Fallout from cooling (PoemTalk #125)

Erica Baum, 'Dog Ear'

Detail of 'Enclosing' in Erica Baum's 'Dog Ear'

Christine NelsonDavy Knittle and Erica Baum joined Al Filreis to talk about Erica’s Dog Ear, a book of photograph-poems, in which each poem is a meticulous reproduction of a dog-eared page of a mass-market paperback photographed to isolate the small, diagonally bisected squares or rectangles of text.

'A ceiling other than a sky'

A review of Ashraf Fayadh's 'Instructions Within'

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Photo of Ashraf Fayadh (right) via Instagram.

The outlines of Ashraf Fayadh’s life are clear enough: born in 1980 in Saudi Arabia to a Palestinian family, Fayadh published his book of poetry Instructions Within in Lebanon in 2008, was arrested in Abha, Saudi Arabia in August 2013, and was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam in November 2015.

How he came to be imprisoned is less clear.

The outlines of Ashraf Fayadh’s life are clear enough: born in 1980 in Saudi Arabia to a Palestinian family, Fayadh published his book of poetry Instructions Within in Lebanon in 2008, was arrested in Abha, Saudi Arabia in August 2013, and was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam in November 2015.

Becoming in transit

Sun Yung Shin's 'Unbearable Splendor'

Photo of Sun Yung Shin (right) by Uche Iroegbu.

The term “uncanny valley” refers to the relationship between objects that appear human and the emotional responses they elicit, the degree of likeness of the former being traditionally assigned to the x-axis, while the y-axis describes the spectrum between repulsion and endearment.

Solidarity Texts

Cover of Solidarity Texts, untitled, by M. NourbeSe Philip.

Begin again: that was the advice of the Benedictine monk John Main, founder of the Christian silent meditation movement in the West, to those who found themselves floundering in their commitment to the daily task of meditating. It is an idea that is strangely comforting — to begin again — in all the contradictory impulses of that phrase, for a beginning is new in its never-been-here-before quality and resists the idea of repetition nestled at the heart of again. But that is what we must do in the face of the tsunami of the attacks bearing down on all those committed to a fair and equitable society — begin again and again and again

Echo's echoes, or what to do with Vanessa Place

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Above: a portion of Alexandre Cabanel’s ‘Echo,’ 1874, oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 26 1/4" (97.8 x 66.7 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Echo repeats. Her practice, in eviscerating ecce, exposes the human. For her repetitions point to the obscene, that which we push off-scene, the refuse we refuse in order to make being — our human being — be. “Ergo, echo,” Vanessa Place has said of herself. But if, on the one hand, Echo adds to our artifacts, augmenting our understanding — Echo ergo sum — she does so through what she removes, withdraws, or lacks — Echo ergo subtract, so to speak. Through this double movement, Echo’s repetitions become the paradoxical indicator of excess. 

I wrote about poetics of radical evil,[1] and there must be an art of the same kind. Art that is willing to be affirmatively evil, not immoral exactly, but as a work of malfeasance, not for the polemic or didactic turn, showing that certain things are bad, stupid, etc, that’s easy enough, and sadly it seems one is expected to say these things, which is another form of obscenity, but for a more primal acceptance. This too is our artefact, this too, too human.

'Really, music was the cause of it'

Interview with Russell Atkins, June 2, 2016, at The Grand Pavilion, Cleveland, Ohio

This image is from Atkins’s unpublished score “Objects for Orchestra.” The dedication is to Aunt Mae, Atkins’s mother’s sister with whom he lived for many years. Image courtesy of Russell Atkins.

The poet Russell Atkins falls through all of the cracks of postwar art history.[1] Living in Cleveland, outside the geographic centers of the art and publishing worlds; caught between modernism and the postwar avant-garde; publishing in small press journals; writing generically indeterminate concrete poems, essays, and operas. In terms of medium, his work belongs to music history as much as to literary history. Politically, he is located simultaneously in the avant-garde, behind the times, and outside the Black Arts Movement.

Note: The poet Russell Atkins falls through all of the cracks of postwar art history.[1] Living in Cleveland, outside the geographic centers of the art and publishing worlds; caught between modernism and the postwar avant-garde; publishing in small press journals; writing generically indeterminate concrete poems, essays, and operas. In terms of medium, his work belongs to music history as much as to literary history. Politically, he is located simultaneously in the avant-garde, behind the times, and outside the Black Arts Movement.

Words that bleed music

Postbop jazz in the poetry of Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey

Left: Nathaniel Mackey at Vision Festival, New York, 2015, courtesy of Nathaniel Mackey. Right: Amiri Baraka at the Malcom X Festival, San Antonio Park, Oakland, California, May 2007. Photo by David Sasaki via Wikimedia Commons.

In his preface to Blue Fasa (2015), Nathaniel Mackey reflects on what is arguably the key preoccupation in his oeuvre: the relationship between music and language. Mackey’s comments emerge out of a sense of disquiet with the way the two modes of communication are often presumed remote from the other by today’s artists and scholars.

Cry criers

Jordan Scott's 'Night & Ox' and Andrew Joron's 'The Absolute Letter'

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony. For Scott, this stuttering poetry is “an inchoate moan edging toward song,” the beginning of a redemptive lament.

Scott’s latest, Night & Ox, takes the stutter further into the cry. The book-length poem opens at the “sunny edge / of outcry’s / tastic harpsichord,” and from these opening lines the cry never quite drifts out of earshot, even as the poem’s interests range across state surveillance, climate change, the liberal subject, and images of a comet hurtling through space.

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony.[1] For Scott, this stuttering poetry is “an inchoate moan edging toward song,” the beginning of a redemptive lament.[2]