Saturday, January 31, 2009

Untitled (Nonsite Poems)

-for Brenda

So we dig a hole again
For the things we could
Have been but are not
Where the dead have

Spoken mouths all full
Of dirt the future like that
Photo of Oldenburg at
The National Mall his

“sculpture” neatly shaped
Like a grave in the back-
ground stands the Wash
ington monument tall

Phallus-like all bets are
Off all signs of grace
There are children gath
ered around him the pile

Of dirt no longer in that
Hole signals complicities
Words can’t read or
Figure myself conveyed

The difference anything
Makes when it’s moved
Those dead call me
Back from identity to you.

"You aren’t building amphitheaters to your personal thought patterns rather
you are ebbing away at cultural excess and the overload of spurious statement.

Your I is my eye and I in a non-possessive way. Maybe better said, I is what is of
you and likewise…?"

I is what is left of us?

A difference moved
By the sky again are we
One subject when these
Blanks lock us into

Place phase the we are
And will have not a
Future arranged by the
Distant past this land

Grab is real these gated
Communities of being
Finance puts words in
My mouth fucking me

I don’t mean animated
My body like a screen-
test in the ether shot
Through with effects

Small claims and what
Was once our genro-
sity seems waxen now
A scramble to be good

Being’s quick-fixes
Hold on to everything
While our asses were
Removed their digging

Despaired declaring
Us a consequence of
Exchange not actually

Nor perceived the scalp job those
With the most liberal conceits
Don’t know how to write any of
This their graves think our forth-

coming in an unprecedented air
Not your property not equality
As the few should like to have it
But the holes we poke in "self"

Like this was called spirit not a
Symbol not an innovation of the
Living but the way our words
Coursed ambiguous in their designs

Of feeling being with you being
Apart from you grows to this
Distance whereof I may affirm
That by which I is called to love.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cannot Exist # 4 Launch this Saturday at SEGUE

Cannot Exist #4 is out!

Cannot Exist #4: a politics of magazine culture (THIS SATURDAY at 4PM ) Come join Eileen Myles, Rodrigo Toscano, Christina Strong, Laura Sims, Lawrence Griffin, Rick Burkhardt, Thom Donovan and others for Segue's launch of Cannot Exist #4, a magazine edited by Andy Gricevich of Madison, WI devoted to overlap between politics, philosophy, and poetry. Presentations and readings will be followed by an open conversation about the politics of magazine culture--how the small magazine can affect politics and establish a cultural commons.

Saturdays: 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
308 BOWERY, just north of Houston
****$6 admission goes to support the readers****

Cannot Exist #4
featuring fantastic new political, philosophical, urgent, tender and angry poetry by

Christophe Casamassima
Mark DeCarteret
Thom Donovan
Raymond Farr
Andy Frazee
Jeff Glassman
Nicholas Grider
Robert V. Hale
Carrie Hunter
Jennifer Karmin
Eileen Myles
Steven Salmoni
Rodrigo Toscano

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stephanie Gray: SEGUE series introduction

While a lot of attention continues to be paid to identity formation in contemporary poetry, especially as it concerns the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender categories, not nearly as much attention has been paid recently to class. A few outposts in contemporary poetry where class is a major concern include the work of PhillySound poets such as CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock, as well as the work of Eileen Myles, Andrew Levy, Buck Downs, Yedda Morrison, Alan Gilbert, Kristen Gallagher, Rich Owens, Carol Mirakove, Jane Sprague, Taylor Brady, Joel Kuszai, and Kristin Palm. In the work of the aforementioned writers, and many who keep their company, class antagonism, as it intersects with other identity antagonisms, extends problems of poetic form.

This is also true of Stephanie Gray, whose experiences growing up working class in Buffalo, New York permeate much of her work, as do also her experiences of being gay and disabled (Gray suffers from severe hearing impairment). While Gray’s experiences might hinder another artist, making them want to disavow their background or sentimentalize it, Gray chooses instead to affirm her experience through a poetics unique for its combination of critique, autobiography, Steinian “insistence”*, and polysemy (word-play and pun).

Gray’s poetics is also unique insofar as it successfully negotiates a filmmaking practice. That writing poetry and making films are not discrete practices, but utterly complementary and informative of each other, is especially apparent where Gray proceeds paratactically in her poems, often splicing phrases and sentences together as one might a segment of film. Furthermore, in the roving attention and looping syllogistics of Gray’s poems, one discerns the logic of a film-maker making sense of experience through association, slippage, and the repetition of language elements (discursive arguments as well as sound-images).

Like Stan Brakhage, who of course cut his teeth on Stein and Ezra Pound as much as on any filmmaker who preceded him, Gray presents both Steinian portraiture (many of her poems remind me of the time-sense in Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving) and compositions as explanations (whereby Gray’s situation of address often begs further questions and digressions while also bringing prior one’s back into play.)

