40×40@40: Szymaszek on Blackburn

Stacy Szymaszek

The Journals

Paul Blackburn

Black Sparrow Press 1975

 

 

Sometimes one word can ritually spark the same association. When I hear the noun “grackles,” I think of Paul Blackburn’s poem “BIRDS / AMSTERDAM” in his last book The Journals. When I see grackles, or rather, am present enough to notice them, because they are everywhere, I think of Blackburn. I don’t know why that word, that bird. There are gulls, ducks and pigeons in that poem too – even a stork as in “Where are the storks?” “Grackles” is not a beautiful word and not a bird-lovers bird. Blackburn makes music of it by placing it near words like “carpark” and “taxi,” “blackened” and “attacked.” City words and city birds. The “Amsterdam” in the poem is in Holland not the New Amsterdam where St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery stands on Petrus Stuyvesant’s farm. When I first encountered this book, I lived in Milwaukee and worked at Woodland Pattern Book Center. I couldn’t have fathomed that I would one day run The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s that Blackburn is the “subtle father” of. Moving to NYC, I took this lineage to heart and reread The Journals, my guide through the transition that was about to take place in my writing, best described by Robert Kelly as (Blackburn’s) “paradigm of the processual.” Or, poems as daily improv. Yes, he’s “the one who most allowed his life and work to intertwine…” (Kelly) – as well as his death and his work. He wrote most of the entries in The Journals with the knowledge that his illness was terminal. He documents his skinny doomed body soaking in the tub, waiting for a shoulder ache to go away just as he would document drinking a cup of coffee. He “loved to see” (Kelly), even giving us these descriptions of his physical decline. This book is a joyous farewell in the form of the most open “honest in ear” (Kelly, again) poetry I have yet to encounter.

 

 

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ROBERTSON + DERKSEN hosted by BELLAMY

IN-PERSON EVENT
APRIL 27, 2014 at 5pm
at Artist Television Access

LISA ROBERTSON
JEFF DERKSEN
hosted by former SPT Director Dodie Bellamy

doors open at 5/event at 5:30p/
admission $6-10
no one turned away for lack of funds
members free

Lisa-Robertson-Photo
Lisa Robertson’s new long poem, Cinema of the Present, is coming out with Coach House Books in Fall 2014. This spring she is the Bain Swiggett Lecturer in Poetry at Princeton University. Her essay on Aby Warburg, Johanes Kepler, Thomas Carlyle, and the dynamic figure of the ellipse, Thinking Space, was just published as a chapbook by Organization for Poetic Research in New York. She lives in France.

jeff-derksen
Jeff Derksen is a writer and member of the English faculty at SFU.  He is the editor of Line magazine, and a founding member of Vancouver’s artist-run centre, the Kootenay School of Writing.His books of poetry include Down Time (winner of the 1991 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award), Dwell (1994), andTransnational Muscle Cars (2003).  A collection of essays, Annihilated Time: Poetry and Politics was published in 2009 andThe Vestiges (2014).

bellamy
Dodie Bellamy is a novelist, poet, and essayist. Her Ugly Duckling chapbook Barf Manifesto was named best book of 2009 under 30 pages by Time Out New York. Other books include the buddhist, Academonia, PinkSteam, The Letters of Mina Harker, and Cunt-Ups, which won the 2002 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for poetry. Recent projects include Cunt Norton (Les Figues, 2013), in which she takes the second edition of the Norton Anthology of Poetry and sexualizes it in the language of porn and desire; New Narrative: 1975-1995, a Nightboat Books anthology she’s editing with Kevin Killian; and When the Sick Rule the World, her third collection of essays, forthcoming from Semiotext(e). Her reflections on the Occupy Oakland movement, The Beating of Our Hearts, has been published as chapbook in conjunction with the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Her newest book, The TV Sutras, will be released by Ugly Duckling Presse in May 2014.

 

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40×40@40: C.S. Giscombe on John Keene

