Friday, May 29, 2009

Prayer for the Only Pig

You created the pigs to serve my needs and to lead them to You. By my own fault I have lost the beautiful relationship which I once had with your pigs.

By restoring my relationship with you, I will also restore it with pigs.

Give me the glasses to see the pigs in bows:

Pigs are like us, even-toed ungulates, and they rebel against dinner by going to parties. One has a nose for a laugh, is a cartoon, is a pig, with parts described like hair.

Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding.

Help us to see that pigs use their toes for walking.

It is known that a swine is a filthy animal both in its behavior and in how it chooses to marry.

May the order you originally established be restored.

A pig’s hard work permits us to let it out. Travel to the North and South, where the pig is free. The dirt is unused to this. I am not native. I have lost the beautiful relationship with a lovely woman who lacks discretion.

I am Horus, Adone, Adonis and Atis. I need a bath.

It has been decided to slaughter all 350,000 pigs in the country immediately.

Give me the grace to apply mud as sunscreen.

My pearls cast, in pieces, I want to be a doctor someday.
The pig is how I remain
independent of government.

The bottom line is pigs are not welcome.

You want our remaining 330?
You will have to compensate.

There are not enough goats to eat us, that used to be fed to the pigs.

It is a dangerous and difficult time to get a new pig for our pig.

Deer and Goats, Khanzir was moved by
the Director into isolation. The Director says Khanzir is
of the zoo, says the pig, whose name is Khanzir.

The director, strong and healthy, is the only reason we are moved. We are worried we will get ill. We are a gift from China, in a large space with windows and fresh air.

We are the only one left. We want a new pig. A typical pig is allowed to play games, have sex all year if on vacation, even as babies, they are employees. If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.

The pig you see dangling here is only a baby
as I pray for all pigs
who live in rain with you.
Never brush your teeth and never fight.

Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mini Portraits of Writers Week 3

Week Three: David Abel

Reads from his work in Portland, February 2009

video



video

David Abel was born in Salt Lake City in 1956. He attended school in Utah, South Florida, Eastern California, and the Mid-Hudson and Rio Grande Valleys. After tenures in New York City and Albuquerque (where he established the Bridge Bookshop, and Passages Bookshop & Gallery, respectively), he relocated to Portland in 1997.

His poems and texts have been published as artists' books and objects -- including Rose, Selected Durations, Threnos (Salient Seedling Press/Katherine Kuehn), and Let Us Repair and While You Were In (Disposable Books/Leo & Anna Daedalus). He has also been published in several chapbooks, including Black Valentine (Chax), Twenty- (Crane's Bill), and fresh off the press Commonly (airfoil). He makes his living as a freelance editor and bookdealer, and
often collaborates on intermedia and performance projects in Portland. There he is also a founding organizer of the Spare Room reading series.

1. Tell about a book that you have loved for at least a decade.

I’ve cherished Stanley Lombardo’s slender volume Parmenides and Empedocles: The Fragments in Verse Translation since at least the late 1980s. It’s one of a handful of books to which I’ve been able to turn for genuine consolation in times of despair — most notably, after the death of my father in 1989. I’m not certain when or how I first encountered it, but I was already familiar with it by the time I stocked it at The Bridge, my little bookshop in the East Village, in 1987–89.

Over the years, I’ve often given the book as a gift. About a decade ago, I gave a copy to a composer friend in New York, John Allen, who was fighting AIDS. Equally taken with the book, John wrote to Stanley Lombardo for permission to set his version of fragment 84 of the Empedocles. John spoke to me several times of his excitement about the project; sadly, he didn’t live to complete the music.

This past December, Judith Roitman and Stanley (who are married, and teach mathematics and classics, respectively, at Kansas University) read in the Spare Room series here in Portland. I took the opportunity of my introduction to Stan’s reading (in which he performed excerpts from his own versions of his “favorite epics”: the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Inferno) to recite two fragments of the Empedocles: number 8, which I take as a sort of anthem, and number 84. So, with Stan’s permission, I’d like to share them here.

Happily, the book is still available, from SPD (http://www.spdbooks.org/) and elsewhere.



8

And I will tell you this:
There is no self-nature
in anything mortal
nor any finality
in death’s deconstruction
There is only
the merging, change
and exchange
of things that have merged
and their self-nature is only
a matter of words.





84

A man about to go out on a stormy night
prepares a lantern, a bright fire enclosed
in linen panels to keep out the wind:
the panels disperse every gust of air
but transmit the fire because it’s so much finer
and the beams of light dance and shine on the threshold.
In just this way the primordial fire,
enclosed in gauzy tissue, was lodged in the pupil,
and perforations in the tissue, divinely minute,
blocked the well of water that surrounded the pupil
but transmitted the fire because it was so much finer.

from Parmenides and Empedocles: The Fragments in Verse Translation, Stanley Lombardo (San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1982)


6. What questions would you like to explore through your work at the moment? Talk about a work in process, or your most recent work.


