30 June 2010

Tina Darragh on "tolerance"

Here's Tina's super interesting response to my question about tolerance and coalition building...

Brenda (Iijima) and Evelyn (Reilly) also questioned using Cloud Gate as an example of an active form of tolerance that is bearing "to do." When I wrote the essay, I hadn't seen it. I learned about it when I heard Martha Nussbaum give a lecturea rare eventI don't get out much with my long commute and all. Anyway, one of Newt Gingrich's gang was therehe sends people to lectures to both check on what is being said + to be provocative.  This guya Big whatever-number-is-left accounting firm execwas going on about how the founding fathers did NOT want the separation of church and state, and Nussbaum was able to counter his argument by pointing out that there was no "state religion" at that (or any) timebeliefs overlapping a bit on the edges, but not set in stone plus are always changingthere is a flow! So this conversation was the companion piece to her essay in which she talks about Cloud Gate and the spitting screens in Millennium Park. When I finally got to see them, it was amazingthe images of people aren't those composite "we-are-all-one" montages, but slowly changing faces that flowand then they spit!!  It is so much fun. So the passive form of tolerance is based on distinct identities frozen in the past making a claim for respect based on the past and valuing distance, but the active formbuilding somethinginvolves overlapping identities bearing action as a flow across various points. That was my experience of Millennium Park and Cloud Gate. So it is not consensus formationin my experience the agreement of expertsbut a recursive, collaborative process across different kinds of groups with a variety of experiences. One good example is the association of various groups who have come together to fight gene patenting and have filed a suit against Myriad Genetics (who has patented the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2) using the argument that because genes interact with the environment and do not function as distinct entities, to own them is unconstitutional because it prevents freedom of speech. That is just so brilliant I can't stand it.  The plaintiffs are all sorts of groupsconsumer advocacy, basic scientists, the ACLU, etc. Oh, it is wonderfulgene patenting as an environmental issue!!  Then, in another way, Cloud Gate counters the "disaster mode" of environmentalismwhere it overlaps with the "culture of terror."

Leslie Scalapino Memorial Service Tomorrow

Poet Norman Fischer will be officiating Leslie Scalapino's memorial service tomorrow afternoon (7/1) at the Green Gulch Zen Center. The ceremony begins at 2pm in the Green Dragon Temple with a reception to follow in the Wheelwright Center. For directions and parking: www.sfzc.org/ggf.

Shaangan Electro / GAMES / Eco Reader

I can't get over how good this new "Shangaan Electro" comp. is on Honest Jon (listen to some samples at Boomkat)...As if your old-school Casio keyboard was perpetually stuck on 300 BPM...and the dancing!...The comparisons to black metal are manifold, but I especially dig the deeply committed relationship to repetition and treble.

And this new track by Games, featuring Dan Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never and the dude from Tiger City. Imagine Kompakt records (especially The Field) crossed with DJ Screw. Essential.

And Chuck Stebalton sent evidence that Iijima's )((Eco)(Lang)(uage)(Reader)) is available at Milwaukee County's public library. I am willing to bet good money that this book isn't available at a single library (university or otherwise) in the Bay Area (and if I wasn't so tired, I'd prove it). The best part is that the subject librarian lists "Ecolinguistics" as a subject heading. What's in the water in Milwaukee County?

29 June 2010


I'm interested in the idea of the common, the collective, the book as autonomous critical ecologies, where we might come to understand how Guattari's "Three Ecologies" (the environmental, the psychoanalytic, the social) come to inflect each other. Dovetailing on my short post on Tina Darragh and Marcella Durand's Deep Eco Pre, and still digesting Elliot Anderson's provocative presentation on Silicon Valley's Superfund sites, I thought to begin chipping away at Brenda Iijima's crucial intervention/collection, )((ECO(LANG)(UAGE(READER)) (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs//Nightboat, 2010).

I hope to post short blasts here as I make my way through the text, but I should mention that even a cursory look confirms that this volume contains a number of totally germane and timely interventions into the permeable boundaries between environmental, social and aesthetic ecologies.

I started this afternoon with Darragh's "Blame Global Warming on Thoreau?" and was immediately reminded of Elliot Anderson's comment regarding viewer interest in the possible remediation of mercury poisoning through the promise of genetically engineered plants. Darragh begins by reading Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus' article "The Death of Environmentalism" in which the authors claim that "the environmental movement has failed to make headway on global warming issues because of its reliance on technical fixes and single-issue politics." Rather than reduce the environment to a "thing" that needs fixing or saving (one disaster at a time//each "fix" leading to further catastrophe), Darragh attempts to approach environmentalism outside of the "morality play" often depicted in "'nature poetry' as 'close reading.'" She writes,

"Thoreau framed our relationship to the environment as a balancing (see: management) act with wilderness and civilization seen as distinct categories that bring out the best in the other as long as Nature is 'rightly read.' This objective discernment of Nature results in the improved moral status of individuals."

But what happens, however if "individual consciousness development" (in which the notion of the Good thoroughly predicates our relationship to our immediate environment and our engagement with it) is not balanced and "contested by arguments that foreground political-economic structures"? Here Darragh makes what I take to be a pretty interesting claim, though at first sight it doesn't sound too deeply radical: "I believe we can build coalitions to protect all creatures and the environment by focusing on a slightly skewed form of 'tolerance' to hold us together rather than a grand narrative of 'coherent morality.'

