Commentaries - November 2012

series curated and moderated by Charles Bernstein

January 31, 1984
"Rewriting Society: Poetics, the Self, Ideology"
Bruce Andrews
(2:42:55): MP3
Discussion: Erica Hunt, George-Thérèse Dickenson, Doug Lang, Abigail Child, Chris Kraus, Ted Greenwald, Susan Howe, Edie Jarolim, James Sherry, Jeanne Lance, Sally Silvers, Craig Bromberg.

February 24, 1984
"My Emily Dickinson"
Susan Howe (2:04:37): MP3
Discussion: Charles Bernstein, George Butterick, Madeline Keller, Jeanne Lance, Lydia Davis, Edie Jarolim, Janet Chalmers, Eliot Weinberger, G-T Dickenson. Cut off question at end of Alan Davies question, "Why did Dickinson write?"

March 27, 1984
"If Words Had Meaning"
Alan Davies
(2:08:05): MP3
Discussion: Charles Bernstein, Michael Gottlieb, Susan Bee, G-T Dickenson, Saint Claire Cemin, Ellen Andrews, James Sherry, Johan Snitzer, Erica Hunt, Abigal Child, Connie Robbins, Sal Romano, Jeanne Lance, Peter Holland, Hannah Weiner.

April 22, 1984
"Blank and Other Relatives of Indeterminacy"
Arakawa and Madeline Gins (1:57:47): MP3

June 5, 1984
"On Writing as the Visual Representation of Language"
Johanna Drucker (2:15:21): MP3
Discussion: Mitch Highfill, David Abel, Bruce Andrews, Peter Frank, Alan Davies, Susan Howe, G-T Dickenson, Erica Hunt, Steve Benson

PennSound page for New York Talks

John Bloomberg-Rissman: tattoo with quote from Walter Benjamin
John Bloomberg-Rissman: tattoo with quote from Walter Benjamin


Trying to relieve the feeling of dead meat in the breast with a swim in the sea, see lots of movie type cartoon Disney Saga, work all the time, do some work to, read about body fluids, writing letters back and forth with proposals on jobs and ideas, type no answer. How do you do? Freak accident is the thing maybe? Give me a penny for your lungs man. Imagine being someone’s butler. Hey. This is Buffy and Leila, Divine and PJ in the back without them knowing about it or agree with, icons should not have to bother. This is going to go so fucking good. Otherwise, we can hold the car. Are you with me? We can hold the car to the north and playing Sheeba, Go betweens and Meat loaf on the askassa stereo. No one can reach us, we ba: generally no. No can dou. No Sir, we can accommodate. That’s a negative sir, we have escaped. We’ve set to work removing the veil of anxious subjectivity and clotted multi-syllables from their writing, to go for a walk and to take nothing (no phone, no iPod, no iPad, nothing) except for a pad and pen. When they saw an image that they would otherwise take a picture of, they were to stop, sit down, and write the image as they saw it. No commentary. The ticket should emerge from the sidewalk not as evidence of “a lonely night,” but as a ratty piece of paper with the numbers 1446-2023. However, putting this into the context of several recent articles about the accelerating pace of “cyber-attacks” on U.S. infrastructure — that is, “the pace at which America’s electricity grids, water supplies, computer and cellphone networks and other infrastructure are coming under attack,” in the words of the New York Times — as well as news that NYC’s elevators and boilers are now seen as potential targets for cyberwarfare (hackers “could increase the speed of how elevators go up or down,” perhaps crashing them to the bottom of the shaft), the idea of garage doors being hacked by radio signals emanating from the ocean by belligerent foreign powers takes on the air of, say, Red Dawn, as remade by Bob Vila. Oh, and that “vanilla” you ate may actually be crushed beaver anal glands – The idea that humans walk in circles is no urban myth. I have no control over my emotions. I don’t know anyone who does. The Dalai Lama, maybe, but I don’t trust him, not since seeing him shake hands with George W. Bush. The challenge in observing them is to overcome the blurring of Earth’s atmosphere. A ‘90s technique called Speckle imaging uses very short exposures to effectively freeze out the atmosphere. With Speckle, the “winning” star was S0-2, which orbits around a central dark mass in 16 years. This proved the existence of a black hole at the galactic center. But S0-2 was the only short-period (<20 years) star revealed. To carry out a fundamental test of general relativity, you need at least two stars with short orbits. Fortunately, since then a revolutionary technology called adaptive optics has arrived. This technique corrects for the effects of the atmosphere in real-time, distorting a mirror in exactly the opposite way that the atmosphere distorts the starlight. This enabled our discovery of S0-102, which takes a mere 11.5 years to orbit.

