Somatic poetics

From David Buuck's BARGE (Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-aesthetics)

The following is part essay, part proposition, part thinking in motion (provisional, unfinished, disruptive). It is a response to Patrick Durgin’s generous invitation in spring 2010 to address “somatics” in regards to recent writing practices and poetics. Through the following text I take excursions with various contemporaries. These excursions are not meant to be representative by any means (the following is not meant to be a definitive mapping of a field, manifesto, polemic, or ‘last word’) but the continuation of a discourse that has become visible to me in the past few years. All the propositions here are hopefully extendable. To many of them I owe my conversations with the Nonsite Collective — and to Rob Halpern, Eleni Stecopoulos, Amber DiPietra, David Wolach, Taylor Brady, and Robert Kocik in particular. And also to Daria Fain, CAConrad, Dorothea Lasky, Brenda Iijima, David Buuck, and Bhanu Kapil.

I dreamt we were susceptive to language

that care might be agency’s complement

and form never more than condition
passing as body

— Eleni Stecopoulos[1]


Somatic poetics as…

The body foregrounded by the poem’s content.

The body foregrounded by the poem’s form.

The body, as a form, coextensive with a (written) content.

The body, as a form, becoming written.

Or the body as a site of “material,” of information or content for the making of the poem.

The poem quivering “off-page” and on in this relation.

Or the body as a site whereof language becomes cited.

Or language as a site whereof the body becomes seen.

Or the body between non-site and site, a kind of shuddering caesura, a Shabbat or intervention into what is sensed.

Or the poem as that which makes visible the body as a place where cultural, political, social, moral, and economic forces converge and convolute becoming visible in their play.


Wetlands and marshes slow.
But my poems, like phynance
— this accumulation of waste —

I mean this, you and ‘the cranes
Like ships,’ they’re relentless
— targeting flows, pipelines —

Through which the silence, too,
Has slowed, tho it’s still refining
— me, I’m down to prewar levels.[2]

I think of Rob Halpern’s use of the line in many of his poems and essays. Where the line moves, and does not cease to move, because of the use of caesura, and compression, and radical enjambment (often the stanza would seem a container or mould into which Halpern is deliberately fitting the poem’s language and grammar, thereby over/determining its syntax). Also because of the use of hyphens/dashes that start and stop (like in Emily Dickinson, or more recently Leslie Scalapino and Rodrigo Toscano). This is a formal problem that extends cultural content, where movement resists the calcification of (poetic) language as a form of ideation, cultural capital, enunciation (‘voice’). The use of line in Halpern’s work also points back to the body — is therefore deictic. As if to say: how would you say this; how would you express it through your particular body, your metabolism, your breath and movement patterns, your posture? The body becomes scored through a scoring for the breath — for how the poem might become read aloud or in one’s ‘head.’ Halpern, I know, goes to any public reading of his poetry with anxiety, precisely because he doesn’t know how he will read a given poem. The body will determine this, the situation the body is in, the emotional or affective circumstances of the reading.

This poetics of breath obviously goes back to Williams, Creeley, Olson, and other Projective poets. Halpern torques this tradition by providing it with the content of a biopolitics addressed to neoliberalism and the military-industrial complex. This genealogy is also torqued by Halpern’s recognition of a Queer affect infusing his body (of work). Disaster lyric, the name we might assign to Halpern’s and others’ work of the past twenty-some-odd years, produces the poem as a ‘wreck’ of the senses inasmuch as the body is hailed by state apparatuses and other disciplinary matrices. But the lyric is also what actively produces disaster — disaster as that starless condition without plans, destiny, fate. It is in such a wreck, a counter-wreck if you will, that the poem can open towards conditions of possibility for bodies, a general intellect or affective ground for a future multitude or commons. Archaeologies of morning and mourning (moaning?).

Whereof the poem gives rise to phenomenological awareness and action.

Whereof the poem is a tool for attunements, stimmung, proprioception.

Whereof the poem is a site where mind and body would touch and become aware of this touching (chiasmus).

Whereof the poem is a site of mind-body-world in relation, an abstraction or composition of this relation.

Whereof the poem, both on/off page, is constitutive of a forcefield, a mediating play of inequal distributions of power, difference, “disjunctive syntheses” (Gilles Deleuze).