For the past four and a half years, I’ve been working on a long, open-ended series provisionally titled Sweep. Encouraged by examples such as Beverly Dahlen’s A Reading and Charles Stein’s theforestforthetrees, I set out to explore an arena in which the whole of a work could not be viewed (nor even proposed, perhaps) from any single vantage.

I’ve found that the theoretical priority of “process” over “product,” so often affirmed as a platitude, becomes experiential as I’m reading certain texts, and I’m attempting a commitment to that experience as I proceed with Sweep.

Since beginning the work (on the winter solstice, 2004), everything that I write that doesn’t in some sense insist on its autonomy (or on a connection to another project) ends up in the draft of Sweep. So far, it is a motley collection of poems and fragments, aphorisms, and quotations, following the principle of collage both within and between entries. Perhaps, in the end, it will simply be a commonplace book — I’m incapable of keeping a diary, and this seems to have become my substitute. By numbering the days, I give a nod to the importance of the gaps.



from Sweep:

976

3:50 a.m.

The eclipse
is obscured.



Impossible to know
the extent of the hidden —

no amount of disclosure
diminishes it



Near here she lived
Near here she died



I first came to this rim
twenty-five years ago

Will I come again
twenty-five years from now?



5:34 a.m.

Watching totality
on a dirt road near Rio Puerco,

two shooting stars:
one for Mary, one for Gene

Back at the house the edge of the moon
beginning to catch light again

and a third shooting — no,
falling

star
for me


_________



What follows is the text of the Eclipse read in the video (all of the poems in the series have that generic title). The source is a sentence from the first chapter of Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain.


Although this book has only a single subject,
this book has only a single subject, that
book has only a single subject, that subject
has only a single subject, that subject can
only a single subject, that subject can itself
a single subject, that subject can itself be
single subject, that subject can itself be divided
subject, that subject can itself be divided into
that subject can itself be divided into three
subject can itself be divided into three different
can itself be divided into three different subjects:
itself be divided into three different subjects: first,
be divided into three different subjects: first, the
divided into three different subjects: first, the difficulty
into three different subjects: first, the difficulty of
three different subjects: first, the difficulty of expressing
different subjects: first, the difficulty of expressing physical
subjects: first, the difficulty of expressing physical pain;
first, the difficulty of expressing physical pain; second,
the difficulty of expressing physical pain; second, the
difficulty of expressing physical pain; second, the political
of expressing physical pain; second, the political and
expressing physical pain; second, the political and perceptual
physical pain; second, the political and perceptual complications
pain; second, the political and perceptual complications that
second, the political and perceptual complications that arise
the political and perceptual complications that arise as
political and perceptual complications that arise as a
and perceptual complications that arise as a result
perceptual complications that arise as a result of
complications that arise as a result of that
that arise as a result of that difficulty;
arise as a result of that difficulty; and
as a result of that difficulty; and third,
a result of that difficulty; and third, the
result of that difficulty; and third, the nature
of that difficulty; and third, the nature of
that difficulty; and third, the nature of both
difficulty; and third, the nature of both material
and third, the nature of both material and
third, the nature of both material and verbal
the nature of both material and verbal expressibility
nature of both material and verbal expressibility or,
of both material and verbal expressibility or, more
both material and verbal expressibility or, more simply,
material and verbal expressibility or, more simply, the
and verbal expressibility or, more simply, the nature
verbal expressibility or, more simply, the nature of
expressibility or, more simply, the nature of human
or, more simply, the nature of human creation.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lisp Service

On her blog Lisp Service, Seattle-based writer Evelyn Hampton recently interviewed me and Claire Donato. Soon Evelyn will publish the first issue of Dewclaw, a print journal that looks like it will be quite beautiful. Info for that is on the blog too, as well as notes on bee keeping, and other good things.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tonight, a book party in the mountains

Please Join Les Figues Press To Celebrate the Release of

I Go To Some Hollow
by Amina Cain

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Hidden Springs Café
23155 Angeles Forest Highway
Angeles National Forest

There will be chili, cornbread, warm drinks, and readings by:
Anna Joy Springer • Saehee Cho • Amina Cain



above image by Rachel Tredon

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mini Portraits of Writers Week 2

Week Two: Maryrose Larkin


video












1. Tell about a book that you have loved for at least a decade.

Susan Howe’s Articulation of Sound Forms in Time. I call it the book that broke my aesthetic back. Leslie Scalapino, the first person to really expose me to experimental writing, lent it to me the first week I was a student at Bard.

I applied to Bard because it was close to my home in New Paltz, and because I admired Robert Kelly’s work and wanted to study with him, but I really had no sense of contemporary poetry. I read Articulation repeatedly over a week. At first I found it entirely incomprehensible, but at some point (maybe reading 20? reading 50?) the beauty and newness of it just broke me open. I didn’t know anything about poetry theory or history, but it didn’t matter. Articulation made anything in writing possible and beautiful.

2. What circumstances are most conducive to your creative work?

I need the illusion of unlimited time. I don’t need unlimited time, but I need to feel that there isn’t the rest of life pressing in on me from all sides.

3. What questions would you like to explore through your work at the moment? Talk about a work in process, or your most recent work.

