Commentaries - June 2014

In audio practice X

Funk's SoundBox 2012

Funk's SoundBox 2012 logo
Funk's SoundBox 2012 logo

As partly told in a previous commentary, I spent time in Portugal in February 2013. Recordings I made during the visit consist of the files presented on PennSound, a series of ambient tracks in Porto and Buçaco, documentation of the proceedings of the Poesia experimental: materialidades e representações digitais colloquium at University Fernando Pessoa, and my "Seminário Transversal" for the Materialidades da Literatura seminar at University of Coimbra. At the tail end of the excursion, proposals to submit work for the Electronic Literature Organization’s Chercher le texte conference (Paris, September 2013) Virtual Gallery were due. Mulling over what to propose during course of stimulating days in Portugal, being wowed by PO.EX’s documentation style and possibilities of making new work within the context of documentary work, I decided to propose compiling recordings I made during the previous year.

Dworkin after Coolidge

'The Crystal Text' stripped bare ...

Craig Dworkin, The Crystal Text (Compline), n.p.—Importantly, the “author” of this chapbook does not appear on the cover or back. Instead, Dworkin’s name appears on the title page below this parenthetical note: “(After Clark Coolidge).” Thus the cover foregrounds only the “crystal text,” recalling Pound’s insistence that it doesn’t matter who writes great poems, only that they be written. In addition, though no date of publication appears anywhere, a note on the last page tells us that the text “marks Craig Dworkin’s reading with Myung Mi Kim on December 14, 2012 for Small Press Traffic.” Since the editors do not indicate that the text is a graphic recording or transcription — faithful or not — of Dworkin’s reading, the verb of choice, “marks,” gains significance, especially as it concerns a text that is an ‘edited’ version of Coolidge’s monumental work, first published in 1986 by The Figures and republished in 1995 by Sun & Moon. A detractor might wryly note the pernicious influence, still, of Borges’ “Pierre Menard,” or more distantly (and perhaps less likely), Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

Gang of many

The Feeling i$ Mutual: A Li$t of Our Fucking Demands, ed. Sara Wintz (Occupy Forever, 2012), 64 pp. unpriced—When I visited Brenda Iijima and Thom Donovan in 2011 at the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Donovan was scornful of the mainstream media ventriloquizing what they imagined as “most” Americans’ central question: what do they want? A year later I watched live feeds of the violent confrontation between members of Occupy Oakland.  A few hours before I flew into San Francisco to participate in a group reading at Small Press Traffic.

Ryan Eckes' 'Valu-Plus' & other domestic boxes

Valu-Plus, photo by Ryan Eckes

Ryan Eckes’ first book, Old News (Furniture Press, 2011), is saturated with Philadelphia, Eckes’ hometown, but it also revolves around his domicile. The speaker & his wife buy a house & begin renovating :

we tore up the rotten carpets and the mats underneath, which were
stapled to the old pine floor from the days before carpets, and found
newspapers from 1923 spread across the room. some
Inquirer, some Evening Bulletin. some 1923 in some 2007. (“odd years”) 

Behind my own desk at home hangs the front page of the Wednesday 13 September 1939 Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger that I found under the carpet of my house in South Philly. Its headline: POLISH ATTACK TRAPS NAZIS.

Outside & subterranean poems, a mini-anthology in progress (62): James Tilly Matthews, with John Haslam, 'The Air-Loom Machine'

James Tilly Matthews, Engraving of the Air Loom, from John Haslam’s “Illustratio
James Tilly Matthews, Engraving of the Air Loom, from John Haslam’s “Illustrations of Madness”, 1810. Ink on paper, 15 3/5″ x 10 1/3″

[As John Bloomberg-Rissman and I draw to the end of our new assemblage of outside & subterranean poetry, I plan to post in advance a number of additional excerpts from the work in progress.  Scheduled publication is later this year from Black Widow Press under the working title, Barbaric Vast & Wild, a gathering that will serve as well as the fifth volume of Poems for the Millennium. Earlier selections going back several years can be found elsewhere on Poems and Poetics.  (J.R.)]