I agree that the model linking objective and coherent notions of morality to completely subjective and incoherent actors in this "morality play" promises to dig deeper trenches in already deeply polarized issues; but I wonder what Darragh means here by "a slightly skewed form of 'tolerance'"? How skewed? and toward whom? And while tolerance might help to build coalitions, how will coalition-building as such deliver us from "single-issue politics" and "technical fixes"? When I hear the words "coalition" and "tolerance" in the same sentence, I immediately get the sense that praxis has been sacrificed on the alter of consensus. But I hope to hear more from Darragh on this front before proceeding...

28 June 2010

Report: Elliot Anderson's "The Monuments of Silicon Valley"

This Saturday, Elliot Anderson presented his "Monuments of Silicon Valley," the first of three summer Nonsite Collective events investigating the contemporary commons. Anderson began by discussing his recent "landscape," Nonsite, Alamitos Creek, a hydroponics system installed in the Kala Gallery which filters groundwater tainted with mercury. On one side, water is filtered through genetically modified plant life designed to neutralize the mercury (but to what cost?), and on the other, the same toxic groundwater cycles through native flora deracinated from the creekbed. He writes of the project,

"The mountains surrounding the San Francisco Bay are an abundant source of mercury, which was mined from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century...Mercury and other heavy metals continue to leach into creeks, which eventually empty into the bay. Mercury is always with us in one form or another. It is a bioaccumulate where each organism in the food chain accumulates mercury in its tissue from the organism it eats. The food chain eventually leads to us.

Superfund sites dot the American landscape as the monuments of progress. How do we remediate these sites? One method is the replant these places with species of plants hybridized or genetically modified to purge the toxicants from the soil and water. Is the 21st century American sublime a cultivated landscape of toxification and remediation?"

This last question prompted Laura Moriarty to ask whether the project has a pastoral element, which lead to a conversation around the notion of "reversibility," where the promise of remediation becomes its own pastoral ideal. Elliot mentioned that a common reaction to the work is a sense of relief that, because plants can be genetically modified to filter groundwater, the problem is "solved."

After reading Smithson's "A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey," Elliot displayed a slideshow of the Superfund sites he's investigating in Silicon Valley and we continued the conversation around the problem of remediation and the promise of reversibility. Smithson's image of entropy at the end of the article seems especially apropos to the conversation:

"Picture in your mind's eye the sand box divided in half with black sand on one side and white sand on the other. We take a child and have him run hundreds of times clockwise in the box until the sand gets mixed and begins to turn grey; after that we have him run anti-clockwise, but the result will not be a restoration of the original division but a greater degree of greyness and an increase of entropy."

We were all immediately struck by how innocuous these sites appear, that, in the words of Taylor Brady, "they don't resemble 'Love Canal' at all" (Taylor also mentioned how closely Smithson's text mirrors Dante's Inferno, an observation I've been thinking about a ton these past few days). In fact, the most unsettling element of the Superfund sites is how they promote a kind of collective amnesia: no bubbling green goo, no cans of toxic waste, no caution tape or imposing warning signs. In fact, these sites seem to perfectly capture what Smithson calls an "ordinary abyss," because there is absolutely no visual representation of their toxicity. In fact, Elliot's main question hinged on this problem: how can you make the disaster legible if the site obscures its own malignance?

Tanya Hollis drew our attention to how carefully the landscaping at these sites seemed to further obscure their hidden nature as Superfund sites. In fact, given Tanya's comments, we began discussing the necessity of a kind of glossary to better understand the symbology of "campus landscaping." It became clear at once that one could "read" the landscape to better understand the nature of the site, what it's hiding, and the supposed promise of its remediation.

According to Elliot, there are 29 Superfund sites in Silicon Valley, many of which are directly related to the manufacture of computer hardware. We'll be organizing a field-trip to a number of these sites in the coming months in anticipation of Elliot's proposed "tour" of the "Monuments of Silicon Valley," a project he's developing in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Details will be posted at the Nonsite website when available.

And finally, Elliot posted a plethora of crucial resources and information about the project at the Nonsite website here.

25 June 2010

A new poem from Sara Larsen's notebook...

I'm trying to name this new feature, in which I post poems in manuscript on Friday afternoons; I'm thinking "Freaky Fridays"??

This from Sara Larsen's super large notebook with flora glued throughout...(click on the arrow in the top-right corner to read in full-screen version...)

Don't forget to join us tomorrow (Sat. 6/26)...

For Elliot Anderson's "The Monuments of Silicon Valley." Nonsite Collective / Kala Gallery (1060 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley) / 2pm!

23 June 2010

Rob Halpern on "In Felt Treeling"

Rob Halpern's amazing review of my In Felt Treeling just appeared in the new issue of American Book Review (March/April 2010, Vol. 31, No. 3) in a special feature edited by Kyle Schlesinger (alongside other "must read" articles including Gregg Biglieri's review of Alan Bernheimer and Thom Donovan's "Three Contemporary Activist Presses"). Thank you to Rob for crafting such a beautiful response, to Kyle for the special feature, and to David Felts for permission to republish the article here. If you have a moment, check out what ABR's up to.

