Monday, July 07, 2014

The Gift of Death

It's the opening. We're basking in language itself. The silence of my friend. My love. The one beyond words in her silence.

Lucy, when you waited until we got to the vet’s office to bleed-out on me, and when I thought that your blood was piss or shit pooling in my flip-flop, this was so typical of you, you never whimpered until that last day, your “one bad day” the vet kept repeating in hopes of consoling me

In this totally unsanitary way all I wanted was to mix your blood with mine, keep feeling its warmth on my foot and not wash it off, the memories of the dead being what fuels every revolution inside us, which is to say, it is love that truly accounts for any permanent sense of revolution

I couldn’t contaminate myself enough with what blood was supposed to keep apart, with what the heart and love’s eyes were supposed to index, a repulsion I was never to have in fact felt at a body for that moment an extension of my own, as if you were dying to tell me I was not singular.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Robert Kocik's A Book of Protections & AUSKO (gain)

In celebration of Ubiquitous Dividend at this year's River to River Festival (sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Counsel and Poets House) ON has produced a companion volume to Robert Kocik's SUPPLE SCIENCE. A Book of Protections includes reproductions of drawings Kocik composed in fall 2013, for the pre-order of SUPPLE SCIENCE. For more information about Ubiquitous Dividend go here and here. We are also posting a PDF of one of Kocik's earliest works, AUKSO (gain), published by Robert Fitterman's Object magazine in 1995, including an afterword by Stacy Doris. AUKSO (gain) inaugurates ON's new Reissues series.

It's night in San Francisco but it's Sunny in Oakland

Preorder here

What would it mean to take a snapshot of a large and various literary milieu after a moment of intense activism and struggle? It’s night in San Francisco but it’s sunny in Oakland includes a fair amount of post/Occupy poems, but also writings which channel the historical exigencies of Bay Area poetics—from SF Renaissance, through Beat, New Narrative, Lang Po, and less identifiable movements and genealogies. Many of these poems remind us that we are in a time after ‘the event’ in which life inevitably goes on, and more reflective modalities concerning the care for self and the sustainability of certain community dynamics and friendships set in. The heterogeneity of practices speaks less to a ‘movement’ or inclusive community than an ecology in which divergent practices can complement and support one another, gathering instead around the problem of how one might continue to struggle, plan, and study collectively—in anticipation of events to come.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Notebook 3/2012

Exercise for a disabled practice

1.     Imagine your daily routine. What is something you do everyday that you take for granted? A movement? A way of interacting with others in space? How is the world around you constructed to accommodate this way of being in the world? How does language facilitate this experience?

4.     Design an exercise based on your daily routines—movement, language use, ways that you engage your senses, etc. Instruct yourself (or a body similar to yours) on how to make your environment unfamiliar. What constraints or procedures could estrange the daily rhythms of how you interact with the world? How can you use language to record or mediate this experience?

5.     Alternately, imagine a way that your body/person is already constrained or disabled by your environment. Design an exercise by which you (or one with a body similar to yourself) can use this constraint to make art or writing. How can writing/art accurately record/mediate/respond to ways you feel constrained by your social environment? Physically, mentally, and otherwise.

Projectivism and Disability Poetics

Charles Olson, in “Projective Verse,” calls for poets to attend the particularity of their own embodiment (breath, heartbeat, etc.) as source for the poem—its form. This is one way to look at “P.V.”; Olson naturalizes the poem as a site of extended embodiment. The poem is a measure of the person. He doesn’t mention whose body would be measured, though we can assume it is a normative one.

What happens when we look at Larry Eigner? [...] Eigner radicalizes Olson’s observation/injunction that the poet is one who dances in their chair; in other words, in place. That mobility (the dance) is an activity one performs on and through the page.

As [Michael] Davidson points out, Eigner’s work is intensely mobile (the grammar constantly shifts, suggesting multiple pivots or possibilities in which to move through the poem); whereas he spent much of his adult life confined to a wheelchair as a result of cerebral palsy, contracted at birth.

Eigner is often seen as a Projectivist poet, but what does his perceived projectivism mean in relation to Olson? How does his work, as a work of a disabled embodiment, radicalize Olson’s compositional prescriptions to extend content through form (where we may take the person’s difficulties with an ablest environment as the content in need/search of proper form).

My symptoms control the discourse.
--Jordan Scott

My body is the problem.
--Amber Di Pietra

Jordan Scott and Amber Di Pietra are two poets who radicalize Olsonian-Eignerian projectivism, where the poem becomes a site where their specific bodies extend themselves linguistically/performatively in relation to a/an (ableist) built/social environment.

