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Mapping the New Coast with Chris Funkhouser at Jacket2

By Harriet Staff

Chris Funhouser

At Jacket2 Chris Funkhouser reflects on his experience as an attendee at the New Coast Festival, organized by Juliana Spahr and Peter Gizzi at SUNY-Buffalo in 1993.

Charles Bernstein and I met for the first time as I was considering leaving Santa Cruz to pursue a Ph.D. at SUNY-Albany. He mentioned he was helping to organize a major conference of young writers at SUNY-Buffalo the following year; this festival was among the factors enticing me into academia. More than twenty years have passed since the Poetics program at Buffalo sponsored the New Coast festival, and my recordings of the readings have recently been posted on PennSound (video footage is, thanks to Peter Gizzi and Kristin Prevallet, forthcoming).

I can still recall how build-up to the festival was exciting—partially because some of it transpired in newly-arrived online discussion boards, like the Poetics listserv (the 1993 archive of which is now unavailable). I was particularly interested because organizers Juliana Spahr and Gizzi, who I did not know, were assembling a group of writers I was largely unfamiliar with (I had read or heard only five of the thirty-nine invitees, listed in the announcement at the link above, beforehand). Around that time, with student loan money, I made my first major investment in digital recording gear—a portable DAT deck. As became my wont, I recorded the New Coast, in order to study better these “emerging poets from North America who have come into print within the last five years” who were gathering “to discuss current poetics”. I remember Robert Bertholf catching wind of my intentions and sternly making it clear that he owned all “rights” to the recordings (which I have since learned is untrue). It was fantastic that the events were held amidst the Poetry/Rare Books Collection on campus and at one of the city’s most active art galleries (Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center); most of Buffalo’s esteemed Poetics faculty was there, though Robert Creeley did not attend.

Declining, for no apparent reason, to respond to the open call for contributions to the extensive two-volume collection associated with the festival, which include texts by more than 119 different writers, Writing from the New Coast: Presentation and Writing from the New Coast: Technique (published as oblek 12, Spring/Fall 1993; see Steve Evans’, “Anthslide”), I consider these belatedly offered documentary recordings as a gift and keepsake to that community, preserving the readings for others to hear. As always, glad I took the time and dealt with the logistics of capturing these events. I was a newcomer to this community at the time, and the New Coast was very informative as a result of the people I encountered, including a few I befriended and later collaborated with.

Arrive a stranger, depart a friend—at Jacket2.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.