If you're in or around the Bay Area this weekend, there are a few crucial events you won't want to miss! On Friday, Small Press Traffic presents the Inaugural Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture in Innovative Poetics, featuring poet/critic Joan Retallack. I'm printing a very complicated broadside to commemorate the occasion, and Joan's talk, "Poetry's Alterity," promises to be brilliant. Click the poster below for details:
AND THEN, Saturday night visiting poets CJ Martin and Julia Drescher join John Sakkis for what promises to be another essential Condensery reading. I've just finished printing Chris's first TWO books in one volume (fittingly titled Two Books), and we'll be launching the book at this event. Here's the info:
on Saturday May 28th
Doors at 7:30, reading will begin promptly at 8
Condensery takes place at:
604 56th at Shattuck
The reading is free.
Some wine and snacks will be served.
BYOB as always.
Street parking / porch for bikes.
And then something's happening on Sunday that I can't remember (anyone?), and then on Monday some of us are meeting to discuss Tiqqun's Theory of the Young Girl (email if you're interested!).
The weather promises to be beautiful, Lee Azus and Rob Halpern are back in town (yay!), and Chris and Julia are staying until Monday (I think...). I'm launching two seperate print projects, and I'll hopefully be done grading by then! Bring on the summer!
23 May 2011
Here are the prefatory notes to CA Conrad and Thom Donovan's collaboration, Arthur Echo, a twelve hour somatic exercise recently released as a chapbook by Scary Topiary Press:
While house sitting for friends in Philadelphia we collaborated on the following (Soma)tic exercise, playing Arthur Russell's CD World of Echo on repeat on all five floors from 9am to 9pm, taking scheduled breaks for food, conversation, and checking in for further fine tuning of the (Soma)tic maneuvers.
BASEMENT: Windows covered, pitch black. On a little table covered with clothespins and pottery a small boom-box plays CD on repeat with bass controls set to maximum. A white candle to light when sitting down, blow out when leaving. The sink beside the table to slowly drip water on one hand while taking notes with the other.
FIRST FLOOR: CD on stereo with balanced equalizer settings. All shades open. A chair sits by the front door. Open mail slot to peer at passing feet on the sidewalk. Every other page of notes should be nouns only, a page of nouns.
SECOND FLOOR: CD on small stereo, volume low. Computer set to show videos of Arthur Russell and his cello. In bathroom the tub is filled with a mixture of water and jasmine flower infusion. Jasmine invokes the Muses. Take notes sitting in a chair by the tub while feet soak in the jasmine infusion.
THIRD FLOOR: CD on large stereo, volume high, treble adjusted to maximum. Books on alchemy sit at the desk by the window. Take notes.
UPPER LOFT: CD on third floor stereo carries up to the loft. At the end of the bed, facing the window which looks over the Philadelphia treetops and skyline. There are tarot cards and binoculars on the bed to better see the world. Take many notes.
we are selective with love
but I think it's because
there's only so much
does anger have the same amount per
square mile for water-drinking people?
I'm glad we're friends
space can be divided by
popsickle sticks or
pyramids in Mexico where
enemies didn't want to bleed but
sometimes I cannot believe
how delicate tendons
muscles and bones are thrown
crackling into oil
are chickens enemies?
To a fugue soft 'to-be' languageless though he
was Helen Keller's water another's cats pass
Through experiential filters happy endings for
If the voice of human beings is received by hear
ing the voice of God is received by sight con-
comitant to this act of existing the temple
Will not be destroyed rock salt vs. sea pseudo-
Selves grieve I let my attention wander with
The bow when my eyes cease to focus and
When the ears cease to focus and when the
Mind ceases so that we must see each collation
Of bodies a blind-spot or blank embodying ide-
ology my thoughts will have been here before mis-
takinng static for running water sister-flicker in
Place of substance what instance liberty coracle
20 May 2011
It's finally happening! The Reliquarium, that is, and hopefully not the end of the world. Though the Reliquarium does sport an apocalyptic theme this year in light of the Doomsday predictions. According to Harold Camping, it's supposed to be an earthquake, so I called to check on our earthquake insurance and now I'm ready to party.
