Assemblage Sampler
Editor: Brian Ang
April 2023

Brian Ang

Multiaxial Poetics

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 Poetics1

“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.
A decentered, multiaxial poetics drawing a smooth space of practices to which more critical practices may be connected. “[An] artistic movement can be a potential war machine, to the precise extent to which it draws, in relation to a phylum, a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth space of displacement.”3 An assemblage of practices to apprehend totality and reassemble it otherwise. “Totality is to be opposed by convicting it of nonidentity with itself—of the nonidentity it denies, according to its own concept.”4
All practices are of interest. “[W]hat we see is the spectrum of how creativity is manifested on this planet, and what we also see is the ingenuity and imagination of the composite whole of humanity.”5 To add to a j carruthers’ ideas in Assemblage Sampler, “Perhaps there is a time when epicists”—and others—“will again join forces to be the producers of a truly multiaxial World Culture. And if that time is not now, then its time is to be, so in the meantime we are busy making these connections.”6
Assemblage Sampler announces ASSEMBLAGE, my new publication to continue constituting assemblage poetics.

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).

Brian Ang
Totality of Music
From A Thousand Records: 151-165
Caleb Beckwith
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:
63. Zero
65. Zest
69. Zigzag

Tom Comitta
The Nature Book: Preface
The Nature Book: Process
alex cruse
0th Aubade
Lara Durback
I Could Never Never Be Lonely. A Breakbeat Container
Paul Ebenkamp
Assemblage Poetics Statement
The Dead End That Just Wouldn’t Die

Carrie Hunter
“To an Absent Future Self”
Michael Leong
From “Disorientations”
How I Sound
Kevin CK Lo
The Audience Plays Itself (2022)
Joseph Mosconi
From Embarking Lot
Kate Robinson
Plane : Frame : Sieve
From Mean Body:
Commie joke
The tonal shape of my dream
Water person
Hands in the cultural tip jar
Jamie Townsend
Alter Poems
Novelty (A Haunting)
Jessica L. Wilkinson
Poetics Statement
[untitled schoolgirl]

Brian Ang

Totality of Music

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
Every series of five sections is differently constituted by ten vocabularies from the totality of music’s discourses. The ten vocabularies consist of five groups of two: two tertiary groups, two secondary groups, and a primary group designating the dominance of each group in the series, each group drawn from a different set of two discourses. As in The Totality Cantos, “In the poem’s transformation... sets... emerge and ascend the hierarchy, dominate, then descend and disappear, each set getting its dominant [series] in combination with subordinate sets.... Proper nouns [are] suppressed in order to decenter attention toward discourses. Repetition of words in a [series are] prevented in order to maximize heterogeneity, repetitions of words across [series] delineating dimensions of the poem traversing singular thoughts.... Verbs [are] suppressed in order to maximize connections in a smooth syntax. Repetition of word pairs [are] prevented in order to maintain singular combinations.”2 One hundred series, five hundred sections, five thousand lines.
Discourses on two hundred albums, one hundred sets of two, will be drawn from in total. An equal number of samples is drawn from each discourse, 137, a set of two discourses’ samples plus an extra sample from one of the two adding to 275, the number of words in each series. A set’s 275 samples are divided into two tertiary groups of 31 samples each (11% of 275), two secondary groups of 61 samples each (22% of 275), and a primary group of 91 samples (33% of 275). After gathering a series’ two tertiary groups, two secondary groups, and a primary group of samples from five different sets of discourses, samples are distributed according to a line’s number of words: one sample for a one-word line, two samples for a two-word line, and so on. Twenty-seven thousand five hundred samples will be gathered, the number of words in the poem.
I began writing the poem on New Year’s Day 2022. On average, a discourse of a primary group yields 46 words to its series, 9 words to a section; a discourse of a secondary group yields 31 words to its series, 6 words to a section; and a discourse of a tertiary group yields 16 words to its series, 3 words to a section. I’ve written one hundred sixty-five of the poem’s five hundred sections and aim to complete the poem by New Year’s Eve 2024.
A Thousand Records commences a series of book-length poems called The Multiplicity Project.

1 Brian Ang, “Preface: Totality and Method,” The Totality Cantos (Atelos, 2022), 9.
2 Ibid., 9-10.
From A Thousand Records