There are no real forests.
—Karl Marx

Words, like trees, can be suddenly deformed or wrecked.
—Robert Smithson

“Customary rights to the woods, and the use of common lands”: these are two forgotten provisions of the Magna Carta and its sister document, the Charter of the Forest, which codified the disafforestation—or the return to common use—of all woodland that had been enclosed during the reign of the charter’s sovereign signatory in 1217. Eight centuries later, the very memory of any connection with the commons has all but vanished, and yet airs of its material history remain rooted in all our words for woods.

In his recent book, The Magna Carta Manifesto (2008), Peter Linebaugh scrutinizes a crucial proviso of the Magna Carta, which guaranteed a widow “her reasonable estovers in common.” Estovers—from the Norman French—connotes all the benefits afforded by the usufruct of the land: the means for food, firewood, and building materials. The Magna Carta checked the privatization of the woods, and limited the wholesale conversion of woodland to timber. It protected the poor—specifically emphasizing the protection of women—from the tyranny of lords and kings who had the power both to defoliate and decapitate.

Marx reminds us that what we often think of as forests are but confections made by fiat, enclosed parcels designed for recreation, hunting, or the harvesting of timber—fuel. Linebaugh reads the history of forests as a gendered story of dispossession, one still full of grave implication for women. In Nigeria, to take but one example, women recently lost their customary rights to wood by the ongoing expropriation of mangrove forests, in response to which hundreds of women seized the Chevron Escravos Oil Terminal; while in Vietnam, the current enclosure of forests prevent women from collecting the firewood, bamboo shoots, medicinal plants, and vegetables they need in order to sustain their upland hamlets.

Michael Cross’s first book of poems, In Felt Treeling, abides with these concerns and activates a forgotten history of trees, while recalling the violent political and economic structures—afforestation, expropriation—that shape landscape and woods alike, forces that have diminished not only our access to, but our memory of, common resource.

In Felt Treeling sings the long disdain of woods—of sycamore, compost, and nettles—where what is sunned becomes sundered, and what is ceded becomes another’s yield. Just as there are no natural forests, Cross’s syntax of the forest risks its own “unnaturalness” in the interest of precision:

     (an ardor
     sunned there fabric grass

     as sunned the whole tree
     could sunder sheaves
     a body littered knit.

There is no shade to “lisp this useless.” The whole troubled question of use—of common resource, in woods and words—is under intense pressure in this book, refigured through “the fabric trees” that feels what otherwise goes unfelt. This is a song of dispossession—“useless slag / of villainy”—a song whose carefully scored textures otherwise go unheard, just as the commons goes unremembered. In In Felt Treeling, the widow’s estovers become “stunned / in the wet covers,” as if a whole suppressed history of customary rights were being quietly transported, anagrammatically resounded and released in a set of broken lines:

     the pleasure / left
     burden / droves

Similarly, the seventeenth-century conversion of arable land to sheepwalks for an emergent textile industry—which resulted in the proletarianization of the peasantry—can be heard in lines like these:

     (threads left hover
     some in song
     disdain the wood
     a darker mouth
     though wool spate
     lop their wings
     a threaded ave
     flight against the throat.

What remains of this history—“threads left hover”—recedes into the airs of Cross’s libretto for an unsung opera that partitions its voices among a narrating Forest, a mezzo-soprano named Lavinia (Mourning Becomes Electra [1931]?), and the choral Eumenides, whose power to affect justice has long since been transferred.

Sound errs paronymically on unstrung chords, so that “to be hung thin / the body of a tree” is to be sung without a cord of wood in the afforested woods. Dispossessed, the contracted voice of song is infelt as guilt, lament, mourning. Born of villainy, such airs find a line of flight in “burlesque,” and the poem dons its “pasties,” “sequins,” “make-up,” and “dress” to cover up the deep wound of dispossession. If one listens closely, one can hear in these airs the song of a vast migration from woods to the city, the feminization of poverty, the becoming-commodity of labor, the becoming-prostitute of the shepherdess.

Such a song may hide its scars, but In Felt Treeling makes lesions audible: the “welts,” the “harm,” the “raked,” the “gashed.” All that is felt issues in folds on a forest floor where song has all but withdrawn. These folds become the caesurae in Cross’s poems where a reader might loiter (for gleaning has been proscribed) as chords precipitate a “wetted talk” from a throat that’s been all but stopped.

     (beneath the sycamore
     drew crystal to the wood
     spun iron lungs
     the trees breathe shade
     lisp addled haling
     open mouth, o wisp

     wrought / a lithe wood
     drawn / the light sank
     there / applied the make-up
     made a surface dent /

     the remnants of which / lust came off so
     we didn’t speak / the mouth cracked
     what it meant / moving and soft sounded
     ribbons / our compost tongue
     pressed flat against my side
     the wine / out gilded age

In Cross’s libretto, the tension between lyric modesty and operatic excess allegorizes the historical contradictions between wood and timber. The book thus affords a corrective to the whole history of pastoral—the history of hydrocarbons—a history born as soon as the poet turns a back to the economic forces that condition the possibilities of song itself—who sings? and of what?—when the lyric voice unwittingly submits to the very powers that subjugate it.

