attempt to photograph spider web (right)
I'm in this sort of, ok very odd location for thinking here once more about bay area poetry community stuff: not at home, but not that far away either, at an artist residency program. It's not something I've had the privilege of doing before, this going away to read and write in a quiet place with a few others scattered nearby. I never thought I'd be able, or want to read and write in such a quiet place; I've always felt most comfortable in those quiet places surrounded on all sides by the sounds of other people, cars, parks, the freeway that runs almost right above the house at night. I keep trying to figure out how to be in this other quiet. This incredible luxury. A constant fear of squandering time, which must be, at least in part, what I've been invited here to do.
The big difference right now feels like the distance between me and a BART station, the closest in Fremont or Millbrae, and neither anywhere within walking distance from where I sit watching two lizards who would like to come inside. They run up to the glass door every hour or so, peer in, dart from side to side, appear to do something like modified pushups. Last night I listened to what I am pretty sure was an owl (hi dear people reading Alma), while up too late watching videos and reading about actions in solidarity with the Pelican Bay hunger strike, while up too late watching videos and reading about actions in protest of the most recent killing by BART cops, who shot Charles Hill on July 3, shot him three times in the chest, a man so drunk witnesses described him as unable to stand.
I brought two crates of books with me, not really knowing what I would need, and am thinking today about the many relationships between the contents of those two crates and some sentences from some people on reading groups in the bay area, posted here a while ago. How much my reading is shaped directly by conversations with other poets, in so many different contexts and locations.
For instance, I brought a lot of poetry by Lyn Hejinian because of ongoing conversation with Del Ray Cross about her work.
I brought As Always, Julia, the letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto, because it was a gift from Cynthia Sailers, and because I'm hoping to return to a poem I wrote a while ago in which Julia Child and Julie Powell operate as murky allegorical figures.
I brought the Wack! catalog because Lauren Levin was talking about her experience of reading it in such a compelling and exciting way it made me want to read this all over again.
I brought Against Forgetting sort of because of reading "On the Concept of History" recently in the allegories group, and reading the Benjamin again made me wonder a few days later about Carolyn Forche's The Angel of History, which I've never read, and also brought with me, and how Forche is one of those poets whose writing I have a weird relationship to, who was somewhat important to me as an undergraduate, at least the few poems I read, in what class I cannot now remember? and who I came later to perceive as unfashionable, something around the problem of the very idea of witness, coherency, positionality, and whose work I subsequently failed to think through again in any meaningful way, and am hoping to maybe do so now.
I brought Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster because I seem to be always reading it. And also this is related to the previous paragraph.
I brought Karen Tei Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rainforest because I-Hotel was some of my last summer's July, the symmetry of that, and because David Buuck loaned this one to me months ago now, after she read at Mills.
I brought René Daumal's Mount Analogue because Cedar Sigo suggested it to me so long ago.
I brought The Many Headed Hydra in part because Kit Robinson loaned it to me this year when we were talking about his idea for a poets theater piece taken from its pages, and in part because I only got to read a bit of it before Clive Worsley borrowed it from me and then he finished it and now I have the time to read it, and because this book feels related to a lot of other things in the two crates.
I printed out and brought all of the Petroleuse Press chapbooks with me because of ongoing conversation and thinking, coming out of the Durutti Free Skool I participated in this spring.
I brought two of the books for the upcoming Durutti Free Skool big meetup, in part because I can't stop thinking about and responding to them, in part because I want to keep them close to the top of my brain for August, and in part because I'm trying to think about Caliban and the Witch in relation to Home/Birth, by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker.
I brought Home/Birth because Michelle Tarantsky so kindly sent it along for me to review after I mentioned it in a previous post here, and because I'm hoping to write that review this month.
I brought With the Weathermen and Arm the Spirit in part because Jess Heaney leant them to me, and in part because these are the books I read immediately before and after Home/Birth, on two very long plane rides last month, and I want to think about these three things together, and in part because I can't stop reading about women and resistance movements, which is also why I brought Assata: An Autobiography, which I talked about with Sara Larsen and Lindsey Boldt after the gender talk at Brian Ang's a while ago. This reading on women and resistance movements is also why I brought The Women Incendiaries, and also sort of why I brought The Wanderground, which caught my eye in the library with its title and lavender spine, and is such a weirdly perfect example of something, and definitely why I brought Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan, but also I brought this last one because I heard about Kaneko Fumiko for the first time a few weeks ago at a talk on "Resisting Gendered Order: Histories of Anarchist and Nihilist Women."
That talk is the last thing I attended in the bay area before heading out of town for a while, and I keep wanting to discuss the evening some more with the several bay area poets I saw there. I keep thinking about the various similarities between activist/punk/anarchist communities and poetry communities, each with their specialized languages, each with some not always clear to me divides and arguments around the street/the academy. On the train on the way back from the talk, Juliana Spahr and I talked about how we wanted something from the talk which we didn't really get, like we wanted to hear more about how the women of the Paris Commune protected the cannon, what exactly they did with their bodies, how they moved their arms or legs, in what direction, when they threw themselves between it and the troops, or when they threw themselves on it, we talked about some of the tactics described in Raúl Zibechi's book Dispersing Power, the pulga (flea), the wayronko (ground beetle), the sikititi (red ant). The beetle especially, sort of obsessed with the wayronko, with its "movement without a route or prior plan, like the flight of the beetle, which seems to lack any predictable direction." I keep feeling astonished every time I encounter a beetle in my workspace here (think it is this fellow but am not sure) for their movement is truly erratic. Sometimes I think they think I am a bear and are dashing from side to side to confuse me.
I've missed a lot of other things here, such as the 1987 California Department of Conservation Division of Mines and Geology's Earthquake Planning Scenario For a Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake on the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay Area (there are a lot of maps) and some books on Oakland that I've been meaning to read forever, and because I keep trying to write about Oakland: Chris Rhomberg's No There There, Robert O. Self's American Babylon, Albert Vetere Lannon's Fight or be Slaves. But also all the things I brought for no apparent reason, like White Noise, what was that about?
As I write this I keep feeling the things I'm missing, the sounds of other people, cars, parks, the freeway that runs almost right above the house at night. Pots and pans outside the prison. Miguel Guttierez and Hot Probs, no kidding, with Susie Bright! tonight! at Radar, this list could be so long, the Berkeley Neo-Baroque Press reading last night, Lindsey Boldt and Dodie Bellamy last weekend, and so many other things I probably don't even know I'm missing. But also I keep feeling the sounds that get made together, the less tethered sounds, the reading and thinking together sounds, things moving and slipping, coursing between people. The sound that runs right above the house at night. The owl. The spiders. The lizards. The sticky webs.