I just finished a huge project called Late Winter 30. I took 30 days of free writing done in the last 30 days of winter in 2005, along with weather reports for those days and used it as a source text for 30 poems, which explored internal and external weather, and how it connects. I was interested in if things can be autobiographic and still not autobiographic, meaning if the language of my emotional life at the time could somehow be transformed and integrated into a landscape (I think of the poems as a landscape over time).

Also beauty. How to use chance operations, google, translation software, excel spreadsheets, cut ups etc. to move beyond itself and create beauty. Or that the point of this poet is to discover that through procedures.

4. On method, provide a writing assignment, tactic or process that you’ve found useful.

I like to write or assemble a poem and then run all the lines backwards to see what happens.

I like to ban words. When I finish a manuscript, I’ll ban the top ten nouns or verbs for a few years, so I don’t always put the moon in a moon shaped hole.

I think it is really important to discard meaning as a mindset.


______________________


To see a photo of Maryrose doing her neo benshi piece in a cave go to:
dbqp.blogspot.com
then search blog for:
maryrose larkin cave performance

to see the Joan of Arc Film go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLBn9KK2Ss0


video








Monday, May 18, 2009

The Day Like a Mouth and Me in It, a Beginning

1.

A woman walks through bright lights.

The same woman limps down a road.

It is Marya Timofeevna.

A horse-drawn carriage thunders down another dusty road. Marya stops and listens.


2.

INT. Night. A drawing room lit by oil lamps. There is an oval mirror on the wall, and under it a table. The walls are smudged. In the room are a sofa and a couple of chairs. Marya sits in one of the chairs, soaking her feet in an old tub. She drops rose petals into the water. She massages her feet. Then she hears a sound. She looks up, stops. Nothing happens. She goes back to massaging her feet.

Bedroom. A single oil lamp on a table next to a bed. Marya is reading a book. Another woman lies in bed with Marya. She is also reading. One of Marya’s feet is propped up. It is huge.

The camera focuses in on the windowpane, where it is dark.

The next shot is identical to the first, but the other woman isn’t there. The camera stays and watches Marya.

Marya blows out the oil lamp. Darkness.


3.

EXT. Morning. Short and long shots of a swamp. A closeup of a frog. It sits on the bank, then jumps into the water. The camera stays, looking at the swamp.

VOICEOVER: I walked into the day.

The woman who was with Marya, and then wasn’t, is sitting in the grass looking out at the horizon.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Note: Ifland, Cain, Encuentro

Alta Ifland, author of Voice of Ice, is a guest blogger at the Emerging Writers Network site. You can also find a short story by her here.

Renée E. D’Aoust gives an excellent review of I Go To Some Hollow in The Brooklyn Rail. We're happy to also see reviews of Monica de la Torre's Public Domain and Binnie Kirshenbaum's The Scenic Route.

Vanessa Place and I will be at the Tiempo de Literatura MXL 09 in Mexicali this weekend. I'll be giving a presentation about Les Figues on Friday, and Vanessa and I will be reading on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 19: Dusie Press in NYC

Boog City presents
Dusie Press and the Dusie Players!

d.a. levy lives: celebrating the renegade press
Dusie Press (Switzerland)

Tuesday, May 19
6pm sharp
free

ACA Galleries
529 W. 20th Street, 5th floor
NYC

Event will be hosted by
Dusie editor Susana Gardner

Featuring readings from
Cara Benson
Elizabeth Bryant
Annie Finch
Susana Gardner
Jennifer Karmin
Nicole Mauro
Marthe Reed
Jessica Smith

Noise experiment poetics of the Dusie Players
wine, cheese, and crackers, too

Curated and with an introduction by
Boog City editor David Kirschenbaum

Directions:C/E to 23rd St., 1/9 to 18th Street
Venue is between 10th & 11th avenues

The Dusie Kollektiv is made up of 50 poets who each produce a chapbook for distribution among the kollektiv members. In past years, participants have published their own chapbooks, but for this year, the third of the kollektiv, members published one another's chapbooks from author-editor combinations which were created randomly. Many editors published their chapbook under the name of a small press with which they were already affiliated, and some created small presses just for the kollektiv. The point with the various names of press was to reify ownership and flood the market with 50 new presses.

Each year is different for the kollektiv, as every year there are different participants. With that said, there are many loyal kollektiv members who have been with the project since the first year. Change is inevitable, and energy and enthusiasm are necessary, but ultimately it is the group ethos which has kept them together and moving forward. The project focuses more on process and risk, and writers have no inhibition regarding publishing as it is a completely open platform and all works get published. Also, the group exchange gives an extra push in way of timeline and production, which also motivates creation.

Cara Benson edits the online journal Sous Rature. Her first full length collection (made) is forthcoming from BookThug. Her chapbook Quantum Chaos and Poems: A Manifest(o)ation (BookThug) co-won the 2008 bpNichol Prize. Other chaps include He Writes (No Press), UP (Dusie Kollectiv), and, with Kai Fierle-Hedrick and Kathrin Schaeppi, Spell/ing ( ) Bound (ellectrique press). Benson edited the interdisciplinary book Prediction (forthcoming from Chain). She lives and writes in the analog world of upstate New York.