Another aspect of Gray’s work that is curious to me, if not deeply moving, is the fact of her voice. While critics now-a-days are justifiably loathe to talk about the “voice of the writer,” or, when they do talk about such voices address them uncritically, as though they were given from “on high,” anti-historically, and without the tuition of others or one’s own embodiment, in Gray’s voice I recognize the singular sweetness and quiet assertion of the person I have seen around at film screenings and poetry-related events for the past nine years. In this voice, I find a persistent teasing and wise-cracking that often broach gallows humor. In this voice, I also find all the force and necessity of one slighted by past difficulties—the capillary functioning of disciplinary regimes—yet who humbly assents to present circumstance.

It interests me that this voice is a voice formed by hearing impairment, since Gray often includes variations of the same word by her use of parentheses and brackets. Having myself grown up hyper-conscious of hearing impairment (when I was ten I was diagnosed with an auditory processing disability) it interests me how Gray has used her own disability to develop a poetics where listening and communication are integral.

As in Stein’s Lectures in America or the work of Gray’s mentor, Eileen Myles, it is easy to lose the nuances of what Gray is saying if one doesn’t read closely, and with an ear for transcription (i.e., written-speech). In this sense, I find Gray’s poems also highly rhetorical, and to proceed principally by making arguments, criticizing, and directly addressing a real (and imagined) readership. Such modes of address are playful, yet accusatory and implicating, where we find Gray taking to task Redhook hipsters for gentrifying the neighborhood and ignoring its seedy Mafioso/fish-mongering past. Gray also wags a finger where she criticizes the ironic gestures of her contemporaries given to drinking PBR (rather than a better tasting beer), wearing trucker’s hats (where Gray’s dad is actually a truck-driver), and sporting 80s heavy metal t-shirts (where Gray was once a devoted fan of Van Halen and Metallica, and may still be to this day).

With the possible exception of CA Conrad, I don’t think there is any contemporary poet I know of addressing class issues in such humorous ways as does Stephanie Gray. And, also not unlike Conrad, Gray is a poet indebted to place—the places where she has lived, as well as the people who inhabit those places. Whereas in Gray’s 2007 book, Heart Stoner Bingo, she negotiates her native Buffalo with NYC, to which she moved in early 2005, many of her more recent poems are dedicated to Queens, where she currently lives, and to the East Village, as Punk institutions such a CBGB’s have vanished before our very eyes during the past decade.

In Gray’s newer poems she pays tribute to such New York favorites as Frank O’Hara, from whose “Personism” essay she extracts first lines for poems, and Joey Ramone, who grew up in Middle Village, Queens not far from where Gray currently lives. While Gray’s signature insistences are alive in these newer poems, so is the celebration of a New York that is quickly passing.

Among the packet of poems Gray gave me a couple weeks ago anticipating today’s reading, a poem that particularly impressed me was one she wrote in a workshop with Kristen Prevallet at St. Mark’s Church. This poem—remixing quotations from texts by Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Cecila Vicuna and others—reads like a wonderfully cobbled-together essay in verse/manifesto. I will leave you with an excerpt form this work before Stephanie takes the stage:

Don’t read your own poems.
Leave poems in orphanages.

Does the poem need to explain itself?

Create your own reality.
But it’s not the greatest place to live all the time.

Just talk.

Embrace a brand new system.

Writing talking poetry.

Poem is high energy.
Poem is a contained opening.

Is it the right highway exit?

Ted Berrigan: Talking poetry.

Form reveals itself through the process of writing.

Almost Fin
Thesises [sic] are not things that need to be proven for poetry.

Insert here: pop songs I know all the words to

Final Fin:
The poem works in the mind fuzz.

*in an introduction for Gray at Just Buffalo Literary Center April 17th, 2008 Michael Kelleher writes: "In Stephanie’s recent work I think you find an example of what Gertrude Stein would call “insistence,” a term she distinguished from “repetition,” to refer to a language that repeats in order to be heard over the din of the crowd, to insist on being heard before moving on. In these prose poems, the poet fastens on to a word or a phrase and repeats it in different formations and contexts until it gets a full “hearing” so to speak. Moving by incremental variation, her poems reveal a keen observer viewing the world while gliding through it toward some as-yet-unseen truth whose revelation might arrive only after it has been fully and clearly heard. So, please listen."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wig call... and initial response

Check out the below call from Kristen Gallagher and Tim Shaner. While I honor the linkage between poetry and general economy formulated after Bataille (cf., for instance, Rosmarie Waldrop's excellent essay, "Alarums and Excursions", collected in The Politics of Poetic Form, ed. Charles Bernstein), I wonder if we can not rethink what poetry can do vs. its long-observed/supposed uselessness, inoperativity, and luxury. Wig's call has me sincerely wondering how "labor" and "work" can be reunited through a third term which will no longer reify the vita activa (life of activity). (In Hannah Arendt's book, The Human Condition, I believe Arendt's own third term is action.) How, furthemore, should poetry or prosody (more generally) present tools of critique/tactic, and a spiritual instrumentation in the interest of healing, attunement, and affective agreement (Spinoza's gateway to reasonable society)? Likewise, how can poetry's usefulness counterpose the bad instrumentality of economies, social formations, and institutions which one/'we' (i.e., a collective subject) would like to oppose and/or transform?