151 New fabricated midtempo maximum excess expression examination contribution moral pop
Corner coat gift rent majesty mission rivulets
Nautical stability knowledge ability
Irony drinking
Competitive illusion meaning
Grounded customized rocking moribund hoping convoy language junkies
Film retreat self-abandonment recording audiences
Purple soldier love bore signified pain booze device millions
Ambient team baby archangel change potshots
152 Worldliness insult career
Ensign children rope text
Festive cultural shelter limo marketing duo result answer piece group
Pathetic burlesque philosophy percentage fringe sunset kit
Soul mood texture ex-wife’s infinitely obscure set burrito globs
Nasty rhinestone fraud god trip call morning tracks
Governor pastiche outlaw strength ranks
Favorite meek surmised ring heaven shore
Tainted anthrax
153 Oversexed interconnected class-action guru smile banquet waltz
Alien blessing graffiti spotlight naiveté frame possibility process
Fantastic lieutenant jockey
Blood fame
Clunky choppy disjointed nodding herding absurdity rendition couplet jug stairs
Variety water light deck dudes
Disintegrating brazen slide spider pianist woman inferno money chunks
Death sound extent ensemble teenager troubles
Never horribly salable tapes
154 Well-meant doomed history convention fuck sample source heart virtues
Metal rapper evangelist
Angry visual velveteen vice drummer thinking grit groove raft rations
Redeemed hokeyness country tours
Present lasting melodic inspired identity moment signature crowns
Blast member mold victory dessert
Immediate fragmented kingpin self-examination presence battles
Exile suits
Scary public dirty drunken jealousy system ears
155 Inlay memory mother mics
Warring dogged bar pony cash rubbish tail lack sequencing choruses
Mandatory echelon
Mental wire action beat continuum ratones
Uncharacteristic common announced applauded art zone stern riffs
Talking ephemera self
Tank depot goodbye olive pogues
Shaken live disconnected family occupation scene truckload commentary chameleons
Shattered hippie punk alternative captain whiskey planks
156 Juxtaposition essence adolescence engagement vibe
Periodic academy bluegrass boss obscurity disdain sentiment trivia telecast junk
Sin subject content wire jackpot fire
Impossible fucking
Cultural calculated obstacle overtones
Blossomed weed gutter love saturnalia purpose slaughter ships
New gray fragmented congregation roadie rope hands
Ready troubadour artifice
Gritty darkness menace teenager fighting jazz lava progress pop
157 Consensus community language lineup fanzine flux flying fathers
Reality construction creativity folly
Amplified frustration
Twelve-inch chance party patience snobs
Brutal separate strange opposite fascination semblance miracles
Romantic post-punk cavity
Bridge shoulder spider song radio boy
Real out-there tone atom craft city company overthrow positioning outsiders
Grand mass pimp baby reduction possibility condition program stories
158 Narrator body
Unusual rippled white ardent island inspiration evenings
Edifice desert grandfather battle opinions
Abstractionist reading arrangements
Paradise universe masterwork presence paper motto sunrise sensibility flag store
Copied rhythm number bottle mix drum drip deal
Self-loathing fantastic unsparing important incisive sepia country army understanding
Sublime leveled dirty details
Nice hardened electric empowering peroxide burritos
159 Parents
Skewed burned eternal circuit channel defiance debacle endeavor marriage dangers
Richer conceptual fragile drunkenness reconciliation effort waltz mannequin chipmunks
Empty performance recording veteran’s heed courtesy crowd clichés
Realism commercial coast friends
Downward nimble geniuses
Harrowing shortwave character studio mistakes
Cadence play light space quiz gig
Cool blaring attractive generation challenge sync mirrors
Debut decades
160 Green dad cowardice cats’ mystifying produktion pool violence explosion butt
Experience punishment sea gluttony question mess
Cynicism gesture
Different girl belly storyline voice
Sack bass reputation hits
Legitimate flotation rigor austerity staircase project plight
Original happiest aural cogitating monkey cybernetics life surface textures
Alliterative synthetic blueberry misery metaphor alcoholic dining forebears
Art bump work
161 Shadow clash omnibus opposite number
Seizure headlock religion salary filler philosophy headphones
Gallant pith irony protest country rappers
Young lyrical struggling creative tabloid laboratory captain harvest
Revelation practice gurls
Perfectly tight-knit pitch-black universe chord identity statement sensibility out-of-towners
Establishment touches
Multilayered takeover emcee jealousies
Tragedy critic prince radio reality ego sound school sodomy steamboats
162 Hippie zombie reggae persona sweat
Process gear zeppelin convoy jelly riots
Illuminated backing suppressed structure memory culture composition community overdubs
Languorously unique complete complexity system word reputation argument leather pall
Metal singer-songwriter odds
Ambient chant plover parents
Stilted freedom
Proud overflow attack territory divide image surface shrieks
Early hotel present self-annihilation occasion footwork good
163 Lonesome object
Class-conscious down-home superman support song century navigation intro invasion differences
Other infinitely pointed hell needles
Coded yearning source mogul track dismissal presence quotation
Narrative demo ship pressure pint palomino chiggers
Silhouetted sinister game lads
Touching woman respect revolution mindset ensemble
Extreme naff turbulent absorbing profound crowning chronic art stylings
Macrobiotic bay funds
164 Sad beach fork hindsight succession madness island
Cheap great rough noisiness favorite
Disorienting mummy’s blues lines
Flag bottle
Essential encoring unhappy thoughtful deserving borrowed title soul letter
All longer rockin’ parking composer hurt drum watch hit sketches
Sweet sense play band factory speed
Blue boxed core punk’s mesmerized hegemonic history nuts
Tension interview projects
165 Big facility deck patina engineering bowels
Guilty riff garage comeback catalogs
Transformative cranking burned lineup
Mind wire
Adrenaline world baby piano panic groupie bluegrass cello chorus clues
Deep unpolished noughties
Convincing fresh hooked skinhead attitude amazement beat
Missing female focus rodeo raft train unison heroes
Notable life side concept consumption means movie argy-bargy fans

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). 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.

Caleb Beckwith

Four Poems + Poetics

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

How AXIS may relate to Brian Ang’s The Totality Cantos and the idea of an “assemblage poetics”

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 2011, several years before the appearance in 2014 of AXIS Book 1: Areal, I began thinking about the writing of a long poem that would last about a lifetime, with the notion that it would be complete in some manner before my death. To date I’ve written three of its book parts, AXIS Book 2 released in 2019, and with AXIS Z Book 3 to be released in 2023, nearly a decade after the first. I want to speak here mainly of AXIS Book 2 since I think it most directly relates to Ang’s The Totality Cantos and Ang as long poem or epic poet.

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.
There are three micro-books that comprise Book 2: “Blazar,” “Chorastics” and “Disk.” “Blazar” contains poems that derive their energies from the phenomenon of the blazar which is a black hole, or AGN, which shoots its jet axes directly toward earth, meaning we see them differently to other jet axes from other black holes not pointed toward earth. This microbook takes its impetus from an outside, but an outside that we have seen to be pointed directly toward us. “Chorastics” is a human chorus, singing back out to the galaxies and their axial symmetries. “Disk,” the third microbook in Book 2, is different. “Disk,” spelt with a k, is also a compact disc (CD), whose total line-count is represented by the following diagram:
That the line-count in “Disk” would all “add up” was an accident, becoming a totality of 360 lines per register (otherwise column), all degrees covered at the last minute. The rotation, the axial spin of the disc returns to “Blazar,” and so the book that became Book 2 is whole, a total of three in one.
Ang’s idea of assemblage doesn’t overlook words, which is very helpful from a poetic point of view. If there is to be a totality that is poetic it is to be a totality in words and in language, which may seem obvious but for the enigmatic sense in Ang’s poems that there is a great separateness to each word as well as a great connectivity between them. I share with Ang a sense of this prosodic double movement of separateness and connectivity. The poems of The Totality Cantos give full and direct meaning, and every word in it is special. It’s a poem that will be with us for a very long time.
It is worth noting to the reader that in AXIS, all lines are written downward in vertical stanzas, as no. 53 from “Disk”:






















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.
There is a cosmic element to the question of totality. How much can we see or calculate before we establish that the universe is One? And if there is not one then there will be another, we will begin counting. Such questions are inseparable from the question of the centre. For if there is another then we will have mistaken the centre for a centre. I am with those who believe that a cosmic poetry will find for itself new shapes. It would both describe the shape of the universe, as above Lucretius, or it would usher in, as W.C. Williams once said to the poets of the Antipodes, a “new order of the line.”


