28 February 2011

Lauren Levin's Keenan

I've only heard Lauren Levin read once before, which, if I remember correctly, was with Susan Gevirtz at an apartment in West Oakland occupied (at the time) by Erin Morrill, Ted Rees, and Evan Kennedy (with a great fire pit out back!). Her reading Saturday night at the Condensery (with an "e" now I guess) reminded me of how interestingly frentic her lines sound in person: fast and clear and percussive as they fold in on themselves looping through strategically placed quilting points:

These lines visually capture the intensity of aural movement as the language cleaves and slips and tectonically grinds the sound out of each word. I remember being really curious to see what her poems looked like on the page the first time I heard them, and it totally makes sense that the lines here pull away from the left-hand margin as if in direct response to the percussive quality and frantic lilt in her voice:

"Keenan" is chalk full of lines I'm pretty jealous of and life on the level of the word that you can't fake! This one will be at the top of the stack for awhile, no doubt. Just published by Lame House and I'm sure these chaps don't last long, so get yrs here.

24 February 2011

I remember awesome things...

from last Friday's SPT reading, and I thought to post them here before I forget (again)! Katja and I have been moving all week so I haven't had time to take notes from my notes, but I have been thinking about the reading since and I don't want to lose sight of how awesome it was. If it hasn't been said publicly, pairing Laura Elrick and David Wolach was totally inspired (great thinking, Samantha!), and then adding Lara Durback to the mix created a nexus of oscillating badassetry. [I should note that the SPT space in Oakland is perfect—intimate and cozy and easy to get to—and the brighter and friendlier environment is certainly reflected in my memories!].

Here's what I remember:

*Brazil and I discussing the "Lacerator of the Heart" in Agamben's essay "*Se" from Potentialities on the way to the reading—how metal the phrase sounds—only to be reminded of a conversation we had only a week or so earlier in which Brazil divulged his Carl-Schmitt-inspired metal band name "Nomos Basileus" ("The law as king") and then I tried to find him the right metal font in hopes of making a t-shirt or something...

*Durback sitting on the floor writing sentences on Post-It notes, explaining how she lost her wallet and how she'd have to cancel all of her credit cards after writing on said Post-It notes. Also how calm and smiley she was for someone who had just lost a wallet...

*Durback's super cool cousin explaining how there's no money in theoretical physics!

*Durback not being a "book artist"

*David Woloch's shaking knees while assuming a very uncomfortable-looking stress position...

*Woloch's vertical bowing motion he sometimes does when reading poems...also very metal

*Everyone admiring Rich Owen's beautiful limited-edition broadside of Laura Elrick's poem "Methane Sea"

*Explaining to everyone that Rich inked each broadside by hand in an unheated shed during an appropriately frigid winter night in Maine just for the reading...

*Laura Elrick introducing a poem about "speed" or "the compression of social space" or something, and then saying something else totally brilliant and too speedily for me to write it down...


*The king is dead//pop//The king is dead

18 February 2011


Which is to say, don't drive to CCA in the City! All the SPT readings this season are pretty badass, but this one promises to be a real dusie! David Wolach, Laura Elrick, and Lara Durback sharing the stage, with a special limited edition broadside of Elrick's poem "Methane Sea" printed especially for the occasion by (also badass) printer/poet/one-time-Jerseyian/current-Maineian Rich Owens.

Here's a detail of the broadside to whet yr. appetite:

And here's the rub:
Friday, February 18 · 7:30pm
Macky Hall, CCA Oakland
5212 Broadway
Oakland, CA
entrance: $8-10/members FREE

David Wolach is editor of Wheelhouse Magazine & Press and an active participant in Nonsite Collective. Wolach's first full-length poetry collection, Occultations, has just been published by Black Radish Books. Other books include the multi-media transliteration plus chapbook, Prefab Eulogies Volume 1: Nothings Houses (BlazeVox [books], 2010), the full-length Hospitalogy (chapbook forth. from Scantily Clad Press, 2011), and book alter(ed) (Ungovernable Press, 2009). A former union organizer and performing artist out of New York, Wolach’s work often begins as site-specific and interactive performance and ends up as shaped, written language. Recent work appears in Jacket, Augfabe, Try Magazine, No Tell Motel, and Little Red Leaves. Wolach is professor of text arts, poetics, and aesthetics at The Evergreen State College, co-curating the PRESS text arts & radical politics series there, and is visiting professor in Bard College’s Workshop In Language & Thinking. He's currently touring with his Olympia-based experimental performance ensemble, performing Kenneth Gaburo's opus Maledetto alongside original cross-media work from the eight full-time members.