I pose these questions in a spirit of solidarity with Wig, whose call I do not so much disagree with (of course poetry must serve a general economy against one of surplus value--and, more often than not, it does), but would like to rearticulate. Can there not be a poetics qua general economy that takes into account usefulness and productivity? Pragmatism and Intuition must always trump Utilitarianism and Positivistic approaches. Why reify use when poetry can make everything happen? When poetry presents a meta-discourse of sense, event, occurence, willingness, and intention?

Perhaps we should all stop writing poetry for a year if only to put much of that energy we would spend writing and publishing poetry into organizing alternative places to gather, work, and towards transformative actions off-the-page (what Robert Kocik calls "Poetry Outsourcing"). Poetry strike anyone? Then again, I also wonder whether the social action of writing poems and "day job" is as discrete as Tim/Kristen seem to make it out. In private conversation Paul Foster Johnson, for instance, has argued that the kinds of leisure time academic positions sometimes afford are at odds with his own practice. Can we celebrate the pressures laboring exerts as it can come to bear on the poem as a measure of one's life? I would personally like more time to "work" on writing essays, conducting research, giving talks, editing and writing poetry--and often lament that this time does not present itself; yet I can also appreciate how having numerous other occupations has, especially in the past few years, enriched and made exigent my practice.

Anyhow, Tim and Kristen have me thinking about these problems again, and I thank them for this...

Wig—inspired by de Certeau's discussion of "la perruque" in The Practice of Everyday Life—is devoted to poetry that employs the poet's labor (i.e. livelihood) as an engine of poetic production. Our first issue highlighted the bifurcated career of Kit Robinson. We hope you might have something—poetry or prose, creative or persuasive—to contribute to our second issue.

We are seeking submissions for our long over-due next issue. Please note that Wig is interested in poetry/writing/art that employs the job—its time and materials—for artistic ends, not necessarily writing “about” work, though that work is also welcome. Overall, we seek evidence of the laboring writer. We welcome already-published work, and permit the republication of any work of yours we print. We consider the magazine a think-tank, of sorts, and place emphasis on the collection of any and all materials relating to our topic. For us, this question is largely framed by our own position as poets and the work of writing poetry, but we realize our concerns exist for many writers and artists of all genres, and spread out to every type of labor from janitorial services to the academic professoriate to parenting.

Problem: In terms of poetry, we hear complaints from some poets that it’s wrong that poets can’t make a living off of their poetry. We have come to think that fact is not only a given but a gift, of sorts. It is poetry’s strength that it exists somewhat beyond the logic of market forces, as a form of what Bataille calls “non-productive expenditure.” Why do it? What’s the point? Think of all the productive ways you could be using your time.

Discussion: The dilemma of livelihood that the writer faces leads directly to questioning the legitimacy of what Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition calls the “laboring society,” a society in which making a living trumps every other form of human activity. Poetry, in such a society, is not only a waste of time but a wasting of time—the kind that defines it as money. This is poetry’s strength, insofar as it challenges, by the fact of its inexplicable existence, the given order. As Charles Bernstein has noted, poetry devalues the very paper it is written on, which means that it testifies to a different value form: that of the gift economy. Charles’s dictum can only be true if we buy into the logic of the market—the very thing we do when we argue that poets ought to be able to make a living from their poetry. Poets should, like anyone, be able to make a living AND write their poetry (Arendt defines the former as ‘labor” and the latter as ‘work’), but because labor monopolizes time, squeezing all other forms of human activity into the realm of so-called “free time,” we are forced to either write on the run, as William Carlos Williams so successfully did, or to become “starving artists,” the latter of which has become increasingly difficult to pull off in this age of flexploitation and institutionalized insecurity, as Pierre Bourdieu called it. Insofar as the academy adheres to the dictates of the laboring society, academics are also forced to write on the run, that is in the interstices—the slack time of the laboring day. Because the academic year is so crammed with busy-ness, the imperative of productivity haunts the summer months—too much loafing and you may find yourself out of a job.

