a sonic keynote and visual staple of the police state:

We’re jerked awake as helicopter blades beat air.
Light glares from above. An amplified shout
orders a fleeing subject to halt.[26]

Figures of repression recur throughout these poems with a sinister insistence, on the fringes of poetic apprehension. Police appear synonymous with property, and poems of macabre reportage depict multiple means of enclosure:

Confronting the suspect, police use lethal
force against a disorderly mountain
lion trespassing in a private yard.[27]

The territorial obliviousness of the poem’s lion mocks at the demarcation of private property. At the same time, the portrayal of the lion as a legal suspect, thus susceptible to lethal harm, evokes police executions of Black men as intruders in their own communities. By subjectivizing the lion as a suspect, the poem slyly alludes to the dehumanizing language wielded by murderous police against their victims. As these poems traverse an ambiguous continuum between nature and subjectivity, Mullen remind us of the strategic value of these terms for racist power. Another poem treats the matter of police brutality forthrightly, where the word that cinches the verse, “misapprehended,” evokes both a failure of recognition and a wrongful arrest:

Visiting with us in Los Angeles, our friend
went out for a sunny walk, returned
with wrists bound, misapprehended by cops.[28]

These scenes provide an important counterpoint to a suburban idyll, in which the conversancy and curiosity of the individual poet presumes a degree of physical safety and mobility. Throughout these poems, Mullen interrogates the accessibility of her surroundings, finding them policed and protected, from some at the behest of others. These moments of political gravity anchor the text, which follows the movement of the poet through a minutely differentiated landscape, the privatizations of which are represented by way of mundane detail.

          Salad Phenomena

These poems hew closely to the individual perspective on a small event, which might lapse into private reverie were Mullen not so insistent on showing her reader the social processes behind each poem:

When you complain about the worm
in your salad bowl, our server assures us,
“That is how you know the lettuce is organic.”[29]

This poem of consumer hesitancy reads as a sly quotation of a tanka by Takuboku Ishikawa, in which some unspecified quality of a picturesque plate gives the author pause:

the color
of fresh vegetable salad

    is so pleasing

I pick up the chopsticks
and yet … and yet …[30]

In Mullen’s poem, ‘nature’ figures as an unseemly irruption, and service as second nature. Even the blemish that suffices for proof of nature is commodified. With reference to this search for an earthier salad, a later poem fondly envisions value restored:

Mom grew these leafy collards in her organic
garden. She picked them this morning.
Tonight they go well with our cornbread and yams.[31]

These small solicitudes, and the feeling that attends the sharing of food, resist the imperatives of the market. Tangentially, the bestselling book of Japanese tanka poetry, Salad Anniversary by Machi Tawara, published in 1987, begat a wave of enthusiasm known in Japan as “salad phenomenon.” Tawara’s poems are conversant in pop-culture, comprising a semi-episodic narrative of young love; but the world that she romantically inhabits is overwritten by capital nevertheless:

“One basket 100 yen”
Tomatoes lined up at the storefront
wear a disgruntled look [32]

This poem by Tawara depicts contradiction at market, where an anthropomorphized produce is placed at odds with its posted value. Where the poem is a means of formal capture, Mullen and Tawara both reflect and reply to the commodity form. Perhaps it is fitting that contemporary tanka treats the produce aisles as a kind of garden, for it is here that the most various and dependable flora are replenished before one’s eyes. At every moment, imperceptible relations form the basis for poetic receptivity.

          Climate Tanka

Nothing threatens the immediacy of perception so directly as climate change, a condition that bears urgently on the apparent even as appearances conceal its catastrophic progress. Perhaps this denialism is less viable in California, a state that is particularly susceptible to everything from drought and wildfire to rising sea levels. As per historian Mike Davis, this elemental assault has manifested any number of popular apocalypses in film and literature—fantasies symptomatic of social unrest and capitalist crisis. Mullen’s anecdotal evidence of these ravages is no less frightening for being factual, for the time of these poems coincides with the time of encroaching fire, which becomes so commonplace as to furnish the landscape and its poetry a keynote.

Blast of hellish breath, infernal scourge,
parched wind that whips and scorches. Green
torches, oily eucalyptus trees, bursting into flame.[33]

Here one can see Mullen straining to find language appropriate to the enormity of her representational task. The poem is pulled in multiple directions as descriptive modesty gives way to abstraction over a series of fragmentary clauses, invoking scenes of divine punishment. The plain speech that typifies Mullen’s tanka is momentarily augmented by conventionally elevated means, as the lines assume an alliterative bounce, while internal rhyme (scourge, scorch) binds the stanza. This sonic abstraction contradicts the purposes of description, at the same time as it mimetically enacts an elemental intensification within the poem’s own language. As powerfully, the next poem proceeds factually, describing the victims of the forest fire with taxonomical specificity:

Pilots drop tons of water and fire
retardant in two-hundred-foot flames
engulfing juniper, oak, and ponderosa pine.[34]

Such poems, captioning actuality, help to localize the various moments of a truly global crisis; which can only be apprehended cumulatively and comparatively, in impossible overview. Importantly, Mullen understands that catastrophe doesn’t always manifest cathartically, as a billowing hellfire or obvious emergency. As often, the uneven distribution of risk that broadly describes climate change manifests a tranquil scenery, depending on one’s perspective: 

For the middle of July in a drought stricken
year, more than a few lawns in the neighborhood
are looking incredibly green.[35]

The appearance of business as usual is itself a commodity secured at great cost—one that is subsequently outsourced to others. In the cumulative effect of this quotidian registry, Mullen sketches a variegated everyday that is commensurate with a terrain of struggle, and champions a localism that is intrinsically connected to the global in obvious and surprising ways.

