Monday, September 29, 2008

Chapter Three, Part Two

IN the summer of 1939 I lectured at the universities of Ann Arbor and Chicago--or so Dr. Frolov thought as he pulled his little sport job into a parking lot and waited for Dr. Speransky to give him the same special stimulus. How fortunate the revolution that does not end with the enthronement of the enemy. The tone D of Max Kohl’s tone variator, damped to different degrees, provided the stimuli for these experiments. Perhaps these chamois only succeeded in escaping from you because they did not have to think first, or discuss the best method of eluding you. In the bay, a tug had a bone in its teeth; a great liner was coming in from the depths of the blue Pacific; and just beyond the parking lot, a huge concrete warehouse looked to be quite substantial and real.

"I am inclined to agree with on the whole--" So far Dr. Speransky got, then stopped speaking as an intolerably bright light flared in the sky. Up toward Pasadena, the light might be over the Rose City, it might be over downtown Los Angeles. During the next few days the weather proved changeable and we went on a number of excursions, some long, some short. The experiments were conducted in the following manner. During the next few days the weather proved changeable and we went on a number of excursions, some long, some short. Dr. Frolov caught only a glimpse of the light out of the corner of his eyes. Dr. Speransky failed to get close enough, and admired the instinct of animals who could detect the softest sound, the merest footprint in the snow, the crackling of a branch or the slightest scent, and take evasive action. Dropping the special stimulus, he clapped his hands over his eyes and began to scream, "I'm blind! I'm blind!"

During the next few days the weather proved changeable and we went on a number of excursions, some long, some short. On many occasions a phase of equalization of the reflexes was observed after administration of the buzzer, the reflexes often diminishing and the animal declining the food.

The golden age of atomic physics was now fast drawing to an end. He knew instantly the source from which it came, knew this better than he knew his own name, knew it with an absolute sureness. In the summer of 1939 I lectured at the universities of Ann Arbor and Chicago. "Come on, man! There's no time to waste."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beauty Belief and Bawdry.

That was the founding motto of Les Figues Press. It was January 2005, and Les Figues had committed to publishing the first book of its first series—TrenchArt: Material—by April 1 of that year. Yet even then we knew Les Figues wanted to do far more than pick, publish and sell books.

Les Figues would make beauty—not in the classical sense (though Les Figues books are aesthetically pleasing)—but beauty as irresolvable tension and contradiction, beauty as conversation, beauty as verb.

And Les Figues would stir up belief in a new way of publishing, one that foregrounds how individual books—like individual minds—do not exist in a vacuum. We wanted something different than the standard small press plan of having one or two big-name. We wanted to create a conversation between books, writers, and readers.

Finally, Les Figues would engage in bawdry by pushing the limits of acceptability. What do you call this kind of writing? Poetry? Prose? Litteral Poetics? In a world of sound bites, how complicated can we make this?

So like any group of good Americans with an idea, we made a business plan, though instead of projecting potential financial profits, we projected something like this:

[Every book we make will be beautiful by our definition of beauty; that is, 100% of books we put into the world will be beautiful. At first, only a few people will believe in this idea, an estimated 1 out of every 10 people we meet, understanding, of course, that we meet mostly writers and artist-types. If we were meeting more accountants and avid-skiers, the percentage of initial belief will most likely be lower. We project the percentage of belief will rise and as it rises, bawdry will decrease, for the more something is believed in, the more acceptable it becomes to believe in it. Yet bawdry will never decrease beneath the level of belief because we can’t help it: we like bawdry books.]

Four years later, we’re still making beauty, belief and bawdry, as evidenced in the annual TrenchArt series. Every year, we group four similarly-concerned books together, work with each of the writers to develop an aesthetic essay/poetics, then publish these aesthetics in a uniquely-bound, limited-edition book, available for members only.

Join in on the onversation be becoming subscribing members of Les Figues Press. When you do you'll receive each of the five books in the current TrenchArt: Tracer series, including works by Allison Carter, Kim Rosenfield, Amina Cain and Sophie Robinson, and art by Ken Ehrlich and Susan Simpson.

Say yes, let there be figs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Maxi Kim reading, what feels like a long time ago:

You must be a giggly machete. I agree with you about the earthquakes: the inside was out of reach. My agreeing was getting me in trouble. For example – excavation of my eye sockets. (Where else to go? Which destination?) What could be better than skin when the dam bursts? (Which fluid to rescue first?) Speaking of rescue, this tree, not even yours. My mom with somebody else’s blood. Thanks (go skipping) all around.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When Someone Dies

I think I knew them.
I knew of them.
I worked with them.
I met them at a party.

