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Bob Perelman Feature

Kristen Gallagher

Teaching Bob Perelman’s “The Story of My Life”

“The mind is a multiplicity of individuals.”
                    — Emmanuel Levinas


I teach at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York. Historically an immigrant-centered school, LaGuardia has the most ethnically and linguistically diverse student body in New York City, with 160 countries represented and over 110 different languages spoken on campus. The typical classroom at LaGuardia is populated by students with little to no background in American poetry or the critical controversies and social histories that have shaped it. Students who primarily learned about literature in other countries bring a wide array of ideas about poetry to the classroom, while those students who grew up in the U.S. mostly report learning poetry exclusively as “self-expression” or “about feelings.” Accordingly, when I teach ENG102: Writing Through Literature, one of my goals is to bring students up to speed on American poetry in the 20th century as a history of contrasts and permissions dealing with how we see the world and what can be said about it beyond the isolated expression of individual feelings. I want students to learn that each epoch in American poetry builds on or recuperates an earlier one, that poetry is full of debatable claims and motives, and that the best of it has often gone unappreciated, or even been actively scorned in its time.


About two-thirds of the way through the course, we cover the Confessional Movement, and because the students by this point have endured the challenges of Williams and Stein, and have explored the political tensions around art in the 50s and 60s, many of them find Confessionalism narrowly egocentric or apolitical when compared to the contemporary practices of the Beats or the New York School. On the other hand, a number of students embrace Confessionalism as an opportunity to return to familiar ideas about poetry as the expression of personal feelings rather than an engagement with the “outside” forces of language and politics. Debates on this point are lively, and I’m always happy to see the students defining their own poetic values through such disagreements. The arguments at this juncture also become crucial when, shortly thereafter, we turn to Bob Perelman’s poem “The Story of My Life.”


Perelman’s work foregrounds the instability of identity and complicates the “commonsense” idea of an individual self that grounded the Confessional Movement and remains a large share its legacy. “The Story of My Life” is the opening poem of his 1988 Face Value, a book that — as may be evident from the title — revolves around the experience of identity and the construction of its “value” — Marxist pun intended. The book — and this poem in particular — render identity a nebulous category, an idea that enters the mind through a series of through societal graphs, mechanisms that reproduce the ideology of the individual over the collective, from the languages of the newspaper, advertising, television, and the movies, to “the president’s language” and that of the free market. As Perelman says elsewhere in this issue, “The construction of identity is like copping to reality. It’s true that we occur between and amid systems and forces that are primary in our decisions and perceptions and reactions” (Alexander). In my ENG 102 course, I teach “The Story of My Life” as precisely a complication of Confessionalism’s legacy — not a poem written “against” identity, but a poem that wants to politicize our thinking about the self from the “inside” by showing us how identity is constructed by social and economic forces and, historically, to trouble the ocean of post-confessional/identity-based writing that was emerging from MFA programs throughout the U.S. at the time of Face Value’s publication.


In some ways, the issues that Perelman addresses in this poem are directly apposite to the ideas about identity formation that my students bring to the class. Because students who pass through my class at LaGuardia come already well-educated into multiculturalist frames of thinking, there is a tendency for a number of students to assume that identity is something formed through one’s cultural background. Entering this class, many of them respond to a question like “why do we study identity?” with statements like “we need to learn about each other’s cultures.” While this form of institutionalized multiculturalism can be interesting and useful in practice (we do learn about each other’s cultures, and, for example, I feel I learn as much or more about global politics from them than I do from all the news media I take in), I want them to learn that contemporary thinking complicates the narrow focus and often “traditionalist” overtones that inform it. The identification of “identity” with ethnic background brings with it the strange and limiting implications that a) the differences between us lie only and precisely along those lines, and that b) only ethnicity and national origin determine how we think about ourselves and each other. We begin reconsidering assumptions about identity early in the course when we read Stein, who makes available the idea that names, words, and certain phrases often limit not only how people perceive individuals and groups, but also how one perceives oneself. Furthering these ideas, Perelman’s work is weighted toward the decisive influence of economic factors — the commodity form and the language that accompanies it — considering how those factors condition our experience and drive our thinking. In Perelman’s work, I want the students to discover how the way we learn and use language in the U.S. may lead us into the false conception that there is a discrete, consistent “self.” Instead, I want them to begin to consider the socio-economic forces at work on the mind that, through an ego, filters out the hidden slips and cracks in the layered subjectivities at the heart of experience.

