Janky materiality

Artifice and interface

We live in machines but are not machines. Restless forms imagine new presents, where past and future meet. As becoming-digital beings, we retain and engage the problem of embodiment, which needs a world, needs other forms, needs to die. Death is our stake: neither early nor late.

Poetry is music, and nothing but music. — Amiri Baraka 

Poetry is heard; it is the heard thing. — Erín Moure

Materiality and embodiment

A short history of Tom Weatherly

We’re familiar by now with the designation of neglected writers as “poets’ poets”— essentially, an excuse for their continuing neglect. And we are, or should be, even more familiar with the neglect heaped on African American innovative writers, especially those who refuse to be easily pigeonholed into secure ideological or formal categories. Thomas Elias Weatherly (1942–2014) fits both categories.

Dani Zelko with Jennifer Ponce de León

PennSound podcast #66

Photo by Dani Zelko.
Photo by Dani Zelko.

Argentine poet Dani Zelko was joined in the Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House by Jennifer Ponce de León to discuss North Border: forced migrations (Gato Negro, 2019)the latest installment of Zelko’s Reunión project. Zelko and Ponce de León’s conversation explores the Reunión writing procedure as a “reciprocal work,” the book as a political object, migrant and feminist agencies, and artistic production as means to form community.

The Duncan/Olson dichotomy

A review of two volumes

review
Photos of Robert Duncan (left) and Charles Olson (right) by Jonathan Williams, from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Used with permission of Thomas Meyer.

Here are two elusive pieces of the context of midcentury American poetics. The Robert Duncan/Charles Olson letters have been available, until now, only in the brief reviews of each other that the poets extracted from them (“near-far Mister Olson” and “Against Wisdom as Such”), passages quoted by scholars who have been able to visit the archive at Storrs, and handfuls in Sulfur, Poetry, and Olson’s Selected Letters.

Caleb Beckwith and Suzanne Stein in conversation

'Political Subject'

Note: Caleb Beckwith and I have been corresponding about poetry, poetics, and poetry community since becoming friends sometime in 2015, shortly after he moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia. Late in 2018, I suggested we have a more formal conversation about his new book, Political Subject, recently released from Roof Books. 

Note: Caleb Beckwith and I have been corresponding about poetry, poetics, and poetry community since becoming friends sometime in 2015, shortly after he moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia. Late in 2018, I suggested we have a more formal conversation about his new book, Political Subject, recently released from Roof Books.

Wendy Trevino with Levi Bentley and Ted Rees

PennSound podcast #65

Left to right: Wendy Trevino, Levi Bentley, and Ted Rees.

Wendy Trevino joined hosts Levi Bentley and Ted Rees for this PennSound podcast, the first in a series of intimate conversations in Housework’s transition from reading series to recording series. Conversation topics included Barack Obama’s appearance in Best Experimental Writing 2016, post-arrest listmaking, “unequal collateral,” the organizing-specific shifts of self, acknowledging messy comrade conflict, and further associations drawn from Trevino’s 2018 collection Cruel Fiction.

A spring in one's death

Or: a fountain of youth/doom in (Middle English) lyric

“When a bird alights on thy shoulder she opens her beak like a beetle’s wing casings and tries to feed thee as she would her young. She first regurgitates hemlock, but stops herself as though knowing this isn’t quite right, and makes another attempt: dish water.” Above: ‘Owl mobbed by smaller birds,’ from a thirteenth-century English bestiary, via the British Library.

Your heart aches, you’re stabbed with hunger — for so long you become unsure of the difference between your organs; where in your body they lie and what are their functions.

star

Your heart aches, you’re stabbed with hunger — for so long you become unsure of the difference between your organs; where in your body they lie and what are their functions.

crescent moon

Of what use these memorials

A review of Henry Wei Leung's 'Goddess of Democracy: An Occupy Lyric'

Photo of Henry Wei Leung (left) by Lo Mei Wa.

For most of the fall of 2014, Hong Kong’s streets were filled with tens of thousands of protestors in one of the grandest displays of political resistance in modern China’s history.

Against erasure

The silent citizen remembers in Alejandro Zambra's 'Multiple Choice'

Photo of Alejandro Zambra (right) by the Instituto Cervantes de Tokio, via Wikimedia Commons.

Zambra’s interactive hybrid text, attentively translated by Megan McDowell, parodies the form of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test — specifically from 1993, the year he took the test — which students would take to apply to Chilean universities. In this text, cheating on the test is an act of solidarity, of undermining the system that suppresses thought and speech. 

In Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra asks us to remember a lot of things: 

A)   A lost love

B)   A dead friend

C)   A sixty-five-year-old woman who lost a breast to cancer, and never forgot she was missing a breast

D)   A curfew imposed in Santiago, Chile, under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship

'Intimate' texts against the state as emergency

“The ridiculous theatricality of deploying the occasion of death, and the personification of the door, a peripheral detail in the student protests, demands the audience to rethink the limits of its accidental shattering […] in the space transformed into a solemn funeral, no person is exempt from the gravity and intimacy of a death’s trauma.” Above: Magpies performing “In Loving Memory of ___________: Eulogies to the Library Door.” Image courtesy of Mannie Cagatulla.

Thousands of people in white started arriving in groups outside the building where Magpies, my self-publishing collective, was reading eulogies amid somber music, wreaths, candles, and donation envelopes in front of a small crowd in the University of the Philippines Los Baños. But we were not mourning the same loss. We were performing the reading of a zine called “In Loving Memory of __________: Eulogies to the Library Door” in a community art expo, and the crowd of thousands were looking for their share of Marcos’s gold.