C. S. Giscombe
Seismosis
John Keene and Christopher Stackhouse
1913 Press, 2006
Seismosis, John Keene’s collaboration with Christopher Stackhouse, moves and moves in more than direction.  From the title—which suggests the motion of earth and the motion of liquid—onward the book celebrates mix.  As the back of the book tells us, the text samples work from a variety of writers and performers (Guy Davenport, Leonardo da Vinci, DJ Spooky, Charles Olson, Marjorie Perloff, and Cecil Taylor, among others) and here, in that act, is the mix of languages that makes poetry—here Keene and Stackhouse have taken their collaboration outward and, in so doing, have brought the world into it.  The very end of the book, the one-line poem called “Process,” is signal and also, playfully, serves a summary function—“In the mark we choose and lose signature.”  The text of the book, I would argue, has very much to do with signature; that is, the concern here seems to be with acknowledging limits or borders and then crossing them or, perhaps more to the point, “showing the work” of crossing borders.  An early poem in the book, “Azimuth,” begins, “With respect to true north, each angle.”  The poem continues to offer respect (the phrase, “with respect,” repeats) and then (in each instance of the repetition) dissent.  But the dissent becomes part of the marvelously unwieldy whole and the poem ends, “With respect/ to result, no values are refuted.”  (And the next poem, which follows pages of drawings, reiterates this in its two final lines: “… Always an edge towards true being/ mingling all expression, becoming anew.”)  There are many restatements of this through the book but I’m wanting to highlight one that comes two thirds of the way in (on page 65), the poem, “Folds”—“What follows reconstruction, continuous after rupture.  What/ follows: architecture and layering, the vibrating definition.  In the interstices, what comes after our/ intimate games.”  Here I feel the book coming again not to “a still but not deep center” (Roethke) but to a statement (via re-statement) of its collaborative project.  I’m struck, throughout the book, by the play of collaboration. The book seems to me to be an examination of what collaboration might look like if it crossed borders.  And here, in Seismosis, with its implicit ruptures of earth’s crust and violations of membranes, borders are being crossed.
END
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Online Class for April: Erica Kaufman’s Poem as Prosthesis & Pedagogy

Join us this April for Erica Kaufman’s online class: Poem as Prosthesis & Pedagogy

4 Sundays in April (April 6-28)

5pm-8pm EST/2-5pm PST

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

There was something amazing about watching Daft Punk walk the red carpet in their tuxedos and spectacular “robot helmets” at this year’s Grammy Awards. Even the “fashion cam” seemed at a loss for words.  What makes the helmets so jarring? This is nothing new—Daft Punk is known for their discovery that they are actually “robots in human bodies in robot costumes.” Increasingly, the joining of man and machine is almost routine—as N. Katherine Hayles writes in “How We Think,” “…the more the keyboard comes to seem an extension of one’s thoughts rather than an external device on which one types.”

In this class we’ll “embrace the machine,” so to speak—writing against, over, and through the virtual, versatile, fictional, animal, cyborgian, internalized, prosthetic. We will play with a variety of procedural and chance-based approaches to writing, keeping in mind the idea of the “prosthesis” as an “addition” (not a “replacement”), and consider the pedagogies these “operations” produce.

We’ll work with a wide range of texts—from J. Jack Halbertstam, Donna Haraway and Elizabeth Grosz…to…Ann Lauterbach, Fred Moten, Eileen Myles, Anselm Berrigan, Joan Retallack, John Cage…to… Gregory Ulmer, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong…

Each class session will be part discussion, part invention, part crowd sourcing knowledge, part workshop and form. At the end of our four weeks, we will all have a new toolbox full of procedures and prompts to generate new work, as well as new avatars to turn to as we move through the day.

BIO

erica kaufman is the author of INSTANT CLASSIC (Roof Books, 2013) and censory impulse (Factory School, 2009). she is also the co-editor of NO GENDER: Reflections on the Life and Work of kari edwards. Prose and critical work can be found in: Rain Taxi, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Jacket2, Open Space/SFMOMA Blog and in The Color of Vowels: New York School Collaborations (ed. Mark Silverberg, Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). she is the Associate Director of the Institute for Writing & Thinking at Bard College.

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40×40@40: Ted Rees on Dennis Cooper

Idols by Dennis Cooper

SeaHorse Press, 1979

I couldn’t get up from my chair because I had a gigantic erection.

Dennis Cooper was a name I’d heard again and again by the time I was in my final semester at Oberlin, but I’d never given his work any of my time until I stumbled upon his book Idols in the stacks of gay literature at the school’s immense, vaginal, Brutalist main library. The cover of the thin volume, featuring the slickened back and cushy ass of some young Adonis, looked pleasant enough. At the check-out desk, I felt a bit like I did when I bought copies of XY at the local Borders when I was a young teenager— exposed and sheepish, titillated yet ashamed, though I was already a well-known homosexual by the end of my time in college. My physical and emotional sensations did not correspond to my status, which unsettled me further.

But I sat down in the main student study area anyway, cracked the laminate spine open— it was clear the book hadn’t been checked out in years— and began to read.

