Friday, December 31, 2010

Back Figure

Rukenfigur in reverse
Her hearse reviews
Give me the back
Spoken like a true muse
In starving time
Speaks to power
What names our name

Through embroidery
An effort to send
These names renewed
Into time say my name
Motherfucker be mine
Lapse from relic to
Wanting you
Earth is our studio

So you want to be said
Into history so you want
That gaze to be for you
All turned around
Capsized from the cross
All revolving things which
Devolve to an act of anthem
Like seeing you wasn't
Simply enough
Like hearing you blew
My ears off

I, you, and we,
We have become dis-
enfranchised equals this
Desire to see your actual-
Of the face you are naming
Power with
Speaking truth to sunset
By seeking out shadows
Folds of your robe
If with a backward look
Took'd from that flatbed.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture (@ ZEEK)

Last spring ZEEK asked me to write a review of Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture (U of Alabama Press, 2009). Just today they have posted the review along with poems by anthology editors Daniel Morris and Stephen Paul Miller:

This Jewish influence begs the question: could Robert Creeley or John Cage not be considered Jewish practitioners in regards to the qualities expressed by their work (as a student at SUNY Buffalo I recall Creeley repeatedly making the remark that he was in fact Jewish in his heart). To what extent, I might add, could Language writing, though many of its practitioners are not ethnically Jewish, be considered an aesthetically Jewish practice? Language writing’s roots in Objectivism, Gertrude Stein, Laura Riding Jackson, European and Russian avant gardes, and poets such as Jackson Mac Low, David Antin, Larry Eigner, and Hannah Weiner definitely suggests this case of elective affinity, if not kinship itself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Others Letters :: David Brazil & Alli Warren

Check-out the second post of Others Letters, the web archive I started last month, which consists of an exquisite 5-page letter composed by David Brazil in response to correspondence with Alli Warren regarding poetry and social/political engagement:

my question/concern for you, david, is a selfish one
lately i have been unable to write because i am unsure of poetry's significance outside of the "community" and i want what i spend my time doing to be socially/politically engaged.
why do i spend so much of my physical, mental and emotional energy on poetry, when it often seems that this energy would be better spent directly engaging the issues poetry talks about/around? is my engagement in poetry a sign of cynicism and escapism? am i running on bad faith?
so i guess my question for you, david, is how do you deal with these questions on your end? how do you think of poetry's capacity to reach people besides poets and to maybe try to do something in the world?
--Alli Warren to David Brazil

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Introduction for Andrea Brady (SEGUE series)

Andrea Brady’s Wildfire is research intensive, and conveyed by a dense lyric. The research in the book concerns the history of ways that weapons of ‘fire’ have been used both to accrue and sustain power. All of this involves world history. It involves an account of historical and mythopoetic forces via fire.

Brady is getting at nothing less than a particular genealogy of human values. A la Clausewitz, an ethics of how we can fuck each other up and this can be ok, going back to the Greek discovery of kerosene. I admire how this book contains so much, condensed to the point of intentionally obscuring its contents. Meaning, like conflagration, flashes-up. Through particular names and dates, Brady sends us to 'the books'. But the sense of having to know to what she specifically refers is overdetermined by her lyrical agility, which is consistently on display.

There is another value to this book, which Brady addresses in her "note on the text." What would it mean to create a book that mediated the information saturation of our current moment without betraying the event which that information saturation described or was about? A time Wallace Stevens predicted when he observed the "pressures" of mediated reality during the second World War, and which Brady courageously takes-up in terms of what she calls the “failure” of a previous poem that attempted to approach the then-current Iraq War through appropriational writing strategies. What, more over, if the author could situate their own complicity within a distant geopolitical conflict—as citizen-conqueror; as poet-mediator; as one also given to the deadly fascination incendiary weaponry holds—through "not allegory but the recovery of materialist history, which tests the luxuries of myth and enjoys, but does not endorse, the luxuries of language" (70):

