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

from Madeleine E.

scottie suspended

[INT. Scottie’s Bedroom (NIGHT)]

There is no dead matter. Lifelessness is only a disguise behind which hide unknown forms of life.
(Bruno Schulz, “Treatise on Tailors’ Dummies, or The Second Book of Genesis”)

Vertigo Vertigo Vertigo
In this book, a man goes through a painful divorce. He believes his wife has cheated on him, and she maintains her innocence. They scream at each other about every little thing. Any time she’s late, even by a minute, any time she has to leave the house early or unexpectedly. He starts checking her computer, her cell phone. The whole thing goes on in the only way it can until the two finally decide they can’t live with each other anymore. We never learn whether the wife really was cheating on the husband. She takes a job in another city, and the man grieves. He loved his wife, but he couldn’t stand the thought of her cheating on him. It is, he thinks, the thought that she didn’t love him as much as he did her, that in some way, she had the better end of the deal, because she could just walk away. He gets upset thinking about it. He thinks that this thought is itself a sign of some sort of instability. He starts seeing a therapist.

This man is an instructor at the university. One of his students looks almost exactly like his ex-wife, though he does not see the resemblance. The whole thing is related to us by a third-person narrator, not the man, who tells us that the student looks like the ex-wife, and tells us the man doesn’t realize it: The student is a brunette and his wife was a blonde, but in other ways, the two are nearly identical. The student graduates and takes a job in publishing. The man sells his next book, a study of the film Vertigo, to the publishing company she now works for. The two reconnect at a party and begin seeing each other. The man’s friends mistake this former student for the man’s ex-wife. They comment on how young she looks, how much they like her hair, how good it is to see the two of them together—all these innocuous comments that are just vague enough they don’t tip off the man or his student that the man’s friends think that she is really his ex-wife. The student has never met the ex-wife, and the man doesn’t have any pictures of her—too painful; he has thrown them away—so she has no idea that she looks so much like the ex-wife.

The man and his former student decide to get married. They go to visit the former student’s parents. It is an awkward visit. The parents are polite, but it is clear they do not approve—there is the difference in their ages to consider, and the fact that she is his former student. On the last night of the visit, the father asks the man to accompany him on his nightly walk. While they walk, the father tells the man a story. Continue reading

How potent cheap music can be

Over the last five or six years I’ve become obsessed with post-war British history. It started as part of an on-going project on the history of British science fiction in which I wanted to look at the literature in relation to the social, cultural, political and scientific milieu from which it arose. But that project is in abeyance at the moment, there are too many other things in the way. But the interest in the social and cultural history has not abated. I’ve always got a book on the subject to hand, by Sandbrook or Marr, Hennessy or Beckett. Maybe it’s a factor of my age, this is mostly the world I’ve lived through; maybe it’s nostalgia: gosh I remember that.

modernity britainCurrently I’m reading the first volume of David Kynaston’s Modernity Britain, which covers the years 1957-59. Kynaston is wonderful if you want to get a flavour of what books people were reading, what television programmes they watched, what wireless broadcasts they listened to, and what they actually thought about all of this. But I only turned five in the September of 1957: how much of this am I likely to remember? Continue reading

From Canada, with Despair

Pasha Malla, a Canadian writer, has put together some thoughts on the current state of how we speak about writing in Canada. I imagine some of his points will be familiar to readers in other countries. Up here fiction writers don’t talk enough in the open about such matters, and his at times humourous approach is welcome. “27 Thoughts About CanLit” — there could be hundreds. But he was only being paid so much, as you’ll see.