Commentaries - October 2012

The body codes of urban space

Eugène Atget, Three women in a doorway on Rue Asselin (Paris' red light district
Eugène Atget, Three women in a doorway on Rue Asselin (Paris' red light district)

I just returned from a brief trip to Denver, which is in its urban spaces quite a contrast to New York City. It’s a vaster, emptier city, with harsh high desert sunlight that makes its public squares seem even larger, anticipating the hordes of people for which they seemingly have been designed to arrive, eventually.

But then, these initial impressions of Denver were wrong, as they always are—like anything, like a forest, or desert, or beach, once one stops and waits and observes, life begins to emerge, interactions start to happen. Movement makes stillness—in speed is action erased.

Tired, poor, huddled, gentrified (PoemTalk #58)

Bernadette Mayer, "The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty"


Most of us who have read Bernadette Mayer's poem, “The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty,” encountered it in Andrei Codrescu's anthology American Poetry since 1970: Up Late (1987), where it was joined by her “Laundry & School Epigrams” (written in the same spirit) and eight of her other poems. PennSound’s recording of “The Tragic Condition” comes from an Ear Inn reading that took place in October of 1988. 

For this episode of PoemTalk, Al Filreis convened Anne Waldman, Julia Bloch, and Katie Price to talk about this poem and Mayer’s approach to tragic conditions generally.

Listening further to the _tinku_ of Andrés Ajens

le moment est peut-être venu...
le moment est peut-être venu...

One of the things that studies (listening!) in indigeneity teaches us is that we have to struggle—and it is a real struggle with our own unrecognized cauterizations—to avoid absorbing cultural ideas in a way that eviscerates and cannibalizes them for our own purposes (which is so easy to do… the North American academy did it, by and large, for example, to “deconstruction,” till Derrida was left to protest and to regret he’d ever used the word). Appropriation, always a part of art-making, has to be called into question when it involves eviscerating the cultural markings of another’s speaking or inscription, particularly when that “another” does not have the same societal privilege we do, or when our privilege rests upon the crushing of theirs.

Better that we eviscerate ourselves, realize our own agency (for appropriation is always done by an agent, a decider, an ego), open out and allow the collapse of our own instrumentalized reason and force.

From Éric Suchère’s 'Mystérieuse' (after Hergé), translated by Sandra Doller

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE. Éric Suchère’s Mystérieuse is an image-to-word “translation” of collaged pages from Hergé’s TinTin comic books, rendered in painstakingly conceptual detail: each frame of each comic, and even each stroke of each drawing inside each frame, are accounted for linguistically, from TinTin’s unforgettable drops of sweat to Snowy’s emoticon-esque reactions, to the broad stroke backgrounds of the comic squares.


Jennifer Moxley in conversation with Noah Eli Gordon

Jennifer Moxley, 2009, photo by Steve Evans.
Jennifer Moxley, 2009, photo by Steve Evans.

In early 2008, Noah Eli Gordon interviewed Jennifer Moxley. The interview was originally published in The Denver Quarterly (Volume 43, Number 1:2008), and reprinted in Jacket magazine number 37. It is 17 pages long.  

Noah Eli Gordon: 2007 saw the release of two major works: The Middle Room, a memoir clocking in at over 600 pages, and The Line, a collection of prose poems. Although publication dates often create a false trajectory of a writer’s past and present concerns, when read in tandem, these two very different prose works seem to share not only various emotional and intellectual concerns, but also specific content. For example, early on in The Middle Room you recount the discovery in the garage of “an enormous stack of love letters” written by your father and addressed to your mother, which gave you a fuller sense of him as a person outside of your own experience. This particular passage took on a renewed significance for me while reading in The Line the poem “The Cover-Up,” where you include the following: “On occasion, material evidence contradicts memory. Like when you found the letters they’d written in which he’d said affectionate things and all of her years of negative campaigning went completely down the drain.” Whether or not this is a reference to that same discovery, the poem created a link for me between your various projects.

[The complete interview]