Commentaries - March 2013

An interview with curator Kaegan Sparks

Kaegan Sparks; Revolution in Electricity; Regularities of Eye Movement

KG: Your work as a curator seems to happen in and around interdisciplinary nexii. Maybe I see it that way because of my sense that in the contemporary moment we’re seeing increasingly blurred genre boundaries. I wanted to talk to you mainly to get a sense of whether or not you think of your work as inter-generic curating. You've curated talks, films, live drawing performances, sometimes all in the same event; you curated for a couple of years for the Segue Poetry Series; within your art curation there have been books, art with language and writing as a major feature.… 

KS: Over the past few years I've produced exhibitions and events under a wide spectrum of parameters—from simple one-artist exhibitions (or two-poet readings) to collaborative models that I formulate and solicit participation for, to freelance curating where the work is pre-selected and I'm expected to synthesize, manage, and optimize the presentation. Each particular matrix of strictures and priorities has been productive and hugely rewarding for me, in terms of flexing my muscles as a facilitator of discourse in different contexts. So beyond focusing on formal variety among the cultural material I work with, I’m more interested in talking about the inter-structural status of my organizing itself—especially per curated events in a museum context, which for me have a bearing somewhere between poetry reading and exhibition.

Frost's poetics and the mending wall

A debate continues

Screenshot of the ModPo "Mending Wall" live webcast, October 11, 2012. From left to right: Taije Silverman, John Timpane, Al Filreis (moderator), Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bob Perelman.

One October 11, 2012, I hosted a debate on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Well, not quite a debate, but I knew that I, sitting in the middle of four poets, would be on the fence, as it were, with two on a side.  The live webcast, hosted by the Kelly Writers House, was associated with the 36,000-person free online course "ModPo," and was viewed synchronously by dozens in the room with us and thousands watching digitally around the world. We made a recording immediately afterward, and have posted it to YouTube here (1 hour, 9 minutes). (And here is a recording of Frost performing the poem. We began our discussion by listening to it; the performance is certainly important to at least the beginning of the debate.)

The differences between the sides, two versus two, didn't really emerge until the end of a fascinating discussion, but they did indeed emerge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis first finally expressing concerns about the attitude of the poem’s speaker, then Bob Perelman joining the view, pointedly. To be sure, all four poets — Bob, Rachel, and John Timpane and Taije Silverman — spent much of the time assembling a full close formal (and meta-poetic) reading of the poem. Its thematics — and politics — derived, as is apt, from the poem's quality as itself an instance in form of the speaker's impulse to have and also to keep apart from the stilled human object of his beautiful but empty annual cultural rite. Later John Timpane thought some more about his own position on the poem’s speaker; I'm pleased that he has given me permission to publish his statement here.

Perelman's 'Chronic Meanings': Text-audio alignment

Thanks to the work of the PennSound staff, we now add to our collection of text-audio alignments an oft-read and oft-taught poem by Bob Perelman, “Chronic Meanings.” This is a poem he chose for his selected poems, and one he is likely to read at a performance of his work across the decades. It is a pre-elegy for Leland Hickman. Perelman’s PennSound page includes several readings of the poem and also a fairly detailed introduction offered by the poet. Here is a link to the new text-audio alignment page.

Sarah Fox: From 'COMMA'

[The entire poem appears in The First Flag, forthcoming from Coffee House Press]

I Slid Out of My Mother’s Body
Of being numinous. Of drift and syringe.
Of metal atonement. Of a tube-fed
melancholy. Of post-terror karmic.
Of a certain amount of ear. Of the smog
smear around the blood hollow. Of the
ossified berry like a cave cataract. Of
my mind branched out through the fontanel,
antlering, leaves letting go of me.

I entered air a poisonous object subtracted
from a poisoned mother. Her radiance
scathes me. I'm a pharmaceutical interpolator.
My mother and I have the same (m)Other, 
man-made (m)Om. I came astride the butcher's
alchemical homologue. The butcher said,
we'll grow up on this street. We'll wear masks
to conceal our monstrous mutual disease.
He said, look at my throbbing moneybags.
I roam over a burial site, my cosmovisage, 
some myness that is not quite dead yet. 
A birth plan spilling cosmovergence.

Doll Box
Questioning began to break circuitry into the air 
between myself and the listening surround. 
At first my mouth formed only a zero
and I was mistaken by some for a doll. 
This air shielded the world from my sound, 
which was clotted and seizing, a stirring interior. 
I only want to feel myself the mother of something. 
I want, and want to redeem my fire. But a menacing 
voice perseveres, blacks out my no more logos!

 Brain Letter
One day I woke up rearranged like a sleepwalker 
misplaced upon a terrain of erotic grenades. 
Am I a manifesto? Am I cloudless, now? 
Little fuses sizzled and unfurled smoke signals
targeting thoughtpods in outerspace. 
Each grenade was a tiny twin of my own brain, 
a memory vessel: my buried fetal cunt, its plastic crust.

The Gauss interview

Chris Alexander talks to J. Gordon Faylor

J. Gordon Faylor : bookshelf :: Chris Alexander : cat

I was planning to ask J. Gordon Faylor why he recently expanded Gauss PDF, historically an online-only press, to also making works avalable in print on demand (POD). When someone asked me at a poetry event (who was it?) what else I had on the docket for this column, and I listed Gauss, Chris Alexander informed me he was in the midst of an email exchange with Faylor about the very same question I had. Who knew?!? So I asked them if I could reproduce their conversation as an interview and, of course, they said yes. So here it is. If you’ve ever wondered what the enigmatic writer/producer/editor J. Gordon Faylor is up to (haven't we all?) here's a nice start at finding out.

CA: Poking around the web, I see Gauss PDF described as “a website which publishes ‘digitally based works’ in pdf format (2010),” “an experiment in multimedia publication, having hosted everything from digital video and zip files to YouTube playlists and image collections” (2011), and a “poetry/non-poetry resource” (2012). When I look at the catalog, I see that your first two publications are PDFs, but already the third publication is an MP3 — followed by a ZIP file, and then a flurry of different formats: M4V, MOV, JPG, embeds from your Vimeo channel, and so forth. What was your vision for Gauss PDF when you started out in 2010?