An Act of Bricolage
Wake up to the train, again, running right through town at 6:30 holding up a whole line of 7:00 workers. Just flashed on how Seattle woke to the sun curving round the mountain as I watched the homeless up before workers in the stained-glass dawn. In the dream the woman in my arms remained elusive. I remember hunkering down last night feeling good about myself, but by morning had the task of reassembling all of that. An act of bricolage: place this stone here, try abandoning that pattern, bookmark the page where Freedom calls for novelty, brush the dust off the gladioli, garner a certain selflessness in reassembling the Self.
Writing on Goya
One doesn’t simply run head-on into Goya snorting some interpretation, or other. Nor stroll through the gallery of history as Nietzsche warns against in his Untimely Meditations without suffering life from the ground up. Rather, run gauntlet. Fight against one’s Time. I’m not gazing at any specific work, but Goya’s vicious brushstrokes, fierce blacks, penetrating vortexes, barely audible grunts & barks as titles swirl, hurt brain & viscera, make black blood blue. To get to Goya is to go through Lorca through Guernica through gore of bull & sword, peasant & starvation, through that which is unimaginably worse. One doesn’t simply say rape, torture, mutilation without potential disastrous ramification, but blood is in the veins till running from gash & wound into the ground, when Death grants another pardon in order to lift pen, & crack voice open as vessel. Stark, raving, angered at injustice, typing on the keyboard till fingerprints are raw, then gone.
Snake of Time
She knows I do, I do, that is, function quite well within the realm of chaos. Contrast that with any kind of outside forced regimen, well get me the hell out of there! Which is all well & good, the way things went recently at the gathering, where everything seemed to want to implode, whereupon I took a deep breath, got up on stage & turned the whole upside-down right-side up, instinctively, jazzed, a prime pithecanthropus erectus Mingus taught to walk saying to the audience, “I’m going to try to shove the tail into the mouth of the snake of Time, & read what I planned to read last, first!” The improvisation worked; the moment became a strong bass line carrying the whole piece on the newfound round legs of the snake of Time.
The Merlin Bird
Last night’s dream: archetypal, premonitory, erotic, all at the same time, but I’ll keep that to myself. It’s validating, nonetheless, for any venture forth into the real world. A kind of confidence one is on the right track, path, way. Don’t ask me why I turned & faced the cliff rather than horizon at that exact moment today. When I did what I guessed was a young pigeon hawk slid between stone & arbor with the kind of winged lordliness any prehistoric man or woman would call a god. Almost secretively, it may well have been invisible, in fact, if one didn’t believe in mystical occurrences, it would have remained the impossible. I was alone. With the image. I looked heavenward. A kind of grace, a gratitude for what this life offers. What life offers. It’s not as easy as it sounds, I know that. You know that. If it’s merely a matter of paying attention, so be it. Pay attention. Now, I didn’t just steal that from Frank O’Hara, but it rings a bell about how poets approach things. Carefully, filled with risk, nostrils & eyeballs & gonads, first. It’s not easy. The difficulties. In love with the difficulties Yeats learned from Beardsley, Olson learned from Yeats, Robert Frank learned independently. Nothing easy in the act of art, & if there is, it won’t last. I’ve heard from friends in Lyon, Madrid, København, Oxford, Perth, Salem today. Jane Harrison wrote that any form of intense concentration is prayer. She was British. I am American. The pigeon hawk is really the Merlin bird, a falcon. While writing this, an instrumental came on the radio by Lara & Reyes titled Dulce Libertad (Sweet Freedom), which hard-won, I wish for you.