I. The Artificial Person


Perelman’s poem begins: “I am a moral person, an artificial / person, made of parts, non-recurrent.” Students generally first seize on the use of “moral” here, referring it to a dynamic inherent in Confessional poetry whereby the author or the “I” — concerned with the value judgments of, in Plath’s words, “the common rout” — is portrayed as suffering under the stress of feeling so “wrong,” so bad or ill or out of sync, as in the declarations of Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour”: “My mind’s not right” and, quoting Milton, “I myself am hell.” [1] Students often find it funny to hear the blithe, almost childish tone of Perelman’s “I am a moral person” placed against these weighty intimations of personal suffering, but the larger point comes in as we reach the “artificial” person, whose tentative reference to the question of authenticity (“Is that because he’s faking? Or pretending like a robot to be perfectly normal?”) quickly gives way to something more complicated in “made” and “made of parts.”


The idea that the speaker is “made of parts” calls on us to notice our assumptions about the self as “whole” or a would-be whole. Students easily link this to Plath’s fight to ‘become whole’ through her emphasis on the psychoanalytic function of poetry-writing. As one student remarked in a paper on this topic, “It turns out no one is whole and so the fight to become something impossible may be a major part of her problem.” Some students will also connect this passage to the problem of naming — the tendency for presumed wholes to be carved out of experience through the operation of language — which they have already encountered in their reading of Stein and William James. [2] In particular, Stein’s remarks on naming in Poetry and Grammar have already raised for them the question, as one student asked it, “What is the meaning of naming?” — a question provoked by Stein’s sentence, “Nouns are the name of anything and just naming names is alright when you want to call a roll but is it good for anything else.” In the context of this sentence, the students have already discussed how their names serve no real function in describing who they are — because who they “really” are is always unfolding, in process, whereas naming implies a solid, stable object; and further, how words associated with race, nationality, gender, and so forth often condition others’ impressions of them, creating obstacles for the kind of understanding they had assumed language was there to produce. For some students, it is a short step from this to the realization that the self is essentially a composite: not only does it imply a before, “self-breaking-in-upon-world-in-process” to paraphrase James, but it includes the multiple (and sometimes unfortunate) perspectives of the “roll call” and other labels or frameworks of interpretation. As one student wrote in a response paper on this topic, “I’m not the guy my [first generation Puerto Rican] grandmother thinks I am, but I’m always going to be that guy too, whether I like it or not.”


“Made of parts” allows students to keep in circulation what they already know about the role of family, ethnicity and cultural practices in identity formation, while at the same time recognizing that those forces act in concert or sometimes in conflict with the tide of commercial pressures. Asked to further consider the commercial forces in identity construction, another way one can be “made of parts,” students acknowledge, concerns fashion trends and dominant, internalized images of beauty. The discussions around “artificial” and “made of parts” frequently lead to observations about how today’s youth fashion largely consists of clothing plastered with giant brand labels — Abercrombie, Hilfiger, Apple Bottom, Roca Wear and so forth — and quickly arrive at the myth, which students are all too ready to point out, that donning these labels is “supposed to make us stand out as individuals.” As against this, the reality that such brands, designed for a target market that readily adopts them, become broadly associated with specific groups of people — whose status is then determined by those brands, but who also lend credibility to those brands, becoming a part of the “life of the product” they have taken into their lives. As with James’s thunder, the question arises, who or what has priority in this scenario? What am I “breaking in on,” and how “pure,” how “whole” is a self that is so radically dependent on “brand identity”? While it is true that an Apple Bottom is different from a Ralph Lauren bottom, we are left to wonder: is this market accommodation all we want for life? And furthermore, if the outside of us, the body, is layered with advertising like a stock car on the NASCAR circuit, what might that tell us about the mind? The mind is “part” of the body, after all. If it’s covered in corporate branding, how can you be sure that isn’t also true of the mind?


The poem goes on:


But if I had been told at birth that I was to have both
a body and a country, and that
one would have to be balanced on the other,
like the quantification of knowledge has to be balanced
on the representational, presidential head of a pin,


The body balanced on national identity continues the conversation in much the same vein; what is introduced here, however, is the comparison to “the quantification of knowledge.” This comparison is particularly interesting for LaGuardia students, who, at the point in their coursework when they take ENG 102, have almost all had to pass a CUNY-wide standardized writing test (the CUNY-ACT exam) in order to begin receiving credit for their coursework. Because LaGuardia historically caters to recent immigrants, students for whom English is a second language, and students for whom vernacular English is the norm, this section of the poem makes a special kind of sense.


