Thursday, December 31, 2009

The debut of a brave new void

In which there is here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Other Room Interviews Sophie Robinson

The Other Room is a reading series presenting experimental writers at The Old Abbey Inn in Manchester. They also host a great online space, with videos, readings, events and more. Here they interview Sophie Robinson, author of a.

Sophie Robinson interview

Other | MySpace Video

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reviews While I Was Away

I'm just back from Thailand, including Chiang Mai, which has changed (and not) since I was a student at the University of Chiang Mai in 1996. The "and not" is a nod to my friend Chalermchon Jitjindar who insists Chiang Mai the city is still Chiang Mai the city, though the University has expanded and there's a burgeoning art scene.

In any case, while I was off speaking Thai (a constant remembering and forgetting), others were writing excellent reviews of Figues titles, or otherwise giving nods:

Mó-lós-sús: David Shook writes about Paul Hoover's Sonnet 56: "It manages to question the naturalness and inevitability of free verse in the most elegant mode of criticism, art itself."

again: David Shook writes about Danielle Adair's From JBAD: Lessons Learned: "Portions of the journal read like poems, with occasional—and appropriately serving as reminders of the project’s purpose—interruptions for military terminology."

Feminaissance is picked as the "Book Cover of the Month" by John Sakkis.

Dennis Cooper picks Babyfucker as one of his favorite fictions of 2009.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How To Write About Africa

Postcard from Kenya:
Uhuru Park, downtown Nairobi. A place for family gatherings, celebrations, and political protests. Also know as an urban location for poets on paddle boats to become spontaneous literary pirates. Ask Tony Mochama for details.

Uhuru means freedom:
Example, 1989 protest led by Wangari Maathai to cancel construction and foreign investment in the 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust business complex. Result, Maathai was forced out of parliament but the project was cancelled. Fast forward to 2004, Maathai becomes the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as the founder of the Green Belt Movement. Environmental conservation + women's rights = continental change.

I am mzungu, an African Swahili word for white person. Someone who wanders without purpose, someone constantly on the move. See traders, colonizers, officials, and tourists. I am the mzungu who is trying to write about Africa.

Starvation & sunsets:
A place to start, Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina's How To Write About Africa (Kwani?, 2008). Binya is the winner of the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing and founder of Kwani? He is a central nexus of Nairobi writers, poets, journalists, artists, filmmakers, and activists.

Let's now travel through Binya's conceptual text together to paragraph 3. You will need to put your camera down, get out of the jeep and stop looking for wild animals. Like any journey, you will return changed.
In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are strarving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Three things to listen to, and one to listen to and watch.

Lately I've been listening to readings and recordings from the Naropa Audio Archive, Penn Sound, and UbuWeb while I cook dinner, wash dishes, or clean the house. It's been nice to accompany these chores with this listening, though it probably doesn't do much in the way of me focusing in on one activity with presence. Still, I've enjoyed it, and have then been sharing some of the recordings with my students. In my listening, I have especially enjoyed:

* Judith Goldman's A Voice Box recording from the New Reading Series in Oakland this past June. She is such an amazing performer of her work-- slow, sometimes fast, as the writing necessitates. I like her Ceptuetics reading/interview too.

* Bhanu Kapil's Left Hand Reading Series/Boulder recording from 2001. She reads from The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, from a series of stickers, and from what went on to be her current book on the wolf girls of Midnapore, Humanimal. I love Bhanu's writing, and I find her voice to be relaxing too. A kind of active resting place, where certain parts of oneself are traveling, and other parts get to sink down.

* Diane di Prima's July 1978 Naropa reading with Amiri Baraka and Robert Duncan (the whole reading is pretty great, and multiple times I've shared it with my classes). Among other things, di Prima reads an excerpt from Loba. Strong voice; fierce woman; one to look up to.

* Jesse Seldess' "End," from Little Red Leaves 4 . Another excellent reader/performer of his work, Jesse's video is just as satisfying to watch as to listen to; the way he taps the words he says, giving himself time to find them, and the rhythm that comes out of that.

Of course there is a lot more, but here are a few.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How2: new issue online!

Launching a new issue of How2 journal
Volume 3, Issue 3

Featuring poems & papers from:
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
Emily Carr
Christina Continelli
David Emanuel
Shannon Maguire
Julia Lee Barclay
Amy Sara Carroll
Laylage Courie
Bonnie Emerick

Jennifer Karmin in collaboration with:
Emily Abendroth
Diane di Prima
Phayvanh Luekhamhan
Daniel Mejia
Erika Mikkalo
Shin Yu Pai
Meredith Quartermain
Paula Rabinowitz
Jenny Roberts
Michelle Taransky

Featuring papers from:
Caroline Bergvall
Sophie Robinson
Nathan Brown
cris cheek
Laura Goldstein
Majene Mafe

Featuring papers from:
Carla Harryman
Laura Hinton
Christine Hume
J. Darling
Carla Billitteri
Renee Gladman
Austin Publicover

Aya Karpińska
Katie Clapham
Becky Cremin
Simone Gilson

Featuring poems by:
Jessica Wilkinson
Emily Critchley
Karen Sandhu

Jessica Wilkinson on Susan Howe’s Souls of the Labadie Tract
Emily Critchley on Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip

Arpine Konyalian Grenier:
Reflections on the First International Poetic Ecologies Conference, Université Libre de Bruxelles, May 2008

Featuring selected work by:
Susan Gervitz
Hannah Weiner
Rosemarie Waldrop
Lydia Davis

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When writing - Josephine Foster -

When playing Music - Emily Dickinson -

Graphic as a Star
She sweeps with many-colored Brooms -
"Massachusetts mountains
pearled spiderwebs"
A dark Festival, or under
a Giant leaf!
Beauty crowds me till
I die -
Clearer and clearer -
the Feet.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gift Subscriptions

Now it's easy to share Les Figues with your smart, book-loving friends. Simply download the Les Figues 2009 Gift Subscription Order Form, fill it out, and mail it in.