Whereof the poem, both on/off page, is a field of action, a call to activity, a dance of forces, of attractions and aversions, a dance per se by which to coordinate multitude.


In Eleni Stecopoulos’s Armies of Compassion, Stecopoulos writes: “Robert Duncan thought war makes bad use of its soldiers — the synchrony and solidarity of their mass. War destroys the dance in itself” (75).


What if power were put elsewhere, distributed differently?

What if crowds and power (crowds as a form power assumes) were channeled for purposes other than war, profit, exploitation, homeland, knowledge for knowledge’s sake?

Whereof the poem is a site of movement(s).

Whereof the poem is a site of bodies coextensive in movement.

Whereof the poem is a site of discrepant bodies co-constitutive through different (and oftentimes incommensurable) movements.

Whereof the poem is a place where these (potential) movements become organized.

Whereof the poem is a place where these (potential) movements become expressed.


In any discussion of “potential” as it regards aesthetics or writing practices, I am immediately reminded of Robert Kocik’s work, which, if I had to say it was about anything, I would say that it was about potential itself. This comes across in Kocik’s language practice, which seeks through prosodic means to reveal language as a subtle material and, moreover, as a transformative, empowering, and healing force. Kocik has explored language as a site of empowerment and healing through his scores with the choreographer Daria Fain. In Kocik’s scores for Germ (2005), where he employed a chorale round in one of the culminating dances, and the more recent Phoneme Choir (2007–present), which seeks to decreate the English language (to Re-English, as the title of Robert’s score goes) in order to create a new form of commoning based on the proto- (or post-) linguistic phoneme. As I have written elsewhere of Fain’s and Kocik’s Phoneme Choir:

While the Phoneme Choir may have any number of effects, its most basic intention is two-fold. On the one hand, the Phoneme Choir provides a means of healing by drawing upon a confluence of ancient practices, including techniques from East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and ancient Greece. On the other, it presents a radical assault on the English language in particular, inasmuch as Kocik, and Fain recognize English as a language rooted in militaristic, mercantile and utilitarian endeavors. As Kocik polemicizes throughout much of his recent writing on the English language’s evolution in relation to American democracy: “English has never been the speech of a free people.” If the current economic, ecological and security crises are consequences of the properties and propagation of the English language, by embodying the rudiments of the language and opening it to new inherences the Phoneme Choir provides a ready toolbox to remedy empire.[3]

Coupling gesture with dance, spoken or sung lyric with phonemics, the Phoneme Choir seeks after a future anterior in which futures past may come to be and what will have been is expressed as the now time of current bodies choreographically and chorically. Likewise, in Kocik’s practices as a designer and architect, potential is maximized through the design of a particular piece of furniture (such as the bookcases Kocik has become known for, which rotate and are set on wheels for rearrangement), or, in the case of Kocik’s proposed design for a renovated Feldenkrais Center in Manhattan, through a designed interior. What is striking about the Feldenkrais Center proposal is that, true to Moshé Feldenkrais’s somatic philosophy whereby the Israeli physicist sought to focus on “relationship[s] between movement and thought” in the belief that “increased mental awareness and creativity accompany physical improvements,”[4] the building’s design seeks to cultivate facility in its occupant-users — awareness, perception, corporeal know-how. Robert Kocik: “It’s more than a matter of air quality. ‘Respiration’ is the word I end up with. How can entering the room be like learning how to breathe? Especially for children with motor difficulties … who have been less able to properly develop the muscles of respiration.”[5] Where someone may perceive physical defect, Kocik conceives that “disservice” is “the secret name of God.”[6] Alluding to Kabbalah, and other hermetic spiritual traditions (Ismaili-Shi’ite Gnosticism, too), Kocik seeks disability’s inversion through subtle properties, the angelic potentia that inhere in every body and not just those perceived prejudicially as fitting a model of normativity within the built environment. Kocik, likewise, through his acknowledgement that nearly all of us will become disabled before we die, treats the bodily preemptively for disuse (the loss of functions). What if the normal condition of all bodies was perceived impairment? Would we then have to treat all bodies as being in need of facilitation — the full reaching of their potential among a socius? This is one of the many radical questions posed by Kocik’s work as it relates to a somatic poetics.