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.
For this reason my political concerns in writing AXIS Z Book 3 have been to ensure that I don’t take my references or impetus of writing from the First World alone. Jumping to the end of the alphabeast, to Z, is a hot act, not a warm prophetic one. I have found that the truest political voice, when it not the voice of a chorus, is the heavier voice of prophecy, the social prophet in the tradition of Amos who speaks without inhibition on one’s nation and its rulers, or in favour of those nations that challenge one’s own, thus risking treason. But for Blake, the epicist and the prophet have rarely combined in modern times. Z Book 3 as the reader may see, is more praise than prophecy: a poem in praise of peace, greater balance between axes in this world.
Disarmament and peace is not available to us through only spiritual strivings, though it may help. Peace can only be brokered by the just balance of the materiality of nations. Let me be frank about the where of this escape from US totality. I see five World-Axes of anti-imperialism in our time, five “outsides” to the US world order in these places and the distribution of these world-polarities: 1. the Aseanic Axis (from China to Laos), 2. the nearly fully dismantled Beltic Axis (post-Soviet Russia to Belarus), 3. the mostly-destroyed Ba’athic Axis (Syria to Palestine and Western Sahara), 4. the Sudafric Axis (Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa) and 5. the Bolivaric Axis (ALBA-TCP nations, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela). If this is a symbol of the world as a wheel with five spokes, damage done to any one of them does damage to the whole wheel. Yet it is in the interests of the current Empire to disrupt the stability of these regions, change the governance models for these nations, destroy blocs or alliances between them, and command their resources, most crucially that of oils. It is the sworn intention of the First World to prevent the rise of a Second World, and to prohibit the Second World from assisting the Third. The Second World comprising the proletarian states and those countries governed by national liberation movements broadly represent the true Free World, while the U.S. remains the superintendant of the world subjugated by capital. The “class struggle” is inseparable from the national question, and we have every reason to seek help from the belly of the beast. But the Empire currently stands in the position of victory, so the axis of contemporary life revolves around these troubles. The possibility of another world, a world outside the US Imperium, has only been made possible through national liberation movements and communist parties, often both working together, not Proudhonism or other theories bandied about in the West by intellectuals. These are the practical result of physical struggles, that is armed struggles, armed cells.
Such a multi-axial system of balancing World-Axes is certainly a way of apprehending totality. The problem of imperialism is that it results in an uneven totality, a broken assemblage of parts. The US military dominates the world as to overseas military bases, and through Hollywood carefully manages the script, while the prospect of NAM countries, non-aligned countries, narrows by the day. Imperialism in all forms is the disturbance of the prospect of harmony in our sphere. It’s the meaning of the disruption of peace.
There are, as should be evident above, at least two ways of comprehending totality: totality here on earth, and the totality of the heavens, of the cosmos. It may be the wisest thing to draw connections between these two. Saying this is to admit things are not yet finished. My question to Ang of totality is whether that is it, or whether there is more to come of the Totality idea. Does totality end? I wonder too whether poetry can comprehend totality or whether it only apprehends it. Should we hold out then for a new poetic science in which the comprehension and the apprehension are united? We have the distinct misfortune in our time as modern writers of long poems to be going it alone. Old epics like Gilgamesh, Njal’s Saga or the Mahābhārata were joint efforts, the effort of a whole culture. Perhaps there is a time when epicists will again join forces to be the producers of a truly multiaxial World Culture. And if that time is not now, then its time is to be, so in the meantime we are busy making these connections.

Nanjing, 2022-2023.

Works Cited

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.

From AXIS Z Book 3
a j carruthers (also ajCarruthers) is an Australian-born avant-garde poet. Publications of the long poem AXIS are as follows: AXIS Book 1: ‘Areal’ (2014), The Blazar Axes (2018), AXIS Book 2 (2019), and most recently, AXIS Z Book 3 (2023). Two books of criticism are: Stave Sightings: Notational Experiments in North American Long Poems (2017) and Literary History and Avant-Garde Poetics in the Antipodes: Languages of Invention (2023). Other works are the sound poem Consonata (2019), and visual works; EPSON L4168 consonant studies (2018) and MS Word Variations 1-11 (2022). carruthers is Associate Professor in the English Department of Nanjing University.

Tom Comitta

The Nature Book: Preface

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.
What you hold in your hands is a story, but also an archive. In examining language from hundreds of texts, it searches for commonalities and reveals patterns—from the humorous to the banal to the troubling—in how we think and write about nature. It also attempts something atypical of collage: it avoids disjunction in favor of cohesion. In this way The Nature Book is closer to a YouTube supercut than a Burroughsian collage novel. I call it a literary supercut.
The Nature Book challenges what we might see as a more “natural” reading experience by including only what many readers skim over. As Mark Twain put it, “Nothing breaks up the author’s progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather.... Persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.” Many would say the same about nature descriptions in general, making The Nature Book likely the worst perpetrator of this offense yet.
More interesting to me is the book-object itself: an excess of nature language now printed and bound, removed from and yet inextricably linked to the natural world around it. On one hand, this book is just letters and words on a page, black shapes impressed onto tree pulp, a record of how hundreds of writers have rearranged these shapes over three hundred years. On the other, it’s the story of three hundred years of rendition, how authors have distorted, praised, belittled, anthropomorphized, projected onto, and spoken through countless animals, landforms, and weather patterns. As such, there is no nature in this book; it’s all illusion and distortion. Entirely human.
The Nature Book is also a story of our ecological past. The natural world described by Austen and Dickens is different from that of Plath and Baldwin and still farther from the early works of DeLillo and Atwood. It’s even more removed from the time of this writing, when climate change is devastating the planet. In these ways, The Nature Book is time-stamped, a time capsule even, or, as Edward Abbey described his book Desert Solitaire, “a tombstone... a bloody rock.”
Whichever way you look at it, The Nature Book operates inside several contradictions—somewhere between past and present, human and nature, narrative and archive, lyrical excess and data analysis. It’s a puzzle I pieced together from fragments of literary history, and now, sitting in your hands, or on a table or a shelf, an awkward cousin to the books around it, alien to and yet entirely of them.

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 (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.