          Working Writing

Mullen’s tanka diary parcels a vast totality into vignettes of startling clarity, localizable and beckoning connection in their specificity. Insofar as these poems allow a reader to treat the sensible loci of vast systems, whether capitalism or the weather in which it intervenes, they visualize logistics in its most companionable guise; as given over to the apprehension of a consumer.

While one might regard this relationship as passive, the networks by which commodities circulate today multiply sites of possible intervention, even as they hold workers at a distance from one another. Mullen’s macrostructural assessment of totality, for which nature is a romantic synonym, transpires as a flash of consciousness, while her larger project links these instances as part of an urbanistic whole. This use of poetry, to elucidate one’s immediate surroundings and heighten conversancy, clearly operates throughout the work of the Worker Writers School.

In the Tanka Workers Collective booklets, individual poems enact resistance to a process that remains indifferent to reflection, as in the following poem by Kele Nkhereanye:

Early morning walks to work
You see more cars than people walking
You can notice parks and gardens
Beautiful trees with various types and sizes
Mornings are yours to experience peaceful joy [36]

As a cognitive claim on surroundings, Nkhereanye’s poem manifests tranquility on the unremunerated time of a pedestrian commute. This nonetheless counts toward the feisty workerist aesthetic of the group, which insists on naming the necessity of labor to nature’s upkeep; a factor that art often omits. Work already divides our experience of the world, such that the moments of private reflection prized by poetry must be stolen back from the clock. The same may be said of those moments of intimacy in which human vocation consists:

Torn between a need
to make a decent living
and caring for mother through
the final chill of hers
and every soul’s winter [37]

This poem by J. Reyes evinces a grace and solicitude for age and death with ample precedent in tanka. But the filial concern owing the poet’s mother is subsumed under the category of social reproduction where one’s chances for survival, or for a dignified death, are at market. Together and separately, the Tanka Workers Collective insistently convey the moments of feeling that poetry distills to the monetized time from which those moments must be reclaimed. In every case, the individual’s perception is honed with reference to the overarching term of ‘work’—a necessity to which each of us is differently obliged. Work is the season of this poetry, which as a collective enterprise attests to the impossibility of separating one’s impressions out from the social conditions of their delivery.

Much as Harryette Mullen’s tanka diary conducts a reader’s attention to the political geography of possible experience, the poems of the Tanka Workers Collective bring the world to consciousness, by raising consciousness to the order of the world. Both projects defy the quietism that political naysayers allege of poetry, without making a slogan of perception. More powerfully, it’s difficult to read either poetry without reconceiving one’s experience as writing on the spot, which vocation both ennobles and contradicts the necessary epithet of worker. This attests to the exemplary results of Nowak’s workshop, and the suggestive power of Mullen’s tanka diary before a convoluted everyday. Both projects sit at the junction of art and reality, placing the smallest of poetic means within a larger context, whether ecosystem or economy, and insisting on the social basis of individual perception. Like poetry, this insight travels with a reader, on a solitary walk or in a crowded commute.

Cam Scott is a poet, critic, and non-musician from Winnipeg, Canada, Treaty 1 territory. He is the author of ROMANS/SNOWMARE, a collection of poetry published by ARP Books in 2019, and WRESTLERS, a visual suite published by Greying Ghost in 2017.

[1] Mark Nowak, Social Poetics (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2020), 177.
[2] Nowak, 126.
[3] Janine Beichman, Masaoka Shiki: His Life and Works (Boston: Cheng & Tsui Co., 2002), 76.

[4] Beichman, 98.
[5] Makoto Ueda, Modern Japanese Tanka (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 54.
[6] Nowak, 127/128.
[7] Ueda, 195.
[8] Nowak, 129.
[9] Tanka Workers Collective 1 (New York: Worker Writers School, 2018), 4.
[10] Harryette Mullen, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2013), x.
[11] Ibid, viii.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid, 2.
[14] Ibid, 5.
[15] Ibid, 20.
[16] Robert Frost, The Collected Poems of Robert Frost (New York: Quarto, 2016), 48.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Mullen, 21.
[19] Ibid, 11.
[20] June Jordan, Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
[21] Jacques Lacan, Seminar XXIII: Le Sinthome, edited by Jacques-Alain Miller (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), 4.
[22] Alberto Toscano, The Mirror of Circulation: Allan Sekula and the Logistical Image in Society and Space.
[23] Mullen, ix.
[24] Ibid, 59.
[25] Ibid, 11.
[26] Ibid, 45.
[27] Ibid, 102.
[28] Ibid, 94.
[29] Ibid, 27.
[30] Ueda, 58.
[31] Ibid, 61.
[32] Machi Tawara, Salad Anniversary, translated by Julie Winters Carpenter (New York: New Directions Press, 2015), 89.
[33] Mullen, 16.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid, 15.
[36] Tanka Workers Collective 3 (New York: Worker Writers School, 2018), 3.
[37] Tanka Workers Collective 1, 3.

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