Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Belladonna Book Launch and Two Blurbs (@ Harriet)


For those in NYC a week from Tuesday, please come out to hear what I hope will be a wonderful gathering for four of my very favorite contemporary poets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010; 7:30 pm
Closing Event for Belladonna’s
Year of New Releases

Dorothea Lasky (Black Life)
Brenda Iijima (revv. you’ll—ution &
If Not Metamorphic)
Eleni Stecopoulos (Armies of Compassion)
David Wolach (Occultations )
Dixon Place
161 Christie Street; New York City

Ekphrasis Again (@ Harriet)


"The poem may become a site for varying degrees of ‘naive’ experience, seeing the art object or engaging with it through any number of different filters, veils—at such a distance from anything one might call the ‘thing in itself.’ The poem also can act pre-critically or post-critically—as a kind of processor for ‘understanding.’ What we ‘see’ in the work of art; the way the art sees us through the lens of social processes, cultural antagonism, the institutional situations wherein it appears (whether magazine, museum, gallery, site, classroom, film, internet, etc.).

The poem, for me, composes ideas, percepts, and thoughts while they are still in process. It is a learning machine or a vision machine engaged with what the art object might reveal as culturally meaningful or, on the other hand, as a withdrawal from cultural meaning—legibility, visibility, exchangeability. It is a bachelor machine inasmuch as it is bounded, prosthetic, and artificial."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guy Ben-Ner's Second Nature at Postmasters

April 2 - May 8, 2010GUY BEN-NER Second Nature
Employing animals, animal trainers and an on-camera film crew all speaking in rhyme Second Nature restages Aesop's fable The Fox and the Crow combined with Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Can you tell a fable today? Is it not too arrogant to believe you can educate someone? On the other hand, if I believed art could not deliver any kind of lesson or critique of the world, I would stop making it. (Guy Ben-Ner)

In Second Nature Ben-Ner has created a video that emerges from Aesop's fable The Fox and the Crow. It is a video in three parts that blurs the boundaries between ' fact and fiction'. One part of the video is shot as a documentary about specialist animal trainers training a fox and a crow to re-enact the fable, but develops into a fictional re-telling of the fable itself by the animals, interjected with a re-enactment of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot by the animal trainers. The dialogue between human and animal is crucial, exploring subtle modifications in behaviour made through the interaction between the two, where one can never truly control the other.

In the repetitive and questionably futile action of trainee and trainer, Ben-Ner's video owes much to the plays of Beckett - the trainer trains the animals to re-enact the fable; Ben-Ner trains the trainer to act In the documentary and the play; and the animals train each other within the tale itself. He uses the same setting, a lonely tree, to tell two different stories - one a fable and one a play. Ben-Ner reveals the function of fables - the use of animals to tell human stories and instruct our own moral behaviour - and mimics their strategies to manipulate the animal trainers as the fable unfolds. Essentially the action is the same, repeated again and again. (Kyla McDonald - catalog for the Liverpool Biennial 2008.)

GUY BEN-NER Second Nature, 2008
Single channel video, color with sound,10:10 min
Animals Supplied by: Birds and Aminals UK
Fox Trainer: Guillaume Grange
Crow Trainer: Gwen Griffith
Fox: Bambi and Briar
Crow: Oreo and Nabisco
Film Production: Roger Appleton
Sound Recording: Alan Watson
Editing Facillities: CCA, Tel Aviv
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial International 08

Postmasters Gallery
459 west 19th street
New York, NY 10011

The Poetic Front Vol. 3

Thanks to Stephen Collis for his excellent editorial and design work on the most recent issue of The Poetic Front, a journal of criticism, essay, and poetics based in Vancouver, BC.

Reviews & Essays

Andrea Actis

New tactics in Poetic Activism: Reg Johanson's Escratches
Robert Budde

“The Lore of Four” is a “Copious Leaping”: Transnational Translation and the Visceral Vernacular, Oana Avasilichioaei and Erín Moure’s Expeditions of a Chimæra
Cris Costa

Potential Form and Hank Lazer's Portions
Stephen Collis

Three Reviews
Susan M Schultz

“Inquiring into the symbolic dildo I strap on every day”: A Review of Rob Budde’s Declining America
Reg Johanson

“How many constants should there be?”: Rae Armantrout’s Quasi-Scientific Methodology
Robert Stanton

“...More Careful Zones and Strata”: Charles Olson’s Parallax Poetics in The Maximus Poems
Jason Starnes