From “wood,” “shade,” and “compost” to “crystal,” wrought,” and “gilded,” In Felt Treeling traces lines of flight from the cordoned forest to the metal fields of urban industry, whose secret history errs in remnants of song as Cross’s poems score the scars of lyric’s own silent expropriation. This is language rising as air from wood-ash, singing the song of protracted siege, lamenting the loss of words for things once held in common.

On the eve of WWII, Bertolt Brecht wrote, “What kind of times are they when / A talk about trees is almost a crime / Because it implies silence about so many other horrors.” Nearly twenty years after the war, the American poet George Oppen responded: “There is no crisis in which political poets and orators may not speak of trees.” Oppen reads Brecht’s reference to “talk about trees” as Brecht’s own aversion to the aesthetic at a time of sociopolitical crisis. For Oppen, however, the aesthetic is critical for “the good life,” which he argues requires an aesthetic definition, and “will be defined outside of anybody’s politics, or defined wrongly.”

Brecht rejects the sentimentalized tree in the interest of politics. Oppen rejects politics in the interest of the unsentimental tree. But Oppen’s commitment to a language of encounter unfettered by ideology and politics is perhaps naïve, at least when it comes to trees. Cross supercedes this tension in In Felt Treeling, performing the tree as always caught up in political—gendered—histories, for to bracket these histories is to stage, yet again, the suppression of the commons that is the history of the forest.

Rob Halpern is the author of several books of poetry, including Rumored Place (2004) and Disaster Suites (Palm Press 2009). He lives in San Francisco.

Just dropped off 30 copies...

of Scalapino's Considering how exaggerated music is to SPD. It's been erroneously listed as out-of-print for awhile now. If you don't own this classic text, snatch it up here.

21 June 2010

This today...

from Lisa Robertson's spectacular poem "Of Mechanics in Rousseau's Thought" from R's Boat (UC Press, 2010):

The suppleness of these amusements


The Etruscan scrotum of clay beneath Perspex

The wrapped breasts of a hermaphrodite

Wished to anticipate


The padded wall

As loss

The wrongness is philosophical.

October's topmost wandy slim branch

Unsnarls the

Air versus what is

Public: the technology of habit

I awake into an original greediness

Into glossy persimmon-crested notebook called Sylvine

Into large creamy notebook with title Precious Ego

Into small blue-marbled notebook with powder-blue cotton spine

Bought in London, December, 1999

Glossy black notebook with red-ink-edged pages, water dampened

Into many sexes slowly pivoting like leaves

Oh, and this too...

from "The Present," a really beautiful set of opening stanzas:

You step from the bus into a sequencing tool that is moist and carries the

     scent of quince

You move among the eight banner-like elements and continue to the edges

     of either an object or a convention

And in Cascadia also

As in the first line of a nursery rhyme

Against cyclic hum of the heating apparatus

You're resinous with falsity

It's autumn

Which might be tent-scented or plank-scented

Their lands and goods, their budgets and gastronomy quicken

You want to enter into the humility or limitations

Coupled with exquisite excess

You walk in the green park at twilight

You read Lucretius to take yourself towards death, through streets and

In a discontinuous laboratory towards foreignness

You bring his prosody into your mouth

When you hear the sound of paper

20 June 2010

Elliot Anderson's "The Monuments of Silicon Valley"

The Nonsite Collective welcomes you to join us this Saturday, June 26th for the first of a suite of summer events constellated around the notion of the commons. Reading from Robert Smithson’s The Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey Elliot Anderson (UC Santa Cruz Professor of Electronic Media) invites participants to formulate questions that interrogate the Superfund Site as monument and commons. To locate the text in the contemporary landscape Anderson will screen images from his project The Monuments of Silicon Valley.

He writes, "On Saturday, September 30, 1967 Robert Smithson travels to the post-industrial lands along the Passaic River in a mytho-poetic search for entropic monuments of the late 20th century. The Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey is a testament to an irreversible ahistoric future. The 21st century has its own monuments dedicated to waste and decay. Contemporaneous with Smithson’s expedition Silicon Valley was erecting its monuments to a future technologically determined entropic panorama. Monuments constructed as ruins of an absolute obsolescence."

Please join us at the Kala Gallery (1060 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley) this Saturday at 2pm for what promises to be an enlightening conversation!

18 June 2010

Flow–Winged Crocodile

If you happen to be in NYC, tomorrow or Sunday, you must experience Leslie Scalapino's Flow—Winged Crocodile, directed by Fiona Templeton and featuring dancer Molissa Fenley. Leslie was very excited about this performance, and word on the street is Chax will have the text version, Flow—Winged Crocodile and A Pair / Actions Are Erased / Appear, on hand. Totally essential...

Saturday, June 19, at 7:00pm & Sunday, June 20, at 2:00pm
Flow–Winged Crocodile: A Noh Play by Leslie Scalapino
 Directed by Fiona Templeton, with Katie Brown, Stephanie Silver and Julie Troost. Dance by Molissa Fenley. Music by Joan Jeanrenaud. Projected drawings by Eve Biddle. Technical director: Ray Roy III.

This Noh play by poet Leslie Scalapino travels between the left and right sides of the brain, with appearances by a reincarnated Patty Hearst in the 1974 SLA bank heist and a green-winged creature that is part crocodile, part Michelin man and part charging rhino. The play is performed by The Relationship, a performance group directed by Fiona Templeton that specializes in innovative language and use of site.