Laura Elrick’s latest project is a book-length poem, as yet untitled, that explores the relationship between speed (social time) and utterance; translations and affective condensations occur in the tiny caverns between the compulsion toward language and the patrolling of intelligible expressive registers. She also recently coordinated Blocks Away, a psychogeography of Lower Manhattan, some documentation of which will be displayed in The Skybridge Art and Sound Space at The New School in Spring 2011. Previous work includes the video/poem Stalk (“part dystopian urban cartography, part spatial-poetic intervention”), as well a set of 5 audio pieces for doubled-voice. She has also written two books of poetry: Fantasies in Permeable Structures (Factory School 2005) and sKincerity (Krupskaya 2003), and an essay “Poetry, Ecology, and the Reappropriation of Lived Space,” which can be found in the Eco Language Reader (2010) and online at The Brooklyn Rail. She currently teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Lara Durback is a notebook writer, using handwriting primarily, and that means walking around and writing. Public transportation is a big part of that city writing. You can find recent work with and without handwriting in WORK, Try, There Journal, etc. Also look for her work on Deep Oakland.org. She is also a letterpress printer, and manages the Book Art studio at Mills College. She has recently finished printing the book Picture Cameras with Ariel Goldberg using only repurposed materials (NoNo Press).

15 February 2011

Meta-Discourse and the (Post-) Digital Book

The following is a short excerpt from Thom Donovan's talk "Meta-Discourse and the (Post-) Digital Book (How The Hole Is Still Being Made)" which he delivered this past Friday for Margaret Konkol's Small Press in the Archive lecture series at SUNY Buffalo. I recommend digesting this slowly! Here's Thom:

The book that I have in mind, contra a variety of recent conceptual poetry projects, wishes to destabilize the book not as a commentary on the book’s ontological transformation through digital technologies per se, or the cultural capital of poetry publications per se, or a network of institutions and technologies that undergird poetry as an institution per se. Rather, the cybernetic preoccupations of The Hole wish, like Dana’s work, or say those forthcoming by Suzanne Stein or Brandon Brown (which are being published by Displaced Press in the same series as The Hole), to evidence the book as an unstable object re/distributing affective, intellectual, and social materials (or events?) among an elective affinity of singularities. It also, via a kind of becoming archival, wishes to counter the effects of certain conceptual strategies taken up in writing after the work of 60s and 70s visual art discourse, a discourse often accused by its opponents and detractors of positing a “tomb-like” theatre for art via its archival tendencies.

How to instill the book with living presences that may bear witness to a set of social constellations and coordinates without doing harm to the participants/what has been offered through often unreflective and spontaneous forms of participation? How to resist this move as a gesture invested with cultural capital or as a move in a kind of art game while still being able to reflect critically upon it, or simply acknowledge its tendencies? The prefaces that I intend to include within The Hole, in this regard, reflect both the content of the would-be book, but also how the book is always a kind of performance within a discourse, and specifically as this performance is addressed to one’s peers, friends, and contemporaries (if only after the fact). How not to render lame (or dead) a process that one loves (or has loved) and wishes to further extend? How to circumvent the inevitable tendency for such ‘projects’ to become captured by staid forms of institutionalization, archivalism, or academic research; the negative forms of distribution and critical reception that pervade both commercial and academic culture (however much all of us work in relation to these cultural locations)?