alex cruse

0th Aubade

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

Lara Durback

I Could Never Never Be Lonely. A Breakbeat Container*

The pleasure of listening to a Tim Reaper set when driving down Highway 1 in the rain.
It takes me to remembering a time in 1997 of coming alive, of being around people, an idea of no future.
I want to tell an undertold story.
There was something about feeling like a waste product. A positive waste product. A self-loving waste product. A self-loving soup of waste product.
A sort of blending of the past and future in sonic form. An antiracist soup that formed underneath the monarchy.
What can I tell you about this? Allentown on a couch in a place to nowhere, Mortal Kombat on the screen, I’ve got nothing really going on, I’ve got a quiet boyfriend with “art” tattooed on one bicep and “crime” tattooed on the other. All of his friends are not white and I feel wild and free with them and they respect me. I met some of them at the grocery store I worked at. I have lost all my high school friends recently as everyone went to senior week to drink and I wasn’t allowed to go, and I was not really excited about that anyway. Most of my friends went to other schools. It was that time when people were going off to college anyway, it was not worth trying to save friendships. I was reluctant to go to college though I loved reading and study. I just felt like I didn’t have any other place to go. I wanted to move to the city but I didn’t have any money, so it was the only way I could do it. My home life had become so chaotic and I kept getting kicked out of my stepmom’s house with my very unstable father who I did not want to live with. I am some white girl who is actually Eastern European growing up near people who were still becoming white and still living in neighborhoods where everyone was Slovak or everyone was Austrian or Russian in the rust belt of so-called Pennsylvania. I didn’t relate to others who had grown up being encouraged to succeed or participate in activities I loved. You worked, and you obeyed. I am going through the motions to go to college but I don’t care.
And I hear this sound. And I immediately love it. It sounds like utter chaos but it sounds like a wall that will protect me. It is soothing in its impenetrability. It is fast and has multiple rhythms, endless collisions.
I am finding all these other people at once who care about it. It is a sound that originates from Jamaicans living in London. I don’t even understand how music traveled back then. When I hear the music of Tim Reaper right now in the present I am struck by the archival wisdom of it. I mean, music can be good, or derivative, but when I heard this music I could feel that this very young person had studied the music I loved so dearly in my coming of age 26 years ago. I say this as a person who dearly loves the underground, as an antiracist dreamer, as a hater of the values of empire, especially in a hometown as racist and segregated and judgmental as the one I grew up in. My friend Andrew Kenower passed along Tim Reaper’s music and I was floored about how carefully this music respects the previous genre and makes something gorgeous and new at once.
“‘Jungle’ stems from the term ‘junglist’, which refers to people from Arnett Gardens, an area of Kingston Jamaica. It is often noted that Rebel MC popularised the term in the UK by sampling the phrase ‘alla the junglists’ from a tape of a sound-system party in Kingston.” – Brief History of Jungle Music.
“America got hip hop, Jamaica got Ragga, we (London) got jungle” – a DJ in the film All Black-Jungle Fever (1994).
There was a split between those that would dance to Black music and those that wouldn’t. And who was let into the club or not. It sounds strangely similar between London and well, Allentown.
I also was shocked to find out other white people didn’t grow up constantly thinking about race. I thought about it constantly, it was all anyone talked about once you were out of a home or church or other insular sphere. I remember from a very young age noticing that there was a lot wrong with how segregated everyone was. I remember having Black neighbors I played with and people thought that was weird. I remember crossing the busy street near my grandma’s house and seeing all kinds of people there but all the other kids in my school would then tell me I would get killed there. It was insane. Everyone I moved toward in my life was hoping for a better place than this, and we were listening to Wu-Tang and the first rave tapes were filtering through, and we were moving into the type of mixed up, mashup archive of our own creation. We were the kids that worked at the grocery store and there had to be something better than here.
“Jungle was a form of cultural expression for London’s lower class urban youth.
The post-Thatcherite United Kingdom of the early 1990s had left many young urbanites disenfranchised and disillusioned with a seemingly crumbling societal structure.
Jungle reflected these feelings; it was a notably more dark, less euphoric style of music than many of the other styles popular at raves.” – Brief History of Jungle Music. I am simultaneously embarrassed to keep citing this, and impressed with the ability of this website to summarize what I have read many places.
Jungle is quite a contested term, I have heard some DJs express utter disgust at it being used, when people had to deal with the British media calling them jungle bunnies and the different kinds of racist terms used, and promoters cancelling parties if they decided to play jungle, because of the “mixed” context it created, but the people who started it used that term and were fully aware of how they are inverting the meaning when they continue to do that.
I’ve always wanted it to stay in this nowhere of the rave mashed with the recognizably Black music, a mix of the familiar and the new. Mary J. Blige was one of the most commonly sampled in the time period I am thinking of.
“People who were born with nothing can find something to relate to.” – Kenny Ken in the film A London Someting Dis. Kenny Ken describes how he came out of prison and fell into this scene and had a place to be. In other interviews he describes the relationships he made in this scene kept him from returning to prison, as someone from a different place was willing to vouch for him.
Other than the traditions and love of my grandparents, and the friendship that I found everywhere playing outside the row houses, there wasn’t much to love in life.
I still struggle to use words to describe what jungle sounds like. I am impressed when I read these new articles that have a name for every sound. I have never been a person who understands things that way. There is nothing like driving through city streets and listening to drum n bass, it is second only to dancing in a proper place. But the constant stops and starts and turns and skidding...
Psyminds says: “The style is characterized by fast tempos (150 to 200 bpm), breakbeats, dub reggae basslines, heavily syncopated percussive loops, samples, and synthesized effects.... Producers began meticulously building breakbeats from scratch with extreme precision, sequencing together individual single shot samples. The percussion took on an eerie chromatic quality through digital effects like time-stretching/compression, pitch shifting, ghosting, and psychedelia style reverse.... The resultant polyrhythms of jungle’s “rhythmic psychedelia” triggered a physical as well as mental disorientation in the listener/dancer.”
“Reggae baselines.. low frequencies.. and exaggerated bass” – words used to describe jungle by the DJ Fabio in the film All Black-Jungle Fever (1994).
Back when I listened to this music there was no commentary, no subtext, no internet to write on, no ones opinion to hear, you just had to hold a tape and be brave to go somewhere new, and trust your friends you were with, and hope for a minute that there would be a properly dark room and amazing people and the right drugs (or maybe no drugs tonight too, depending who you were with). I mean, I guess people were on aol at this time, in chatrooms, something I never did, but I really enjoyed knowing how to make the sounds or sing the songs with others, and not know the names of the tracks or the people. Because it was a living archive that prioritized the knowing together, not the author.
There was something in the multiplicity this music contains.
“That’s another reason why I’m involved in the jungle movement, because it’s brought a lot of people together. I mean, like certain men, a few years ago, they wouldn’t dream of talking to a white person and the same the other way around. But now... we were all under one roof raving, laughing and joking together.” – Kenny Ken in the film A London Something Dis.
I realize how I knew nothing about the real history, because I didn’t know where to look, other than talking to people. But somehow it communicates itself to me and it spoke to me because of our common desires, common drives.
And yet archive is a natural component of drum n bass somehow, notice how I slip back and forth between using the word jungle or drum n bass, in the early years I was going out, ’97 was many years after what happened in London but we were listening to this golden era when it was impossible to define, impossible to split hairs and say what the good and bad parts were (is it “intelligent” jungle? they said later on—and “drum n bass” starts getting said as the undeniably Black voices come out of it as the necessary part, but then there were always those who took offense to the word jungle), such a blast of yearning and possibility swirled into nihilism and a relinquishing of future. These are the ones who fall inside of this role easily, and so it feels very good.
Now, in recent years, 2023, there is a Black Junglists Alliance, keeping the roots of jungle clear. There is an awesome new artist who goes by the name Nia Archives, who said her grandmother listened to this music. I listen to one of her tracks and have remember how stretched ghostly sounds emote in no other way. She combines the catalog of jungle sounds with pop vocals about longing and dealing with emotions. There is a wonderful pull of this music coming up out of the muck again and filling it with people who will commit to one another in a cluster, almost without knowing why. Does it happen again?
I have literally been listening to this music for almost 30 years, and in this gorgeous time loop I can learn more about it now, I can see images of loads of the kind of dancefloor that never existed before, and this was a music that was actually co-created, a totally consensual blending of cultures.
When I try to imagine myself dancing to this, I only feel the sounds and feel darkness. I don’t have memories or narration to the types of experiences or connections I experience like I do to other dance music experiences. Is this sort of like the loss of all the culture and connection to ancestors that lower class people in the city are dealing with across the board? I’m editorializing, but this does come up in All Black-Jungle Fever. When you don’t have the connection to that other root, you must make it in the now, by whatever comes through. I could write a whole other euphoric description of house music and why it is important but it is much more rendered in interactions. Here, in jungle, it is much more dissolved, it is more like an exorcism or a dispelling of ghosts to be reckoned with. And there are not words, there’s a nod.

*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.