Whereof the body becomes a place where perceived weaknesses become strengths, aptitudes, facilities. Robert Kocik: “Are there glorious states without fitness? Undeserving and elated? Gratuitous and undying? Aren’t vulnerability and hunger advantageous too (Athens became a philosophical power only after losing its navy)?”[7]

Whereof the poem acts as the site of this body, or bodies in relation to other bodies.

Whereof the body becomes a site of dis-ability, dis-use, dis-service, dis-combobulation.

Whereof the poem may make visible the conditions of possibility of/in these (somatic) conditions.

Whereof form is “never more than condition / passing as body.”

Whereof the built environment confronts (or confounds) the body, the poem as the site of this confronting/confounding.

Whereof the built environment makes known a body’s difference from other bodies, its disability or disuse — the poem as the site of this.

Whereof these tensions reveal meaning, social or civic truth, the event of this truth of our being with one another inequally through an embodied consciousness.

Whereof the subject or subjects seek to transform the built environment for ethical, political, and/or legal reasons — the poem as the site of this, too.


After the legacy of various Civil Rights movements and subaltern politics, Tobin Siebers recognizes in his book Disability Theory that disabled bodies should be the rule and not the exception (what Jacques Rancière calls the “part of the part”). This is because the disabled body historically, as Siebers shows, represents the subaltern of the subaltern. In societies where racism (and other isms) has flourished, such as our own, the racist has recourse to metaphors of disability — physical or mental weakness, deformity. One challenge of art, then, is to create situations that may bring to the foreground the messianic kernel of disabled bodies, which stand for all of our bodies — are thus an emerging universal subject — inasmuch as they will at some point be in need of care, assistance, and/or challenged by their (social) environment. How, tactically, to frame those differences which become visible through the interactions of bodies with their civic, social, and built settings? How, for instances, by documenting the bureaucratic processes which occupy the time of many disabled, as Amber DiPietra does through a series of works in which she documents her experience being on the phone with various health care providers and civic services for the disabled?


Whereof the body was sufficient, but only seemed to “fall short.”

Whereof it was actually the built environment and the social conditions that made possible the making of this environment which “fell short” — often devastatingly so.

The poem as a site where this could become clear.

The poem as a site where this could become known.


And given the need to address built environments in relation to bodies, how these bodies actually use their environment, environments not always being built with certain bodies in mind. The body becomes a visible response, it enters into an involuntary proceduralism, it is seized by constraint just by being, just by acting within the world — can the poem be a site for this visible response? Amber DiPietra embodies (literally) such a condition of writing extended from bodily constraint, involuntary procedure, and seizure within the circumstances of the built environment, where such circumstances necessitate new subjects and forms:

How to work with and through the body without dragging the whole history of this body into every line? What if to bring my body into the writing means to experience the same limitations and rigidity I experience in the body outside of writing? How to bend forward from a number of small vertebral fusions the back of me has enacted against gravity, against the better judgment of flow. Bend forward toward a new form in writing. Allow yourself the spacious start of the minuscule, to begin just by thinking of bending and of form. Just by being with bending.[8]

And given the desire for “remediation,” “maintenance,” regulation of toxicity, of electro-magnetism and pollution — the sheer speed and invisibility of “our” processes.

Given the need for tactical magic, for intervention in the ways space exists and the ways that it is made, in spatial practices.

Given that there are chemicals we live among, and to live among them can mean death and disease to anyone.

Abby Block performs in PARK: PDX in 2011. Choreography and direction by Kathy Westwater; text and vocal concept by Jennifer Scappettone. Photo by Marina Zamalin.

