This grid in shades of red is from the recipe journal of the Merton Abbey dyers of England circa 1800. It is from Elena Phipps’ very useful Looking at Textiles: A Guide to Technical Terms. Textile sample books and dye recipe books are intensely beautiful objects, often stained and over-stuffed, and I believe they provide a way for me to comment on two things archeological, genealogical: the notebook, and influences.
The notebook is surely a tool for what M. C. Richards is talking about when she writes, “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.” I found this quote written on a blue card slipped into an old notebook of mine. I do not know which book of hers it came from; presumably it came from Centering, a book I have read and re-read even though I have never thrown pots on a wheel.
Why am I drawn to abstraction in images and quite dubious of this gesture in writing, wary of a writer’s intentional subterfuge, and the privilege, perhaps, of a writer who does not need to comment on the world with narrative clarity, with a point, with a discernible stance, evidence, argument? In an attempt to bring this personally persistent mix of desire and wariness into dialogue, I have begun to unpack the word “abstraction,” and though I voluntarily stepped away from a PhD program more than twenty years ago, I am still exploring “argument” and its forms. Researching textiles — in order to teach a course on expository writing through textiles and to imagine a poetry workshop via textiles — the words “geometry” and “pattern” began to take hold, not necessarily eclipsing abstraction, but emerging from a word more various than I thought.
The Testimonies of Russian and American Postmodern Poetry: Reference, Trauma, and History (Bloomsbury, 2014) is divided in half. The first part looks at 1970s/1980s Russian (Moscow) conceptual poetry and poetics, focussing on Dmitry Prigov and Lev Rubinstein (Rubinshtein) but also on the "meta-realists" Elena Schvarts and Alexi Parschikov (Arkadii Dragomoschenko is a key poet for this context, though not a main subject here). Artists Grisha Bruskin and Ilya Kabakov are also main subjects. The second part of the book makes an between both Moscow conceptualism and St. Petersburg metarealist poetry and the 1970s/1980s poetry/poetics associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. Lutzkanova-Vassileva offers detailed readings of Bob Perelman, Bruce Andrews Steve McCaffery, David Melnick, Ron Silliman, as well as my work. Lutzkanova-Vassileva also traces the connection to the Russian futurists (Shklovsky, Khelbinikov, Kruchenykh).
[The book itself – Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present – has been announced for March publication by Black Widow Press. What follows is the first half of the table of contents. The rest appear here.]