Him. This time, it's him.

I chant a poem to my mother and it's only lines are

It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.

What is it that happened most? Life? Or death? Where are we left? Where am I?

I think I.
I think "I".
As a gateway to remembering, I start with myself. What do I know?

I write this blog at last because it's only tonight that I've finally read his.
His email contact at the top right column.
I check my computer's address book. There it is. The same.

I pull a book of poems from a shelf. Some Are Dying by Reginald Shepherd, who died last night in his sleep, fighting cancer? Shaking hands with it, bowing? Turning his back to it to write a poem into the ashy air of his last dream become his first? What do I know about Reginald? About his work? His whole body of work? His whole body. I don't think I feel. I feel. I believe in the continuum, I tell myself. I don't know anything. I feel. Something will come round to fingertips, to nerves, to fluttering lashes at the neck of a lover, a pillow, the breeze from the open window. Come round from somewhere to here. I ring a mental bell. Passing through.
What can an oeuvre tell about an actual body, a somebody? Are we not skeletons fleshed with refrain? Some Are Dying is the only book of Reginald's I have. His first book. At random now I flip the book open, press, break the spine. For once, I don't wince.

What Cannot Be Kept
He was dreaming of the factories across the water's fog
and pillared smoke, a man listing toward him in a paper boat
whose outstretched palm read Wait. He was laid out
on a lawn chair in the park; and that night
boys were dancing in the branches of the trees
at the party, floating in the crotch of two limbs,
their motion the blur between nature and sex.
the color of them prints across the eye
as plums, in verging autumn, print heavily on the open palm. They fall from such
trees, the trees are barren: held up at the cusp of two
seasons, both falling, one so-called. he dreamt he was
starving, so slim he could slip between
the horn and the ivory gates; their flesh wears away to a winter's
witness, the history of fleeting ripeness packed
in salted lines and photographs unfolded
while it snows. The originals
are ruined, worn to a mirror's whiteness by the river
trucks drive over, cemented with the progressive sediments,
the waste of fruitfulness sanded down
to almost-morning mist.

Reginald Shepherd, Some Are Dying, Pitt University Press, 1994

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Whys of What We Do

With Kim Rosenfield's re: evolution off to the printer, and Allison Carter's A Fixed, Formal Arrangement due in any time now, I've turned my attention to writing the Figues annual new membership letter. This is the letter sent to those who have signed up to be on our mailing list, but who have not yet taken the next step of officially becoming a "subscribing member."

(BTW: all of you out there who need to renew your membership, please, RENEW TODAY. As mentioned, we have books at the printer, which means we need your support in order to pay that bill. But even more, the TrenchArt Tracer series is really dynamite, or to paraphrase Mathew Timmons, "Wow! I want every one of those books.")

But back to the new member letter, its intention to persuade others to support Les Figues. All non-profits send fundraising appeals, and as any person working in non-profit development will tell you, the primary source of funding for non-profit organizations is individuals. When I did fundraising for social service organizations (everything from HIV/AIDS to domestic violence and sexual assault), these appeals were easier to write. For God's sake, people were dying. But when it comes to the arts, there often isn't the same kind of urgency. Publishing a book of experimental/avant-writing won't help feed and clothe anyone, even the author.

Of course, the writers published by Les Figues aren't writing in order to make money; they're writing for other reasons: because they have something to say, because they love literature, because they want to shift cultural conversation. I know for me, I realized at some point I wanted to do more than survive. I wanted to engage with others on a deeper level, which is what I think art does. Because it goes inside you, through your eyes and ears, until it gets into your head and heart, and isn't this wonderful?

I just asked Vanessa this same question –– why do you write –– and she thinks I have the question all wrong. For her, the question is why would somebody not write? What made a person quit writing? Why not make something? Why why...why not?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Politics of this Aesthetics: A Manifest