They understand the idea of having your abilities scored on a scale of 1–12 by a grader at an outside institution reading an essay you were given an hour to write. So we address the question: How does the kind of language use demanded by the CUNY-ACT compare to the “representational, presidential head of a pin”? Students remark on the tinyness of the head of a pin, that it doesn’t have room for much variation, and, like the CUNY-ACT, seems to offer a limited scope for thinking; it is, as one student pointed out, “not about thinking. It’s about filling out a form. There’s a way they want you to say everything and its only one way. You have to just memorize that way, repeat it back on the test and then they pass you.” The standardized test, now ubiquitous, is a product of the Reagan years when this book was written. Students are usually unaware of such testing as a historical development, so we take the opportunity to discuss that in the context of this poem.


Other students remark on the idea that there could be a “presidential head.” “Does that mean that in the end we’re all supposed to think like the president, or just do whatever he says? Do we end up thinking like our presidents?” asked one student. And Perelman answers, ironically, at the end of the next stanza, much to the students’ delight, “But you, young person, will have to go away [… ] go sit somewhere and don’t come back until you speak the president’s language.” Students always laugh hardest at this point in the poem. They really laugh hard. When I ask them why, they almost can’t articulate it, often resorting to statements like, “that’s just exactly how it is!” (So much for any argument that says postmodern poetry is anti-realist.) They begin to realize at this point in the poem the real tension between the various channels pushing for greater and greater conformity (standardized testing, pressure to shop for the most up-to-date jeans, the limited debate and repetition of news media and its lack of coverage of global events) flanked always by a rampant yet undefined use of the word freedom (“have it your way,” freedom fries, we are invading that country so we can free them).

II. The Monitored Air


Just as students’ knowledge is quantified in the test of standardized English, so the “self” is regularly quantified and assessed in countless other ways. Back to stanza two:


that meanwhile I would be breathing the monitored air
where the softly cubed contours of the classrooms shout, IN GOD
                    WE TRUST,
capitalized, which you’d better not be too cynical about,
says the small print, when you go to buy a car or a can of beer —


Just the phrase “breathing the monitored air” pushes students far past the reaction they often have to the question of surveillance: “it shouldn’t bother you if you’re not doing anything wrong.” The idea that we are ‘breathing it in,’ the fact that the very air we require in order to live (and that we unconsciously incorporate into our bodies at every minute) is monitored in this poem, turns the class toward a discussion of what it means to be constantly tracked and observed from outside and just how “normal” this state has come to seem. [3] The suggestion of “monitored air” brings with it the observation that surveillance is like the air, internalized, taken for granted, largely invisible. Unfolding the line becomes a lesson in panopticism without reference to the erudite prose of Foucault, which most of these students are not ready for.


We spend a lot of time discussing what this internalized sense of surveillance means for the performance of identity, how it makes us behave in ways we think we are expected to, despite the fact that, as one student observed, “when you think about it, most of us don’t even know where these ideas came from.” [4] The problem, as it emerges in discussion, is not simply that of being judged “a moral person” — whether by the god described by the minister at one’s church or the cop we imagine monitoring the surveillance cameras in the park. Instead, it is our tendency to “identify” less according to our own desires than according to the often-imagined expectations of others. An important moment arises here, where I ask students if they can tell their real desires from the commercial pressures we have been discussing. A strange silence comes over the room. They begin looking around at each other. Some laughter. And usually someone says something like, “I’m not sure anymore.” However, students are able to discuss ways in which they have internalized commercial interests on several levels. One of the most forceful examples of this came about during a semester that coincided with the new and widespread advertising of teeth-whitening products. One student mentioned that she had never thought of her teeth as “less white” until these television commercials appeared. In response, about 90% of the class admitted that they had suddenly started noticing their teeth were “not white enough,” and some even reported that they smiled less, or more carefully, as a result. Additionally, a black male student mentioned the way professors and some other students comment negatively on wearing doo-rags as if it means one is a gangster or a dirtbag while at the same time not wearing your doo-rag in the neighborhood will get you accused of being a sell-out. Yet another student told a story that after September 11 he had to put an American flag sticker in his taxicab window (he was a cab driver) and wore the same sweatshirt every day that said MEXICO across the front because people kept thinking he was an Arab (he’s Mexican).