This past winter I was able to attend Kathy Westwater’s and Jennifer Scappettone’s performance of PARK (2010) at Dance Theater Workshop in Manhattan, a dance work-cum-“pop-up opera” that features choreography by Westwater and collage-text by Scappettone. What I most liked about the performance were the ways Westwater and Scappettone were obviously working collaboratively with their performers to discover a language coeval between dance and poetry in order to embody a response to toxified landscape, namely a series of Superfund sites around Chicago and New York where Scappettone had conducted her fieldwork. What would it mean to sing, cry, speak, intone the toxins out of “us”? (At a culminating moment of the dance performance the performers rolled a Mylar tarp over the heads of themselves and the audience, singing to us, chanting and whispering.) What does it mean to work between site (Superfund) and non-site (dance studio) to locate a proper form of expression in order to perform remediation — remediation of the dancer-intoner’s body in relation to landscape? I keep thinking that the word “remediation” is not adequate, that it should be in quotes or under erasure (as it is on one of the first pages of David Buuck’s Buried Treasure Island pamphlet [2008]). Somatics, like experimental art and poetry, is about finding the right words from the ground up, in relation to embodied conditions. But what if this ground has been contaminated? How does one find ground — a foothold, a purchase? It is as if the whole world need be remade. The body, and language as a body, becomes the beginning of the world again. A ritual of decreation and recreation, of (world) unmaking and remaking.

Development of PARK  in 2010. Choreography and direction by Kathy Westwater, art direction by Seung Jae Lee, poetry and text scores by Jennifer Scappettone. Photo by Anja Hitzenberger.


And given that there are things in the air and underground that we can’t see.

Given that the legibility of so many production processes are withdrawn from our attention, and that they are intended to be withdrawn.

That these things too are legislated, committed, coerced, consented to.

That both our coercion and consent often remain unrecognized, though they can mean our demise and the demise of others.


Any notion of “somatics” — a term coined in the 1970s around contemporary dance circles alluding to various movement-based healing techniques and techniques for exploring the body’s physical processes — cannot be divorced from environment.[9] In July of 2007, I gave my first of three workshops with the Nonsite Collective in the home of Jocelyn Saidenberg. Under discussion were two texts, one by Jalal Toufic on his concept of the “surpassing disaster,” the other by Rebecca Solnit on gold mining practices in Nevada. In Solnit’s essay, from her collection Storming the Gates of Paradise, she shows us that the commodity value of the gold in Nevada is not worth the use value of the water used to mine the gold. In another startling admission, Solnit cites the extraordinary damage caused by mining-techniques to the water tables beneath the Nevada and other mining sites. Disaster was once a thing we could see, but this is no longer the case. I am reminded here of Muriel Rukeyser’s brilliant documentary poem, US 1, written for the miners stricken with silicosis after the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster in Gauley Bridge, VA, who Rukeyser encountered working for the WPA as a photographer in her early 1920s. In US 1, the deadly (and extremely painful) disease silicosis flickers between a “thing” that can be seen through prosthetic-medical means (X-rays) and one retreating from our vision — tearing away at the lungs in secret. However devastating industrial mining practices are, they at least tend to be somewhat local, if by local we are talking about hundreds of miles. A new challenge facing Ecoartists from here on out will be confronting whole ecological systems without national, let alone local, boundaries. These systems resist visibility too as they reside in the air, oceans, and soil — our most basic elements. Using art and writing as a “legal material” (Rob Halpern), Bay Area-based artist Amy Balkin forages ways to confront the bureaucratic apparatuses which make possible the continued expropriation of our elemental commons — the rights of all to clean water, air, soil, etc. She does so specifically in Public Smog (2006–present), which not only creates a clean air commons miles above the atmosphere through the purchase of carbon emissions credits, but also records phone calls with UNESCO officials whereby Balkin would attempt to preserve the atmosphere as a World Heritage “preservation site.” Through Balkin’s documentation of these phone calls one realizes the many legal aporias confronting environmental activists as they face crises beyond any single national territory or legislative entity.


And given the exploited body, the stateless body, the non-“normative” body, the body detained.

Given the pharmaceutical body, the armored body, the body injured in conflicts one will never see (because they are not represented, not processed for the oversaturated attention).

Given the perceived “monstrous,” the odd, the queer — those bodies which resist categorization, discursus, registration.

Given disarticulation, given the loss of language(s), given torture and given harm — the body under constant threat of harm.

Given the different forms articulation can assume — through a cry for instance?


Bhanu Kapil in a spring 2011 performance at Dikeou Gallery, Denver, for Titmouse Release Party: "A scene from [for] Ban."

