performance

Infrastructure writing

“[I]t is precisely a special way of writing that realism requires,” writes Lyn Hejinian in her essay, “Two Stein Talks.”[1] Site Cite City is a book of realism, in the sense Hejinian uses it: realism is the product of a method, of a “special way of writing.” The realism of

Messiness

Rosa Alcalá, 2015.  Photo by Jeff Sirkin.
Rosa Alcalá, 2015. Photo by Jeff Sirkin.

Rosa Alcalá's impressive work with language takes shape as poetry, essays, criticism.  A thread running through through much of her work is translation, though perhaps its presence need not always be announced, or even understood. 

Delivery

Juan Carlos Flores in Alamar, Video Still, by Kristin Dykstra 2010
Juan Carlos Flores in Alamar, Video Still, by Kristin Dykstra 2010

Juan Carlos Flores has earned recognition for his poems as written texts, and as a translator, I worked primarily within the visually oriented spaces of the page and the screen to recreate his work in English.  [Click here to see the University of Alabama Press page for the book.]  But Flores takes those same poems as scripts for performance, lending a whole other register to his work.  To bring the texts into English without some commentary or other form of addressing performance -- like the 2010 video I'm posting at the end of this entry -- would greatly limit understanding of the work.

Hear 'Cellar Song for Five Voices' (1960)

Emmett Williams's "Sense Sound" (left); poster for 2/6/1990 performance at Paula Cooper Gallery (right).

New at PennSound — Jackson Mac Low, Dick Higgins, Petr Kotik, Joseph Kubera, and Chris Nappi perform Emmett Williams’s Cellar Song for Five Voices. This piece was written in 1960. The recording here was made of a performance in 1990, presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble, recorded by Mikhail Liberman at Paula Cooper Gallery, 2/6/1990. Click on this link to the Jackson Mac Low PennSound page: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Mac-Low.php#cellar .

Spatial motion

On Leslie Scalapino’s 'How Phenomena Appear to Unfold/the Hind'

It is difficult to conceive of a literary work spun out of “spatial motion.” To read and consider a poem that defies iconographic metaphor and symbolic interpretation, a poem intrstead composed out of language’s own phenomenal play, is to butt up against traditional values about poetry that still slide toward the pictorially descriptive.

Intersecting: Sound and poetry

An interview with angela rawlings and Joshua Liebowitz

Note: My inspiration for this interview emerged from a sense that something is missing from conversations about sound and poetry. Sound is not necessarily music. Joshua Liebowitz and angela rawlings (a.rawlings) are two artists I see as deeply engaged with the materiality of sound, and yet their work is extremely different. Joshua’s work uses technology to build and alter sound-structures, while, in angela’s performance-based work, I hear voice and breath sounding the limits of the body.

One knock for the clown

Roger Ballen, Squawk (2005)

Up until the publication of my first book this spring, I recoiled at the prospect of giving readings and rarely did — not only out of a universal shyness at public speaking, but also, and moreso, from the acute sense that reading my poems aloud didn’t represent them right and that, without too much conceptual work or production, you could make simple machines of performance that could, as poet David Buuck says through these great thin walls of J2, “activate manifold potentialities in the work, such that each reading is both an interpretation as well as a further investigation into how the poem ‘means’.” 

Why childbirth?

A question for Holly Melgard

Holly Melgard, reading at Grey Borders, St. Catherine's, ON

Sometime around late August/early September, I had lunch with one of the young women writers I see often in New York. She told me she had recently been to a reading in Philadelphia where Holly Melgard had, as she described, “performed childbirth, not actual childbirth, obviously, but just like made noises like she was in labor, and it was really loud, and people were really upset by it.” This performance apparently caused a great reaction. A number of people were furious, some felt insulted; why would some young girl who has never had a baby do something like that? That's what it seemed to boil down to, according to my friend.

Well, only Holly Melgard can answer that. But let's not pretend the WHY question is really just about explanation. Discussion about a controversial choice made by an artist opens up opportunities for all kinds of analysis. And with the sharp increase in people choosing to not bear children, emotions on this issue seem to be running high in our culture. From what I'd heard, Melgard landed herself squarely in the middle of it when she performed in Philly.

Dmitri Prigov's ABC of Russian culture

Gerald Janecek on the 'Alphabet' poems

Andrei and Dmitri Prigov
Dmitri Prigov and Andrei Prigov (PMP Group––also including Natalia Mali), video still from Narod i vlast' sovmestno lepiat obraz novoi Rossii (The people and the state together are building an image of the new Russia), 2003. DVD, 8 minutes.

Today I present a guest post from Gerald Janecek, who has contributed so much to our understanding of the visual, verbal, and sonic breadth of Russian avant-garde poetry from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. Jerry’s and my shared interests include the work of the conceptual artist and writer Dmitri Prigov, whose iterative practice spanned a vast range of genres and media from sculpture to performance, poetry to theatre. Some time ago, Jerry shared with me an extraordinary video of Prigov performing with the musician Vladimir Tarasov in the apartment studio of Ilya Kabakov in Moscow in 1986. Below, I present part of this video: Prigov and Tarasov’s performance of the 49-aya azbuka or 49th Alphabet from Prigov’s Alphabet series (you can read the Russian text here). Jerry’s commentary on the work and its performance follows. Together I hope they will serve as an introduction to a writer and artist who deserves to be far better known in the English-speaking world.

Revolution with a twist

Kamau Brathwaite

Kamau Brathwaite (Photo credit: Beverly Brathwaite)

In this commentary, I will explore what I term the “iterative turn” in contemporary poetry. I take iteration to encompass a range of poetic practices, including repetition, sampling, performance, versioning, plagiarism, copying, translation, and reiterations across multiple media. I will focus here especially on how iterative poetry engages forms of political, economic, linguistic authority and their intertwinement with questions of media. The iterative turn in poetry can be understood not just as a shift in rhetorical form but also as an ethical and political response to the crisis in authority engendered by the rise of new technologies of reproduction and the increasing pace of globalization since the late 1980s. In the posts that follow, I will map out just a few of the many forms that this response takes under four broad headings: revolution, copyright, translation, and the book.

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