Monday, June 30, 2008

Mystery attempt

I am playing on the web. If you are curious you might punch (gently) the Mysterious link at my webpage: This is an older noir poem (from the 1990's, remember that time?) that I am making into a serialized web voyage.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chapter Two, Part Two

Dr. Speransky was on the floor, another point should be mentioned. He did not know how he had gotten here but it is possible that the experimental conditions described may raise somewhere the objection of being abnormal and artificial. It is possible. It had stopped jumping up and down.

In the darkness, Speransky knew that all the stimuli, except the scale of tones, had never been reinforced. He could feel a blanket, which made him think this person was probably Dr. Pavlova.

She was determined to test whether these conditioned accessory reflexes to auditory stimuli in general would still be present at the time of absence of the specific reflexes to these stimuli.

Someone was at his left. He thought this was Dr. Bikov, but he wasn’t sure. On transforming the reflexes again into simultaneous ones the conditioned inhibition was almost completely dis-inhibited after only three repetitions of the simultaneous reinforcement. Crumbling and grinding sounds were still coming from the walls and from the ceiling above, but the large chunks of concrete had stopped falling. Somewhere Dr. Foursikov was whispering,“Electric lamp…Whistle…Tactile…Metronome…Electric lamp…Whistle...Tactile…Metronome.” This whisper faded slowly into silence.

Speransky heard Dr. Zimzum exclaim, extremely quickly, “functional exhaustion, but which is a result of exhaustion! I haven’t seen you in such a long time, not since…not since the alimentary conditioned reflex remained entirely without effect.” Alarm grew in the voice. “What are you doing here, functional exhaustion, but which is a result of exhaustion? Didn’t the alimentary conditioned reflex remain entirely without effect?” The alarm in the voice changed to a happy wonder. Then the wonder was gone. So was the voice.



“You’re on top of me. Get off.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chapter Two, Part One

Tom Watkins was on the floor. He did not know how he had gotten here but he knew where he was because he could feel the concrete trembling under him. It had stopped jumping up and down.

In the darkness, Tom knew that someone was lying on top of him. He could feel a blanket, which made him think this person was probably Rena Stark.

She was moaning to God to come and save.

Someone was at his left. He thought this was Cissie, but he wasn’t sure. She wasn’t doing any moaning. Crumbling and grinding sounds were still coming from the walls and from the ceiling above, but the large chunks of concrete had stopped falling. Somewhere a woman was whispering, “Ave Maria…Ave Maria…Ave Maria…” This whisper faded slowly into silence.

Tom heard another woman exclaim, like a surprised and delighted child, “Daddy! I haven’t seen you in such a long time, not since…not since you died.” Alarm grew in the voice. “What are you doing here, Daddy? Didn’t you die?” The alarm in the voice changed to a happy wonder. Then the wonder was gone. So was the voice.



“You’re on top of me. Get off.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

I have logorrhea



We watched “I'm Not There.” Disappearing. Like the movie “Closer,” Natalie Portman and that name on the grave. Vanishing. Like the vanishing photos in DiBlasi’s ….and the vanishing of Sebald entirely. Desaparecido.
As a physical gesture—Verbal’s kissed fingers in The Usual Suspects.


I’m listening to Dylan’s Tangled up in Blue in fact. [oops, now I’m listening to Rooks] Sage and I saw an installation at SAAM—by Su-Mei Tse--the mountains the music and the sun blowing away like a balloon. Sage kept asking why is it going away—and all I could say was “Things do.”

Blood will tell blood


One thing I’m reading is Kiss of the Yogini—a discussion of the sexual in Tantra. (The sexual, you ask, isn’t it all sexual? but no kamasutra isn’t really Tantric. As opposed to, say, hathayogapradipika] White is interested in what he theorizes makes Tantra tantra—a focus on sexual fluids—and consuming or offering up such fluids.

from Bimbetka

It is an interesting, if controversial book
One of the arguments against White’s interpretation is that the practices discussed, for example, Kaulajnananirnaya are metaphorical. And, is the text itself a set of locks that only the initiated can open. This has not only been suggested for these Tantric texts but for the seminal vedic texts such as the Upanishads and the Rig Veda. But White has gathered an impressive amount of evidence to support his interpretation.