The failure of my first effort to write such a poem, Sweatbox, showed me unable to cope with a rapidly unravelling history. That text attempted to plot the Gilgamesh epic, tablet by tablet, against the daily war (the second invasion of Iraq). Epic fragments were transported by Penguin Classics to a nook in London then out back to a pixellated field sewn with cluster bomblets and the shards of the Nemean lion. I busied myself at the British Museum, reading the blurbs, constellating fragments as a melancholic formal reminder of the fractures and losses in real-time reporting and in the dispersal of a living culture. But I couldn't keep up with the news, couldn't fit that fast degeneration to an epic impasto worth thousands of years. My appropriations showed through: the desire for wholeness implicit in the phrases airlifted from news bulletins; the desire for the right and the position to speak, for consensus and legitimacy of representation. The absence of those rights and places, the mourning echoes of the epic voice, turned the poem all tawdry ironic—better than a barbaric silence, but only just. Besides everyone was doing Gilgamesh that year. I abandoned the project. (70-71)

Through Wildfire, Brady puts forth nothing less than a poethics of lyric corrosion and condensery. A poethics admittedly allergic to ways that the use of appropriation and search engines can reduce immanent critique to "tawdry iron[y]." Among a host of other prosodic and poetic complexities, Wildfire concerns our complicity with how 'found text' is used, aesthetically and tactically. Ironic rhetorical strategy is wrecked by a 'long poem' format that seeks to counter-act its own force, the pyrotechnics in which it participates and at times resembles.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peacock Online Review vol. II

I have a little fascicle of poems in the new Peacock Online Review, edited by Sophie Sills who reviews John Sakkis's Rude Girl in the latest issue. Also check out poems by Brandon Brown, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Sarah Veglahn, and many others.
"The poem is throughout a commentary on itself, on culture as revolutionary praxis, on the transcendence still lurking in poetics which attribute to specific poems (or to themselves) the power to illuminate or obscure. But I hope that Wildfire's position is not ironic. I don't want to fabricate a critique which spares me, in whose light I glow with ethical priority."--Andrea Brady

Thursday, December 16, 2010

5 Questions With Nato Thompson (@ Art21)

Check out the latest 5 Questions (for Contemporary Practice) with Creative Time curator Nato Thompson:

"Coming up, we have a major exhibition called Living As Form, which I can only say tries to come to terms with the manner in which many art forms are merging art and life to the point where they are almost indistinguishable. It is this effort that plagued my mind of late. On that note, I am also working with Tania Bruguera on a project on immigration and it hails from her statement that it is finally time to put Duchamp’s urinal back in the restroom. She is super smart and understands that art must move into the world if it is to hold any sway at all at this historic moment."
--Nato Thompson

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introduction for Anne Waldman (at SEGUE)

This past weekend Anne Waldman gave a brilliant reading with cello accompaniment at SEGUE series. The following is the introduction that I gave for her.

Poet’s poet. Poet-scholar. Poet-activist. Poet-healer. Poet-anthologist. Poet-administrator. Poet-journalist. Poet-administrator…. It takes many hyphens, more than I have space for here, to encapsulate the multi-faceted, polymath, multiple-hat-wearing career of Anne Waldman, who perhaps needs no introduction, especially in a space which among others in NYC may be considered her stomping ground and native habitat.

Among the hyphens that attract me to Waldman’s work—which call me back to it—it is that indicating the poet-teacher which I find perhaps most alluring during a time when poets indeed need to occupy the role of educator again in order to ensure the counter-inscription of various social histories, and to transmit knowledge which may be useful to preserving public discourse in our present.

Seeing Waldman read a few years ago at the Whitney, I was immediately struck by this function of her work as she framed her reading through the use of a “teaching stick” which had been helping her to learn Arabic. Likewise, seeing her read at the Louis Zukofsky centennial gathering at Columbia University in 2004, I was struck not only by how Waldman drew-out the prophetic synergy of Zukofsky’s “A-8”—a poem which she reflected on at some length—but also the formal powers of the poem to evoke historical recognition.

