31 July 2010

Leslie Scalapino's First Books

I just finished scanning Leslie's early chapbooks, and they can be read/downloaded now at her EPC homepage!

The following are available as full-color high rez PDFs:

O and Other Poems
(Berkeley: Sand Dollar, 1976)

The Woman Who Could Read the Minds of Dogs
(Berkeley: Sand Dollar,1976)

Instead of an Animal, drawings by Diane Sophia (Leslie's sister!)
(Cloud Maruder Press, 1978)

This eating and walking at the same time is associated all right
(Bolinas: Tombouctou, 1979)

These crucial documents capture the visual element that was lost entirely with the North Point publication of Leslie's "first book" Considering how exaggerated music is.

Next up: additional rare print objects and ephemera including Leslie's ABACUS appearance "clarinet part I once heard" (which, to my knowledge, never appeared elsewhere) and broadsides she designed and printed herself with the help of Alastair Johnston and co.

30 July 2010

Trolley's Kind

If you missed David Wolach and Rob Halpern's reading last Saturday night (perhaps the last in Brazil and Larsen's Life Long Dream Come True series?), I'm sure you've already heard what you missed!

Wolach read movingly from his new volume Occultations, of which he writes in the afterward,

"the writing...began as a subtle loss of motor function, which followed a sudden loss of balance. in late 2004, while it was becoming clear that the iraq occupation was going to last a long time (along with the bush regime), questions of domestic surveillance (just how are we being watched and how much?) began to more publicly meld into questions of outsourcing law enforcement and the suppression of information (just who is watching us? and how are we watching one another? in what capacity / to what end?). nearly at the same time, while working as a labor organizer and as a performing artist, this so-called body began to underline its own becoming, showing itself to be as degenerative (or as on-the-move) as our supposed rights. this head would fall to the side. these arms wouldn't move as quickly or as accurately as before. what strange processes were at work here? what I could not see or feel was what was really happening, said doctors, and what was really happening was programmed before i was born, they said."

According to Wolach (via email correspondence), the book was written using "corporeal procedures" in which the body undergoes a particular stress during composition:

"...some of the book writes thru CIA interrogation techniques, including the infamous Appendix M and the Bybee memorandum, which involve spelling out torture...All of the book writes thru corporeal procedure, but the first section involves a death ritual from eastern shamanism, another via a 1500 pg memo leaked that spells out how and who the Washington State Fusion Center is and how they operate: a group of federal, state, and especially outsourced private, agencies that get around habeas corpus, other constitutional 'liabilities,' etc., by loosely affiliating in this way. They do work ranging from interrogation, arrest, spying, infiltration (as in the case with our anti-war group in Olympia out here, spelled out on Amy Goodman's website if interested)."

Rob perfectly balanced Wolach's intensity with a bit of "juvenalia" (which, for Rob, means writing born from the head fully formed!). "Trolley's Kind" is the product of early writing workshops with Dodie Bellamy and Bob Gluck, and it certainly bears the marks of its mentorship (and I mean this in the best way!): sweet and funny and full of Rob's characteristic acumen, the narrative is brimming with both pathos and bathos. I've uploaded the whole thing here (using his xeroxed reading copy) as I'd guess those in attendance will want to return to those stunning passages in which a young Halpern morphs into Maria Falconetti in Dreyer's Joan of Arc...

Rob gets props for bravely sharing this narrative, but I'm convinced he mustered the courage thanks to the moral support of Dewey Dracucla, who curled up on the chair beside him half way through! For the rest of the weekend I heard folks using the phrase "You know, Rob..." like some newly coined colloquial term for rejection! Necessary reading for sure...Click on the arrow for full screen//download if you want to print a reading copy...


28 July 2010


From Sara Larsen's translation of Dante:

surge into my breast, you spirit - breathe your
song, like when you unsheathed Marsyas from
the members of his limbs


suddenly it seemed day and day
were welded, as if the One who moves all (of it)
bedecked the sky with a sister sun.