Wound Response, Tacit Knowledge and Residual Reading: Dissecting Matrices of Information in J.H. Prynne’s Late-Modernist Poetry
Matthew Hall

Special Features
Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta!
Roger Farr

Postscript: Poetry and Anti-Politics
Roger Farr

The Barricades Project, the Life Long Poem, and the Politics of Form
Stephen Collis

Doing the Twist: Modern American poetry and vitalism
Thom Donovan

From Wit to Plunder in a Time of War
Gregory Betts

Becoming Unmoored: Rob Halpern's Disaster Suites
Richard Owens, Andrew Rippeon

Rob Halpern

Conditions of Poetic Production and Reception Part 4. “New Resistant Subjects (Bot to Bot)”
Rodrigo Toscano, Natalie Knight

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


for Charles & Rit

Like names falling through
Old levels sounds like
In the open of the public
Eye we are vulnerable
Scrutinized not just for the poems
Sounds they make on the inside

How they still how they don't
Make us whole but the whole
World flickers the time
They take to get outside
And sense not just this sense
Of the mind's survival.

Wants to put
The me back in you

Scratch that
The eyes out
From a fault line
In the ear

I its epicenter
Equivocal of a
Thousand shades

Clear now in your
Tears an idea
Of we

A tenuous this
The future breaks
Upon, opening.

Wants to put
The you back in me

If no other things
The sense of things
Being together

Whole only in
Their potentia

Which is not
False equivalence

Semblance just
A taste of paradise
In this life

Though there is
No other of which
We may speak.

Context relies on ash
When what we will be is blank
As facts without the moon
The surface of the moon
To which they are attached
Words only make more knots
A cage to which the bird
Must refer in some future tense
So that we can make sense
So that the abstract can seem real.

Libraries there are
That are made in the mind
And which we never read the entirety of
And which yet affect us
As though we had read
Everything they contain

That is how it felt
To be with you today
Shaped by words which never
Alone will be mine.

Art Strike Anyone? (@ Harriet)


"Examining the documentation of Hsieh’s one-year performances make me think about all that the artist must have experienced while not making art objects, that is, while withdrawing from an economy involved with visual art. And this seems the point of the work: to imagine the vanishing of art itself for lived social practices as a limit of aesthetic autonomy. What, for example, could have kept the artist’s mind and body active while refusing to go outside the confines of a cell for a year (an experience obviously lived daily by actual detainees)? What social difficulties and practical dilemmas did the artist encounter while remaining outdoors in the streets of New York City (the state of necessity, obviously, of all homeless, itinerant, and displaced people living in the city). What daily struggles does one face with another individual whose most private needs can not be extricated from one’s own (a fact we all face cohabitating with others, only not usually on such extreme terms)? Finally, what can we consider the work of art when what comprises the work itself is the avoidance of working—to not give one’s labor power to art as it is expressed by a set of cultural practices and activities?"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Satellite Telephone vol. 3

I am thrilled to have work in Robert Dewhurst's brilliantly edited Satellite Telephone vol. 3, which includes work by BRUCE BOONE, JOSHUA BECKMAN, MARIE BUCK, TODD COLBY, CACONRAD, TANYA LARKIN, HEDI EL KHOLTI, ISH KLEIN, CHRIS KRAUS, NICOLE MAURO, SHARON MESMER, REBEKAH RUTKOFF, and ROD SMITH, and art by TRACEY EMIN.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview with Guy Ben-Ner in BOMB

This past winter I was fortunate enough to be able to interview one of my favorite contemporary visual artists, Guy Ben-Ner.
You can read part of the interview here and the rest in print.

Thom Donovan: I watched Second Nature and If Only… tonight. I am thinking about the significance of their many literary allusions: Waiting for Godot, Aesop’s Fables, The Little Prince, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Divine Comedy, King Lear, Don Quioxte, and many other classic works of Western European literature. How does literature influence your work and how do you come to use source texts?