Nor do I think that this kind of book is without precedent. In fact, can’t we read many of Jack Spicer’s books ‘cybernetically,’ as forming a kind of (negative and positive) feedback loop with his community. And can’t we read, as many Spicer scholars have done, Spicer’s reluctance to publish in certain formats and venues as an acknowledgment of the crisis that all authors face when they recognize the fact that their work is largely, if not wholly, socially produced, and that the book-coming-to-be-a-book threatens the very living presence or process of sociality the author would wish to presence through the book? Likewise could we not look to Larry Eigner’s circumstance or Hannah Weiner’s in a similar way, where their severe physical and mental disabilities gave form to writing practices radically reliant and porous to their social milieus, including the technologies that made the production and limited reception/distribution of their works possible (for Eigner, the typewriter and various assistants; for Weiner, a psychotic intermedia in reference to the practices and lifestyles of Downtown contemporaries)?

The book I have in mind raises the specter of coterie, a dynamic that does not cease to replicate itself wherever cultural capital accrues on the outskirts of official communal-institutional formations. With this would-be book, I have asked only certain people to participate, and my procedure has always been (as much as I would like to have included many others) that I should only ask dedicatees and addressees of the poems to offer feedback. So if coterie appears at all, it functions through a constraint—the fact that certain texts were generated in a feedback loop with certain others texts, correspondences, and exchanges. Coterie, I would like to think, is something also potentially destabilized through The Hole.

Something else that this book responds to, which has been a kind of foil for me when I have written about the ‘task of the critic’, or simply about what criticism can do provided with a different function than it currently tends to have with regards to production/reception/distribution, are ways that a book, magazine, critical venue, classroom, poetry reading or other location for poetry’s production/reception/distribution can function through care. What, in other words, is the social-communal value of a book, rather than its value as an object which makes actual and visible unavoidable forms of cultural and real capital? How can the book extend dialogue, conversation, discourse rather than capital (real and imaginary)? How, in an age of Web 3.0, can the physical book engage the cybernetic tendencies of new media, in which participation is largely dependent on certain qualities of attention eroded within our current public sphere? The book I have in mind is a kind of model for forms of attention and exchange (i.e., distribution) that already exist and which can be dramatized and focused through a books’ form (something book artists have been aware of for a long time now, but which has also been a part of our Modernist heritage since the mid 20th century, if not from the very ‘beginning’—think of certain movements of Zukofsky’s “A” for example, or Williams’s Paterson). The book as a site for our sociality, our socialism. The book as a site for the examination of complicity, process, exchange. The book as a place where communal issues become shaped and reshaped. The book as a powerful circuit of mutual regard, conviction, and care. The book as a model of radical and extensive participation.

14 February 2011

The Perverse Library

Craig Dworkin's brilliant new project, The Perverse Library (Information as Material), arrived by post a few days back, and the timing couldn't be more perfect as I face the daunting task of packing my own library for a weekend move.

The book begins with the essay "Pinacographic Space," a Benjaminian reflection on the library and its uses, including the following speculative gem:

"As the library reaches after that phantom shelf, accumulating and aggregating, it extends not only its conceptual scope but its volumetric expanse as well. The collateral effect of the concept of a library is architectural colonization. Left unchecked, a library will venture wall-space in an horizontal sprawl and a stratifying climb. It will annex any likely surface and even essay a stake to entire rooms. A library is print in its gaseous state, filling every available space and then increasing pressurecompressing, rotating, double-shelvinguntil, according to the constant required by Boyle's Law, either the current container breaks, loosing books onto new shelves and stacks, or else the volume stabilises, stabilizing volume."

Dworkin recounts a conversation with a colleague (who, upon investigating Craig's library claims, "This is a very perverse library...Very perverse") in order to meditate on what might truly constitute a perverse library (rather than, say, perverse content). His opening gambit is a rumination on the possibility that the library is defined more by its exclusions than by what's on the shelves, making it a kind of micro-canonical argument by association: "The Perverse Library, accordingly, argues for a particular canon. An architectural plan, it maps a set of shelves rather than exhaustively cataloguing every printed possession."

