An interview with Andrea Quaid and Harold Abramowitz
Digital feeds at the end of March seemed like a dire rush of pandemic and political news; however, at moments, one may have seen a flood of posts that featured the gorgeously designed cardboard boxes of Urgent Possibilities, Writings on Feminist Poetics & Emergent Pedagogies light up the streams as a buoying intervention. Edited by poet and scholar Andrea Quaid and published by experimental novelist Harold Abramowitz’s innovative eohippus labs, Urgent Possibilities is an anthology of pamphlets and collects seventeen individual ones in a box custom designed by Kate Johnston. The pamphlet anthology features feminist poets Ching-In Chen, Gabrielle Civil, Corinne Dekkers, Elæ [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson], Emma Gomis, Jen Hofer, Brenda Iijima, Alexandra Juhasz, erica kaufman, traci kato-kiriyama, Janice Lee, Eirenne Nealand, Angela Peñaredondo, Andrea Quaid, Margaret Rhee, Jon Rutzmoser, Jennifer Scappettone, Celina Su, and Adrienne Walser, and their contributions drawn from the Feminist Poetics and Emergent Pedagogies symposium, organized last spring at Bard College in Los Angeles.
Urgent Possibilities signals how the ephemeral discussions and connections made at a conference or poetry reading can be sustained in tactile forms. I helped organize the conference with Andrea, and it’s inspiring to witness the ways Andrea and Harold brought the conference space to life with the special issue. The gorgeously designed Urgent Possibilities collects work by symposium participants with documents, elaborations, and essays, including poems, poetic tracts, essays, workshop plans, and more. Harold and Andrea’s special issue signals urgent questions on the intersections of pedagogy and poetics through a feminist lens. While in August 2020 our social media feeds haven’t changed much, Urgent Possibilities punctuates hope. What follows is an interview with Andrea and Harold on their process of creating Urgent Possibilities, their commitment to poetics and community, small-press publishing, education equity, editorial radicality, their RAD! Series at the Poetic Research Bureau, and feminist poetics in Los Angeles and beyond.
The edited collection arrives at such a pertinent political time, and it’s been buoying to see it light up social media feeds. Could you describe the experience editing and designing the project as drawn from a symposium setting? Did you anticipate its arrival at such a pertinent time?
Urgent Possibilities grew out of the Feminist Poetics, Emergent Pedagogies symposium organized by Andrea Quaid and Margaret Rhee. From the beginning, the symposium and publication were connected in the sense that an imagined future publication was part of the initial symposium planning stages. So the publication has always been part of the vision of the symposium — to host an event where people come together, share work and conversations — and then a publication that aims to extend that conversation, which hopefully others can join, in a sense, by reading the pamphlets. Eireene Nealand, one of the contributors, referring to the publication, said “thank you for bringing us all together again!” and we love that idea of gathering together again as texts. We couldn’t have imagined the release to have come at this time, and we debated pretty intently whether or not to even proceed. We decided that it was important for the work to go out, and it turned out to be a good decision. The reception has been amazing. We are grateful.
In many ways, the project reminds me of the CUNY chapter series; however, the Annex Series pamphlet anthology’s loose pamphlets and gorgeously designed graphics and the cardboard box makes it such an intervention in these times of delivery. It really captures the spirit of the feminist presentations and collectivity shared. Could you both talk more about the design process and decisions you made in regards to the pamphlet design?
The CUNY project is one of our favorites. We love a pamphlet, especially a pamphlet anthology! Pamphlets — in form and in spirit, as an ephemeral form — have always been at the heart of eohippus labs, so it was a perfect match to do the post-symposium publication with eohippus labs. As part of their Annex Series, Urgent Possibilities is one of several pamphlet anthologies of various sizes, styles, and kinds brought to being by the work of invited editors. Because pamphlets can be put together in interesting ways and made relatively easily, they open up publication possibilities. For this project, because each piece is published as a standalone pamphlet, we were able to break the form of a more-traditional book anthology. No two boxes are exactly the same — the pamphlets are ordered differently and randomly, and ultimately the reader is free to order and reorder the box as they wish, and, because we did all of it by hand, there are the little imperfections of collating, stapling, and folding that come with living room publishing. We like DIY work and the publication process, though enormous for us in this case, allowed us to stay even more connected to the spirit of the symposium and its inventive energy. (The symposium included experimental panels, pedagogy workshops, potluck, poetry reading, and restorative practices in community.)
We decided that we wanted the project to be functional and nice to look at. We think an anthology of pamphlets is a way for people to have their work individually presented and still be in the collective space of the box. Kate Johnston created the stunning box design, Harold did the design and layout for the pamphlets, Andrea did the editing, so it was an opportunity to add even more layers of collaboration and aesthetic points-of-view to the project.
There are so many incredible feminist poets and writers included in the project. Could you highlight or elaborate on some of the entries and pamphlets included and the feedback for the publication thus far?
On editorial and design levels, it was amazing to get to work with such a variety of texts — poems, poetic tracts, essays, experiments, documents, pedagogical interventions, and workshop plans.
