One of the ways an experience of time is produced in poetic contexts requires engaging our body's memories, such as how we hear a sound. The way sound decays in a space, or how it moves and dimishes across a duration of time, engages our ability to take note of the unfurling present moment. It's a particular attention, fixated on a deeply embodied phenomenon that reinvigorates our ability to locate ourselves in the world. To invoke a sound is to invoke the body in present time.
I find this link between sound, the present, and the body richly explored by Tan Lin's digital poem, “Echo,” archived at UbuWeb. An echo reflects sound waves back to the listener, often in a diminished manner.
Queens poet laureate Paolo Javier created a day of poetry at the Queens Museum of Art, bringing poets and presses into the newly renovated museum for "Eterniday." Exhibited presses included Ugly Ducklng, Tender Button, Litmus, Nightboat, and Futurepoem. I curated a reading in the spectacular Panorama, with Cecilia Vicuan (top), Tracie Morris, Julia Patton, Shelley Hirsch, Tracie Morris, Tan Lin, and me.
Angela Genusa is someone I have only known from afar, via Facebook and email, but I’ve been excited about her work as it engages the relationship between computer programming and writing. This, as other pieces in this column will reveal, is an in-mixing of generic aptitudes I’m excited by. Genusa is one of many writers producing works that would otherwise be impossible without the computer. She’s also the author of a statement (as a facebook status) we like in my household, “from now on people will have to be more interesting than my iPhone,” or words to that effect. Her focus on, knowledge of, and artistic uses of technology have continued to interest me, and I think poets working in that direction are opening up all kinds of possibilities for writing, even for those of us who are less tech-savvy. Genusa’s latest project, which she describes below, is a bibliography of her spam box. I could have asked her about bibliography as a formal choice (and that’s a topic people like she and Tan Lin are interested in, so maybe one day I’ll stage a forum on the topic) but what is there to say about spam? So I asked her: Why spam? Here’s her answer:
Installment 2 of “WHY?” in which I ask certain people Why questions and they answer in 100-300 words. Beside Trisha Low, the other first person I had a Why question for was Tan Lin. I have been enthusiastic for years about his genre-diffusing, multi-platformed work under the auspices of poetry. For the last several years each new work from Lin operates like a "demo" that stages an exchange between various genres and platforms.
Tan Lin turned me on to the work David Bunn, who some years ago took possession of the entire Los Angeles public library’s card catalogue. Tan had noticed my interest in Erica Baum’s word-centered photography of old catalogues, and suggested I get to know Bunn's project.
Leah Ollman wrote an article for Art in America on Bunn in 2000, and here are two passages:
As libraries replace their card catalogues with on-line databases, the cards themselves--obsolete, bulky, worn--are usually discarded. Artist David Bunn rescued two million such cards and, in his elegant installations, directs our attention to the strong poetic voice still coursing through them. In 1990, David Bunn took possession of the two million cards in the Los Angeles Central Library’s catalogue somewhat in the manner of an eccentric heir claiming the unwanted portion of an estate. To administrators at the library, the card catalogue was not so much an inheritance as the deceased itself. Its contents had been made available on-line several years earlier, and it sat, an unwieldy, inconvenient corpse, awaiting suitable disposal. Why fill a storeroom with information that can now be saved on a chip the size of a postage stamp?
This playlist is comprised of recordings related to questions. Bhanu Kapil, in her recent post on Harriet, Notes on Mutation, asks: “What is a question? How do questions work in your writing? What do they perform? What happens when you ask them?” Today’s commentary might be considered an appendix to Kapil’s post, paying particular attention to the relationship between composition strategies, recording technology, and public performance. I’m also interested in grouping these recordings together in a playlist so that the questions from one piece might circulate through the others.
I’ll begin by quoting more from Kapil’s notes: “A question: Literally, it’s a way of gathering information but not of processing it. As a mode of enquiry that’s also, linguistically, founded on doubt, on not having the words for what happens at the end of a relationship, the question seals space*.” I have excerpted a portion of Kapil’s comments contextualizing her own book of questions, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, from her Kelsey Street Press audio page. At one point in her discussion, Kapil describes the weaving together of the disparate material she has gathered from interviews as well as from her own answers to her questions as “a shared space for voices.” On PennSound, you can listen to an excerpt from The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers recorded in 1999 at the Left Hand reading series in Boulder.
Last July, Edit Publications launched eleven books expanding Tan Lin's Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obiturary 2004, The Joy of Cooking (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2010). These printed editions derive from an event at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania on April 12th, 2010 titled "Handmade book, PDF, lulu, Appendix, Powerpoint, Kanban Board/Post-Its, Blurb, Dual Language (Chinese/ English) Edition, micro lecture, Selectric II interview, wine/cheese reception, Q&A (xerox), film."
