Emily Dickinson’s poetry is perhaps the closest thing canonical American literature has to a “sacred language.” In Robert Duncan’s lectures on Dickinson, we could say that he posits her as the ultimate untranslatable poet, even within her own language. In her poems she “bring[s] us to the line where everything is so fraught with meaning that we can’t find the meaning.”
Jen Bervin will sew the Mississippi on your ceiling, if your ceiling is big enough. I saw Bervin present on her “Mississippi” project. “Mississippi” is a panoramic scale model of the river that divides east and west in the United States. The scale is one inch to one mile, and the length of the river and gulf measures 230 curvilinear feet. The river is installed on the ceiling; it shows the riverbed mapped from the geocentric perspective, from inside the earth's interior looking up at the riverbed. It is composed of silver sequins; light shifts over the surface of them as you move through the space. The sequins are made of foil stamped on cloth, a rare variety of vintage French sequin that comes strung in clusters. They vary in circumference — some are quite tiny. They are sewn onto a very simple layer of paper, mull, and tyvek. The lower Mississippi, or meander belt, was completed at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in August 2009. “During that time,” Bervin writes, “I found that it took me exactly the same amount of time to sew the length of river in sequins that it would have taken me to walk the same section of the river.”
I'm in Banff, Alberta, attending a long-weekend-long conference called "interventions"--focused on new writing practices.I'm in Banff, Alberta, attending a long-weekend-long conference called "interventions"--focused on new writing practices. The best thing about it is that most of the presenters are practicing artists. This morning, for instance, Jen Bervin showed us several of her textile/weaving projects--one a brilliant weaving of Emily Dickinson's fascicles. Lance Olsen (an old graduate school chum) and Steve Tomasula on various forms of digital/hypermedia fiction. Fred Wah starts a talk about collaboration by talking about using tea mold for a mealtime art project. I'm meeting many Canadian writers whom I'd not known before. Erin Moure and J.R. Carpenter among them. Maria Damon riffs on connections between schmata and schema-ta, a raggy poetics, in response to the matter of the state of the sentence. Craig Dworkin (best paper, to my mind, of the conference) starts with the Poundian/imagist compression of the sentence and does exemplary literary history in a short paper. There's a ton there. I moderated a panel on the state of reading today and tomorrow I will present a manifesto in 6 minutes. Hearing tales of the Wah-bash (the celebration of Fred Wah's retirement from active teaching near here in Calgary). Finally, after all these years, met Derek Beaulieu--a treat. Kenny Goldsmith found a moment to insert his stump speech about uncreative writing, and he chose the perfect moment. Charles Bernstein started his talk by being absent, then showed us some stunning slides of his collaborations with painters over the years. Met a young man, Mike, who lives in a cabin in northern Northwest Territory, has a satellite-enabled WiFi and uses PennSound recordings as a lifeline to the world of poetry in the provinces and states below. John Cayley yesterday used the (Brown University) "cave" (3D virtual textual environment) to draw the distinction between our seeing objects floating before us (not "on" a surface) and our seeing words in such a scene. We just can't see the words as things. Chris Funkhouser performed the other night, sheet over head, as a dancing bounding text reflector, and played a one-string instrument his mother had bought him years ago. He's finally found a use for it. Christian Bok unveiled his new project: infecting can't-be-killed microbial life with text so that it will survive the death of readers. Writing that really lasts. As someone observed, he's gotten so far past the traditionalist's lament about writing for the ages that he's back to it. Humanism rears its viral head.
Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling are taking good notes on everything and intend to write an article. Steven Ross Smith, organizer, says he will get us recordings so that we can put a selection on PennSound.