Anyway: I want to do a puppet show—here’s a bit:

DR. FUNEL: [staring fixedly at the people without heads] Yes?

NORDSTAL: What is the length of time a head might remain conscious once it has been severed? Are their heads conscious?

DR. FUNEL: Hmmm…well, [scratching the top of his own head] research suggests the maximum amount of time a head separated from the body remains conscious is 30 seconds. But really, that is probably an overestimation because shock is thought to mask any true consciousness and I don’t think anyone believes the head sees the drop into the basket.
But of course, as it has been days since these folks were executed, they can’t possibly be conscious—at least, according to the data. [Short pause while the people without heads shift from one foot to the other] Funny then, these folks seem quite conscious, don’t they?

Loads of fun, eh?

and what about the frogs, the frogs, the frogs

A new research article in PLOS ONE (public library of science—good peer-reviewed research, free to all) presents data suggesting the Asiatic honeybee Apis cerana cerana can learn the dance dialect of the European honeybee Apis mellifera lingustica. There is, as always in science, differences of opinion about dance language and dialects but the paper is pretty cool anyway.

As I’m always trying to point out, we set the bar really low for everything else but ourselves (is it sentient? does it have sentiment? can I eat it
eat it eat it?)

Biology or, to be more specific, physiology, has been playing tricks on me again. I thought that metaphysical void—the open casket on my right—was creeping up to stay, but it was the weather. Now I have my happy light and I feel much better.

But, thinking about biology, I just finished Patiann Rogers’ Wayfarer. There are bits. But I want to like it better than I did. I want not to be frustrated in the same way that Barbara Kingsolver’s works bother me. I want to be generous.

[but…I am not a generous person. I am working hard on generosity, like visualizing generous feelings—that sort of thing.
One thing I really loved about Maggie Nelson’s Women, the New York School and Other Abstractions was her complete generosity, in the midst of the clear depth of intelligence, knowledge, and aesthetic understanding found in that book]

This is what I wrote on a poem that bothered me, the single word—imposition. The poem, “Boar” reads in part “Forgive his stink, forgive his beady,/squinty eyes….He is provision. He nourishes.” In Boar, ostensibly the boar is being viewed anew—the poem is an attempt to give the boar his own but instead it feels to me as though the poem is about the human while pretending not to be. In contrast, in “The Deluge,” also in Wayfarer the human is inextricably wrapped up in the whole thing, without judgment, without the, “this is what we think of boars, but really it’s just silly because they are smart and all these other things.”

This issue is problematical to me because 1) As a biologist I am constantly being expected to write and read this kind of literature and 2) I am desperately interested in how we deal with the nonhuman other in our work—how it can be made more itself without disappearing. I feel like work such as much of Wayfarer makes the mistake of suggesting we’ve found a way to find the boar but instead sublimates it beneath rhetorical and linguistic devices. (Such as that little device I just employed).

There’s a dog at the window and baby right there. Anyone want to do a world tour with me? We’ll do a little yoga show and then read some poems and play with puppets. I’ll get some sleep which I always want, and then go somewhere else.

You can read your work or play some music whatever you want—maybe a light show—

The dog has clear blue eyes, birds have black beads. My daughter would not let me remove a dead fly because she loved it and cried about it and now it lies, tissue wrapped, on our mantle, near Mary and our Lady of Guadeloupe, Joseph and some other guy, a Buddha a Buddha head, and of course, our Shiva linga.

Shantih to you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June 12: LA Art Walk

Betalevel presents

4000 WORDS 4000 DEAD
street performance by Jennifer Karmin

Thursday, June 12th from 5-7pm
at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk

5pm beginning in front of Metropolis Books
440 S. Main Street, between 4th and 5th Streets

I want to start with the milestone today of 4,000 dead in Iraq. Americans. And just what effect do you think it has on the country?