In Bhanu Kapil’s work, I am reminded of the body’s suffering and its virtual transcendence. Perhaps no other writer of our moment has so adequately forged a language for the body in pain, and made such a commitment to this body. The commitment is in the grammar, which is a grammar of the liminal — of borders, interstices, hybridity. Periods punctuate the borders running-through the (hum)animal soul of Kapil’s prose. In Kapil’s first book, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (2001), she provides a questionnaire to women of Indian diaspora. This questionnaire concerns the state of the women’s lives, their relationship to men, the threats of violence they feel within their society. What comes out is a beautiful prose poem hardly reflective of the private and brutal responses one must expect would have been generated by the questionnaire.

In Kapil’s second book, Incubation: a Space for Monsters (2006), Kapil writes her autobiography through the figure of Laloo, a carnival “freak,” interposing Laloo with various other monster and cyborg personae. The book is charming, yet terrifying if you read behind the lines. Immigration haunts it. So does assimilation. Wherein to pass as “human” is to be properly assimilated. Incubation: a Space for Monsters ends with a road trip to the United States. This section of the book is basically a guide for hitchhiking women, which includes ways to prepare for the threat of rape on the road. Kapil’s most recent books Water Damage_ _ _ _: a map of three black days (2007), Humanimal: a Project for Future Children (2010), and Schizophrene (forthcoming 2011) commemorate the traumatic upbringings of her parents who in the case of her mother is a survivor of the border dispute of 1947 between Pakistan and India that forced millions of Pakistanis and Indians to migrate. In the wake of this forced immigration Kapil’s mother suffers from schizophrenia. Kapil’s father, who was ravished by famine as a child in India, is commemorated in Humanimal, a book documenting the “wolf-children” Amala and Kamala discovered in Bengal in 1920. At the heart of this work is an admission of guilt (of sorts), or at least of complicity. Attempts were made by doctors to “normalize” the bodies of Amala and Kamala after the transformation of their muscle tissue while wandering among their wolf pack. In Kapil’s line of work (besides being a professor of writing at the Naropa Institute and Goddard College, she is also a bodyworker), she applies Rolfing techniques, a method of bodywork in which the bodyworker begins by “breaking down” muscle tissue then reforming it. What, Kapil’s work seems to beg, are the ethics of bodywork techniques such as Rolfing in relation to other medical and nonmedical procedures? Who gets to put the “monstrous” body “back together”? Who says what or who is monstrous? How do metaphors of the inhuman or liminally human affect how we encounter the human-animal other?


And given the fact of a missing sense, another becoming amplified.

And given this discourse of the senses, this becoming synaesthesiac, these inverse synaesthesias that also make up common sense.

Given all the pain, given the fact that our deaths cannot even be shared.

Given the bodies discourse has made.

Given what cannot be contained by discourse.

And given that there are subjects.

Given that there is sometimes no subject.

Given all of the ways that bodies are subjected.


Perhaps somatic poetics becomes the promise of a different sovereignty — a “different domination” (John Taggart). A domination redistributing dominion, diadem, fundamental governmentability.

Perhaps somatic poetics becomes a mobile commons — a commons of what cannot always be shared.

Perhaps somatic poetics becomes a site of our non-appropriation and our expropriation.

It forces us, in other words, to assume a certain complicity with which all bodies are charged.

To make “work” from a position or multiple positions of culpability.


The poem has not yet determined what a body can do. Somatics? The poem cites the body’s (lack of) determination within a sociopolitical field. In this way is it both constructive and deconstructive. Feeling (affectivity) can over-/in-determine any sense of the thing (poem) having been constructed or it having been taken apart. Lyric (what has traditionally been called lyric) is the typical mode of this over- or in-determination.

Composition demonstrates (it exposits) but it is also a site where states of feeling, awarenesses, “being,” and consciousness are undergone. Like a patient (or Orpheus) goes under. Eleni Stecopoulos: “Orpheus had to climb down the base of his skull because the message wasn’t getting through.”

To lie, in a white space, terrified, following the push of liquids through clear channels, though skins and membranes. To feel terrified, lying, pushing to follow the liquids though membranes and skins into clear channels. To feel the clarity of channels liquefying terror’s push right through the skin. To feel no skin, actively. To embrace a membrane between feeling and articulation.[10]

The poem is a site of undergoing, the body undergoing something, a process internally or externally mediated by language, a process that extends from environment, from language use in the (built) environment. As in the work of Deleuze and Guattari, one becomes animal, environment, historical personage (Nietzsche’s every name in history is I), chemical state: they do not merely represent it (the psychoanalytic fallacy). Hannah Weiner is thus “our” contemporary test for undergoing because the journals record and compose the act of undergoing, of being under (as a patient). In Spoke (1984), Weiner jokes about Orpheus — one of her (three?) voices being “subscripted.”

