Editor: Brian Ang
Assemblage poetics is concerned with how words and things may connect, how assemblages and practices that articulate them may connect, a collective project for reassembling totality.
– Brian Ang, “Assemblage Poetics”1
“Assemblage Poetics” proposed a poetics through connecting ten practices.2 Assemblage Sampler develops assemblage poetics further. I asked people considered in “Assemblage Poetics” to contribute and each bring in another person to continue constituting assemblage poetics, my intention being to decenter my editorial authority. Work from fourteen people that resulted will be serialized in alphabetical order on weekdays through April on this page.
1 Brian Ang, “Assemblage Poetics,” Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry 36: Art (2022), 148.
2 Brian Ang, The Totality Cantos (Atelos, 2022); Caleb Beckwith, Political Subject (Roof, 2018); a.j. carruthers, AXIS Book 1: Areal (Vagabond Press, 2014); Tom Comitta, The Nature Book (Coffee House Press, 2023); alex cruse, CONTRAVERSE (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2017); Paul Ebenkamp, Late Hiss (Desert Pavilion, 2021); Angela Hume, Interventions for Women (Omnidawn, 2021); Carrie Hunter, Vibratory Milieu (Nightboat Books, 2021); Michael Leong, Disorientations (forthcoming); Divya Victor, Curb (Nightboat Books, 2021).
3 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 422-423.
4 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (Seabury Press, 1973), 147.
5 Anthony Braxton, Tri-Axium Writings 1 (Synthesis Music, 1985), 3.
6 a j carruthers, “How AXIS may relate to Brian Ang’s The Totality Cantos and the idea of an ‘assemblage poetics’,” in Assemblage Sampler, ed. Brian Ang (2023).
Totality of Music
From A Thousand Records: 151-165
Four Poems + Poetics
a j carruthers
How AXIS may relate to Brian Ang’s The Totality Cantos and the idea of an “assemblage poetics”
From AXIS Z Book 3:
The Nature Book: Preface
The Nature Book: Process
I Could Never Never Be Lonely. A Breakbeat Container
Assemblage Poetics Statement
The Dead End That Just Wouldn’t Die
“To an Absent Future Self”
How I Sound
Kevin CK Lo
The Audience Plays Itself (2022)
From Embarking Lot
Plane : Frame : Sieve
From Mean Body:
The tonal shape of my dream
Hands in the cultural tip jar
Novelty (A Haunting)
Jessica L. Wilkinson
A Thousand Records is open to the totality of music in five hundred sections. Some principles from The Totality Cantos are continued here: “Every line [is] a complete poem, a totalization, a singularity, a made thought.... [Every section consists] of lines of one through ten words long and aligned flush left and to nine indentations in order to produce dynamic durations and spacings. Every length and alignment [occurs] before being repeated in the next section. Arrangement of lines [are] determined by random numbers. In the transition between sections, equal lengths and alignments [are] prevented from being adjacent in order to maintain dynamic consistency. Any section [can] be excerpted and connected to any other as long as equal lengths and alignments are not adjacent.”1
1 Brian Ang, “Preface: Totality and Method,” The Totality Cantos (Atelos, 2022), 9.
2 Ibid., 9-10.
Ambient team baby archangel change potshots
Oversexed interconnected class-action guru smile banquet waltz
Mental wire action beat continuum ratones
Bridge shoulder spider song radio boy
Sublime leveled dirty details
Empty performance recording veteran’s heed courtesy crowd clichés
Perfectly tight-knit pitch-black universe chord identity statement sensibility out-of-towners
Class-conscious down-home superman support song century navigation intro invasion differences
Disorienting mummy’s blues lines
Transformative cranking burned lineup
Sections 156-160 were read at Brian Ang and Anne Lesley Selcer at Your Mood Gallery and 161-165 were read at Lone Glen: Utter Assemblage with Brian Ang, Aditya Bahl, and David Lau.
Brian Ang wrote The Totality Cantos (Atelos 2022). totalitycantos.net includes the complete text and a generator that randomizes assemblages of its one thousand sections. Prose: “Assemblage Poetics”; editor: Assemblage Sampler and ASSEMBLAGE; current poetic project: A Thousand Records, open to the totality of music.
familiar riff to chill with unnamed particulars
framed angle played on repeat
album at first dead by
cloud but only if they
reckon dreams planted trees neath
my footless company stay based
and target every trevor not
properly managing their emotion pleats
nicely as like units decline
just try to forget everyday
polyphony lost to hanger got
great at gathering around swallow
pigments hunted rusty from advance
use disorder we hope obscurant
always can’t make them help
thinking twice more than three times as strong
except fear of missing our
contingent spent cycle surfs the
plane of immanence their misreading
broke heights by stone prepared
an altar void twenty-five scrolling
chariots roam your foghorn’s
unbecoming enlighten converted zeal staring
back at cyber cliche crests
is it too neat to dangle
screams or can we move
past emotion to unseat their
remembering the sun found my
optic curve unmanly thou pronounced
dead and burial ten counting
give me your gains and I’ll take your hand
off the cusp of meaning
squats wink crepuscular not quite
but already broken hands linked
my friends splitting home and
home away must have found
out working tensions docs shaded
by interpersonal slurry what vaguely
flavor renders must be dissolved
they did the second goat
shrug at cancelled to kept
pipeline towers gathering east
refuge denied alarm with massive
easing taken thru stoner quantities
set below light sorry are
believing again and yet already coping over two summers from now
gearing up to dead half
defeated by eminent stone buzz
on quantitive east goink how’s
it alarm when crisis cancels
five minutes to ending whip
of nisk by accident shaped
like midwestern states of conscious
tude max keeping urn grease
valid critiques pause at bad
actors on reading terminal face
defeated like a buzz their
indefinite referent licked salt back
swallows in the foreground cast
your hat aside and judgment
Collage as the central principle of a modernism we have yet to overcome
Assemblage as an orientation toward collage that maintains the integrity of meaning
Personhood in the material that finds us, not the stories we tell ourselves
Opposed to narrative as subjective transformation for anyone but you
Being aligned with form—what Kate might call the container—as an inevitable extension of singularity
A basket into which signifiers are thrown
The extent to which I inhabit the poem in relief
Caleb Beckwith lives in the Hudson Valley and publishes books as Dogpark with Kate Robinson 🤠
a j carruthers
Now let us sing what is the cause that gives
The stars their motions. First, if the great globe
Of heaven revolves, then we must say that air
Presses upon the axis at each end,
And holds it from outside, closing it
At both poles; also that there streams above
Another current, moving the same way,
In which the stars of the eternal world
Roll glittering onward; or else that beneath
There is another stream, to drive the sphere
Upwards the opposite way, just as we see
Rivers turn wheels round with their water-scoops.