               [Note: Sources: Trying to relievewe have escaped:
               Stina Kajaso, “Strypvaffla” (tr. Google), at
               SONOFDAD, 6 Oct 012; Weve set to workfrom their
               writing and to go for a walk1446-2023: Susan M
               Schultz, “Documentary Poetry & Being in the World”, at
               poetry-being-in-world.html Tinfish Editor’s Blog, 6 Oct
               012; However, putting this into the contextVila: Geoff
               Manaugh, “Garage Warfare”, at
               warfare.html BLDG/BLOG, 6 Oct 012; Oh, and: JBR; that
               vanilla” … anal glands --: Melanie Jones/,
               email rec’d 6 Oct approx. 7:04 PM PDT (concerning some
               flavoring substance called castoreum); The idea that
               humansurban myth: Imp Kerr, “Triple-Decker Weekly,
               29”, at
               gold/triple-decker-weekly-29/ The New Inquiry, 6 Oct
               012; I have no controlGeorge W. Bush: John Olson,
               “Not So Sweet Emotions”, at
               emotions.html Tillalala Chronicles, 6 Oct 012; The
               challengeto orbit: “The Discovery of the shortest
               period star in the Galactic Center: S0-102: To be published
               by Science in the October 5, 2012 edition”, at
               UCLA Galactic Center Group, as seen 6 Oct 012]

6 – 9 October 2012


Such were the two objects, the shotgun and the tape recorder, that interested the Araweté the most: an instrument that increased the productivity of the hunt, and an ideological apparatus reproduced the singularity of the voice. Production and reproducibility, nature and supernature, eating and singing, animals and gods. Fuck I hate fireworks. The only thing that’s worse than fireworks are real bombs, which is aggravatingly Platonic I know. And then I stared at a tuna slab. That would have been me, skimming the moss. They are Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic and washed up on the beach trying to speak through old film footage, through her diary. The voices begin to speak toward something coherent and abruptly stop: you can’t be a slave, Pa Ubu. You’re far too fat.

My back
pack is

 full of dead
bees for you

look at

 I remember flying over the southern tip of Greenland, coming back from Iceland. We were on the right side of the plane for the photos and everyone began oohing and aahing at the brightness and the desolation. And I remember thinking if the plane had to crash, it should be right here. Because why? Because the architecture of data storage is inhuman. Servers don’t need daylight, so the spaces are lit by blinking power lights or eery coral-reef-like fluorescence. I mean, most of the time when I watch a Lars von Trier movie I find myself wishing I were watching it on mute. The image has thousands of possible ramifications, and yet the one that was chosen, for the most part, feels like you know how dogs aren’t really smiling, they’re just panting? and they don’t really kiss you, they just lick your face because they like salt? “Zero Sadness”: little kids that walk around looking down / not because they have low self-esteem but / because they’re looking at their cool shoes / light up and or sparkle. Before us is our flesh with the tattooed portents. A spider had somehow attached a web strand to my face and was climbing towards my nose from a pile of workbooks on the desk next to mine. I passed my hand in front of my right cheek and swung her to the floor. Teddy bear with black button eyes and black rubber ears is asleep next to the hand pump disinfectant dispenser. The dictionary is half-black and half-pink. A blue sticker is affixed to the back of the fat, little book. Inside are some drawings on napkins. I wasted in the coffee shop drinking bitter, while she searched for an electronic knuckle in the pickle shop. Flame-flaked paint. Those carpeted bathrooms. That smelly couch. Milk and tea and cookies named after a bodily process. “JULIA JULIA JULIA in my dream we were flying with a murder of crows and then you bit one of those motherf*ckers on the beak for trying to out-fly you.”