How to teach through the poem? How to teach through the performance (and not just the recitation) of a poem or poetics? Waldman’s practice as a poet-teacher recalls other great artist-teachers such as Joseph Beuys, Charles Olson, and Waldman’s friend and colleague, Allen Ginsberg. Teaching, via the platform of reading, becomes energetic; it conveys energy, it motivates and incites.

While some might read Waldman’s latest book, Manatee / Humanity as one long prayer or invocation towards both the manatee and grey wolf, both of which are endangered by our intensifying climate crisis, the book also has a wealth of knowledge and insight to convey about the status of the creatures as they reflect the current conditions and values of human species.

Please welcome one of our great poet-teachers and poets period to the SEGUE series, accompanied by composer Ha-Yang Kim on cello.

37th Annual Poetry Marathon at St. Mark's Church

Come out for one of NYC's longest standing poetry traditions, the 37th annual Poetry Project marathon on News Year's day. Listen to a deluge of poetry and live music, and browse among a great selection of new and vintage poetry books for sale.

Poets and Performers include: John Giorno, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Philip Glass, Suzanne Vega, Taylor Mead, Eric Bogosian, Anne Waldman & Ambrose Bye, Foamola, Anselm Berrigan, Ariana Reines, Peter Gizzi, Liz Willis, Ted Greenwald, The Church of Betty, Thom Donovan, Tim Griffin, Todd Colby, Tom Savage, David Shapiro, Jonas Mekas, Josef Kaplan, Judith Malina, Albert Mobilio, Alex Abelson, Bill Kushner, David Freeman, David Kirschenbaum, Diana Rickard, Don Yorty, Dorothea Lasky, Douglas Dunn, Alan Gilbert, Alan Licht w/ Angela Jaeger, Charles Bernstein, Christopher Stackhouse, Citizen Reno, Cliff Fyman, Corina Copp, Aaron Kiely, Adeena Karasick, Bill Zavatsky, Bob Holman, Robert Fitterman, Rodrigo Toscano, Brenda Iijima, Brendan Lorber, Brett Price, Corrine Fitzpatrick, Curtis Jensen, Dael Orlandersmith, David Vogen, Derek Kroessler, Diana Hamilton, ARTHUR’S LANDING, CAConrad, Akilah Oliver, Douglas Piccinnini, John S. Hall, Samita Sinha, Sara Wintz, Secret Orchestra with special guest Joanna Penn Cooper, Shonni Enelow, Bob Rosenthal, Brenda Coultas, John Yau, Julian T. Brolaski, Evelyn Reilly, Filip Marinovich, Douglas Rothschild, Drew Gardner, Eleni Stecopoulos, Elinor Nauen, Eve Packer, Jo Ann Wasserman, Joanna Fuhrman, Dustin Williamson, E. Tracy Grinnell, Ed Friedman, Edwin Torres, Eileen Myles, Elliott Sharp, Emily XYZ, Erica Hunt, Erica Kaufman, Evan Kennedy, Joe Elliot, Joel Lewis, Frank Sherlock, Gillian McCain, Greg Fuchs, Janet Hamill, Jeremy Hoevenaar, Jeremy Sigler, Jessica Fiorini, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Jim Behrle, Julianna Barwick, Julie Patton, Michael Lydon, Lisa Jarnot, Maggie Dubris, Marcella Durand, Marty Ehrlich, Merry Fortune, Michael Cirelli, Kristen Kosmas, Laura Elrick, Lauren Russell, Leopoldine Core, Nina Freeman, Paolo Javier, Patricia Spears Jones, Paul Mills (Poez), Michael Scharf, Mike Doughty, Karen Weiser, Lewis Warsh, Linda Russo, Penny Arcade, Peter Bushyeager, Rebecca Moore, Mónica de la Torre, Murat Nemet-Nejat, Nathaniel Siegel, Nick Hallett, Nicole Peyrafitte, Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrefitte, Kathleen Miller, Katie Degentesh, Kelly Ginger, Ken Chen, Kim Lyons, Kim Rosenfield, India Radfar, Tonya Foster, Stephanie Gray, Susan Landers, Tony Towle, Tracie Morris, Valery Oisteanu, John Coletti, Rachel Levitsky, Edmund Berrigan, Macgregor Card, Wayne Koestenbaum, Will Edmiston, Yoshiko Chuma, Nicole Wallace, Arlo Quint, Stacy Szymaszek and more T.B.A