Gift Subscriptions are only $60 for all 5 books in the TrenchArt Maneuvers Series:

TrenchArt Maneuvers (aesthetics)
Sonnet 56 by Paul Hoover
Not Blessed by Harold Abramowitz (forthcoming)
The Evolutionary Revolution by Lily Hoang (forthcoming)
The New Poetics by Mathew Timmons (forthcoming)

Forthcoming titles will be mailed to gift recipients as they are released. Wow! That basically means four packages for the price of one!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Sale: Buy 2, 1 Free + No Shipping

The Les Figues TrenchArt titles are long and skinny, which means they fit perfectly inside a stocking, or maybe even a very large sock. And what could be better than a gift of I Go To Some Hollow, A Happy Man or Other Stories, or Feminaissance? Nothing, except maybe re: evolution, +|'m'S-pace, A Story of Witchery, or any other Les Figues title. To tell you the truth: we love them all. And now you too can delight your friends at colleagues at a holiday party by reciting 56 versions of Sonnet 56.

For this holiday season, Les Figues is offering the following specials:

  • Buy 2 books, get one book free.* Just make your two purchases, then send an email to telling us what title you'd like as your third pick
  • Free shipping anywhere within the United States

This includes free shipping on custom-made prints designed by Marcus Civin, from sentences donated by Kathleen Hanna, Yvonne Rainer, Kenneth Goldsmith, Ken Gonzales-Day, Kara Tanaka, Kevin Killian & Dodie Bellamy and Eileen Myles.


* Free book should be of equal of less value.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Indie Holiday Love

From the Future of Publishing Think Tank:

Certain websites may be selling the newest Dan Brown novel for half price, but it’s not the best bargain out there this holiday season. A book published by an independent press and purchased from an independent bookseller supports two indie businesses and makes a more unique gift. Your loved ones will thank you. So will your community.

If your community is Southern California, you’re in luck. Our region is fertile ground for locally grown organic literature. Check out these presses and bookstores:

Southern California-based Presses:
  • Ammo Books ( <> ): one-of-a-kind titles featuring amazing design, thoughtful writing, and exquisite printing
  • Angel City Press ( <> ): nostalgic yet cool illustrated books
  • Arktoi Books ( <> ): poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction that give lesbian writers access to “the conversation”
  • Cahuenga Press ( <> ): poetry that honors creative freedom and cooperation
  • Cloverfield Press ( <> ): books as visually beautiful as they are intellectually and emotionally stimulating
  • Dzanc Books ( <> ): literary fiction that falls outside the mainstream
  • Gorsky Press ( <> ): risk-taking books that encourage readers to re-examine society
  • Green Integer ( <> ): essays, manifestos, speeches, epistles, narratives, and more
  • Les Figues Press ( <> ): aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists, with an avant-garde emphasis
  • Make Now Press ( <> ): contemporary works of constraint and conceptual literature
  • Otis Books/Seismicity ( <> ): contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and translation
  • Perceval Press ( <> ): art, critical writing, and poetry
  • P S Books ( <> ): micro-press that publishes conceptually motivated series on a project by project basis
  • Red Hen Press ( <> ): works of literary excellence that have been overlooked by mainstream presses
  • San Diego City Works Press ( <> ): local, ethnic, political, and border writing
  • Santa Monica Press ( <> ): offbeat looks at pop culture, lively how-to books, film history, travel, and humor
  • Tsehai Publishers ( <> ): literary fiction and serious nonfiction, with an emphasis on first-time authors and writers from under-served communities
  • What Books Press ( <> ): books by L.A.-based writers whose work spans the full scope of the past quarter century
Independent Bookstores:
Book Soup, West Hollywood ( <> )
Chevalier’s Books, Larchmont Village ( <> )
Diesel, Brentwood and Malibu ( <> )
Equator Books, Venice ( <> )
Eso Won Books, Leimert Park ( <> )
Family, Fairfax District ( <> )
Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, La Cañada ( <> )
IMIX Bookstore, Eagle Rock ( <> )
Metropolis Books, Downtown ( <> )
Portrait of a Bookstore, Studio City ( <> )
Sierra Madre Books, Sierra Madre ( <> )
Skylight Books, Los Feliz ( <> )
Small World Books, Venice ( <> )
Stories, Echo Park ( <> )
Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore ( <> )
Village Books, Pacific Palisades ( <> )
Village Bookshop, Glendora ( <> )
Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena ( <> )

Please forward this widely to those interested in books and writing. Happy holidays from the Future of Publishing Think Tank*!

*The Future of Publishing Think Tank ( <> ) is an ad hoc group of writers and representatives of independent publishers and bookstores, nonprofit literary organizations, and community radio. Our task: to consider the changes occurring in publishing, distribution, and marketing of literary work and to envision new ways for writers to engage readers and build audiences for their work. Visit us at <> to see the results of our reader survey and find more bookstores and literary activities in your area.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sentence Prints: Now Available

What do Kevin Killian, Kathleen Hanna, Kenneth Goldsmith, Ken Gonzales-Day and Kara Tanaka have in common besides the first letter of their first name?

Each of these artists/writers, along with Yvonne Rainer, Eileen Myles, Dodie Bellamy, donated a sentence to the 2009 Give a Fig auction: Readymade. These sentences could be something the artist/writer wrote, or something taken from someone else, with or without permission.

Marcus Civin made customized prints of each sentence, which were approved by artist/writer, and "printed" in a very small edition. We saved at least one copy of each print to sell online, and they are now available.


Thank you to Marcus Civin and the 8 participating artists and writers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sonnet 56: Old News Still Good News

The recently released Sonnet 56 is beginning to be reviewed.