-- Martha Raddatz,
ABC News' White House correspondent
to Vice President Dick Cheney

I have been collecting 4000 WORDS for the 4000 DEAD in Iraq. All words are being used to create a public poem. During street performances, I give away these words to passing pedestrians. Submissions are ongoing as the Iraq War continues and the number of dead grows. Send 1-10 words with subject 4000 WORDS to

Participating writers include:

Harold Abramowitz, Amanda Ackerman, Manan Ahmed, Michael Basinski, Charles Bernstein, Anselm Berrigan, Teresa Carmody, Maxine Chernoff, Catherine Daly, Patrick Durgin, Arielle Greenberg, Kate Greenstreet, Carla Harryman, David Hernandez, Jen Hofer, Pierre Joris, Matthew Klane, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Joyelle McSweeney, Vanessa Place, Susan Schultz, Juliana Spahr, Stacy Szymaszek, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Andrew Zawacki, and many more.

4000 WORDS 4000 DEAD is a companion piece to Revolutionary Optimism, an anti-war poem I wrote in 2004. Grasping with the images of violent torture and death, Revolutionary Optimism contains multivoiced text based on the confessions of Iraqi prisoners, sympathy cards, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Throughout the last 4 years, I have performed this poem over a dozen times at art spaces and on city streets in Chicago and around the country.

A special thanks to the members of Betalevel for their help bringing this project to Los Angeles. FYI: Betalevel is located in a basement in Chinatown, Los Angeles, and plays host to various media events such as screenings, performances, classes, lectures, debates, dances, readings, and tournaments. Its members are artists, programmers, writers, designers, agit-propers, filmmakers, and reverse-engineers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

conpocon femme addendum

As alluded to, there was the sticky gender wicket precipitated by the lack of women represented in Make Now's forthcoming UBU Web anthology (31 entries, 2 by women), eds. Dworkin & Goldsmith. As noted, the issue was/is/will be being addressed. My addendum thought is that this appears remarkable, given not only the major role played by women in appropriation art (everything from Kathy Acker's plagiarism trial to Louise Lawler & Sherrie Levine's 1980s visual mimicries & modifications to J. Spahr's work), but also as appropriation art is the art of the likeness of the likeness -- the traditional subject/object flux (fluxus?) occupied by women. It's the point where mimesis, in its most radical form, shouts out the difference in reproduction (and the reproduction), pointing out the hierarchy latent in likeness.

Conceptual Poetry Conference - fit to print

The Conceptual Poetry Conference in Tucson turned out to be a Beckett-box, to pinch respondent Marie Smart’s analogy (though she was describing Kenny G.): what began as a monolith became, like sound itself, an unwalled possibility. The poet/presenters were uniformly good, and presented more or less what and as expected. Kenny Goldsmith restated his Statement of Purpose as has been previously restated, advocating the “unboring boring” of wholesale appropriation/recontextualization; Christian Bök created a 4-point rubric of textual intentionality and expression (+) and (-) that he felt resulted in 4 different game-texts (of mimicry, of ), and exhausted all textual possibility; Caroline Bergvall talked about the dilative possibilities of polyvocal/linguality in poetics and poetic performances; Tracie Morris demonstrated the orchestration of compositional and allusive techniques in performance and production via Rev. Wright and Missy E. Patching the soft gap in representative cogency, Rob Fitterman’s more minimalist work (Metropolis XIV) was explained and explaining. Rob was there, and did not disagree. Marjorie Perloff’s keynote was a re-reading of Benjamin’s Arcades project as a conceptual text (or pre-conceptual text). History revised, as appropriate and appropriative.

The respondents added clinamen, or what used to be called lemon zest. This included Graca Capinha’s rejection of a non-subject based poetics, and exhortation to poetry; Wystan Curnow’s ingenious division of conceptualist works into pre-text (work that uses extant text as determinative) and post-text (work that uses extant text as support); Jonathan Stalling’s terrific Chinglish poetics; and Laynie Brown’s amalgamed responses to her conceptual poetry survey. I presented a post-text work sampling Tampex instructions, a War on Terror Jody song, Yeat's The Heart of The Woman, and my own mortifying immanence in a bid for balls-out conceptualisms. Laynie was good and insistent on the felt need for an expanded reference-field, and while Dworkin backpedaled somewhat, saying his anthology was not really meant to be an anthology, and Perloff decried a return to 90s identity politics, the larger picture was decidedly the larger picture. In other words (and there are buckets of those), from Morris to Brown to Stalling to Fitterman, the happy news is that conceptual poetry is porous as the swimming pool it comes in. For more meat, inquire directly. Too, Kenny G is providing synopses of conference presentations at Harriet. And, of course, conference organizers promise all presentations and discussions will be duly archived and available to you on your own computer.What became increasingly clear and increasingly interesting over the weekend was the refusal of those present to adopt the pre-existing definition of conceptual poetry. (I.e., that promulgated by Dworkin and Goldsmith via UBU web and etc.) Rather than conform to the standard position of catcalling marginalia, those who consider themselves conceptual writers who do not do only wholesale appropriation or revere the flat affect or radical mimesis simply removed the margins. Perloff had to have been pleased – there was a minimal amount of homage, a maximal effort at fresh constitution, and a vertiginously perverse sense of optimism and potentiality. (image is from Richter's Wald series, nod to Cole S.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chapter One, Part Four

