Thursday, February 16, 2017

For Opacity: Visceral Poetics Now

"We clamor for the right to opacity for everyone."
- Édouard Glissant, "For Opacity" (tr. Betsy Wing)

A symposium that continues the collective work of Poetics of Healing and takes Eleni Stecopoulos's Visceral Poetics (ON Contemporary Practice, 2016) as a point of departure for new writing & dialogue to treat these times. Readings & performances may engage opacity & transparency; anti-imperial & anti-colonial poetics; "the chronic syndrome of the West"; healing & somatic practices; mother tongues & mongrel tongues; otherness & immigrant poetics; the writing of Antonin Artaud, Édouard Glissant & others. 

Hosted by: Stecopoulos & Thom Donovan, co-editor of ON Contemporary Practice for The Poetry Project.

Appearances by: Cornelia Barber, Charles Bernstein, Melissa Buzzeo, Declan Gould, Jeanne Heuving, Madhu Kaza, Robert Kocik, Liz Latty, Andrew Levy, Sean Labrador y Manzano, EJ McAdams, Marissa Perel, Kristin Prevallet, George Quasha & Emji Spero.

Statements or video by: Will Alexander, Brenda Iijima, Mg Roberts & TBA.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Resist Much / Obey Little

Inaugural Poems to the Resistance
Edited by Michael Boughn, John Bradley, Brenda Cardenas, Lynne DeSilva-Johnson,  Kass Fleisher, Roberto Harrison, Kent Johnson, Andrew Levy, Nathaniel Mackey, Ruben Medina, Philip Metres, Julie Patton, Margaret Randall, Michael Rothenberg, Chris Stroffolino, Anne Waldman, Marjorie Welish, Tyrone Williams

ISBN 978-1-944682-32-3       740 pages      $30.00

we can’t build a wall. we can only spout pure water again and again and drown his lies.
         Eileen Myles

Racism, xenophobia, misogyny and their related malaises are to the U.S. what whiskey is to an alcoholic. The current occupant of the White House won the election yipping, against possible recovery, “Drinks are on me!” The rich, multitudinous voices in this anthology variously call for—having embarked on—the hard work of sobriety, sanity.
         Nathaniel Mackey

Poets are summoned to a stronger imagination of language and humanity in a time of new and radical Weathers. White House Inc. is the last gasp of the dying Confederacy, but its spectacle is dangerous and addictive so hold onto your mind. Fascism loves distraction. Keep the world safe for poetry. Open the book of love and resistance. Don't tarry!
         Anne Waldman

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Now, More Than Ever

This Now, More Than Ever 
Feb 9 – Mar 3, 2017 
SFU Gallery 

EVENT: Reading, Dialogue, Coffee with Steve Collis, Karine Ng/Jayce Salloum, Jerry Zaslove 
SAT Feb 18, 2017, 1PM 
SFU Gallery 

Amir Atouani / Awa Dembele-Yeno / Léa Incorvaia / Mico Mazza, Lorna Brown, Clint Burnham, Adrienne Callander / Neil Callander, Dana Claxton, Brady Cranfield / Jamie Hilder, Thom Donovan, Samir Gandesha, Rosemary Heather, Antonia Hirsch, Am Johal, John O’Brian / Marina Roy, Marianne Nicolson, Karine Ng / Jayce Salloum, Genevieve Robertson, Carol Sawyer, Michael Turner, Althea Thauberger, Kika Thorne, Peter von Tiesenhausen, Urban Subjects, Tania Willard, and Jerry Zaslove, among others. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

EP 83 RADIO 11.8.16

In the wake of an election that solidified our country’s many disconnects, we invited our authors to share their responses to the hatred triggered by Trump.
The intention of this project is two-part: (1) to create a time capsule for our gut reactions to this political season, a collection we can return to when we feel complacency or forgetfulness settling; (2) to make use of the unique capacities and freedoms of the essay to explore the dichotomies of bipartisanship, and to integrate personal responses with societal facts.
with Susanne Paola Antonetta, Diana Arterian, Dan Beachy-Quick, Steve BensonLaynie BrowneJulie CarrNicole CooleyMatthew CoopermanJennifer Kwon DobbsThom DonovanLeora FridmanAnna Gurton-Wachter, Joseph Harrington, H.L. Hix, Aby Kaupang CoopermanJH PhrydasBt ShawJessica Smith, Sasha Steensen, Sophia TerazawaTony Trigilio, and Nicole Walker