Proposed Solution: Writing, because it takes time to write, draws attention to labor’s monopolization of our time, and hence to the need to reduce the amount of time devoted to labor. Poets wouldn’t need to make a living off their poetry if the work week was cut in half. In that sense, the poet’s dilemma is everyone’s. This is how poets connect with the larger public—not in their efforts to represent the public’s interest by becoming their voice—but through the action of writing, which is always a poaching of company time—all time in the laboring society being company time. Our dilemma is common: we all need our time back. Our labor should create that surplus of time, not erase it.
—Kristen Gallagher & Tim Shaner, editors

Please send submissions by February 14, 2009 to Kristen Gallagher: gallagher dot kristen at gmail dot com

"The 'author' may have disappeared

but language remains privileged."
--Tina Darragh, from Opposable Dumbs [forthcoming with Palm Press]

Come hear Tina and Stephanie Gray read this wkend at Bowery Poetry Club, 4PM on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ON 2 Call for Work

ON: Contemporary Practice 2


The first issue of ON, a journal devoted to contemporary poetics, featured over twenty essays (and a few epistolary collaborations) focused on poets such as Taylor Brady, kari edwards, Brenda Iijima, CJ Martin, Emily McVarish, Yedda Morrison, Hoa Nguyen, Sawako Nakayasu, Julie Patton, Dana Ward, and Alli Warren. Our goal is to offer a survey of the field 'as it stands,' written by and for those 'we' are reading and discussing, with the intention of bringing reflection to a discourse during a prodigious cultural moment. We hope you'll contribute to the second issue by engaging with the practice, poetry and poetics of one of your closest contemporaries.

1. ON encourages contributors to investigate a "practice," rather than a solitary poem, chapbook, performance, review, art object, etc.

2. The subject should roughly be of your generation – generation is defined as you see fit.

3. There are no strict limits on page count – essays in ON 1 ranged from 1 to 18 pages.

4. Please feel free to share this solicitation with writers from your community and colleagues who may have escaped our attention.

5. Submissions should be single-spaced set in 10 pt. Palatino. For additional formatting requirements, please refer to the most recent Chicago Manual of Style. Please send either a hardcopy or PDF along with your word document.

6. We suggest that you check out the first issue if you haven't done so already. Copies are available from Small Press Distribution and from the editors.

7. Please also include a 35-word bio.

Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2009. ON will be available in print and digital online formats. Please direct all submissions and questions to any of the addresses below, and thank you in advance for being ON.


Michael Cross
Kyle Schlesinger
Thom Donovan

Monday, January 19, 2009

After William Pope.L*

-for Tyrone Williams on MLK Day

"Therefore this sort of theorizing/deodorizing
Could only come from someone
Who believes in having things
As a political condition

Conversely, this theory
Could only come from someone
Who lacks something
As a political condition."
-William Pope.L, from Hole Theory

Where you have dented me
White balls, black balls, blue
Balls wailing… bailing-out a hole
In theory (hole theories)—social

action gives the imagination a
reason to get up in the morning

No other wastes except for this
Remaining common what bubbles

qua “strength”—discrepancy,
Contradiction, misunderstanding—
Or conditions of posse-bility—
the energy of predicament, make

it my pet, my posey, my theory—
no remorsey
—ghosts lay
Claim to every little weiner
Nailed to your map of the United

States indicating a delay-time in
Reparations, decay of ordinary
Materials—Peanut Butter presence,
Mayonnaise Phallus smeared to

Those places we can't be because
There will be no “rememory” just
The future anterior—a lack worth
—puts vaginas back in

Men, since certain images can
Only propose foreclosure there
Should be new spectacles “white
eschatology” (cf. W. Benjamin)

That milk too late for paradise
The angel in these bones, in the
Boner tipping the balance—
an angel cannot be late but man,

made of flesh and blood, can
be late
—cues a light of reason
Non-sense has a cause seeing
Won’t transcend determining art.

*all italicized text from William Pope.L: the Friendliest Black Artist in America, except for "an angel cannot be late...," from MLK's April 3rd, 1968 sermon "I've Been to the Mountaintop," cited in American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Erica Hunt: SEGUE intro

Reading Erica Hunt’s poetry reminds me of a scholarly book that has yet to be written. Such a book would trace avant garde practices through their relation to forms of activism, intervention, and social responsibility. Were such a book to eventually be written, Hunt should find herself among a host of other poets and artists including Murielle Rukeyser, Tillie Olsen, Adrienne Rich and George Oppen. The scholar of such a study might focus their attention on the way activist work shapes an aesthetics whereby forms themselves become not only meaningful, but culpable. A central question our hypothetical scholar might ask, and which might guide her thesis: why do some artists and writers involved with activism work through formal modes which may be said to be transparent or facile, while others resort to “difficulty,” and thereby risk not making sense to a larger readership?

To risk not making sense, in Hunt’s poems, is to risk the public sphere itself, as that which is defined by our ability to make meaning and communicate among one another. To challenge common sense is therefore to reimagine what forms a public sphere can assume. In Hunt’s work, these problems perhaps owe as much to Louis Zukofsky’s Bottom: on Shakespeare, wherein one finds Zukosfky quarreling with Spinoza and Wittgenstein, as they do to traditions of African-American lyrical address, sermon and music.