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Is Not a Performance

--for Adrian Piper

Gives me the back
The backside this dance
Does the butt but does it
Suffice to be an object

In this dance motherfucker
Reduced to steps, reduced
To hips, a kind of scream-
like script I am hinting at

Like shade light passes through
Light, like there was no
Beyond but what is social
What is a social material

Leaving me what’s left-
over from the armor
Love makes up the difference
Motherfucker my only friend

Nice up this substance
Come shadow come on
Open up a window
Pull this ladder up into skin

Songs the object and songs
The subject refused to sing
Ring thought balloons
Make the black still truer

No equal signs, no commons
In this index of who you is
In the present
The archive betrayed us

Blindfolds around entire bodies
Like a pair of eyes all over
Your body, a dance that was both
A fusion and a wreck

The eyes remain the windows
Of the soul, but who looks in and
Who looks out’s a question
Your body posed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A poem by Chris Martin (part II)

Reading Dana’s great piece on
ease. Uneasiness
leading everywhere at once. On labored seas
of greased thought. How the beliefs
slide into caprice. Salt
caught in an unknown wound. Gravel
corroding a once
solid grave. But surely to startle
tune into foot-fault, toe spitting over
the melody’s surface. To suck
dust from a moony footprint or
print money by dusklight.
“Respiration” was always coming
on back then. Visibly shaken. Fuck it.
Roam the Empire State or Roman? Cuss
long. Blast holes in the night. Kiss
the eyes goodbye I’m on the last train.

--from Every Time I Decided Not to Set Myself on Fire

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Paul Thek and the Art of Failure (Notes)

Here are some notes from an essay I started working on today addressing the work of Paul Thek.

Installation art, before it was absorbed by the practices of artists and curators who could perceive its salability and various ways to preserve its memory, was a medium of failure. And this is perhaps why Thek invented it (however inadvertently): because he is an artist of failure, sublime failure. Why does Thek fail? What is the failure which he embodies, expresses through his body of work but through the installation works especially?

The installation works succeed precisely where they deliberately fail to produce a reproducible or representative object. This fact has been cited time and time again. That through the installation format Thek’s work not only lost in market value (at a time when the market wasn’t nearly as hyped as the one of today); but more so, the possibility of its being cared for by museums, galleries, and other institutions of art's valuation (despite the fact that Thek showed in some of the venues now considered the most significant for visual art in Europe in the 60s and 70s). This desire for the work to be unrepresentable, for it to remain live and to only produce ephemera—relics which may or may not be cared for—is part of Thek’s intention which I particularly respond to. And we can trace this intention through a number of different elements in Thek’s work. Namely, his use of ephemeral materials such as newspaper (for nearly all of his “paintings”), chalk, and even sand (for a sandcastle reproducing Bruegel the Elder’s “Tower of Babel”). If the Technological Reliquaries may be said to take Conceptual and Minimal art ‘down’ from a Neo-Platonic realm of ideational givens to the suffering of a soma, then all of the work relates a form of suffering through the effects of time, history, and labor—the approximation of a lived duration which imagines anything that could be preserved, and that could thus continue to exist outside its immediate presence, as ‘dead’—a relic or ruin. Whether as calculated fuck you to an American art world that had forgotten Thek, or to a world which he would have liked to have abandoned for nobler ideals (charitas and agape for instance), the work—despite its intense materialism—embodies a set of ideals; ideals of another world. Ideals of a better world, I think Thek would have agreed. Not yet-to-come, but always (at least potentially) 'here and now'. Especially now.

