Category Archives: General reading

95 Cent Skool

The 95 Cent Skool is a 6 day long experimental seminar that will be offered in Oakland, California, July 26-31, 2010. It is convened by Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr. It will explore the possibilities of poetry writing as part of a larger social practice, at a distance from the economic and professional expectations of institutions. We believe a dozen people sitting around a table can’t ruin poetry, but that costs, professional context, mythologies of individual genius, and client/service-based models can — and in our own experiences teaching in pay-to-play writing programs, often do.

Our concerns in these six days begin with the assumption that poetry has a role to play in the larger political and intellectual sphere of contemporary culture, and that any poetry which subtracts itself from such engagements is no longer of interest. “Social poetics” is not a settled category, and does not necessarily refer to poetry espousing a social vision. It simply assumes that the basis of poetry is not personal expression or the truth of any given individual, but shared social struggle.

The 6 days will feature:
• Morning discussion groups lead by Juliana and Joshua
• Two guest speakers: one on the political economy and one on ecology
• Afternoon group and/or collaborative writing sessions
• Dinners and drinks at a nearby bar

The 6 days will not feature:
• Workshops led by a “master poet”
• Agents or editors who will advise your work into publication
• A Richard Wilbur Celebration Night
• Instruction in reciting poetry to bring out the emotional content of the poem

The final program will be available later in the Spring.

Each participant will be asked to contribute up to 1% of annual gross income as their 95 cents exclusively towards operating expenses. The workshop leaders and as many other organizers as possible will donate their time. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Email us if you’ve got questions about how much you can pay. We will also help in finding free housing for any participants in need.

The program is open to any interested participant with any level of prior engagement with poetry. This program is not affiliated with any institution of higher education and no transferrable institutional credit will be offered. There is no application fee, but space is limited. Please send a note indicating interest and experience to

Please feel encouraged to re/post this listing to your blog or otherwise redistribute. If you would like to receive further information about the 95 Cent Skool, please email the address above, or join the 95 Cent Skool facebook group:
The 95 Cent Skool will happen with the support of Small Press Traffic and ‘A ‘A Arts.

Thank you very much,

the 95¢ Skoolers —


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Poetic Practice Reading Group: this Monday in Egham…

Poetic Practice Reading Group
6.15 – 7.30 pm
International Building, Egham
Room IN045

Monday 1st February 2010

Sophie Robinson

‘writing nonlocation location’ : creating queer space in poetic

I’m going to begin by talking about Bruce Boone’s essay ‘Gay Language
as Political Praxis: The Poetry of Frank O’Hara’. I want to examine
Boone’s reading of O’Hara – particularly concepts of ‘competing
language-cultural codes’, marginalised communities, proximity and
low/derided culture – and discuss the function of ‘gay language’ in
poetic practice.

I want to use these concepts as a starting point for thinking about
contemporary uses of ‘queer language’ by looking at a recent issue of
EOAGH dedicated to the subject. I will be looking closely at kari
edwards’ editorial statement, and the poetry of Abigail Child and Amy
King included in the issue.

I then want to present some of my own recent work, and discuss my
practice in relation to the ideas raised. I particularly want to focus
on forms of queer space (proximity, disorientation, liminality,
occupation, subculture) which both influence and are produced by queer
texts, and will be contextualising this by referring to extracts from
Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology.

The Bruce Boone essay is here:

And the EOAGH Queering Language issue is here:

Extracts from Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology are here:

Biography: Sophie Robinson has an MA in Poetic Practice from Royal
Holloway. She is currently completing a practice-based PhD on queer
time and space in experimental poetic practice. Her poetry has
appeared in the anthologies The Reality Street Book of Sonnets (Reality
Street, 2008) and Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century
(Bloodaxe, 2009). Her first book, a, was published by Les Figues press
in 2009, and she has a chapbook forthcoming from Oystercatcher in
Spring 2010. She currently lives and works in London.

All Welcome

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New Website by Recent MA in Poetic Practice Graduates….

Here it is!

We have finally put press free press activities onto a website.

It would be great if you could have a look and let people know!

We will be updating regularly. Feedback welcome!


press free press

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Some Thoughts on Characterisation

Thoughts, that is to say, on how to write characters: what is the best approach or strategy for characterising the agents in a piece of fiction? Most of the creative writing team got together in a London pub last night, and many things were talked about; but in particular I had a very interesting exchange with Ben Markovits on this very topic. He said a number of intelligent, persuasive and penetrating things; but I’m not to be taken in by mere intelligence, persuasiveness and penetration, you know.