Books published include: Purple/Pink Appendix by Tan Lin with an introduction by Danny Snelson, afterword by Charles Bernstein and indexes by Lawrence Giffin, Ashley Leavitt, John Paetsch, Danny Snelson, and Tan Lin. Blurb by Tan Lin. Event Inventory and Documentation (monochrome and polychrome editions) by Jeremy JF Thompson. Selected Essays About a Bibliography, with contributions by forty-eight authors. 7CV Chinese Edition (1-4) (七受控詞表和2004年訃告). 7CV Critical Reader, with full text downloads in PDF format. Printed on demand by lulu.com in a continual state of revision.
Event Editors and Authors include: Matthew Abess, Chris Alexander, Louis Asekoff, Stan Apps, Danielle Aubert, Charles Bernstein, Marie Buck, Lee Ann Brown, E. Shaskan Bumas, Ken Chen, Evelyn Chi'en, Clare Churchouse, Cecilia Corrigan, AMJ Crawford, Kieran Daly, Monica de la Torre, Thom Donovan, Patrick Durgin, Kareem Estefan, J. Gordon Faylor, Al Filreis, Thomas Fink, Mashinka Firunts, Robert Fitterman, Jonathan Flatley, Brad Flis, Peter W. Fong, Christopher Funkhouser, Kristen Gallagher, Sarah Gambito, Ellen Gruber Garvey, Kenneth Goldsmith, Cecilia Gronberg/Jonas (J) Magnusson, Heidi Brayman Hackel, Erin Gautche, Lawrence Giffin, Diana Hamilton, Eddie Hopely, Paolo Javier, Greem Jellyfish, Josef Kaplan, John Keene, Diana Kingsley, Matthew Landis, Ashley Leavitt, Tan Lin, Warren Liu, Jessica Lowenthal, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Maya Lin, Warren Liu, Dana Teen Lomax, Patrick Lovelace, Dan Machlin, Rachel Malik, Josiah McElheny, Stephen McLaughlin, Joe Milutis, John Paetsch, Asher Penn, Ellen Quinn, Diana Ro, Raphael Rubenstein, Jay Sanders, Katherine Elaine Sanders, Karen L. Schiff, Jeremy Sigler, Danny Snelson, Carlos Soto, Kaegan Sparks, Chris Sylvester, Gordon Tapper, Michelle Taransky, Jeremy JF Thompson, Richard Turnbull, Dan Visel, Dorothy Wang, Andrew Weinstein, and Sara Wintz.
You can download everything at once, or you can purchase individual copies of the volumes - or download each separately. Your friendly blogger here has an essay in the volume called "Selected Essays About a Bibliography." Click here and you should get to a page where you can buy a copy of that book.
The range of Bruce Andrews’s work is fairly well represented by the recordings available on his PennSound page. The earliest recorded reading we have dates from late 1977, the most recent (as of this writing) is from 2008. Generally it is true that PoemTalk’s format – the choice of a single short poem for which a recording exists – will tend to misrepresent the whole of the poet’s work. Fortunately it’s not the aim of PoemTalk to represent the whole, but to have a good and earnest listen and look at the single instance along the way, Having done this 35 times in this series, we find, mostly to our surprise, that tenable general statements of a poet’s mode and aesthetic disposition do come through the back door of low conceptual expectations. Surely that’s what happened here, when Tan Lin, Chris Funkhouser, Sarah Dowling and Al Filreis took on a single poem from Andrews’ sequence called Moebius. Moebius was written in the late 1970s but not published until 1993, when a chapbook appeared from the Generator Press in Ohio. On November 10, 1977 Andrews came to the Ear Inn in New York, performed at a reading alongside Ray DiPalma and Michael Lally, and gave us fine readings of many of the Moebius poems, including “Center,” which is the piece we discuss in PT35.
First we found something we took to be unusual in Andrews: the emphasis on distancing goes along with a tone of softness and wistfulness (as Sarah suggests), perhaps even vulnerability notwithstanding the aggressive idiom (“I make the rules here”). But soon we sensed we were seeing the Bruce Andrews we would know from later works. Naturally one asks if the speaker of these masculine phrases--all this deliberate 70s guy talk--is an individual, a single subject. No, Tan Lin suggests, the poem’s phrases comprise not those of an individual speaker but identify the language production we associate with a particular kind of speaker. So the poem is a meta-statement on how language is generated and that, in turn, constructs a kind of identity, although that identity is never really offered. As Chris points out, the poem feels like an aggressive encroachment on the white space of the page. The poem, spiraling down the page, forces one to think of a moebius shape which claims centrality (has a center but yet doesn’t quite). Such a claim, because of the moebius, will seem repeatedly arbitrary, and so does the normative standard for the discernment, by socio-linguistic cues, of a fixable speaking identity, and so that (the emptiness of that effort) is your center. (Which is to say: what center? why are you looking here for one?)