27 July 2010

Flesh Sense

I must hope, disembogued, that her mouth’s smallish beads indifferent

in the corners can secrete themselves, hissing in a breath between lips made smaller

by the tightening of hunger: is it but a daub to tear at at first nothing, and then nothing prised

out, the kids stuffing themselves in, forbidden to lick their fingers even scrapping

for a bite of the carcass and those who, submitting to a new face and once in place

won’t show still the past? my kin thrusts out her bones—you’re a simulee to have yourself

in every moment of yourself, she says, even if such creatures share a mouth

26 July 2010

Condensary: Brazil/Boldt

It was a very long and very busy and very satisfying weekend, and while I hope to report on the density of the busyness in the near future (especially on the Halpern/Wolach reading Saturday night and Wolach's talk earlier this afternoon for Nonsite), I'm still basking in the afterglow of tonight's Condensary reading featuring

Lindsey Boldt


David Brazil

The Condensary is mostly badass due to hosts Jackqueline Frost and Zack Tuck being super nice and welcoming, and there's something about the collective-living-situation-cum-reading-venue that especially thrives on the energy of tons of people crammed in an intimate, shared space: as if the house feeds on the energy of humans to be a house for humans.

Boldt read from her Goldie Hawn project, which I somehow remembered appearing in a past issue of War and Peace (which seems weirdly appropriate because in Boldt's hands Goldie becomes a haywire allegory for all kinds of things including, of course, her own desire), but when I got home and searched around for it, I realized I read it in Try! Here's my favorite bit from the magazine:

Kurt Russell: What are you doing? and I looked at him. I looked at Kurt Russell in the eye and said,
Goldie Hawn: My name is Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell laughed and moved his body away.
Kurt Russell: That's very funny, he said, and all I could do was thrum, thrum, thrum.
Kurt Russell: Okay, I get it, Goldie. Very nice, and I made one of those weird half cat-half Marge Simpson noises and said,
Goldie Hawn: My name is Goldie Hawn and your name is Kurt Russell and my teeth gritted.
Goldie Hawn: Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt because I was beginning to course and shudder.

In this particular section, the thrumming and Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrting leads to a "zing" of pure energy that feels particularly appropriate for tonight's zinging in a house thriving on thrum. Boldt read from the third part in which Goldie becomes an amalgamation of Daryl Hannah's characters in Splash and Attack of the 50 ft Woman and then mounts the city's phallic architecture...

Brazil read a "clutch" of shorter pieces before launching into his new chapbook "meet me beneath the war angels," which, besides sporting 2010's great title, perfectly captures his thrum und Rrrrrrrrrrrrt. Here the notebook is fully redeemed as a lyric site: "redeemed" in Benjamin's sense in that the neglected moments of the past find articulation in a past-annihilating present. Brazil deftly weaves together his interest in the critical, classical, linguistic, messianic, and it seems to have hit a perfect chord with those in attendance tonight. If you didn't get a copy of the chapbook from David directly, you might drop a note to OMG publisher Brandon Brown...

And here are some pics...I tried to take some diptychs by flashing photos from Alli's camera and my camera simultaneously, but I sadly neglected to think through the problem that, to present said photos as diptychs, I'd have to download pictures from Alli's camera too...Here are mine...

22 July 2010


I was lucky enough to run into Lauren Shufran on Sunday night and luckier to obtain a copy of her lovingly handmade chapbook, Birds. In reference to my post about design aesthetics and poetry presses, this chapbook perfectly captures the energy of someone who has written a really good poem and, because he/she/xe is appropriately proud of said poem's content, decides to distribute it immediately among friends because it's what he/she/xe's thinking about and working on right now (and its good) and adds to the community conversation in a crucial way we haven't quite figured out yet, and as such, he/she/xe designs the book with the same kind of urgency and care he/she/xe put into the poem's language, and then the object becomes a constellation of that care and immediacy and pride and becomes something of a totem or talisman to those around it. Here's the first page:

If you weren't around this weekend (or don't live in the area) you should write Lauren and ask for one (if you don't have her address, email me). If enough people ask, she might have to print a second edition! And while you're at it, congratulate her for gaining admittance to UC Santa Cruz's Ph.D. program! Great job!

