In “Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache,” Juliana Spahr offers a narrative of the displacement of human imagination defined by creaturely and vegetal affiliation and transelemental immersion in the natural world. Lists of nonhuman species imply an abundant, connective world, and these same are beseeched not to “add to heartache,” prior to their replacement by chemical-industrial products later in the poem. “We come into the world / and there it is” – the poem’s opening lines prompt.
Organized by Peter Gizzi and Juliana Spahr for the Poetics Program, SUNY-Buffalo (thanks also to Chris Funkhouser for recordings). All day-time events were held in the Rare Books Room; evening events were held at the Hallwall Arts Center. PennSound New Coast page.
Opening an email conversation on Chain with editors Spahr and Osman, I sent the following two introductory questions:
1) In the final issue of Chain, you note that the intellectual (and actual) climate in Buffalo prompted you to begin the magazine. The first issue — one of only three edited while you were both in Buffalo — presents a brilliant response. Originally slated to publish writing by women, Chain no. 1 features an editorial forum on editing magazines, a transcription of a panel on the ethics of small press publishing, and a series of poems composed via chain letters. Perhaps we can begin with a conversation on your plans for this first issue. What role did you see Chain performing in the poetics community at the time, in Buffalo and further afield?
2) The editorial forum in the first issue is particularly illuminating — offering a fascinating survey of female editors on gender and the work of editing. You interrogate the format of Chain itself in a following section entitled “Editors' Notes: Frameworks,” writing:
It is impossible to make a frameless frame (although that is the vision from which this project derived). We have instead begun the journal with a forum that takes a look at how and why journals are created and in what ways questions of gender have informed those decisions. It sounds absurd to edit a journal that's about the editing of journals — a nightmare of self-reflexivity — and yet it is a way of creating a body that shows its own skeleton.
How do the preliminary editorial statements from the first issue read to you now? Opening with this intensive self-reflexivity, in what ways did surveying experienced editors inform your own editorial position(s)?
In response, I was cheered to learn that these questions in particular were addressed in a short statement the editors penned for OEI magazine. We've decided to reproduce that document in full here. The statment can be read as a retrospective introduction to Chain from the persepective of 2008, resurfacing along with the magazine online today.
In the final issue of Chain — which I am thrilled to launch on the newly redesigned Reissues platform — editors Juliana Spahr and Jena Osman begin by sharing some facts about the magazine. Perhaps the best summary of the journal's output, I'd like to reproduce “Some Facts About Chain” in its entirety here. You can find the full issue — placing this segment in conversation with the contents of the “facts” issues of the magazine — here.
I had the good fortune to spend three days in the field, last week, with a wildlife biologist and her field crew, in their study area in the Southern Canadian Rockies, observing and helping the team “pull transects,” inventory tree growth, and track for wolf and other predator sign. They were compiling data for evidence of “trophic cascades,” in the ecosystems at the mountain-prairie interface. Trophic cascades are the energy that ripples out from the presence of a top predator, or a “keystone species,” in an ecosystem—not necessarily through direct predation so much as through an “ecology of fear,” which keeps herbivores vigilant and on the move, balancing browsing with scanning for predators. Removal of the predator can result in a collapse of the number and complexity of the energy cascades; presence of a predator amplifies and expands the energy ripples. Through such “cascade” effects, we ultimately might establish links between, say, wolf presence and songbird diversity. (For some ecosystems, a “mesopredator” like the coyote fulfills the function of the wolf.) Or so the theory goes.
Theoretical or not, I like to call it the wolf-songbird complex.
Reading it now, the article seems a yawn - obvious, innocuous. Was it only eight years ago that the availability of poetry on the web was deemed innovative? (My own poetry site was created in '94. It's a grandpa.) Zoe Ingalls wrote a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the Electronic Poetry Center, with glancing looks at the digital poetry archives of the Writers House (including webcasts) and my online poetry course materials at Penn, and several other repositories of the time. I found a copy of this article yesterday while rooting through old files, and am pleased to make it available here.
In this video clip, watch and hear Juliana Spahr read from her work, "The Incinerator." The clip is 8 minutes long and was prepared for our PennSound YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/pennsound. There are now 118 videos uploaded to PennSound on YouTube.