In an Objectivist spirit, Hunt prioritizes “thinking with the things as they exist”—as Zukofsky famously states the problem of “Sincerity and Objectification” in his 1931 Poetry magazine editorial by the same name, where “things” = words, and “with” belies the communal function of all writing. Throughout Zukosfky’s work recurs a famous incident from Spinoza’s letters, in which the philosopher records himself saying the grammatically incorrect phrase “the window flew through the bird” instead of the grammatically correct one, “the bird flew through the window.” Zukofsky’s point in citing this incident: that sense-making is only as good as context, deixis, relation, and of course the desire to understand; what’s more, what people too often call “making sense” does not take account of poesis—the fact that the production of meaning is always an activity shaped by shared processes, experiences, and beliefs.

From Zukofsky to African-American culture is never a far cry, where the Blues, for instance, or Hip Hop constantly attain music’s “upper limit” by intensifying the rhythmic and melodic qualities of speech. Although Hunt tends to work at the sentence level, often accreting long lines, or prose paragraphs, much of her work remains essentially lyrical. Likewise, her use of the “I,” while it of course troubles the centrality of the author function, nevertheless serves as a fluid index for the poet’s autobiography. In fact, compared with many of her contemporaries, it is refreshing to read the “I” of Hunt’s poetry as an unironic, however witty and playful, critical vehicle.

In Hunt’s 1996 Kelsey St. book Arcade, a collaboration with visual artist Alison Saar, I am struck by a related sense in which we must take Hunt’s problem of sense. In this book, Hunt and Saar attempt to bring their reader back to her senses, both through Saar’s black and white and color wood cuts which complement the tactile and imagistic qualities of Hunt’s poems, but also insofar as Hunt’s text extends a series of propositions about the senses during an era of spectacle and information consumption. Where the noun "arcade" summons the Paris Arcades of the 19th and early 20th centuries, after which Walter Benjamin constructed his theories of allegory and dialectic, I cannot help but also hear in arcade a more contemporary definition: that place where people (typically white male teenagers) gather to play video games.

If in the video game, television programming, and now the Internet lie the conquering of sense, it is the mass desensitization of our culture Hunt’s work criticizes, and conscientiously plays with. Against these mediums of desensitization is the word itself—and poetry as it tests the limits of what words can do. Through the pleasures of poetry as discourse pragmatics, Hunt takes back the senses, reinjecting them with some feeling for being common, public, related, and shared. Or as Hunt herself puts it more eloquently in an artist’s statement for a 2001 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts’ grant:

As is true with many poets, I am drawn to language for its music, for language's capacity to limn thought, its connection to experience, its power to still and magnify the world while one writes/reads the world/book. But equally, I have been interested in techniques that purposely unsettle the crisp ride and appropriate shade of register and vocabulary. I like to read or write to topple the balance between controlled allusion and opacity. And so I have been drawn to the disjunctions of surrealism, Oulippians, improvisers and scat cats as aesthetic methods to seek new and unsuspected connection. This makes it sound like too tranquil an operation: I write poems that teeter on the verge of legibility, blur private and public, set boundaries anew and implicate us as practitioners of this moment and the next.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Silent Light (with Dorothea Lasky)

-after Carlos Reygadas

To the dear Farmer of Mexico

Dear Farmer, In Mexico,
Did you hear about the plane that crashed into the water?
It happened in a dreary landscape
Not unlike this one
In which I write this poem
Unlike this one
Is the sun rising for an hour
Over rabbits crying and crickets crying
And Mothers crying
In morning dresses so filled with rain
So wet with water
They might as well be dry
And death that comes up
When it has already come
And death
Which rises up
When it has already fallen
And dusk which rises up like dawn
And end which rises up like a beginning
And the beginning which is not unlike the end
The Mother's wetness
Not unlike the tears which made her
As a snake in the grass of the field
With those who we love
And the grasses and corn
Dry in the dead fields of those dead who we love
And the living wet with rain in the
Grasses of those dead who we love
And those who we love dead not living
In the grasses dead who we love
And the light of the dawn dead
In the grasses of dead who love
And who we love dead now living
In rooms of grasses who we love
No no, no white rooms
In the boxes of the dead now living
In the light of day that we love
All in all, dear Farmer
It is the light of day that we love
In the field with yellow flowers
You go to meet a snake in the grass
And I watch you
In this neverending landscape of dread
Which is only a beginning
To the day I begin
In the deadly combination
Of love and light
In the deathly combination
Of horrible want
And horrible longing

No light better than this
Silence conquering space-time
The umbilical stars always in
A horizon before our future