Elizabeth Bryant is the editor and publisher of the ongoing lit experiment Defeffable, and CR79 Books. Her first full-length serial-poem (nevertheless enjoyment is forthcoming this fall from Quale Press, and her latest chapbook, Fluorescence Buzz, was published this spring via the Dusie Kollektiv. She has new poems and interviews in Dusie #8 and Gerry Mulligan, and a book review in the upcoming issue of Jacket. She is also co-curator of the Bard Roving Reading Series.

Annie Finch's books of poetry include The Encyclopedia of Scotland, Eve, Calendars, and Among the Goddesses, as well as Shadow-Bird from Dusie Kollektiv. She has also written or edited books about poetry, most recently Multiformalisms: Postmodern Poetics of Form, A Poet's Ear, and A Poet's Craft. She lives in Maine where she directs the Stonecoast low-residency M.F.A. program in creative writing.


Susana Gardner lives in Switzerland where she edits Dusie Press and curates the Dusie Kollektiv. The author of several chapbooks, her first book [lapse insel weary], was published by The Tangent Press. She writes and translates and will soon begin a poetic reading series as well at the DADA Haus--Cabaret Voltaire, Zürich.

Jennifer Karmin's text-sound epic, Aaaaaaaaaaalice, will be published by Flim Forum Press this year. She curates the Red Rover Series and is co-founder of the public art group Anti Gravity Surprise. Her multidisciplinary projects have been presented nationally at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets. Karmin teaches creative writing to immigrants at Truman College and works as a Poet-in-Residence for the Chicago Public Schools. New poems are out in Cannot Exist, MoonLit, Otoliths, Come Together: Imagine Peace (Bottom Dog Press), and Not A Muse (Haven Books).

Nicole Mauro has published poems and criticism in numerous journals. She is the author of the chapbooks Odes (Sardines), Dispatch (co-authored with Marci Nelligan; Dusie), The Contortions (Dusie), and Tax-Dollar Super-Sonnet (Pendergast/Dusie). She is the co-editor, with Marci Nelligan, of an interdisciplinary book about sidewalks, Intersection: Sidewalks and Public Space (ChainArts). Her first full-length poetry collection, The Contortions, is due out from Dusie this year. She lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband Patrick, and daughters Nina and Faye. She teaches rhetoric and writing at the University of San Francisco.

Marthe Reed’s poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, New Orleans Review, and Sulfur, and in numerous e-zines such as HOW2, MiPoesias, Exquisite Corpse, Aught, eratio, and Moria. New work appears in Big Bridge and is forthcoming from Fairy Tale Review. Her book, Tender Box, A Wunderkammer, is published by New Orleans' Lavender Ink, and her chapbook (em)bodied bliss is published by jimmie pennies press and Dusie Kollektiv.

Jessica Smith is the editor of Outside Voices Press, an imprint of Bootstrap Productions. She is the author of Organic Furniture Cellar. She also edits Foursquare, a monthly women's poetry magazine.

The Dusie Players
The noise experiment poetics of the Dusie Players will be strange and experimental, unpredictable and odd. This will be the first performance of its kind for Dusie Kollektiv participants and include works of Dusie past, present, and future.



Monday, May 11, 2009

Laynie Browne: Hello & Hurrah

Beginning this week, we welcome Laynie Brown to the Les Figues blog. Laynie is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently The Scented Fox (Wave Books, 2007), winner of the National Poetry Series. Forthcoming are two collections The Desires of Letters and Roseate, Points of Gold. She is currently developing a new poetry-in-the-schools program for The Poetry Center at University of Arizona in Tucson.

Laynie will be posting from a project in which she interviews writers about their poetics and practice. Her results mix video and text in a blend of critical and creative engagements. I've seen a sneak-peek of post #1, and it's really really good. But don't just take my word for it—check back here tomorrow and see for yourself.

Mini Portraits of Writers

Mini portraits of writers, one a week for six weeks. Portraits may include: answers to interview questions (listed below), introductions to readings, video clips of writers reading or discussing their work plus texts.

Instructions/Questions/Frame:

Please reply with your own answers to the questions as you like:

1. Tell about a book that you have loved for at least a decade.

2. What circumstances are most conducive to your creative work?

3. What is the biggest myth about being a writer? Something you’ve unlearned through your work.

4. What is the writer’s responsibility — in relation to the world, the current state of events? How do you experience the daily news? Does this process enter your writing?

5. Talk about the role of place in your work. Or, where are you, when you are working (physically, mentally, etc). What is your residence of word-ing?

6. What questions would you like to explore through your work at the moment? Talk about a work in process, or your most recent work.