And Dworkin provides such a plan by presenting two separate possible libraries: "A Perverse Library" and "The Perverse Library," each a carefully selected glimpse into his own shelves, selected by a criterion left to the reader's imagination. I found myself examining the list exhaustively in an effort to create a possible taxonomysomething that might betray the commonalities of this seemingly arbitrary bibliography. Which got me thinking that, as organizational strategies go, even the stack on the desk betrays a kind of discrete series, if only as evidence of one's current obsessions.

While there's a lot to think about here, I admit that my favorite moment is Craig's brave admission to huffing binding glue (an activity for which we apparently share an enthusiasm!):

"I am particularly drawn, with a sort of morose delectation, to a certain British binding glue, brittling even when it's new, which fumes in a deliciously overwhelming aerosol of kerosene and industry: first, a fugacious heady hydrocarbon rush of sinus linings flushed, mucus and natural oils vaporized in the vacuum flash of a chemical desiccant, and then, a long finish leaving the tingle of brain cells dying out along the fringes of the temple."

Essential for anyone interested in the possibilities of the archive...

12 February 2011

Inquire Within

Jocelyn Saidenberg and Tanya Hollis will be performing at the Right Window Gallery in the Mission today (Saturday, 2/12) from 2:00-4:00 pm.

Here's the description from Right Window:

An epistolary performance—repository composition—indexical installation

How the Citizen subjects herself in front of the Bureaucrat who states the formularies, (the files that table her subjection), only to find therein the Archivist filing her rubrics of emancipation.

Performed and created by Tanya Hollis and Jocelyn Saidenberg with the help of Wendy Kramer. Table handcrafted by Mari Collins.

Open hours: Saturday, February 5, 12, and 26, 2011, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM.

Please inquire within.

11 February 2011

Tonight: Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Maxi Kim, and Jackqueline Frost // NOW WITH LIMITED EDITION BROADSIDE!

Please join us tonight (Friday, 2/11) for the second Small Press Traffic event of the season: "At the Borders: Intersections of Politics and Practice" with readings and discussions by Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Maxi Kim, and special guest Jackqueline Frost.

Word on the street is Juliette is a powerhouse on the stage, and Jackqueline promises to provide a "spectacle" of some kind! Don't sleep!

Additionally, I'm happy to announce that most SPT readings this season will feature a special, limited-edition broadside printed especially for the event! The Small Press Traffic Printer's Corps is a loose collective of printer/poets who've committed to designing and printing something specifically to help support SPT! I'll unveil the first of these broadsides tonight (teaser detail above!), Andrew Rippeon's totally masterful rendition of some lines from Juliette Lee. This broadside features no less than 5 runs through the press along with some tricky printing on the backside of type and a hand-carved wood block! Andrew is the editor of P-Queue and Queue Books and a brilliant poet in his own right. If you'd like a copy of the broadside (while supporting one of the most important reading series in the country!) but can't make the reading, we hope to have some available through the website soon. Collect them all!

Here are the details:
Timken Hall,CCA SF
1111 8th Street
event begins at 7:30pm
entrance is $8-15/members FREE

Sueyeun Juliette Lee grew up three miles from the CIA. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she edits Corollary Press (www.corollarypress.org), a chapbook series devoted to multi-ethnic experimental writing. Her books include That Gorgeous Feeling (Coconut Books) and Underground National (Factory School). She is a contributing editor of EOAGH and is at work on her doctoral dissertation examining the nexus between visual arts movements, critical theory, and Asian American poetry.

Born and raised in Kwangju, a then-revolutionary site of the 1980 South Korean uprising, Maxi Kim has a master’s from USC’s Rossier School of Education and a master’s in Critical Studies from California Institute of the Arts. Author of One Break, A Thousand Blows, Kim’s forthcoming book Did Somebody Say North Korea? confronts one of the pervasive myths of our time: that North Korea is a Confucian-Communist regime led by a Stalinist dictator that will, with time, disintegrate like the Soviet Union. In fact, North Korea, in our standard ideological spectrum is much closer to Nazism than to Marxism. Much like Hitler’s Third Reich, Kim Jong-il’s North Korea can’t be understood without understanding its racial worldview and “fascist” aesthetic principles. Debunking the current “end of history” model of international relations promoted by both humanist academics and the current political establishment, Maxi Kim offers Art as a new road map for “returning to history” by confronting East Asia’s totalitarian slave state.