Breaks milk is sort of like
Tears sort of similar to sweat
Which is like cum on your
Breasts when you are with

Him not a separate being
This awful apartheid despair
As if Kierkegaard’s problems
Transposed in the landscape

Of Mexico big-sky country
Respiratory open earthly
Where every moment seems
A resurrection of our breath

Heaving in the reflection of
A pendulum what won’t
Leave this room like singularity
No other hope in words

Images but in this the pinkish-
violet petals of our desire
Unawares camera must catch
Them in focus make them real

These powers unsaid between
Us are real resurrecting the
Children believing she’s not
Dead a milk of your eyes years

Sweat come sadness from
Beyond the actual pores the actual
Ducts spoon caught on your
Thumb the earth which is

Breathing the grass seeming
To sigh under the sky your
Chest feels full of lead her
Heart heaves heavy with regret

Time has no other direction
Except when we cry except when
Daughters don’t believe in it
Stars might lead us again.

It is my great honor...

to be reading with Tyrone Williams a week from this coming Saturday at Unnameable Books in Park Slope, Bklyn. thanks to Brenda Iijima for thinking of the pairing, organzing, and hosting... [more info below]


Thom Donovan & Tyrone Williams

Saturday, January 24th

7:30 pm

Unnameable Books

456 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 789-1534
Get directions

Tyrone Williams is the author of c.c. (Krupskaya) and On Spec (Omnidawn). Hero Project of the Century and MI Howell are coming out this year. He teaches poetry at Xavier College in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Thom Donovan is an ongoing participant in the Nonsite Collective, coedits ON Contemporary Practice, the first issue of which can be purchased now at SPD, edits Wild Horses of Fire weblog, and curates PEACE events series. His poems and critical writings have been published variously.

Hosted by Brenda Iijima

Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs
Brenda Iijima
596 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Points of Arrival

I want to fly into the line
You are writing and that
Becomes you a point in

Space desirable space as
You make it planes ad-
just adrift the actual body

Time heals over sense
Scars bones photos make
Eyes moist your life as

A monster as a wolf does
You can not escape
Tunneling through the

Gelatinized moral feral
Writing beside yourself
Becoming authorized that

Doesn’t need skin that is
All skin no organs except
The gooey sun biggest cell

Calling me swerves splits
With perimeters flesh flux
Gates write just below

Thresholds so feelings
Travel integrate worlds
Bodies leave us no choice

Letters swallow up each
Point since distance
Can't help but devour us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


-for Carolee

Because she
was near me

because she
bakes a pie

I believe

is possible
again the inter-

of nothing

the plethoral
void one's

breast without
malice whether

good or bad
inside it

even time
seems to

because it

is close to
you that

clocking a
clock for

cooking for
making things

there is no

what your

mind your
heart & this

the original
apples make

apple pie

seeming sweet
and baked.

Monday, January 12, 2009

These beautiful citations...

from my friend Eleni:

“Pain does not throw one back upon one’s own resources; it backs one up against oneself; to suffer is to be unable to flee and unable to retreat from oneself. Pain senses the imminence of death. In the weight of one’s own substance one can no longer bear, pain senses the weight of the unknowable that advances inwardly.

. . .

Pain breaks down the path of time I am extending; I pull back from the future I was pursuing and the past whose resources I was drawing on, to sink into a time of enduring. In the pain I have a foreboding of the time of dying. The other suffers in another interval without equivalent and in a pain in which I can nowise displace him. Pain blisters in intervals of time coming from nowhere, going nowhere, disconnected from the past and future of life, of the transpersonal enterprises, of the evolution of the planet.

Yet it is out of that other time, the time of his or her dying, that the other addresses me.

. . .

In pain the other sinks back into his or her body, into prostration that already delivers him or her to death in the world. The flesh in pain is anything but an object; sensibility, subjectivity fill it, with a terrible evidence. This evidence is turned imperatively to me, more pressing than the evolution of the planet and the anonymous enterprises in the humanized map laid out on it, more urgent than the tasks my own death has addressed to me. It is not in elaborating a common language and reason, in collaborating in transpersonal enterprises, that the human community takes form. It is in going to rejoin those who, fallen from the time of personal and collective history, have to go on when nothing is possible or promised.”

- Alphonso Lingis, “Accompaniment”, Abuses

Saturday, January 10, 2009

SEGUE intro for Tony Conrad

When I was at the University of Buffalo as a graduate student, it was my privilege to study with Tony Conrad, who, as time passes, becomes an increasingly iconic figure for various counter-cultural locations and art movements of the past forty some odd years. Taking seminars with Tony at Buffalo was a joy since to take a class with him was not only to understand everything that had happened since the mid-century so much better, but to understand it through the engaging and poly-mathic works that accompany his biography.

