Articles

(Un)Disciplining the ethnographer's body

The poetics of opacity in Renee Gladman's Ravicka series

Detail from ‘Couriers reporting to the emperor,’ via Wikimedia Commons.

The racialization — and weaponization — of “sociology,” “social,” and “social science” as descriptors for poetry by people of color is particularly crude; at its foundation it suggests that their/our poems are merely collections of empirical observations, that they are self-referential expressions of social particularity largely devoid of stylistic elements such as rhythm, metaphor, etc. Stripped of poetic markers the poems cease to be poems; they become a sort of personal testimony, autoethnographies, that elicit from critics further reductive descriptors such as “cultural” and “identitarian.”

Renee Gladman’s Ravicka series almost didn’t get published. Dalkey Archive Press planned to publish the first two installations, Event Factory and The Ravickians, but then didn’t. Danielle Dutton, a consultant for Dalkey, couldn’t understand why not.

'I make these collages and write'

Alice Notley's visual art

Alice Notley reading from ‘When I Was Alive’ at her MoMA PS1 show. Photo by/courtesy of Monica Claire Antonie.

Alice Notley’s one and only exhibition of her visual art in the United States was in 1980 at MoMA PS1. The press release, written by Notley, notes that her collages are made “of paper (potential trash) from the poet/artist’s life, pieces of illustrations from favorite cheap books, sidewalk discoveries, and things she could see on the floor, from her chair, and was too lazy to throw away.”

Alice Notley’s one and only exhibition of her visual art in the United States was in 1980 at MoMA PS1. The press release, written by Notley, notes that her collages are made “of paper (potential trash) from the poet/artist’s life, pieces of illustrations from favorite cheap books, sidewalk discoveries, and things she could see on the floor, from her chair, and was too lazy to throw away.”[1] Notley’s nonchalance toward her materials should not be mistaken for a lack of aesthetic intensity.

The confessing image

Trisha Low's screenshot poetics

Click here for an enlarged version of the above screenshot.

When I think of Tumblr, and of Trisha Low, I think of sitting on the Caltrain on vacation in the summer of 2015, scrolling through Tumblr on my phone and seeing the last ​essay​ in Low’s “On Being-Hated” series for SFMOMA’s ​Open Space​ magazine. I remember reading around it: a block quote on my dashboard, posted by my then-boyfriend, a series of posts on Low’s own ​Tumblr​, and then the essay itself: about the fraught racial politics of the avant-garde. 

Editorial note: Readers can view larger versions of each of the images below by clicking them; they will open in another window.

When you think of Tumblr, it’s not just, like, your Tumblr dashboard, but it’s like a memory of a screenshot of your Tumblr dashboard that’s​ on​ your Tumblr dashboard.
— Trisha Low, “Hunting Season

Sounding/listening through the fog

On Kathryn Scanlan and Friederike Mayröcker

Reading the introductions to Kathryn Scanlan’s Aug 9 — Fog and Friederike Mayröcker’s from Embracing the Sparrow-Wall or 1 Schumann-Madness (trans. Jonathan Larson), I find myself charged with an imperative to listen. 

Reading the introductions to Kathryn Scanlan’s Aug 9 — Fog and Friederike Mayröcker’s from Embracing the Sparrow-Wall or 1 Schumann-Madness (trans. Jonathan Larson), I find myself charged with an imperative to listen. Mayröcker’s Embracing is a translated radio play, a Hörspiel — which literally means a “listening play.” Scanlan’s Aug 9 — Fog is a translated diary, taken from the voice of an eighty-six-year-old and recapitulated from the author’s subjectivity.

Varieties of silence, and near silence

(Jabès, Eluard, Celan, Kundera)

Edmond Jabès. Photo by Bracha L. Ettinger via Wikimedia Commons.

The aesthetic stridency of modernism was frequently accompanied by strong political stances, often with disastrous results. Among the innovative writers who managed to navigate the twentieth century without becoming entangled in its worst excesses was Francophone Egyptian poet Edmond Jabès (1912­–1991). Did Jabès’s attitude toward language offer some degree of immunity from totalitarian attitudes? 

The aesthetic stridency of modernism was frequently accompanied by strong political stances, often with disastrous results. Among the innovative writers who managed to navigate the twentieth century without becoming entangled in its worst excesses was Francophone Egyptian poet Edmond Jabès (1912­–1991). Did Jabès’s attitude toward language offer some degree of immunity from totalitarian attitudes?