Guy Ben-Ner: In my earlier movies, literature functioned more like a construction upon which I could mount my own material. The grand narratives I am interested in have a peculiar trait: they pretend to be inherited rather than acquired. Most people think they know Moby-Dick without ever really reading the book. When I first read Robinson Crusoe, I already felt I was revisiting it. Everybody knows what the Oedipus complex is, though I doubt many people actually read Freud on it. These narratives are so well integrated into our culture—they actually form this culture—that it feels like you get them from looking at milk cartons and Corn Flakes boxes. In the same way, IKEA showrooms look familiar; you feel like you’re back home, although it never was anyone’s home. I think grand narratives are exactly what you can never revisit—you were never with them, and yet they never really left you. It might seem simple to bring grand narratives down into one’s kitchen, but the relationship is complicated. The “fiction” and my “reality” had to enter into conversation—in Wild Boy, for example, my son really does utter his first English word on-screen, just as the wild boy does. He gets his first haircut and you see him barely managing to dress alone for the first time. It’s both reality and fiction. The fictive element was structured as a “play within a play,” (the obvious example would be the play staged in Hamlet) and that fiction serves as a motor to generate real events in the actual life of the participants. None of the “readymade” material I use comes from the desire to pay homage to this or that artist/writer. I’m using source material as a survival kit, as building blocks; I don’t know any other way. I hope this doesn’t come off as some kind of intellectual game—it isn’t. The “knowledge” I use, those quotations, are a stick to help me walk. I would limp otherwise.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All the Whiskey in Heaven official NYC launch!!!

All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems of Charles Bernstein launch

Sunday March 28, 2010, 6:30pm
Zinc Bar
82 W. 3rd St, New York, NY

Poets & friends read from All the Whiskey in Heaven
Thom Donovan
Peter Gizzi
Kenneth Goldsmith
Erica Hunt
Dorothea Lasky
Tan Lin
Elizabeth Willis
& Charles Bernstein
hosted by Dorothea Lasky

more information on the book at
read a review of the book in Time Out New York here:

Facebook event page:!/event.php?eid=353717594665&ref=mf

Monday, March 08, 2010

New Dusie Chaps

things are boiling over at Dusie Collective....

On Jane Sprague's The Port of Los Angeles (@ Harriet)


In the first part of Sprague’s book she tells a story. She sings herself, “Citizen Jane,” in conveyance (her family’s move from Upstate New York to Southern California), and in doing so speaks both of personal loss—a loss of feeling rooted in a place—and about conveyances far exceeding herself—“ourselves perfectly pitched at the edge of globalism.” (23) Global or international economic exchange is represented by the ports of which Sprague also sings (“container / as the staple / vessel of modernity” [28]). The ports encompass a local ecology of dockworkers and natural phenomena, drug and sexual trafficking, goods transported via shipping containers and other modes of transport. They are also the backdrop for the United States’ over-consumption; its consumption of world products and commodities at the expense of others within an international community—their labor power, their health/wealth, the security of their families and communities. “ownership or loss / and ‘no bordered sense of that’ / I do not know how we were to be (we) unbordered.” (32) Irresponsible consumption and waste as a result of exception.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

"I am testing..."

I am testing a series of propositions about friendship and
Community which may or may not last in time
Or produce the results I would have wanted or intended

I am testing them against the tried ephemera of political action
And reflection on this action called theory
Even while it may be occurring

No dream encompasses this contradiction
Between what we dream and how we wake up
And an effective mode of action within a particular
Set of forces or relations

Thus the feeling one is doing nothing
While one is in fact doing everything
One must act very specifically
While maintaining the possibility of everything.

For Robert

My friend when you go away
Into a medical emergency
An emergency of how living
Is practiced I miss you

I feel I am missing out
On my own life the consequences
Of which a building never
Materializing would make it true

Because the building is never
Built it remains a proposal
Or plan about how prosody
Lifts the body outside itself

How ekstasis cures
Your books remain to be written
Because the possible
Doesn’t end with words.

The Archivist

Because you wanted the world to hear
What you heard
Ears are all we are sometimes
A moment of music on them
And not all this drudgery
That is work and that is
A politics of work

The details not the mirage
Of seeing that’s what the archivist sees
Like we were sometimes just eyes
No longer I when we see
Stein said that
Because the world is mindful

Of identity you were taping it
All the time even the noise even the blanks
Before they organized our memories
What was even searchable
As memory

How any of it could impress us
This is where music comes in
Structuring the thing otherwise
All that time with the tape on
Just in case there was music.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Some words for Dave...

Here are some words I read for Dave Nolan's funeral on behalf of the 92nd St. Y this Wednesday afternoon at St. Mark's Church. The service for Dave was sublime. I am still reeling from all of the lives he touched, the immensity of his circles...

Dave Nolan was both a friend and my colleague at the 92nd St Y on the Upper East Side. We worked there together for what would have been four years this spring. Dave was a loved person at the Y. Loved for his friendliness and collegiality, and for his unique fashion sense (I will never forget the signature cowboy hat coupled with business attire and Hippie accessories). I would look forward to having a conversation with Dave usually at my desk about archival issues related to our jobs, but also about Downtown poetry and music, and the social histories surrounding St. Mark’s Church and The Bowery Poetry Club.