See what Sina Queryas says on her blog: Lemon Hound

And if you haven't already seen an image of the book, Ron Silliman showed us what it looked like on October 29, 2009.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two Cities, Two Readings, Two Presses

Sidebrow & Les Figues invite you to a two-part, two-city reading tour celebrating writers from two innovative West Coast presses.


Featured at the San Francisco half of the series will be Paul Hoover, Vanessa Place, & Teresa Carmody, on behalf of Les Figues, and James Wagner & HL Hazuka, on behalf of Sidebrow.

Saturday, November 14, 7:30 pm

The Green Arcade
1680 Market St. (@ Gough)
San Francisco


Featured at the Los Angeles half of the series will be Paul Hoover & Harold Abramowitz, on behalf of Les Figues, and Amina Cain & Anna Joy Springer, on behalf of Sidebrow.

Saturday, November 21, 7:30 pm

Beyond Baroque
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, California

+ + + + + +

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wangechi Mutu

There was an article in the NY Times today about the Performa art festival and I noticed a stunning image credited to an artist I hadn't heard about before: Wangechi Mutu. The Saatchi Gallery has a great selection of her work on view in a hi-res online gallery. Take Futurist-style collage work, post-colonial critique and a liberal dash of glitter and fur and stick it on some medical illustration paper filled with uterine tumors et voila! An art-world darling is surely born!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mrs. Porter: Constrained (Part I)

I have long been a participant in Les Figues Press’ Mrs. Porter Salon, where I have presented, over the years, my research on Mrs. Porter, a figure in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land based upon a notorious brothel owner in Cairo during World War I. Two key aspects of my project have been untangling the literary construction of Mrs. Porter and the daughter she drags into prostitution, and combing through historical research into the seamy circumstances of the historical Madame Porter.

This is the first in a series of blog entries about my Porter project. Inspired by Paul Hoover’s Sonnet 56, which offers 56 variations of the Shakespearian sonnet , I thought I would submit a key passage from The Waste Land to some of the same constraint-based methods that Hoover uses.

I must say, it felt good.

A woman like Mrs. Porter requires constraint. Allow us to exercise some. I will take as my source-text 14 lines from “The Fire Sermon:”

White bodies naked on the low damp ground

And bones cast in a little low dry garret,

Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.

But at my back from time to time I hear

The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring

Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.

O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter

And on her daughter

They wash their feet in soda water

Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit

Jug jug jug jug jug jug

So rudely forc’d.


In my first variation I performed a mechanical Oulipian displacement, replacing each noun with the seventh word listed after it in a dictionary. The results were a bit uncanny.

Noun + 7

White body clocks naked on the low damp ground cherry

And bone heads cast in a little low dry garrulity,

Rattled by the ratatouille’s foot boy only, yearn to yearn.

But at my backboard from time clock to time clock I hear

The sound board of Marilyn Horne and motor cortex, which shall bring

Sweeney to Mrs. William Sidney Porter in the spring-cleaning.

O the mooneye shone bright on Mrs. William Sidney Porter

And on her dauphine

They wash their Feininger in sodium alginate

Et O ces volatiliser d’enfin, chantant dans la courbature!

Two-bagger two-bagger two-bagger

Jugglery jugglery jugglery jugglery jugglery jugglery

So rudely forc’d.


I had to consult two dictionaries: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 3rd edition, 1992, and Collins French-English English-French Dictionary, Berkley Books, New York, 1982. (I must say it was such a pleasure to flip through a dictionary again, scanning the photos in the margins and making serendipitous discoveries on every page. )

The exercise revealed something about The Waste Land that I hadn’t noticed before: it’s so often regarded as a High Modernist Intellectual Landmark, that you forget to notice how basic its Anglo-Saxon vocabulary can be. Usually, the word in the poem that I was replacing – body, ground, bone, rat – had the largest footprint on each dictionary page. These are the basic building blocks of the English language so when you venture a mere seven words away, you may still find yourself caught in the thicket of that word.

What’s remarkable is when the replacement casts an edifying (or often ironic) light on the source material. Since Eliot’s method in The Waste Land is to juxtapose words, ideas and historical references from different cultural/temporal/spatial registers, the extra displacement that noun+7 introduces hardly shatters the poem – often it breathes into it a bit of life.

The shift from

White bodies naked on the low damp ground


White body clocks naked on the low damp ground cherry

works beautifully, not only because of the carpe diem theme introduced just three lines later, but because of the marvelous foreshadowing of the bawdy Mrs. Porter, and her daughter, whose cherry her mother has sacrificed for good money. A ground cherry, by the way, is a plant with “small globose, fleshy fruit enclosed in a papery, bladderlike , persistent calyx.”


While I think every displacement adds something fresh and, yes, meaningful, to the poem, I do have my favorites:

But at my backboard from time clock to time clock I hear

The sound board of Marilyn Horne and motor cortex, which shall bring

Sweeney to Mrs. William Sidney Porter in the spring-cleaning.

Eliot’s deft re-working of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and “Parliament of Bees” was already interesting, but now it’s even more so. Here are the original lines from “Bees:”

When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear,

A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring

Actaeon to Diana in the spring,

Where all shall see her naked skin

Casting Mrs. Porter as Diana, the chilly mistress of the forest, who had Actaeon tortured and killed for accidentally seeing her bathe, is a rich piece of irony. But replacing car horns with Marilyn Horne is (you must admit) pretty darn funny. Replacing “motors” with “motor cortex” is almost as marvelous, since it amplifies Eliot’s disdain for the raw, instinctual drive that sullies all modern romance. Mrs. William Sidney Porter (that is, O. Henry’s consumptive wife) will get her “spring cleaning” from Sweeney all right.