Scott says in an interview that he never writes about his stutter, opting instead to write poems/scripts that will serve to enact speech dysfluency as a condition or symptom of his specific embodiment.

Using language that is difficult for him (and most people, for that matter) to pronounce, the stutter becomes a constraint providing that language with a new social value. As if a ‘failed’ virtuosity/elocution—or simply a non-absorbing one—becomes virtuosic. If in sound poetry historically one attends the voice alone—the voice as transmitter of an estranging content—Scott gives the voice back to a body. The voice becomes body again. Not logocentric, but the materialization of an irreducible presence.


Spontaneity: The difficulty of the script/poem—as something recitable (customized, as such) for Scott’s condition—enables spontaneity, surprise, suspense.  A difference between Scott and, say, Dada or Cage: that a physical condition is the source of the aleatory (chance operations, etc.). Not the imposition of a procedure. Discursion feeding back with the non-discursive (embodiment). Not a gestus, because Scott is not speaking through a set of cultural codes per se. Gestus can only be under (or over) determined. Is his an unalienated form of gestus? [Like all things involuntary.]

Di Pietra/Leto’s Waveform: A book of correspondence, poems/writings in process, found texts, texts about [their] medical conditions, theory…

What strikes me is how both writers are seeking language forms appropriate to their conditions—in Di Pietra case severe rheumatoid arthritis; in Leto’s, Parkinson’s.


Through their correspondence they are able to explore how their conditions necessitate different definitions of the writer. The writer, in Di Pietra's case, who cannot spend a lot of time in place, dancing in their chair, as it were.

Or, as Di Pietra asks in Waveform [to paraphrase]: What does it mean to insert one’s self in a genealogy of writers who have rigorously questioned and mistrusted identity (“experimental writing,” the avant-garde) when disability/activism often demands that one identify themselves?

Pain as constraint: Whereas Scott writes through speech dysfluency, Di Pietra and Leto write through pain as (a visceral form of) constraint. It is what forces them to write through a non-normative (non-ableist) set of circumstances; it also becomes that which they are trying to not merely describe or narrate, but essentialize through language (syntax, grammar). [Their work asks] [w]hat is a language form for the often unnameable/undescribeable experience of pain?

Constraint of the social/built environment: Di Pietra/Leto are also searching for forms that might accurately document and perform their experience of social environments and institutions unaccommodating to their specific bodies. How to foreground the language of these environments [which often involve legal and social institutions]?

Not struggling – improving poetry through the stutter – every mouth affected by limitations – limitation becomes useful, beautiful – “what is the utterance?” – how is it arrived at (not just what he’s saying) – the words he chose – [?] to pronouns – radical when read with such particularity – “what a poor, crawling thing you are” – “it is part of my existence to be a parasite to metaphors” – illogical, based on sound – each word evokes the next – showing that each word controls the next – “we will meet on the tongue” – philobytes – against communication – expressive code – lack of articles : creates a rhythm – “it is free but not without limitations” – drugs – makes you stutter – stutter as an undergoing – the reader undergoes the stutter as a discipline[ed] force – mouth-writing – not hand-writing – how deformalization can subject the poet to growth – the anatomy of a stutter

embracing a perceived disadvantage – what is utterance? – foregrounds stutter – stuttering, to go through it – to be forced to perform it – poked fun: “what a poor crawling thing you are” – a lot of the words used purely to draw-out his stutter 


Mis/hearing Poems:

1.     Listen to an album or multiple albums with notoriously difficult to discern lyrics. Transcribe the lyrics as you hear them. Fashion these misheard lyrics into a poem.
      Go to a busy intersection or place where you will hear multiple conversations occurring simultaneously. Record what you hear, fashioning it into a poem.
      With the volume off on a television set, attempt to provide speech for the characters. Doing this with a familiar soundtrack, invent new narrative possibilities.

[Taxonomy] of criticism

Anti-criticism: Criticism of criticism which functions against the typical uses of criticism for legitimation.

Motivated: A criticism of desire. Situated through desire, passion, intense autobiography.

For a discourse: Without ads. Magazines should serve as conversation. Magazines as archives of the present.

[Andrea] Fraser: A more honest criticism. One that does not make claims for art that can’t live up to them.

[Claire] Bishop: Resistance. Finding points of tension, places of antagonism. Doing the difficult thing, the wrong thing. Speaking truth to… power?

