Reviews - September 2011

File under: new media poetics, electronic literature, technotext, flarf and so on

A review of 'Electro Þerdix'

Christopher Funkhouser is a poet engaged in exploring the multiple possibilities of digital language. That involves not only writing pieces using word-processing software but also sound-design and the composition of visual pieces in video—and not rarely he mixes both media. File him under: new media poetics, electronic literature, technotext, flarf and so on.

The letters of the alphabet and letters to the dead

A review of 'Two'

 I: Two slim volumes

Paul Vangelisti’s newest collection, Two, despite being only ninety some pages long, is comprised of two distinct, chapbook length sequences. The cover design reflects this by superimposing the black numeral “2” over a yellow “Two” on a bright red background. But the mood of the contents is much more subdued. Maybe characterizeable as a muted palette blend of the cover colors—resulting in a quiet, brooding Burgundy with glints of winter sun?

The two sections of Two are very different, but what they do have in common is a quizzical maturity on the cusp of aging. A sense that memory’s a meager compensation for what’s lost. And that the better part of what’s to be gained in life, has probably already been gained. This isn’t “late life” work. Vangelisti has only just turned sixty-five and the material in Two goes back some years. The tone seems more reminiscent of that George Simenon memoir, When I was Old, which ends around the age of sixty with Simenon’s nagging sense of mistrust for what may come. In contrast with the same author’s late life Intimate Memoirs. That Simenon tome, despite some true intervening miseries, ends with the now really old storyteller, intimately and serenely consoled and warmed by his young Italian housekeeper-mistress.

On 'Both Sides and the Center'

A review of the festival, part one

Bhanu Kapil’s performance “Schizophrene [Remix].” Photo by Harold Abramowitz.
Bhanu Kapil’s performance “Schizophrene [Remix].” Photo by Harold Abramowitz.

If the centre has the place then there is distribution.
That is natural. There is a contradiction and naturally
returning there comes to be both sides and the centre.
That can be seen from the description.

— Gertrude Stein, “Rooms,” Tender Buttons, 1914

Both Sides and the Center, a three-day experimental literary festival, took place recently in Los Angeles. Superbly curated by Amina Cain and Teresa Carmody, and in association with Les Figues Press, the first two days were hosted at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, with the third day at another Schindler-designed home, the Fitzpatrick-Leland house. 

Blueprints, or sight-maps

A review of 'Meddle English'

Meddle English: New and Selected Texts includes a broad range of texts that vary in texture and rhetorical means. Texts range from an engaging essay on the history and future of English (and language in general) to an essay on language as personally experienced by the author; from deft poetic trans-creations of Chaucer’s Middle English to blueprints, or sight-maps, for performance poetry; and from textual art and to visual art. A rare bounty of textuality, and for Bergvall this variety is intentional; she believes that the situation of contemporary poetry demands such resourcefulness: “Poetic art becomes an occupancy of language made manifest through various platforms, a range of instrumental tools and skills and relativized forms of inscription” (15–6).