A very loose translation of the French line (which is a riff on Parsifal) might be, “And Oh these vanishing endings, singing in the aching!” To have moved from children (l’enfants) to intimations of death (l’enfin) poignantly captures the spirit of The Waste Land, where spring and its new beginnings are met with a sense of dread.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

West Hollywood Book Fair

Come out this Sunday, October 4th, for the West Hollywood Book Fair. Les Figues will be there, at Booth F6 in "The Field"—along with other small presses, local bookstores, non-profits and the "mystery scene."

Also, please join Les Figues authors and editors for two panel discussions, both happening at The Fact, Fiction and Future Pavilion.

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Amina Cain
Jennine Capo Crucet
Janet Sarbanes
Moderator: Teresa Carmody
Signings at Skylight Books Booth

Teresa Carmody
Eloise Klein Healy
Cheryl Klein
Bronwyn Mauldin
Kerry Slattery
Moderator: Terry Wolverton
Signings at Skylight Books Booth

The complete schedule of panels is here.

There's also going to be excellent readings/performances throughout the day, like this one at The Lounge, curated by Mathew Timmons and Harold Abramowitz.

LATE NIGHT SNACK: an experimental cabaret and performance event series
Mathew Timmons and Harold Abromowitz host:
Amanda Ackerman
Liz Hansen
Andrew Maxwell
Laura Steenberge

And don't miss Elena Karina Byrne, introducing 5 poets at The Salon:

Elena Karina Byrne introduces:
Brendan Constantine
Karen Kevorkian
Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Elizabeth Pietrzak
Amber Tamblyn

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Inverted I

This Friday: Small Press Traffic

Anne Tardos and Amina Cain on the Inverted I and narrativity.

Friday September 25
Timken Hall, CCA SF
1111 8th Street
San Francisco, CA
event begins at 7:30pm

More Info Here

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spoonbill & Sugartown

Nice to see this article about independent bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown. They recently featured Dies: A Sentence at the Brooklyn Bookfair. And look at the excellent photos!

It's Time For Feminaissance


Feminaissance Book Launch

600 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY

7:30pm – 10:00pm



Numbers? We don’t need no stinking numbers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


What book, chapbook, performance, or poem by a woman poet published/presented in the last year or two has left you speechless?

How might that speechlessness manifest itself visually, sonically, or through another nonverbal medium?

Nonverbal Reviews and Adaptations of Women's Poetry

*Abi Stokes collages Matthea Harvey

*Tyler Flynn Dorholt splices Sandy Florian, Joyelle McSweeney, Laura Solórzano, and Kim Hyesoon

*Jennifer Karmin street teams Kristin Prevallet

*Daniela Olszewska puts a bow on Chelsey Minnis

*Christine Neacole Kanownik horses around with Jennifer Scappettone

*Janet Snell goes Dickinson on Nanette Rayman-Rivera

Curated by K. Lorraine Graham and Becca Klaver

Rolling submissions through September 20.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

wildfires, rivers, and the book of practical pussies

When I was in Marshall, NC in July I bought The Book of Practical Pussies with drawings by Michelle Rollman (Krupskaya/Tender Buttons 2009). The night was warm and wet with rain, and the river that runs next to the Lapland Bookshop mysterious and dark. Light from the window I looked out of was in the water. The book was pink and bright. Later, driving home, my mother and I got a little lost in the mountains. Tonight, wildfires are burning in the mountains outside Los Angeles. The flames are orange and huge, and from my neighborhood, I can see them in the distance. They've reached 80 feet. Fire, reading, drawings, the bodies of cats. I like this book. The cats are human, sexual, funny, tender, not vulnerable (maybe that's what makes them not human). One of them wears a bra and looks like it has flames for ears. Others unselfconsciously show their anuses, their pussies. Cats of death are there too. Then there are the texts that illustrate the drawings. I think they show the vulnerability of loving animals. My favorites are by Lee Ann Brown, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Dodie Bellamy, and Camille Roy.

Nursery Rhyme
Lee Ann Brown

I love little pussy
Her coat is so warm
And if I don't hurt her
She'll do me no harm

Sunday, August 23, 2009

GIVE A FIG: Les Figues Press’ Annual Fundraiser + Benefit Auction

Emcees: Matias Viegener and Anna Joy Springer
Performances by Bhanu Kapil, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Christine Wertheim, and Laura Steenberge!

Food by Carnival! Drinks! Delicious Cupcakes! Other Treats!

September, 12, 2009
7:00-10:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA

Tickets: Buy online or call: 323-734-4732

$15-$50 in advance
$25-$50 at the door

(Volunteer at this event and attend for free; Email for info.)

It’s time for the Readymade. Ecology! Economy! Artists, writers and independent businesses donate dozens of renamed/recycled/ready-to-go items.

View Details & Complete List of Auction Items Now!

Ken Gonzales-Day, Kenneth Goldsmith, Eileen Myles, Yvonne Rainer, Kevin Killian & Dodie Bellamy, Kara Tanaka, Kathleen Hanna, Connie Samaras, Stephanie Taylor, Audrey Mandelbaum, Betsy Seder, Molly Corey, Joey Morris, Dan Bayles, Mara Lonner, Ginny Cook, Douglas Green, Jenny Yurshansky, Shane Quentin, Phoebe Gloeckner, Candice Lin, Christine Wertheim (Institute for Figuring), Fallen Fruit, Alex Forman, Debra DiBlasi, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Calkins, Kim Rosenfield, Lynda Barry, Antennae, Miranda Mellis, Christian Bök, Amina Cain, Saehee Cho, Jen Hofer, Skylight, Portrait of a Bookstore, Brand Books, Counterpoint, Dr. Claire Cho, Rob Fitterman, Bhanu Kapil, The Alcove, Kenya at Studio 41, Charles Flowers, Howard's House of Fine Arts, Jeffrey Uyeno, Joe Milazzo, Sawako Nakayasu, Danielle Adair, Laura Vena, Rikki Ducornet, and More!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 23 Reading: Ravva & Cain