Friday, January 20, 2017

"Post-recognition" and art questionnaire

—How have and do artists position themselves beyond recognition?
—Does the artist have a privileged role to play in seeking a society beyond the recognition of the State?
—In what practical ways do artists function beyond the State: e.g., through what daily economic, social, and extra/legislative practices and modalities?
—How do the formal qualities and content of art works reflect the problem of post/recognition?
—Is there an aesthetics of “direct action” and extra-legal political actions that intersects with the problems and questions of aesthetic discourse?
—Inasmuch as State recognition relies on the concomitant recognition of the marketplace (capital) and the university, how might artists exist without currently dominant markets and liberal institutions?
—Should art have a different social function than it currently maintains and/or aspires to? 
—Can strategies that we associate with non-Statist political blocs and subjectivities—e.g., mutual aide, group self-determination and governance, practices of everyday resistance and collective insurgency—be pursued through an art practice and/or aesthetic discourse?
—To what extent is art history/contemporary aesthetic discourse categorically embroiled with recognition politics, thus beholden to political formations and subjective enunciations determined by the politics of the Neo/liberal State?

Monday, January 02, 2017

from The Camp (or Camp Amerika)

The camp extends everywhere
comprising the exceptional jouissance

of suffering’s hyper-visibility, and general
dishonorment, and natal alienation

and gratuitous violence, but also en-
compassing what we do everyday

without interruption
                                    while our wills

to this public sentiment called progress
and participation and democracy

survive the president being cooler than
any who preceded him, this coolness 

being precisely what should have worried us
while I.C.E. was being built-up.

The camp is a function of constitutionality
and not giving a fuck really except when

it concerns us to do so.
                                    It is otherwise un-

concerned with freedom, except the freedom
to not be fucked with by others and to critique

identity selectively (Locke 101).
It views our freedom in other words negatively,

freedom being the denial of others' capacity to
fuck with us but it also views our freedom

                 retaining notions such as universal

human rights and the public sphere when
we know quite well (or we only pretend not to)

whose interests these conceptions serve and
who gets excluded by the practice of law.

Like the Black Codes did not endure, or the
flesh, or we did not know exactly where the

detainees were interned,
                                      though they transmit no

sound and how can you listen anyway to some-
thing no one wants to hear because it would take

more than ears to hear it,
                                        by which I mean, one

would have to act in the world as though they
had registered social death as fundamental, as

though they had ears with which to see the musique
concrete of forced feeding.

As if one’s conscience itself were on mute—that’s
what it feels like to live in the camp which is

everywhere and yet no place in particular,
sensing only our differential places within it,

distinguished by the whiteness of mobility, and

wealth, and history—by the capacity of art, of poesy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On Jibade-Khalil Huffman's "Stanza"

The newest issue of BOMB has a little feature I did on Jibade-Khalil Huffman's extraordinary video installation, "Stanza."

from The Refusal

Akademie Schloss Solitude, where a couple years back I was a fellow, has published part of a longer poem of mine regarding the vicissitudes of "refusal" for their series about art and politics, Schlossghost.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dictionary of the Possible

Over the course of a year Shifter hosted a series of public discussions, each concentrated on unraveling a keyword – a term that carries with it both a sense of urgency and agency in our present climate. By inviting artists, writers, activists, philosophers and others to propose terms and lead discussions, we opened up our editorial process to the motivations of others. The yearlong series culminates in Shifter's 22nd issue Dictionary of the Possible. This dictionary catalogs the keywords taken up for discussion over the course of a year, accompanied by a list of questions provoked during each discussion. Rather than providing static definitions we envision a dictionary that continually incites discussion.

Abhishek Hazra, Adam Spanos, Alison O’Daniel, Allan deSouza, Amanda Parmer, Andrea Geyer, Andrew Weiner, Annika Thiem, Arlen Austin, Atul Bhalla, Avi Alpert, Billy Galperin, Brendan Fernandes, Brian Block, Cassandra Guan, Chelsea Knight, Chitra Ganesh, Colin Jager, Colleen Macklin, Danilo Correale, Devin Kenny, Dominic Pettman, Dwayne Dixon, Francesca Coppola, Edward Schexnayder, Eric Angles, Gabriel Rockhill, Géraldine Gourbe, Henry Turner, Hong-An Truong, Jane Jin Kaisen, Jaret Vadera, Kajsa Dahlberg, Kanishka Raja, Keith Tilford, Lana Lin, Lauren Denitzio, Leah DeVun, Lindsay Benedict, Liz Park, Margarita Sánchez, Mari Cruz Alarcón, Matthew Metzger, Mériam Korichi, Mimi Winick, Mira Schor, Molly Dilworth, Mylo Mendez, Naeem Mohaiemen, Nick Keys, Oliver Kellhammer, Philipp Kleinmichel, Pushpamala N, Railbird, Raphael Zollinger, Raqs Media Collective, Rebecca Alpert, Research Service, Rey Chow, Rit Premnath, Roger White, Shadi Harouni, Siddhartha Lokanandi, Steffani Jemison, Sudha Premnath, Tara Kelton, Terike Haapoja, Thom Donovan, Tyler Coburn, Veronika Zink, Will Lee, Yamini Nayar, Zac Gunter
Sreshta Rit Premnath, Avi Alpert

