Monday, November 28, 2011

Sarah Rosenthal responds to Dana Teen Lomax's Disclosure

Disclosure taught me how to read all over again. It ups the ante on the experimental, forcing me to reconsider: What is the story? Who wrote it? (Dana Teen Lomax--or is it Momax? Or is it the host of institutions that reward her, punish her, and monitor her every move? Or is it the culture that spawns these institutions?  Or is it the work of our own projections?) Can a W-2 form be called a poem? What leads me to classify a text as "easy" or "difficult"? Disclosure reconfigures every aspect of "the book," from front cover to "About the Author."  Someone once told me that excitement is one step away from fear.Disclosure makes me nervous--it thrills me.     

Sarah Rosenthal's interviews with Bay Area writers, A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Bay Area Writers, is published by Dalkey Archive (2010) and her collection of poems, Manhatten, by Spuyten Duyvil (2009).  Rosenthal has published three chapbooks: How I Wrote This Story (Margin to Margin, 2001), SITINGS (a + bend, 2000) and not Chicago (Melodeon Poetry Systems, 1998).  Her poetry and fiction have been anthologized in BAY POETICS (Faux Press 2006) and hinge (Crack Press, 2002).

Dana Teen Lomax's Disclosure is available from SPD.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Herso: Staff Pick at SPD

Susana Gardner's Herso: An Heirship in Waves is a Staff Pick at SPD -- 40% off!

Carrie Hunter and The Incompossible this Saturday on POET AS RADIO

This Saturday, 9-am-10am, join POET AS RADIO for Part 1 of an interview with Carrie Hunter who will read from and discuss her book The Incompossible (Black Radish). Listen live at

For more information about POET AS RADIO and to listen live to archived shows go to

Hunter's The Incompossible was an SPD BEST SELLER for August 2011.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jill Alexander Essbaum responds to Susana Gardner's Herso: An Heirship in Waves

I am a formalist-ish poet.  Therefore, all I read is seen, interpreted, discerned, and valued through the eyes of a writer concerned chiefly with exactly how the words that appear on a page process themselves.  To what end.  In which manner.  For what reason.  In what direction.  For how long.  And more, and more, and more.  This is a long way around saying that I cannot divorce a poem or a book of poetry’s shape from its…hmmmm…I’m going to write ‘meaning’ even though I’m pretty sure that’s not the right word (what does it mean, anyway, for a thing to have meaning?).  And should we ever try and separate the two?  I think no.

I’ve known Susana Gardner for awhile.  We were a single mile apart from each other when I lived in Switzerland.  One single, silly mile.  We should have been at each other’s houses every day.  But we weren’t.  I was trapped in the drama of an unraveling marriage and that preoccupied about 97% of my available resources.  BUT.  If I had spent those days with her, what I think I would have learned is this:  that all shorelines vary unbelievably.  That I, too, am of Ifs and possibility.  That some nightships MUST be drowned.  That the body, when it cannot swim, must walk.  That sentences are made of words, and what is a word but a collection of letters?, and each collection of letters contains every word that can be made of it. Everything intends everything else.  That there is a Before Me and there is an After Me.  That a stranger is always a stranger.  And the sea is the strangest creature of all.  Investigate. Venture out.  Open thou-self to an unknown road.  I inhabit my inhibitions. 

If I had spent those days with her I might have learned these things.  But I didn’t.  So I learn them now.  In this lovely, discerning, impeccably heart-sore book. 

The formalist in me—again, ever present—deems Susana’s experiment in contra-form a success.  There is nothing tired or shabby or olden-timed or dull in this book.  The form always follows the function; it never works the other way around.  An engineer I used to be married to taught me that.  The shape of this book is dictated by the sea itself: mutable, vast, by turns black and cavernous, willing, empty as a bucket full of water. 

This is what HERSO: An Heirship in Waves means to me.

Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of Harlot (No Tell Books), Necropolis (NeoNuma Arts) and most recently The Devastation, a single poem chapbook (Cooper Dillon). She is an instructor at the UCR  Palm Desert Low Residency MFA program. 

Herso is available from SPD.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Susan Gardner's Herso: An Heirship in Waves -- a response by j/j hastain

Susana Gardner’s herso an heirship in waves is an investigative beast-- “an endless seaming conquest” (not seeming conquest, not typical conquest at all) wherein non-traditional investigations of the pronoun and the place and the presence her occur. Note please this book’s acts of tonal seaming.

(  “the female as an index”/“a saint her”  )

I feel this book as an application. A “throated proliferant”—strengthening the places in readers that have perhaps become loose or fatigued or inverted.  This is subliminal coax. A coming to through. Oh how I believe in this method of engagement!

I think that this work is only proportionately autobiographical. Becoming “self-important [to itself, to herself] again.” “Things still scattered about as always, scattered in a pattern only she could recognize”—then it becomes somehow autonomous to itself. “Beautiful in grandeur, awful in its form.”

I really enjoyed feeling like I could get lost in this book.  Lost like one can get lost in music. I appreciated the literal, figural presence of sound. I so enjoy being conducted! The waves of herso got into the waves extant in my own brimming body.

Is the sea and is my body itself not a “secluded wildness?” “In so coming to be born gauntlet of” “overwhelmingly rested halfnotes.”

Now I would like to mention the resting periods in this book. The space between curves of text. The entire pages of visual/textual pressure. These held me into the book. Made me feel like a density interacting with the inter densities of the document. The further and further in the more I felt “her wayward deity”—this book--these movements “an inevitable creational turning.”