Ching-In Chen presents a pedagogy workshop script. Its world-making vision asks us to think about decision-making as it invites us to move in new ways. They ask, how can we vision, move, and work together?
Gabrielle Civil writes about a class performance event contrasting Black teenage girls visiting from a local high school to the more disembodied energy of some of the college students. She asks about the prescriptions of PWIs and pedagogical standards that foreclose ways of learning in the college classroom.
Elæ critiques an inattention to all of our bodies in the classroom, an unequally shared oppression that is experienced and lived more by some than others. They offer a pedagogical vision and prompts to facilitate change.
Brenda Iijima asks a reader to consider political protest, language work, and how posthumous knowledge is a form of teaching the living.
Alexandra Juhasz documents her Fake News Poetry Workshops in a text of multiple voices interrupting to intervene into state-news speak.
erica kaufman explores pedagogy with poems and a prose piece that discusses how writers, teachers, and presses (Belladonna*!) can open space for conversations across difference.
Janice Lee’s poems reflect on movements between and through connection and separation.
Eireene Nealand analyzes her ongoing play-performance project to remind us that, despite seeming to be solely abstractions, apps and algorithms are moving and moved by bodies and emotions.
Angela Peñaredondo’s poetic-critical-imaginative text explores diasporic hybrid poetics and pedagogies. She writes in conversation with friends and the works of other writers and artists.
Andrea Quaid shares notes on the symposium and what it means to be in conversation with others.
Margaret Rhee’s beautiful piece about feminist poetics, pedagogy, and the interpersonal relationships at the heart of how we learn and whom we learn with.
Jon Rutzmoser tells the story of a single class, using theory and reflection to challenge presumptions of “knowledge about” students at every turn.
Jennifer Scappettone’s scholarly and creative research intersect in a piece on ecologies of place, harm, and learning; it closes with a dream and tribute to Marthe Reed.
Celina Su weaves together poetics, pedagogy, and place with politics and a call for an “ecology of care” when writing and being with others.
Adrienne Walser documents her work in education — its tensions and the serious labor it takes to commit to teaching and learning in stressed and often-underserved systems.
You both work together, and as a couple, and I’ve long admired you both as organizers of Open Press! and the RAD! Residencies series at Poetic Research Bureau and on the boards of presses such as Les Figues. Can you both speak a bit more about collaborating, curating, and publishing together and create experimental writing in Los Angeles?
This is a good time to go to the Jacket2 archive and link to an earlier collaborative project, A Primer!
eohippus labs started as an organic collaboration with Amanda Ackerman. Harold, could you elaborate on the organic process of editing and publishing for eohippus, and elaborate on how the organic process resists mainstream publishing models?
eohippus labs is an editorial and publishing hub for various kinds of literary projects, large and small in scope. We’ve published enormous projects like this one, with its box and seventeen pamphlets, and we’ve published tiny, one-page, anonymous tracts that are meant to circulate in stealth! eohippus projects are focused on the collaborative interests of the editors at any given time and in various formations and on getting work and ideas we love out to readers, so, in all those ways, it really has little to do with any traditional publishing models.
We love the reading, conference, symposium, and all the conversations that take place before, during, and after events. One aim of Urgent Possibilities is in pausing on those special conversations and extending them beyond the event (which, for us, is a little different than documenting). Some of the energy that saw this particular project through during such momentous and difficult times is the excitement of wanting to help keep a conversation going.
Andrea Quaid’s work focuses on poetry and poetics, pedagogy, and feminist studies. She is coeditor of Acts + Encounters, a collection of works about experimental writing and community, and Urgent Possibilities, Writings on Feminist Poetics and Emergent Pedagogies. She is series cofounder and editor of Palgrave Studies in Contemporary Women’s Writing. Her work appears in albeit, American Book Review, BOMBlog, Entropy, Feminist Spaces Journal, Jacket2, Lana Turner, LIT, Los Angeles Review of Books, Manifold, and Syllabus. With Harold Abramowitz, she curates RAD! Residencies at the Poetic Research Bureau. She teaches in the Bard College Language and Thinking Program and Institute for Writing and Thinking. She also teaches in the Critical Studies department at California Institute of the Arts. She cofounded and directs Humanities in the City, a nonprofit organization committed to education access and equity and the transformational power of interdisciplinary humanities study in classrooms and communities.
Nominally about story and perception, at its heart, Harold Abramowitz’s writing is epistemological. It asks that attention be given to the mode of telling. He is the author and coauthor of books and chapbooks, including Colloquy at The Abyss (with Will Alexander), Blind Spot, Dear Dearly Departed, Man’s Wars and Wickedness: A Book of Proposed Remedies and Extreme Formulations for Curing Hostility, Rivalry, and Ill-Will (with Amanda Ackerman), and UNFO Burns a Million Dollars. Harold’s work has appeared in various publications and anthologies. He coedits the short-form literary press eohippus labs, codirects the curational hub RAD!, and teaches in the department of General Studies at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles.