Thom Donovan


Lyric's potential

Trying to write again about Rob Halpern's work, for a festschrift being put together by Richard Owens in celebration of Rob's forthcoming book Music for Porn, here are a couple paragraphs that may relate to this commentary:

Poetic and aesthetic techniques are neither progressive or retrograde, though I can certainly think of certain poets I would prefer to attend than others, and certain art that I think of as offering more to an existing conversation. Rather, poetic techniques — whether lyrical or not — have a particular application within different historical and cultural contexts, and the poet may be judged to some extent on how they choose to apply these techniques, how they take them up strategically or practically. Beyond “movements” and “coterie,” I want to look at practices and projects uniquely inasmuch as they may be misapplied, or find their application more effective in a different social context. We might also conceive of how particular techniques of writing or art offer more or less resistance to an existing matrix of power and domination. [...]

An appropriated form for spectacular action

flo6x8 in 'It's the Political Economy, Stupid'

image courtesy flo6x8

Before it closes, anyone around or passing through New York City should check out Oliver Ressler’s and Gregory Sholette’s exhibit at the Austrian Cultural Forum, “It's the Political Economy, Stupid.” Here is how the curators describe the show:

Today, the very idea of the modern nation state is in jeopardy as the deterritorialized flow of finance capital melts down all that was once solid into raw material for market speculation. This exhibition represents one response to this crisis. It derives its title from candidate Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” modified here by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

It’s the Political Economy, Stupid brings together an international group of artists who use their work to critique 30 years of neoliberal globalization, privatization, flexible work schedules, deregulated markets, all of which have driven most of the world’s governments to wholly or partly abandon their previous role as arbitrators between the security of the majority and the profiteering of the corporate sector.

Someplace other than what he read and the video he showed

David Buuck and the reenactment of Occupy Oakland

image copyright Lawrence Schwartzwald
image copyright Lawrence Schwartzwald

This past Saturday David Buuck presented at the Bowery Poetry Club for the Segue Series. I say “presented,” rather than “read,” as his reading featured video and song in addition to recitation. David has been exploring a very interesting range of problems in an expanded field of poetry for some time. Some of this is contained in his book The Shunt, which appeared with Palm Press in 2009. Yet the majority of it has been documented through pamphlets the poet-artist-theorist has put out himself, under the moniker BARGE, which stands for The Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-aesthetics, and more recently on Vimeo.

While I have long admired David’s performances, which blend constraint-based writing with movement, dance, and music, this Saturday had an added urgency as he addressed conflicts between participants in the occupy movement and police in his native Oakland.

For years David and I have had an ongoing conversation about the uses (and abuses) of “reenactment” for public demonstration and aesthetic intervention. His 2008 work, Buried Treasure Island (which I discuss in a previous article at Jacket 2, on “Somatic Poetics”), features “pre-enactments” of what he hopes will be future ecological actions and sites, figured through the artist Gordon Matta-Clark for whom he has named a yet-to-be-remediated “park” on the island.

Reenactment came up in a different way through the performance at Segue, where David first read what seemed to be a series of instructions for dance and/or movement (like ones a Yoga instructor might give, or he and I might give our students at Bard College’s Language and Thinking workshop). After reading these instructions — to bend your arm so many degrees, to place your chest on the ground, to exhale in a particular way — David proceeded to read from an Oakland police blotter, which he told me afterwards had been leaked by the hacktivist Anonymous only days before.

Recipe for writing a New York School poem

The following exercise was generated for the course I am teaching this semester at School of Visual Arts, which concerns “composition through orality,” or if you prefer Creative Speaking.

It is a “recipe” or constraint of sorts for writing a New York School poem (my class read James Schuyler, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Bernstein, and Dorothea Lasky—a heterodox selection, I realize; and listened to Eileen Myles, Schuyler, Robert Creeley, and Ron Padgett via PennSound).

Students were encouraged to use as many of the following "ingredients" as possible: 

  1. at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
  2. use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year)--especially the names of places in and around New York City
  3. prolific use of proper names
  4. at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
  5. one or more quotations, especially from things people have said in conversation or through the media
  6. a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said or proposed throughout your poem so far
  7. something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
  8. pop cultural references
  9. consumer goods/services
  10. mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)

Constraint is not silent nor at rest

Reading Larry Eigner's 'Areas Lights Heights' ten years later

Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston
Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston

Like an audio feed, I read you close, was your feelings tones, breath struggles, how this becomes our body


Too easy to forget, all the lines little deaths, no author knows, typing with their toes


Really though there is no death, just you transmit the trees two feet of dirt around you, this is what it means to live


To not escape into those particulars, to make them universalize the nostalgia for anything not seen out your window, not heard on NPR