Of the many, many, many things going on this weekend...

I'm going to try to do the following:

1. Friday Night: Grouper at the BAM
Grouper Presents SLEEP
Friday, July 23; 7:30 p.m.; Berkeley Art Museum, Gallery B
Doors/Ambient Sounds 6 p.m.
Programmed by David Wilson
Liz Harris (Grouper) contours her sonic craft to the spiraling space of the museum, creating a site-specific composition made up of tape-collage and live instrumentation accompanied by video. Her piece intends to “echo the movement of a downward-pulling current, lulling with the hiss and resonating pulse of watery sound and light.” Harpsichordist Eugene Petrushansky opens the night with pieces of both early music and music of his own improvisation, performing on the harpsichord that he hand-built for himself.

2. Saturday Night: Rob Halpern and David Wolach
Brazil and Larsen's Life Long Dream Come True series
Saturday, July 24; Doors at 7pm
The Compound: 3107 Ellis St. @ Prince, Berkeley, two blocks from Ashby BART
Please try not to act weird at this event! Remember that people like you, and that there's nothing to fear in the company of friends...
3. Sunday Afternoon: David Wolach "The Commons and the Body"
Please join us Sunday, July 25th at 2 PM for the third installment of the Nonsite Collective's summer suite: David Wolach on "The Commons and the Body." Wolach will lead a discussion linking ideas around embodied art practices, the commons, and illness. Through the lens of living with chronic pain, Wolach will draw out the relation(s) between the physico-socially "unfit" body and the aesthetically trans-gressive body. How might the affective and relational capacities of the body inflect our thinking about "the commons"? How can recent discussions on the paradoxes of "ownership," "property," and "architecture" inform how we speak about and treat "the body"? David has posted some preliminary notes and questions here and here. We'll meet promptly at 2:00 pm on Sunday 7/25 at Nicole Hollis Studios to begin the discussion:
935 Natoma Street, San Francisco / between 10th and 11th Streets / and between Mission and Howard  / close to the Civic Center BART Station and the Van Ness MUNI station

4. Sunday Evening: David Brazil and Lindsey Boldt
Zack Tuck and Jackqueline Frost's Condensary Series
July 25th // 604 56th Street (@ Shattuck) // 7:30 Doors
The second event in my favorite new reading series!

Hope to see you at one or at many of these gatherings...

21 July 2010

New poem


Open no nous to recognize the structure of the cage you’re in; it wont needs ginger,
coal-faced shoving ringlets down an ovoid head held flexible grabs stripped to the bole’s
stark spars with a feathery top. No political nous, no hole in the paunch—wheat/chaff, sap/brio, cheek/jowl—It won’t clewed to the gantry—to a low coaming, pillowed arms shaking this sack of
shit by the throat

Stripped the boles to stark spars, slotted angles in a smoke pall w/ sheets of transparent
telex around the throat like throwing skin in your coal face, struggle is the meat that even if you
recognize the first laced hole, you are with stain, without breath, doubled as a butcher knocking
knotted seam

What could be expected from the bouquet garnie in its muslin bag, eight kilos of assorted
flesh moved at tongue-level, jerked like a puppet, a brocade caftan jutting into tender human
stoppings, we overlook the little things like garbage in the tree

20 July 2010

Report: Thom Donovan's "Commoning and Art Practice"

Thom Donovan capped off his visit to the Bay Area with two engaging events on Sunday: a conversation about commoning and art practice followed by a reading with Catherine Meng at 21 Grand.

Thom began the conversation with a number of prompts, asking us to take notes around our understanding of the commons as it relates to art. Using these notes as a starting point, we broadened the conversation to include notions of praxis, legality, the somatic, and resource sharing.

In response to the prompt, I wrote "commons=an unregulated (or deregulated) (non-)site outside economies of ownership in which resources are shared as defined by a collective-social body // art that through its becoming-social makes forms of commodification and ownership inoperative (or tries to through determinate negation). Art that operates precisely as a moving body of thought that, because not owned or sited, evolves with the practice of its participants."

