Tracie Morris, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Marina Rosenfeld
The event was called “What Oozed Through the Staircase: A Winter Afternoon of Surrealist Writing and Music,” held in the middle of the surrealist exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, January 26, 2014. Surprised that the event wasn't being recorded, I brought out my smart phone and captured the audio as best I could from the fourth row. I also made a video recording of the final performance — a surrealist game. All this is now available at a special PennSound page.
- introduction (3:51): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Hans Bellmar, from “What Oozed Through the Staircase” (1:48): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Andre Breton, from “Manifesto of Surrealism” (2:35): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Robert Desnos, “Awakenings” and “Ideal Mistress” (3:21): MP3
- Marina Rosenfeld: Mise en scene en scene #1 (Daily Bul, etc.) (4:51): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Joyce Mansour, “Poemshots” (1:57): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Salvador Dali, “The Great Masturbator” (1:46): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Mina Loy, “Auto-Facial-Construction” (4:14): MP3
- Kenneth Goldsmith: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, "Equinox" (0:56): MP3
- Marina Rosenfeld: Mise en scene en scene #2 (Logbook, etc.) (5:52): MP3
- Tracie Morris: Leopold Senghor's “Speech and Image”: An African Traditional of the Surreal (5:23): MP3
- Tracie Morris: Quotes from Josephine Baker and excerpts from Kurt Schwitters's “Ursonate” (5:37): MP3
- Tracie Morris and Kenneth Goldsmith: Amiri Baraka, Excerpt of Scene II from Dutchman (3:31): MP3
- Tracie Morris and Marina Rosenfeld: Bob Kaufman, “O-Jazz-O,” “A Terror is More Certain...” and “On” (10:11): MP3
- Tracie Morris and Kenneth Goldsmith: Surrealist Game (2:14): YouTube
On January 31, 2014, Frank Sherlock's appointment as Philadelphia's second Poet Laureate was announced by Mayor Michael Nutter at a ceremony at City Hall. The laureate was selected by the Mayor's Poet Laureate Governing Board. “I am honored and excited to appoint Frank Sherlock as Philadelphia’s second Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Nutter. “Frank is a native Philadelphian and a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature. He is one of Philadelphia’s most talented homegrown artists. I am confident that Frank will represent Philadelphia well during his term as Poet Laureate.” “How lucky I am to be a poet in my favorite city in the world? This city raised me, beat the hell out of me a few times, and still reveals the magic of Philadelphia Brotherly Love,” said Sherlock.
The members of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee are: Beth Feldman Brandt, poet and Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; Dr. Cathy Cohen, Education Director of ArtWell; Greg Corbin, Founder and Executive Director, Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement; Thomas Devaney, poet and Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry at Haverford College; Lillian Dunn, Co-founder and Executive Editor of APIARY Magazine; Al Filreis, Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania; Mytili Jagannathan, poet and Principal of Itinerant Ink; Trapeta Mayson, poet; Autumn McClintock, poet and Assistant Chief of Staff at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Sherlock performed a poem at the ceremony, and it was captured on video:
When first encountering the work of a prolific author with a fifty-year career, timing is everything. The end pages of Clark Coolidge's A Book Beginning What And Ending Away, his mammoth prose performance work from the 1970s never before published in its entirety until Fence Books brought it out last year, list 41 other published books of poetry dating back to 1966's Flag Flutter & U.S. Electric, along with a jaw-dropping 29 other unpublished collections.
Where to begin even? In many ways the answer is pre-determined: many readers will start with whatever collections happen to be in print and available at any given time. For Coolidge as with any prolific author, this poses a challenge: with the exception of his early collection Space (Harper & Row 1970), virtually all of Coolidge's books have been published by small presses in print runs of under 1000 copies (often fewer). Save the occasional reprint, once such books (often quickly) go out of print they risk being eclipsed by whatever newer publications emerge.
In the early 2000s, Craig Dworkin's online Eclipse Project began (and continues today) a great service, making full-text PDF scans of rare and out-of-print experimental poetry titles available for reading and downloading. Before this or the emergence of an online used book vendor like abebooks.com, one would have needed access to either a university library with an extensive small-press poetry collection or, barring that, interlibrary loan.
This was my own experience coming to and discovering Coolidge's poetry in the mid-to-late 1990s, which begs another question: how did I get into Clark Coolidge's poetry in the first place? I'll tell this story in my next post.