While the Reliquarium is a fundraiser for SPT, we're also considering it an end of season poetry party, so come out and mingle and have fun and enjoy the end of the semester (if you teach or learn!). Let's see: literary timecapsule? Check. End times dance party? Check. Reenactments from the end of the world? Check. And, the main event: an auction of reliquaries from such luminaries as Charles Bernstein, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Kathleen Fraser, Bob Gluck, Nathanial Mackey, Harryette Mullen, Eileen Myles, Camille Roy, Tyrone Williams, and many others.
And it's a pretty quite poetry weekend, so you don't have an excuse. It all goes down this Saturday (May 21st) in the CCA Grad Writing Lounge (195 de haro Street, SF) at 7:30 pm. Come out and support one of your crucial local resources while catching up with long lost friends!
19 May 2011
This impeccably produced new chapbook by Beverly Dahlen inaugurates Little Red Leaves "textile series": chapbooks "lovingly sewn using recycled curtains and other textile remnants." I can't get over how beautifully constructed these books are, and because we're rarely treated to new work by Dahlen it feels like a real event. I'm told this chapbook is already sold out, but there's a second edition on the horizon, so keep yr. eyes peeled!
"The greater white-fronted goose in that fair field, geese,
more than a thousand in the flock moaning, a kind of low
hum, singing the blues. The spectacle of the birds, how we
go out to see them now, provide for them, shelters, refuges,
how we've beggared them and set them aside amid the low-
lands of the valley, the trucks roaring night and day over I5,
San Diego to Sacramento, ripping up the countryside.
Sacramento to Redding to the Oregon Border:
above Keeping Still, Mountain
below The Abysmal, Water
the very place, we say, tearing at the air."
There's so much going on over at Little Red Leaves it's often difficult to keep up: Here you'll find information about the "Textile Series," here's the magazine (issue #6 is on the way? all ephemeral publications? and E-BOOKS too!) and here's the blog (which seems to be the main news outlet?).
18 May 2011
There are few things in this world more exciting (at least to me!) than a favorite poet releasing a new chapbook on a favorite press. Just received this in the mail: George Albon's "Ryman Room" on Brian Teare's impeccable Albion Books. Teare printed the cover blind on white stock, so it's almost impossible to get the scanner to pick up the nuance. But you can see a couple of good shots here.
I shouldn't have to convince folks paying attention that this is totally essential, but I wanted to leave two little hints as to why:
"I was thinking about the word absolute and I was trying to get at the meaning of it. It had to do with painting also." Robert Ryman
"I will jump from the not-gap I'm on to the not-gap I want. It bends from a little wait, then forms to sudden. The way will be found by finger and wrist, the curds already traced in the window." George Albon
Click the image below for samples:
16 May 2011
In his interview with Erika Staiti, Whitener reimagines the labor of "manifesto" as the positive articulation of what's least known in one's work: the declaration of blind spots or short-sightedness or rigid thinking or a crucial lack of imagination:
"What I most responded to in your question are the words modulate, corporeal, and crises. I would shy away from Manifesto, especially with a capital; I think the work is trying to draw new lines between the manifest and the latent, or the material and the immaterial. Manifesto also implies perhaps a program or a knowledge: perhaps this book is a negative space of a manifesto, sites of passage out of unknowing and unbeing, or rather its form is a search for sites (linguistic, formal, conceptual) where gestures or skins or subjectivities could be hastily thrown up...The piece's response is to modulate, to set up altered linguistic zones and conceptual figures that could possibly bind together a skin (in turns animated by colorlessness, the feminine, etc.) but skin that involutes 'material' and 'immaterial' in unique ways or a skin that might also just be exits..."