Paul Ebenkamp

Assemblage Poetics Statement

Three kinds of space: writing, summoning, assembling.
Writing: with a black fine-tip ink pen in unlined journals in a sort of half-cursive, with my left hand, at a writing desk. I write this way almost every day, some ten years running, and in this accumulated mass of handwriting I am basically lost. There’s really too much of it to deal with.
Summoning: that’s what it feels like, summoning, sun-and-moon-ing, circling. By writing I try to create favorable conditions for the manifestation of surprise. Writing a lot, or at least sitting there and not writing but not doing anything else either, seems to increase rather than decrease the odds for surprise, which is in itself surprising. The alchemical opus is a pleasing, if overblown, analogy: must be undertaken at the right time in the right place, no parameters as to how long the transformation (if any) will take, if I’m in it I’m in it and it takes as long as it takes, or doesn’t. So I give up poems (life, soul, body) for dead or pointless but always seem to stumble upon enough honest pliant oomph from without to clear away obscurities, window scum, clots of saline and proteins, dead skin carried around indifferently. “New vistas of nowhere else.” The only difference between a profound and a mundane experience is the quality of attention I give it. It doesn’t matter that everything dies, doesn’t matter that l’m going around in a circle of days and doubts and stretches of hope and despair while writing in forms that haven’t changed in years. The circle is a pulse.
Assembling: a recursive/reciprocal thing. I write poems with whatever’s in my journals, then work on the poem on its own, then turn back to my journals for surprise, intervention, interruption, then work on the poem some more: a long-term dialectical ordeal in which the meaning (the point) of clutter is clarification. Order and sense in the poem are echolocated by intuition, a restless ear, allegiance to a chosen form, a personal desire for relief from the bondage of self, and a willingness to accept relative chaos and write, like, a hundred drafts of “Peace.” Clear hearing is the main thing; only by being a decent listener do I realize what I mean to say. (For those so inclined: the vishuddhi or throat chakra is the seat of listening as well as speaking; listening happens in the throat.) As I wrote in my preface to Regular Acid Consciousness: “Alchemy in poetry may involve giving the concrete charge to the abstract and the abstract charge to the concrete. This inspirates the third voice.” By assembling rhythmically and affectively charged speech in a given formal configuration (by doing what every poet ever has done) I can recognize or discover a topos in which psychic transformation happens over time, creating the noised-out nature poetry about incarnation that I am apparently called to be writing right now. The result of this process is easy to point to but hard to describe: like water reducing around oil, elements shedding and merging under the authority of a heat source which is what? Reality? Heraclitean fire? Formal feeling? The world to come?


for thinner ruins
ran its voice out

fed petalfolded
to the new past

swollen distance
in the first place

summer light like
caution tape

lumen naturae
reason in its mouth

licked in sand
and eyes in aspens

as shadows cast us
louder than

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

absolution burning

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
for disbelief

trickle-down dualism
in another half-

wrecked culture
crying with greed

under the sun’s
infected eye

aching to be fucked

to new flesh
in ritual backlash

difficulty swallowing
a vacuum to what it

thinks clean
religious insides

keep the aspect
ratio stretched taut

in the defacing
thirst of its froth

fedback haptic
clickbait looking

backwards both
ways for time

in anger and

and music that
seems only to recede

hey great spirit
smiling through

my lab skin
backlit into a-

tonal grayout
a voiceover

in power
fed the air I

knew I needed
to be wrong or

nothing happens
my marrow

my chrome hungered
from the depths

of a bloodclot
as the selective

evil of attention
trembles off

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
anciently pixellated

(continuity error)
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

the truth
bleed it back

lusted wincing
written such that

you could hear the
world around me

praying through its teeth
a window’s defense

the mirror in knots
same difference

too much to remember
too much to forget

to work like that
to fit in the trap

a heat lamp in
broad daylight

soul taped to the
back of its head

spinning threshold
erasure’s guest

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

police state
teething its niche

painkillers to miss
the point

right and wrong
gnarl the wind

goes the way it came
not waving

not drowning

to brightness

no death

no analysis textures it
no palliative

endures the perfect
though slayings

are limitless
and pain

without distances
it is possible to concentrate

and still be useless
wrong in

one’s symmetry
breath presets

hieratic trailing-off
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

into something

in this
wind that

doesn’t end

comfort zone
common problem

heard down
its throat

the outside personal
be why I’m here

until supposedly
final touches collapse

in delirium
middle begin again

homespun dying
for some singsong

in its body art
bit into the cusp

follow the blindspot
regalia loyal haters

follow dusk burst
like noise into law

touch-starved and
still I hesitated

oh today won’t be
yesterday for long

and between deaths
the permanence

of life led me
and when I lived

what was the difference
foundation crept in

repeating sideways
we never turn around

stiffen and wane
in the dead of spring

time does not tell
time does nothing

The Dead End That Just Wouldn’t Die

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 ( The Bottom-Right Corner of All Things, a compendium of visual art, is in the works.

Carrie Hunter

“To an Absent Future Self”1

“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.

                                                                                                                        Imagist noodles.

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.
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)
25 Ferlinghetti
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,
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.
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.

Michael Leong

From “Disorientations”

[“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.”
                                                                   To visit
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?