Art can be an exodus from art. It is as such in the work of Thek, and many of his contemporaries. Art as reproductive, violently reduced to an object. Art reduced to a saleable, possessable, preserveable thing rather than something binding, acting as a kind of social material, a participative-communal property. Many of Thek’s works attributed to him were in fact made in a workshop-like atmosphere, in which the artist’s collaborators (who were also his friends and apprentices) would have much to contribute, and whereby the social activity of the workshop (how someone cooked and arranged a particular meal, for instance) largely determined “product” (what was produced as installation, if only so that it could be eventually devalued and neglected by curators and potential collectors alike).

Interview with Adam Pendleton (in BOMB)

My interview with Adam Pendleton will appear in the upcoming winter issue of BOMB, which drops next Wednesday. Here is a preview.

Pendleton is a rare artist in his ability to synthesize disciplines and mediums, and to steer with collaborators toward “total works,” which yet remain drafts of a larger essayistic practice. His works—like those of his many avant-garde forebears—are experimental in the truest sense. He sets up a laboratory in which our social and political desires can appear, however fleetingly. Historical materials (images, sounds, and printed language) become a point of departure for making present what cannot be grasped by representations of history (narratives, archives): the emergence of events and situations, which can only become known retroactively. Recent live art has rarely been more conscious of its origins in civil disobedience and the civil rights movement, where we view the body as a site of social antagonism, and as a “case” for struggles for recognition and justice. With Pendleton’s work, even though we are often left with aporias and blind spots, we feel the force of historical matter self-organizing and finding form beyond representability and essence. We discover the protest of the object—works of art and performance resisting their subsumption by common epistemological frameworks and modes of narration posing as truth.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A poem by Chris Martin

Check out this lovely poem by Chris Martin, from a forthcoming book called Every Time I Decided Not to Set Myself on Fire

So what if these were notes not
for something more
finished, but for something more
like ruins, not Gothic
Revival Horace
Walpole fakes, not stonewashed
jeans, but real ruins, lived-in
to death, a little ruin
of a typewriter that bit
ribbon after ribbon
until every blackened tooth
smashed, guiding a whole polis
of letters into the skies
and trucks and boxes? Say
these ruins were like no
other ruins in
that they were (not actually)
invisible, as in invisible
to commodity, like no one
would ever stand in front of them
in a photograph, or rub one
of their crumbly faces, or point
at a cluster of dots
on some cheap map, but ruins one
could only stumble
upon like it was someone else’s
life left between a stand
of hairy pines, and no one thought
to walk there again, it wasn’t
a way anyone going
somewhere would go, a huge fucking
mess, not left to someone
to deal with, but devastating
in its beauty
because it’s someone else’s so
gone you just know
you’ll never know anything
factual about it, or the person
whose life it was and now
only is, this gorgeous
nothing pointing
everywhere but at itself, this event
you (now) and only now (you)
are allowed to see, an event
that barely even unfolds, but just sits
there in all its inaccessibility
like a flood that isn’t
a real flood because it never moves
and it can’t be a real event
because there aren’t any streets
to walk home on, or string
to unravel, there is only this ruin
running in place, that no
one else will ever happen
across, that absolutely everyone
will miss, just as you have
missed everything else, some fat
animal staring at a reason, some bear
furrowing, so that
soon even
you will miss it, this ruin, this impossible
strip of “life” that will
drift with other endless parts
of you you lost
along the way, over all
this time, will shift
like another gleaming doorknob
in Brigadoon, so as always
to stay where you are
not, a great big floating thrift store
of late appendages
like a fool fingering walnut shells
to remember the meat.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Rebecca Davis's what I'm saying is born from the weather (in Brooklyn Rail)

In the new Brooklyn Rail I have a short review of Rebecca Davis's what I'm saying is born from the weather, which appeared last month at Judson Memorial Church:

Can dance help one to understand weather as a “thing”? Can the body become synched with climatic substance? Can it undergo or embody the weather as a substance? The title of Davis’s performance comes from a book of poems by the Colorado-based poet Eric Baus, called The To Sound. In his book, Baus cracks open a poetic syntax in order to put it back together again, in the process helping his reader to understand and explore a poetic grammar. One could read Davis’s dance in a similar way, in that it may also attempt to represent the weather as an ordering of both discursive and sensory experience.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Intro for Thalia Field (at SEGUE)

Here is my all too inadequate introduction for Thalia Field, who performed with an ensemble including Jena Osman this past weekend at SEGUE series. Reading Field's work last week got me thinking again about exactly what we mean when we call poetry (or anything for that matter) "experimental." Likewise, I was sent back to other poetries which incorporate both essay, play, and 'thought experiment' into a verse-like mood of texture. Zukofsky's Bottom: on Shakespeare; many of Susan Howe's poems and essays; Rosmarie Waldrop's lovely essay, "Alarums and Excursions" among others....