“What strange [and lovely] beings” these pages are. Oh “salt. Resurrection”

Susana Gardner’s Herso: An Heirship in Waves is available from SPD.

j/j hastain is the author of numerous full-length cross-genre works such as asymptomatic over // thermodynamic vents (BlazeVox Books),  our bodies are beauty inducers (Rebel Satori Press), and ulterior eden (Otoliths), as well as many chapbooks and artist's books.  j/j's manuscript Let was a finalist in the 2010 Kelsey Street and Ahsahta book competitions.  In 2011 j/j's book we in my Trans ws nominated for the Stonewall Award.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Carrie Hunter and the Windshield Wipers

Lara Durback responds to Carrie Hunter's The Incompossible

"The binary competes with multiplicity." Carrie Hunter writes this in "Crystal Sewage," one of the blocky floating poem-paragraphs that is a page in her new collection, The Incompossible. Carrie puts forth so many binaries (or what ever name you want to call these back-and-forth things in a mind) that readers are forced to see all that's in between these stark binaries (or, as I wrote in my notebook, "binary as displacement, replacement, one thing possibly substituted for the other). "When our un-thingness becomes thingness, what about the rest of us?" ("Our Daylight Truth") When binaries don't work, we're still here with our binaries.

Like me, Carrie yearns for graph paper, or at least I am projecting that she has a graph paper fetish like me. Wait, she actually does say it, "A desire for graph paper." ("Ontology") She also mentions "power grid of the known." ("Our Daylight Truth") I think the yearning for the grid is about wanting to draw around the grid, wanting to write diagonally on the grid, write all over and take apart the grid. Wanting to think about how to get around the grid, this "real" predisposed, measured, mapped plan of living. Carrie Hunter: I don't know her that well, but when I met her at the release party forThere Journal at Loretta Clodfelter's house (a year ago?) I felt an affinity with her. It was a cozy and supportive gathering. I also know I had seen her around poetry-land, and we had never talked, and I wondered what that was, why is it so terrifying to talk at readings? Maybe we would have talked someday anyway? But it's always so much easier to just talk to the familiar people in public that might smile back at you, isn't it?

While reading, my first instinct was that The Incompossible was about the pain of interaction in some way, how it often should be so easy, but it really is not. The first inclination I had about each of Carrie's paragraph poems is that each of them contains some combination of wants, hurts, and that which is said in public. It does feel incompossible to talk at a poetry event during breaks and mingling sometimes, when you have so many things to say, and writing work you have been consumed with, and residue you are carrying around from whatever is going on in your life, and you are standing there, mouth hanging open, trying to convey wishes/wants/needs, trying not to be hurt, and just trying to notice and take in the room and the air and the weather. "What is influenced that is outside of the sphere of influence's sphere of influence." ("Contour") How familiar that feels! How many times have I felt that disconnect of people gauging people depending on influences, especially with in a writing/art community. This is considered, never solved.

Carrie Hunter is there, exploring these spaces of interaction clouded by thought, (or thought clouded by interaction). Yes I will just say this assertively. And she is doing it in these manageable short paragraphs. And she is doing it with sentences. I always find sentences comforting, as opposed to lowercase words floating in a lot of page space. Carrie puts so much heavy stuff in these sentences that they better not float too much. Hey, I just wrote they are floating at the top of the page in the first paragraph. Well, they are floating AND not floating. 

Oh, I also jotted down, "Everything is foggy and that means today is not today." ( From "[anniversary]," an especially heavy poem that drops to the bottom of a page, as only a handful of the poems in the total book will do.) There is a lot of saying of what is or is not. But in the context of being outside, in the city walking around ("The pigeons walk single file." "Whether there are men masturbating in the street we must walk around." "Barbershop poles will not tell me anything [new].") there is all this huge consideration of dualities, of what has been said or not said, separate but one, like a mind that is huge with thought while a body walks on a very concrete street. Forgive me Carrie, I am skipping around so much to different poems, but all of the text resembles parts of one big whole, so I feel welcome to do it. 

"Reduced to what you are trying to outgrow" ("Once the Dualities Destroy One Another"), yes, I become more convinced this is about knowing oneself as a theorizer, a critic, a poet, an artist, this is the long view of what is going on with the mind. The poem "Once the Dualities Destroy One Another" is one of the keys to this book. The dialectics, the dichotomies, the binaries, the paradoxes within the space of a sentence are told and retold in so many ways. (I ponder off about singular terms for such a long time that it stunts my conversation ability, has led to others calling me obtuse at times, or just making awful faces of disgust or misunderstanding, faces I'm sure I am making myself back at them, while I try to understand.) Carrie also explains this flip-flopping of the mind elsewhere in the poems as an object doing that sort of movement. "The windshield wipers are broken." ("Plenum") "String pulled too taut, becomes two convictions, and must be thrown away." ("Once the Dualities Destroy One Another")