By the time I got to the poem titled Mike Robarts (page from a porno novel I wrote at sixteen), I could feel my cock swelling against my bikini briefs. I was only a few pages in, but felt like I’d been reading for eons. It was an experience akin to waiting for gay porn to appear on my parents’ dial-up internet connection as a high-school student, masturbating as idiotic-looking twinks slowly materialized on the oversized screen of a Compaq Presario.

Mike Robarts shuttled my desire towards peak:

“I said to Mike he was beautiful. He looked embarassed and said not to be weird.” I remember an incident when I was with my friend Josh in his room when we were around 13. Somehow dick sizes and sexual stuff came up, and I put my hand on his thigh, and smiled at him, which sent him screaming.

Things between us were never really the same after that, and it marked my first realization that there was no way I could just approach my objects of desire so casually, or as casually as I was wont, at least until I was older.

“Stan grabbed him and held him against me, his head steady, and I licked all over his face [...]

I ran my hand down into the front of his trunks and pushed them off. I felt him there and squeezed his balls.”

Perhaps my teenage dream of taking revenge on all of the beautiful boys who ostracized me was not necessarily typical, because I never really wanted to kill any of them, just have sex with them. (Yes, I was one of the weird boys who lingered too long in the locker room, gazing longingly at milky thighs and butts and abdomens, mostly when their owners couldn’t notice me doing so).

Of course, though, Cooper’s narrator and his friend Stan drown Mike. “I carried him to the pool deck and kissed his dead mouth and put my cock up his cool quiet ass again and again. I told myself I was glad I was drunk.” My mouth slightly agape, my dick erupted from my briefs and pulsating against my left thigh, I had to read the sentences a few more times. I worried for a few moments that I might be a necrophiliac, and felt pathetic, then sad. Then I put the book down, waited a few more moments, and went to one of the usually-abandoned third-floor bathrooms of the library. The orgasm was probablyone of the better solo efforts I ever achieved.

What remains important for me about Cooper’s book is not only that it led me to Bataille and Jean-Luc Nancy (among others), but that it taught me that a small piece of writing can allow for a complex and multitudinous and simultaneous outpouring from the head and the heart and the loins.

While I had suspected as such before sitting down with Idols, it was the first book that evidenced this more holistic unity to me. I readily admit my work bares little to no resemblance to Cooper’s, but the lesson imparted by my first encounter with his oeuvre remains one of the most important to my own ideas of what I think writing should do.

Sorry, third floor bathroom stall, and an extra sorry to the kid shitting in the stall next to mine.

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Gladman+Reilly

In honor of our 40th anniversary, we’ll be hosting programs that recognize our history and propel us toward our future. Here’s what we’ve got in store:

IN-PERSON EVENT
MARCH 16, 2014 at 5pm
at Artist Television Access

RENEE GLADMAN
EVELYN REILLY
hosted by former SPT Director
Jocelyn Saidenberg
doors open at 5/event at 5:30p/
admission $6-10
no one turned away for lack of funds
members free
Renee-Gladman
Born in Atlanta, poet, novelist, and publisher Renee Gladman earned a BA at Vassar College and an MA in poetics at the New College of California. Gladman, whose work has been associated with the New Narrative movement, composes prose and poetry that tests the potential of the sentence with mapmaking precision and curiosity.

Author of the poetry collection A Picture-Feeling (2005), Gladman has also published several works of prose, including Event Factory (2010), The Activist(2003), Juice (2000), and Arlem (1994). She has edited Leon Works, an experimental prose chapbook series, as well as the Leroy chapbook series. Gladman lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Brown University.

reilly photo
Evelyn Reilly’s recent books of poetry are Apocalypso and Styrofoam, both published by Roof Books. Earlier work includes Fervent Remnants of Reflective Surfaces, from Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, and Hiatus, from Barrow Street Books. Essays and poems have appeared lately in Omniverse, Jacket2, The Eco-language Reader, Interim, and The Arcadia Project: Postmodernism and the Pastoral, an anthology published by Ahsahta Press. She has taught poetics at St. Marks Poetry Project and the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University, and has been a co-curator of the Segue Reading Series.

8587262447_b7ca3dca08
Born and raised in New York City, poet and editor Jocelyn Saidenberg is the author of several poetry collections, including Negativity (2006) and Cusp(2001), which was chosen by poet Barbara Guest for the Frances Jaffer Book Award and received a grant from the Greenwall Fund in conjunction with the Academy of American Poets.