The Poetic Research Bureau presents...
Amarnath Ravva & Amina Cain

Sunday, August 23 2009 at 4:00pm

@ The Poetic Research Bureau
3702 San Fernando Blvd
Glendale, CA 91206

Doors open at 4:00pm
Reading starts at 4:30pm

$5 donation requested

Amarnath Ravva has performed (as part of the ambient improvisational ensemble Ambient Force 3000) at LACMA, Los Angeles; Machine Project, Los Angeles; and Betalevel, Los Angeles. He has exhibited work at Telic, Los Angeles; Acorn Gallery, Los Angeles; Pond, San Francisco; and Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery, Cal Poly Pomona. In addition to presenting his work in numerous readings, he has writing online at PennSound, LA-Lit and Drunken Boat #10, and work forthcoming in Encyclopedia vol. 2, and Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. He is on the board of advisors for nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts and is a curator at Betalevel.

Amina Cain
is the author of I Go To Some Hollow (Les Figues Press, 2009), a collection of stories that revolve quietly around human relationality, landscape, and emptiness. She is also a curator, most recently for When Does It or You Begin? (Memory as Innovation), a month long festival of writing, performance, and video, and a teacher of writing/literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as 3rd Bed, Action Yes, Denver Quarterly, Dewclaw, The Encyclopedia Project, La Petite Zine, Sidebrow, and Wreckage of Reason: An Anthology of Contemporary Xxperimental Prose by Women Writers, and was recently translated into Polish on MINIMALBOOKS. She lives in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Artist Embed: Event

Don’t miss Danielle Adair’s performance and launch event:

FROM JBAD: Lessons Learned

August 28, 2009
The Velaslavasay Panorama
1122 West 24th St
Los Angeles, CA 90007

In summer 2008, Les Figues Press acted as the media sponsor for Danielle Adair, helping her gain clearance as an embedded journalist with US Forces in Afghanistan. Before taking off for Jalalabad in November, she traveled to the University of Nebraska – Omaha to participate in an intensive course in Afghan culture designed for military contractors. There she also gained particular exposure to the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine; while in Jalalabad she looked at how the language of counterinsurgency is employed on base.

From JBAD, Lessons Learned, is Adair’s “field book“—an index guide to the language surrounding the concepts and realities of counterinsurgency. This spiral-bound notebook is a print component of Adair’s larger project, First Assignment, a multi-media presentation of her experience.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Aug 21: Hudson Poetry Reading


Cara Benson
Lee Ann Brown
Laynie Browne
Jennifer Karmin
Bernadette Mayer

440 Warren Street
Hudson, New York

CARA BENSON edits the online journal Sous Rature. Two poem books, (made) and Protean Parade, are forthcoming from BookThug and Black Radish respectively. Other work includes: "Quantum Chaos and Poems: A Manifest(o)ation" (BookThug), Belladonna Elders Series #7 with Anne Waldman and Jayne Cortez (Belladonna), "UP" (Dusie), and "Spell/ing ( ) Bound" with Kai Fierle-Hedrick and Kathrin Schaeppi (ellectrique press). Benson edited the interdisciplinary book Predictions forthcoming from Chain. She teaches poetry in a NY State Prison.

LEE ANN BROWN is a poet who works with multiple forms including songs and films. Her books include Polyverse (Sun & Moon Press) and The Sleep That Changed Everything (Wesleyan University Press). She divides her time between NYC where shes goes to tons of poetry readings, and teaches at St. John's University, and Marshall, NC where she runs the French Broad Institute (of Time & the River) with Tony & Miranda Torn.

LAYNIE BROWNE is the author of seven collections of poetry and one novel. Her most recent publications include The Scented Fox, (Wave Books 2007, winner of the National Poetry Series), Daily Sonnets (Counterpath Books, 2007) and Drawing of a Swan Before Memory, (University of Georgia Press, 2005, winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series). Two collections are forthcoming: Roseate, Points of Gold, from Dusie Books and The Desires of Letters, from Counterpath. She has taught creative writing at The University of Washington, Bothell, at Mills College in Oakland and at the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona, where she is currently developing a new a poetry-in-the-schools program for K-5 schools.

JENNIFER KARMIN’s text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice will be published by Flim Forum Press in 2009. She curates the Red Rover Series and is a founding member of the public art group Anti Gravity Surprise. Her multidisciplinary projects have been presented at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets across the U.S. and Japan. At home in Chicago, Karmin teaches creative writing to immigrants at Truman College and works as a Poet in Residence for the public schools. New poems are published in the journals Cannot Exist, Otoliths, Plath Profiles, and anthologized in Come Together: Imagine Peace (Bottom Dog Press), Not A Muse (Haven Books), and The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (Cracked Slab Books).

BERNADETTE MAYER is a poet and prose writer. In 1967, she received a BA from New School for Social Research. She has since edited the journal 0 TO 9 with Vito Acconci and the United Artists Press with Lewis Warsh, and worked as Director of St. Mark's Poetry Project. She is also known for her wonderful dancing. Her latest collection of writing is titled Poetry State Forest (New Directions).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lawrence Weiner said that language is material