Taylor Brady addressed the contemporary commons in terms of global security, noting that common resources become an issue only when we can't get our arms around them: air space, ground water, etc. He framed the common in terms of two separate models of tragedy: a Sopheclean model in which the commons is sacrificed because it isn't commensurate with the law, and an Aeschylean tragedy in which the commons exceed discourse and as such develop completely different terms of engagement (a justice that exceeds the law / a socius that exceeds the social).

Petra Kuppers warned against the pastoral, utopian model of the commons, reminding us of the term's feudal history (that by its very nature establishes a binary between the rich and the poor), followed by Elliot Anderson discussing a kind of performative resource-sharing.

Thom's own definition privileged the body as a site of commoning (a nice segue into David Woloch's talk next Sunday) in which the shared-social is rooted in atopic ecologies, no places, registered by and through bodies.

As we moved around the table (Beverly Dahlen mentioned practical commoning practices including the rise of community gardens // Kathleen Fraser spoke about Italian commons as sites of pleasure and gossip (that is, the dissemination of often crucial local information through community conversation)) the discussion turned to the complicated dialectic between use and ownership in terms of resource consumption: when does how we use resources trump who owns them?

Thom used this question as an opportunity to address how aesthetic practice can be used to make the "law material." He addressed conceptual art practice and land art from the 60s and 70s as useful models to rethink art's role in challenging legislation around commoning and resource-sharing.

And here are some photos from the reading...

Thom Donovan

Alli Warren & Linsdsay Boldt

Erika Staiti

Dana Ward & Lauren Shufran

Evan Kennedy & Andrew Kenowar

Thom Donovan, Brandon Brown, Lauren Shufran, Tracy Grinell, & Rob Halpern

Thom, Rob, and me

Julian Brolaski

David Brazil

Garret Caples


Andrew Kenowar & Alli Warren

Alli, Sara & I


Ted Rees dancing

16 July 2010

Tears are These Veils

Of Thom Donovan's recent projects, Tears are These Veils is probably my favorite. A collaboration with collage artist Abby Walton, Tears captures (for me) Donovan's blend of the speculative and revelatory—a crucial model for poet's rethinking lyric potential in terms of gravity and grace. Printed in a scant edition of 100 copies way back in 2004, I offer a digital edition here (scanned in a slightly smaller format to save the binding of my copy). It's forty some pages with high rez color copies, so it might take a second to load:


And don't forget Thom's double-header on Sunday: "Commoning and Art Practice" at 2:00 pm in San Francisco at Nicole Hollis Studios (935 Natoma), followed by a reading with Catherine Meng at 21 Grand in the East Bay (416 25th St., 6:30 pm). And if you haven't seen my short critical piece from a few years back on Thom's project (and it is a project), check it out here.

14 July 2010

Our Insalvageable

In anticipation of Thom Donovan's reading and talk on Sunday, I thought to post his recent Vigilance Society chapbook as a PDF. Click on the arrow on the top right corner for full screen...


13 July 2010

Soon to be innocent fun

Minus A Press

Barbara Claire Freeman, editor of Minus A Press, just sent me a copy of Graham Foust's long-poem To Anacreon in Heaven wherein Foust writes in sentences! I think he's imagining the majority of the poem as a long parenthetical (the paren opens on page 2 and closes on the last page) which leaves the following nonparenthetical statement:

"World without anything, dark without stars—and
then the poem, some imagined glass, half full of its
own shards.

(Paren=the rest of the text)

Stay figure."

[My parenthetical: It's immediately apparent that Jeff Clark designed this one (as it so often is), and while I love his work as much as anyone (really!), I miss the days when poetry presses had an autonomous identity (even if its "trademark" was poor design!). Remember when Joel Kuzai glued on squares to the Meow covers? Or when Guy Bennett did all the design work for Sun & Moon? Or Leslie's collages for O Books? Or Burning Deck's black and white covers? So many contemporary presses employ Clark (Ashata, Flood, Kenning, Kelsey Street, etc.) that they begin to lose their identities; I'm just saying I miss the days when poetry presses wore their editors' aesthetics on their sleeves, you know? Minus A makes this book its own, however, with the gloss wrap-around and the commitment to gift economy...]

