Empathy under late capitalism

PennSound podcast #71


Levi Bentley, Ted Rees, and Danielle LaFrance met in the Wexler Studio in November 2019 to discuss LaFrance’s books Just Like I Like It and Friendly + Fire as a part of the Housework series. Their conversation touched on the gross and grotesque, “it” as ideology, abolishing the self and the “sovereign I,” empathy in a late-capitalist world, and the discomfort of being both a participant in and host to parasitic social injustice.

Danielle LaFrance lives on occupied and stolen lands cared for by the Xʷməθkʷəy̓m, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. LaFrance comes from Greek and Dutch ancestry and is learning where the French Canadian relatives came from. Following the would-be poetics mapped in Just Like I Like It (Talonbooks, 2019), LaFrance arrives at reading and writing from a position knowing illusions are destroyed. LaFrance’s poetry project #postdildo thinks and acts through fantasy, rape culture, modes of communication, yearnings, aftermaths, and lost ideas. Much animal love. LaFrance makes money as a community librarian and from side hustles. With Anahita Jamali Rad, LaFrance coedited the journal and discussion series About a Bicycle, of which there were five issues. LaFrance authors Friendly + Fire (Talonbooks, 2016) and Species Branding (Capilano University Editions, 2010). LaFrance invests in listening and/or addressing and/or responding to the radical root of things.

Levi Bentley is a poet, 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow, and 2017 Leeway Art and Change grantee. They live in Philadelphia, where they design and coedit Asterion Projects with Ted Rees. They have released chapbooks through Lamehouse Press, 89plus/LUMA Foundation, Damask Press, and Well Greased Press. Poems have appeared in Apiary, Bedfellows, BlazeVOX, Elective Affinities, Emerge: 2019 Lambda Anthology, Fact-Simile, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Rupture, Stillwater Review, Toho, The Wanderer, We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, and a variety of other venues. Their work listens to material conditions of queerness, precarity, and animacy through a multiplicity of mode, voice, and strategy.

Ted Rees is a poet, essayist, and editor who lives and works in Philadelphia. His book of poetry, Thanksgiving: a Poem, was published by Golias Books in April 2020. His first book of poetry, In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame, was published by Timeless, Infinite Light in 2018. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Perfect Vacuumbaest, and Larry Yount. He is editor-at-large for The Elephants and coedits Asterion Projects with Levi Bentley. — Quinn Gruber