If mastery is the mode of the masterpiece, and a manifesto is a call to actions or arms or piped objectives, this is a slave manifest, an empty set, the roll call of nothing to stooped nothing, evidence of something that is without but more within, the cache of a cache with no cache, conscious and honey-repressed. Suppressed, that is, for we are not without ambition. Helpless, we were, in the face of our adorable ignorance, we were movers but not shakers, or we shook without motion, we had no hope of salvation, though we were confident of obliteration.
Is this offensive? We would very much like to offend, taking beauty or banality, in any dose, including the frigid equal, to do so. We steal, we fabricate, making, faking and taking, erase in homage to the unmaster that unmakes us all, being, as we are, an object with subjective features, visa versa, that is, being as being recognizing the chop shop power of the found object and of power itself. I would keep my hands to myself if I were you. We could be revolting if we could not revolt. Revolving, that is, putting a shackled spin on this place you call history and I call geography and neither of us call home, though it’s where we keep our shoes and teeth and what’s left of the neighbors. Revaulting, that is, putting a new shine on the old bolted canal, there’s nothing like a punctum to set a spring in your step and the smell of blackberries in the crook of your unthroated neck.
We are largely American, fat and unfathomable as our great grasping land. We see from sea to sea and what we see is the swimming. I would keep my mouth shut, if I were you. Our May fell in mid-September, when the aftermath was over, and we found out that autobiography was your ticket out of here. Here, that is, for there’s plenty of that, being kept in cones of eye-bit idolatry. Do you remember that man, the one that kept saying the thing he said? We parsed it and put it into cans. It was very romantic. We wanted to be, that’s for certain, but were dizzied by the swarm of legs spread before us, and if I were you, I’d have worn a vinyl top, or knitted a scar for the front of my ears.
If we were dynamic, we’d be home by now. If we were inert, we’d be on the move, for we’re nothing if not moveable. What the man said was that if we weren’t willing to save, we should liquidate. If I were you, I’d buy low and sell high, for you always were fancy-free or pinioned in hagiography. If I were you, I’d be thinking. Visually, that is, for what I feel is a sort of violence, the desire to have desire, the desire to change your future today, to have a client relationship, to have an extended warrantee, a guaranteed agreement, to have the immortal part sopped in my own thin juices, that being to be that is the sole comfort of my adversaries. If we were If I were you, I’d be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


a man in a Frenzy is thirsty

and what of me?

the term ma; the syllable itself is the space between that allows perception to occur. That space, what space? That constant struggle that creation of immediate revelation.

so to me by an immediate revelation

How do we do it? And who does it.
I have been thinking much on craft. Or rather, I have been experiencing a great deal of anxiety regarding craft.

The source of American Horror was that the voice of God might be nothing but the wind

Because I feel myself, in my writing, running wild—how do you make this craft, create this, where is the space we all talk about, within that embodiment? How do you make this space, the running wild, without overflowing your boundaries, becoming craftless and wild. I need incarceration, that padded cell so to speak, not to burst these boundaries

Incarcerate me in yourself

not to become something banal and meaningless because of the overflowing of the boundaries (the water over….but that’s all over or is it?).

a great deal of caution and pains were found necessary to keep the people many of them, from running wild

In the speech of the politicos there is one form of banality, the banality of speech reduced to the lowest common denominator—you can understand this, can’t you? No? (the numbers say no), well let’s try THIS.

So like
our trembling
we caught at it

I am bored with tight closed borders. I want borders opened, amoebic I want to swallow everything and be inured to nothing. To be human and non human, animal and plant, living and non living, aqueous and solid. To experience all of this in pure form.

Dwelling in the drop, she has the form of the drop, she whose own form is comprised of menstrual blood and the drop

I want to be elite and elided, filled up with words and overwhelmed with words that have their signifieds real—erupted--> is something erupting—see it? see it? no, damn, the signifier is uncoupled yet again. (But I’m sure something is in your mind now isn’t it…come on…something?!)

(Why is that woman putting silverware in her pocket?)

The babble of birds, the babble of babies, bring the meaning back to me I want it rich and true, but nothing if not stripped down.

Ghoul girl

I am this. I am ma. Give me ma. This is the emptiness of our language, latin and saxon, anglo squashed together and curling into the void. Lord help me, I am wild with empty signifiers and how I wish to make them into meaning, into revelation, into something that might screw this world up into a shape ordered differently, a different order that might yield to my longing and satisfy and bring me quiet.

I am …Rudra. I am that fisherman…I annihilate the entire universe…I am the Emitter…I constantly protect the ordered universe; therefore I am the Orderer.

(Quotes in italics are by Cotton Mather, the Antinomian Anne Hutchinson, Andrew Delbanco, Emily Dickinson, Jonathan Edwards, Robin Blaser, Kaulavalinirnaya of Jnanananda Paramahamsa, Alice Notley, Kaulajnananirnaya of Matsyendranatha)