Exodus (I): Taking the conversation elsewhere. Outside the enclosures of art and performance institutions. Negation. [Withdrawal] Creating spaces that      will have been vital—abandoning them.

Recovery: To bring something out of submergence.

Exodus (II): Stop writing criticism. Put this energy (of critical reflection) elsewhere. Apply it somewhere else, as creative pressure.

Not me: ‘Crowdsourcing’ criticism. Publishing email (of others)/social media. Anything not me/’original’.

With: To make work as the criticism. A critical hybrid. Demonstration, gesture. Composition as explanation. To involve one’s self with the energies of it.

Slow (I): Not feeling the need to ‘keep up.’ With a processing. Feeling one can withdraw. (Walter Benjamin wrote that he would read the books that were out-of- fashion, that none of his contemporaries were reading.) The need to withdraw into a reading practice. Other sources of stimulation.

Slow (II): To keep writing about the same thing, same work. To see how your reaction to it changes. Time as a factor in any critical writing.

Enactment: To undergo the object/work. To do it. To undergo from a position of practice. To experience as a necessity—something to help you live.

Fiona Templeton visit:

            What if sound determines content?
            What if sound is content?
            Does the voice have a body?

            “while to abandon is all my babe”

            “that’s us that’s one interfacing myself with salt”

            “speech that imitates writing is papery”

            “thinking through speech” rather than “enactment of speech”

            use of tape recorder (like a countenance)—in O’Hara the use of telephony

            “both language and thought seemed to be inventing themselves and each other”      

            silence—use of silence

            birds of Scottish mouth music

            Aaron Williamson—Hearing Things


            Somatically more truthful – mostly we don’t hear ourselves speak
            To have space, to have importance


Dana Ward visit:

nothing/silence productive for poetry; “all poetry is language in time” – technology of verse – enabling relational encounters that allow verse – corrupting verse – “time is a made thing” – “time is constructed through capitalism” – Bordieu: “dead time” – become an engineer – exercises that everyone can do – Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” – imagined his life through a grammatical structure – “how capacious can we make poetry?” – past a place where something isn’t allowed – collectively write a work together – the work can have a social life


“the thing about a voice…” in Notley – “voice” in creative writing classrooms – Notley: to reclaim the idea of voice – voice is a thing with a recognizable set of tendencies – Fred M.: “it admits of characterization” – yourself or sing it yourself – music has a viral life – like a pop song, like obsession, became obsessed with Fred’s voice – homage: to modulate a voice of another – Moxley’s Clampdown – “when voice is appropriated and comes to live in our bodies it changes” – my love song to Fred’s poem – “like the old world is dying; the near past is in flames” – Myles: “I want to return words to the mouth” – “ the glory of loving someone in that way” – “I don’t have God so I have this thing about friendship” – Nina: “Is your ideal reader someone who knows Zizek and Jay Z?” – “I think about them [friends] because the feeling I get from thinking about them improves my writing” – “It’s more insulting to assume that people don’t get contextual clues” – “You become a repertoire of others” – The dead… we’ve internalized them… we’re performing a self through them – the way art leverages us toward each other – “Am I making this art as a way to inflame these discourses?” “the erotics of self-branding” – “the world is such an unusual world” – “proximity is ruthless (I’ll put it in there if it’s close to me)” – “qualitative disequilibrium”


The [transcriptive] Uncanny

The difference between unheimlich/heimlich where they converge etymologically in what has become “secret” or “hidden” by its very familiarity, that it would seem of the home.

Uncanny, what is uncanny relates a set of repressions, that which is sublimated in order for subjection or civilization to take place. Related through the maternal body and infantile processes.

What is uncanny is that through which the repressed returns. Reminding us of our primitive origins, but also that which we repress in order to survive. Reminders of our mortality.

What is the relationship of writing to speech [if] not an uncanny one?

Writing, which is a kind of dead or inanimate speech, awaiting resurrection, surprising us when it comes (back) to life, like a doll or automaton opening its eyes.

Transcription reminds me of this relationship. The recurrence of words/language once familiar to us become unfamiliar set down in arbitrary symbols. Encrypted as such.