And, yes, I have to go there, but Carrie drops in /"THE/OWLS/ARE/NOT/WHAT/THEY/SEEM/," which could only be a reference to Twin Peaks. David Lynch and Mark Frost who wrote the screenplay for Twin Peaks have the most brilliant systems of symbols going on in that old show, functioning in a very similar way to what Carrie is doing. (I found an antiquated website nerdily breaking down all the Twin Peaks symbols, and I never returned to the site, but I never forgot it either.) Carrie's windshield wipers remind me of the circular fan image that is constantly shown in Twin Peaks, the circular fan is relating to cycles of abuse that happen, especially toward women (the same actress killed again through another character). There is the repeating fan image especially in Laura Palmer's house. (I could go on with the Twin Peaks symbols but I will spare you too much...There are also things like sunglasses that come up when someone is hiding pain of loss or abuse with some sort of toughness. Or the constant image of grinding of the logs, also a circular image, a circular saw, that refers to the big city or big industry encroaching on the small town, and I would arguably say, on women, who are also viewed as a sort of industry themselves.)
Carrie's windshield wipers are not limited to women's minds during an interaction or assertion of thought, but I think that many of the poems do point to a woman's experience of speaking in public or walking in public. But this is something anyone can find access to, a human experience of pinning down the mind that jumps back and forth to different decisions or judgments. Or between left and right brain.

I have not read the other reviews of this book on the Black Radish blog yet (I didn't want to be influenced), and it will be exciting to see what others have said about Carrie's work. It is so exciting to see it in its entirety. It is always scary to respond singly and directly to poetry as I wonder if I am capable of listening at the time I am reading/writing, with all the filters and anxieties that could hinder me from addressing the work, i.e., the words on the page, and not the thing my mind was already working on. I want to honor Carrie's awesome body of work.

The Incompossible is available at SPD.

Lara Durback is a notebook writer, using handwriting primarily, and that means walking around and writing. Public transportation is a big part of that city writing. Work without handwriting forthcoming in Mrs. Maybe. Also look for her editing work on Deep She is also a letterpress printer because she likes machines. She has recently finished making/printing the book Garbage Research 1: Hoarders and Those Resembling Hoarders for Dusie Kollectiv 5 with the collage artist Greg Turner. She taught a class about printing on found items at Naropa University's Summer Writing Program. Her NoNo Press will be a featured artist in the forthcoming Artist's Book Yearbook, though she does not identify as a book artist. Writer is enough.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

“EMOTIONAL ABOUT DEFINITIONS”: Erik Noonan responds to The Incompossible

Carrie Hunter, The Incompossible, Black Radish Books, 2011, $15

Since placing a book in an arbitrary context first, and then enumerating its qualities afterwards, as if it stood around sticking its thumb out, would be a sloppy way to write about reading – because no trace would remain that the reader had ever made an effort to go a little distance alongside the writer, before setting down any reactions – Carrie Hunter’s collection The Incompossible makes for a demanding night: one that enjoyably turns into a month, with no signs of letting up.
                Conversation piques one’s interest among these poems, in that moment when Information has footed the bill for once, and Hilarity finally takes the floor.

The previous is not indicated, but the quiche is. (“The Floating”)

“He wouldn’t actually drive the saucer.” (“Gaze”)

Cocoa butter might help with this, or glass dildos. (“The Coinciding”)

What coffee giveth and what it taketh away. (“The Sentence Before the Asterisk”)

Free cheeseburger with carwash, you can’t win a fight with someone dressed in yellow. (“Locus”)

This poet’s work gets by on the slightest hint that today could turn zany any second.
                Awkwardness puts on its mystique with a difference before her glance.

Almost accidentally taking the anxiety pill and then deciding that I might actually need it. (“Fetching”)

Reading the note on the table, sitting down, then standing right back up. (“A Conchology”)

I have a cough drop, would you like one? (“Temporary Ravine”)

All the asides happen downstage center, so to speak.
                In a handful of lines the poet oversimplifies paradox into a plaything.

The possible is impossible. (“Plenum”)

Antiquities shop the racks of the new. (“The Imaginary”)

Totalitarianism lacks totality. (“Prime Mover”)

Interjection itself interjects. (“Graft”)

Privacy intrudes. (“Graft”)

These lines of stone have the authentic ring of twentieth-century French philosophy in American English translation; and for all the allure of their subject matter one feels that although such pseudo-statement, with its fatal shrug, probably testifies to spoken usage in francophone countries – or at least in France, or at least among French academics – it makes off with its intellection at too high a cost in cleverness.  Yet the pressures of concision never come off in this book as that slovenly knack for the coy effect which masquerades as artistry in too much recent work.
                The troop of fads known as Fashion cedes place to Style, a scale of pleasures in adorning one’s body, that amounts to a code:

Wondering what conditioner other people use. (“Allegory”)

Unkempt and too tired to do anything about it. (“Asterisk”)

China doll hair. (“[pendulum]”)

An aqua shirred skirt is another curtain I want to be. (“Both Ends of the Chain”)

And by an absolute epithet, which ascends to magnificent dailiness, the elegant line “Her insouciant hair” (“Extrapolation”) outdoes all merely contrived glamour.
                In this poetry American things confront someone who represents half the body politic, yet whose opinion exerts the embattled power of a minority interest group member:

Barack Obama is single and lets me sit on his lap.  I believe in change. (“Spectator”)

There is something to be said for the unpopular. (“Language (language)”)

More popcorn is demanded. (“Dolmen”)

The cynicism that pop life so often gleans from the Romantic outlook touches this poetry not at all.  Nor does the poet ransack life’s difficult combinations to salvage apothegms like someone running for office on the Poetry ticket.  The concerns appear comprehensive.  Such dry lightness makes for dependable company amidst the sometimes prickly and moist atmosphere of contemporary letters.  Her wit also belongs, one feels, to the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment – but as Sévigné and Austen skeptically saw it.  Other names suggest themselves: one worth mentioning is H.D., whose London “rails gone (for guns)” ensoul this text written in a California where everyone knows what would be here, and what it’s going for.    
                One finds the tradition freshly engaged:

Everyone born on Bloomsday loves roses. (“The Phenomenology of Imagination”)

When I was in bliss, I was in despair.  Now everything is distinct.  If only this monotonous sadness would turn around and look me in the eye. (“Epithalamium”)

What the just do to the unjust.  What the unjust do to the just and how these terms get switched around. (“The Exigencies”)

There are no seagulls here. (“Contestable”)

I nod but there are no golden apples. (“Numen”)

Negative capability is wearing a unicorn pendant. (“Invisibility”)

How, with ruby shoes, we always knew what we needed to know, it is just that now we know that we know it. (“Ontogenesis”)

One would think that all of those stories were only our own tale – and so they are.
                The book is inscribed to the poet’s mother, and certain lines stamp that figure with the character of their transaction:

The fear of ending as your mother ended. (“The Phenomenology of Imagination”)

The unmother mothers us all. (“A Charm”)

Hearing my mother calling my name in the middle of the night. (“[anniversary]”)

My mother points out her exact favorite color. (“Maintenance”)

When my mother thinks I am not listening. (“The Clear and the Obscure”)

It no longer seems apt to dump Helen of Troy in Egypt at the doorstep of something called the Male Mind, post-Madeleine-Albright; and over the last ten years a hundred thousand American mothers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq; and academe stammers that two women on a corporate board of directors may not be enough in a time and place in which many women still earn seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same work: so this book doesn’t just give the lie to readers whose pet theory is that all women who write are modernists (small “m”) by default; or readers who comb the stacks for just the volume that will emend some cherished definition of humankind.  Instead, The Incompossible enjoins its readership to read and speak and write as if the common tongue were actually worth something – that is, the book addresses the faculty of articulation in every sphere of life.
                Strong emotion animates several propositions which amount to the most fastidious assertion in the book of a lucid sensibility whose dark reflection wears the frayed and mended ball gown of a credo:

What takes place is not heathenistic. (“Corporeal”)

Meaning is a superstition. (“[pendulum]”)

If you want the door open, I’ll open it. (“Kerygma”)

There is way too much chocolate. (“Intrinsic”)

The weather doesn’t tell you what time it is. (“Irreducible”)

You can trust the clock.  Unless there’s been a blackout. (“[anniversary]”)

The visible is what is seen or could be seen. (“Witnesses”)

There are no questions. (“Future Science”)

There is no such thing as opposites, only variations of the one. (“Pell-Mell”)

Truth is plural. (“Technically Sublime”)

That order is what matters and that it is mostly fucked up. (“Lexicon”)

I am not the enigma here and neither are you. (“The Dispossessed”)

If you stare hard things morph into other things, but if you stare harder they do not. (“Plural”)

Inside of us something has disappeared. (“Impact”)

Seams of the human hold together that which is not. (“Numen”)

Such lines are notable for betraying the author’s courage.  
In some of her lines the terms strain toward a statement that doesn’t arrive as bidden, one feels: “Mysticism overlaid onto blind stinking reality” (“[nativity]”), for instance, prompts the consideration that a bewildered anchorite may be the opposite of a mystic, and that the poet’s pen was tipsy, when she wrote.  Likewise with “Consciousness is what causes us all the trouble” (“Contour”): instead, isn’t it true that the only trouble with every state, as far as we know, is enlargement?
Here is all of “Stratum”:


Regardless of the past.  Here is here is here and nothing can be done about it.  When we arrive and are dewy.  Doubt’s relation to certainty and the dance they take.  There is a central question we cannot ask, but we can hear it.  Trees are always reaching out.  Sex sounds are sirens.  What we believe and how shoddy our own truth is.  The world recedes and we are left hanging onto childhood blankets.  Wanting to express sadness but unsure if it is expressible.  Wondering if any surprises are coming or if this plateau will continue.  What I have not given you I will give you another time.

One wants to take the poet at her word.
On the book’s cover, designed by Susana Gardner, the lettering recalls a Barbara Kruger slogan; and the illustration – “Paper Doll” by Matina Stamatakis – shows an unbuttoned black coat, lined with lilac paisley over a scarlet dress, cinched at the waist by a crimson braided leather belt, bare wrist lightly fallen across the hip, with broken nail on ring finger and evident mannequin fractures, altogether inspiring both suspicion and curiosity.  The author herself sports high Air Wears laced with black ribbon, or she did a couple seasons ago; drinks peppermint Schnapps on transbay trains; and, when lost, is not shy about asking the lady waiting on the corner where to find a bus stop.  Carrie Hunter resides in San Francisco.

ERIK NOONAN was born in Los Angeles in 1974, and lives in San Francisco. His poems have appeared in diverse journals and magazines.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

j/j hastain responds to Carrie Hunter's The Incompossible

Carrie Hunter’s The Incompossible is a hungry book that is evermore increasing hunger in us. As “a continuous transposition”--as a “mutual mastication” it is composed of and upholds zones of necessary fragmentation. We feel these fragmentations in our bodies as we move through (the book that is also a body) via both a process of stitching and of breaking down. The Incompossible fills us with bends and blends for a new grace. So “clandestine “among”— wherein we can be uncertain at the same time that we are sure. How comforting! How daunting!  True to what I believe to be Carrie’s impetuses here “what I inhabit makes me disappear.” And we can and we do disappear. Disappear as we are appearing! Oh gravities! Oh gift! “No such thing as interior or exterior” [] “we are spinning” and in that spin—that lucid pirouette—the reeling and the rotation grounds us as it make us levitate. I am saying “there is no such thing as opposites, only variations” and we feel these variations deeply as we travel through this moving mirror that is also an echo-location repeating its portions as bends.