III. Capitalization


This section of the poem also describes “the classrooms” as “cubed” places that shout “IN GOD WE TRUST, capitalized.” As a public-access city college, LaGuardia’s classrooms are a far cry from the ones I’ve seen at Columbia, Cornell, or Penn. They are cramped, stark white rooms where everything one does is visible to the teacher, who, like a god or a prison guard, takes attendance and has the right to fail you for being absent more than twice (college policy). But “of course,” the students always point out, “you have to do it if you’re going to get an education.” “But,” I ask, “what education comes from an attendance policy? What exactly are you learning?” Someone always answers, “when you get a job, you’ll be on time for work.” And so we turn to another debate that flared up in the Reagan era and, sadly, has re-emerged today in Obama’s education policy which focuses on community colleges as places for “workforce training.” Is college really just skills training for the workforce? Back to the NASCAR analogy: how does this conception of learning affect the mind of the community college students? What kind of learning are you doing, what kind of experience are you having, if the only consideration permitted is “how does this make me money?”


This draws the discussion toward Perelman’s decision to capitalize the phrase IN GOD WE TRUST — to describe it, and to render it typographically, as shouted, not whispered or uttered but shouted. I ask students to relate this to education and jobs. It is difficult at first for them to make this phrase fit comfortably into a reading, but we usually come around to a discussion of how the value of your labor and your person, what you are worth, your ability to get what you want or need, is measured in a currency that has these words about god stamped on it. One student analyzed it this way in a paper: ”This whole scenario amounts to that money is the God in capitalism. That is where the trust is. It’s in your wallet. And if you don’t have money, God must be displeased with you.” God and trust are, after all, “capitalized,” a pun reflecting capitalism’s special magic: that if one is lucky or privileged enough, one can “grow” value out of practically nothing. For example, another student put it,


If anyone is willing to trust you, you can get a job, and the more that you are trusted, the more money you can get. And when I first moved to U.S., I thought all the people in suits were who I wanted to be, who I would one day be, the best of America. But now I realize that they might only appear to be that. It is thought that the good people are rich, everyone else just needs to work harder. If you wear a suit, people will think you are good, but then it has come out that many people use that appearance to swindle, proving that in fact, they deserve no trust. It was all just a suit and people’s trust.


The deliberation over the connection between money, value, and identity in “The Story of My Life” gives students a great opportunity to consider their own values with regard to money, how they think capital works, and to air the frustration many of them have born quietly, or often unconsciously, with the fact that fame and wealth seem to be the ultimate measure of success in America. It also inevitably comes out that at least a few of them have dreams of more creative work, for example, being a poet or being an English professor who talks about poetry all day. But almost unanimously they report that such a choice represents too high a risk, that if it didn’t work out they would be poor, and so they’d be better off majoring in Accounting. What this poem makes clear is that while one can question or even actively resist the forces of capital and how they construct the subject, you still have little choice but to use it, to “buy in” — you “better not be too cynical about” it — if you want food, clothing, a can of beer, or simply to survive in this country.


In stanza five Perelman goes on with the consideration of money and identity:


It pays to identify with money, the unit value of the scale,
not to watch the clock but to be the clock, to desire freedom
through quantification of desire. What kind of a world is it
where anything can only mean something else,
and where there is a choice of kind of world?


This section keeps many of our themes in play, and returns the question back to language and the creation of meaning. Earlier in the semester, when we read and listen to Stein, the students study the difference between denotative and connotative meaning. The questions raised by these different ways of meaning resurface again and again throughout the class, including here in Perelman’s work, which uses political and economic puns and deploys an ever-shifting mode of address that seems to be directed simultaneously at himself and at the reader. With many of the poets we read in this class, we encounter the use of connotation as a rationale for critical dismissal of the work. Given examples of what the few early publishers of Dickinson did when they printed her words (changing the words, capitalizations, punctuation, and adding titles at the top) students are readily aware of the defacement editors are willing to commit on behalf of limiting (or eliminating) connotative meaning, in all its “possibility.” The question is made salient when we read Susan Howe on Dickinson’s troubled publication history: “Who polices questions of grammar?” Similarly, we read Michael Gold’s famous critique of Stein in “Gertrude Stein, A Literary Idiot,” which equates her defamiliarizing use of language with “not making sense” and therefore condemns her as nothing more than one of the idle rich, selfishly absorbed in her own amusement. These readings and others have made the attack on connotative meaning a literary-political problem for the class. (Should poets use words only denotatively? What makes a poem a poem as opposed to a telegram or a street sign? Where does denotation end and connotation begin? Who polices the boundaries?) With these issues already on the table, Perelman’s question “What kind of a world is it where anything can only mean something else?” is tantalizing. Here, we deepen our discussion of how language works.