Lawrence Weiner said that language is material. Other people have said it too and in other ways, but he is one who has said it long and often and relatively recently. Material like paint. Material like marble. You know this. You are wrong. Weiner is wrong. To err is human, wrote Seneca the Younger. He wrote : errare humanum est. There are different material, different things. That was Weiner’s mistake. He believed in translation. He meant to say interpretation. Writing may be interpreted but may not be translated. Writing may also be what is not written, just as sculpture may be what is removed. Writing is thus composed of positive and negative space. The negative space of writing is as full as the positive space, though it has no essential properties. It may be the white space of a page, the uttered absence of a linguistic referent, such as a scream, or the sudden cut of simply shutting up. [My caveat here is that one of the distinct features of writing’s materiality is its ability to articulate a positive through the positing of its negative, i.e., « the chair that was not there ». Magritte knew this, as well as Poe, though visual art tends to posit its negatives in more essentialist material fashion. There is stone and air.] [Should I use writing/text/language indiscriminately ? Yes, because here I mean language that is enunciated. I do not mean discourse, which can occur outside the medium of language.] I am wrong. There is no generic negative space in writing. Language is subsumptive. [Is this covered by the specific vs. generic negative materiality distinction above ?] Subsumptive in the sense that it constitutes the rules that it in turn is constituted by. Conceptual writing is writing that is extracted from other writing, cut out of its point of origin. [This may be the point in language where the specific may become the generic.] Like pink marble from Italy. There is too much pink marble in Italy. [This would be the crisis in language comparable to the crisis in painting—the problem of poetry in the age of digital reproduction. There is too much text in, for example, American. If there is no longer any teleological mimetic burden on the writer, or at least none that cannot be shouldered by anyone with the means to write, what is the job of the art of writing, including naturalism, creative reportage, and the terribly personal essay, and, by the same alternative token, what is the job of subverting mimetic writing, including critical collage, formal disjunction, and the terribly personal essay? That is one problem in writing. What is the quotidian without the Academy, without the museum or gallery? That is another.] Many early conceptual artists and art theorists wanted to shuck the self, to remove subjectivity in favor of objectivity. They were wrong, as you know, just as sculpture is always what is removed and what remains, for both aspects are aspects of perception. Perception, like language, is subsumptive : perception is subsumptive because it constitutes a language which constitutes a perception and so on. Thus, the absence of something gestures towards its possible presence, and the absence of individual subjectivity necessarily implicates the possibility of a transcendent subjectivity, i.e., the subject that knows how to extricate itself, how to cut its inelegant parts out of the pink marble. “The I that is not there.” [This was the crisis in poetry after modernism : how to evoke meaning through the evocation of non-meaning, or vice versa. John Ashbery, for example, used linguistic transparency and the quotidian serially, creating a feeling of something which carried the load of meaning as meaning became the meaning of feeling something. Free floating feeling. Like ice cream. Many language poets did this more disjunctively and to even more precise emotive (and ethical) affect. Lyn Hejinian, for example, wrote about the rejection of closure or completeness as a way of maintaining difference, and maintained that maintaining difference is the job of the poet. She wrote : « I would argue that one of the functions of art is to bring dreams and other works of the imagination into the space of appearance. » Like unicorns. And so writing showed, like abstract expressionism showed, that one could feel a thing without representing figurally the content of the thing one should be feeling.] Like pink and blue. Great news ! I have been pre-approved to get over 150 channels for just $29.99 a month for one full year. It is a commonplace in quantum physics that what is real is only real insofar as it is perceived, and that is a point of perception. [There is a difference in this regard between disjunction and displacement. Disjunction maintains the perception of a discursive whole from which constituent parts are cut, or constantly changing. Displacement maintains that something may be effectively extracted from its discourse altogether.] [Like a tumor.] Later, self as non-self became popular. This brought about the advent of identity, another attempt to pretend that the self is a differential construction, rather than a differentiated creation. Creations come from black muck and have pink lungs. Creations are specific positive space as against a generic negation. They are repetitive, therefore different. For 15 years, DIRECTV has been America’s #1 satellite TV service, with over 50 million people enjoying it every day. [Disjunction is atonal and therefore primarily harmonic.] There is too much Italy. I am working on a self-appropriation project in which I take statements of facts from some of my cases and re/de contextualize them as conceptual works. I am a criminal defense attorney who represents indigent felony sex offenders and sexually violent predators. I have participated in hundreds of these cases. [Displacement is deterritorializing and therefore primarily spatial.] My project is called « Statement of Facts. » I do nothing to the writing except change the font. (TNR to Calibri)
It is a Samzidat project, an act of triple-alienation in which I use the product of my paid labor to produce an aesthetic work that removes the case from its subsumptive and utilitarian function as the root or origin of the law. A function that depends in large part on its mimetic fidelity. In this regard, my project is not subsumptive, but creative, not disjunctive, but deterritorialized, not really real but overtly represented. It could work as a book project or function as a visual project. It is an indexical project that betrays or negates the index as it destroys its ethical reason for being, what Kant might consider its categorical imperative. Dan Graham’s recent retrospective at MOCA showed that language is mostly interested in itself. This is wrong : as has been noted, language is nothing in itself. In 2007, Yvonne Rainer recycled The Rite of Spring by way of re-enacting a re-enactment taken from an old BBC documentary. She added bits of her own choreography where the BBC camera turned from the dancers to the audience. The piece was called RoS Indexical. This is wrong. Without the camera, there are no dancers. Unlike the pragmatic index, including the non-referential index, the pure index is not disjunctive, does not act in opposition to the icon or within the symbolic order, but rather promises an entirely separate point of perception or subsumption. In this way, it is the infra-thin of deterritorialization. Yates knew this, as proved by his writing the eighth stanza of Among School Children. I know this, for the law, like the lyric, is similarly an act of enunciation, which is an act of articulated embodiment. Of movement or time in space or the concept of movement or time in the concept of perceptible space. Edges without specific content or affect, just potential contours or containers. What writers do artists need to read ? Herman Melville : Moby Dick Pound : Pisian Cantos Rob Fitterman : Rob the Plagiarist This is wrong. It is Benito Cereno by Melville that you should read. These works prove that writing is nothing in itself. For its July 2009 folio on conceptual writing and flarf, Poetry Magazine rejected a piece from « Statement of Facts. » The editor said the content (a child rape) was too disturbing, and did not give the reader any guidance on how to consider the material as it did not « elucidate » the dynamic of power and gender. They did accept my blackface appropriation from Gone With The Wind. More TV Less Money. It’s Moby Dick. Moby Dick is indexical and iconic. Also symbolic. [It is important to note in this regard that triangularity is the new binary.] Badiou notes that nothing is a singularity, as compared to the multiplicity of being.

