Back in February, when I started this column, I wanted to interview Fernando Diaz about his sound art projects and also — because he's a computer scientist — about algorithms in poetry. The word "algorithm" appears often in critical analyses of conceptual writing, so I had been wondering what, if anything, conceptual writing and algorithms had to do with each other. I wanted to believe, but Fernando was skeptical about this metaphor. After 2.5 months of meeting, discussing, questioning, and haggling, we have only just begun to work through the chasm between our fields, our different values, histories, vocabularies, etc. Latour would be proud. It's been challenging and fun. And I'm grateful for Fernando's patience, generosity, and humor in working with me towards this provisional document.
Of all the new writing I’ve encountered in the last few years, Aaron Winslow’s is certainly a favorite. It’s post-apocalyptic, full of body issues, and the prose itself, the way it's written, is hilarious — it’s the kind of comic relief I need after a long day at my own job of the great misery. Aaron himself is pretty funny but also pretty humble, so instead of interviewing him I convened a roundtable. I didn't tell our panelists why I chose them — didn't want to put any pressure on — but each of them delivered here exactly what — even more actually — than I had imiagined. I knew these three would produce a great conversational balance together — and you'll see below they did.
Kristen Gallagher: So this started because we were talking about how we wanted a more historical understanding of the lyric. And so I made you a copy of this essay by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young summarizing Friedrich Kittler’s revolt in German literary criticism, his move from hermeneutics to discourse-analysis, because it leads him to some provocative conclusions about lyric poetry in Germany as a disciplinary effect.
Lawrence Giffin has done and said some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen or heard in poetry. His readings always feel to me like they walk along a fine line between uproarious and deeply critical. I can’t say exactly what they are critical of, because I can never quite tell. Is he making fun of poetry? himself for writing it? And this hilarious criticality comes in the package of always impressive, sometimes tour-de-force writing. There is clearly love for the art in his work — he works hard and that is a kind of love — but there also always seems to me a chasm of critical distance between Giffin and whatever he’s saying. And that chasm is often where the uproarious happens.
KG: Your work as a curator seems to happen in and around interdisciplinary nexii. Maybe I see it that way because of my sense that in the contemporary moment we’re seeing increasingly blurred genre boundaries. I wanted to talk to you mainly to get a sense of whether or not you think of your work as inter-generic curating. You’ve curated talks, films, live drawing performances, sometimes all in the same event; you curated for a couple of years for the Segue Poetry Series; within your art curation there have been books, art with language and writing as a major feature …
KS: Over the past few years I’ve produced exhibitions and events under a wide spectrum of parameters — from simple one-artist exhibitions (or two-poet readings) to collaborative models that I formulate and solicit participation for, to freelance curating where the work is preselected and I’m expected to synthesize, manage, and optimize the presentation. Each particular matrix of strictures and priorities has been productive and hugely rewarding for me, in terms of flexing my muscles as a facilitator of discourse in different contexts. So beyond focusing on formal variety among the cultural material I work with, I’m more interested in talking about the inter-structural status of my organizing itself — especially per curated events in a museum context, which for me have a bearing somewhere between poetry reading and exhibition.
Gossip or history