It is a fact that all words point to other words; if you look up any word in the dictionary, you will find that your word is defined by a bunch of other words, some of which you may also need to look up. In this way, perhaps one is always and forever trapped in the dictionary. ESL students know this as well as anyone. Many of them rely on mini-computerized dictionaries and translation machines, which make a great foil for discussing what Perelman might be getting at here. Is the translation machine really providing access to meaning or is it distracting you, inserting you into a self-referential loop? Can you really punch in a line of poetic connotation and have it solved like a math problem on a calculator? Furthermore, words supposedly point to things: apple, pen, book, punchclock… but what about the headache caused by the punchclock? What poetry can do is unlock the imagination from a world of pure punchclock denotation, where representation is the only function of language, where one’s “world” gets defined entirely as “first” or “third” by the IMF (especially odd when the Bronx has one of the highest hunger rates in the world), because words do more than simply get “turned in” for value like money for a can of beer.


The problems of identity, subjectivity, and representation are many, and though their deconstruction, for some conservative critics, seems anti-populist — the special privileged purview of theory-obsessed graduate students and the French intellectuals they read — these issues have serious consequences for students at LaGuardia Community College too. Bringing these issues into dialogue with my students gives them a chance to reconsider the ways in which a value-system of denotative representation often limits them to essentialized identities like the one the Mexican cab-driver was forced into after September 11.


One of the critical pieces I pair with Perelman’s poem is Charles Bernstein’s 1992 essay “State of the Art,” in which he describes the problem of essentialized identity as follows: “It’s not that I wish to dismiss names as details but to recognize details as more important than names.” Where Bernstein says, “names become packages through which a commodity is born” (7) students draw comparisons to much of what we’re talking about, in “The Story of My Life.” Bernstein goes on to complicate this: “too often, the works selected to represent cultural diversity are those that accept the model of representation assumed by the dominant culture in the first place” (6). The idea here is not to be anti-identity, as so many critics misunderstand postmodern poets to be; it is to trouble the received ideas of identity through addressing the real problems with representation, problems which poetry — in all its freedom to use connotative language, to challenge the ordinary “common sense” broadcast by commercials and congressmen, to downright contradict itself if it wants to (or has to) — as a flexible rhetorical strategy, has always been in a great position to address. What Perelman, Bernstein, and I in my ENG 102 class at LaGuardia seek to do is to provide a space of permission for those writers who do not want to, or simply cannot, fall into line with the standardized ways of using language, or the received ideas of what they should desire, or how they should represent themselves or the groups from which they emerge or — all too often — which they do not emerge from, but which the mere shape of their face and color of their skin make them accountable for ad nauseum. Bernstein makes clear in “State of the Art” a concern for the outliers, those who fall through the same cracks Dickinson fell through in her time, for reasons of both style and identity:


Artists within these groups who are willing to embrace neither the warp of mainstream literary style through which to percolate their own literary experience nor the woof of an already inflected, and so easily recognized, style of cultural difference will find themselves falling through the very wide gaps and tears of American tolerance. Such artists pay the price for being less interested in representing than in enacting. (7)


In the final stanza of “The Story of My Life,” Perelman speaks ironically of the denotative, essentialized representational model, suggesting that in American culture there is always the idea of “movie rights dangling tantalizingly beyond the fingertips.” This passage is difficult going at first, but the difficulty gives way to some humor and relief when I can get students to admit to and talk about the common American fantasy that “someday a movie will be made about my life.” I have been particularly interested in how this plays out in students’ imaginations of what it means to be a poet. After many semesters of broaching this topic both in this course and in my Creative Writing course, a fairly consistent narrative has emerged from students who have been in the U.S. for more than a few years. To have a film made about your life if you are a poet, they tell me, you must have 1) a horrible and tragic story to tell, either of your deprived childhood and abusive upbringing or of drug and alcohol addiction, 2) you must overcome this hardship, and then 3) get rich. Aside from the hilarious illusion involved in #3, I am fascinated that #1 so closely resembles the story of Plath, but that students will usually have formulated this idea before ever having heard of her. A lot of spoken word poetry revolves around this motif even today, so I suppose that may be the source of this idea. In any case, it should be obvious how this fantasy can be devastatingly unhealthy. How is it that so many students continue to associate alcoholism and suicide with what it means to be a “successful writer,” especially when it seems in reality to be untrue? Why are Plath — who committed suicide after writing an autobiography of her sad life and previous suicide attempt, in addition to a handful of decent, though despairing, poems — and Charles Bukowski among the most widely taught poets, and among the very few besides Shakespeare memorialized in film?