For over a decade Thalia Field has been providing us with a literature at the boundaries of poetry, theatre, fiction, philosophy, and essay. Through her work genre and disciplinary boundaries become confused to say the least. More accurately, we might say that the confusion of genre, discipline, and field gives way to a more holistic and open investigation of thought through a writing practice.

As such, Field takes up the work of a truly “experimental” literary genealogy, one which recalls essayists such as Montaigne and Emerson, but perhaps finds most of its purchase in a heuristic approach to composition which grew out of early modernism, and continues to this day. In Field’s most recent book Bird Lovers, Backyard (New Directions, 2010) she evokes an experimentalist genealogy through the controversial figure of ethologist Konrad Lorenz, whose essentialist views about animal behavior coupled with Nazi sympathizing reflect what is troubling about anthropomorphic approaches to animal biology. Through Bird Lovers, Backyard, Field proves that writing can problematize methods of experimentation extended historically and laterally from the natural sciences.

In another book published by Field this past year, A Prank of Georges (Essay Press, with Abigail Lang), Field and her co-author take up Gertrude Stein as a kind of muse. This is fitting given Stein’s dual backgrounds in experimental psychology/neurobiology and literature/visual art. The title of the book comes from a line of Stein’s, “Prank could be called George if one were used to it but one is not,” and the book indeed is a prank if we think about a prank being related to grotesque and harlequinry (two genres Field draws upon throughout her work).

There are so many things to recommend about A Prank of Georges, which weaves a tissue of quotations from various strands of philosophical, literary, scientific, and etymological texts in order to explore the function of naming for construing and constructing identity—a problem which obviously fascinated Stein from The Making of Americans until her late works about fame and celebrity. What is striking about the use of quotation in this book is how unique quotations become like players in a dialogue—speaking their lines, performing certain actions; acting!

The directness (and direction) of this discursus I find attractive and true to Field’s and Lang’s muse who through composition as explanation was able to grasp philosophical difficulties associatively, synaesthetically, and emotionally, finding form in apparent chaos, performing witz through structural adequacies. What if the essay was just a matter of sequencing, editing, design—many of the movements from A Prank of Georges seem to ask? What if what we called “poetry” demarcated the ‘text’ after a discursive scaffolding had been removed?

In Field’s writing thesis disappears giving way to what the writer, in the spirit of Stein’s death bed repartee, calls “an ecology of questions.” A Prank of Georges, like so many works by Field, brings us closer to thinking in its state of flux, movement; as it is forming and deformational (monstrous, sublime). In which we see, and feel demonstrably, thought taking shape, as a kind of extensive dramatic action among the literal letters. Letters as actors, as players.

A Literal Blood (Installing Spirit)

belatedly, after Paul Thek
composed on World AIDS Day

No sex here,
no content
except what
survives as joy,

and praise fail-
ure which becomes
you not nailed
to anything

no concept but
suffering a
semblance nonetheless,
so real was it

inside us and
embodying and gut-
ted, metaphor
the ongoingness

of notebooks,
eternal sketch
of that towering
to topple a wreck

subsides in unful-
fillment, time
runs out but your body
afflicted was free,

its total simul-
taneity like a
sympathy atoning
for nothing

all language becomes
a love letter,
all drawing
describes a pun

on sunset, on relic,
on humility
the world continues
to end

though neither
spirit or body appear,
no soul outside
of history

art is uncleansed,
a literal blood,
uncleansed would be
a place to begin.