 

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40×40@40:Andrew Kenower on Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi’s Views Without Rooms was published in 1989 by the legendary series that was Hanuman Books. Between 1987 and 1993 Hanuman published 50 pocket sized morsels by some of the best poets of the late last century. Nowadays, used copies from the series routinely sell for fifty to a hundred dollars on Amazon. I was unaware of all this when I stumbled across a thin box containing a stack of Views while browsing the labyrinthine stacks at Small Press Distribution (one of the principle joys of an internship at SPD is the possibility of finding such rare, out-of-print and generally obscure titles). Printed in India from the same presses that produce pocket prayer books, the design was like nothing else in the warehouse. The cover features an overly saturated photo-booth portrait of the author set on a stark red ground with the title and author name in gold foil stamp pressed into the stock. The paper is cheap and the type no frills.

The poems are particularly suited to the format. Most of the lines are composed in short 2 to 3 word bursts that hustle down the page. The physical smallness of the poems are due to an extremely economic use of language: no word is superfluous. That careful and exacting use of mostly simple descriptive words compresses the units of meaning to their smallest points; the clear and transparent images and descriptions unfold to a richer, unseen fabric of sense. To me Equi is a kind of jovial Oz, thundering brittle shards of light, but maybe from behind the decks of a smoking Dub sound system. Clarity always constantly foiled by its lack, the conjoined and coherent moments are punctuated by the book’s many withouts. What appears crystalline may in fact be fog. “The heart a composite / of everything strange / that beats within.”

I fell quickly in love with this poetry of complexity not dependent on a dense vocabulary. I returned to SPD to pick up 8 more copies to give to friends (and even one to a visiting crush, hi Cori!). This book will always be one I return to when aesthetic despondence takes over, to remind myself that there are always “words / waiting for us / to arrive / and join them.”

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40X40@40: David Buuck on Karen Brodine

KAREN BRODINE
Woman Sitting at the Machine, Thinking
Poems 1978-87
preface by Merdiel Le Sueur, introduction by Merle Woo, memorial by Janet Sutherland
Red Letter Press, Seattle, 1990.

Karen Brodine died from cancer at the age of 40, while working — in anticipation of her death — on what would become this final collection of her poetry. In addition to being a poet, Brodine had been a tireless activist and advocate, a union organizer and socialist feminist, national organizer for both Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, and founding co-editor of Kelsey Street Press. A typesetter for the bulk of her adult life, she traced the connections between the alienation of the mechanized workday, as the mediation of gendered labor moved from the messy materiality of type and ink to the equally embodied (despite still being labeled ‘immaterial’ wtf) and industry-wide shift to computerized work (which of course, still requires ‘sitting at the machine’).

she thinks about everything at once without making a mistake.
no one has figured out how to keep her from this thinking
while her hands and nerves also perform every delicate complex
function of the work… this is not automatic or deadening.
try it sometime. make your hands move quickly on the keys
fast as you can, while you are thinking about:

the layers, fossils. the idea that this machine she controls
is simply layers of human workhours frozen in steel, tangled
in tiny circuits, blinking out the lights like hot, red eyes…

The title poem, a ‘series of work poems,’ is the sequence that made me realize I was reading something new and different in my under-formed idea of Bay Area poetry (as well as feminist poetry) and, if it did not effect my own writing, would certainly help me rethink the privileging of poetic form as the locus of political work in the avant-garde (not that I do not continue to sweat out the politics of form!). Of course, Brodine was not alone: from Adrienne Rich to Dodie Bellamy, many Bay Area feminists, queers, and working class poets found new ways to combine autobiographical material with emerging forms of feminist and literary theory to foreground marginalized (and in many contexts, often silenced or erased) experiences of class and gender. For Brodine, ‘work poems’ (in this volume as well as her earlier books Workweek and Illegal Assembly) were not simply vehicles for narrating one’s personal experience in the workplace, but arenas for thinking through how feminized labor was connected to broader modes of capitalist exploitation, embodied entanglements with machines (coming four years before Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”), as well as the attendant physical risks, from cathode streams to xerox rays to processor chemicals (it is difficult to read such material without thinking about Brodine’s death from cancer), networks of political articulation beyond the more limited (though nonetheless critical) concerns of 70s US feminism about better wages, workplace harassment, etc, or 70s US feminist poetics’ focus on self-expression and celebration of ‘the feminine’. No one would call her an experimental or avant-garde poet — at least if judged by formalist categories — but our capacity for recognizing what risks and new openings can appear in what otherwise might be dismissed as conventional autobiographical poems only requires our own willingness to confront the class and gender politics of the workplace, the picket line, the family and domestic sphere, to rethink how poetry might register the complex articulations of labor in the current conjuncture of capitalism and patriarchy.

when i see my boss, I hold
my face clear and solemn, thinking
pig. pig. it’s true, too.
not rhetorical.