Which is to say that this book is FREE! Send a note to Barbara and she'll get one out to you!

Minus A Press
Barbara Claire Freeman
1160 Glen Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94708

12 July 2010

Here's Mix #1...

Voltos Bolt (7/10): Press play and keep the browser open while you do other things...

Voltos Bolt by Michael Cross

Scalapino's 'Eco-logic in Writing'

"a person is in death at the time when they have died, only then, but at a different time which is not when they've died, they are not in death—everything keeps going."

"A person dying passes out of that (there/the) frame of seeing. That person being in place (phenomenal) when alive also intersects with other times at once."

09 July 2010

Notebook Fridays: Rob Halpern

I was lucky enough to score this spread from Rob's notebook chronicling a trip to the Lucian Freud exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. These pages attest to his particular acumen: "GESTURE saves the body from becoming grotesque..." On the level everyday...Click on the arrow in the right-hand corner for full-screen:


And based on these notes I dug into Deleuze's Francis Bacon, a book Brazil is about to start as well...Anyone interested in a virtual reading group here...? 

08 July 2010

Thom Donovan on "Commoning and Art Practice"

Thom Donovan will be visiting the Bay Area next week, and the Nonsite Collective is looking forward to hosting his presentation "Commoning and Art Practice" (the second event in a summer suite on the contemporary commons) Sunday, July 18 at Nicole Hollis Studios (935 Natoma St./San Francisco/2pm). In anticipation of this conversation, Thom has posted the following notes:

Since this past summer, 2009, I have been thinking about histories of commoning in relation to social, somatic, and aesthetic practices. The discussion that I would like to host for the Nonsite Collective will orient itself around notions of commoning in relation to our various practices as educators, activists, artists, builders, movers, and thinkers.

The legal concept of commons originates in 13th century England around the signing of the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest. In the Charter of the Forest, specifically, legal rights are provided for the common use and enjoyment of property by each and every social member. I am particularly interested in how this legal right—being in common—might be activated in our present, and how art, activism, education, and cultural production might set precedents for such a legal foundation.

As I see it, art and aesthetics have a decisive role to play in creating conditions of possibility for the legal reactivation of the commons. We find such conditions of possibility in Earthworks, Land, and Maintenance art, much of which has to do with land use and property rights. We also find precedent for legal challenges to commoning in live art as it connects with strategic civil disobedience, and somatics as it connects with biopower and toxic remediation.

How can the Nonsite Collective, in coalition with sister organizations such as The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Ocean Earth, and 16 Beaver be a think tank for rethinking strategies for practical resistance and aesthetic inquiry towards an emergent commons? If the commons is utopian (of no place) or polytopia (of many places) and has historically tended to emerge at critical points of struggle and antagonism, how can art contribute to and critically reflect conditions of commoning? How can art model the commons — which is to say, how might it provide experiments in the practical organization against anti-democratic social hierarchies and the expropriation of labor, land, and natural resources?

I have many questions, and they all filter into my approach to the topic of commoning: how can we reach out to lawyers/legal advisors to test the law through art/performance/co-motion? How can we channel resources to practical projects whether in the form of private or public funding? How can institutions and apparatuses of education become better sites for resistance to expropriation and social hierarchies which prevent democratic behaviors? To what extent can commoning counteract behaviors both toxic to democratic practices as well as ecologically sustainable existences? To what extent should the body—or bodies in common—become a site where, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., we may once more “make our bodies the case” before the conscience of local, national, and global authorities. If the body is a frontier for expropriation of our rights to exist, what are the consequences of once more making the body a site of vulnerability and contestation, a visible wound by which emergent social formations or subjects may express their common will and concern?

Some texts that I’ve been drawing on include the following:

Peter Linebaugh’s The Magna Carta Manifesto; Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s The Many-Headed Hydra; Marx’s 27th Chapter of Capital vol. 1 on “Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land”; Sylvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch; Agnes Denes’ The Human Argument; Fred Moten’s Hughson’s Tavern and In the Break; Mierele Ukeles’s “Manifesto for Maintenance Art”; Ocean Earth Development Corporation; Robert Kocik’s and Daria Fain’s The Commons project; Anna Halprin’s Moving Toward Life: Five Decades Of Transformational Dance; Henry David Thoreau’s "Huckleberries"; and Stephen Collis’s The Commons and “Of Blackberries and the Poetic Commons” (linked at Nonsite Collective here ).

