This is a terrific collection about one of my favorite contemporary British poets. Useful both for detailed studies of O'Sullivan's poetry and poetics and as an opening into U.K. innovative poetry and the expanded field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. Overall, one of the most illuminating recent compendiums on contemporary poetics.
Maggie O'Sullivan and I will be reading together at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's, New York, on Weds.. Oct. 5.
Maggie had just arrived in New York and came by my place after visiting Steve Clay. She was in the U.S. for the Bob Cobbing festival at Penn. We talked about Bob's generous spirit but also how generally inhospitable she found England, which often has greeted artists like her with a colossally cold shoulder. Maggie remembered that I always wrote my poems by hand and with a fountain pen, if possible. Or used to anyway. I gave her my favorite current pen, the Impact Gel writer.
PennSound's Maggie O'Sullivan page includes a recording of a discussion with Penn students in Charles Bernstein's "studio 111" seminar. Michael Nardone has transcribed the session now and here is a portion:
PENN STUDENT: Thank you for your close reading, Ms. O’Sullivan. I was wondering if you could describe the relationship between performing your work and writing it.
O’SULLIVAN: Well, it depends on, every situation is different. Performing it is another opportunity to re-engage with the text at different levels, and another opportunity to negotiate the text on the page.
As you’ve probably heard, I often find my work is quite difficult for me to read from the page. Writing it, I hear the sounds often in my ear. But having to perform it, all the difficulties emerge. There’s lots of disconnectiveness and disjunctiveness that is kind of working against how I sort of, how sometimes it seems it may be read.
PENN STUDENT: Would you consider, sort of, maybe, performing it to be more body intensive than, I guess, writing it.
O’SULLIVAN: Well, writing is a body-intensive activity, totally. Absolutely, totally. The whole body is engaged in the act of writing. Whether it’s on the computer, with using a pen in the hands. The breath is involved in all activities. But with the performing, there are others that you have to connect with, and the place of performing also figures on it.
PENN STUDENT: A number of your poems integrate different languages, musical notes, pictures, and streaks, and they push the possibilities of poetic forms on the page. I was wondering whether this is supposed to conflict with the words, compliment them, or maybe even both.
O’SULLIVAN: The words working as part of all this kind of radical shifting—