Bay Area Lit Scene: The Holloway Series in Poetry, UC Berkeley: November 2011

Review written by Turner Canty, one of Omnidawn’s Feature Writers

The Scoop

Location: Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, CA
Curators: Lyn Hejinian, Cecil Giscombe, Rosa Martinez.
Holloway Contact Person: See website.
Parking/Transportation: Public lots are located in the upper campus; a student pass is required for Berkeley student spots. Metered parking is available along Oxford and Hearst until 6 pm – after 6, parking is free.
The Run of Things: The reading series is held in the Maude Fife room of Wheeler hall (room 315). All events begin at 6:30, although it may be a few minutes before things get underway.
Is There a Blog?– All of their information is on the

Poems from the reader are featured below the review.

Judith Goldman, a Colombia PhD grad, and author of several collections of poems and essays, including, most recently, lb; or, catenaries from Krupskaya (the ‘lb’ acting as a nod to Coleridge and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads), has been a fascinating figure to me from the moment I first saw her poems on the Poetry Foundation’s website. They are dense, fast, and unmistakably contemporaneous. Currently Goldman is the Holloway visiting poet at Berkeley, but even in the academic atmosphere of Wheeler Hall, never did formality obstruct or do anything other than enhance her overall performance. Lyn Hejinian gave a terrific introduction that not only gave plenty of attention to Ms. Goldman’s accomplishments in verse, but the circumstance of her position as the Holloway visiting poet, and the formation and existence of the Holloway series and the funding thereof. In a few minutes Lyn handed over the controls to Goldman, and soon sparks were flying from the podium. Goldman began with a fresh-off-the-press piece addressing the budget crisis in the California University system. The concept of the poem was much like an exercise, a sort of warm-up device full of lyrical stabs and pastiche. In the poem Goldman took well-known lines from Williams, Dickenson, Coleridge, Frost, Plath, and many more of the canon’s most beloved poets, and cut off a word or two (in solidarity with the University of California’s budget slashing). What we get is “A rose is a rose is a rose is… and that has made all the… I know why the caged bird…”, and so on. Lines are repeated and the initial clumsiness of the process gives way to a sort of sour mash of unexpected emotion. Coleridge end-rhyming paired with Eliot’s “Hollow Men” building a bridge toward an oblique and unsettling conclusion in which the wider and wilder nature of Goldman’s techniques are revealed.

In the remaining forty minutes Ms. Goldman’s poetics became anything but canonical. Just as the initial poem opened a floodgate of poetic mishmash did the next poem: “Negentropics [large eddy simulation::amoebaean song || napHtha-COREXIT remix]” concerning the gulf oil spill, dispose of text in a traditional sense, replacing it with a sort of spoken hypertext, a broken language that seemed as if it originated in binary code. While sifting through the cultural wastebasket, Goldman has uncovered treasures like “dead sea scrolls down” and “if there’s no bayou by you…”, which she has turned into the equivalent of poetic ‘hooks’ or ‘beats’. Sometimes there is a slam quality to her delivery, emerging most readily in her performance piece “case senSitive” from her collection Death Star Ricochet. The poem contains the voices of the inanimate and digital beings of the world around us, in a way that intends to comment on the circumstance of our actions, namely; Operation Iraqi Freedom, on the eve of which “case senSitive” was first performed. The poem snaps with the inanities and failures of language in ways reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s prose, or Thomas Sayer’s Ellis recent work. In the hypertext of Goldman’s verse we are given a wiki-born “[citation needed]” in place of real information. The poem is crowded with Double-speak, and text-speak, neologisms, and even stone-speak, in which a literal stone gives us only the one word response “hi”.

To top it off, Goldman is a clear and engaging reader. She was visually excited to be on stage in front of her colleagues, and the depth and speed with which she delivered her work gave the reading an unhinged unpredictability that kept my eyes and ears wide open. There was also a reception soon afterwards in which snacks and wine were served. Clearly with Goldman’s reading, and with other events I have seen, the Holloway series is defending its honor and its position as a vibrant and multifaceted forum for new poetic work. Of course, it is University funded, so don’t expect things to get too rowdy, even with the protests going on just up from the building.

A video of the reading can be found here:

Below are a few of Judith’s short poems she wrapped the reading up with.


I am in disguise

From my hidey hole
I Broke, breaking through a brake of hawthorn

My gown unhappy with this particular baroque

I felt as though I had found my way

I didn’t want to take anything else in

Whereupon we
Hoped     I would be
Changed back
Into the human form we
Had grown accustomed to me in and
Which I had occupied if not well then boldly and
With stout good humor  And
So thought we
I deserved my human form

A powerful sense of hop

How may I hop you?

Can I help you?

Let’s get started

Push enter so we can begin

I hop about bewildered

I am gray, like ash

Please keep your receipts

Suture self

The skin is held tightly against your chest

To see if it “goes”

Adulterate night, to shade I turn appeasing

Not that shade!


But this grift gifted so calcified it cried

Ad hominem I noticed

Mires their bleeding overalls

The gag tied too tightly

Wit’ a sickass click

Take any remedy who I command my sicks

Now, that’s not friendlike fire

Get me my armor or

You’re yore, you’re storied

Locked up in that moment

The page you requested has moved
Mr. father

Do your share

Go through with it   Do

I have a single fin and swim
in circles

I’m working on it, im-
itating work

I went in and did it

like a job    In a single take

Leaves it open;

            What it will come to, or Wondering

what has become of it


sea has no score

behind the roar

Father on the beach,

calling to the referents,

stay on the shore