Erasure Poetry: A revealing (ii)

Refracting documents

[image: "Zong! #3," M. NourbeSe Philip]
"Zong! #3," M. NourbeSe Philip

In my previous post, I wanted to address the inherent political implications of how erasure poetry refracts a document into another one. I also asked: How do some poets use the rupturing of a text in order to reclaim, redress, resist? How does the intentional absenting of language attempt to succeed where its presence cannot? With this in mind, Zong! by M.

Erasure poetry: A revealing (i)

[image: erasure]

Erasure as an artistic form carries with it an urgent complexity of politics and ethics. Perhaps it is always inherently a political act. Perhaps it is always inherently a violent act, the removal of language as either defacing or disremembering. If erasure is a historical tool of the oppressor, can it ever be artistically innocent? We struggle with the complexities. The nuances change depending on the nature of the text being erased (government documents, nursery rhymes, Mein Kampf, the Holy Bible, speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., etc.) and on the person or entity doing the erasing. What power relations are implicated in such an act? What historical significance? Who gets to enact erasure, if anyone, and how does its impact or meaning change depending on who is implementing it?

In my investigations into how a poetics and politics of refraction sheds light on certain works by artists from the margins, it seems natural that, as a poet, I would eventually consider works of erasure. In light of my discussion of refraction, rupture, and ruins:

Defaced/refaced books

The erasure practices of Jen Bervin and Mary Ruefle

At the 2013 Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Boston, I wandered among rows of bright, strange, and intriguing books piled high on independent poetry press tables. Hand-stamped, letter-pressed, spray-painted, ripped, sewn, and covered in tinfoil; poems shaped like boxes, poems printed on records, poems made into pop-ups or puzzles, or rolled as cigarettes — I even spotted a tiny book hidden inside a plastic egg.

The POD people

Writing through, erasure, appropriation, mimicry

Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff, American Psycho
Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff, American Psycho (2012). image: Mimi Cabell

So what might a conceptual, print-on-demand artist's book look like?

Several contemporary writers are using the form of pre-existing books as a container for innovative publishing experiments that they can make available at a reasonable price thanks to POD and affordable printing options. Like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, these new books resemble their sources externally, but diverge dramatically in content, which involves erasure and writing-through. They are also facilitated by the availability of digital editions of these books which provide a searchable, scrapable, alterable source.

The following are not all print-on-demand publications, but they take on trade paperback form in ways that intrigue me: 

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