Perelman’s poem might even be asking us to consider how being in the movies or on TV came to occupy such a central place in the American imagination. I suppose it makes sense that the branded self would come to imagine its own salvation as, of course, becoming a brand! Nonetheless, considering the place movies and film have in branding poetry, would it be too much for me to hope for a film chronicling how Stein’s work was greeted with misogyny more shocking than that endured by any other female poet in history, and how, fiercely and with great humor, she nevertheless dedicated her life to a deep investigation of language? But of course a better brand — the one I prefer — does not get us out of this problem. The best hope is for thinking to continue, and this poem at least provides a space for students to think through the effects of the commodity system. Keeping an eye on that is about the closest thing to real freedom we’re left with.


[1] Students read the Confessional poets and the Beats simultaneously, working out the question, “which movement is a better response to the psychic and political repressions of the 1950s?” They point out how often Plath and Lowell seem close to a critique of class or capitalism (Plath’s poem “Street Song” quoted here, could easily have been a more acute critique of shopping culture, and Lowell’s poem begins as a promising critique of wealth) but always turn the problem back to themselves and their feelings. In the end 60–75% of the class end up choosing the Beats as the better response — Ginsberg in particular — who manages to be both personal and political, suffering — yes, but also aware of what institutions and historical forces make him angry and encourage others (but not himself!) to think he is crazy.

[2] I pair Stein with section three of James’s “The Stream of Thought,” allowing the students to discover what one of the crucial things that Stein learned from James during her time at Harvard; namely, that language often “works against our perception of the truth.” James’ essay provides a thorough account of the problem with naming “thunder” as if it were a discrete experience, when in fact it is entirely dependent on the silence that immediately precedes it, and is not, as James he says “thunder pure, but thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it” (156). James, who would go on to make significant contributions to American Pragmatism, is of course emphasizing the role of contingency in producing the production of meaning. “We name our thoughts simply,” he says, “each after its thing, as if each knew its own thing and nothing else.” He goes on to discuss how it would perhaps be more accurate to name every thing “after all of them” (things), but that would of course render the language unmanageable.

[3] This has been accelerated and made more obvious for this generation, who spend so much of their lives on the web, where Google’s ingenious AdWords algorithm follows their search patterns and gears specific ads towards individuals based on the its estimate of their interests. The last time I taught this course, I ended the semester with Tan Lin’s Heath Plagiarism/Outsource, for which Perelman’s poem was remarkably good preparation in allowing students to think about advertising and subjectivity.

[4] One student wrote of how this reminds her of a situation she’s noticed about being Bengali in America. She says, “in Bangladesh no one is really that Bengali, they’re not that ‘into it,’ but then when they come to America they become more Bengali. It’s like they suddenly invent all kinds of ways to say I’m so Bengali. I don’t even know how it becomes this way. These things they do are just made up by people to stand out.” She calls them Mega-Bengalis.

Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher was born and raised in Philadelphia and went the University of Pennsylvania from 1987–91 and again from 1995–99. She was an early member of the “hub” of the Kelly Writers House, edited The Form of Our Uncertainty, a tribute to poet and publisher Gil Ott of Singing Horse Press, and founded handwritten press, publishing early works by Michael Magee, Joshua Schuster, Alicia Cohen, and Nathan Austin, among others. She received a Ph.D. from the SUNY Buffalo Poetics Programs in 2005 and is now Assistant Professor at LaGuardia Community College. Her work on Paulo Freire received a UCLA Paulo Friere Institute Reinventing Freire Award in 2007, and a recent essay “Teaching Freire and Open Admissions” was published in Radical Teacher. A review of Tan Lin’s Heath Plagiarism/Outsource is forthcoming in Criticism, and her first book of poetry Reading A Map, will be published by Truck Books in 2010.

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