Like rainbows.

Rancière writes of « a new political experience of the perceptible or perceptual experience of the political … » He writes this in La chair des mots : Politiques de l’écriture. «Chair » means flesh in French, « char » means burned in English. Looks like chair, the embodiment of no movement. My Statement of Facts project is a project about the latency of the law, the case as non-self-constituting, the case without law, the case without the case. (Because all law is the law of the case.) It is therefore indexical and symbolic and iconic, or at least iconoclastic (lawless), which is the same thing. [Binarism was born of the nuclear family, an essentially Freudian view of the Western core self. Triangularity is flavored more by Lacan, the family as already divorced and Mommy remarried, a more cock-blocked core.] What artists do writers need to read ? Courbet : The Artist’s Studio Ken Gonzales-Day: The Wonder Gaze Hanna Darboven : Evolution Leibniz These works prove that art is nothing in itself. It’s Benito Cereno. The content is less, meaning generically more by way of its specific refusal of meaning. It is a novella about a rebellion on a slave ship in which mastery shifts and shifts into another form of slavery, in which perception is keyed to theatricality and a man’s head becomes a « hive of subtlety. » This is also the infra-thin, as you know : the point where the dialectic has been reframed. But not as yet disinterred. By virtue of its pure singularity, nothing (the nothing-in-itself) is therefore the purely subjective. As Kierkegaard said, « God is pure subjectivity. » Pure subjectivity makes, or casts, pure objects. This is demonstrated in Christianity by the one-in-three : the Lord able to objectively partition the Lord by subjectively be-ing God. This is demonstrated in Islam by the ban on figural representation, a ban shared by Jewish religious art : images are « likeness » and only god can make a « likeness, » as evidenced by the making of man via His enunciation. Man, in this case, is subsumptive to his own likeness : man is subsumed by man : subsumed by is. Ontology is thus, to us, generic specificity. It is indexical + iconic, easily. It cannot be symbolic, or rather, it is simply a symbol of itself. Like food and trees.[The triangularity is obvious.] Point of origin. Point of articulation.Point of reception. What writing/art do artists/writers need to read ? Duchamp’s « The », in which the artist handwrote a text in English, replacing every « the » with a star. At the bottom of the page, the reader is invited in French to replace the star with « the » in English. In a paper on « The » presented at a 2008 CalArts conference on experimental writing, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries indicated that in Korea, English is the conceptual medium : a language of negligible or no content, a conceptual language that signals only language itself. This is the function of a star : it provides direction, not content. It is not transcendent, or significant, though it is seen as such. [This is wrong. Young-Hae Chang said that English is the medium of American. English signals American-ness, which I understand to mean contentless-ness through the medium of capitalism. Žižek’s statement that capitalism is an inherently contentless container, or rather a construction capable of holding any content is worth repeating here.] [Thus, the third function of language is not the invocation of a feeling but the invocation of indexicality—without the index. In other words, it does not matter that text written in American does not « mean » anything to the Korean, for it is precisely the absence of meaning coupled with the precise material presence of the language that is itself significant. This is distinguished from the symbolic in the sense that this symbol is also a symbol sans context. This is the displaced index.]

Definitely Benito Cereno.

In Benito Cereno, the now-free slaves pretend to still be slaves in order to protect their freedom. Unlike many men, I have never had to transcend the seemingly overwhelming force of my individual subject self to become an object. I have had the democratic freedom of third-party representation : I am « the Woman. » Unlike many women, I have never had to make an objective « likeness » of myself to be seen as a subject by many men. I have had the freedom of negligibility. I am « queer, » a likeness of a likeness. The product of production. In this regard, I am self-subsuming. I.e., the specific generic. I.e., the freedom of « the », or in French, « duh. » It’s my final chance to get this limited-time offer not available to the general public. Someone recently critiqued my poetics as nostalgic for the sacramental and sacramental authority. This is a lovely sentiment, as it implies, via its projection, the presence of such an authorial absence, i.e., a longing for the comforts of a singular subjectivity. This, like the quotidian, is a problem that could be remedied disjunctively. But by casting this as a form of nostalgia, my critic sees me as having already betrayed the law as the law of the case, given its point of origin as a comparable point of pure and mutually understood singularity, a point which subsumes, and is subsumed by, the rule of law at the point of enunciation. My critic was wrong : this is the layperson’s view of law, that it acts as a set of comprehensible rules to be applied to comprehensible situations. This is real nostalgia, the itch for the diagnostic. Poetry Magazine was right : I am the law as a lawyer sees it, nothing less than a likeness of being, a set of facts selected from a larger set (itself gleaned from a constellation of actual and fictitious events) and categorized by a codification of conduct, itself categorized from a constellation of possible points of perception. A set of facts, therefore, of being, being thus referencing genre, or medium, thereby referencing nothing more than the means of likeness itself at its point of reception. My linguistic materiality is therefore nothing, and thus, like the American that I am, becomes something. I do not elucidate. I instantiate. I am repetition with variation, the generic affect of which is affectless-ness. There is no disjunction, because there is no juxtaposition. I am everywhere displaced.The question always is whether teleology is possible : whether the deterritorialized creates a new territory. What is the subsumption of the, or the unhinged individual case, of a-judication, of the text as the text, of language as language as nothing more than enunciation? Thierry de Deuve wrote that « Art was a proper name, » meaning that it is only the individual case that calls art into question, and always into question : once work has been deemed art, it operates retrospectively in its subsumption to the rule of art. What has not been written about writing is that in the case of writing, it cannot work subsumptively because it cannot act outside the perception of language in the first instance. Art may be any thing, or nothing at all. It has another point of referentiality—language. Language is and cannot be anything other than itself. In other words, writing cannot be non-writing in order to become writing. However, displacement, insofar as it operates as the indexical without the index thus constitutes writing as a-writing, whose subsumption depends exclusively on its unwritten three-way adjudication. In this regard, conceptual writing, like my Statement of Facts, articulates the enunciation of the American, a case or valise which is both empty and full, signifying the singular nothing and the potential of the multiple. It is the possibility of negligibility, the a-indexical of slavery. It only is. I will follow my favorite teams no matter where I live with MLB Extra Innings. I will have worry-free 99.9% signal reliability. Andrew Pope wrote : To err is human, to forgive divine. I will start enjoying the best in entertainment at a special low price. I will receive free professional installation.

