Commentaries - August 2014

Girls, girls, girls

Morrison and Buck on every would-be Miss America

Yedda Morrison, girl scout nation (Displaced Press, 2008), 100 pp.; Marie Buck, Life & Style (Patrick Lovelace Editions, 2009), 54 pp.—How do you make a girl? In their different ways, these two books address that question. Divided into three individually paginated sections, Yedda Morrison’s book functions as a kind of triptych.

Uncommon social bodies

Dickison and Staiti on disposals, on retrievals

Steve Dickison, Disposed (The Post-Apollo Press, 2007), 49 pp.; Erika Staiti, In The Stitches (Trafficker Press, 2010), 39 pp.—What is the significance of symmetry as a manifestation of proceduralism? This is one of the questions Dickison's book and Staiti's chapbook address in relation to private and public, personal and social, bodies. For Dickison, the penchant for writing is, as it was for a tradition preceding and succeeding Freud, inescapable from neuroses modified into acceptable behaviors. These are posed against another meaning of disposed, those “others” for whom English is a second language (“may I use please your phone to carry some speech?”), for whom law and order is meaningful force (“what brand of people come invested in/plastic handcuffs?”), so easily reduced to the noun (disposal), the excrement of the social.


The letter as image, the image as letter

Nico Vassilakis, Letters of Intent (self-published, 2013), 140 pp.—As one of the foremost practitioners of vispo, Vassilakis has been a proficient stylist and spokesman for the “movement.” Nonetheless, this collection of his work raises questions about the interzone occupied by vispo producers. In a recent interview Vassilakis makes it clear that vispo is neither art nor poetry. As a “bastard child” of both, vispo, for Vassilakis, is about the digital manipulation of the letter in order to foreground its visual properties.

Harris Lenowitz: From Jacob Frank's 'The Words of the Lord'

At the death bed of Jacob Frank 1791
At the death bed of Jacob Frank 1791

Translation from the Polish Manuscripts by Harris Lenowitz 

NOTE. As a time of growing dislocations & deconstructions, the eighteenth-century saw changes of mind that reached into isolated corners of Europe, far removed from the strongholds of both the Enlightenment & the “natural supernaturalism” & radical mysticisms that were among  the marks of an emerging Romanticism.  The messianic Frankist movement as it affected eastern European Jews involved, like its literary & western counterparts, a shift in language & its attendant symbols that resembled the shifts emerging as well in the dominant cultures.

Creeley on Dickinson

Image of Creeley courtesy Francesco Clemente (from a 2002 oil painting); image of Dickinson courtesy Penelope Dullaghan (from a poster she created for the Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA).

In late September of 1985, Robert Creeley visited New College. He gave three lectures on Emily Dickinson (one each on September 20, 23 and 25) and a reading (September 23), introduced by Aaron Shurin and Duncan McNaughton. We at PennSound have now segmented the first of the three talks by topic. Many thanks to Anna Zalokostas for her superb editorial work. The recordings came to PennSound courtesy of David Levi Strauss. So here are the segments of the first lecture on Dickinson:

  1. challenging the image of Emily Dickinson as eccentric, reactive, and fragile (11:06): MP3
  2. on the comings and goings of the Amherst town and church, her secondary school education, and her daily interactions (10:39): MP3
  3. on her family life (3:34): MP3
  4. reading from Emily Dickinson's letters (8:28): MP3
  5. on the patterns of her friends and family (13:47): MP3
  6. reading from Emily Dickinson's letters (3:19): MP3