I've been trying to understand False Intimacy through a claim in Tiqqun's Introduction to Civil War about "community": "Community never refers to a collection of bodies conceived independently of their world. It refers to the nature of the relations between these bodies and between these bodies and their world. The moment community tries to incarnate itself in an insolatable subject, in a distinct, separate reality, the moment it tries to materialize the separation between what is inside and what is outside, it confronts its own impossibility. This point of impossibility is communion. In communion, the complete self-presence of the community coincides with the dissipation of all community within singular relations, and therefore coincides with its tangible absence."
Maybe the impossibility of communion (or community as the point of impossibility) stems from the subject's troubled relationship with the contemporary (or contemporaneity)? So that the community fades in the articulation of "singular relations" that are themselves afterimages of false intimacy? I'm reminded here of Agamben's claim in "What is the Contemporary": "Contemporariness is, then, a singular relationship with one's own time, which adheres to it and, at the same time, keeps a distance from it...Those who coincide too well with the epoch, those who are perfectly tied to it in every respect, are not contemporaries, precisely because they do not manage to see it; they are not able to firmly hold their gaze on it." And later: "The contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light but rather its darkness."
Whitener investigates a time one "cannot manage to see" (the 90s) through the lens of a subjectivity one does not fully "occupy," troubling the notion of a unified community embodying an "insolatable subject" so deeply related to the time of its own mis-understanding:
a hollow shaft of negative space
running straight upwards and
through bending itself into a
pulsing gucci symbol, unslung
up towards hong kong, doubling
back inside itself, sounding,
becoming not large but more
interlaced, the 1990s, America,
visible, nodding, rapid multiplier
effect, reduced into consumable
prey, i can open my mouth and
it will pummel, a figure tracing
an arc from an optic nerve to a
hole, tracing a certain
instantiation of whatever was
given and then again and then
again, like an exit, look, it's fine
if you are more beautiful than i
am, plastic surgery is the new
ruin, it's THE 1990s, narrative
is not enough, and if we just
spin these pronouns around fast
enough, we could create a
given, i mean, a body, for us, a
problematic pirated body, that is
what breaks from within the,
neither furry nor plastic, neither
nodal nor oddly enough, my
beautiful given, the negative
space of a desire, a shaft,
adorned in gucci
let's not start thinking
depends not on the events, but
language that has abstracted
itself from pronouns a
photograph of a specific
historical occurrence whose
description taught us something
about the body and language we
nodded together, spammed, what
WE WERE DESTINED TO
CREATE blankly, a flat plastic
spur, faux, of an unprecedented
space abstracted from pronouns,
spun and nodded
False intimacy with the present begins with our understanding of the contemporary; Whitener illustrates how we might reimagine the present by tracking, isolating and undercutting those moments we feel most confident we belong to it. Rather than occupy an impossible communion peopled by static, rigid bodies overdetermined by their moment, Whitener proposes a community founded on unknowing one's place and time as a mode of belonging.
11 May 2011
The longer I've lived with Brian Whitener's False Intimacy, recently published by the East Bay's own Trafficker Press, the more I've felt really profoundly moved by it. Since picking up a copy at the Osman, Whitener, Rees event at SPT, the book's occupied a permanent place in my bag, which has offered the opportunity to read and re-read it in some of the most unlikely of places. Brian and I had a great talk about the book during his visit in early April: how those things we imagine experiencing super intimately are the very things from which we are often most abstracted—so that our insistence on (or assurance of) intimacy becomes the very blindspot that helps distance us from our own experience.
Here's Brian from his interview with Erika Staiti (worth the price of admission alone): "This book...emerges out of a kind of obsession I have with 'the 90s'...It's the period where I most feel like a stranger to whatever I am now. But I have been wondering if perhaps this is a structural and not personal condition, that is an effect of a return to US imperialism...In that way 'tragedy' has effects that register as both spatial and temporal, and these gaps or 'insurmountable breaks' give rise to forms of false intimacy, ways of attempting to live the abstractions of the sublime gaps of tragedy-thinking..."
