Commentaries

Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (20)

Joanna Kitchel, El Niño Fidencio, and Essie Parrish

[In putting together a transnational and historical anthology of the Americas north and south (now in progress), Javier Taboada and I are looking also at founders and representatives of new or revived American-based religions, who speak and write in forms of prophetic and visionary language that resembles what we otherwise would think of as open-verse poetry. In the present instance the outsider poets on display are Joanna Kitchel, a follower of Mother Anne Lee and the Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming (a.k.a.

Surplus

Pt. 6

Cerith Wyn Evans, ‘Acephale’ (2001).
Cerith Wyn Evans, ‘Acephale’ (2001).

The poem constitutes (and is constituted by) potential energy resonating from the practically  indiscernible event horizon(s) sundering the autonomous contours of discrete operational systems (subject from object from world). As a result, “the poem” is not just language (or, more radically, not even language), but precisely what is left unsaid in the thing itself (and how this excess disrupts the faux placidity of language through readerly engagement). Surplus meaning infloresces between reader, writer, and world in the relational space constituting the poem’s immanent outside, but it’s the poem itself, its words, that allow us to touch this remainder. As such, the poem is not so much cipher (concealing a singularly esoteric content), but an opening, a cut, as Fred Moten has it (after the work of Saidiya Hartman). 

For a long time we have divined both order and disorder in the world and projected these as measure and excess. But every poetics led us to believe something that, of course, is not wrong: that excessiveness of order and a measured disorder exist as well. The only discernible stabilities in Relation have to do with the interdependence of the cycles operative there, how their corresponding patterns of movement are in tune.

Transfigurations/abstractions

Kelly Liu

Cover art from ‘Ideas Have No Smell: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets.’

Editorial assistant Kelly Liu breaks down the poetics of the three translated booklets of Ideas Have No Smell: Three Belgian Surrealist Booklets, ed. and trans. M. Kasper: Transfigured Publicity by Paul Nougé, Abstractive Treatise on Obeuse by Paul Colinet, and For Balthazar by Louis Scutenaire. Here is the first review:

Transfigured Publicity is exactly as the title advertises: publicity transfigured, propaganda reconceptualized, messages reinterpreted and reread, as each page materializes into a literal wall on which humorous public messages are plastered. Veering between the aphoristic and the cliché, the sincere and the ironic, the authoritative and the subversive, one such message proclaims, “DON’T FORGET / IN / THIS / CITY / ONE CAN / WITH NO FUSS / PROCURE / AUTOMATIC PISTOLS / AND / SPEAKING MACHINES,” a statement at once infused with Futuristic didacticism and grimly critical of technology. Nogué skillfully maneuvers the size of individual words and the direction of his writing to suggest alternative readings counterintuitive to common sense, to question public advertisements whose logic goes too often untested. He reminds us, in the end, that “their manipulation is not without a certain danger.”

Editorial assistant Kelly Liu breaks down the poetics of the three translated booklets of Ideas Have No Smell.

So she wrote

Brianne Alphonso

Brianne Alphonso writes on three 2017 poetry titles centered around feminine histories, bodies, and rebirths: Mary’s Dust by Melinda Mueller, Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts by Maya Jewell Zeller and Carrie DeBacker, and Silk Poems by Jen Bervin.

Brianne Alphonso on feminine histories, bodies, and rebirths.

Steve Cannon: New Orleanian, Black Bohemian, Art World Giant

by Tracie Morris

Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Sunday, July 14th, New York City: It’s been one week since the death of gifted multi-hyphenate writer, publisher, gallerist, mentor, and community-builder Steve Cannon, founder of the magazine and organization “A Gathering of the Tribes” in New York City. Although many of us are still in a state of shock at the loss, it is important that his recent passing is noted. This comment is a brief mention to mark this time. I’m sure more extensive commentaries by others will follow. Steve Cannon was a great writer. The roots of his work are as a proud New Orleanian. He often mentioned the city of his birth in his reflections on his life and cited his upbringing there in how he expansively considered life, culture, the spirit, art, and organizing disparate people and points of view. (One of his last publications was the book Black Jelly, with poetry by fellow New Orleans native Melanie Maria Goodreaux. 

Tracie Morris has written the following to mark the passing of Steve Cannon:

Sunday, July 14th, New York City: It’s been one week since the death of gifted multi-hyphenate writer, publisher, gallerist, mentor, and community-builder Steve Cannon, founder of the magazine and organization “A Gathering of the Tribes” in New York City. Although many of us are still in a state of shock at the loss, it is important that his recent passing is noted. This comment is a brief mention to mark this time. I’m sure more extensive commentaries by others will follow.