“I’m blind!” Dr. Speransky screamed. “Call a doctor, fast!”

“There’s no time for a doctor.” Returning to the experiment, Dr. Frolov did not look to see, but he knew the light was still flaring in the sky. “We must now consider what this experiment teaches us with regard to the intimate functional activity of the cortex. Here! Let me lead you!” He grabbed Dr. Speransky’s arms. However, the main interest of the experiments of Dr. Friedman lay in the investigation whether a differentiation which had been established for the conditioned stimulus to one reflex would be preserved after its transformation.

“Get away from me! Don’t touch me.” Jerking free, Dr. Speransky fumbled his way into the special laboratory. Dr. Frolov caught a glimpse of him trying to use the phone. Dr. Frolov did not wait to see more. Nor did he try to use his car. The recovery of an extinguished conditioned reflex is found in both cases to be temporary. Dr. Frolov knew this, knew that inside the building all the research rooms (four to each floor) were isolated from one another by a cross-shaped corridor; the top and ground floors, where these rooms were situated, were separated by an intermediate floor.

Unless he reached the shelter quickly, Dr. Frolov knew that each experiment began with the special stimulus of a buzzer or a metronome—yet another important factor in determining the rate of experimental extinction is the length of pause between successive repetitions of the special stimulus without reinforcement. Each experiment began with the special stimulus of a buzzer or a metronome—yet another important factor in determining the rate of experimental extinction is the length of pause between successive repetitions of the special stimulus without reinforcement. He headed for the shelter, running all the way.


Notes on Poet's Theater. Or, how I was transformed into a clairvoyant-cowgirl-poet-outlaw-revolutionary-twin.

In Chicago, it is the season between spring and summer. It is hot and sweaty. Then, there are a few days that feel cool and crisp. I do not know whether to wear my flip flops or wool hat or both. These temperatures of transition create a sense that anything can happen. Everyday is a chance environment.

I am recovering after a nonstop month of Poet’s Theater curated by writer John Beer. He currently lives in NYC but much of the Chicago community knows him from his time curating the Danny's
reading series with Joel Craig. From May 2-25, Links Hall hosted a four week festival Returning from One Place to Another: A Poet’s Theater Showcase.

From Beer’s festival notes:
Drawing inspiration from the operas of Gertrude Stein or the plays of Frank O’Hara, each program consists of a set of works for performance that retain a focus on language and structure while potentially abandoning traditional elements of narrative or staging.
Visiting poets Rodrigo Toscano, Johannes Göransson, Joyelle McSweeney, Fiona Templeton, and Carla Harryman were paired with local writers, artists, and performers: Joshua Corey, Joel Craig, Patrick Durgin, Elana Elyce, Judith Goldman, Laura Goldstein, Lisa Janssen, Julia Klein, Jacob S. Knabb, Katie McGowan, Pamela Osbey, Fred Sasaki, Jennifer Scappettone, Melissa Severin, James Shea, David Trinidad, and myself. Rachel Damon was our glorious technical director and stage manager.

Each weekend a visiting poet performed her/his own work with a different collaborative team. In addition, Fiona Templeton presented writing by Louis Zukofsky and Carla Harryman added selections by Kathy Acker, Frank O’Hara, and Barrett Watten. For most of the programs, collaborators had 3-4 days to intensively rehearse together followed by 3 nights of performances.