— Titus Lucretius Carus, De Rerum Natura, Book 5
It is true of AXIS that each book has for itself a discrete style or theme, but the unity of each in to a whole is a projection, that is of a projected whole, totality yet to come. As of yet there is no totality, no exclusive whole that is the final AXIS.
In a sense we are tempted to think the idea of totality is the end of process. Come totality all ends because process ends, movement and accretion end. All excludes to the discrete whole. Of AXIS what can be known is that it is an assemblage of parts that in themselves are whole, of books and books within books.
Downward procession of the lines, otherwise “vertical stanzas,” allows for longer lines, but in a sense the line is still horizontal, one word “per” line. In Eastern and other scripts it is very normal to write characters vertically downward, one character at a time, and some non-Eastern writing, like that of Robert Lax, has also developed the downward running of lines, though in Lax the separation between words is extreme. To return to a downward procession of single words now feels very natural and is how AXIS is written.
In first book of AXIS, Book 1: Areal, I searched for an area and an areality of things, a necessary space for the poem. It is impossible to write a long poem without a feeling of geography and space, even if that space is that of the page, book, book within the book. I had taken an interest in music for the structuring of the poem more than as an incorporated element, more external than internal because I had not yet considered it prosodic. Other of my works, particularly stanzaic works inspired by Hopkins, have become a more intrinsic music. But between structural and symbolic music has come to do many things for AXIS. There is the use of music as a unifying structure, an harmony of the spheres that has come down to the poem and its Symbols. There is the sense of music as a capstone, a way to end, as the Zukofskys did with “A”, that is to end with music and finish the whole poem with it. In AXIS, music and notation appear at the end but also in the middle – m/n – as of the letters in the middle of the alphabeast. Music in the middle becomes an axial pole around which the disc turns. Brian Reed, writing on the music of AXIS, particularly a setting of a poem by Michael Dransfield called “Still Life,” argues that it is
a meta-poetic statement about poetry in general and Australian poetry in particular. He takes a preexisting work by a canonical poet and sets it, that is, places it in a new location with additions and modifications. He gives readers guidelines for how they might interact with the poem; he does not attempt to “control” them. Agency, in this model, is fully distributed. A poet plays a part in a poem’s life, but he does not set himself up as exclusive origin or authority. Carruthers also contrasts this way of proceeding, of composing, to the version of authorship represented by Dransfield, who oscillated between self-assertion and self-undermining. Raphael Allison’s humanist and skeptical options. Carruthers’ poem proves that old binary to be obsolete. (14)
Though I cannot be certain of the exact dimensions of a meta-poetics, I do feel this on the whole to be true, for neither of these options – either humanist or skeptical – have I felt the need to plunge fully towards. As to totality, it may indeed be reached better by some healthy self-undermining, yet that cannot do for to reach an vaster sense of things either. One cannot hope that to retract oneself from everything will do the trick of finding a greater totality. To assert oneself at the centre of things is some way necessary for the long poem poet. Between inscape and outscape, between full presence and thrown detachment, surely somewhere there the vista of totality opens. Music has the distinction of being so far outside poetry and so far within it that the contradiction it sets forth charge these dualisms. Music is both an escape from poetry and a new location for it.
Ang’s impetus for the political thinking of totality is the 2008 financial crisis. It should be known that because I am not an American poet, it is only natural that I will have a different experience of the political and geopolitical approach to totality, and a different perspective on it. I think in terms of those events that encapsulate our “present struggle,” the geopolitical beginnings of this far before, with the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, that featured the Australian military, and numerous other interventions both explicit and hidden, whose evental precursors are the long Fall of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia (1989–) and the geopolitical imbalances thereafter. In short, there is no thinking of totality in our time without Empire and without thinking geopolitical materialism and the materiality of nations – not at all divorced from the question of classes. By Empire we mean the USAmerican Empire, and how its discourses, or probably more accurately, its ideologies – progressive or regressive – can permeate the globe in a flash. How we all consume the United States of America, how we all live in Americanisation, to use Samir Amin’s style of phrasing, is a concern of totality in light of the Imperial World-Interior of the USA.
Allison, Raphael. Bodies on the Line: Performance and the Sixties Poetry Reading. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2014.
Ang, Brian. “Assemblage Poetics.” Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry 36 (December 2022): 147-59.
Ang, Brian. The Totality Cantos. Berkeley: Atelos, 2022.
Carruthers, aj. AXIS Book 1: Areal. Sydney: Vagabond, 2014.
Carruthers, aj. AXIS Book 2. Sydney: Vagabond, 2019.
Reed, Brian. “Setting a Poem: A.J. Carruthers’ ‘Music, After Michael Dransfield.” Foreign Literature Studies (June 2017): 8-15.
Williams, W.C. “Preface.” Poetry: The Australian International Quarterly of Verse. Ed. Flexmore Hudson. Adelaide: Economy Press, 1947. 1-12.
This novel contains no words of my own. Through a process of collage and constraint, I have gathered nature descriptions from over three hundred novels and arranged them into a single book.
Tom Comitta, “Preface,” The Nature Book (Coffee House Press, 2023), ix-x.
The Nature Book: Process
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE, May-August 2016
Tom Comitta is the author of The Nature Book, recently out from Coffee House Press. Their other books include 〇 (Ugly Duckling Presse), Airport Novella (Troll Thread), and First Thought Worst Thought: Collected Books 2011–2014 (Gauss PDF), a print and digital archive of forty “night novels,” art books, and poetry collections. In 2015, Royal Nonesuch Gallery installed these books in a multimedia exhibition containing drawings, video, vinyl window installation, and a sound poetry computer program. Comitta’s fiction and essays have appeared in WIRED, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Kenyon Review, BOMB, Joyland, The Brooklyn Rail, and BAX: Best American Experimental Writing 2020. They live in Brooklyn.
0th Aubade IMAGINES THE CORPORATE PLATFORM AS STAGE: FOR A POEM-PLAY, A SET OF INTERCHANGEABLE TASKS, A SPECULATIVE FANFICTION? ITS LANGUAGE IS ITS CHARACTERS: sascha NONEXTINCT_ENSIGN AND VERSTECK (SN_E’) SPEAK AS REMIXED DRAINAGE OF OUR FRACTURED COPRESENCE – ITS TENSIONS, IRONIES, CONTRADICTIONS, AFFECTS, TONE, AND PAIN. IT TAKES PLACE ALL THE TIME.