Steve Cannon was a great writer. The roots of his work are as a proud New Orleanian. He often mentioned the city of his birth in his reflections on his life and cited his upbringing there in how he expansively considered life, culture, the spirit, art, and organizing disparate people and points of view. (One of his last publications was the book Black Jelly, with poetry by fellow New Orleans native Melanie Maria Goodreaux. Several months ago, he hosted a major event for the book at Langston Hughes’ Harlem home. An apt context.)

Steve very much made New York City his place. Earlier on in his relocation here he was a member of the culturally significant Black writers’ group, Society of Umbra. His impact on the influential Lower East Side/Loisaida/East Village art scene and its global influence from the 1960s to the present is incalculable.

In addition to being a renowned writer, publisher, and community organizer for authors, Steve was a friend of performance artists, musicians, and visual artists. Some legendary creative friends who predeceased him include Judith Molina, Miles Davis, Butch Morris, Ntozake Shange, and, if memory serves, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Appreciation of and respect for Steve by countless artists of all disciplines is a very long list, too long to begin to approach in this brief note. He was a draw. He was also an incredibly generous person with his time and care. Many of us are deeply indebted to Steve for his support, exceptional cultural memory, and deep connections throughout the larger art world. Even though he was known as more avant-garde in his personal approach to writing, he was extraordinarily well-versed and welcoming of all types of art and scholarship.

For many of us who grew up in the “downtown” New York City poetry scene in the early 1990s, Steve was a welcoming, fun, and brutally-hilariously incisive critic and supporter. His “throne,” in those early days of the revivified Nuyorican Poets Cafe, was the end of the bar where he could be heard to audibly and perceptively, well, heckle. “Read the got-damn poem!” was one of his most well-known critiques when the poet on stage was yammering through a warm-up to the text (present writer very much included). What Steve’s loving and bracing critiques, both toward the stage and in intimate conversations, helped to do was expertly mentor — and toughen up — many of the poets who embraced his company. I don’t think I realized how well he prepared so many of us for the writerly life through his witty comments yelled toward the stage. Those who had experienced that type of bracing humor that underlies a very precise suggestion on the poetry in the room were more than prepared for the critiques of, say, an MFA workshop.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Steve’s legacy, especially now in hindsight, is his ability to be a “neutral space” for many dedicated artists, including poetry cliques that naturally occur in communities by people of varying opinions. There were people who disagreed vehemently with each other or plain didn’t like each other, as people are wont to do, but everybody got along with Steve. He just refused to hold grudges or to hold on to bad feelings. He accepted that other people did, he listened but he wasn’t in a “camp,” he was the camp ground.

This included all the art disciplines that A Gathering of the Tribes represented on paper, digitally, and in live performance (including dance). He was a living “true north” for how to embody an open-minded, open-hearted practice and beingness.

Although it seems that Steve lived to a respectable age (84) before joining the ancestors, it feels to be a premature passing if you’d met him. He was consistently vibrant, vivacious, curious, and of sound mind and body (maybe just a bit frailer as he aged). He always was ready with a hearty laugh and intimate, smokey voice (unless he was loudly heckling) almost up to the moment of his death. He was a good friend and he loved connecting people. He was a fun organizer: “Introduce yourselves, introduce yourselves,” was another one of his known and beloved phrases when a few or a lot of people were in the room with him — and this was usually the case. He was extremely popular with people of all generations. (Folks loved to hang out with him and he was quite charming in his uniquely unaffected “Black boho” way.)

The fact that Steve was blind from 1989 until the end of his life might’ve been why newcomers, strangers, would introduce each other to each other at his request. After all, did Steve know who was in the room? Shoot, Steve knew who was in the room better than the sighted people in the room.  What he did by suggesting that folks introduce themselves was to create a welcoming space everywhere he was. Rather than just take over the place, he’d encourage all of us to connect one to another, making ourselves at home.

Celebrations are being organized throughout the city for Steve (and beyond) as we mourn the tremendous loss to our communities. Steve was very committed to publishing voices of artists from around the world and to mentoring subsequent generations of artists. Although he spent much of his time “gathering” various tribes, Steve himself was a serious writer of extraordinary versatility and often heightened minimalism. His economy as well as his flourishes were not only on the page but in his articulation of what mattered and how he brought it across in his care for artists.