[NOTE. The following marks the continuation of the recovery & translation into English of the experimental modernist masterwork Protsesiye (Processions) by the great & all but forgotten Yiddish poet Mikhl Likht, who was a younger contemporary of Pound and Williams & in some ways the forerunner of Zukofsky & other “Objectivist” & projectivist poets. The ongoing effort by Resnikoff and Ross is to bring Likht’s complete poem into English & by doing so add a new dimension to the story of American poetry as well as that of Yiddish. Toward that end I plan to give it coverage & assistance as the project proceeds, and I invite those who may have missed them to look back at the installments of the work from Resnikoff, Ross & Merle Bachman already posted on Poems and Poetics, & for the recently published Resnikoff/Ross translation of Procession One, along with the Yiddish original, check the eleveneleven web site. (J.R.)]
Rusty and yellow
dusty all-barbarous brutes
we come and go
with symmetrically-hasty steps
of gentle does
an inveigling reproach
slung in Pan’s [] moldy face
the schema is nearly consumed.
So someone walks around
in the sun,
his fiery pale-faced eyes
shine delight and
are membranes of doubt concealed.
many years ago
they murmured in my ear:
strong with the strong
one-by-one the weak go down
won the bottom -- )
Wandering in the wasteland
I saw the snakes smile
their dusty skins
The Hammer of Luck
mountain on mountain
heap on heap --
flare and lick --
one of the waves:
-- just so, brother, fall
-- that’s called a carnival
-- warmer warmer
-- feverish --
one of the waves:
-- dance for joy, brother, fall
-- fine show
-- we are bathed
-- in a sunless sky
-- fire-hot red --
in the air --
Hymn of Squandered Blood
-- kiss me
-- kiss me
-- take me
-- take me
-- stop stop
-- your you your me.
A Farewell to the Gods
Lively and subtle,
great as a genie
you are great and holy
holy as a virgin’s breast --
offal of hate and love,
fallen to rust
fallen in dust.
Movement from a Symphony
Chameleon. Stretches that bring in unsuspiciously passive delight in their thought -- sunk in the colorless depths of somnambulism [] -- chaotic rhythm immerses itself -- swims around in dewy blueness -- sea-waters sparkle like spectral diamonds -- leaden air melts into bubbly foam -- terrifying -- high -- cold -- it slips myriad-wise down the mantles of immobility -- lethargy -- calm -- hollow vibration comes --
Ancient stone with pale-white belly up waits patiently: the magic hatchet should come and even it out -- grasses -- envy-green at season’s onset -- asymmetrically bent flat skewers with sharpened points perforate the swollen earth -- a different time, a sickly yellowness attacks them -- their hopes waste away like thin dust-colored hairs on dull later skulls -- at times bad air stirs up the endless empty place around -- sand borrows wings from the zephyr -- a pair in the vortex [] live it up just above the plain
Archipelagos of stones trade places -- never any deep-settling -- over the naked flanks of a mountain the mysterious peak lifts itself -- matter stays stoned -- petrified in great sadness -- the hatchet levels out the stones -- swelling that lets itself be hammered in remains a part of the house -- bellies that forget who is older get hacked off -- with Buddhist hearts they lie down with lowered hands before the foundation -- smooth proud timber (erstwhile free anarchic forest-scarecrows) -- the measure taken by sight -- lays down like a modest compromise under the cryptic feet on conquered earth -- glass looks two-sided -- in and out -- inside -- eyes squint in the soft fragrance of shadow-light -- see the utensils -- rugs-- floor -- table -- chairs -- the inviting resting-place -- outside the Lilliputian window panes shine -- observing presumptuously the round scarlet-red fire-ring -- reflects the grotesque in it -- deaf walls -- to the right -- to the left -- across -- gazing in their opaque silence -- prick-up their ears in case a symbolic creature walks past with an open mouth and loses unconscious slander on the path -- recording it in their kinetic consciousness -- carrying it hidden in themselves until the day of judgment -- coolly-quiet the windows hold open the tired eyelids which constantly fall over them (strained from unbroken wakefulness) -- perhaps it will prove successful to notice whatever causes them to cheer up in their misanthropic non-sight -- the roof lies comfortably over the void of the attic -- waits in case the never-promised-to-anybody-by-anybody, which must come down from above, ever falls -- checks with his steel frame the creativity that seethes violation in the pipes of the whole house
Daringly-agile like a snake, the clenched street coils rightward -- unsuccessfully -- a hateful parapet obstructs the way -- with a cascade of noise she sets out on her aeronautic trip over air-bridges leftward -- pummels herself through the crystal-clear prisms of air -- runs -- runs without stopping -- earlier just like a straightedge -- then somewhat bent into a crooked line -- down -- down -- the eyes closed -- all the energy concentrated in the chasing -- a wild abyss opens itself suddenly where snakes and scorpions amuse themselves with exotic dances -- keep jumping around – in no time slip in between them -- often in the middle of running takes a tremendous blow to the head literally sparks fly: another street runs as far as the way – slowly comes to -- catches one’s breath -- girds the loins -- scratches itself with broken ribs on the other side -- feels anew the merry impulse leave itself in God’s hands on the long treacherous way -- adventurous courage stirs -- pushes itself on again in an intersection --
The yishuv.  Measured reflected rhythm of yesterday’s chaos -- long-necked lanterns wink silhouettes --
The world --
 Pan: possibly a reference to the mythological god, or to the Slavic honorific, “pan,” a term of address sometimes found in Yiddish literature.
 Somnambulism: meaning uncertain: “Hin-her-plet” in original.
 Vortex: possibly a coinage: “shturem-karahod” in the original (literally “storm-circle”).
 Yishuv: “Settlement,” a Hebrew word also referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine, before the founding of the State of Israel
by Amanda Ackerman
Do not wonder how you will do a job, but do it and then wonder how you have done it
I am always thinking about time. In many ways, we live in terrible times. Also, it is said that if you travel far enough into the future you will actually go back in time.
eohippus labs is a short-form literary micropress based in Los Angeles. I co-edit the press with Harold Abramowitz, who is also someone with whom I write collaboratively, and he is also one of my best friends. We are one publisher in the world among many other publishers. We want to get writing that we like into the world so it can exist and circulate in a materially-concrete published form.
It is hard to find time to run a press.
The squirrel consider himself owner of the land and yet fears the farmer [sic]
I will begin again by telling you about the once-living creature Eohippus. All of this information I have gleaned or foraged (gleaned if you think the internet has already been picked-through; foraged if you think the internet is producing fruit) so you can decide whether it’s reliable, unreliable, or usefully fictive. The eohippus is an extinct prehistoric animal that is known as the “dawn horse.” It lived in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago. It probably looked like a miniature, spotted, cloven horse and was bigger than a fox. It was probably the size of a small dog, with a small thin tail. It lived in swamp-like forests, hid from predators in the shadows, and lived off the leaves of bushes and short trees. As time went by, eohippus changed. But for 20 million years, it didn’t change that much, evolutionarily speaking. Flash forward in time to a moment slightly before ours. There now exist paleobiologists. For many decades, they considered Eohippus to be the linear ancestor of Equus, the modern day horse.
For many decades, scientists considered Eohippus the ancestor of the modern-day horse.
Then new science replaces old science, and this idea changes. New science explains that the evolution of the horse is non-linear, like a many-branched tree. Equus happens to be the only branch of the horse now in existence. Eohippus is still considered an ancestor of Equus, but in a less linear way. For some reason, scientists seem to know more about the evolutionary lineage of the horse than any other animal.
Extinct equids. True to scale.
Also, there is now the idea that Equus is not the goal, or the crowning jewel, of a naturally-selected lineage.
As part of this many-branched tree, the indigenous horse died out in North America about 12,000 years ago. The Spanish brought domestic horses to the New world at the end of the 1400s. Therefore, if you encounter wild horses in the United States, they are feral.
Harold and I named the press eohippus labs. I’m sure there are many metaphors in this namesake for running a press (like the idea of textual transplantation and consciously taking part in the adaptation of language, or how publishing is writing). However, the eohippus is an extinct creature, not a metaphor.
An inefficient workman quarrels with his tools
The press started for a number of reasons. Harold and I were second-year students in the MFA writing program at CalArts. We were taking Matias Viegner’s experimental writing class, and Matias asked us to compose a theory of language.
I wrote a piece about how humans did not create language and how language is not a tool to be used by us. I was tired of hearing about the deficiencies and inadequacies and tyrannies and (un)deadness of language, as if somehow those were the faults of language, and not the faults of our own inadequacies and tyrannies and (un)deadness. I ignored all concern for logical fallacies, and claimed language to be sentient, living symbols (although language and humanity certainly share a contingent and co-evolutionary relationship). I said we need to talk with language and that writing can be a process of fanatical listening, human-language concurrence, and co-making. I called this piece “Theory of Language,” and Harold liked it. For his assignment, Harold wrote a piece about the eohippus. His piece had many permutations and repetitions, and it made language turn into aggregates of atmosphere. Sometimes humanity generated this atmosphere, sometimes we navigated it, and sometimes (as with state-tyranny) it was forcefully imposed on us. Sometimes, this atmosphere (as with state-tyranny) was trying to kill us or make us mechanistic or make us (un)dead, and sometimes this atmosphere encouraged us to thrive. Language felt time-specific, archaic, futuristic, and time-shattering all at once. In any case, I liked this piece of writing a lot. Harold also had a book of Nigerian pamphlets that we both liked called Life Turns Man Up and Down. These pamphlets were short, quickly produced, quickly circulated, and sold in an open-air market. They are described as “brief literary anomalies in all genres, written for entertainment, instruction, and moral guidance.” Harold and I began to talk about resuscitating the form of the pamphlet (although we have since given up on the idea of “quick” production and circulation – it’s hard to find time to run a press).
Lastly, Harold decided he wanted to start by publishing “Theory of Language” as a pamphlet, which he did, and he did all the work (layout, printing, stapling, folding, boxing up) solo. And then I joined him for all eohippus labs projects since.
The pygmy seahorse, one of my favorite creatures in existence. It is currently threatened because the coral beds where it lives are dying, and the coral beds might be dying because the Pacific Ocean itself might be dying. The Pacific Ocean might be dying due to causes of global warming, radiation from Fukushima, over-fishing, shark-finning, oil spills, among others. We live in puzzling times.
If idiots don’t go to the market, bad wares will not be sold
We say on our website that eohippus labs is interested in the “uncategorizable text.” However, were I to revise that idea, I’d say we are interested in the less recognizable text, or the text whose use of language and idea is less recognizable within more recognizable forms (like the pamphlet, the anthology, or the short story).
Right now, eohippus labs is subdivided into four series: eohippus tract (a pamphlet series), emohippus (small anthologies of emotional writing in the form of greeting cards – because conceptual writing is emotional), eohippus n°5 (innovative narrative, because we’d like to see more interesting prose being published, and because we don’t draw a huge distinction between poetry and prose), and stealth (which involves the covert circulation of texts with endlessly repetitive structures).
Everything we make comes from Harold’s living room.
Harold’s living room with recently printed material from a Samsung MLT-D20FL printer. We need to honor our machines.
Instead of people sending us work that they have already written (although that does happen), we often like to create projects that will generate work from scratch. For example, emohippus came into existence because we contacted various writers and asked them to send us emotional writing. We also know a lot of people who are good at smart, impromptu rants (you are sitting at a table, and suddenly your friend slips into a tirade about why people in Los Feliz need to stop having babies, or why the mythological creature the Thunderbird needs to be more widely respected and recognized), and we ask them to transfer their vocalizations into tighter forms of printed writing. (We have since learned, however, that many writers find this form of transference very hard to do).
So far, this is what we have published in the eohippus tract series:
Stan Apps writes about how poetic language is different from normal language;
Michelle Detorie writes about how she wishes everything would keep on living and never die;
Will Alexander writes planetarily, and for the future, to move us beyond a history in which our psyches come into being through conflict;
Cara Benson writes about how she wrote a political poem on how dairy cows suffer and why that poem was not considered a good poem;
Janice Lee writes about how the existence of other worlds affects our writing and vice-versa;
Opal McCarthy writes about what goes in and out of girls’ mouths and how we can write in an era of nuclear seepage;
Christopher Russell writes about the mystical accident and how some photographs have literally brought living creatures into existence.
Teresa Carmody apologizes to you and makes herself sick; Dan Richert summons courage; Matthew Timmons shows mercy; Vanessa Place lets us share the commonality of death; Allison Carter loves, wants love and doesn’t want love; Carribean Fragoza takes us into the disorientations and reorientations of grief; Teresa Carmody apologizes to you and becomes a martyr; Joseph Mosconi curses, exclaims, interjects; SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS shows us why Tyra Banks is a hero; Amina Cain wonders whether or not we can be told we’re okay; Teresa Carmody congratulates you on having a new baby, or giving birth to a new version of yourself, and cheers second chances; Honey Crawford intensifies the feelings you feel when someone unlooses mayhem on you; Daren Klein let’s us know that when someone writes to “you,” you will never be forgotten; Dolores Dorantes takes us into the margins of poesis; SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS writes about the language of brothers and sisters in concert; K. Lorraine Graham discusses what happens when intuition is off; Amaranth Borsuk is dolorous, is pain itself; Teresa Carmody sympathizes with you; Mark Lamoureux spins us at different intervals than the spinning world; j.s. davis tells you what to do and tells you you’re telling her what to do; SAM OR SAMATHA YAMS shows us that our saviors are not pessimists.
eohippus n°5 so far:
Allison Carter’s story. The setting is a house, and maybe time itself.
Eireene Nealand’s story. The setting is a court of law.
Sarah M. Balcomb’s story. The setting is New York City.
“Man in the world of money…The Turning Point.”
Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten
Here. I’ve written you a book. I’ve started something, and as a result, have asked for your time. Reader, you are a temporal part of my imagination. And I will write you another book, and it will be a lovely read.