Hope you'll be able to join us!

This from Brenda Iijima's "Metamorphic Morphology (with gushing igneous interlude) / Meeting in Language: P as in Poetry, / Poetry Rhetotical in Terms of Eco"...

"When I acknowledge that my body is intimately connected to your body (we affect each other), we can no longer categorize individual disabilities. Bodies are about and between bodies—that is to say, bodies extend beyond physical selves."

And this...

"I'd like to propose the term re-enable-ment to join what Donovan, Kocik and others have initiated. Instead of thinking in potentially polarizing terms, I'd suggest that function and dysfunction are impossible to pin down—there is a wavering among these terms...Dysfunction can bring about different sorts of functionality that rebel against categorization"

06 July 2010

A little thirty minute pop mix to try out Sound Cloud...

If this works well, I'll start posting more thoroughly realized monthly mixes...

July Mix by Michael Cross

Poems & Pictures // Dark Glasses

Kyle Schlesinger's "Poems and Pictures" exhibition goes up tomorrow (Wed. 7/7) at Center for Book Arts in NYC, so if you happen to be in the area, stop by the reception from 6-8 pm to help celebrate.

Here's a little blurb about the show: Poems and Pictures: A Renaissance in the Art of the Book (1946 - 1981) examines relationships between visual and language art. The exhibit features over 60 books produced between 1946 and 1981, as well as paintings, collages, periodicals, and ephemera. Poets, artists and collaborators include Wallace Berman, Joe Brainard, Robert Creeley, Jim Dine, Johanna Drucker, Philip Guston, Joanne Kyger, Emily McVarish, Karen Randall, Larry Rivers, George Schneeman, and many more.


I thought to post Kyle's recent chaplet Dark Glasses in its entirety as a toast from afar, though I admit  my quickly scanned version is a little lo-fi. This one features baffling cover art of a slug, printed in an edition of 40 copies (!) by Derek Beaulieu's No Press. Click on the arrow in the right hand corner of the frame for full-screen...


05 July 2010

A favorite (and least favorite) moment from the )((ECO(LANG)(UAGE(READER))

A favorite: this from an exchange between Brenda Iijima and Tyrone Williams:

Brenda: "'As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out.' From am I blue? by Alice Walker. How do you respond to this provocative, powerful statement?"

Tyrone: "I won't pretend to be familiar with the current arguments around the "problem" of sentience vis-a-vis animals and artificial intelligence (or its analogue in debates over abortion and the "beginning" of life), but Walker's statement only reinforces what I wrote above: anthropomorphism is inescapable the moment one believes one is communicating with an other (human or animal). Hence the controversy over issues concerning "freedom" (see Adorno's Messages in a Bottle, for one critique), "justice" etc. Put another way, Walker's ability—and, why not, her privilege, our privilege—to eat "misery" must be respected no less—but no more—than the impoverished Rwandan, for example, who may never get to eat misery, much less "spit it out" in a gesture as ethical as it is narcissistic. I'm more convinced by ecological arguments—reducing the consumption of meat as a contribution to improving the environment for all animal and plant life—than the ascription of moral and ethical foundations—really, just mirrors and lamps—to others."