In Branden W. Joseph’s Beyond the Dream Syndicate, a recent study of Conrad and “the arts after [John] Cage,” Joseph, taking up the terminology of Gilles Deleuze’s and Felix Guattari’s Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, paints Conrad as a “minor” artist. To be minor, in Deleuze’s/Guattari’s sense of the term, is to exist at the boundaries of official historical narration, as well to open up gaps and interstices where counter-narratives can occur. Following Joseph’s compelling thesis, Conrad’s oeuvre presents multiple points of indiscernibility for the post-War avant garde, inasmuch as it forces one to reevaluate the cultural significance of any number of avant garde practices and movements, not least of which include usual suspects such as Serialism, Cage, Expanded Cinema, Fluxus, Minimalist Music, Structuralist Film, and “Postmodernism” so-called.

What coheres through Conrad’s fellow-travellings with said movements and figures is as much a throw-back to Renaissance virtuosity, as it is a deconstruction of virtuosity itself by which those shibboleths of Historicism—“genius” and “authorship”—should also be taken to task. What Conrad’s variegated work reveals, without exception, is a relentlessly horizontal investigation of power in all of its guises and forms. Parallel with thinkers like Michel Foucault and Deleuze (who sites Conrad’s The Flicker in his Cinema volumes), Conrad demonstrates “the powers of the false” as that upon which all social and natural life is based, and allowed to flourish. Power, in the work of Deleuze and Foucault, as in the work of Conrad, is something to be celebrated, not deplored.

It is in this affirmative sense that I see Conrad not only as a specter haunting the late-20th century avant garde (if not also a contemporary one), but as your consummate trickster figure. While there remains something heroic about Conrad’s minorness, there is also the sense in The Flicker, or by pickling film, or in the many videos he has appeared in whereof he assumes a particular mask or character, that Tony is pulling our legs. And we who love to be fooled and entertained of course want our legs pulled. Only leg-pulling becomes a serious business whenever it is combined with Tony’s vast skill-set, and his equally vast eagerness to seek out the cracks in culture.

I am reminded of this business by the work that Tony inspired of me and other students at Buffalo Media Studies in his 2001 seminar, “Contemporary Alternative Media.” In this particular seminar students were encouraged to cultivate unique and collective identities in the interest of interactive performance, tactical media intervention, and collaboration. For part of our final work, I vividly recall the majority of our class participating in a demonstration at the Peace Bridge on the border of Canada and the United States in Buffalo.

Gearing up for the event Tony encouraged us to wear uniforms, so we all wore red pants and t-shirts. Anticipating local news coverage, we approached the bridge in our uniforms carrying an American flag—as though in mourning, or already incensed by what was going on at the bridge. As we approached, I remember cameras seeming to swarm us. When we got to the Peace Bridge we played a series of games together, all in the spirit of suggesting or fomenting actual revolt. The game I remember us playing for the duration of the demonstration was a game of Red Rover. “Red rover, red rover send so-and-so over,” as though to taunt the line of police who remained within earshot.

The final action my friend Brandon and I thought to take, but never ended up taking, was to raise our asses towards the police and fart—a ridiculous reverse-parody of the harrowing tear-gassings a year before in Seattle during a WTO demonstration. Although Tony was not organizing our class on the day of the demonstrations per se—he just seemed one of us, only older—many of the elements I now find so fundamental to his work were there in what we were doing, however unconsciously: an unshaken awareness that History (with a capital “H”) issues from a complex and interrelated series of representations, and not a plenitude of eternal truths; that to play—or “dance over an abyss,” as Nietzsche would have it—can and must be put in the interest of social justice and political action; and that, mainly, perversion is one of the many effective forms resistance can assume.

Without further adieu…

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Why ON now?

below is a statement I wrote for the ON Contemporary Practice launch at St. Mark's Church last night. I am grateful to all who attended the launch, and participated...