The Incompossible is available through SPD.

j/j hastain is the author of numerous full-length, cross-genre works such as: asymptotic lover // thermodynamic vents (BlazeVox Books), our bodies as beauty inducers (Rebel Satori Press), and ulterior eden (Otoliths), as well as many chapbooks and artist’s books.  j/j’s manuscript Let was a finalist in the 2010 Kelsey Street and Ahsahta book competitions. In 2011 j/j’s book we in my Trans was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Permutations of The Arakaki Permutations

Jared Stanley responds to Arakaki Permutations

I love Jim’s project – his desire to bring his poetry writing and the embodied practice of the Kata together might seem kind of scary, or too pure, or something, but you know, there’s drama in its rigor and (should I say it?) faith in its unity of purpose. Mostly it’s a great pleasure to read – the mind turning the graphemes into motions. It’s exciting, and more than anybody else I can think of, Jim’s trying to write poems that are embodied (not ‘about’ the body) and are, at the same time, about a rigorous, demanding idea of embodiment. Jesus fuck, that sounds like a blurb.

Has anybody mentioned the form of the book? It’s divided into five sections of permutations of the first poem in the section. So, the first line of the first poem, is ‘word.’ This serves as the title of the next poem. The second line is ‘in process’ serves as the title of the third poem, and so on and so forth. There’s a kind of rigorous efflorescing out of the first poem’s primary intention which I find super exciting, hinting at levels of meaning that can be endlessly generated from the first line. And they’re not glosses, or poems dependent on each other, permutations, gusts and motions of changes.

Permutation. Do I even need to say it? It is the most important gesture of poetry, in these days of endless, extrusions, transformations, metamorphoses. So much of it seems uncontrollable, apocalyptic, I don’t know, disordered, some fearful inevitability, nihilistic even. (I read this headline: Ocean Noise Pollution Blowing Holes in Squid’s Heads) So, sometimes, I think of permutation, and I am afraid of such things. This world has trained us to fear transformation.

But not in this book. Here, permutation and change are ‘of the process’ – should we have a look?

Arakaki no Jo

aroundabout way to confer
cropping with the best of all

intent  rivet gatling
in the offing
strategies  break one loose

I want to stop and hear the cryptic echo of ‘conifer’ in there. And indeed, the permutation explores the echo fully. The violence of motion, and of rhyme! Can you imagine sapling and gatling together, in this way? the motions of the kata are supple (saplings).

Here’s the permutation of the third line, exciting to me for its animistic conflation of trees and body parts:

III. (storm-knees)

bough (breaks)
the tension wire

by swinging it low
you get
a battery’s worth

of spent shells
and without care

in ward or wood
or that
centrifugal stress

intertial force lost
as it’s
flung from orbit

The permutations linger on pain or violence. The suppleness and grace of the knee is snapped or broken, and the language is rife with the special intensity of concentrating on the work a knee does – you know it when it stops working. I don’t know if you’ve seen either Grizzly Man or Twin Peaks, but both the movie and the TV show have these amazing shots of trees, just trees, in motion, in wind, both supple and breaking, falling apart, being acted upon. There’s a similar feeling of an invisible strength made visible in a form in this poem, of centrifugal stress – now you, and your reading mind, are flung –are you not? 

Jared Stanley is the author of Book Made of Forest (Salt, 2009) and four chapbooks, including How the Desert Did Me In. With Lauren Levin and Catherine Meng, he edits Mrs. Maybe, a Journal of Skeptical Occultism. He is a member of Unmanned Minerals, an art collective, and lives in Reno, Nevada.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

richard lopez responds to James Maughn's The Arakaki Permutations

My first love was karate.  I was, I think, about eight years old when my father took me to my first dojo.  The martial art was Kenpo, a hybrid style developed out many disciplines, and when I watched the instructor complete a ballet-like thrust and parry with his hands in a demonstration to my old man about the beauty and efficacy of the martial arts, I was mesmerized.

Later my studies took a different turn.  I studied Shotokan for a number of years.  Then I discovered drugs, girls, punk rock and poetry.  Not necessarily in that order.  And I abandoned my study of karate, but not my love of the martial arts.  I can still watch a beautifully executed kata with that same sense of beauty and mystery.  In addition, my preferred form of karate is the traditional kata and not what passes for katas as they are broadcast on ESPN with all its music and somersaults like a gymnast on crank.  I like clean lines, deft movements, and purpose of form.  Perhaps poet and karate practitioner James Maughn’s studies took a similar trajectory along with a similar preference for traditional kata.  But that Maughn continues with his study of karate and with it creates gorgeously realized poems that are at once fluent, muscular and graceful.  These are lyrics that work against the lyric “I” and instead turn traditional poetry on its ear.  In fact, I don’t think there is writing quite like the poetry Maughn creates.  He is, to use an ancient, and, ahem, traditional, expression for poet, a maker. 

I’ve not seen Maughn perform a kata.  I have read his second full-length collection The Arakaki Permutations which is the second book in his Kata series.   The name Arakaki, explained in a note at the end of the book, was a karate master who founded the katas Maughn chose to study both in the martial art of kara-te [empty hand] and the techniques he employs in his poems that use the katas of Arakaki as a frame. 