The collaborations ranged from reading a poet’s text while improvising movements:

It's liberating to come out from behind the podium, but it also helps that I'm just a player, an interpreter of Rodrigo's work and not my own. I'm a collaborator, in every sense of that word, but not the author.
-- Joshua Corey
To encouraging collaborators to write and develop their own parts:

I've always been a big believer in collaboration - not just as in "collaborative projects" (such as the W-Party or the comic book I'm writing with John Woods), but all of my writing, publishing etc. But this just made obvious to me how much more interesting it is to approach art as collaboration, and how strange and curious the results can be.
-- Johannes Göransson
I feel that collaboration is one of the most vital methods for fostering creative and intellectual growth. Collaborative projects push me to take risks with my work that might not happen by myself. Experimentation takes place both on the page and off in the new communities that are formed. When I become immersed in these challenging partnerships, I am forced to interact and communicate in unexpected ways. It changes my understanding and use of language.

In February 2008, I received an email from Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney about our upcoming Poet’s Theater production inviting me and our collaborators to “grab a couple media and genres and characters and write up/concoct a portion of the proceedings.” Göransson had already written most of the play’s main text, The Widow Party, and McSweeney was in the process of devising her character Hannie Oakley (part poet Hannah Weiner, part cowgirl Annie Oakley). Like many of our writer friends, McSweeney and I were ferociously reading and rereading Hannah Weiner’s Open House, edited and published by fellow collaborator Patrick Durgin. He was at work writing a final Declamation for The Widow Party. Jacob S. Knabb compiled and translated the script’s sound cues. Lisa Janssen and James Shea joined us later to perform the random characters that keep the quasi-narrative moving.

Taking cues from Hannah Weiner’s multivoiced texts, I dreamed up a twin for Hannie Oakley. Annie Weiner would be a sister character, speaking onstage and interacting with the audience whenever Hannie was giving her monologues. I began composing revolutionary letters as Annie Weiner. Letters to Ronald Reagan, Oscar Mayer, and Patty Hearst, historical figures who have appeared as real characters in the drama of America. Letters that I continued writing up until the day of the final dress rehearsal for The Widow Party. Reading on the computer. Reading on the page. Reading from the page in hand. Writing instantly and performing these words. Listening to a voice, a character, a persona, a whisper in your ear, a live moment. The vibration of air mixed with the smell of bodies performing. Imagine the set, props, audience. Writing and reading (are) a performance. Language is a medium. Another space for the in between.

How do you know that you are watching Poet’s Theater? According to festival curator John Beer, you should look at the notes in the program. According to poet and performer Fiona Templeton, it depends which institution is paying your bills. You start to think that these forms of collaboration simultaneously break down genre and construct future genre.

When you see Carla Harryman sit on a stool and read, there are geometrical sculptures behind her made from multicolored tape, fabric, wood, and paper mache. Judith Goldman and Jennifer Scappettone hold hands and sing like little girls in Kathy Acker’s play. David Trinidad is a chain smoking middle-aged widow one night and then the protective male lover of an estranged wife the next.

Does designing a set, create a performance? The wind chimes move outside on the porch and the refrigerator buzzes in the kitchen. I sit at the table in Chicago, finishing this writing half self-consciously, knowing it will become my first blog entry to be published on the internet. A form I have yet to fully engage with or feel completely comfortable in. Kathy Acker’s desk sits in Los Angeles at Les Figues' office. I get curious and ask Teresa Carmody about the piece of furniture. She writes back that Acker “has a photo of Genet taped to the top of the desk” and ends “It's a big chair to fill.”

Monday, June 2, 2008

News Reviews

Here's a few new reviews of recent Les Figues books:

The Great American Pinup reviews The noulipian Analects

Poetic Diversity reviews Voice of Ice / Voix de Glace

On a separate note, last weekend (May 30-June 1) was full of (more or less) literary activities. Vanessa was at the Conceptual Poetry Conference in Tuscan (looking forward to hearing about that from her), while Janice Lee and I were at Book Expo, in Los Angeles this year. And we learned a little bit more about how to describe books, from the Book Expo America 2008, Official Directory & Buyers' Guide ($40 value).

Tribulations of a Westerner in the Western World: A brother and sister struggle to find their way.

Inch Aeons: Great ideas for recycling old jewelry into kicky new pieces.

Requiem: A mystery with an amazing ending.

God's Livestock Policy: Guidebook to publicity and promotion strategies and techniques for anyone.

More coming soon!