I don’t doubt, as we speak, that critical exchanges about poetry and art are happening everywhere. And this is the impetus for ON Contemporary Practice, a journal devoted to writings about the practices of one’s contemporaries: that critical exchange can become visible through the many forms it assumes. Listservs, blogs and social networking services like Facebook and Flickr have tended to supply us with the most immediate and accessible forums for critical correspondence in the past few years—so why sidestep and insist upon a printed object? I’m not sure the exact importance of the printed object vs. the virtual one per se, except that it can provide an air of care, intention, presence, and consequence in ways that virtual media often can not. Given some of our despair before the Web—especially the material anxieties which cloud its otherwise hopeful prospects for serving as a democratic cultural repository—, it seems conceivable that the best way to back-up our futures is to print them out and make them aesthetically palatable for a readership. In a sense Kyle, myself and Michael would prefer to think of ourselves as documenters and collators rather than editors. What we would like to document is the ongoing fact that one’s contemporaries matter for forming a practice, and locating what work needs to be done during any given moment. Rather than seeing any one’s work in isolation, ON believes that each poem, or book, or art object is in some way collaborative, and that all cultural phenomena issue from some form of discourse. Likewise, there is something exhilarating about recognizing one’s voices in those of another, and those of another in one’s own. Such a continuum, Robert Duncan called the “symposium of the whole,” however we believe our own symposiums to be as much unique as general, collective as singular, idiosyncratic as appropriate, antagonistic as agreeable. While poems themselves can act critically and extend critical conversation, there is still the want to provide context, discursion, address, and perspectives that perhaps only contemporaries can have towards each other. I believe this can happen through the book review, or the academic chapter (though God forbid one write a dissertation chapter about their contemporaries); but moreso, I think it requires a constant renewal and invention of forms by those working across fields, institutional and cultural configurations. Forms that will not merely extend content, but that will emerge from the problems nearest the lives they impinge on, and which connect and overlap inextricably. Recently an older poet gave a reading with a considerably younger one, and insisted that they introduce each other. These introductions consisted of merely saying the name of the other poet, and in the case of the older poet also saying the name of the younger poet’s press. While I was ok with the older poet declining typical introductions, I was not ok with the younger poet getting the same treatment. Emergent practices (the practices of those younger, lesser known, and/or unprecedented by their isolation or exclusion from hegemonic publishing practices and arenas of reception), more than anything else, need not so much legitimation as sufficient context to make them legible and available to a readership wider than their ken. Yet, it is one’s ken specifically—those who have spent the most time with the person and the work, if not the place where the work was born (whether that be an actual place, or space for the imaginary)—who can most easily account for the work’s exigency—the fact that it was made with a need to communicate something and make certain things happen (however unawares or intentionally). While I expect critical exchanges will continue to happen wherever people care about the stakes of their work and the work of their peers, ON’s editors celebrate how much wiser we are for having encountered the offerings collected by our contemporaries in ON’s first issue, and acknowledge the fact that many others’ works are deserving of critical reflection, and more sustained engagements. If you have an idea for submissions, please see ON’s submissions guidelines at the journal’s website, or email the editors individually. We look forward very much to reading your submissions towards the publication of future issues.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

ON launch at St. Mark's Church tomorrow

come celebrate the NYC launch of ON Contemporary Practice 1 tomorrow at St. Mark's Church with CA Conrad, Alan Gilbert, Brenda Iijima, Andrew Levy, Julie Patton, Tim Peterson, Kyle Schlesinger, Katie Yates, Thom Donovan and others...

Poetry Project
Monday January 5th, 2009 @ 8:00

ON features twenty-one essays by poets on poets of their approximate generation. Come find out what's going on and celebrate this new publication featuring exchanges on contemporary poetry and poetics. Contributors include Taylor Brady, Brandon Brown, CAConrad, Jason Christie, Michael Cross, Thom Donovan, Eli Drabman, Rob Halpern, Jen Hofer, Alan Gilbert, Brenda Iijima, Andrew Levy, Edric Mesmer, Sawako Nakayasu, Tenney Nathanson, Richard Owens, Tim Peterson, Andrew Rippeon, Kyle Schlesinger, Jonathan Skinner, Dale Smith, Suzanne Stein, Ali Warren, Katie Yeats ON Arakawa/Gins, Taylor Brady, CAConrad, Michael Cross, Beverly Dahlen, Michael deBeyer, Mark Dickinson, kari edwards, DJ/Rupture, Thom Donovan, Belle Gironda, Brenda Iijima, CJ Martin, Emily McVarish, Yedda Morrison, Hoa Nguyen, Sawako Nakayasu, Julie Patton, Lauren Shufran, Suzanne Stein, Dana Ward, and Ali Warren. Confirmed readers include CAConrad, Thom Donovan, Alan Gilbert, Brenda Iijima, Julie Patton, Tim Peterson, Andrew Levy, Kyle Schlesinger and Katie Yates.

Copies of ON will be available for $12.
Also available from Small Press Distribution: and Cuneiform Press:
Submission guidelines and more available at:

The Poetry Project is located at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street at Second Avenue
New York City 10003
Trains: 6, F, N, R, and L.

Admission is $8, $7 for students/seniors and $5 for members (though now those who take out a membership at $95 or higher will get in FREE to all regular readings).

We are wheelchair accessible with assistance and advance notice. For more info call 212-674-0910.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Every Night

--for Charles

No foreclosure here, only aperture
No place to put the darkest conditions of possibility
Let the dead bury the living and shadows overlap
Let a little dark in since the light runs cold
In our blood beyond the falling snow of Central Park today
Everything is permitted since she is dead
I know your love for tradition in negative your love
For life itself which is not the denial of death
So much as the negation of negation
The snow as it burns in the photograph
Also the affirmation of a woman’s powers.