Cosponsored by Belladonna and The Poetry Project.
$10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poets House and Poetry Project Members

Heavy Rotation

Frog Eyes / Paul's Tomb: A Triumph / Dead Oceans
Master Musician's of Bukkake / Totem Two / Important Records

Three new poems (in manuscript) by David Brazil

16 June 2010

Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination

I'm having a hard time isolating what I find so compelling about Andrea Brady's new work, and at the end of the day I think it's simply a question of chops. I've had a similar experience this month reading John Wilkinson's Contrivances in that I can't get through a stanza before feeling compelled to take a few steps back in order to re-track a train of thought or the melody of a particular line. I've been reading Wildfire super slowly for weeks, but this afternoon I forced myself to read it fast cover to cover, and it was certainly useful to occupy its space on a molar level.

Brady writes of the work:

"Tracing the globalisation of a fire that feeds on life, (Wildfire) considers how ignition is missed, how many gallons of piss it takes to change a lightbulb, and how the fates of empires and individuals depend on accident. It follows as adventures in an ancient geography of perpetual fire become a world-defeating industry which drives all our consumption towards disaster. It examines the mutations of the body by exploitative labour, and the moral mutations which have become chronic to our engagement of the enemy."

I was reminded of Laura Moriarty's reference in Atonalist to poets who write lyric poetry despite (or because) they know it's impossible. Here's Brady:

like thunder spearing fire from perronels
fully orchestrated to cause notional breakdown.
Beards singed but not much
injured for sake of being
on their knees in prayer at the time sold
to Louis XV in 1756, saltpetre, turpentine,
tallow that carcass composition rosin, crude
which may be deemed excessively indsicriminate
like history into which it all disintegrates
the Congreve rockets glaring down on McHenry
make the top-ten forever

Brady mentions in her afterward that she wanted to write a "forensic poem, one whose structure could accomodate an excess of social information." And while the text weaves through a plethora of sources (from Theophrastus to internet search results), the level of inquiry feels totally consistent, and the material maintains a level of scrutiny that is perfectly balanced with Zukofsky's brand of "emotive intelligence":

Eaten by dogs. viewed: 36,560 times. 
Eaten by dogs. viewed: 17,809 times.
Person with disability: prosthetics above body.
Partially eaten by dogs. viewed: 32,144 times.
Old man killed with daughters; family recognised. viewed 30,411 times.
Man making "Shuhada" sign: there is
one God, because he knew he was
about to be shot. viewed 18,135 times.
No comment. viewed: 23,455 times.
Man killed at home, identified. viewed 13,759 times.
The spirit of violets cannot wash the floor in green
or relieve blood jammed up in an eyeball: it complains,
every time you piss you are pissing in its socket
it is a drunkard whose thousand orifices new-modelled
are the American drains.

I've had a number of conversations about this book in passing with poets here in the Bay Area, and I get the sense that this volume will exponentially increase Brady's readership in the States. And, as always, props to Kevin and Jocelyn at Krupskaya for consistently printing work that matters.

15 June 2010

Lara Durback's teaching some summer courses...

at the SF Center for the Book. If you have any interest in learning the essentials of letterpress printing, this is a great place to start:

Poster Extravaganza in June & July
Broadsides Outside in August

The structure of the visible...

is the determined form that cognitive production gives not only to its modes and properly epistemic contents, but also and precisely to the world that has been circumscribed and made visible by them. The metaphor of the visual field cutting out the visible world really allows us to grasp the issue of knowledge as production...

"Bifo" Berardi
The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy


14 June 2010

Deep Eco Pré

I’ve been reading and re-reading Tina Darragh and Marcella Durand’s crucial collaborative work Deep Eco Pré this week; my own purposefully “ineffectual” stand in the face of the ongoing and unprecedented environmental disaster(s) around us. We’ve heard over and over this month that British Petroleum’s spill is the largest of its kind in our waters, but the emphasis on scale keeps drawing my attention to the molecular and myriad ways in which insidious (and invisible) toxins, chemicals, and cancers enter our bodies every day. Carcinogens in shampoo, bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastic bottles, epoxy liners in tin cans, pharmaceutical testing on all forms of life…one’s immediate ecology as an endless spill of plastic toxins.

Deep Eco Pré attends to the immediacy of the subject’s impossible extension into toxic ecology in situ, and each draft or riff in this space attests to a provisional subjectivity held hostage by the “exterior world” that is nothing but the byproduct of our endless collective desires. Taking Francis Ponge’s The Making of the Pré as a kind of permission to write a provisional (draft) subject in which “center shifts to pré as center of U.S. shifts to pré after pré after pré…Tilled and irrigated grain as disaster crop, growing in disturbed soil” (35), the pré-subject finds herself so deeply imbricated in her own destruction (and that of her personal ecology) that environmentally appropriate response simply can’t exist; just as BP’s every move threatens to open new doors we won’t be able to close because we can’t yet imagine they exist (i.e. seafloor nuclear detonation!), the singular subject faces a bankrupt humanism where every attempt to occupy becoming is immediately drawn back into the oily muck of collective disaster. Deep Eco Pré highlights how deeply entrenched we find ourselves when every mode of response is immediately foreclosed as non-decision; and yet, the poem struggles to mean regardless, and this is precisely why it is able to respond.