By something being torn from a continuum of living speech, it becomes familiar and unfamiliar simultaneously, hidden (allegorical?) and yet something we have encountered before.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Herstory Inventory (review)

I reviewed Ulrike Muller's Herstory Inventory in the spring issue of BOMB, now online:

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Ubiquitous Dividend (Supple Science at LMCC River to River Festival)




At Poets House
As Part of the River to River Festival
10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282

JUNE 28TH, 2014
Poets House presents an afternoon workshop and concert
celebrating the works of poet and prosodist Robert Kocik 
through a variety of disciplines—poetics, visual art, 
performance, architecture, disability studies, design, medicine, 
economics, and politics—to explore what Kocik calls the
“sore, over-sensitive, insecure, and supple sciences.” This 
event is also the release of Supple Science: A Robert 
Kocik Primer, recently published by ON Contemporary 
The workshop will practice the Prosodic Body as composition
of the medium of which we're made and in which we 
interrelate—beginning with a general tuning, letting go of 
physical, emotional and mental blockages to open broader 
energetic and interoceptive connections, then working 
intensively with the correspondences between speech 
sounds (phonemes) and various bioprocesses, and finally 
opening the field of choreoprosodia (the fusion of poetry
and movement.) The underlying premise of the workshop:  
a heightened sense of prosody deepens creativity, health 
and compassion.
At 6pm, The Commons Choir, co-directed by Faïn and
Kocik, with composer(s) Ben Barson and Gizelxanath 
Rodriguez, perform an investigative musical called the 
"Ubiquitous Dividend" —a mix of speech, movement, 
reparative tones and tunes arguing that generosity and 
evenly shared material prosperity are intrinsic to who 
we are.
Workshop:  2:00–5:00pm
Performance: 6:00–8:00pm

Brenda Iijima
Andrew Levy
Lee Ann Brown
Workshop Participants
Massimiliano Balduzzi
Emily Skillings
David Thompson
Cecilia Vicuña
Athena Kokoronis (food artist)

Robert Kocik
Ben Barson
Gizelxanath Rodriguez
Photo credit: courtesy of the artist

Friday, May 23, 2014

from Teaching Poems

As if it was, and often it was, the only cultural capital we had

the present but fugitive body

iconicity is a form of make-over

a void we inhabit

see how really caught they are

the emptying out of self as a strategy

an autistic contiguous mode of thinking

the cuts are felt like characters

the cut (human sampling) is psychotic

with language from Glenn Ligon


The brick nature of it

the inherently unforgiving footprint for natural light

sunlight is directional

is it a point in motion?

find a way to break the system

the real townhouse problem

space itself is moving

when they connect they make something new, a new pose


A whiff of what life may be

we’ve not yet seen what a collective body can do

and we don’t even run away

that’s when we discovered tear gas doesn’t kill you

it’s not a weekend

I’ll step up this wreck

a sense of care for the social body in the moment after the crest

—with language from David Buuck


Very very very felt

sense of the simultaneous vacancy and presence

weightless/absence/words with ‘less’

a delineated presence that describes his absence

a lack/a half-desire

landscape-wise and temporally

when something becomes legible it becomes real

the language of the destroyer

stardescent soul

piles-up into thresholds

how you can talk about the scope of the universe

sort of God but really vague

paradoxes that are always present


An essence of movement

to make the rich think

dead ducks don’t need duck calls

being surrounded by human terms

pressing the leaf and the sound

gives the vegetable a voice

demanding that truth comes from context

this is a really sad poem

a remnant of the somatic


Not a person but a collection

collective thread not by race, gender

we are all… we are responsible for our actions

poetry as crystallization of time and place

architecture as crystallization of culture

what is movement

To see crisis not as a great hill…

We are concerned with movement / and stealing a little bit of life / in the metropolis

going into battle

            sounded like a dance when the police were tossing that woman

sort of like melodramatic

            describing it in the true form of what was happening

the art of rebellion is strange to me

            rebellion is awkward violence is awkward

the artistic remediation changes the reality

            just before the battle starts, the music

with language from Jackqueline Frost’s The Antidote


Replace the word ‘write’ with ‘dance’

            you are collaborating with time

with language from CA Conrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon


Stalking what people want us to see

            we want our names to last forever

the sass given back to people

            the kitschy items make up her personality

dresses like the Internet 

            the Internet persona before the Internet persona came about

over culture


Soft-eyed asshole

            soaking up my blue

breathe into a fire and it grows

            sounds that were sort of like words

music has a way of demanding space

            to divorce from the analytical

how expressive his whole being is

            words and languages being a civilization of sound

tone worlds

            a place is not made of its component parts… but sound

coming from silence and being born

            what does it mean to write down and print one of his poems?

the lyric is a sign that speaking is taking place


Wedded to this order and sequencing

            it’s a little alone

with language from Fred Moten’s B Jenkins


Recognition, recognition of misrecognition, misrecognition of misrecognition