Amber DiPietra: “The body becomes the problem.” Weiner’s body becomes her problem in the sense that she must overcome, or merely deal with, somatic exigencies — exigencies of her neural-chemical becoming — through an aesthetic means. Clairvoyant journalism is thus born from oversensitivity in Weiner’s journal The Fast (1992). Undergoing writing (a somatic poetics?) is not “better” or more “authentic” than other kinds of writing or art. Just different. Coming from a different place/set of concerns/needs (like Kafka’s use of the journal, whereof Blanchot said that Kafka wrote in a journal to observe who he was when he was not writing.)

Can one undergo through the poem the conditions of a landscape, geographical or social location, intersubjective formation, or sociopolitical incommensurability? To what extent could this undergoing produce a different set of affective or intersubjective coordinates, or simply make visible the conditions that made the work of art/poem possible or necessary? In Rachel Zolf’s Neighbour Procedure (2010), she says that the book is an attempt to compose a series of “mad affects.” What about the mad affects of places? Relations? Histories of relation? The body is an extension of places and beings in ‘space-time.’ Susan Howe: “Once I was driving to Buffalo alone, moving up there for the winter to teach. It was me and my car and the mountains. I had a tape of Articulations from a reading I had done, and I thought I would turn it on as I was passing the place near where Hope [Atherton] had been wandering after the raid — and it was a wonderful feeling because the sounds seemed to be pieces still in the air there. I was returning them home as I drove away from home.”[11] The body both mediated by and mediating the (mad) affect of such places. Could Paterson have been written by just any body? Could Muriel Rukeyser’s “Book of the Dead,” or The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson, or “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” by Wallace Stevens? Could (more recently) C. S. Giscombe’s Giscombe Road or Bhanu Kapil’s post-national oeuvre?

Since in any place inhere the things that have been there, and that (sometimes literally) remain there through its “half-lives” (that remain undead, in other words). And since any body is not just a body, which is to say, never only a finite membrane or container but a complex extension, a bundle of what it has encountered, consumed, sensed, felt, and touched — the body is many different places at once (in neoliberal terms, it has “gone global”). Place is, then, extended by many different bodies at once (the logic of virus, outbreak, contamination, plague). Somatics is a site — the aesthetic site — where we undergo these places.[12] The existences of these places within the body become framed, but also possibly moved (expressed, transformed, en route). “Remediation” (the shibboleth for any number of public and corporate earthworks projects post-disaster) then not only occurs within a particular geography or topology but in or at the body as a site coextensive with such places.

CAConrad prepares to eat a piece of gemstone (rhodonite) as part of his soma(tic) poetry exercises.

The recognition I am describing happens repeatedly through CAConrad’s (Soma)tic Exercises, where so many of the exercises instruct the reader/writer/user to attend a particular place in relation to one’s own somatic condition, habit, and design.[13] This recognition — the recognition that the body enfolds multiple places conterminously — also occurs in David Buuck’s site-specific field investigations and performances, and particularly in his 2008 work, Buried Treasure Island. In his pamphlet for Buried Treasure Island, Buuck surveys an “archeology of the future.” Through the excavation of San Francisco’s Treasure Island — once a world’s fair ground, then a military base, now a base of operation for any number of clandestine experiments and housing projects — Buuck explores futures past — not so much what “could have been” as what remains charged with messianic potentials.