7. On method, provide a writing assignment, tactic or process that you’ve found useful.

8. Talk about the relationship between your creative work and other work you do.

9. What is the most pleasurable aspect of your writing life?




Week One: Jeanne Heuving

(The order of these questions is important to how I am answering the question)

3. What is the biggest myth about being a writer? Something you've unlearned through your work?

The theorem about writing that I induced from my formal education is that the sum of a piece of writing is greater than its parts. This initially lead me in search of gestalts or authoritative responses that would "spring" my creative work. Although now I neither completely believe nor disbelieve this theorem, as an early conviction of mine, it propelled my writing into all kinds of roadblocks. Looking for a way in and out, I judged my own writing as inevitably lacking. I just couldn't get into it, or behind it. I write about this in my first published chapbook, Offering (1997), later reproduced in Incapacity (2004): "How outside of her life she had been in trying to be too much inside of it. Only by viewing the inside of her life from the outside could she begin to effect the casual attitude she sometimes possessed in living, but rarely managed in writing." At one point, in my writing, I began to realize that writing was importantly one word after the next, one sentence after the next. While I still think there is something to the theorem that "the sum of a piece of writing is greater than its parts," conceiving of writing as Each Next (to borrow from Kathleen Fraser), was a most helpful corrective to my gestalt-ridden expectations.

As a young writer my visual responses were more acute than my aural responses. By learning to listen to language as an initiatory act, I found my writing really opened up. Most helpful to me was the discovery of the New Sentence--discovered by example well before I read its theoretical exegesis in Silliman and others. An important source for my discovery of the New Sentence was Leslie Scalapino's The Return of Painting. I have written about this discovery in a essay about Leslie Scaloppini, "A Dialogue 'About Love in the Western World'" (HOW2 Spring 2002) : "It was important for me to think of each sentence . . . as a separate unit that could connect or not connect to the unit before it. It was also important to hear the syntax of the sentence in advance of writing, as if only through separating syntax and meaning could my stalemated consciousness produce writing."

One important movement out of my stalemated consciousness was attending a workshop that Leslie Scalapino gave for the Subtext Writing Collective in 1997, I believe, in which she gave some fairly involved instructions about writing in relationship to an inside and an outside. I knew that my mind would catch on to these instructions in an unproductive way--begin responding to them as theory or argument--rather than as a mobilized writing. I listened to the other writers in the room as we went around the room reading from an in-class writing experiment. In listening to Laynie Browne, I thought, a-ha, I will do it Laynie's way. I will listen to writing as writing and then write it down. For our over-night assignment, I went home and found ten sentences I liked from Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night (this was my outside) and I copied them down on a separate piece of paper. I then, used these sentences as "melodies" for my jazz improvisation. I took the sentences on: loved them, copied them, reformed them, mutilated them, and added to them. Out of this experiment came what some writer friends thought of as a real breakthrough piece for me, namely "Gaudy Night," also in Incapacity.
A rather different writing experience around this time also came through a weekend Subtext writing workshop, with the writer Lee Ann Brown. Lee Ann has a great way of connecting to people through writing, and her high charge, energy state helped me to connect to language. Important, I think for me, in both of these Subtext workshops was the sense of connection to the other writers in the room, and the possibility of performing / projecting language for someone who wished to hear it. There have been other sustaining friendships through writing, without which I would not have unlearned the blank of my own "gestalt" expectations. Lissa Wolsak, Kathleen Fraser, Joseph Donahue have all been particularly important to my "learning / unlearning," as has the larger community created through the Subtext Collective.

6. What questions would you like to explore through your work at the moment? Talk about a work in process, or your most recent work.

For the last several years, I have given much of my writing energy to a critical book, The Transmutation of Love in Twentieth Century Poetry. This book explores "libidinal" connections to language in the work of Pound, H.D. Duncan, Kathleen Fraser, and at least one other poet, as yet undecided. In this project, I take on writers who begin with a serious engagement with love writing through lover-beloved forms of writing, and then transmute these forms into what I call a libidinized "open field" poetics and transpersonal love writing. In writing this book, I am considering writers, who, unlike myself, seem to have had a limited, or minimal calling, with respect to "negativity." This critical project comes out of my experience in writing my most recent book of poetry, Transducer (2008) that finds its writing through the poetics described above. As I get to the end of this long critical project, I am anticipating a return to forms of creative writing. In any new project, I would like to see where my exploration of negativity in Incapacity and affirmative modes in Transducer land me--to bring these into a kind of conversation, perhaps. I am intrigued by the kind of transparency of writing in Renee Gladman's To After That (TOAF). But that is just an outside "gestalt," a kind of glamor, beckoning me. When I take up my pen, I shall discover this new writing, word by word phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence.

1. Tell about a book that you have loved for at least a decade.

I will tell about a series of letters and a book, both very important to me. As a writer who has definitely suffered from writing blanks or blocks, I greatly love Artaud's early correspondence with Jean Riviere, anthologized in several collections of Artaud's writing. I recently created a piece called "Translation" that consists of pairing passages from two different translations of this correspondence. The translations are different only in small ways, but by quoting them I wish to draw attention to the impossibility of transparent language, while at the same time, inclining the reader to experience this transparency, as one needs to carefully compare the passages to find their small differences. These small differences, as choices in writing, were Artaud himself making them, undoubtedly would have caused him a grave sense of consternation. I think the fastidious choices writers make about word choices are really important, if writing is to write the writer, and not someone sort of like him or her--but they are also comedic, in the larger face of things. They are important to the discovery of a piece of writing, but once written, once the thrust of the piece has been created through careful attention to language, then translators (and readers) have their own way with these words, inevitably altering the piece of writing, but not destroying it. What I love about this correspondence was Artaud's need for the presence of Riviere, in order for Artaud to write in a fluent way about his difficulties in writing. (Please see the end of this commentary for my piece, "Translation.")