I've read this book a handful of times and realize only now that it works for me as its own kind of false intimacy: everytime I think I've pinned it down (or at least have developed some robust reading strategies!), I find myself rethinking what it means to experience writing "intimately."
Here's a section from the first movement:
popular pedagogy: i can't
explain the x in that word
because it's too involved
with what we were trying to exchange.
life during money
my body is without value, how could
you inform us of this
valuelessness, how does it.
There is no war. There
is not such a thing as war. What is
war? a rehearsal of conditions
What is war but a transgression,
and what is transgression but
the unexamined influence of
capital on my desire(s). There is
no war, a rehearsal not an
identification because there is
no history, because there is no
history because there is no war,
social, socially, socially my
thinking became invested, which
I could only think in relation to
a future, that is, spatially,
spatially inverted structures that
have been inverted, but failure
is also failure if only thinking
were enough, that this point
probably means more
less post...but I...
one means is that the body is
is a shift in perspective, which is
Even now, I'm reading this poem way differently than I have been these past few weeks, and I think this might have something to do with the size of the font. The font is really, really big in the book (like reading a Word document at 200%)—"to push the language...into becoming an image"—which I'm starting to think has contributed to my vastly different readings in terms of speed and attention, but also in terms of what I take with me into the world. Typing these lines now, I'm much more aware of these macro-syntactic structures I couldn't "see" otherwise, whereas before I read in short phrases as they presented themselves. The large font creates a sort of shortsitedness in that the reader can't preview the text to come in an effort to learn how to read it. So one's left reading kind of blindly—that is, reading only what's right in front of you, perhaps in the way we "read" time.
"to what degree you can only
enter so far wanted to create a
new type of experience how did
it get so fragile a kind of body a
kind of abstraction that could
live inside another body a body
that could unveil itself without
argument, without recourse to
language REPRESENT ME in
the past year a shading of a
temporal element the familiar
I love this notion of a very bodily present-experience of having lived in the past somehow "elsewhere," always elsewhere...certainly in the same body (or at least a version of it) but above it or beside it or literally in it, but a different body in that body. A present experience of a past experience that feels so much less embodied, which might serve to remind us that the present will have proved disembodied in the very same way, even as we live it.
10 May 2011
I should also mention that this year's Reliquarium is right around the corner, and it promises to be really, really fun! This season's event takes place on Friday, May 21st, which happens to also be the end of the world (according to the many eschatological billboards popping up around the Bay Area! Many now feature a big gold stamp that reads "The Bible Guarantees It!"). As such, we plan to go out with a bang! Activities include an end-times dance party, reenactments of scenes from the end of the world, and a literary time capsule (which we might be burying in David Buuck's backyard?!). And I promise to personally ensure that whatever beverage we serve will not be the weird-tasting punch we served at Poet's Theater!
But the real attraction is the auction of reliquaries "representing the artistic DNA of the smart and famous." Writers and artists of all stripes have banded together to donate relics that represent their practice in a substantial way, and we'll auction these one-of-a-kind rarities to benefit Small Press Traffic! The relics are starting to arrive at SPT Central as we speak, and it's way interesting to see how folks represent their practice. The list of contributors alone is pretty impressive: Steve Benson, Charles Bernstein, Julian Brolaski, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Enrique Chagoya, Thom Donovan, Elaine Equi, Coco and Rob Fitterman, Kim Rosenfield, Kathleen Fraser, Bob Gluck, Judith Goldman, Tracy Grinnell, Nina Katchadorian, Kevin Killian, Joanne Kyger, Nathaniel Mackey, Harryette Mullen, Eileen Myles, Sina Queyras, Ariana Reines, Larry Rinder, Camille Roy, Kaia Sand, Fiona Templeton, Edwin Torres, Tyrone Williams, etc. etc.! Pretty for real, no doubt...