How I Sound

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.
To get at Baraka’s crucial question of how I sound, I’ll discuss two examples of how others have heard me. The first comes from an unlikely source, a student review from “Awesome guy! At first I thought he’d be really dull because of his monotone voice but his dry humor makes class so interesting.” I was, at first, preoccupied with seeming “dull” in the classroom and have since tried to judiciously punctuate my dry humor with wetness; but what most interests me now is how my tonality connects to the racialized politics of performing native-speaker-hood. I have come to understand that the perceived monotonality of my voice is, in part, the product of self-fashioning, a deliberate avoidance of linguistic stigmatization. Born in China, my father spoke with a heavy accent and struggled throughout his career with coworkers and supervisors citing his “problems with communication.” For her part, my mother began school in the US by speaking to her Kindergarten teachers in Chinese, not realizing that such a thing called “English” even existed. I had come, then, to fetishize the English language as the key to American survival, if not success, while cultivating an accent of extreme neutrality—even doing away with certain Mid-Atlantic inflections that my older brother, in contrast, has retained. I filtered out, for example, what I took to be the murky regionalism of wudder from the crystalline transparency of water. It was as if I had wanted to achieve a “degree zero” accent originating from a disembodied realm of Anglo-American discourse itself—of course, an impossible second-generation fantasy of unmarkedness.
How I have come to sound on the page has been shaped by an early history of assimilationist aspiration, which later engendered a countervailing impulse to estrange English from itself, to poetically pressure its architectonic syntax to the breaking point. Various factors of my linguistic education—from diagramming periodic sentences in middle school to translating Virgil in high school—led to my embrace of hypotaxis, the art of grammatical subordination. The logic was thus: if perfecting English was the key to American success, then acquiring the “high” English of grammatical complexity was the grail. As a schoolboy, I remember seeing across the green monochrome monitor of my family’s Apple IIc computer how an educational program would calculate the grade level of one’s writing, using—I presume—criteria based on features such as sentence length and frequency of multisyllabic words. The implicit goal of these automated tutorials that yoked artificial intelligence to a no less artificial Asian American exceptionalism: how to write sentences that sounded as smart—if not smarter—than white people.
Growing up, I had come to be both blessed and cursed with a hypersensitivity to language, as if any given syllable had the potential to be a shibboleth, to undo any provisional acceptance within the white public sphere—the precarity of what Homi Bhabha called the “not quite/not white” perpetually teetering on the tip of the tongue.
Did I embrace hypotaxis—or was I the one being embraced by an ideological set of ortholexical, orthogrammatical, and orthophonic pressures? This question ambivalently haunted my Bildung until I took up both poetry writing and literary study as serious vocations. Poetry made me realize—to quote John Yau quoting Jack Spicer—“where we are is in a sentence,” and poetry allowed me to sentence the sentence according to terms of my choosing. Maybe this is what Langston Hughes meant when he said, “Hang yourself, poet, in your own words. Otherwise, you are dead.”
Hugh Kenner once described poetry as “a zone remote from the world of sayers and sayings.” The importance of poetry was that it offered me a realm of fictive autonomy in which I could push back against the correctness, the ortho-, of the white “world of sayers and sayings,” resisting the various conformities to which I had sentenced myself during my primary, secondary, and postsecondary educations. This is to say that the formal framing of what Kenner calls “lift[ing] the saying out of the zone of things said” afforded another turn of the screw by which I could reembrace English with an unorthodox criticality. For example, following the jarring collisions of what André Breton called “convulsive beauty” seemed a promising way for me to relinquish the performance of the “good” ethnic subject.
So too has an allegiance to an extreme hypotaxis, or hyper-hypotaxis, given me a chance to “out English” English. By hyper-hypotaxis, I mean an oversaturation of subordinate clauses and rhetorical figures that threatens to flood the sense of the main clause in a baroque excess of dizzying meanings. It was both flattering and instructive for me to see Nathaniel Mackey’s email when he had accepted an excerpt from “Disorientations,” my long poem in progress, for his literary journal Hambone. As he quoted back at me a small fragment from my submission—an ending crescendo of a concluding sentence—I was able to hear, as if in an acoustic mirror, the extent to which my writing tends to purplishness:
“... 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

The Audience Plays Itself (2022)
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.
The work consists of a camera apparatus pointed toward the audience, whereupon software picks up skeletal coordinates of up to six audience members at a time, generating a live score based on the audience’s perceived activity. The more audience activity is occurring, the denser the score becomes. The audience sees this translation manifest in real time, and is thus induced to participate, as well as having been instructed to do so before the commencement of the work.
When no notes are apparent on the playable portion of the score, the instrumentalist is instructed to play a low stasis note.
Akin to the theorist Mattin’s notion of “social dissonance,” The Audience Plays Itself thus reconfigures the audience-performer relationship, implicating the observers as witting participants in the event space of the performance – a constructed situation.

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.

Joseph Mosconi

From Embarking Lot

1086 sarcology teddies

1206 context spillages

1398 travertine yuletide
0504 good Cádiz

1050 vowelled hearsay


1392 enterogenous raying
0894 hashed micrologic

1908 likewise guess ichthyismus
1824 fortify thrift absurdity
1224 platonic startles

1434 education’s horseflies
1008 cupid tensions

1512 unambitious recyclers

1326 deceitful radiometries

1908 emotively outgrow Sony

1806 procommunist chatline hues

1206 ephedrine insetting
0888 nonmedical sass
2058 electioneering preconsultation

1272 postmortal racism
1272 northbound stooge
1098 amortizable laughs

1206 loadable illumination
2208 surrounded by invisible viewers
1104 solemn segmenter

1218 poxed fearsomeness
1200 enormous thrum

1482 lust superiority

1224 frosted cuttlebone

1392 snowier tinctures
1050 rampant couplet

0954 sperm conceits
1200 pasture moralism

1638 cumulative energies wilt
1170 campus lexicon

1374 ruttish jottings
1182 position whacking

1554 farm-knitter’s nonsense
0870 monied sugars

1566 austerely investigated

1560 instructional tutor clucks

Like the whole
network it goes
What was the sentence again?
The sentence was
“leisure beyond consumption
collective equipment
for a green future”
Collective equipment
It’s a bit
for a green future
The subtitle is a bit
but I think
“leisure beyond consumption”
is a good phrase & weird like
this is
How’d the thinking
start about this again?
This is because this
is basically because
a bit
of the more intelligent
pushback we’ve had
on the four-day week
was how are you gonna make sure
that people aren’t gonna just be
consuming the shit
out of their weekends?
Yeah, this is your like
flight to Barcelona—
This is my flight to Barcelona
blah blah blah so we need to
make it something concrete
about transforming leisure
& not just
transforming work
& the working
time that we—
& I mean which
is mainly an infrastructural
& environmental
problem as in
& you can take it on a national scale
you can say
“Let’s make trains free
on the weekends
to make sure people stay in the area”
& go out & see
They can go to the park
they can go to the park
& they can go out & see
the sights & don’t use their cars
whatever but let’s
let’s also have saunas in the basements
of our new builds
& blah blah blah blah blah
& even we can talk like we can talk
more like for example
standard-issue bikes
things like that
which is picking up
on a theme from like
some of the discourse in the 1980s
or talking about how to
not just repedestrianize cities
but also how do you basically
make the bike the standard
mode of transport for urban
& non-urban
spaces as well
I mean & that goes into like
circular economy
You know subscription-based
Yes precisely yeah
& that’s where decarbonizing
consumption could come in
Yes OK well that’s
that’s that’s
the whole point
of the circular economy
stuff right is to
is to is to
reduce waste & that sort of
I mean I think we would definitely
be thinking it from
an infrastructural basis
that’s what you’re talking about
right it’s not just
shifting it’s not just
nudging people
in a kind of like individual
consumer way but in a way
of creating a whole
environment within which people
navigate the world & broadly
one which like nudges
on a large scale as it were right
It’s a nudge
Yes it’s a little magic nudge