Kata to the untrained eye appears as a dance.  Its purpose is manifold for the acolyte: discipline in movement and practice of techniques.  Katas are pure movement, kinetic, precise, an orchestration of space with the body whose purpose of being is to becomes the dance.  Kata, in essence, is a fake fight with an unseen opponent.  Kata is central to the study of karate and was my favorite practice in the discipline.  I love watching a well-executed kata, I love it almost as much as I love reading and writing poems.  In this book Maughn distills his discipline in poems that are as mysterious, and as beautiful as a kata.

I can’t fathom all of the texts located in Maughn’s gorgeous collection.  I suppose that’s not necessary.  Reading these poems brought me back to that first meeting with the Kenpo instructor where body and movement turned into an art that I could not quite fathom, but fell instantly in love with.  As Maughn declares in a snap that sounds like the crack of a gi after executing a roundhouse kick, his studies become an apprenticeship both in writing and the writing of the body


wherein I, reading these poems, was mesmerized.  With this book I fell in love with karate once again, and was once again a proof of why I so much love poetry.  As I’ve said at the beginning, I’ve read Maughn’s poems now I want to see the katas. 

richard lopez is a citizen of the world.  poems and reviews published at otoliths, jacket, galatea ressurects, dwang, and other places. he keeps a blog where her publishes poems, reviews and miscellany at stop by and say hey.

Copies of The Arakaki Permutation may be purchased through SPD.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sonja Sekula Reviewed at New Pages and at The Blind Chatelaine's Keys (Eileen Tabios)

Read an insightful review of Kathrin Schaeppi's new title Sonja Sekula: Grace in a cow's EYE: A Memoir over at New Pages. Many thanks to writer Sima Rabinowitz and editors.

Read an equally insightful review of Kathrin's Sonja -- with nod to Black Radish Books -- over at The Blind Chatelaine's Keys, by Eileen Tabios. Many thanks to Tabios.


Link 2:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laura Goldstein responds to Gaze

From the opening poem, “A closed field”, Gaze announces that it is its own audience, poems constructed for each other, creating a community that dreams of repairing a gaping wound somewhere in the world we can only feel the edges of. What happens to bodies, eyes, hands, brains, mouths, voices and words of those who are at that other end of the violent global conversation we witness. You know, we might not ever really be able to know. Instead of merely guessing, Marthe Reed takes on the project of looking, carefully, at a number of sources to build a group of moments that constitute an example of the cultural gaze.

The exposed, self-conscious confusion with pronouns quickly dissolves any typical belief that these poems are intended for the reader of the book. The poems close in around themselves, almost whispering to each other in fragments, and constructing each other. As a result, there’s a necessary shutting out of the expectant and privileged subjectivity many poems appeal to. Instead, Gaze makes a unique political poetics out of the understated urgency to rebuild something we can only fathom in its aftermath, in the desperate position of a helpless witness.

As for us, the epigraph points out that there’s “the vanishing point at which our complicity becomes inevitable”, a horizon of meaning that’s traced in different shapes by each poem in the book, each resembling the diversity of women’s bodies in the world, as well as the effects of events. Ungainly and open as the page long epigraph that expands to the sides of the page, or tight and whispered in even stanzas that go on pages at a time, or spread out across the spine, distributed like blood cells in a stream. Each poem is listening to itself being made.

The first buzz of meaning from Gaze comes as a result of immediately apprehending Marthe’s accurate appraisal of the gravity of the context she’s entering. There’s a palpable sense of her belief in the potential power of words, writing, poems, and the book to have a real and physical impact on our own understanding of contemporary subjectivity, citizenship and perceptions of global circumstance. In the beautiful muted gray book, the poems are gathered in their theater; one might say, the theater of war. With a particularly gentle and diffuse subjectivity, Reed shifts between ideas of a “she” that’s connected (invisibly and tenuously, by various technologies of awareness) to other “she”’s that emerge from each poem’s sense of its own identity.

If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, it’s not a mistake. How can we be? Confronted with images that reach us like missiles we have to conjure in order to confront. How else can a poem send or do or be what it needs to for those it is dedicated to? Sorry if this is vague—how can it not be? There’s so much space between the images or information we receive from our counterparts, Gaze is the most honest Reed can be about an empathy with only words to offer, that are so much weaker than war; there’s a great surrender that admits members of an audience into a quite destroyed space. We, the ones surrounding the book, can ask our way in, find hope in an open view of facts found skewed, then reconfigured with delicate and unexpected description.

Laura Goldstein is a poet, artist, and curator living in Chicago. She has two chapbooks, Ice in Intervals and Day of Answers, and choreographed the video performance Captain America for Chicago’s Rhinofest in 2007, the script of which can be found in EAOGH. Her work can also be found in Requited, Little Red Leaves, Everyday Genius, Seven Corners, How2, and Otoliths. She teaches at Loyola University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jackqueline Frost responds to Gaze by Marthe Reed

“In the sexual isolation of entreaty, a fencing mask binds her”:
Notes On Marthe Reed’s Gaze::

Read, “Neither veil nor tumbled hair contain her fear.” One could say, as Spicer did, that poetry is a project of disclosure. So it is that Marthe Reed’s Gaze becomes, to my mind, a text of disclosing text, exchanging exchanges, as: “Letters compose themselves across the sclera of the eye/ Can you see this?” In the apocalyptic literature of the ancient Near East, how often a hero is asked to interpret dreams: something that is obscured from view, while all the signs are present, ready to be deciphered. In Gaze, we are asked to interpret photographs, speeches, couture, and of course, the text, aware that a site was made for inscription as “Blood sports here. A remarkable surface, erasure.” In this sense, we have this “ready source of dark” that asks, within which night is salvation located? And how does one conduct projects informed by history, with the knowledge of a constant motion in the firmament of our epoch, over which epistemic information hovers, changing. Say that, “After forty years, the ground returns from the dead.” What happens when those surfaces with which we are aligned move tectonically, or tech-tonically? Read, “Her glance contains the floor.”