Take this pairing, in which lyric persists despite the voice disintegrating in the midst of untold toxic loads (the long lines will certainly not publish correctly, so please reference the original):

eived bursts when pack ice splits

eived bursts when pack ice splits paints sky water dark
like my letter to be quiet? a giant T divides sky as bird
a thin timbre or nothing tents with “a trace” as days move
wegian to crisis as if a meadow had been perfect acute stems
eart, a timbre, arth, h, a giant H, enjoying statistics, against
with speech rather thin to those finding tedious-nature-delicate-brief

about it don’t you understand? passed away as we have been ready
“Today I am thinking again about that harpsichord” only just seen it,
or foreseen or wanted to do it, don’t you understand?
bursts like my letter to be quiet—but it was too late, eiving
why would this be right? of varied notes, a little like music
last minute corrections: 7/27/64 at 4:30 P.M. the orage original
a longuement parlé—

edious, less melodious than organ or strings,
the human voice: hurried or slow, with the same rhythm
as breakage of pack ice, dark, watery and low,
the lips (mouthed), not from the heart, nor from the body,
resembling a compte rendu, experience scientific, in all the details,
with a luxurious precision, divine the parks oily underneath,
and each tree oily, for those creatures appear disinherited,
reject of idealism, subjectivity, and anthropocentrism,
had the original storm not raged in us at such length,
It was brief and acute and eives us signification.

Here are the laws of the pré, presque and almost,
nearly there, field of our repose, prepared, close,
and we have participated, X, T and H, a DEP,
We came to the literal wildnerness from ego-centered
stupidity to regenerative perception, a longuement parle,
to serve as pack ice, if you will, brief, biolin,
their first sojourn in surrendering the ego, for
sunny vineyards, according to I know not 27 years,
accumulation of past days and principle of today’s day
as snow accumulates and turns into ice, as ice covers
poles and birds on which watched as evidence.

March 27, 2002

eived bursts when pack ice splits

bursts like my letter     self-sufficient splits     water dark as days move
like my strings      bursts when pack ice to be sky     sky paints quiet divides as bird
a thin timbre     or     nothing tents with “a trace”
wegian to crisis     or foreseen     or wanted     as if a meadow had been
eart, a little like original, arth, h, a giant H, enjoying statistics, against
perfect acute stems with speech rather thin to those finding tedious-orage-brief

a longuement parle     about it don’t you     away as we have been ready
“Today I am thinking...”     “... again I came eiving”
or foreseen or hurried or slow - the political import?
bursts like my letter to be quiet—but it was too late, repose deglared
why would this be human voice?     o   f     varied notes, a little like orage-brief
last minute corrections: 7/27/64 at 4:30 P.M. the orage original
a longuement parle     the human body as other than animal     why would this be human voice?

edious, less melodious     resembling a compte organ or strings,
the animal voice breakage of pack ice
the lips (mouthed)     not from resembling a serve
scientific in such length     with a luxurious original storm     divine the parks appear disinherited,
and each tree reject of idealism     had the original not brief and acute and eives
the respect of hosts     comparisons turbing end up
Here are the laws of the pré, presque and almost,
nearly field of our repose     unlimited cravings shake “useful”
and we have participated     X     T     and H, a DEP,
ego-centered surrender to serve
pack ice will                      brief, biolin, accumulation of past
poles and birds                  dark accordings
sunny ice moves                 days past and principle accumulation
days past today’s past        snow accumulates and turns
poles and birds     o   n       wristwatch evidence.

April 1, 2002

Deep Eco Pré offers a difficult but crucial take on how we might continue to stand despite the weight we collectively bear. You can download the entire text here

Lyn Hejinian's beautifully insightful remembrance of Leslie Scalapino


09 June 2010

Leslie Scalapino Memorial Events

Poetry Project St. Marks Church / NYC
Memorial for Leslie Scalapino
Monday, June 21, 2010 8:00 pm
Petah Coyne, Simone Fattal, Joan Retallack, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Charles Bernstein, Susan Bee, Ann Lauterbach, Susan Howe, Paolo Javier, Molissa Foley, Fiona Templeton, Laura Elrick, Rodrigo Toscano, Steve Clay, Rachel Levitsky, James Sherry, Pierre Joris, Judith Goldman, E. Tracy Grinnell and Tom White & others...
There will be a wine and cheese reception to follow.

The Memorial follows two performances of Scalapino’s Noh play
Flow–Winged Crocodile at Poets House
Saturday, June 19, at 7:00pm & Sunday, June 20, at 2:00pm
Directed by Fiona Templeton, with Katie Brown, Stephanie Silver and Julie Troost. Dance by Molissa Fenley. Music by Joan Jeanrenaud. Projected drawings by Eve Biddle. Co-sponsored by Belladonna and The Poetry Project.
$10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poetry Project and Poets House Members

Buddhist funeral ceremony
officiated by Abbot Norman Fischer
Thursday July 1, 2010
San Francisco Zen Center Green Gulch Farm
1601 Shoreline Highway Muir Beach, CA 94965-9759
for directions and parking: www.sfzc.org/ggf/
2pm in the Green Dragon Temple; 4-5:30 reception in the Wheelwright Center
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: The San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page St., San Francisco, CA 94102 Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705 Reed College for the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR 97202-8199 The AYCO Charitable Foundation, PO Box 15203, Albany, NY 12212-5203 for the Leslie Scalapino-O Books Fund to support innovative works of poetry, prose and art

