Performance, especially of the type that a.rawlings and Maja Jantar execute, creates a new syntax for sound and text as they swirl vividly around each other. You can see it in the way their bodies move, pulling sound out of lungs through stuttered and sometimes simultaneous arm movements. In their performance, we witness these two bodies on stage, connected through sound and text, looking to physically touch each other at all times.
In this video, Fred Wah reads three poems from his recent selected, The False Laws of Narrative, edited by Louis Cabri, followed by six poems from Is a Door (2009), followed by an unpublished piece for Omar Khadr and, finally, a joint reading with Nicole Brossard of “If Yes Seismal,” his transcreation of Brossard’s “Si sismal.”
When I write, I face my own death. This is the message the writer sends from the edge of the grave. Only days before stepping over the threshold, in Learning to Live Finally, Jacques Derrida, the specter of différence writes back to us as though from the other side:
The trace I leave signifies to me at once my death, either to come or already come upon me, and the hope that this trace survives me. This is not striving for immortality; it’s something structural. I leave a piece of paper behind, I go away, I die: it is impossible to escape this structure, it is the unchanging form of my life. Each time I let something go, each time some trace leaves me, ‘proceeds’ from me, unable to be reappropriated, I live my death in writing. It’s the ultimate test: one expropriates oneself without knowing exactly who is being entrusted with what is left behind. Who is going to inherit, and how? Will there even be any heirs?
Steve Collis emphasizes the point that elements of practice that conceptualist writers identify as their own are not “new.” Ron Silliman makes the same observations in his reception of Notes on Conceptualisms, remarking that “constraint-based practices are as old as time itself”; that Vanessa Place’s 50,000-word feat of syntactical suspension in Dies has, if one thinks of its concept in procedural terms (say as a kind of biggering and bettering of the Joycean long sentence) been done before; and suggesting that the kinds of conceptual disruptions achievable through strateg
I watch M. NourbeSe Philip’s performance of “Zong! #1” a mere two weeks after attending my sister’s labor, and the experiences pull at each other. In both cases there are human sounds exceeding vocabulary and in both cases I am honored to witness a brave and generous and necessary act. But in Philip’s case, this is not a delivery that ends in joy and relief.