The Apocalyptic literatures of antiquity rendered, through figuration of language, a specific indictment of Empiricism. This mechanism produces a sort of “seeing without being seen,” present in Reed’s poetics, through semantic re-combinations and subtle syllogistic movement. Aware that Terror is the State in which one is called to writing, Reed writes, “In an age of terror, obfuscation takes the point,” begging the question, what disguises are employed for such a task? Read “Dans le milieu de la lame….her dress codes menace, subverting desire,” as delineated bodies are mettaled or embroidered. Here, “Leather insinuates menace. Or desire,” to reveal not an indictment of Empire-propre, but an indictment of Empire-as-Culture Industry, because, honestly, “any war will do” when the powers are so diffuse there is trouble “mapping distress.” What if, just as we are getting our means, our strategies together, “even heaven retreats”? We need a reconstitution of action, a new subtlety, more frightening, as we are being absented, a “real forte a/ neon tenor” as “farse lofts.”

Theopany > Apokálypsis > No Deus Machina Ex > Non-redemption > ‘Saved Night’> D

If fashion is a metonymic discourse of the body, how does fashion (luxury) operate in the “army surplus”, wherein it becomes an arsenal? In Gaze we are invited to consider the sexes as less substantive, more mechanistic, with specific ideological armories. Read “armour binds/ a waist” as if we force ourselves into (or onto) secrets, in pursuit of the pleasures of the text. As Barthes noted, It is obvious that the pleasure of the text is scandalous: not because it is immoral but because it is atopic. In Gaze, “Couture dissembles, too beautiful to— her face obscured by a mask.” To reformulate, in Reed’s work, the pleasure of Couture is scandalous, not because it is immoral, and less because it is false, but because it is placeless, ineffable, atopic. As the question of ethics (and aesthetics) is that of embodiment, Po-ethics is concerned with voyeuristic relation between subject and object. The encounter of the allegory, figuration, or metaphor, undercuts the certainty of a formal identification as viewer or viewed, self or other, as if “the camera’s attention insists on her notice.” To frame Reed’s Gaze within the rubric of the Po-ethical, is to engage the wager: So from Pascal’s Pensées, we read: Oui, mais il faut parier. Cela n'est pas volontaire, vous êtes embarqué. (Yes, but you must wager. This is not voluntary, you are embarked.) So, embarked, we read “In the seams between self and other, glance and gaze furrow, tumbling into a caress of their own.” The obvious inquiry arises, what is being seen, by whom, what occurs in the space of a veil? Pursuant of nuance, in Gaze, the reader encounters the object (a body, woman’s) already veiled, altering both products of the Culture Industry: the object and the gaze. So what is it to engage as a viewer with the obfuscated? How does this insinuate a reversal of roles?

Could the gaze be rendered as un unaffected liminal space? In the sense that “text represents its own illusions,” the gaze is an apparatus that ultimately reserves its own obsolescence. Reed returns the text to its proper situ as textile, woven matter, so that the text is at once the fabric and the surface on which that fabric is woven. There is a sense of women floating in fabric (social, if we are speaking of the social body) as sites of vertical signifiers of meaning, as all networks create fragmentation. Such is the nature of the router, the hub. It is from “an agency of isolation” that these machina and motives occur, like in “a rifle’s neglect: text occurs in its absence.” Read: “Transgressive text, a passage in white belies the absence of cover, her face performing its own absence. Seeing is believing” So how are the particularities of viewing created through an encounter of embodied representations? How does one counter, garde, if you will, a damselization, even in the text? Once “She refuses parody. Parity. Can we imagine grace? Redemption in the arms of another falters, inevitably losing ground to the rules of concealment.” Reed’s work in Gaze confirms the notion that one can make an object of text that results in a device to critically devalue objectification. Herein, I’ve read a methodology of sight. Call sight faith. We find Reed “writing at the edge of faith, where distance erases certainty.” And all this quivers when touched, as if asking, please, study this.

Couture > Textile > Obscuration > Reference > Revelation > Lift > D

Gaze is available from SPD:

Jackqueline Frost with Zach Tuck curates the Condensery Reading Series in Oakland, California:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Douglas A. Martin responds to Kathrin Schaeppi's Sonja Sekula: Grace in a cow's EYE : a memoir

A canvas: If you think of the book as a work place (space), if you think of it as a way for stretching out

A canvas of: poems the poet-author/artist makes (marks)

A canvas from notebooks: words the responses to visual stimulus
(unlike Hannah Weiner, she here will not write on forehead)

A canvas of: Subject’s oil on canvas, oil on canvas on plywood

A canvas of:

poem improvised

(like yesterday at the MoMA, someone does a line drawing in sand)

A canvas of diaries: She does make her painting into one it seems in places

punctuation, parentheticals

to do this thing w/ genders.