Monday, November 21, 2016

Halmos' Contemporary Print Handbook

The Contemporary Print Handbook is a textbook for studio printmaking, with a focus on lithography. The book renovates print terminology, both new and old methods of technique, theory, and modes of dissemination, as well as the economy of the multiple within feminist terms that engage abundance, plurality, and care. Contributors include Transformazium, Maddy Varner, Suzanne Herrera, Thom Donovan, Corinn Gerber, and Erik Wyzocan, edited by Cara Benedetto, published with Halmos.

Sunday, November 13, 2016



Today Ted posted a picture of someone in a Big Bird costume sitting on a park bench in Central Park, holding a package (or is it all of their worldly possessions?) in their lap. I wrote in the comments of Ted’s post: “allegory.” Big Bird—symbol of childhood and public broadcasting—getting the fuck out of this hell dimension. Allegory of the public sphere’s withdrawal.

For many years it felt like the ground was slipping from under my feet—the erosion of civil liberties under W. Bush, the destruction of society through neoliberalism, governance through debt—until I realized there never was any ground. America was never great. As I told my students yesterday, you cannot found a country on genocide and slave labor and not expect for it to eventually self-destruct. Exceptionality has always been constitutionality’s greatest myth.

The title of this book holds many connotations. Withdrawn: as in, a depressive or anti-social psychological state; an occultation of the senses; a period of suspended use of a controlled substance; to exit, or to pull away; to become isolated, alienated; to retreat; to take or bear away. So finally, perhaps, begins the real withdrawal—from aesthetics into politics, from a false sense of being grounded to pondering the lack of ground under our feet—necessitated by an event that had not been so much unthinkable or unimaginable as unactualized.

Yesterday I wanted to write on Facebook (and my wanting to write on Facebook is very likely part of the problem): It was everyone’s fault. Not just for not stopping Trump, but for not stopping Obama, and before him W. Bush, and before him Bill Clinton, and before him Bush senior, and before him Reagan… and so on and so forth through a chain of presidents since the nation’s founding. I wanted to write also, and I write now: My poetry is a failure. The books I have written are failures. This book is a failure, because they have not made the necessary demands on our conscience. I wanted my books to constitute a “commons.” I wanted them to “prefigure” a world we “would want.” I wanted them to “punctuate clock time differently.” But as my friend Brian curses in his book Face Down, implicating my practice across a span of books and years and conversations, “Fuck these tiny holes." A strategy of “counter-distribution” was never enough. Bringing "life" from an online environment into a bound codex was never enough. Creating the community to which I wished “to belong in my dreams” was not enough.

And yet, at the risk of creating an alibi for myself, I believe that Withdrawn: a Discourse may trouble the way art (and poetry) is typically conceived as “autonomous” from social life, if not politics itself. As the epigraphs go:

My study began with Rimbaud and what I took to be Rimbaud’s flight from l’être poète: a flight that took shape, as I came to realize not with his famous silence, his departure for Africa, but in 1870 when he wrote his first poem. Rimbaud left literature before he even got there.
—Kristin Ross

In the names away in blocks
with double names to interrupt
and gather
—Fred Moten

Written under the influence of Kristin Ross’ The Emergence of Social Space: Arthur Rimbaud and the Paris Commune and Fred Moten’s B Jenkins, the book attempts to create a space where poetry can disappear through its occasion, its sociopolitical contexts, and the nexus of relations that it actively constructs through dedication, interlocution, and modes of address. To present the discourse in lieu of the poems. For an exchange among proper names to be objectless. For the poems qua objects to be occluded, leaving what we say to each other, if not what we do, unreified. “Life is what escapes,” Moten writes after Michel Foucault. That Withdrawn has yet to appear and perhaps never will would now seem a perverse accomplishment of this ‘project’.

Yet, Not an Alternative’s contribution to the book correctly warns that participatory art can itself become reifying. Discourse can become a fetish without action in socio-political space. Generously, Brian Holmes’ essay in the book posits that Withdrawn is an attempt to establish a “missing matrix of mutual self-recognition” within “the rhythm of punctuated outbursts that composes a not-so-secret history.” However he also admonishes that “[t]he obvious problem, which climate change reveals, is that it is really getting a little too late to continually return to living in the gaps between such explosions.” In other words, the intensification of cycles of crisis troubles the luxury of protracted reflection represented by my attempt to posit a dreamy cohort—my team, my band, my commune, my friends.