Dave and I worked on a project together at the Y to digitize the Unterberg Poetry Center’s collection of audio recordings from the center’s ongoing literary events series. Through Dave’s example as an archivist I learned a lot about archivism both as a profession and an art. Not only did Dave teach me to think about what the job of the archivist is and how properly to perform it, but also about archivism as an ethical relationship to cultural materials. Without the care and dedication of rare people like Dave we wouldn’t have archives, and therefore would lose our relationship to the past, to history, and to possible futures. As a result of Dave’s efforts, many hundreds of the Y’s programs are preserved for posterity. Likewise, Dave was instrumental in creating an infrastructure for further preservation projects across the Y’s many departments and programs.

To take on many of the archival projects that Dave undertook, made him that much more rare a person. This past New Years day right here at St. Mark’s Church Dave recorded yet another poetry marathon for the Poetry Project. This is a work of love. To attend local poetry, to attend poetry culture as a marsh for more visible cultural expressions and forms, to attend poetic language as a glue which binds us all. Dave served poetry and poets through his work at the Y, but also through his work at Poets House, Bowery Poetry Club, and The Poetry Project. Poetry will miss him and so especially will I.

World Remaking in Kathy Westwater's Park (@ Brooklyn Rail)


While there were many memorable moments about Westwater’s highly episodic work, two particular moments of the performance struck me as particularly evental. The first occurred when dancers Rebecca Brooks and Ursula Eagly rolled out a large sheet of Mylar over the studio floor and proceeded to walk on the Mylar in shoes fashioned from wood logs. Gradually and in synch, Brooks and Eagly walked towards each other, turning at the center of the sheet to face the audience. They then walked towards the audience until they were nearly at the front row. As Dan Hurlin rightly pointed out at the beginning of the post-showing Q&A, the ritualistic walk was “mythic,” conjuring simultaneously both dryads (tree nymphs) and some kind of evolved humanoid creature of the future. Crouching before the audience, the dancers transformed themselves into something at the limits of the human. Their slow movements and pronounced breathing patterns struck me as otherworldly and strange.

Rachel Levitsky's Neighbor (@ Harriet)


Something which attracts me to Levitsky’s book are the narrative qualities of the writing. How a sense of scene or episode is always erupting into philosophical/theological speculation and lyrical play. From the start of the book, there is an almost scholastic quality about Levitsky’s thinking, whereof she contemplates the “levels” in her head. Also from the start of the book, there is the sense that the voices of the book do not just belong to a singular person, but represent the person subjected in specific ways. That there is someone that calls itself “I” in Levitsky’s book is crucial. And that this “I” is self-conscious of itself in relation to neighbor(s) enables Levitsky to establish a continuous meditation on ethics, geopolitics, and sexual encounter/desire. The “I” of Levitsky’s book disjunctively narrates her (and our) own interpellation by local, national, and global functions of power. Neighbor as Other, but also as interstice of public/private, exterior/interior, becomes the site where person and subject cleave.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

David Nolan 1962-2010 (via Poetry Project @ St. Mark's)

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of our longtime friend David Nolan. David suffered a heart attack last Thursday, February 25th. The funeral will be held this Wednesday, March 3, here at St. Mark’s Church. The service will run from 4pm to 5:30pm. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall from 5:30pm to 7pm.

Many of you know David through the countless volunteer hours he spent at Project events helping us with sound and guiding us through technical knots. He spent all of New Year’s Day, this year and last, along with David Vogen, making sure each performer everything they needed for their performance, and making sure the Project always got the highest quality recording. It was clear that he got a lot of joy from the work that he did for us as well as so many other organizations he was connected with. He loved being here and we loved him and will miss him dearly. Look for an extended obituary in the Fall issue of the Newsletter. Our deepest condolences go out to David’s family and friends. His family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made in David’s name to one of the community and arts organizations that he worked with during his life.

East Village Community School – 610 E. 12th St., Rm 205, NY, NY 10009 Attn: Mary Talbot

Poets House – 10 River Terrace, NY, NY 10282 Attn: Jane Preston

Theater for the New City – 155 1st Ave. NY, NY 10003 ATTN: Crystal Field

WBAI – 120 Wall St.10th Fl. NY, NY 10005 ATTN: Morning Dew

The Poetry Project – 131 E. 10th St. 10003 ATTN: Stacy Szymaszek