Two and a half years before his death, Antonin Artaud declared that he was “born otherwise, out of my works and not out of a mother.” This assertion appears in a letter to Henri Parisot, Artaud’s editor at Editions Flammarion, who was soon to publish A Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara. The letter to Parisot was intended to supplant an earlier preface to the book in which Artaud had stated his conversion to Christianity.
CAConrad returned to the Kelly Writers House on January 27, 2016, to visit the Wexler Studio to speak with Julia Bloch and to read from ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, which appeared from Wave Books in 2014, as well as a number of new works generated from his ongoing performative and pedagogical practice of somatics and ecopoetics. CAConrad grew up in Pennsylvania and is the author of seven books, including ECODEVIANCE, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, The Book of Frank,and Advanced Elvis Course, all of which explore the place of poetry in social and political life. Eileen Myles wrote in 2010 in Jacket,“he’s the poet who always changes the room he enters. He’s poetry’s answer to relational aesthetics. Which is the movement camped out now at the center of the art world in which the audience becomes the inevitable workings of the piece.”
Conrad was a 2011 Pew Fellow and a 2015 Headlands Art Fellow, and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Banff, Ucross, and RADAR. He is currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. Conrad’s commitment to a poetic practice that can manifest change is legible as much on the page as it is in the actions and community workshops he leads around the country.
Trace Peterson, erica kaufman, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague joined Al Filreis at the Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation in New York City to discuss two poems in CA Conrad’s chapbook, (Soma)tic Midge, published by Faux Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2008). Each of the seven poems in the series was written while the poet was under the influence of a color — worn, ingested, or otherwise enveloped.
MAKE SOUP but you are reading. Make your body from soup infused with poems. Read pages from NEW ORGANISM directly into the vegetables. My soup had parsnips, cauliflower, beets, and sweet potato, with sautéed brussel sprouts and garlic-filled polenta fritters. READ these marvelous poems INTO the parsnip, “Discontinuous residence of story / Aperture in the holding space,” then float it in the pot of heating water. The soup absorbing poetry and we will taste these poems. Read into the water just before it boils, “Society writes her desire, fucking, end-stopped, overflowing.
Find a book at Flying Object you love, like Moods by Rachel Glaser. Slip it under your shirt and hold it in place while extending your belly, feeling for the poems to kick with a muffled laugh. Walk through the building singing lullabies, rubbing your book baby growing beneath the folds of your shirt-vagina. Give birth on the floor or couch, or privately in the bathroom. Be careful not to tear or bend its little cover or pages to prevent costly surgery and recovery.
Rather than highlight a specific poem, poet, reading, or series this week, I want to showcase a city. And this isn’t just any city. This is Boise, Idaho — my hometown. Mentioning the city elicits many of the same questions and reactions, so let’s get those out of the way right now. Yes, there are potatoes, but no, we don't eat them all of the time. The city is actually in the West, not the Midwest (Boise is further west than Las Vegas, and you probably mixed it up with Iowa). And yes, Boise State University has the blue turf, and we all saw the 2007 Fiesta Bowl game. The one question I never get asked, however, is “How is the poetry in Boise?” It's a shame that I never get to answer this question too, because there is a strong and vibrant poetry community in Boise, with BSU as its center.
I didn’t start reading or writing poetry until I was in my mid-twenties. I didn’t study avant-garde art or literary history/criticism until after college. I did, however, read Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit sometime during my John Lennon phase in junior high, so though I wouldn’t have known the word, I’d been fluxed to a certain degree. Though Grapefruit is, well, kinda hippy-cheesy, I do think that it ‘holds up’ as an exemplary model of a book that transcends its avant-garde context, something that (like Joe Brainard’s I Remember) achieves that rare mode that can be understood and mind-opening to kids and aged seen-it-all’s alike.
“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” Mark Twain wrote that. CAConrad’s book of poems (Soma)tic Midge proves that exactly the opposite (opposite in every element) is probably the truth. Eat what you must, and let the food fight it out on the outside. Fortunately for us, the outside is this writing.
The Faux Press of Cambridge, Mass., published Conrad’s chapbook, the earliest work in a series he has been writing under the general rubric “somatic poetics.” Poetry of the body, by the body, maybe even for the body — although while the first two effects can be discerned in the writing, the latter of course can only be guessed from it. But I'm guessing this work has felt to the poet to be for the body also. Work that is done to the body.
Before and after the Faux Press publication of the book, Conrad read parts of it at various readings, and PennSound’s Conrad author page features a number of recordings of these sections. See, below, for links to all these — brought together in one linked list.
I’m back, with apologies for the long absence. The bad news is that I had to take a month break from these Commentaries due to a minor but temporarily disabling health issue, that pretty much knocked me out of commission, for anything but the day job. The good news is that I’m healed, my “tenure”here has been extended, and I'll be posting these Commentaries through November.
Last fall, on my trip across the country (mostly by rail) to visit the park spaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, I worked in a visit to one of the poets most readily associated with American space (though not urban space), Gary Snyder, at his residence high above the Yuba River, Kitkitdizze. I have yet to document that conversation (we spoke, amongst other things, of Gary’s experience bivouacking in Central Park in the late ’forties, while awaiting his seaman’s papers), which will happen, when I get around to it, on the Olmsted blog. After I left Gary, I stopped just on the other side of the Yuba River, to check out something called the Independence Trail. It turns out that the trail — occupying the site of old, abandoned hydraulic miner’s ditch — was built in answer to a request to, “Please find me a level wilderness trail where I can reach out and touch the wildflowers from my wheel chair.” It is a mostly level trail, shaded by oak and pine, that contours the slope of the undeniably wild Yuba River valley, with views to the river below. At the time, I did not know that this trail, the “First Wheelchair Accessible Wilderness Trail in America,” had been created by one John Olmsted, a distant relative of Frederick Law. J. Olmsted worked to save hundreds of acres in what is now the South Yuba River State Park, as well as what is now Jug Handle State Nature Reserve on the Pacific Coast in Mendocino County, Goat Mountain in the Coastal Range, and the Yuba Powerhouse Ranch. He wanted to create a “Cross California Ecological Trail.” Walking his Independence Trail helped me realize, yet again, how limited my conception of wilderness can be.
This post presents recordings inspired by the life and work of the musician and composer Arthur Russell. A limited edition collaborative chapbook written by CAConrad and Thom Donovan called Arthur Echo (Scary Topiary Press, 2011) addresses Russell’s haunting and beautiful recording World of Echo. In this excerpt from the co-written introductory statement, the authors describe their process: “While house sitting for friends in Philadelphia we collaborated on the following (Soma)tic exercise, playing Arthur Russell’s CD World of Echo on repeat on all five floors of the house. We moved from floor to floor from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., taking scheduled breaks for food, conversation, and checking in for further fine tuning of the (Soma)tic maneuvers.” Conrad and Donovan read the entirety of their chapbook (with the exception of the two introductory statements) on February 8th, 2011 at the Zebulon Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.