One of the books I have loved for at least ten years is Marguerite Duras' The War. I love this book because how it is partially compiled from journals Duras kept when she was part of the resistance movement in France in World War II. Duras captures the intrigue of this book (between personal and impersonal recollection), perfectly in her opening paragraph:

"I found this diary in a couple of exercise books in the blue cupboards at Neauphle-le-Chateu.
I have no recollection of having written it. I know I did. I know it was I who wrote it. I recognize my own handwriting and the details of the story. I can see the place, the Gare d' Orsay, and the various comings and goings. But I can't see myself writing the diary. When would I have done so, in what year, at what times of day, in what house? I can't remember. . . ."

The War is one of the most important things in my life. It can't really be called "writing." I found myself looking at pages regularly filled with small calm, extraordinarily even handwriting. I found myself confronted with a tremendous chaos of thought and feeling that I couldn't bring myself to tamper with, and beside which literature was something I felt ashamed.
The first part of the book consists entirely of journal entries (perhaps altered) and the latter part of the book is made up of several diverse narratives that are partially interlocking, from "realistic" accounts to fables. The book tells of unspeakable truths, violations--including the resistance group's own excessive violence. One of the fable-like stories at the end is of an "abandoned Jewish girl" who is looked after by an unidentified "lady." The book ends, when this story, told hitherto entirely in the third person, changes to the first person:

"My name is Aurelia Steiner
I live in Paris. My parents are teachers there.
I am eighteen.
I write."

4. What is the writer's responsibility

The writer's responsibility is to disclose and to construct a world that does not "cheapen" the experience of those living in it.

video
__________________________________________________________

TRANSLATION
by Jeanne Heuving

I suffer from a frightful disease of the mind. My thought abandons me at all stages. From the simple act of thinking to the external act of its materialization in words.

I suffer from a horrible sickness of the mind. My thought abandons me at every level. From the simple fact of thought to the external fact of its materialization in words.

_____

These poems come from the deep uncertainty of my thinking. Fortunate indeed when this non certainty is not replaced by the absolute inexistence from which I sometimes suffer.

These poems stem from the profound uncertainty of my thought. I consider myself fortunate indeed when this uncertainty is not replaced by the absolute none existence from which I suffer at times.

_____

Here, too, I fear a misunderstanding. I would like you to realize that it is not a matter of the higher or lower existence involved in what is known as inspiration, but of a total absence, of a veritable dwindling away.

Here again I fear an ambiguity. I would like you to understand that it is not a question of that greater or lesser degree of existence which is commonly called inspiration, but of a total absence, a real extinction.

_____

It is very important that the few manifestations of spiritual existence that I have been able to give myself not be regarded as inexistent because of the blotches and awkward expressions with which they are marred.

It is very important to me that the few manifestations of spiritual existence which I have been able to give myself not be regarded as nonexistent because of the blemishes and awkward expressions they contain.

_____

Obviously (and that is what prevents me, for the time being, from publishing any of your poems in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise) you do not, in general, achieve sufficient unity of impression.

Obviously (and this is what prevents me for the moment from publishing any of your poems in La Nouvelle Revue Francaise) you do not usually succeed in creating a sufficient unity of impression.

_____

I am attempting to justify myself in your eyes. I care very little whether I seem to anyone to exist. The distance that separates me from myself suffices to cure me of the judgment of others. Please do not regard this as insolence, but rather as the very faithful confession, the painful statement, of a distressing state of mind.

I do not seek to justify myself in your eyes, it is a matter of indifference to me whether I seem to exist in the eyes of anyone at all. I have, to cure me of the judgment of others, the whole of the distance that separates me from myself. Please do not regard this as insolence but rather as the very accurate confession, the painful disclosure of a distressing state of mind.

______

I flattered myself that I was bringing you a case, a definite mental case, and, curious as I thought you were about all mental deformities, all obstacles destructive of thought, I thought thereby to draw your attention to the real value, the initial value of my thinking and of the products of my thinking.

I flattered myself that I was bringing you a case, a distinctive mental case, and curious as I thought you were about all mental distortions, about all those obstacles that are destructive of thought, I thought thereby to draw your attention to the real value, the initial value of my thought, and of the productions of my thought.
_____

There is something that is destroying my thinking, a something which does not prevent me from being what I might be, but which leaves me, if I may say so, in abeyance. A something furtive which takes away from me the words which I have found, which diminishes my mental tensions, which destroys in its substance the mass of my thinking as it evolves, which takes away from me even the memory of the devices by which one expresses oneself and which render with precision the most inseparable, most localized, most existing modulations of thought. I shall not labor the point. There is no need to describe my state.