               [Note: Such were the twoanimals and gods: Eduardo
               Vivieros de Castro, From the Enemys Point of View:
               Humanity and Divinity in an Amazonian Society (tr.
               Catherine V Howard); The only thingPlatonic I know
               and And then and I staredtuna slab and That would
               have beenthe moss: Brandon Brown, “Fusees 22”, in
               Flowering Mall; They are Lauraabruptly stop: Drew
               Kalbach, “‘The sheer number of corpses which pile up’:
               Drew Kalbach on Laura Mullen’s Murmur”, at
      Montevidayo, 9
               Oct 012; you cant be a slavetoo fat: Alfred Jarry, Slave
               Ubu (tr. Kenneth McLeish) in Jarry Ubu; My back
               packlook at them!: Russ Woods, “Bees”, at
      have u seen my
               whale 4; I remember flyingright here: William Keckler,
               “Greenland”, at
               Joe Brainard’s Pyjamas (The Sequel), 9 Sept 012; Because
               why? Because: JBR; the architecturefluorescence: Kyle
               Chayka, “The Aesthetics of Data Storage”, at
               storage/ Hyperallergic, 9 Sept 012; I mean: JBR; most of
               the timefeels: Blake Butler, “I Don’t Want To Read Any
               More Books About Straight White People Having Sex”, at
               books-about-straight-white-people-having-sex Vice, 9 Oct
               012; like: JBR; you know how dogsthey like salt?:
               Heiko Julién, I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death, at
               To-Die-A-Violent-Death scribd; “Zero Sadness … light up
               and or sparkle: Ana Carrete, “Zero Sadness”, at
      my name is
               mud; Before uspickle shop and Flame-flaked paint
                bodily process: Adam Avikainen, “Ginger Glacier”, at
               Biennial 2012; JULIA JULIA JULIAout-fly you:
               anonymous, as quoted in Julia Cohen, “Harmonics like a
               Deconstructed River Press”, at
               like-deconstructed-river-press.html $650 Apartment for
               $650, 9 Oct 012]

 9 October 2012

 [EDITOR'S NOTE. The preceding are two further installments from Bloomberg-Rissman’s epic assemblage, “an ongoing project called Zeitgeist Spam,” consisting of multiple “panels” with titles like “Altarpiece to our Beauty and Insanity” & “No Sounds of My Own Making.” While each panel has its own set of compositional constraints, he tells us, “they all involve appropriating/ sampling/ collaging/ assembling/ mangling other texts.” An earlier entry on Poems and Poetics appeared here in 2011. A prolific writer and researcher, Bloomberg-Rissman is currently working with me on Barbaric, Vast & Wild, a global/historical gathering of outsider & subterranean poetry, now in progress. (J.R.)]


Literature on the Equator

Art work: Yuree Kensaku: "The Killer from Electricity Authority" (detail), 2009
Art work: Yuree Kensaku: "The Killer from Electricity Authority" (detail), 2009, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore. Photo John Tranter. Other photos of Singapore at night by the well-known 'unknown photographer'. «Blade Runner» photos courtesy of «Blade Runner».

Just back from the Singapore Writers Festival 2012. A busy week, with multicultural literary insights interspersed with varied culinary delights. Singapore is the acme and ne plus ultra of shopping and cooking, as the closing debate of the Festival agreed, and Orchard Road at night, the premium shopping area, outdoes the scene in «Blade Runner» where the Harrison Ford character eats at a roadside stall, surrounded by milling throngs and lit by the glare of dozens of huge video advertisements.