Actually, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought recently to this question, and trying to work out some more coherent sense of my own praxis on this. One of the prompts was reading A S Byatt’s recently Booker shortlisted novel, The Children’s Book. My first reaction was that I didn’t like it much (you can read my initial review here). Then, partly prompted by other reviews I read, but more forcefully by a letter Professor Isobel Armstrong wrote to the LRB about that very novel, I started having second thoughts. I’ve blogged some of those second thoughts here, including some gropings-towards a particular ethos of characterisation. Have a read, and tell me what you think.

Where do you stand on the question of ‘characterisation’?  [link]  [AR]

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Choice Amazon One Star Reviews

Something to which all creative writers can aspire; courtesy of Mark Chadbourn:

If most reviews say more about the reviewer than what’s being reviewed, consider the Amazon One-Star review. These are generally a breed apart. A one-star review essentially says the work has such little value it should never have been released on the public. As a psychological road map, it’s invaluable. Take a look at these, all from Amazon. Grammar, writer’s own.


I have read a lot of books in my life but this was the most miserable reading experience I ever had. There was absolutely no story. It was all about fishing… If you want to be a sailor this might be the book for you but personally I think it is a colossal waste of time. – ONE STAR!


Shakespeare may be a genius, but cmon, this is the worst reading material i have ever seen. – ONE STAR!


after reading this book i think dickens would benifit from very low expectations. and by that i mean a lot of people will be returning this book and giving bad reviews. all the classics always in my opinion, are very bad – ONE STAR!


Frankly, I would rather read the terms of my home and auto insurance policies than read this book. – ONE STAR!


I enjoy classic Victorian era romance , and this by far is the worst book I have ever read. – ONE STAR!


It’s not that it was above my head, it was just plain old poorly written in my humble opinion. The grammar was beyond horrible. I think my 10 year old son could’ve done a better job. – ONE STAR!


I should have known that a book you can buy togehter with Cliff’s Notes is going to be boring. I read “East of Eden” and thought it was great. I was hopeful that “Grapes of Wrath” would be just as good. No luck. It’s dull as heck. – ONE STAR!


The book is filled with nasty, disgusting, wicked, cruel people. Every single person, and yes, ESPECIALLY NELLY, hateful, jealous, manipulative, lying, conniving, nasty Nelly, every single one of them are foul. – ONE STAR!


I had to read this for a book club, and a fifth of the way into it, I began to wish I were blind, so I wouldn’t have to continue. – ONE STAR!


If I wanted to read about lame, rich, full of themself people going to parties, I’d pick up People magazine. – ONE STAR!


If you liked Sienfeld but thought it was to funny, this book is for you. A book about nothing, that takes 200 plus pages to get there. – ONE STAR!

My favourite is probably the Moby Dick review; though the extraordinay focus of the hatred of Nelly Dean is rather wonderful too, and ‘Shakespeare may be a genius, but cmon’ has a certain laconic forcefulness. [AR]

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Man Booker Prize 2009

The winner of this year’s Booker prize is announced tonight. See, you’re excited! You can hardly wait. The bookies, apparently, are solidly behind Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall:

Author Hilary Mantel has emerged as the hot tip to win the Man Booker Prize for her historical novel Wolf Hall. The book about Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell is William Hill’s odds-on favourite at 10/11, the shortest odds ever given to a nominee.

Here’s what I thought about that novel: technically very accomplished writing indeed, but maybe a little not-quite-there at the edges. (I’ve also reviewed A S Byatt’s Children’s Book, here, and I’ve written about Adam Foulds’s The Quickening Maze on not one but two occasions, golly-gosh: a straightforward review, here; and another piece on Tennyson in the novel for the OUP blog, here. I’ve read the Coetzee, though I haven’t had time to write up my thoughts yet: the Waters and the Mawer I have yet to read.)

Other Booker related stuff: here, on the offchance that you’re interested, is the course blog for the 3rd year EN course I teach on The Booker Prize: Aesthetics and Commerce in Contemporary Fiction. [AR]

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BookFail, no less. A site that does what it says on the tin: ‘BookFail is pretty much like any other book review site, but with one exception. We judge a book solely by it’s cover. So if you’ve got a book that has a preposterous, pretentious, absurd, ridiculous, off-beat, or just plain lame title, please send it to us.’

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