And while we'll be accepting bids through SPT's website, it's one of those feel-good, end of season, almost summer, school's out, nothing better to do sort of events that are most fun to experience in person. And if it turns out it really is the end of the world, at least we'll be together! Mark yr. calendars...
Saturday, May 21st, 7:30 pm
CCA Graduate Writing Lounge
195 deHaro Street, San Francisco
09 May 2011
I am very pleased to announce that the First Annual Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture in Innovative Poetics will take place on Friday, May 27th at Timkin Hall, and we at Small Press Traffic are deeply honored to welcome Joan Retallack as its first presenter! The Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture in Innovative Poetics is an annual lecture series with a focus on critical analysis of innovative poetry, essays, plays and cross-genre work primarily by women poets. The series invites contemporary writers to present their work in the spirit exemplified by Scalapino’s own critical writing and editorial vision as publisher of O Books.
In anticipation of Joan's visit I've been rereading her rich body of work with relish, starting with Errata 5uite (Edge Books, 1993) and Afterrimages (Wesleyan, 1995) and slowly making my way to newer work like Memnoir (Post Apollo, 2004) and Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont'd (Roof, 2010). I'm also diving into her interviews with John Cage (her questions alone make the text an intriguing read: "Do we need an art that is not identical with the things that surround us in everyday life, but can somehow draw our attention to them?") and her essays in The Poethical Wager. I'll post notes here as I slowly piece together an introduction for her talk. In the meantime, here's my favorite poem from How to Do Things With Words (Sun & Moon, 1998), "Here's Looking at You Francis Bacon" (click the arrow in the top-right corner for full screen).
Please help us spread the word about this crucial new lecture series!
The First Annual Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture
in Innovative Poetics
Featuring Joan Retallack
Friday, May 27th, 7:30 PM
Timkin Hall at CCA
1111 8th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Admission: $8-15 (Members Free)
And while we're on the subject, please take a moment to check out the beautiful new website devoted to Leslie's life and work!
06 May 2011
New work by David Brazil, Sara Larsen, and Alana Siegel in (new to me) RAGTAG #3 (published by Monica Peck). Samples below...
And while we're on the subject, Brazil y SLRSN just released a new TRY with tons of great stuff by Ted Rees, Owen Hill, Rodney Koeneke, Catherine Meng, Lynn Burnett, Rosemary Griggs, and many others. A crucial local resource...
And finally, here's Brazil really wonderful piece in the new WITH+STAND (click the arrow in the top-right corner for full-screen)
05 May 2011
More highlights from Dan Thomas-Glass's essential insurgent dispatch, WITH+STAND! Before I dive in to the wealth of interesting material, I wanted to mention that the launch party is scheduled for Friday, May 13th at Zughaus Gallery (1306 3rd St., Berkeley // 7-11 pm), so mark your calendars! The line-up's pretty stellar, to say the very least: Jackqueline Frost, Barbara Claire Freeman, Lauren Levin, Meg Day, Monica Peck, Kristin Palm, Lara Durback, Erica Lewis, Brian Ang, Dan Thomas-Glass, Jennifer Karmin, Erin Wilson, and others. Don't miss...