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.
Sentiment analysis. Named entity recognition. Terminology extraction. Word-sense disambiguation. Argument mining. Text-to-image generation (and image-to-text generation). Combined with time-worn Oulipian constraints (anagrams, numerological correspondences), satirical alphanumeric ciphers related to outdated conspiracy theories, and text generation via large language models and neural networks, I began to understand my compositional technique as a contemporary form of writing through, John Cage’s term for subjecting the work of other writers to chance procedures and techniques in order to create new works.
The poem I chose to write through, Christina Georgina Rossetti’s 1862 poem Goblin Market, was not chosen at random, but was suggested by personal commitments and prior correspondences.1 Rossetti, often associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, an English avant-garde group of poets, painters, and art critics, publicly stated that her poem was a fairytale intended for children. But in a private letter to her publisher, Rossetti declared: “Children are not among my suggestive subjects.” At the center of the poem lies a brutal assault. One of the sisterprotagonists, Lizzie, refuses to eat the poisonous fruit of goblin merchants. Angered by her refusal, the goblins attack. They call her names, trod and hustle her; elbow and jostle her, claw her with nails; bark and hiss and mock her, tear her gown and soil her stockings; they twitch her hair and stamp her feet; they cuff and catch her, coax and fight her, bully and beseech her, scratch, pinch, kick, and knock her; they maul and mock her. Throughout the assault, the goblins attempt to force-feed Lizzie, as they “Held her hands and squeezed their fruits/Against her mouth to make her eat.” But Lizzie resists: “Lizzie uttered not a word;/Would not open lip from lip/Lest they should cram a mouthful in;/But laughed in heart to feel the drip/Of juice that syruped all her face,/And lodged in dimples of her chin,/And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.”
Literary critics have long viewed this passage as a symbolic or metaphorical sexual assault.2 Rossetti, however, is careful to keep the poem within the plausible realm of Victorian-era children’s fantasy literature (she keeps it PG-13, as we would say today). But the passage is troubled by two factors. The first is that Lizzie has subjected herself to the dangers of the goblin market willingly—some would say heroically—in order to save the life of her sister Laura, who has previously eaten the goblin fruit, in an enthusiastic reverie bordering on sexual ecstasy, but is now wasting away. Only another small taste of the fruit—a homeopathic microdosage, a pharmakon—can save Laura’s life. The second is that Rossetti implies that the goblin violence is not only a sexual assault, but also a market assault.
The market commodities, in this case, are fresh goblin fruits: apples and quinces, lemons and oranges, cherries, melons, raspberries and peaches, mulberries, cranberries, dewberries, pineapples, blackberries, apricots, strawberries, and more. (It’s worth noting that fresh fruit, during the era Goblin Market was composed, was for most Victorians not accessible to purchase.) Rossetti quite literally weaponizes the commodities. The goblins, in a wild frenzy, smear and smash and splatter the fruit all over Lizzie, in a pulpy mess of juice and syrup, until, tiring, they withdraw into the distance. There is a vaguely pagan, bacchanalian, but also comical quality to the passage, an energy that was later mined by the madcap cartoons of Fleischer Studios and early Walt Disney. But there is also an ever-present darkness and moralism that the poem shares with the most memorable traditional fairytales and folklore. Transgressive performance artists such as Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley have also picked up on this frenzied, ecstatic fairytale vibe, in which the violence of the commodity form and children’s literature meet: think of McCarthy’s WS White Snow, in which a troupe of clownish dwarves and a duo of Snow Whites engage in a depraved, pseudo-pornographic, cacophonous party—contemporary commodities like Hershey’s syrup and Heinz Ketchup replace the old-world fruits, but the mess, and the violence of the market assault, remains the same.
By linking commodity desire and consumer pleasure with sexual desire and sexual pleasure, Rossetti anticipates a long line of neurological, psychopharmacological, and philosophical research, conducted in the 20th and 21st centuries, that—more troublingly—posits a link between economic violence, sexual violence, and the destruction of pleasure.3 Embarking Lot follows the trouble, affectively tracing the arc of Rossetti’s narrative, as digital commodities and algorithmic assaults de-shape the poem, and desire is sublimated into the corporate mental hell-halls of techwork, the poltergeist-haunted bedrooms of tract homes, and the candy-coated ‘emotional damage’ of children’s YouTube and TikTok videos. A transactional relationship is established between the text, which operates like a reference manual, complete with a taxonomic interior and lyric exterior—and the reader, who is asked to assemble various discourses in order to make sense of the narrative poem.4
Transaction is central to my reading of Goblin Market. When one enters a transaction in a marketplace, a social contract is established—the social contract is based on trust. Laura, without coin or copper, purchases the desired goblin fruit with a golden lock of her hair. But the goblin men are bullshitters. They are untrustworthy. Like algorithms, they are great at mimicry (“Come buy, come buy”), but they are beguiling and amoral. Their fruit is natural-tasting, but it is magical, non-human—corrupting and destructive. The consumption of the fruit provides Laura an initial burst of flavor and rapturous pleasure, but pleasure comes at the cost of destruction and diminishment: “Her hair grew thin and grey;/She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn/To swift decay and burn/Her fire away.” The compositional procedures and algorithmic techniques I used to compose Embarking Lot, similarly, produce texts that mimic human language—the language is natural-sounding, legible, often lyrical. But, being partially algorithmically-derived, the language deliberately conflates word-form and meaning. It is ultimately a species of nonhuman language. It becomes untrustworthy. This absolute ambiguity, the foggy, uncertain space between trust and distrust, where the merely utilitarian production of meaning is neglected, and where the reader is asked to “make sense” of the language, is precisely the site of poetry.

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.

Kate Robinson

Plane : Frame : Sieve

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 in its structure in the sense that all assertions are equal (anti-hierarchy); prefigurative in the sense that it seeks to be the world it desires; anarcho:communist (Marxist materialist) in the sense that it believes in the power of collectivity and community over the power of the state and institutions, both in terms of the aesthetics of the work and in its reproduction and dissemination, and seeks to, through wordy aesthetic means, understand what a collective “I” might sound and/or look like; labor-informed in the sense that it’s deeply aware of its own sense of production as well as engaging with the conditions of life and work for the contemporary working class political subject, from mental health concerns to relationships, one’s orientation to jobs and commodities, one’s relationship to institutions.
My game is to construct a framework within which to overlay one’s own experience/philosophy/perspective and manifest meanings and understandings of the topics at hand. I recognize that the historico-socio-political context of a work, its physical manifestation (the labor of production: from the filtering of cultural input, to the writing/typing of words, to whatever publication entails), and its intertextuality1 all intersect to form a flexible web of meaning that catches you.

People are multiplicitous and varied, continually becoming and re-becoming. The common is only difference. Needs are varied. Perspectives change. I revel in an identity’s ability to be contingent, contextual, contradictory, simultaneous, forever shifting and swerving away from a stable yes. Meaning sediments, becoming a continual act until death intervenes.
Having always felt the failure of language completely, acutely, whether or not I was fully aware of that fact, I found instant respect and solidarity when I first discovered writers who seemed uninterested in communicating with EVERYONE, loosening their grip on certitude.
Given that we are all only collections of experiences and impressions, assembling disparate parts, presenting them with some sense of implicit cohesion, makes all the sense in the world.
Story without plot: dreamlike, plunging fully and perpetually forward and unfolding, then circling back and having a new experience with “the same ol’ shit,” like Stein’s repetition or Heraclitus’s river.
Some kind of terrified trust beyond understanding of a world that is, in fact, that weird: skeptical faith in the storied world.
Magic as intentional human action. Hunger for form manifest. Minimalist2 maximalism3 enlightened, sitting by a river, endless, no resolution of conflict. Observations gather on the same plane, then the perspective shifts.
Resolution is hacky, boring, and unrealistic. Leave it alone, people grow wild & change. Your efforts to understand taking you further away from understanding; your gut gets it right.
Vertical organization: a chord
Horizontal organization: rhizomatic