In 1999 or so, Yedda & I reprinted an excerpt from the title poem in the Work issue of Tripwire (you can download it at http://davidbuuck.com/downloads/tripwire_4_brodine.pdf). But find the book, read it alongside the Marxist-feminist and antiwork theory and history being rediscovered by the radical left. Read it alongside the work poems of the 30s and 2nd gen feminist poets of the 70s. Compare the cover to the cover of Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. Read it and remember the radical potential of content as a mode of risk and political work in poetry. And let’s remember the thankless work of small presses such as Red Letter for being committed to such risks, such politics, such poetry.

— David Buuck : Oakland : Jan ’14

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40×40@40: Carol Mirakove on Heather Fuller

Carol Mirakove on perhaps this is a rescue fantasy by Heather Fuller

perhaps this is a rescue fantasy by Heather Fuller (Edge Books, 1997) taught me to read as I had never before. Taught me to read poetry, myself as a political actor, situations, crimes & the cruelty we impose upon one another.

“a child outside / too young to scream as she does”

These poems fulfill the premise of poetry: they can’t be said any other way.

Heather Fuller discovers poetry in a contextual self

“I don’t own anything / and am thus / a terminal guest”

“the man in priority seating reminds / me of violence”

citizen & valentine

“does a wish for safe / transit assume a wish for love”

“I make love in the most irrelevant places”

fiercely honest & vulnerable.

“how far into dreams would you / go before losing”

perhaps this is a rescue fantasy serves as a North Star for me: I return to it when I am lost

“I’m after / ecstasy why we write or walk”

& then resume participation.

“Do I look as if I need a taxi”

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40×40@40: Alli Warren on Bernadette Mayer

ALLI WARREN

MADE IN A FACILITY THAT PROCESSES SPILT MILK


“I had an idea to write a book that would translate the detail of thought from a day to language like a dream transformed to read as it does, everything, a book that would end before it started in time to prove the day like the dream has everything in it.
” – Bernadette Mayer

“alone in the dream’s dressing room trying on / different styles” “to be conversant with the actual view” “we’re standing directly in the dream’s line of fire” “like all songs’ versions of all loss of love” “Or thirty-four soon my life is at least half over”— I’m thirty, I read Midwinter Day again, an annual tradition, this time it’s in a little tin roofed shack in a high desert ghost town east of Los Angeles. What remains? junk shop, general store, Catholic Church, City Jail, and saloon. At the junk store I buy a disc of some blue rock gem and on a fake gold chain a block of tiger’s eye which now rests as I write upon my breastbone. I’m in the dressing room trying on the outfit of someone who believes in charms. I know what I know which is not a lot but my body my body, sometimes it’s too open and I wind up diseased and emotional on a tossed bed, other times I intuit a coming scar and hole up where nothing can catch me. It’s the end of December, the end of the year in which I learn my love must be a kind of blind love, that alterity is (duh) always already, despite appearances, despite promises, despite love. I can hear hills and the occasional wheeze of an ORV engine, is it a calming or eerie silence. How will I ever retreat to the country if I don’t know how to feel about its sounds. So much quiet I could begin to think the only axiom’s lived expression in daily action. The trees seep with what I think are quail and the dry basin’s tufa spires are monuments we climb. Many stars and one’s perpetually shooting. I pay someone to tell me I have a habit of working hard at love. Am I brave enough to earnestly relate my dreams? Or the towns erected in their stead? Call the spirits from their dens. Johnny <3 Jasmine is etched into the blue formica, marking the rolling bolder of any freely given love. The sun will cling to those hills a few hours longer then the hidden suns will reveal their ripe mugs, a shining means of one foot follows the next and trust in breath made flesh. I’ll stand knee deep in it, a porous vehicle of despair slash hope that I might through some miracle or dumb luck never bow to those who say care’s for crows. I carry these limbs around get so attached to any ripe kindness or opening gift I break when it frays. Should I be more or less circumspect as we lean into the coming disasters. Hand in hand in the enrapt night. Together in the same trough. I’m rooting for the pirates. “If we’re all wrong about everything, the life so short and the craft so long to learn, the assay so hard, so sharp the conquering, the dreadful joy that passes so quick and then being left alone again, what I mean is love astonishes my feeling with its wonderful working so ardently so painfully so that when I’m thinking about such certainty I don’t know like the earth if I’m floating or sinking.”

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