Orchard Road at night: lots of shopping!

A trip to the Singapore Art Museum was very worthwhile. When I had lived and worked in Singapore in 1971-72, the art was okay, but rather bland and illustrative. It's grown up and now challenges and often outdoes contemporary work from Europe or China. More later, when the jet lag has subsided.

Blade Runner dystopia

Shot from Blade Runner (1982): Alas, Pan Am is no more. That's the airline that flew me and Lyn to Bali en route to Singapore in 1971. I remember a lovely meal (on the aircraft, somewhere over Darwin) of beef steak and beans... they were the days... never mind. Capitalism can be cruel. But Orchard Road survives.

Orchard Road at night: even more shopping!

at Lyrik Kabinett Jan. 25 & Lettretage Sept. 11

(l to r): Tobias Amslinger, Norbert Lange, Charles Bernstein, Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich, Mathias Traxler in Berlin

In the next couple of years, Christian Lux will be publishing a German translation of my selected poems, All the Whiskey in Heaven. Norbert Lange and company have been working on the translation with marvelous ingenuity and astonishing dedication. Norbert, Christian and I first met in January whne I did a reading at Lyrik Kabinett. We next read together last month at the Berlin Literary Festival ("Reveal Codes") and then at Lettrétage.

Munich, January 25, 2012.
Bilingual reading with Norbert Lange and Charles Bernstein from All the Whiskey in Heavan

1. Introduction by Christian Lux: MP3
2. "What Makes a Poem a Poem" (improvisation): MP3
3. comment and intro to "Kiwi": MP3
4. "Kiwi Bird in Kiwi Tree": MP3
5. "Bricklayer's Arms": MP3
6. "Catabolism": MP3
7. "Influence of Kinship Patterns on the Perception of an Ambiguous Stimulus": MP3
8. "Thank You for Saying Thank You": MP3
9. "Let's Just Say": MP3
10. "Verdi and Postmodernism": MP3
11. "Castor Oil": MP3
12. "Johnny Cake Hollow": MP3
13. "All the Whiskey in Heaven": MP3
14. Discussion: MP3
15. "The Elfking" (adaption of Goethe's "Der Erlkonnig"): MP3

Berlin, Sept, 11, 2012, at Lettrétage
with Tobias Amslinger, Norbert Lange, Mathias Traxler, Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich and Charles Bernstein

Video 1 (mp4)
"Dodgem" (Bernstein, Amslinger, Lange, Traxler)
Introduction to the Project by Lange
Introduction to Charles Bernstein by Büscher-Ulbrich

Video 2 (mp4)
Translation of "Poetry Bailout" read by Büscher-Ulbrich

Video 3 (mp4)
Translations of "Palukaville" read by  Amslinger

Video 4 (mp4)
"Riddle of the Fat Faced Man" and translation (Bernstein, Lange)
"Translation of Doggy Bag" read by Amslinger
Translation of "You" (Bernstein, Amslinger, Traxler)

Video 5 (mp4)
"Castor Oil" + translation (Bernstein, Amslinger, Lange)
"Verdi and Postmodernism" (Bernstein, Amslinger)
Translation of "The Bricklayers Arms" (Traxler)

Video 6 (mp4)
Translation of "Autonomy is Jeopardy "(Lange)
"Johnny Cake Hollow" (Lange)
Translation of "Defense of Poetry" (Büscher-Ulbrich)

Video 7 (mp4)  and Video 8 (mp4)
Charles Bernstein reads from Shadowtime

Bonus track: Mathias Traxler: two versions of "You": MP3


And in new issue of, #004, : Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich's translation of "The Dollar Value of Poetry" and "Poetry Bailout".

Lang, Amslinger, Bernstein


Susan Bee, Bernstein, Traxler

Ray DiPalma in the Peacock Room of the Freer Gallery, Washington DC, in 1974. Photograph by Elizabeth DiPalma.