The knight’s move here is to imagine the future-past from its own vantage point, as if reenacting the battles yet to come. Thus strange verb tenses must be enacted: these are those things that will have had to have been, that will have had to yet occur in order for such performatives to imagine themselves into being today. Thus the body becomes the vessel for acts of conceptual theater, site-specific performances that aim to have had liberated other futures from the husks of the present.[14]

Buuck also explores the landscape of Treasure Island as a site in need of remediation — re-use, re-expropriation, “respiracy.” “Pre-enactments of re-mediation work aim to rehearse the autonomous reclamation of land use as its ‘respiracy’ — a term that will have had to have been concocted to somehow capture the vernacular practice of ‘respiratory piracy,’ by which air quality and environmental inequality are confronted head-on by those affected populations and their partisans” (16). In a particularly dramatic gesture during Buuck’s slideshow performance of Buried Treasure Island for the Manhattan-based event series “Peace on A” in June of 2008, Buuck consumed toxic dirt samples taken from Treasure Island, doing so in homage to CAConrad, whose book (Soma)tic Midge had appeared that spring with Faux Press and which Buuck quotes in the pamphlet for Buried Treasure Island. Through Buuck’s performance the body itself became a site for extended remediation; it also became a visible symbol that the soma and the places we move through are inextricably woven — that to poison the environment is to pose a threat to ourselves, the sovereignties and connatuses (co-births) of our singular somas. Coupled with (future) pirate songs and an extemporized lecture (à la Smithson’s snickering 1969 slide-show talk, Hotel Palenque) Buuck’s Buried Treasure Island performances present yet another expression of a somatic poetics — somewhere between improv, lecture, recital, Vaudeville act, and tactical performance art.


Whereof a stutter in this wreck called us

Whereof a wreck that is our bodily condition — any embodied consciousness — every body in history being I

Whereof the consequences of this were felt and unmade

To be human and animal and unmourned — dis/possessed

To imbibe the harm that involves us and is also a condition taking form

To transform this condition

To ground the social on this ground

We have taken to our literal mouths, into our literal mouths, in a literal air

A somatic poetics perhaps …



1.  Eleni Stecopoulos, Armies of Compassion (Long Beach, CA: Palm Press, 2010), 92.

2.  Rob Halpern, Disaster Suites (Long Beach, CA: Palm Press, 2009), 9.

3.  Thom Donovan, “Choir Praxis: On Daria Fain’s and Robert Kocik’s Phoneme Choir Movement Research Festival, Judson Memorial Church, May 4, 2009,” The Brooklyn Rail, April 2009.

4.  “The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education.”

5.  Robert Kocik, “Proposed Renovation of the Field Center,” in Sore Oversensitive Sciences (unpublished manuscript). Italics are mine.

6.  Robert Kocik, Rhrurbarb (Lewiston: Field Books, 2007), 19.

7.  Kocik, Overcoming Fitness (New York: Autonomedia, 2002).

8.  Amber DiPietra, “My Notebook Has a Rigid Spine or How to Operate the Body in Writing” (paper, Poetics and Healing Symposium, Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA, May 9, 2009).

9.  For a helpful tracing of this term see Martha Eddy, “A Brief History of Somatic Practices and Dance: Historical Development of the Field of Somatic Education and its Relationship to Dance,” Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 1, no. 1 (2009). Thanks to Patrick Durgin for drawing my attention to and supplying me with a copy of this article.

10.  Quoted from the entry for “patiency” at Nonsite Collective’s website.

11.  Susan Howe, “Talisman Interview, with Edward Foster,” in The Birthmark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1993), 172.

12.  Curiously, Robert Duncan writes that “The myth or pattern of elements in the story is a melody of events in which the imprint of a knowledge — knowledge, here, in the sense of a thing undergone — enters the generative memory and the history of man takes on tenor,” echoing, perhaps, my own sense that to undergo is to radicalize relationship through a logic of incorporation, albeit decentered or displaced. Qtd. in Hank Lazar, “The Poetry of Myth: The Scene of Writing, Thinking as Such,” Mythosphere 1, no. 4: 411.

13.  For example, in a recent (Soma)tic Exercise devoted to Hannah Weiner, Conrad instructs the user on how to astral travel during an MRI in the following (place-dependent) way: “For the week leading up to your MRI, each time you enter your chosen space STOP at the entrance, and take a long look around. Then close your eyes and imagine what you saw. Open your eyes and notice what you missed when imagining what you saw, for it is the missing things you will incorporate each time you repeat this exercise until you have gathered the entire space in your mind.” See CAConrad, “Radiant Elvis MRI,” (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises blog, February 6, 2010.

14.  David Buuck, Buried Treasure Island: A Detour of the Future (San Francisco/Oakland: BARGE, 2008), 8.