As to highlights, check out this fantastic piece from Suzanne Stein:
December 28, 2010
• avoidant behavior (procrastination)
• food obsession (repressed/suppressed)
• body obsession (foregrounded)
• knowledge/information obsession and rejection (reject the real means of satisfying the need, the desire—often by procrastination)
• worry about sexuality/orientation and desire (surface level, a borrowed concern, mother's, belief in it as the mother's)
• worry about cleanliness, bodily and environmental, avoid solving the problem but continue to carry concern about it, then obsessive attention/energy attached to it
• hatred of others, outweighing feelings of love/affection
• mistrust of others, outweighing feelings of acceptance/affection
• fantasy lovers, attached to real people
• superiority complex (often masquerading as inferiority complex)
• social anxiety—repetitive thoughts of inadequacy in social interactions
• abjection or barely conscious (coming to consciousness) abject behavior—partly manifest in caveating, forms of apologizing (for self, for existence)
• obsession with other women's bodies, making comparisons
• incessant grooming behavior, excessive obsession with grooming compulsions, like face-picking, nose-picking
• combined with some forms of body avoidance: ignoring/overlooking/blindness
• hatred of/critical internal dialogue about/ body, face, hair, nails, breasts—worse as growing older, but occasionally better, marked by acceptance
• attachment to unavailable ('dead') objects
• anxiety attacks, often attached to hypochondriac fantasies, especially related to fear of poisoning, fear of allergic reactions, that is, fear of having ingested (taken in) something that will kill me
• superstitious behaviors
• talismans, touchstones, rituals
• the feeling that the rituals are halfheartedly or improperly undertaken
• the feeling that almost all things are improperly undertaken/poorly performed
• inability to objectively judge (my own production/issue)
• pride in shit
• exhibitionism, mild, moderate to severe, sometimes repressed awareness of
• displacement of thoughts towards fantasy others
• worry about being seen/assumption of being seen (belief in god, belief in
• compulsive/impulsive spending
• forgetting to 'take care of business'—pay bills, manage life details
• belief in the sublime
• magical thinking
• love of enchantment
• shame, especially attached to lack of knowledge
Andrew Rippeon's short stanzas from FLIGHTS are characteristically careful and compelling, but I was particularly moved by the following (printed in the journal on separate pages):
the hill I am of
ashes hence my father’s
son I am no song my
father’s name adrift a boat
upon waters the color of
if ocean’s edge a
falls remembered sound of
pebbles’ wash the portes open
the gates from the hinges this
empty terror houses rent
up and burnt
Brian Ang's piece for Taylor Brady is appropriately relentless! Here's a little taste:
Ghostlike name passing on night ground
dizzy division pleasure can’t remember
gradient of change in multitude of time
like a tower plaited with difference
falling forever one memory abandons
Parsed beginnings one and one is one
injunction that burns the dispersion
Constellation on fire already historical
displaced interior shaped like a sentence
one awakend ány nowhere known some
assembled power loved back beauty
I really loved the following piece from Vancouver's Stephen Collis (who I had the pleasure of reading with in Buffalo way back in 2003?). Reprinted here in full:
SOME HIDDEN SWITCH OR LEVER
It’s simple to effect
the light just stand
between this page and
the sun or turn
scientist and calculate the
years until we go
supernova the firey ball
expanding to curl our
planet like paper in
the fire after all
you say how long
can we expect to
simply hang around doing
nothing much at all
stocks going up and
down sites endlessly surfed
all the while I’d
been imagining there was
some hidden switch or
lever tucked away someplace
we could perhaps having
looked long and hard
find and simply throw
into the “off” position
then we could sit
back and watch the
world go back to
(or maybe ahead to)
what it could be
swallow throats and gulfs
if we weren’t so
hell-bent on killing ourselves
What do you call
this you ask I
say change we can
effect change we can
make you say I
should get out of
your light the sun
now warming the page
And just to nail the point home (that is, that you need this issue!), here's a final word from Lara Durback: some prose blocks from her piece "Hoarders, And Those Resembling Hoarders":
-We are diviners. When I think so much about this show called Hoarders, it will eventually (no, rather quickly) cause my mother to come around with a bin of my things. It is a plastic bin so big that two of me could fit in there. It is a double coffin and a time capsule. I dig through rave flyers one by one on my aunt's couch and think about how my life was saved. I puzzle over the gloves and sweaters I thought I would never need in Northern California. I touch individually each one of Grandma's crocheted Barbie dresses. Her hands must have moved so often.
-I saw the woman on the show Hoarders sit down in the chair, unable to deal with her accumulation of dolls. The host person, a psychologist or professional organizer, or whoever was there that day, dives into the room of dolls like it is a pit of foam. I want to do that thing.