0th Aubade (2022 - ongoing) concludes the numb angel trilogy, preceded by ZERO ENERGY EXPERIMENTAL PILE (Compline, 2020) and Era of Zero (a chapbook self-released via dead drop in 2019). each installment encounters digitality not with but as philosophy, thinking with its constitutive lacks. the opposite of content, numb angels cypher the networked subject – as etymological messengers; as modern-day investors; as productive and mobile avatars having limited contact with the physical world.
alex cruse works in and across poetry, sound, visual art, film, installation, movement, performance, and public assembly, on Chochenyo Ohlone land. cruse and Kevin CK Lo are DROUGHT SPA, an interdisciplinary experiment and anticapitalist research platform. They have exhibited and performed around the US and world. Writing and other work can be found in: Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience; Terrain: Art & Crisis in Downtown Oakland, baest, CLOG Journal, Tripwire, Social Text, SFMOMA Open Space, and at alexcruse.xyz.
The pleasure of listening to a Tim Reaper set when driving down Highway 1 in the rain.
*title refers to the track “Lonely” by D’Cruze (1994)
Lara Durback (she/they) is a writer living in Oakland, CA for 15+ years (unceded Chochenyo Ohlone land). Lara is a maker of many crafts, dancer, roller skater, kitchen witch, scrap collector, archivist, companion to plants, and loves interactions outside. She is thinking about her family of origin (factory workers indebted to the Catholic Church) and how their legacy influences present life force and health. She chooses lineages of plants, animals, and land to make life full. They try to incorporate making art into a network of people that continue to care for one another and make the dead and the unseen come forth to be reckoned with.
Three kinds of space: writing, summoning, assembling.
for thinner ruins
ran its voice out
to the new past
in the first place
summer light like
reason in its mouth
licked in sand
and eyes in aspens
as shadows cast us
a new moon
everywhere and once
who loved government
in its new look
a heartbeat too
far for bodywork
dry to the touch
in an eon
down the door
took viscera and walked
then I wasn’t
now I’m not
along the circle it
took to get here
a world made
in another half-
crying with greed
under the sun’s
aching to be fucked
to new flesh
in ritual backlash
a vacuum to what it
keep the aspect
ratio stretched taut
in the defacing
thirst of its froth
ways for time
in anger and
and music that
seems only to recede
hey great spirit
my lab skin
backlit into a-
fed the air I
knew I needed
to be wrong or
my chrome hungered
from the depths
of a bloodclot
as the selective
evil of attention
as pops and skips
people laughing into view
and a peace fell
upon the media
asleep at the top
of its lungs
sucking its loopholes
thinking there’s time
in the world
wherein I’d spin
back apart if we
weren’t already walking
through the bright side
of what none know
breeze of fixative
how to live
what to do
if I couldn’t
maybe I would
in wrought narrows of
where’s this going
where are you
the sky a blue
wall of silence
in the shape of
what I told
bleed it back
written such that
you could hear the
world around me
praying through its teeth
a window’s defense
the mirror in knots
too much to remember
too much to forget
to work like that
to fit in the trap
a heat lamp in
soul taped to the
back of its head
in a chaos of worth
light of day of
in fear of enough
and form and color and
the more you dig
the less there is
“that told no tale
and let no witness in”
from the festive
teething its niche
painkillers to miss
right and wrong
gnarl the wind
goes the way it came
no analysis textures it
endures the perfect
it is possible to concentrate
and still be useless
into the casual
cruelty of personal space
and gory lamentations
over public figures
by the strobelights of home
from practice back
to habit back
to accident to
wild waste made
more sense the
more I’m decreated
the outside personal
be why I’m here
final touches collapse
middle begin again
for some singsong
in its body art
bit into the cusp
follow the blindspot
regalia loyal haters
follow dusk burst
like noise into law
still I hesitated
oh today won’t be
yesterday for long
and between deaths
of life led me
and when I lived
what was the difference
foundation crept in
we never turn around
stiffen and wane
in the dead of spring
time does not tell
time does nothing
Paul Ebenkamp is author of The Louder the Room the Darker the Screen (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2015), Late Hiss (Desert Pavilion, 2021) and Regular Acid Consciousness (Despite Editions, 2022). As Position, he released the home-noise album Prism Trash in 2019 (paulebenkamp.bandcamp.com). The Bottom-Right Corner of All Things, a compendium of visual art, is in the works.
“It’s called strategic ambiguity.”2 “Retrograde can bring in a lot of clarity.”3 “He had not at all the gusto my mother had.”4
I don’t know why I’m surprised coming across multiple bramble references while reading poetry.5 Jaime Saenz, pro-alcoholism.6 “You’re a bath reader.”7
“To change place is to change meaning, even when that which is changed remains unchanged, so to speak.”8
“Here, in TV Land, ‘arse’ is most definitely a swear word.”9
Language is becoming writing.
I didn’t know Nashville had a nickname.
There are no apples in my apartment.
i know it’s kinda sorta the theme tonight, but i love how long it takes for everything to happen
When you have a great desire for something, so great that it leads you to believe it will happen, and is even slightly likely to happen, or at least possible, but then it doesn’t and so your intuition was wrong and only a very strong desire.10 “The mystery as to the reasons behind his picks might be deliberately provocative. Or, he might just prefer songs in a minor key.”11 “How do you vacate language to get to the thing that matters?”12
“It’s that discomfort with our multiplicity that is actually about making us smaller.”13
“Seductively cohesive, glazed in experience.”14 The serial misuses of the central concept have not contributed to its legibility. “There’s a poetic history of talking about ‘opening the field’, but usually to more objects, not more people.”15 Rilke’s doubt that is a knowing.
Whether I hurt myself in yoga or if my injury simply revealed itself to me.
Juan Gonzalez is a Libra.16
It looks like the fish is talking.
“Almost time for Beatrice Dalle Hyperdrive.”
Sometimes I don’t want to see anyone, because I’ve finally figured out a way to focus
during the day and they will fuck that up.
“Commitment to absolute nonsense.”17
Collecting is not writing.
“I’m getting many thoughts at the same time.”18 “Betraying the story out of laziness.”19 I relate to Emmanuel Carrère’s20 view of vrittis being not so bad, and very interesting to the writer, and kind of get his aversion to Ram Dass’s (maybe fake) gentleness vs Orwell’s orneriness.
Always feeling split by something.
The disguise of the writing. “echoey, unverifiable, distance-haunted”21 “People continue bringing up Ukrainian military self-defense while leaving out the fact that there is a draft and many people want to leave rather than fight. I think a good position is to encourage all draft-dodging & sabotage of the military industrial complex already happening.”22
“I’m going to push back on the premise of your question.”23
I’m handling it wonderfully.
The fangs stay on during sex.
I have 147 albums listed on my full albums to-listen-to playlist. The shadows of the trees on the freeway, mistaken for tire skid marks. “Is forgiveness that is forced upon us true forgiveness?”24 “Ruskin had written a long series of books called Modern Painters. The whole thesis of the series was, in the Dark Ages, there was no light on the canvas.”25 Borders export instability away from imperialistic countries.26
“Mathematics is not just an enclave.”27
“Cherry picked clips.”28
Is this wine or grape juice?
The Dalai Lama says that if someone is rich or attractive it is because in a past life, maybe long, long ago they were generous or easy going. Even if they seem horrible now and we wonder how do they deserve their money or attractiveness, it may have come from long ago before they received the hurt they are currently enacting.29
“I know that the fact I’m making it makes me inseparable from it,” she explains. “But I want to be separated from it also.”30
“I go through them in a somewhat haphazard way from time to time if I’m looking for something. And when I do that, I stick labels on the cover that have lists of some of the material that I notice is in that notebook.”31 Deconstruction as the reinvention of religion.32 Morality tale about FOMO.
My commute took 8% of The Satanic Verses long to drive to work.
“The imperfections of the alphabetic writing.”33
“But when a song this woozy and evocative is on, it’s probably best to stop playing spot-the-influence and just let the thing pick you up and lift you away.”34
The Not-So-Holy Mountain.
Should I think for myself or should I think for you?
Therapy can be therapy.
“I will say as a gen-Xer it’s a little surprising that while the ostensibly left-wing Morrissey and Lydon of the 80s have gone fash, the seemingly apolitical Robert Smith has gone full luxury communist.”35 “A poetics of wanting to set up a field.”36 “A spoonful of honey and a pickle.”37
“These ladybugs represent ghosts, or ancient ancestors.”38
I’m looking for a pet too.
“The felicity of the so-called atonal.”39
“The text is a tissue of citations”40
I don’t love how so many movies must portray successful women as deeply insecure, it just doesn’t resonate with me. But maybe that is the truth of a lot of women’s experiences. I also thought the emotions at the end of this film were weirdly excessive; it’s a different type of drawing in to attention than action or suspense, but it does have the same effect of moving you outside of yourself.41
“The development of the practices of information retrieval extends
the possibilities of the ‘message’ broadly.”42
“I will not get too heavy into the Memphis Rap Sigil lore here.”43
Like fully red strawberries.
Me: *gathers as much elder wood as possible for reasons.
“This feels kind of light and fluid, until Kierkegaard.”44 “I start every day with it, in front of the mirror. I say, Andoumboulouousness.”45 Sheets a wreck, a quilt on the floor that thinks it has defeated gender. I don’t want another lesson, I want the real deal. An absolutely normal thing to bring with you to an autopsy.
Yoga dream of a man in a white shirt and skinny black tie, sneezing.
I didn’t know you could swipe right to see the duration.“Fear is a gift.”46
Soul mates are so stressful.
“a leg folder film”
“You are more trustworthy to me than many of the other rinpochens.”47 Celebration of our end, of our downfall, but not our downfall. Squiggle on a music score. “Explain this unit of measurement.”48 “You’ve created a binge situation.”49
“The position of the United States has been to try to undermine possibilities of negotiations” (between Russia and Ukraine)50
Asana practice is about observation, not performance.
The page is a secret.
Like a past that never
manifests, as if it’s night.
Impatient, and don’t even want what’s being offered.
“You can have females be XX and males be X (insects), you can have females be ZW and males be ZZ (birds), you can have females be females because they developed in a warm environment and males be males because they developed in a cool environment (reptiles),”51
I’ve been anti-family since I realized I was in one.
“If he goes down, so will journalism.”52
Being free is iterative, a rehearsal.
Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean its correct. Sordid stuff. Neither a law nor a vocation. Insomnia in solidarity. Disambiguation as a joke. Yoga teacher said the words “fleck,” “starfish,” and “proprioception.” I’m losing my light very quickly.
I wish I had a favorite window.
I feel like the math in this conversation is over my head.
A fake bird surrounded by real birds.
1 An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida by Peter Salmon
2 Noam Chomsky
3 Empress Rose. Tarotscopes 9-14-22. https://youtu.be/JIO_uoV6sYo
4 Jessamyn West
5 Eric Sneathen’s poetry mailing postmarked October 3, 2022
6 The Night
7 Stephen Malkmus
8 Ned Rorem
9 Control (2007)
10 Desire for my roommate to not come home on a particular night
11 Rachel Alm
12 Ronaldo V Wilson in conversation with Tonya M Foster, Poetry Center, SFSU, October 20, 2022
13 Tonya M Foster in conversation with Ronaldo V Wilson, ibid.
14 Kate Hutchinson
15 Roxi Power, youtube user comment
16 Co-host of Democracy Now
17 Kathleen Walsh
18 Old (2021)
19 Elena Ferrante
20 Yoga by Emmanuel Carrère
21 Ben Ratliff
22 @ytnessisdeath (Twitter)
23 Mehdi Hasan
24 Women Talking (2022)
26 Travelling While Black by Nanjala Nyabola
27 Of Grammatology by Derrida
28 Amy Goodman re: Tucker Carlson’s reporting on the January 6 Insurrection
29 Perfecting Patience: Buddhist Techniques to Overcome Anger by the Dalai Lama
30 Liz Harris
31 Lisa Robertson, https://spokenweb.ca/podcast/episodes/lisa-robertson-and-the-feminist-archive/
32 “Keeping Faith with Reason in Derrida” by Neil Saccamano
33 Of Grammatology by Derrida
34 Tom Breihan
35 @BL_Balthaser (Twitter)
36 Sarah Rosenthal, writing group. notes
37 Democracy Now, re: Alaa Abd El-Fattah
38 Empress Rose. Collective Tarot Reading. https://youtu.be/hTSjAbwjH38.
39 Tár (2022)
40 Barthes quoted in Kate Zambreno
41 Sibyl (2019)
42 Of Grammatology by Derrida
43 BeachSloth’s Newsletter 02.05.2023
44 Mary Burger, writing group notes
45 Nathaniel Mackey
46 His Dark Materials, S3E1
47 Se Dol
48 Lisa Marie Basile
49 Derek Gedalecia
50 Noam Chomsky
51 @Jehannamama (Twitter)
52 John Shipton, on Assange
Carrie Hunter received her MFA/MA in the Poetics program at New College of California, was on the editorial board of Black Radish Books, and for 11 years, edited the chapbook press, ypolita press. She has published around 15 chapbooks and has three full lengths, the most recent of which is Vibratory Milieu, out with Nightboat Books. She lives in San Francisco and curates the Your Mood Gallery readings series along with Selby Sohn.
[“Disorientations” collages together—and so “disorients”—two postmodern Orientalist texts: Kent Johnson’s Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada, a yellowface simulation of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) literature, and Roland Barthes’s Empire of Signs, a semiotic treatise based on an invented system Barthes calls “Japan.”]
One might say that the black leather sarcophagus
is a marvelled point-of-affluence. Arched by paper
cherry blossoms, it is only the preparatory substance
which permits departure. Slanted upward, the package
fulfills what is undone by the familiarity of fashion,
the package itself being a kind of crossed-out ticket
to the void.
Once through this narrow door, you will
discover a Zen priest and a painter from Ikebukuro
looking skyward, shaking their empty maracas
at the flash-point site of a thousand brittle meanings.
Quite close by are extensive networks of novelistic essence
corroborated by the howl of egrets, by a big and friendly
map of the Moon.
“Dress warmly,” say the young skiers,
“the basins of sake are almost steaming.”
a place is thereby to question that the words and the song
are one—or to interview the incessant centuries
and then rush-off to the lower depths of another day
only to find the monuments open-mouthed and sleeping.
To pass to the other side of Summer,
a good workman must keep the new and the brand-new
entirely distinct as they must establish the sumptuous
structure of India ink inside the prolonged
corridors of chanting.
Why waver over a
rolled-up newspaper hung specifically for the occasion?
We, who are without any goal but underground peace,
are to become fuel for the commercial organism, our
atomic bodies gleaming like the spit of a mongrel dog
in the imperial begging bowl.
The black granite
hood is apparently lined as well as edged with fur.
Can it absorb—like a landmark coming home
at great speed—this dense instability of forgetting?
My title makes an explicit nod to Amiri Baraka’s 1959 statement of poetics entitled “How You Sound??” in which he says, “You have to start and finish there... your own voice... how you sound.” In what follows, I’m going to explore the linkages between how I sound as an embodied speaker and how my “printed voice” sounds on the page. By analyzing my complicated relationship to the English language in both speech and writing, I hope to shed some light on why I—a writer marked by Asian ancestry—have committed to certain formal positions. I concur with Dorothy Wang, who argues in her study Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry, “How... an Asian American poet situate[s] herself in an Anglo-American poetic tradition when she is marked as [...] alien and [...] excluded from the category of ‘native speaker’” “surface[s] as much in the formal structures as in the thematic content [of her poems].” This is to say I want to investigate how the history of my subjectivity has interfaced with the history of my formalisms.
“... fictive correspondence from Jack Spicer to the Revue Asiatique, and well-known translations of World Literature that may occasionally reveal a reserve of politically symbolic recuperations or an unheard-of division of clouds.” Mercy!
This fragment ends with a particularly ornate postmodifying clause that is, itself, peppered with modifiers. It’s too much: but that’s part of the point. If my speaking voice tends to a flat neutrality, my printed voice accents itself with a hyperbolic ornamentalism. By luxuriating in such convolutions, I want to turn hypotaxis against itself. The objective is not—to quote Jaswinder Bolina—to “write like a white guy” nor even to “outwrite” white people but to overwrite English with another kind of English, to deform the sentence by exaggerating the high English of hypotaxis, to exert syntactic strain on English’s joints and appendages—as if, by barraging it with enough discursive density, I could make the English language relent and make it say “Mercy.”
Michael Leong’s most recent books are Words on Edge (Black Square Editions, 2018), Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2020), and Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven (co•im•press, 2020), a co-translation, with Ignacio Infante, of Vicente Huidobro’s operatic long poem. He is Robert P. Hubbard Assistant Professor of Poetry at Kenyon College.
Kevin CK Lo
for double bassist, audience, and electronics
First presented at The Lab, CNMAT in collaboration with SFCMP, December 4, 2022
The Audience Plays Itself is a piece composed for Richard Worn (double bass) but can also feature any other solo instrumentalist.
Kevin CK Lo is a composer, choreographer, writer, artist and arts worker living on Chochenyo Ohlone land (Oakland). In his compositions for live performance and installation, he utilizes instruments, digital sound processing and generative programming environments to examine spatial and auditory sensitivities, topological structure and audience kinesthetic response while seeking to corrupt conventional compositional/performative/installative rationale. He is one half of the experimental interdisciplinary duo, DROUGHT SPA, alongside alex cruse. His chapbook, OKLDCAAN, was released on Eyelet Press in 2019. Writing can also be found online at SFMOMA Open Space and Cordite Journal.
Like the whole
at the Embarking Lot
As a first principle (at first, in the beginning, once upon a time, etc.), I wanted to see what would happen to a narrative poem if I treated it like any other text-object from which data might be extracted. What kind of information could be derived from such a poem if I subjected it to the same kind of data manipulation that major online platforms perform on user-generated content? What types of patterns might be revealed? What would such patterns tell us about narrative storytelling, literary analysis, and platform markets? What type of texts might be created—or destroyed—by such processes and procedures? What poetic potentialities are lying, waiting to be discovered, in the latent space of a poem? This was primarily an aesthetic inquiry, but it was not devoid of political, philosophical, and scientific implications.
1 The first letters of the name of the literary group that I have long been involved with, the Poetic Research Bureau, form an acrostic (PRB), which corresponds to the first letters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). Furthermore, the Poetic Research Bureau was inaugurated in 1997 by editors Macgregor Card and Andrew Maxwell with the publication of a poetry journal they called The Germ, a direct reference to a Pre-Raphaelite journal also called The Germ, first published in 1850.
2 See Cunningham, Dawn (2009) “‘We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits’: The Politics of Feminine Consumption and Sexuality in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’,” Articulāte: Vol. 14 , Article 3.
3 See Tiziana Terranova, “Ordinary Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism,” in After the Internet: Digital Networks between Capital and the Common, Semiotext(e), 2022: “In critical and philosophical terms, there is, as one should expect, a reduction of desire as a productive, connective, open process of world-creation to an economy of pleasure ‘as a repressive (negating) power’... decomposing and destroying desire by dissipating it into the reproductive circuits of communicative capitalism and thus creating ‘disassociated milieus’ of transindividuation... practically enacting the decomposition of libidinal energy in networked communication whereby users’ participation is reduced to a sterile act of consumption for which the subject is paid in worthless ‘tiny nuggets of pleasure.’”
4 See Brian Ang, “Assemblage Poetics,” Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry 36: Art (December 2022).
Joseph Mosconi is a writer and taxonomist based in Los Angeles. A former Google computational linguist, he is currently the executive director of the Poetic Research Bureau, a co-founder and programmer at 2220 Arts+Archives, and an editor at Make Now Books. He is the author of several books, including Ashenfolk (Make Now Books, 2019), Fright Catalog (Insert Blanc Press, 2013), Demon Miso/Fashion In Child (Make Now Books, 2014), Renaissance Realism (Gauss PDF, 2016), and, with Pauline Beaudemont, an artist book called This Arrogant Envelope (FCAC Geneva, 2017). With Rita Gonzalez he edited the art and poetry journal Area Sneaks. His poems have been selected for the BAX: Best American Experimental Writing anthology for the years 2014 and 2015. With Andrew Maxwell, he curated an exhibition, THIS KNOWN WORLD: Spontaneous Particulars of the Poetic Research Bureau at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2017.
Asked to write a poetics statement and I first start at the edges. With my writing being simply what it is, being different things to different people, working in multiple registers, useful, but for nothing in particular.
Horizontal organization: rhizomatic
Micro ↭ Macro
Personal ↭ Societal
Inattentive ↭ Hyper-focused
Ambient ↭ Localized
Interior ↭ Exterior
Interiority ↭ Aesthetics
Reflection ↭ Commentary
Diffuse ↭ Acute
Psychedelic ↭ Ordinary
Spiritual ↭ Material
Resentment ↭ Letting go
Looseness ↭ Composition
1 This could be another term for “assemblage,” or maybe another instantiation of assemblage, an aspect of assemblage, a method of assemblage...
2 Economy of word
3 Economy of ideas
I’ve recently been noticing
how people throw things from their vehicles
Almost always soft plastic
A straw + lid hits the asphalt instantly
A bag floats upward
then sideways and upward
and downward and upward again
I don’t know where it finally rests
or even if it does
It’s possible it remains in motion for as long as it remains
Maybe they’re right, the tossers
they say we’re all on the precipice already
Waiting in the rose garden
evoking turkeys here, tho
Gerald was re-homed
It smells like roses
A man walks
with a bouquet of roses
A group of old guys gather
and chat, maybe about roses
I guess I’ll walk around
Almost daily I marvel
at the infinite
permutations of the finite
themselves to expression
In rejection of belief
I emerge amphibious
They go on growing and wild in the world
Getting clearer as we go
Do you think maybe Stein had ADHD?
Redness is not roundness
Lungs are not gills
My dreams have been
reactivated and their
day after day
Try and tell me they would
Try and tell me the world is not seething
Try and tell me the world is not seeing
with a sort of grumpy hermeneutics81
alienated by success
Accretion interrupting sleep, an unavoidable methodology
Sedimentary pieces of an act of imagination82
A pile of what gets made
It’s not that I don’t mind the weather
I still have no beginning
Every opening a pass through
we arrive hungry
sweep out through the edges
“i have nothing to say and i am saying it and that
is poetry as i need it. this space
of time is organized; we need
not fear these silences, we may love them.
structure without life is dead, but
life without structure is unseen. pure
life expresses itself within
and through structure, each moment
is absolute, alive, and significant.
blackbirds rise from a field making a sound
delicious beyond compare.”83
Commie religion: what’s mine is yrself
we give up skin for cloth,
is so good
Expand our tent while beating
the drum of collective grievance
Most sentimental objects lost
not even “real” ones
not even NFTs
Space “just” negative event
Everything that we think of as nothing
Good for a joke
81 Taylor Brady
82 Camille Roy, kinda
83 John Cage
The tonal shape of my dream
UR the classic
Nationalist for hire
Mambos for thee Poles
Mambos for all of us
In my dream she said something
like “You aren’t as serious as I am”
and for once she was smiling
Or maybe it was
“You have a sense of irreverence
That I lack”
They say you can
not read in dreams
but I have
who knows if I was right
I think it makes perfect sense, now, actually:
mean body sidesteps direct address
Salvation lost its meaning
In a place to buy housewares
Second coming Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory Fire
tornadoes crossing state lines
a candle factory
Workers dead for
commerce as always
survivors pulled from the rubble
dance and cry, return to
work the next day
flirting with two hands
When I was a kid the beach was covered in desirable shells
These days there’s almost nothing
Is it different, beaches?
Is it true?
I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to92
Our travails are wailing
on a tiled bathroom floor, dodging
sawhorse thrown through window
of your employer
while you’re working, 15 shillings
or just barely scraping
something about The Tower93
the failure of totality systems
it’s one of my favorite mental illnesses
An infinite dream
I wake from one wherein
the symbols of vocation
intermingle in generational tension
The books were smol and full of holes
constructed by flesh
the babe keeps moving in there
my groin feels pulled
I can’t move without a sound
How can someone say “awe” so frequently?
I never say it
A good friend has an inexhaustible depth94
I’ve penetrated ALL my girlfriends95
you want to access those pieces96
How can you think beyond anything that is currently knowable to you?
I remember the tonal shape of my dream when
I close my eyes for sleep the next night
92 Taylor Swift
93 the card
94 Leon Kass interviewed by David Brooks, The Ezra Klein Show, Dec 14, 2021
95 Wouldn’t YOU like to know
96 Conner Habib
What Zen tried to do ideally, is to be completely cool97
Whole Foods customer service
worker shopping for boots
This is what the ego is for: it tells you who pays98
“I suppose it is submerged memories that give to dreams their curious
air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well,
something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a
dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a
breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of
sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theater is
it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene
painter, and audience?”99
Driving home from House of Prime Rib, car full of parents and partner,
bellies full of baby and beef,
I almost run a red light, a semi barrels through and
we all consider death
“Maybe if I die it’s not such a big deal”100
In some ways this is the perfect moment
all of us pregnant
with joyful expectation
Nothing yet ruined
Nothing not lived up to
I didn’t run the light, tho
And I don’t want to die now
Nothing yet ruined
But maybe if I die it’s not such a big deal
with all of you at the same time
Unification of concept + affect
As they go from a water person to an air person101
Punishingly sincere, but the best of it hits
When you call everything you don’t like garbage, it starts to lose its
Breathing in I imagine myself as still water
Breathing out I reflect things as they are
Breathing in, still water
Breathing out, reflecting
Stop arranging the world for a bit103
The only little doggie here was me104
After years spent unhollow105
I was cracked
opened and depleted
only to be refilled
this time with garbage
Cosmic GPS located us, cosmic businesspeople wanting
to make a difference
exploding the unhollow rocks
making them hollow
a particular time
How we show up in the long continuum matters, right?
The third millennium matters, right?
Different people that I know, or other people,
as they’re known, matter,
Tell me a little about the prophecies that have been important to you
slightly too enthusiastically, you know?
Just slightly louder than she intended, but she plays it off, settles
down into her seat a bit more deeply than she had been,
sit bones expanding nicely to fill the cushion
Is she manic?
Maybe she’s manic
The female wing
you know how they can be
keeping the bird of humanity afloat
flying in circles
fully expressed, if you will
I am interested in the moment
in, just in you
the fetus who sneaks out at night106
A level of ecstasy
An untouchable level
A vapor that seeps
97 Alan Watts
98 Terence McKenna
99 this bit from Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, via Sebastian Castillo
100 Brian Eno
101 Kaiser L&D
102 Disha Gupta’s Yin Yoga class, Barefoot Movement, Wednesdays, 6pm, Oakland
103 Connor Habib
104 Christopher Nelms
105 J. Gordon Faylor
106 A father’s story
Hands in the cultural tip jar
Baby nipple skin tag
I’m so sorry you can’t see what I see
Modernity and the future gone off the rails
I am making $162/hour telecommuting
I never imagined it
honest to goodness
yet my closest companion
is earning $21 thousand a month by working on the web,
that was truly shocking for me, she prescribed
me to attempt it simply
COPY AND OPEN THIS SITE:
Something about me:
I don’t need to feel good
Did they know it was a fly trap when they poured the wine?127
Isn’t the greatest freedom in the world the freedom to be wrong?128
When I say I want to move this chair I mean I want to destroy
the powerful, or that which makes the powerful possible129
Buying things is killing people, hun,
and yet we cannot stop
Polynesian sauce, et al, so sticky
Stop me if I did
Nobody wants true love more than me
Stars untwinkle one by one130
He riffed it so I went with it131
I like to shoot from the hip
Love is a classy process
The bitterness becomes a botanical
gain of function
Do you want to feel something?
Standing there like a rock
You only have one life
Ornamented air I can’t stop stealing
Intrepid capitalist spirit
Just as Marx predicted
At this point in time, normal pronation is taking place and the foot
is referred to as a “bag of bones” due to its ability to adapt to the
new walking or running surfaces. Part of this process of becoming a
“bag of bones” is that the arch will start to flatten out and roll
toward the ground.132
How many divorces do you think are over the garbage disposal?
The flour sack you threw a little too on the nose, don’t you think?
or, another open crowd134
Who learns will love and not destroy
the creatures life the flowers joy135
mean body will be great and the world will move on!!!!
Cultural tip jar
Eyeroll body language
A male alligator never stops growing
Male in my force of will?
Web3, save the Woman King
Hands used to be orthodox, now paradox136
dress for the prophecy: total becoming137
any given goblin’s brunch blood
administrative surgery cosplay138
Your face facing
At the same
time, the distinctive
energy. The same fingers that confer a blessing, stroke
the expressive poten-
tial, a child or, tend a wound, can smash a skull, drive
emerging human consciousness, brought into
hands like those that produced these realizations
Idioms describe the manner in
the hand exploits its power.
an object of fascination at dawn
even-handed, underhanded, high-handed
the intimacy of human
Tiny hands, tied hands or a lack of u
the hand ditters only minimally from
the constraints on one’s autonomy
an incapacity to grasp and claim the world, make one’s
opposable thumb desires real, form one’s matter
the hand and its claim
a vastly disproportionate representation in the brain.
Along with the mouth and lips the hands have more neural innervation
than all the rest of the body.
can be seen as representing a feminine being-in-the-world that is
psychically so bedeviled by the patriarchal attitude that, as if
reflecting the preeminence of sounding and making, the emblematic
hands of self-expression are rendered
the Hand of God
Or, alternatively, supreme,
As primary in-
cidents of the creative,
the hands imitate the mythic shaping of matter into140
You’ll be hearing from my lawyers
he says, as my breast nestles into
the slowly expanding divot in my mattress,
memory foam, at the edge of history
I mean I’m writing history here!
You said yes again! To the speaking invitation.
Visibility is meaningless
but look at me anyway
naked on main is always a thirst trap
I begrudgingly concede
Breathing in I imagine myself as a river
Breathing out I am flowing
Breathing in, river
Breathing out, flowing
127 That one trip
128 CK, I Love Dick
129 Jay Jay Mull
130 Roger McGough, “God Rest the Queen”
131 The Rehearsal
132 Morton’s Foot, https://www.physio-pedia.com/Morton%27s_Toe
133 Brian Ang, Totality Cantos
134 Brian Ang
135 Fonthill Castle via Oki on Insta
136 Estelle Frankel
137 Caleb Beckwith, new works read at Woolsey Heights, 09.25.22
138 mask in the office really hitting its annual humid face peak
139 Srsly Wrong 261, Papa and Boy IV
140 another kind of dictation, from The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images: “Hands”
141 Disha Gupta’s Yin Yoga class, Barefoot Movement, Wednesdays, 6pm, Oakland
Kate Robinson is a writer, book artist, printer, and publisher who has spent the last 13 years working from Oakland, CA. She is the author of Mean Body (eyelet, 2022), This Woman’s Work (Gauss PDF Editions, 2019), and, with Ivy Johnson, The Third Thing (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2016). Her prints are housed in the collections of SUNY Buffalo, Mills College, SFMOMA, and Letterform Archive.
(for Assemblage Poetics)
My partner Ivy and I make a lot of altars at home. Some are seasonal invocations or spur-of-the-moment energetic grids. Others are surreal, three-dimensional collages that slowly morph over long stretches of time. Over the last several years, I’ve found it to be both a creative and healing practice, one with an immediate focus as well as a time-release residual effect. Placing disparate things in correspondence feels restorative and has been a natural corrective to the flattening of bodily experience during lockdown. I mean, poetry performs this intervention with language all the time, creating a sort of windborn assemblage of sensory impressions, freely circulating their energies.
Poems can function as altars—consecrated, latent spaces where writing emphasizes itself as an act of energetic attentiveness. In the process of writing out the beginnings of a poem in a notebook our bodies are sensitized, open to chance meetings of various textures, the neighborly correspondences of unlike objects, the endless mutability of the whole visible world. Like the Delphic Oracle—a hallucinogenic cloud rising from the earth to commune with the sybil—the poem/altar is positioned to amplify the chemical discourse between everything. In the moments I am most present and aware of the experiential field I’m dissolved within, I am power-bottoming in the act of writing. I marshal my attention to the point of most concentrated energy and studiously attend to its direction.
At Elderly, the poetry and arts magazine I curate and edit with Nick DeBoer, the creation of digital and print collages is a ritual we perform for each issue. This is the first consistent visual art practice I’ve had in my adult life, lately patterned and mediated through a stack of second-hand design and science magazines from Creative Reuse in Temescal, or stack of vinyl album covers upon which a handful of objects are placed then photographed. These art-pieces are made alongside the arrangement and editing of the guest contributor work for forthcoming issues. Because of this they exist in both an ambient correspondence with the current poems, as well as the ongoing visual dialogues of previous Elderly artwork, some of it more than a decade old. I gather materials instinctually as I go that later self-dictate their own collective shape and visual narrative. Collage as an altar, an alteration, a Pythian cloud.