Jackqueline was raised in Lafayette, Louisiana and has lived in five southern states, (and Indiana.) Her poetry and fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Try!, Big Bridge, Swan's Rag, Adios Pelota! and Peach & Bats. She co-curates the Condensery Reading Series in Oakland. With the art-collective, Hail, Jackqueline collaboratively scripts and choreographs multi-media performances and has played in the East Bay bands The Delicate Situation and Pine. She is a student of creative writing and philosophy at Mills College.

10 February 2011

Tan Lin's Seven Controlled Vocabularies

"Everything that is beautiful is a code for something that is already known. Nothing should be unknown."

08 February 2011

R.I.P. Greta VanWinkle

Katja and I adopted Greta back in 2005 after seeing her picture posted by a dachshund rescue organization. At the time, we were living in a super tiny one bedroom apartment in Buffalo where pets were strictly prohibited, so we moved in order to adopt her. When we first touched base with the rescue organization, we were certain she'd be unavailable as someone, somewhere must have fallen in love with her like we did! But as it turned out, not a single person expressed interest in the many months she had been listed. According to her file, she was found near a rest stop somewhere in the middle of Ohio, and given her scars and tumors she was most certainly used as a breeding dog at a neighboring puppy mill. We adopted her at the age of 12 (or thereabouts), hoping for at least five good years together. Having spent almost every day with her over the past 5 and a half years, this goal now seems terribly and tragically short-sighted.

In 2007, after two years of blissful cohabitation, Greta slipped a disc in her spine and lost mobility in her back legs. It took us awhile to adjust to becoming caretakers of a paralyzed dog, but we worked together (the three of us) and learned how to balance the different demands and pressures. Caring for her became part of our daily routine: in fact, I think it's fair to say she was with either Katja or myself nearly 24 hours a day.

We adopted her right as I was starting my orals examinations at SUNY Buffalo, and she was literally right next to me (often in my lap!) as I spent years writing a dissertation. She watched me read and write and she listened to every record I listened to, often intently (she particularly loved ambient and minimalist music, especially the Pop Ambient collection on Kompakt which put her to sleep almost immediately!). In some ways, I feel like she earned her graduate degree as well, if only through a combination of raw hours spent and osmosis.

While it was often challenging to care for her, especially as she grew older and lost her eyesight, Katja and I commited to keeping her comfortable until the bitter end. She passed Saturday morning on one of those beautiful and surreal California afternoons when the weather is almost preternaturally perfect and the light makes everything look way more alive and vibrant than they actually are. Many of you met Greta over the years, and I hope you'll join us in sending positive energy her way as she starts her new journey without us.

My heart is completely and utterly broken. She will be sorely, sorely missed by those who loved her. Without having known her, I would be much less of a lot of things: less compassionate, less patient, less understanding, less intuitive, less loved. Which is to say she made me feel much more human. 

02 February 2011

New E-Books by Stephen Ratcliffe

I've been hard at work on a short critical piece on Stephen Ratcliffe's Reading the Unseen: (Offstage) Hamlet (Counterpath, 2010), and I was reminded that his crucial long poems (thousands of pages of them, actually) are now available online.

You can find Remarks on Color/Sound at Craig Dworkin's Eclipse here.

You can also read Cloud/Ridge and Human/Nature over at Kenny Goldsmith's special feature "Publishing the Unpublishable" on UbuWeb.

Eventually folks will get the picture that Ratcliffe is way ahead of the curve in investigating the relationship between minimalism and maximalism as they relate to the 21st-century long poem. In fact, I'd argue he's just about the only poet writing today thinking about this question. Read 20 or so pages of Human/Nature once a day for a month, and then listen to a ton of Phill Niblock and see if you can tell the difference. Don't sleep...