My least favorite moment is from Marcella Durand's "Spatial Interpretations: Ways of Reading Ecological Poetry," in which she dubs animal rights activists "an oblique and certainly more prickly branch of the ecological activist family" who are "often inarticulate and sentimental, or even misanthropic and violent," and whose behavior is complicated (according to Durand) by their desire to "speak for animals" (see part III, "Reading Tina Darragh," pp. 205-207). I immediately bristled at this claim, not so much because of the years I've spent working next to my wife who made a hard-earned living in animal welfare (in my opinion, one of the toughest and dirtiest and thank-less jobs around) of which I am very proud, but because it is a blanket statement meant to speak for the thousands of people who care for animals everyday (and in an urban area like Oakland, that means experiencing a level of cruelty towards animals that I didn't think was possible). There are certainly individual examples in the animal welfare community to give Durand's claims credence, but hanging from any branch of the "ecological activist family tree" one is bound to find the prickly, the inarticulate, the sentimental, the misanthropic, the violent (and this could be true if we take the long view to include many other forms of activism, and maybe all forms of labor!). While there are certainly some high profile cases of extreme militancy in the animal welfare world, it would be a huge mistake to summarily dismiss the folks who are responding to, say, the unthinkable violence of dog fighting rings, puppy mills, etc. etc. I'm reminded here, for instance, of Scalapino's reference to Lewis MacAdams chaining himself "to a rock in the bottom of the canyon that would be filled (with water)" (76) in order to stop a damn from being built in southern California. That seems pretty "prickly" to me...

03 July 2010

)((ECO(LANG)(UAGE: Skinner & Collom

I regrettably missed Jonathan Skinner's run of events in the Bay Area this March, so I took my time reading his "Thoughts on Things: Poetics of the Third Landscape" to make up for it. I appreciate Skinner's approach to ecopoetics in terms of critical environments, especially his emphasis here on "entropology" (after Smithson, after Levi-Strauss) as "attending to objects in their relation to a field of objects." Skinner writes,

"entropology seeks a better balance between production and neglect—in the case of writing, between forcing the right conjunction of sound, image and idea, and somehow letting the words be; in the case of conceptualization, between developing and disintegrating frameworks; and in the case of ethics, between someone's possibility and, as (Ed) Roberson might put it, "someone or something else's possibility."

Finding a balance between "developing and disintegrating frames" is a useful  way to think about the concept of the "third landscape," those unsettled and undecided sites of diversity that often serve as useful foils to the calcified frames we use to understand our present. He writes, "A broken framework is an interpretative framework objectified," and it is often through the "fragmented habitats" of the third landscape that we are able to see the cracks and fissures in the "impenetrable" interpretative frameworks around us. Weeds thriving in the cracks of a sidewalk, the empty lot serving as a temporary plane of possibility for any number of species, the alley, the overpass...these sites enter into a dialectic with the groomed landscape of the legible in ways that help us reinterpret value, use, and the possibility of commons.

Jack Collom's preface to his Second Nature is a great companion piece to Skinner's investigation of entropology. He begins with an epigraph from Darwin: "The greatest amount of life can be supported by great diversification of structure," a critical position in-forming Collom's work as he moves freely between "freeform haiku, anti-'poetic' language, notes, anagrams, concrete & visual notions, journal-style, sestinas, sonnets, acrostic varieties, rants, satires, objet trouve, recipes, songs, 'just plain' observations, arguments, lists, automatic writing, 'I-remembers,' slices (a type-space-based invention), yodels, surrealism, stories, and other shots-in-the-dark seeking a spark." Collom's critical ecology is its own "third landscape" in which a certain level of disbelief helps to loosen our "knowledge" of relations that have changed before we've had time to understand them. For Collom,

"...nature can be thought of as breathtaking variety
     1. of which we are but a tiny portion
          a. (while simultaneously it may be looked at as generalized, small, and even

B. unreal); thus our knowledge might blossom up and down a scale, as our powers have blossomed and continue to blossom, since
     1. it is the power/knowledge imbalance dissolving life."

I love the image of "knowledge" blossoming up and down a scale, loosened by our utter awe at the "unreal" variety and diversity of the myriad relations around us...

02 July 2010

Notebook Fridays: Thom Donovan

Here's a page from Thom's notebook; I've always really admired his handwriting! He says, "The page is a draft of a poem I was writing after Sharon Hayes' video installation, 'Parole,' featured in this years Whitney Biennial."

Here's some info about the Hayes piece: http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/2010Biennial/SharonHayes, and here's Hayes giving a lecture at the New York Public Library: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1hfHOWQu0M.

Not super easy to read, but maybe Thom will send the finished work when it's ready...?