A canvas of: how many threads


A bridge

A book w/ such scaffolding as this

—perhaps “surrounding” I should use
(sounding more kind, a forest of tenders)

—the dedication—“for U,
a bifurcating move

—author’s note for “Epilogue,” Appendix, dedications
too that close in the body of another poem

allowing for many places to stand or from which to sink in.

See for example:

Sunwheelreflect (Sekula, 1954; Schaeppi, pg. 30)

See for example:
your own life/ 2010

Cresting on
The bridge over
The two bodies watering

I love a book like this, with all its apparatus.
I can well come back another day,
the book as mobile bridge.

There was a time when abstract expressionist illustrations
(one of Sekula’s) accompanied stories in Mademoiselle (1954).

            A bridge:

Thank you, Rebecca for sharing your text with me.  I read it on the train starting back over to school, and that was a bright spot.  Mine is going to be a pale shadow, I fear.  (Still working, finding it hard, or a little too pulled presently between many things.)  much love/d.


I was reading, beginning and finishing before sleep the Bridge (“Painting bridges”) section in bed in Plainfield (VT), before the next day of residency.  This second of the ten sections to Schaeppi’s book galvanized my emotions and excitements as she paint-writes lines ways that loop and curve along connected, and then necessary slacknesses: to read the words, for words to come.  As to abstractly express, one would not stop with the frames of letters.
When she (Sekula) was in New York, where I continue to work on beginning to study her through Schaeppi’s lead, she was on the other side from me (“Williamsburg Bridge, 1948,” pg. 24)
I bike or walk or ride over
w/ the one I buy groceries w/
what makes us in part “us”

Before Kathrin wrote this book, she wrote another.  I could wonder what happened to that, but first works—like structures—eventually fold into under a surface of following ones as one goes on to see. 

Work evolves and finds its measures.  Here too in scholarship (Schaeppi is a seriously engaged student and thinker, pondering, exploring, and working through issues of gender, particularly as it quite traumatically plays itself out in one instance in an office, I once wrote), the tracking of loves, the getting of letters (the important text in her poem “Here We Stay, 1951” supplied by Manina Jouffroy, Venice) collaging.

After and returned home, the cement seals make a sad sense to me.  I see them in the buildings: it’s my kitchen my sun room I haiku.  Schaeppi writes to illustrate the silence that holds quiet with an owl in a landscape.

pg. 64:

Above, in the picture, o’s there would be the eyes (Sekula to Joseph Cornell, “craizy [sic] curves,” his boxes)
a peak before the completed A the nose down below,
plus two plus signs/ feet perched become stable. 

Words in paintings pull different eyes differently, punctuate, like italics in poems made part of a design too, a plus sign joining who and who and what again.  She means to add more.


A trace:
I went to the MoMA and the Abstract Expressionist New York show, hoping to see in person some piece by Sekula.  There were many Grace’s—whose name I know from being connected to one poet—two Lee Krasner’s more than earned their keep, plus drawings by Bourgeois, Dorothy Dehne, and Nevelson.  None of the larger works held words.  Still, cf. the other couple of floors the show extends to: pieces on paper, etc.  No Sekula there either.  I go searching for something referencing or reproducing Sekula’s, something in some library somewhere, to have held in my hands while I think, before my eyes, to try to see for myself.  In Middletown, at Wesleyan where his papers are held, one piece by John Cage noted for her among his Seven Haiku.  (“I no longer know of who’s origin haiku ‘silence écoute silence’ is: Sekula, Cage or Schaeppi,” pg. 154).  Her works from 1961-1962 (plates 102-109, Sonja Sekula, 1918-1963, ed. Dieter Schwarz) appear hugely important to me.  Then I wanted the Parson’s branch of the New School to be named for Betty: Betty Parsons Gallery, Sekula’s first exhibition.  (Schaeppi shapes words, “now I know—that I am an artist,” pg. 26.)  Around the corner from Parson’s, 5th Ave, where I used to teach, that building, the whole thing has been caved into a pit in the ground now, not even a single I-beam in construction left.  The lines in designs go in all directions.  Witness the city, ‘though still none of her handiwork. 

Into another gallery, through other doors that open, there is a kitchen show: Counter Space.  When you had to do something to keep your hands from doing something else, potholders were occupational therapy (114).  I rework Schaeppi reworking—threading in a bit of line of one of Sekula’s letters to one she loved.  I flap the paper with all the pages holding around leaves of my own, I’ve folded inside with words and lines less like notes than swatches, the book becoming a (soft) box of sorts at present.

The first time I’d ever talked to Kathrin was at Goddard College (Plainfield option).  I’d been pointing to the possibility of a stylistic trope of handiwork in an obscure writer at the time for Americans, and in fact a large part of the world, before she’d won her Nobel: I meant à la crochet, cozies and such, latches and stitches that might be pointed to to be located there in turns of clause and phrases with or without punctuation in tricky prose-grammar.  I wonder why I think here of the plover, but she could understand.  We were at the ice machine, before the cafeteria had been rearranged again, before Coke was taken out for Pepsi (politics).  Schaeppi knew how the languages worked with different bases, various vernaculars, and slides in and around capitals and markets.  As of today (1/28/11), I’m still carrying her book with me, until I put it in someone else’s hands.  Perhaps the student (Camara) I overlook to mention when asked about emerging LGBTIQ poets who might address issues of faith/religion/spirituality.