Seneca wrote : errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum.
Translation : To err is human, to persist diabolical.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Marshall Auricular Hour

w/ Amina Cain, Jennifer Karmin, & Kristin Prevallet
and music by Steve Davidowski

Tuesday, July 28th at seven o'clock

The French Broad Institute of Time and the River
68 N. Main Street, Marshall, NC

Admission $5

Amina Cain is the author of I Go To Some Hollow (Les Figues Press, 2009). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as 3rd Bed, Action Yes, Denver Quarterly, Dewclaw, The Encyclopedia Project, La Petite Zine, and Sidebrow, and was recently translated into Polish on MINIMALBOOKS. She lives in Los Angeles.

Jennifer Karmin’s text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice will be published by Flim Forum Press in 2009. At home in Chicago, she curates the Red Rover Series and is a founding member of the public art group Anti Gravity Surprise. Her multidisciplinary projects have been presented nationally at festivals, community centers, artist-run spaces, and on city streets.

Kristin Prevallet is a poet, essayist, performer, and educator whose literary focus is to integrate political and personal consciousness into radical poetic forms. Her most recent books are I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time (Essay Press, 2007) and Shadow Evidence Intelligence (Factory School, 2006).

The FBI is an arts venue and residency program founded by poet Lee Ann Brown and actor/director Tony Torn.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Les Figues Reader Survey

In anticipation of our 5 year mark, Les Figues Press is conducting a reader survey. Please take a few minutes (5 to be exact), and let us know how we're doing.

Survey Here

The results of this survey will help us with future planning. It will also aid us in procuring new revenue sources, including grants.

Please consider this a contribution to Les Figues Press.

And Thank You!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Happiness

Another excellent review of A Happy Man and Other Stories in the current issue of Review of Contemporary Fiction. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mini Portraits of Writers Week 6

Week Six: Renee Gladman

Introduction to Renee Gladman’s reading

Renee Gladman lives in Providence, RI, where she is the publisher of Leon Works, a press for experimental fiction and cross-genre writing. She also teaches in the Program for Literary Arts at Brown University. She is the author of four collections of prose (Juice, The Activist, Newcomer Can't Swim, and most recently TOAF) and one book of poetry (A Picture-Feeling).

In her newest work, Gladman examines the somewhat illusory categories of life and fiction. She asks what accumulates, beyond thought to create a narrative about another very elusive narrative, that being the narrative of writing the narrative in question. It is telling that this book was published by Atelos press, edited by Lyn Hejinian and Travis Ortiz, in which each text is specifically commissioned for publication and deals in some way with crossing traditional genre boundaries. The book back text reads: “Though she has been exploring multi-genres and hybrid spaces for almost fifteen years, she has no idea how to categorize this book.” And of course, nor do I, except to say that there is something to articulate here about the uncategorizable. For Gladman, fiction, life, and place (in this case more specifically the urban street), are related processes that are demonstrated in her work. The project of writing is not separate from a body walking down a street, or a sensibility struggling with say, the common cultural conundrum of a cell phone. What does it mean that an object we once lived in utter harmony without now dramatically absorbs public space to the extent that we now find navigation unimaginable without it?

She writes in her newest book, TOAF:
“My work is easy, it seems to say, walk along here happily, but what I’m attempting to do is to make the reader suspect this progression. . . .That’s what I want, to move and go nowhere.”

“In this kind of writing it is hard to know how much you want to say about a thing that you are calling a failure.”

In the recent publication Notes on Conceptualism, Vanessa Place and Rob Fitterman write the following:
“Failure is the goal of conceptual writing.

Note: failure in this sense acts as an assassination of mastery.
Note: failure in this sense serves to irrupt the work, violating it from within.
Note: this invites the reader to redress failure, hallucinate repair.”

Gladman is one of the few writers of her generation clearly carving out a new space for fiction, for others to newly approach the “novel” as a form in flight, a form to be examined and reimagined. A form for which to hallucinate and execute repair. Gladman works with a delicacy and a deceptively smooth surface which penetrates assumptions always just beneath the veneer of the daily.

And that is perhaps why her work is such a reassuring combination of enjoyable reading and provocative sifting of thought which gently though persistently prods and uncomfortably probes. While reading Gladman’s work I’ve found myself asking: What is an activist? What is a victim? What is public space? Where does one body end and another begin? What is the responsibility/responsiveness of the witness? What is the responsibility of the writer? Her work swims between descriptive and emotive. She creates fictive portraits, like captioned pictures, cinematic scenes, in which the culmination of action is always coupled with calamitous thought, and leaves the reader free to interpret her rendered scenes. She offers photographic exposures, seemingly untouched landscapes of language. We are invited to tint, light, zoom, develop, compose and ask as we read.

Renee Gladman reading at The Drawing Studio, Tucson, Feb 2009