SF Memorial readings with poets, artists & friends
Friday November 19, 2010 (date to be confirmed)
Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
University of California, Berkeley
Time & further details TBA

08 June 2010


Andrea Brady / Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination / Krupskaya
Tina Darragh & Marcella Durand / Deep Eco Pre / LRL Editions
John Wilkinson / Contrivances / Salt Books

Thursday's with Hegel

Starting next Thursday, June 17th, David Brazil, Eli Drabman and myself will begin the slow and arduous process of reading Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit together. If you live in the Bay Area and you're into the Notion of Love disporting with itself, then maybe you'd be interested in joining? We'll meet Thursday evenings at 8 pm through the summer, and we'll probably also read Jean Hyppolite's Genesis and Structure of Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit" along with Alexandre Kojeve's An Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Send me an email for more information: michaelthomascross(at)hotmail(dot)com.

And here's Hegel:

This Substance is, as Subject, pure, simple negativity, and is for this very reason the bifurcation of the simple; it is the doubling which sets up opposition, and then again the negation of this indifferent diversity and of its antithesis [the immediate simplicity]. Only this self-restoring sameness, or this reflection in otherness within itself...is the True.

07 June 2010

The moment when peace is concluded...

between the divine adversaries, they all spit into the same vessel. Out of this "pledge of peace" the gods fashion a man named Kvasir who has extraordinary, absolutely enormous wisdom. He travels around the world, but two dwarfs kill him, distributing his blood among three bowls, mixing honey with it and thus concocting the "mead of poetry and wisdom." Then they tell the gods that Kvasir has choked with learning, no one having been able to compete with him in knowledge.

Gods of the Ancient Northmen
Georges Dumezil

06 June 2010

A Tonalist Notes

"You as an address various and specific know where you are."

The contours of the shifting subject as mode of address, both various and specific, come into focus through the doubt and uncertainty of voice, approach, color, mood, tone: true negative dialectics. The subject's sitedness is directly imbricated with her coming-to-know-herself; that is, "address" filtered through the site of becoming, so that tone reveals the specificity and variousness of being-in-community.

"The person is the color of the landscape and is lit."

And vice versa. The subject takes on the tone of her landscape and makes the site of voice its color, just as the critical ecology of the subject (in this case the Bay Area's poetry community) is tinted with the thought of the subject. Community as a spatial practice to inhabit: a landscsape of thought. Just as the socioeconomic realities of the present condition our writing, the ecology of what's in the air affects our tone.

"The image is saturated with absence if, as most often, there is no figure."

The absence of the subject, her desires, and her affect in Language Poetry, itself the staged affect of absence?? The landscape with no subject that is its lack of voice? In Moriarty, the image is saturated with the presence of impermanence, saturated with refraction, a subject that each moment of writing comes to recognize itself as slowly disappearing from the frame of the possible that has yet to be.

"Not a movement so much as a mood, an orientation, a realization that much that seemed forbidden is in fact required. Doubt, for example, especially self-doubt"

Inhabiting doubt as the primary tool for inhabiting lyric: negative capability.

"Intimate address. Acknowledgment of what shared humanly as restlessness with the present, disbelief in (but commitment to) identity, one's own and that of one's adversary." // "...one can watch group formations include contradictions, inconsistencies, refutations and assertions, as well as personal relationships that, importantly, often form the basis of all else." // "A Tonalist proposes an anti-lyric whose viability relates to the history of lyric poetry by resisting as much as enacting it. The table manners are bad. The tranquility being cooked up comes from emptiness. And passion, as everyone knows, means suffering. In A Tonalist the lyric "I" is complicated rather than celebrated. There is doubt."

Commitment to disbelief as a form of public intimacy, that both individual and collective subjectivity is both provisional and fictional--cannot be what it will have been.

"I felt that my own attention to lyric, despite the resistance to an unquestioned celebration of voice, craft, and bourgeois beauty among other resistances I shared with its detractors, constituted a parallel gesture with that old figurative impulse...Some people write lyric poetry because they just want to and think it is great. Some write it though they think it is impossible. The latter are A Tonalists."

05 June 2010

Heavy Rotation

Andrew Thomas / Between Buildings and Trees / Kompakt
Danny Paul Grody / Fountain / Root Strata
Drake / Thank Me Later / Young Money
Harvey Milk / A Small Turn of Human Kindness / Hydrahead
Omar Souleyman / Highway to Hassake / Sublime Frequencies
Pan Sonic / Gravitoni / Blast First
Shabazz Palaces / s/t / Templar Label Group
Shit and Shine / Bass Puppy / Badmaster
Sleigh Bells / Treats / N.E.E.T
Walls / s/t / Kompakt
Zola Jesus / Stridulum / Sacred Bones

04 June 2010

A dialogue about love...

is utterly crucial to the remaking of the modern world in writing.