In his proleptic review of Withdrawn included in Withdrawn: a Discourse, Ian Dreiblatt playfully imagines me like St. Anthony retreating to the desert, absconded from Empire, holding court among acolytes, pilgrims, and fellow exiles. Teaching most of all has saved me from the fate of the recluse. Teaching and a tenuous sense of community after the precarious birth of my daughter two years ago when it became nearly impossible to be communal and public and generous in the ways I was previously. We need to withdraw sometimes to ground ourselves. To have the resources intellectually and imaginatively that can prepare us for the unactualized.

Nearly two months ago Dottie and I had a cancer scare with our daughter. After performing an ultrasound and an MRI doctors couldn’t discern whether a vascular tumor on my daughter’s left arm was malignant. In the days following her surgery, I imagined what I would do if they discovered cancer. I imagined losing her and what it would mean to live in a world without my daughter. Should she die, I was determined to live my life differently in her absence. My friend Rob correctly recognized the possibility of her death opening a space for fantasy related to my capacity for world-forming. She was not diagnosed with cancer—thank goodness—but a residue of those fantasies remains. They are activated again by the situation we find ourselves in. If the world is in fact lost what should we create in its place? If God has withdrawn, an image so central to Jewish and Islamic antinomianism, what laws should we observe? What will command and compel us?

Or, as Aime Cesaire writes in his Cahier:

What can I do?

One must begin somewhere.

Begin what?

The only thing in the world
worth beginning:
The End of the world of course.

Perhaps now that neoliberalism has revealed its dark underbelly we must finally do the work that Cesaire implored us to do all along. To bring about the “End of the world,” which is to say, of racist, misogynist, xenophobic, settlerist capital.


America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.
                        —Robert Creeley

Let us all survive, who need to OK?
And we wish each other luck!
                        —Amiri Baraka

One of the central presumptions of Robert Creeley’s poem “America” which I question is his use of the plural pronoun “we,” having recourse to “we” myself in many of the poems of Withdrawn. To whom does this refer? Whom is this “we” inclusive of? Who is “the People” invented by America, presumably by the Constitution? Who are the people it “took”? It is unfortunately not clear, and this lack of clarity is a problem. Amiri Baraka’s particularity in “Who Will Survive America” is refreshing in this regard. For it is only the “Black Man” who will survive in America. Not “Negroes,” not “Crackers,” not “Christians,” not “Red Negroes.” The distinction is not merely divisive. Rather, an Afro-Pessimist avant la lettre, Baraka recognizes a central antagonism between “White” and “Black” paradigms, and it is the former which, for both Wilderson and Baraka, cannot survive. Whiteness must die, and we are now finally forced to kill it once and for all, lest we all perish.  

Who this “we” will be constituted by is something I have been struggling with. Specifically, how and whether it might include me. Both Withdrawn and its companion book are thoroughly entangled with the problem of collectivity, and specifically what it means for the poem to be a locus for collective enunciation, mutuality, and exchange. But a “we” has limits, as I discovered the hard way when I gave a reading last year at the home of friends in Ypsilanti, Michigan. For writing through the “we” in relation to Black Lives Matter and in memory of the many Black people who have been murdered by police I was taken to task by audience members, none of whom, interestingly enough, were Black. A year later I am haunted by the question of whether my art can claim solidarity with others differentiated by their vulnerability to premature death.

Ultimately, I don’t know what I would do without interlocutors, people to think and talk with, a “we” both constituted in fantasy and reality. Withdrawn and Withdrawn: a Discourse bear out this compulsion. Art objects and texts I encounter often become guides—both in the spiritual and geographic sense. They are orientating intellectually, morally, and emotionally. Encounters with others often seem evental and catalyze occasions for poetry. George Oppen writes that “other voices wake us or we drown,” emending T.S. Eliot’s original and to an or. The folks gathered in this book are ones who have woken me in different ways, at various stages of my life. Having written with them in Withdrawn, through a sense of identification and solidarity, I write to them in Withdrawn: a Discourse, as a means of dramatizing exchange. I realize that there is nothing very extraordinary about this: we all write to each other, poets especially, and an age of social media has made us more garrulous than ever. However through this project I wanted to honor this writing to and writing with as central aspects of whatever can be called ‘my practice.’ The result is a metadiscourse: a reflection, framing, or amplification of the act of discourse itself.