The poem/altar is that demarcated space of attentiveness, a focal point filled with materials, shapes, colors, energies, resonances, each lending something distinct to a larger, permissive collective. It is the place where communication between the vertical and the horizontal occurs, where poetry can shoot off in crooked lines across a whole grid of encounter. The possibility of an altar, the possibility of the altered poem space, is the possibility of unforeseen collaboration—a world emerging from the many languages of things. Worlds within worlds, words emerging from cracks in a world shell, nested like a matryoshka doll—where the act of writing a poem can be an exercise of rearrangement, uncovering, care, worship, attentiveness, sublimation, critique, strange inspiration, in the way it attempts to survey the sensations of its own existence.
Writing in altar spaces encourages me to reach toward correspondences I’m not normally attuned to. It has also sharpened the questioning my own borders, my understanding of porousness. I think of Sara Ahmed’s self-survey in Queer Phenomenology, of orientation as a way of looking as well as scattering the self, as she describes in a section about moving homes: “How I love unpacking. Taking things out, putting things around, [and] arranging myself all over the walls. I move around, trying to distribute myself evenly around the rooms.” I question this “myself,” not something solid exactly, but rather a relay point, an emotional technology. The “right place” or material is not fixed or predetermined, but rather defines itself in momentary relation to whatever’s nearest.
Drink the fermentation from the jar! Bury your face in every crotch that invites you! A complicated, non-binary life flowers out of collages—the brainy gut biome, the fruiting mycelial mat, the aeolian microbes in our lungs, the growing awareness of another subtle body, stretched like cheesecloth across the global psychic space of supply chain economics. We are already many things trying and often failing to find ways to live together, trying to find some measure of equilibrium. Poems emerge from this granular multiplicity out of necessity. They challenge static ideas of where things belong—if their edges can even be seen. They rub out the thin line between everywhere and nowhere. They lean against the altar.
Loo emerges from the depths of a wardrobe, perfectly disheveled, amorous, hugging a thick pile of outfits to their chest, and sets them on the bed. The lamplight flickers, then fully cuts out. A Kasuma pumpkin print glows bright green on the wall. ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight’ begins to play on a blinking conical speaker. Loo undresses then begins dancing in the dark. Little pearlescent stars scattered across their bodysuit wink in and out as they twirl thru the blacklight and swell of Brill Building strings. The dressing mirror is a portal of swirling plasma, a storm of eyeshadow, a staggering polka dot, a prehistoric butterfly sequin. Loo slips into its vacuum, the voided suggestion of any clear meaning the song or morse code of design could offer.
Imagine you had to write a preface for your lust. The preface would offer an apology for the intimacy of what follows.
Imagine there was a piece of clothing that made you wet. Rewrite a history of your body in relation to that idealized form.
Imagine a lesson you could learn from your own interpretation of someone else’s fantasy—daydream as mutual aid.
Imagine you wrote your final requests on a jacket, like a seed—that you were dying and needed to make sure your intentions were crystal. Leave a part of your body on the doorstep of the state.
Imagine your muscles are turning to diamond, your insides compressed under the pressure of an entire planet on the verge of collapse. Write a brand new description of glamour as planetary survival. Turns your inside into a screen for future ghosts to romance.
Have your cake
Jessica L. Wilkinson
– poetry as a site for biographical assemblage –
– the line as stitching, as method –
– the segment and gap (DuPlessis) as ingredients for biographical disruption, stimulation, motivation, energy, transmutation –
– the poem as playground, dancefloor, roundtable, dinner party: an invitation –
This poem, ‘[untitled schoolgirl]’, is part of a work-in-progress manuscript, a poetic biography of French-Australian artist Mirka Mora. Mirka was born in Paris in 1928; she and her mother and two sisters narrowly escaped internment camps during the Holocaust—a letter dropped by her mother through a gap in the train enabled her father to locate them before they were taken to Auschwitz. Mirka married Georges Mora in 1947 and they moved to Melbourne in 1951, where they set up French restaurants and cafés, as well as art galleries, all of which became the most popular creative and conversational hubs for local and visiting artists of the mid-century; these bohemian gatherings provided the backdrop for the development of Mirka’s own artistic talents. She had a style all her own—her paintings, drawings, mosaic and sculptures depict bright colours and wide-eyed children, beasts and angels. A generous and eccentric woman, she was a community-minded spirit who supported and promoted the careers of numerous artists; she also liked to share her techniques with others, holding workshops with schoolchildren and adults to make versions of her infamous painted dolls (also known as ‘soft sculptures’).
Mirka Mora, Untitled [Schoolgirl] (doll) c. 1970 casein paint on calico, 42 x 27 cm, Heide Museum of Modern Art.
—hat pulled over the wide, wide eyes
have seen very much through gaps—
—in the train, so many eyes widened
so hard to breathe, to look beyond—
—the forests of France, a childhood
hiding with trees, on the look-out—
—wounds are held on the inside,
gauze thrust against quick stitches—
—to bloom through non-sense, to fill
up an absence, to close over hunger—
—the doll draws a difficult past into
space; might replace the departed—
—might capture the soul—
ii. Soft Sculpture
It takes a long time to get to the door
in a vast hall of mirrors
Betty and Alma, transitional
hastening through the light
like unsolved murders
persuading fear loneliness alienation
French literature and poetry
Je regrette les temps de l’antique jeunesse
curled up in a ball
hiding floating fallen
j’ai allongé mes jupes jusqu’aux chevilles
the sky eats our chests
Je n’appartiens plus à l’humanité
pushing at the exit into fresh, boundless air
Italicised lines from Part iv drawn (in order) from: Charles Blackman (speaking with poet Thomas Shapcott), John Shaw Neilson’s poem ‘Schoolgirls Hastening,’ Arthur Rimbaud’s poem ‘Soleil et Chair,’ Colette’s novel Claudine à l’école, and Comte de Lautréamont’s poetic novel Les Chants de Maldoror.
Jessica Wilkinson has published three poetic biographies, Marionette: A Biography of Miss Marion Davies (Vagabond 2012), Suite for Percy Grainger (Vagabond 2014) and Music Made Visible: A Biography of George Balanchine (Vagabond 2019). Jessica is the founding editor of Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry and the Rabbit Poets Series of single-author collections by emerging poets. She co-edited the anthologies Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry (2016) and Memory Book: Portraits of Older Australians in Poetry and Watercolours (2021). She teaches Creative Writing at RMIT University, Melbourne.