Leslie Scalapino
The Front Matter, Dead Souls

02 June 2010

Some things you should know about ON

First, On: Contemporary Practice has a new website (http://www.oncontemporaries.org/), where you'll find the entire first issue ready for your perusal, including the following:

Taylor Brady on Yedda Morrison
Brandon Brown on Dana Ward
CA Conrad & Brenda Iijima
Jason Christie on Michael DeBeyer
Michael Cross on Thom Donovan
Thom Donovan on Brenda Iijima
Eli Drabman on Michael Cross
Alan Gilbert on DJ/Rupture
Rob Halpern on Taylor Brady
Jen Hofer & Sawako Nakayasu
Andrew Levy on Arakawa & Gins
Edric Mesmer on Lauren Shufran and/or Mark Dickinson
Tenney Nathanson on Beverly Dahlen
Richard Owens on Dale Smith
Tim Peterson on kari edwards
Andrew Rippeon on C.J. Martin
Kyle Schlesinger on Emily McVarish
Jonathan Skinner on Julie Patton
Dale Smith on Hoa Nguyen
Alli Warren & Suzanne Stein
Katie Yates on Belle Gironda

Also, we're lauching the second issue in New York City this Friday, June 4th, at Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The reading begins at 8pm sharp and features CA Conrad, Robert Dewhurst, Brenda Iijima, Robert Kocik, Evelyn Reilly, Michelle Taransky, and other special guests. Book Thug Nation is located at 100 N3rd St, between Berry St and Wythe Ave.

And if you haven't seena copy of ON: Contemporary Practice 2, it can be had at Small Press Distribution, our website (oncontemporaries.org), or at quality bookstores across the country. #2 features the following contributions:

Rosa Alcala on Mónica de la Torre
Stan Apps on Stephanie Young
Cara Benson on Susana Gardner
David Brazil on Brandon Brown
Laynie Brown on Lee Ann Brown
CA Conrad & Brenda Iijima
Corina Copp on Rodrigo Toscano & Poets Theater
Michael Cross on Judith Goldman & Jen Scappettone
Robert Dewhurst on Dorothea Lasky
Thom Donovan on Bhanu Kapil
Patrick James Dunagan on Edmund Berrigan, Jeff Karl Butler & John Coletti
Joel Felix on William Fuller
Robert Kocik on Stacy Szymaszek
Chris Martin on John Coletti
C.J. Martin on Rob Halpern
Laura Moriarty on Conceptualisms
Rich Owens on Flarf, Conceptualisms, & C.
Evelyn Reilly on Rosmarie Waldrop
Michelle Taransky on Stacy Szymaszek
Dan Thomas-Glass on Jasper Bernes & Bay Area Publishing
Robin Tremblay-McGaw on Jocelyn Saidenberg
Brian Whitener on Dolores Dorantes
Tyrone Williams on Erica Hunt

Selecteds: Leslie Scalapino and Norma Cole

Some recent reviews of two very important mentors:

A double review of Leslie's Day Ocean and Its go in horizontal:

And Norma's Where Shadows Will:

And while you're there, check out Leslie's "Disbelief" (which will appear in the new, expanded edition of How Phenomena Appear to Unfold (Litmus Press 2010)): http://jacketmagazine.com/40/scalapino-essay.shtml.

She writes of the text:

I delivered parts of this talk-performance-essay (passages on 1980s poetics) on the panel “The Body and Language Writing” condensing my performance to fit into the time frame. Also participating were panelists Steve Benson, Bruce Andrews, and Maria Damon. Thus delivered in a Language context (Segue, New York, 2007), “Disbelief” was not intended as definitive of any poets, in that I anticipated qualification and dispute of it from the audience. It was to be apprehension in the instant of social behavior and points of view. While I spoke I heard merry laughter from the audience (I believe it was primarily or entirely feminine voices). I noticed this merry laughter when I was critiquing myself by including comments and questions from Susanne Stein. Merry laughter occurred particularly when I commented on my being critiqued by men. A number of young women whom I did not know remarked afterward how much they liked the talk. One lovely young woman came up to me to say “That was wonderful, wonderful!—I feel so relieved!” Though I could not anticipate response (except that I might be disapproved), her response was my ‘purpose’ in the mode of my constructing my talk-performance-essay. Perhaps her feeling a sense of relief was in response to an act of free speech articulating what she herself experiences (in some other context than the older Language movement of course, since she is young)?

In conversation after “The Body and Language Writing” panel, I recalled to Steve Benson that I was, at his invitation, one of the three co-directors at the end of the Grand Piano Reading series. I described how when he’d first asked me I hadn’t been interested but reconsidered because I recognized that I was so sensitive to sexism, a problem causing me the greatest suffering of anything then, that (I decided) I should de-sensitize myself by entering the hurley-burley and familiarizing myself with this phenomenon. I thanked him for inviting me, remarking I’d learned a great deal, generally in the social world, and about sexism, the latter especially from my fellow-co-directors, men who were not Language poets but were followers. He was surprised and apologized for neither remembering that I had been a co-director nor that he had invited me. It occurred to me then that currently The Grand Piano/An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco, 1975-1980 is being published serially. “Disbelief,” though as an afterthought on my part, is a contribution as a part of memoir.

Also, David Wolach's piece on Laura Elrick is pretty great (I'm very fond of her Fantasies in Permeable Structures and of David for that matter): http://jacketmagazine.com/40/wolach-elrick.shtml

Goodbye Jacket; hello Jacket2.