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.