I was planning to ask J. Gordon Faylor why he recently expanded Gauss PDF, historically an online-only press, to also making works avalable in print on demand (POD). When someone asked me at a poetry event (who was it?) what else I had on the docket for this column, and I listed Gauss, Chris Alexander informed me he was in the midst of an email exchange with Faylor about the very same question I had. Who knew?!? So I asked them if I could reproduce their conversation as an interview and, of course, they said yes. So here it is. If you’ve ever wondered what the enigmatic writer/producer/editor J. Gordon Faylor is up to (haven't we all?) here's a nice start at finding out.
CA: Poking around the web, I see Gauss PDF described as “a website which publishes ‘digitally based works’ in pdf format (2010),” “an experiment in multimedia publication, having hosted everything from digital video and zip files to YouTube playlists and image collections” (2011), and a “poetry/non-poetry resource” (2012). When I look at the catalog, I see that your first two publications are PDFs, but already the third publication is an MP3 — followed by a ZIP file, and then a flurry of different formats: M4V, MOV, JPG, embeds from your Vimeo channel, and so forth. What was your vision for Gauss PDF when you started out in 2010?
I had been hesitating to ask Diana Hamilton to talk about emotion / feelings / affect in her work, in part, because I was beginning to feel concerned that a tendency might be emerging in this column: a) that I’d somehow been asking more of my “female” correspondents to write on content questions, and b) that some of those content questions could look "soft" even though the answers I’ve been getting are quite brilliant and sometimes pretty hard-hitting. I mean, I asked Holly Melgard “Why childbirth” but could have asked her about her brilliant work with and on Troll Thread! But of course the issues raised by her childbirth performance are anything but soft or simple, and Holly’s answer makes that clear enough. Diana Hamilton’s brilliance, humor, and theoretical prowess deeply impress me. For the past few years she's been doing alot of heavy reading and thinking in the Comparative Literature Program at Cornell, where's she's earning her Ph.D. I remember her making some helpful theoretical connections in a Freud-Lacan reading group we both took part in a couple of years ago and was especially grateful for the work she and Kareem Estefan did unpacking Lacan’s diagrams.
A fair amount of contemporary writing and art would benefit from media-historical analysis. What media at what time made this work possible? What media are brought together in this work? When we want to analyze form in the contemporary, are we not sometimes talking about technical supports, the bridgings between various media the work relies on?
Alejandro Crawford practices poetry at one of its most experimental edges, where it crosses with and benefits from the special capacities of computing. Crawford has done impressive work already in both fields; in 2007 he won a Fulbright and moved to Lisbon, Portugal where he had been commissioned to perform his operation “transmutilation” working, in part, with Orpheu, the magazine published by Fernando Pessoa and friends. Crawford’s radically recut remix based in part on poems from Orpheu is titled Morpheu (BlazeVox 2010). In 2009 Crawford moved to NYC to study in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU Tisch. His ongoing work with electronic communications media has expanded his arsenal of poetic technique to include things like video and sound-mixing and the reappropriation of video game hardware to run text-manipulating algorithms. But what he does is not only technically cutting edge, it's weird and funny and fun.
Sometime around late August/early September, I had lunch with one of the young women writers I see often in New York. She told me she had recently been to a reading in Philadelphia where Holly Melgard had, as she described, “performed childbirth, not actual childbirth, obviously, but just like made noises like she was in labor, and it was really loud, and people were really upset by it.” This performance apparently caused a great reaction. A number of people were furious, some felt insulted; why would some young girl who has never had a baby do something like that? That's what it seemed to boil down to, according to my friend.
Well, only Holly Melgard can answer that. But let's not pretend the WHY question is really just about explanation. Discussion about a controversial choice made by an artist opens up opportunities for all kinds of analysis. And with the sharp increase in people choosing to not bear children, emotions on this issue seem to be running high in our culture. From what I'd heard, Melgard landed herself squarely in the middle of it when she performed in Philly.