There is something which destroys my thought; something which does not prevent me from being what I might be, but which leaves me, so to speak, in suspension. Something furtive which robs me of the words that I have found, which reduces my mental tension, which is gradually destroying in its substance the body of my thought, which is even robbing me of the memory of those idioms with which one expresses oneself and which translate accurately the most inseparable, the most localized, the living inflections of thought. I shall not go on. I do not need to describe my state.
_____

Do you think that in a sound mind excitement and extreme weakness coexist and that one can both astonish and disappoint?

Do you believe that in a well-organized mind apprehension is accompanied by extreme weakness, and that one can simultaneously astonish and disappoint?
_____

I am struck by something: the contrast between the extraordinary precision of your self-diagnosis and the vagueness, or at least the formlessness of what you are endeavoring to achieve.

One thing strikes me: the contrast between the extraordinary precision of your self-diagnosis and the vagueness, or at least formlessness of your creative efforts.

_____

Even if I had not other evidence, your tormented wavering, shaky handwriting which gives the impression of being absorbed here and there by secrete whirlwinds, would be sufficient to assume of the reality of the phenomena of mental ‘erosion’ of which you complain. But how do you manage to escape from them when you try to define your difficulty?

Even if I had no other evidence, your handwriting—tormented, wavering, collapsing, as if sucked in here and there by secret whirlpools—would be sufficient guarantee of the reality of the phenomena of mental “erosion” of which you complain. But how do you escape them so well when you try to define your sickness?

_____

To put it more precisely, this is how I see the matter: the mind is fragile in that it needs obstacles—adventitious obstacles. If it is alone, it loses its way, it destroys itself. It seems to me that the “mental erosion,” the inner larcenies, the “destruction” of thought “in its substance” which afflicts yours, have no other cause than the too great freedom you allow it. It is the absolute that throws it out of gear. In order to grow taut, the mind needs a landmark, it needs to encounter the kindly opacity of experience. The only remedy for madness is the innocence of facts.

Here is my idea at closer range: the mind is fragile in that it has need of obstacles—obstacles not of its own making. When left to itself, it is lost, it is destroyed. It seems to me that that this mental “erosion”, these internal thefts, this “destruction” of the thought “in its substance” which afflicts your mind are the result of the excessive freedom you allow it. It is the absolute that unhinges it. To be taut, the mind needs a boundary and it needs to come up against the blessed opacity of experience. The only curse for madness is the innocence of facts.

_____

If by thought one means creation, as you seem to mean most of the time, it must, at all costs be relative. Security, constancy and strength can be obtained only by involving the mind in something.

If by thought one means creation, as you seem to most of the time, it must at all costs be relative; one will find security, constancy, strength, only by engaging the mind in something.

______

I am quite aware of the jerkiness of my poems, a jerkiness which derives from the very essence of inspiration and which is due to my incorrigible inability to concentrate on an object.

I am perfectly aware of the sudden stops and starts in my poems, they are related to the very essence of inspiration and proceed from my chronic inability to concentrate on an object.

_____

There is no absolute peril except for him who abandons himself.

There is no absolute danger except for he who abandons himself.


[Every word of this piece, except the title, is from the correspondence between Antonin Artaud and Jacques Riviere, as reprinted (and translated) in Artaud Anthology, edited by Jack Hirschman, City Lights Books; and Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, edited by Susan Sontag, University of California Press.]




Introduction to Jeanne Heuving’s reading, Tucson AZ, Feb 2008:

Jeanne Heuving ’s cross-genre Incapacity (Chiasmus Press) won a 2004 Book of the Year Award from Small Press Traffic, and her book of poems Transducer (Chax Press) was released in 2008. She has published multiple critical pieces on avant-garde and innovative writers, including the book Omissions Are Not Accidents: Gender in the Art of Marianne Moore. She is a member of the Subtext Collective, on the editorial advisory board of HOW2, and is a professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences program at the University of Washington, Bothell and in the graduate program in English at UW, Seattle. In 2003, she was the H.D. Fellow at the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

In her book, Incapacity, we find capacious rooms of prose, stilling light to study the features of a memory, remark, or hour. Hueving deftly wills the reader to enter a state of reverie. Reversed time. Looking into a spectrum of becoming reversed.

In her newest book, Transducer, are four works. In "Frequency," the first sequence of short poems, we are given the precision of the painterly poised. In "Flora," is a deft and winnowing page, al la HD’s Sea Garden and Pound’s Sea Cantos, an exchange of verse in which brevity underlines a palpable depth, the unsaid reflected in landscape of sword lily and sea plume. In "Chthonic," a sinuous delicacy chases sound beneathe speech to gesture, a sorting of seed and season. The final sequence, “Limning,” gives full light to questions plundered throughout Heuving’s work. Kathleen Fraser refers to “a silence of longing between love’s requited and unrequited dependencies.” I would add to this a silence of habitation within unanswerable questions seeking answers. She writes of “keyless exchange of no entry,” “fraudulent eyes,” “a dark swirling comma reaching down.” Heuving explores a domain of intimate indeterminacy. Thus becoming expert at dwelling within the unbuilt, notating the impossibly sung. She confidently decodes a tangled embankment of eros—the location where thought succumbs to matter. She sheds light and limb upon those habitations of mind mostly unexamined. Within her gaze we spin paradox, so Incapacity becomes - in the words of one reviewer (Anna Gibb)s, an expansive “potential space,” or “virtual dream.” Transducer reclaims the inexpressible as a realm in which to revel.
video

Friday, May 8, 2009

delirioius hem: fem poetics

Danielle Pafunda [of Pussipo and La Petite Zine] curated the following forum:




Today features Kim Rosenfield, Vanessa Place and Christine Wertheim responding to the following prompts:

1. Locate an aspect of feminism within your work.
2. Locate an aspect of feminism within the work of (Christine Wertheim / Kim Rosenfield / Vanessa Place).

