Bernar Venet and the History of Conceptual Poetry

weatherIn writing about Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci (2006), edited by Craig Dworkin, Marjorie Perloff remarks on how much Acconci’s writing practice foreshadowed the so-called “uncreative writing” of Kenneth Goldsmith and other contemporary conceptualists:

How uncanny [. . .] that thirty-five years before Goldsmith produced his book The Weather (Los Angeles: Make Now Press, 2005), a transcription of a year’s worth (December 21, 2002-December 20, 2003) of hourly weather bulletins on WINS (1010), New York’s all-news radio station, Acconci should have produced a numbered text called “Act 3, Scene 4,” that begins like this:

1. The sun rises today, Thursday, December 26, 1968.
2. At 7:18 A.M., sets at 4:34 P.M., and will rise
3. tomorrow at 7:18 A.M. The moon sets today at 11:49
4. rises at 12:10 P.M. tomorrow and will set tomorrow
5. at 12:38 A.M. Warmer weather and clear to cloudy skies
6. will cover most of the eastern portion of the nation
7. today while snow is expected to fall on the western
8. lake region, the Northern Plains States, and from
9. the upper Mississippi Valley to the plateau region.

And it goes on in this vein for another ten pages…

Perloff goes on to say that Language to Cover a Page “provides the missing link between the first forays into a non-representational, non-expressivist poetics and its current incarnations.”

Yet Acconci wasn’t the only conceptual writer in the 1960s who appropriated weather reports. Bernar Venet, who is most well-known and celebrated as a sculptor, has done similar works.  Continue reading

On Nathaniel Mackey’s Blue Fasa (New Directions, 2015)

My review-essay on Nathaniel Mackey entitled “Root Work” appeared in the Boston Review yesterday. This is from the very beginning:

Nathaniel Mackey’s Blue Fasa is the latest installment of an ever-expanding “life work” in the tradition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Ezra Pound’s Cantos, and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson. Mackey, a recent recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Bollingen Prizes, has been adding new sections to the long poems Song of the Andoumboulou and “Mu” for decades. These two strands first emerged in Eroding Witness (1985) and were explicitly intertwined in the National Book Award–winning Splay Anthem (2006). What Mackey now calls  “a long song that’s one and more than one is a tale of the tribe with a planetary scope, an expansive lyrico-epic worthy of the cultural demands of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Mackey’s long song speaks to a range of conditions of uprootedness across time and space, conveying the affect of such diasporic experiences through a powerful musicality…

Continue reading

Jane Wong’s Impossible Map

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This is from the good people at Fact-Simile:

Jane Wong’s Impossible Map is now available.

The careful, quiet-yet-expansive voice of the poet called for a form that could echo both the minute movements and larger overtures of the work. The pop-up effect of the Turkish map folds within performs the expansion and contraction of language that Jane so deftly employs.

The poems are printed on EnviroKraft recycled paper. Artist and paper-maker Nicole Donnelly locally harvested the mulberry branches for and crafted the bark-like Amate covers for this breathing, organic text. It’s bound with nylon thread in a limited edition of 100.

Visit our website to learn more and to order your copy (and receive a special limited time pre-sale rate).

Celebrate the release of Impossible Map with Jane from wherever you are in the world at Fact-Simile’s virtual release party June 9th.

Using our free conference call line, dial in to this virtual live poetry reading from your phone:

Enter Dial-in Number: (641) 715-3580
Enter the Meeting ID: 479-309-276

Jane will start reading her poems at:
6:30 pm PDT / 7:30 pm MDT / 8:30 pm CDT / 9:30 pm EDT

For more information, please visit the event page.

Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry

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Christine Wong Yap. Untitled (one half gallon), 2006, paper, 8 x 8 x 1 inches / 20 x 20 x 2.5 cm.

 

I’m very happy about the recent publication of “Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry,” a folio I guest edited for The Margins. The folio presents writing and art (some of it previously unpublished) by Christine Wong Yap, Debora Kuan, Eileen Tabios, Jennifer Hayashida, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Shin Yu Pai, Walter K. Lew, O Chung, and John Yau alongside visual works by such artists as Yves Klein, Diane Arbus, Kiki Smith, and Toshiko Takaezu.
Continue reading

Shark Porn

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Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991)

 

Stephen Burt has a recent review, “Poems about Poems,” from the Nov/Dec issue of the Boston Review that begins,

If you write a book of poetry about sharks, you might get attention from readers who care about sharks. If you write a book of poetry that is explicitly and consistently about poetry—its institutions and conventions, how we decide what counts as poetry, what we expect it to do—you might get extra attention from readers who care about poetry, which is to say from anyone likely to pick up new poetry at all.

Who, you might ask, would want to write poetry about sharks?  But there is, of course, Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, which contains quite possibly the most sublime instance of shark pornography ever written.  This is from Georges Hugnet’s translation, published in 1965 by New Directions:

Continue reading

Jim Goar’s The Dustbowl (Shearsman, 2014)

223_4430The Dustbowl
Jim Goar
Shearsman 2014, 86 pp., $16, ISBN: 978-1-84861-321-8

Jim Goar’s third full-length collection The Dustbowl is compelling evidence that the legacy of the New American Poetry is alive and well. The centerpiece of Goar’s rich and strange new book is the title poem, a 55-page serial work, which is reminiscent of the long poems of Jack Spicer and Ed Dorn—in particular, Billy the Kid and Gunslinger, which both tap into the mythos of the American West. Additionally, Goar makes nods to Spicer’s 1962 book The Holy Grail as well as to Spicer’s oft-cited idea that the poet is a radio which receives Martian signals in the same way that a Romantic Aeolian harp receives the wind: “Only Grail music. All day. / Every day. Transmissions from the deepest / space. A station found but not my own.” There are also allusions to T. S. Eliot as well (another poet who, of course, drew on the Grail legend); Goar’s narrator, a mysterious sojourner charged with a “singular quest-ion,” says, “Kept / The Wasteland in my pocket. Turned it over / and over. Dust as far as the eye could see.” But rather than Eliot’s wasted Europe, the wasteland here is the Dustbowl of the southern Plains populated — anachronistically — by down and out Arthurian knights: “They keep coming. Knights / from the heart-land. Never had / a chance. Each and every one. The / promise of something more.” Indeed, the cover photo suggests that this poem is a meditation on the ruins of American migrancy, on dreams perpetually in deferral. Continue reading