[NOTE, Robert Gibbons’ work, still not well enough known, revives & continues the genre of the prose poem from Rimbaud & Baudelaire into the present. His two recent books from Nine Point Publishing, This Time and Traveling Companion, appear in covers adorned by images from Goya and satisfy the older appraisal directed to him by Guy Davenport: “It is admirable, and astonishing. You are where Rimbaud was when he wrote the Illuminations.” Or as William Heyen cites him in A Poetics of Hiroshima: “Gibbons’ learning is capacious and humble, the light of his mind breathtaking, and the self-effacing homage he pays to the places and to the authors he has inhabited in writings ranging from the domestic to the cosmic is at once brilliant, poignant, and silent.” His latest book, Olson/Still: Crossroad – “prose pieces on the similarities & distinctions between art in paint by Clyfford Still & art in language by Charles Olson” – has also just been published by Nine Point.]
by Angela Hume
"I am feeling the words on my skin already, long before the laptop is linked to the projector, my top is off, and the words appear on my bare back," relates Petra Kuppers, in reference to her experience collaborating with the poet Denise Leto. Kuppers described her collaboration during the Conference on Ecopoetics panel "Illness, Landscape, Healing" — one of the conference's most interactive.
In a studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kuppers explained, the poets recorded what she calls their "improvisational assemblage," a performance/process that involved conjuring and composing lines of poetry through trance and touch, or "bodymind" (Kuppers' term). During their two-day session, the poets explored the possibilities of embodied composition, for which "body" was at once the materiality of layered voices; the blood, lymph, and cerebral fluid to which they were attuned, coursing through their circulatory and central nervous systems; the vulnerability and delight of exposed skin, warm under the studio lights; and the metal and rubber of Kuppers' wheelchair, amidst entangled hair and limbs. In Kuppers' words:
"I feel Denise’s muscular back against mine, touch her dark and gleaming hair as it passes me by. I see her eyes, but I do not know what she is thinking. I know this work is hard: being present in this alternate time, bearing the lights, being aware of a camera capturing what is happening here. Touching in non-ordinary ways, not quite erotic, but with an edge of danger, an intimacy that is beyond the confines of ordinary comportment. We are swimming, between the shark and the velvet, creatures of the wild, each alone at sea."
For Kuppers, nonnormative intimacies are the stuff of disability ecopoetics — a poetics of interrelation between humans and other-than-humans on a shared path; of "aesthetic principles of disruption and deconstruction"; of boundary transgressing; and of healing from "embodied and 'enminded' normative concepts" (to use Kuppers' words).
In this way, disability ecopoetics is always also a kind of queer poetics, precisely — to borrow the language of the theorist Mel Chen — in its veering away from "dominant ontologies and the normativities they promulgate" — ontologies whose normative conceptions, Chen explains, have long animated cultural life. In short: disability poetics pursues new modes for thinking and experiencing matter. And this is queerness, argues Chen, whose view it is that queer theory, disability studies, and environmental critique are intertwined essentially and constitutively. For Kuppers, similarly, disability links one to the "contours of [one's] terrain," to the "work of finding access," or negotiating matter, perhaps — queering matter, or queer mattering — in alternative ways.
While Kuppers read her paper, panel attendees were encouraged to move about the room, or "flock." As part of her presentation, Kuppers also screened her collaboration with Leto, entitled A Radiant Approaching (view it here).
If anything, Conference on Ecopoetics presenters did the work of exposing the phrase "queer ecopoetics" for the tautology that (arguably) it is. Anne-Lise Francois — who in her recent essay "Flower Fisting" gestures toward the queerness of pollination — moderated a seminar on "Queering Ecopoetics: Hybridity, Ferality, Eroticism." The seminar featured short presentations on everything from Emily Dickinson’s queer relationship with her beloved Newfoundland, Carlo, (Julia Drescher); to poetry’s tradition of (re)imagining the rape of Leda (Dana Maya); to “becoming monster,” or “thinking ecologically with monsters,” as a means for rethinking material entanglements (Art Middleton); to a call for Marxist readings of non-reproductivity, along with theories of the interrelation between Marxism, ecology, and queerness and poetry’s situatedness to register this interrelation (Eric Sneathen). These presentations were testament to queer ecopoetics' disciplinary elasticity — spanning botany, critical animal studies, posthuman theory, and materialism, among others.
Presenters also explored the relation between ecopoetics, eco-erotics, and environmental ethics. Reflecting on her choice to relocate with her family to rural Maine, Arielle Greenberg performed a series of "pastoral sex poems" that evoked ties between sexuality and landscape. Turning the pastoral mode on its head (hearkening back to the most traditional tropes, but switching gender roles, Greenberg claimed), Greenberg drew connections between the search for a more "wholesome" lifestyle (greater access to local economies, leisure time for the care of family, etc.) and her choice to pursue "sex-positive" non-monogamy. And Sarah de Leeuw, a self-described poet of "eco-erotica," suggested that we consider the ways in which the "reverence" of an "especially sexualized ecopoetics" might serve as a kind of antidote to escalating planetary violence.
While engaged more obliquely with the relationship between ecopoetics and queerness, presenters on the panel "Environmental Dreamscapes and the Heedless Sublime" all gestured similarly toward the queer temporalities that saturate eco-aesthetics and forms of eco-affect. Referencing dystopic and sci-fi apocalyptic modes, Evelyn Reilly, for example, suggested that ecopoetry is often marked by an "impasse," which we see manifest in representations of devastated landscapes, in anti-quest or anti-epic narratives, and/or in the overwhelm of geologic time that haunts certain works (Reilly cited William Carlos Williams' poetry as an example). Brian Teare pointed toward the queerness of what Reilly termed "impasse," calling it by a different name, "negativity," and echoing Lee Edelman’s critique of the way in which the logic of reproductive futurism (the culture's blind faith in the figure of the Child) regulates political discourse and the social order, precluding recognition of the queer sexualities that might "endanger" it (and for this reason, Edelman argues, only queer sexualities and temporalities — queer negativity — will constitute any truly oppositional politics). Teare noted that Nature, too (like the Child), often operates as a futural figure, but sought to extend Edelman’s critique by arguing that, ultimately, undermining reproductive futurism and normative temporality entails recognition of "various life forms in various states of becoming and coming undone," or the "ontological strangeness" of the human and non-human others alongside whom we exist.
I want to note one final presentation, from the panel "The Ghost in the (Drum) Machine: Tracking Remix, Reuse, and Return in Contemporary Ecopoetics." In his paper, Joshua Bennett discussed the openly gay hip-hop artist Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra, an album that, according to Bennett, explores "the tension between love and apocalyptic time." The album, Bennett argues, registers the situation of New Orleans-based African Americans, for whom the future has become increasingly difficult to imagine, obscured by catastrophe. Ocean sings, "Say hello, then say farewell to the places you know / We are all mortals aren’t way? Any moment this could go." In this way, nature, race, desire, and futurity — in all of their possibility and/or (perhaps more often than not) impossibility — are inextricable in the precarious present, and queerness becomes the simultaneous recognition of this fact while also living on in the face of it— a "futurity" of a very different order. Listen to Frank Ocean yourself for a taste of the "future."
 Mel Y. Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012), 11.
 See Anne-Lise Francois, "Flower Fisting," Postmodern Culture 22.1 (September 2011).
 For further theorization of "impasse," see Lauren Berlant's chapter "After the Good Life, an Impasse," which appears in her book Cruel Optimism (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011). Berlant conceives of the precarious contemporary moment as defined by "impasse," a state of suspension or "space of time lived without a narrative genre," in which one moves, but paradoxically, in the same space (199).
 Lee Edelman, "The Future is Kid Stuff," No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004).
V.I, N.4 (PDF)
N. American poetry/poetics translatd into Spanish, Latin American poetry/poetics translated into English.
edited by Charles Bernstein and Eduaro Espina
Mario Arteca, tr. G.J. Racz
Lila Zemborain, tr. Gabriel Amor
Fransisco Madariaga, tr. Molly Weigel
Esteban Peicovich, tr. G.J. Racz
Barbara Guest, tr. Arcadio Leos
Poetics / Poeticas
Meanwhile | Daniel Freidemberg
de Ojos del testimonio | Jerome Rothenberg, tr. Heriberto Yépez
Una semana de blogs para la Fundación de Poesía | Kenneth Goldsmith, tr. Néstor Cabrera Quesada
Escritura y experiencia | Nick Piombino, tr. Néstor Cabrera Quesada
Francisco Madariaga, mi padre, el poeta del trino blanco y el oro del amor | Lucio L. Madariaga
Interview w Francisco Madariaga | Silvia Guerra
LINEbreak: Barbara Guest en 1995 | Charles Bernstein, tr. Arcadio Leos
Note our new website address: now at EPC!
the site has pdfs of all back issues.
"From Here to There"
Ed Baker writes: “The following letters were written by me to Cid Corman in 1973-1975 while I was working on restoring John Penn's 1723 farm-house and writing Restoration Poems and retrieved/purchased from the William Reese Company via abebooks.com on March 12, 2005. Cid's replies to my letters are in Restoration Letters (tel let, 2003). Cid gave a packet of some of the things that I had sent to him to his brother with instructions to sell. The letters included here were included in that package presented here in a little different form. Some of Cid’s replies to my letters in RESTORATION LETTERS (1972 – 1978), tel let, 2003. The poems were published as RESTORATION POEMS, Country Valley Press, 2008. That's 35 or so years AFTER first writings / versions of the poems ! As Cid wrote in 1975: ‘No hurry with the book : it won't improve with haste. And now one riding you. Let it accrete and shape it with care as it comes. And then mull it with even more care when it seems “done”. The way you’re working makes heavy demands on each word ...’” — Ed Baker 9 - 10 - 2010 / 11 - 13 - 2012
Ed Baker’s "Afterward": “some of these pieces were published in a little different form in 1975 in Charley and Pam Plymell's Cold Spring Journal and in John Perlman's Shuttle. In 2008 (33 years after these first drafts via letters to Cid) Country Valley Press / Mark Kuniya published Restoration Poems. In 2001 Tel Let Press / John Martone published Restoration Letters, in which Cid replies to these letters ... and more. In 2004 I bought off of the net from William Reese Company a packet of (my) ‘stuff’ that included the original letters that Cid had given to his brother to sell...”
Transcreations from Russian by Jerome Rothenberg & Milos Sovak
[The appeal to me in the works that follow was in the harshness and fury of Lermontov’s romanticism, but it was just this note of contempt, as in his “iron verses / bursting with bitterness / & rage,” that marked him as a poet who displayed, as Nietzsche wrote of Heine, “that divine malice without which I cannot conceive perfection.” It was that spirit – not necessarily our own – that Milos Sovak & I tried to capture in a project to translate Lermontov anew, sadly terminated by Milos’s death in 2009. I’ll present the four poems we did accomplish in two installments. (J.R.)]
spleen & sadness,
not a hand held out
& what’s the good
if any, ever?
Or forever – years lost
& the best of years!
Or maybe love
the time too short,
not worth it
& forever love
to look inside you
deep down, not a trace
of lost time
joys & miseries
turned into nothing
asking: what is passion
that sweet sickness
& how long & whether
it will last or fade
when brought back to your senses
& life too? just wait
& take a long hard look
& see it like it is
noon heat ablaze
here in this gorge
lead in my chest
I lie unmoving
a trace of smoke
& drop by drop
sand in the gorge
I lie alone
the ragged edges
of its cliffs
the circle closing
& the sun is battering
the yellow summits
my dream that’s dead
& in my dream I dreamed
a night of shining lights
an evening feast
into & out of which
a company of women
garlanded with flowers
spoke about me
only one girl
who didn’t speak or laugh
apart from all of them
but sat & pondered
sunk into her dream
made its way
into her soul
god knows what thoughts
her thoughts were raising
when a gorge in Dagestan
a body that she knew
lay in that gorge
& on its breast
an open wound
turning black now
& the black blood flowing
in a stream
& getting colder
[to be continued]