Must see here: Delirious Hem

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Homo Evolutis"

Listening to a recent NPR story, I heard biotech entrepreneur Juan Enriquez predict that within 100 years, humans will essentially become a new species, largely engineered and robotically altered. We will take control of our evolution in what he calls "the ultimate reboot."

So the monsters of us arrive, Bhanu, the hybrid metaphorical vehicles, from where they've been housed, hatching in labs, growing new organs and rewiring our brains into hard-drives with digital interface.

It makes the current vogue for the handmade and artisanal (c.f. the wired DIY crafters of Silverlake & its virtual environs, Cafepress and Lulu.com) seem like the nostalgic phase of decadence. The backyard chickens seem touchingly quaint — very “Little House on the Prairie” or "The Waltons,” for those d’un certain age. It’s quaintly pomo that it’s from TV that the current vogue for the handmade & crafty gets its images of the hand-to-mouth life. And from “The Pioneer Woman’s” blog or the “MaryJane’s Farm” mag.

“The Waltons” taught us, in the ‘70s, about how to live through the Great Downturn of now. Even in the euphemism ‘downturn’ there is a ghost of a mouth hungry for the upturned & rounded corner, the “Happy Days” rerun. We resist depression for there is not enough Prozac, in fact, for the whole nation.

Didn’t I promise you a TV show?

So let me be quaint, for the thread of an episode’s digression (while you remember that ‘quaint’ descends from ‘quim,’ by way of Erica Jong). I'm thinking nostalgically of what we call the quintessential [Rockwellian American] human experience because it apparently will soon be as obsolete as Neanderthal brows:

— children’s small hands, with their bitten fingernails & the white flecks in the nail-beds. Children playing games like hide-and-seek in yards and public parks, playing baseball with other children and not with digital opponents on screens. Children who were not allergic to every kind of food.

— the fallen arch of a slender foot, the laugh lines & crow’s feet will never be seen in a few more decades — remember a grandmother’s aging face, lined ten times for each decade. Oh breasts of every size & shape, lopsided, bulging, billowy!

You are so Old Humanism.

— the mood swings, the un-microchip-enhanced sense of smell which gave us BBQ, mown grass (there was still grass) & the smell of baking bread or chocolate-chip cookies. There were flowers — the old climbing roses or sweet peas—you could smell with your own nostrils. Not all roses came from Ecuadorean sweatshop greenhouses.

But, yes, those (& these) were the days of the relatively unretouched human being, uncosmetically altered & unmachined — no pacemaker, no silicone, no artificial joints, no pig valves in hearts, no transplanted faces. Not for lack of prior trying on our parts—scarification, circumcision, tattooing, footbinding, prosthetic limbs anyone?

You know they will be downloading our rusty, archaic data files for decoding to study us anthropologically, like ‘primitives,’ so let’s leave a fossil record for our descendants. Don’t forget to write about what it was like, & send the emails for permanent storage on remote servers. The aliens of the future will want to know how it was.

Not that it was better before! — we died off in droves, in waves, in plagues. Just — don’t completely forget chicken pox, mumps, polio & getting tonsils removed just yet. Or natural childbirth, diphtheria, AIDS, the common cold whose genome we’ve mapped. Or how about putting your hand into some ‘real’ dirt to garden? How about pimples, losing your baby teeth?

Somebody write it all down now, before it’s over: how it felt to get a crush, have a tantrum, be depressed or afraid of the dark. Some things will, in the future, never be felt again. There will be neuroenhancer meds, genetic engineering & magic-bullet pills to make it all go away. Smooth human sailing forever, into some kind of utopic almost-immortality you can buy — Oh! but only especially if you happen to be in what’s left of the Fortune 500.

All this may be behind us, I’m just saying, to remind us to note ourselves marvelling at the 'simple joys' [as they're called] we felt. Be kind, remembering how cool we thought we were as early adopters of the cell-phone, the laptop & (just yesterday!) Facebook. Think of how we look at our ancestors — those ignorant simple people who lived & died like flies, before antibiotics, anesthesia & sterile procedure.

Just saying. You’re living in the old Hallmark card days right now; in the sepia-hued countryside of those who still sometimes walk around barefoot, on actual soil, & take food grown from living plants into their own personal, physical mouths & chew it for themselves like humble animals. Remember you lived through that, before the new ‘compute power’ robot-manager analogue of your kind declares your species extinct.