Colorist : intensely of the moment : slivers of mundanity : layer upon layer : reference : inference : images affixed alongside : new : old
Approaching life as hypersigil: writing is the same as not writing: the fallow periods are integrated.
The work continually moves between intersections of binaries, zooming in and out:
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
I try to dream up different ways to express or perform concepts and human interactions, moving towards a multimedia dimension, attempting to use gesture to collapse time into one space. I make up procedures and chance operations to perform on texts in the hopes that doing so might unlock the mechanisms of our everyday language.
Synthesis emergent and perpetually dissolving, disseminating, diffusing.
INFLUENCES: Gertrude Stein, Joan Retallack, Leslie Scalapino, Ulises Carrion, Clive Phillpot, Frank O’Hara, John Cage, Samuel Beckett, Thalia Field, Carla Harryman, Kurt Schwitters, Jacques Rancière, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Deleuze & Guattari, Paolo Friere, the Non-Site Collective (David Buuck, Rob Halpern, Robert Kocik, David Wolach, Amber DiPietra, etc), Situationism, Fluxus, mutual aid, The Invisible Committee, “The Democratic Multiple,” punk/d.i.y. culture, consensus-based organizing, the labor movement, magic/ritual, collage/montage/juxtaposition, Conner Habib, Caitlin Doughty, Kathi Weeks, Gabor Maté, Dean Spade, E. Hopely, Caleb Beckwith, JGFaylor, Brian Ang, Lara Durback, Virginia Woolf, Peter Rollins, Stan Brakhage, Robert Anton Wilson, Mark Rothko

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
From Mean Body

Commie joke

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
someone’s always
evoking turkeys here, tho
Gerald was re-homed

It smells like roses
A man walks
with a bouquet of roses
from elsewhere
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
words lending
themselves to expression
through individuals
and collectively

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
residual feelings
persist, compounding
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

Pure O

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
without walls

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
to images
not even “real” ones
not even NFTs

Space “just” negative event
Everything that we think of as nothing

Upper happy
Psychic reader
Cordial emotion
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

Percussive sublimation
Lateral arabesque

Salvation lost its meaning
In a place to buy housewares

Second coming Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory Fire

tornadoes crossing state lines
obliterate Amazon,
a candle factory
Workers dead for
commerce as always
survivors pulled from the rubble
dance and cry, return to
work the next day


Against perfection
Against availability
New motive:
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

still “resilient”

something about The Tower93

the failure of totality systems

viable communication
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
intriguing, but
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

Water person

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,
creamed spinach,
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
in history
exploding the unhollow rocks
making them hollow
hollowing out
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
She says
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

There’s something about speaking a word as opposed to writing or typin
g that makes it feel different left considered you’re like more perman
ent difficult to change later right as I start to emerge out of the fo
g that I have lived in for the laugh I don’t even know how long two ye
ars maybe my hand stops working and I can’t brush my teeth or zip up m
y pants with my right hand and I have to try to do it with my left han
d and I can do it but it feels difficult and I feel like the actual de
finition of the word lame course that has happened with Mayor days aft
er I promised my husband that I was going to come back home from Olymp
ia and get a job at a café that thing that I always thought I could re
turn to when my career make any sense but if course of that moment my
hand stopped working and I was reminded that Carrie played some campin
g specialist shots required text Darity in three movements of my right
hand I don’t know how to do that job without it126


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


Something about me:
I don’t need to feel good
about myself

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

Triangulated cheerleader

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

Woman King
Nope Barbarian
Don’t Worry
D a r l i n g

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

Pure experience

Father, quencher139
news-pilled parenting

                                          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
comparable images.
which, symbolically,
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,
inexorable agency.
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


126 dictation
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,
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.

Jamie Townsend

Alter Poems
(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.

                       black moonstone                 nerve plant                   brain coral

                                                            mini dala horse

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.

                  As They Fall deck

                                                                            baby conch
                                                      quartz wand

                                                                                            bundle of peppermint

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.

                                         dendritic agate

                                                                           wooden cat whistle                   glass algae
          Yayoi Kasuma lenticular card

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.

          jar of rosewater
                                                     3 of wands / dusk oracle

                             fools gold                                                     candelabra

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.

                                                               the hierophant

                      selenite tower                                                      baby’s breath

                                                         alder incense

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.

Novelty (A Haunting)



Invite the presence



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
And eat it too
This machine can
Only swallow
Michael sings
Loo clears the room
With a block
Of alder
Smoking loud
On the love seat ‘s
Crooked alignment, unchaste
And expectant in this
New romantic set
And setting, velveteen
Fringed comforter
Strings of faux
Pearls across
A scuffed brick
Of Gnostic Gospels
Collecting dust
On the nightstand
The mystical bon mot
Or waiting hellscape
Where glamour
Finds the path
Of least

All that ’s solid
Melts into air

Broadway ’s porcelain
Mobil pegasus
Sign invades a heaven
Blanched to any
Intimate conversation
Loo strains to decipher
The metamorphosis
Medusa ’s brutal My Little
Pony conversion, mistakes
Form for content
That’s quite the
For a suffragette

As a sign to crumble
This flimsy taxonomy
That insists upon Eden ‘s
Endless glamours
Lisa Frank pastoral
Chorus of reverse
Pleasure triangle
Shirtwaist revolt
Or quip straight
From the mouth of
The Complete Madame
Realism, apt and direct
As a proposal
On a grimy
Bathroom mirror
ACAB banner
Wrapping a heart
In red sharpie
Pierced thru w/
A limp dick cartoon
In blue script
For a good time
Call no one

Spider-web of
Mirror splitters
Complicated pronouns
This crowd of
Backup vocals
All jockeying
For position
In reflection or
Candida ’s perennial
Blossoming, we
Contain multitudes
Of what we
Simply can’t imagine

Under the eye
Of the vulgar elite
Loo makes an altar
For psychic adornment
Oblique Strategies
Chip off the Campo
del Cielo meteorite
Bundle of dried fennel
Menstrual blood painting
A stone from
The first river they swam in
Raspberry vinyl
Alien figurine
Matryoshka mom statuette
Brass censor of
Alder incense
Fist sized
Hunk of mica-flecked granite
Jeweled buttplug
Wiener ’s Supplication

Animate grammar
Their covers
Spread wide open

Jamie Townsend is a writer and editor living in Oakland. They are the author of the poetry collections: Shade (Elis Press) and Sex Machines (speCt!). They are also the editor of Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader (Nightboat) and Libertines in the Ante-Room of Love: Poets on Punk (Jet Tone). They curate the bicoastal magazine project Elderly with Nick DeBoer and the West Oakland salon series Just Like Honey with Ivy Johnson.

Jessica L. Wilkinson

Poetics Statement

– 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’).
My three published books to date have all been poetic-biographical works on artists; each one is a documentary assemblage, an extended frisson generated through herding detail – as encountered through my engagement, as biographer, with fact, document, artifact, artwork, space, place and more – through the twinned channels of ‘biography + poetry’. Each of these works develops a biographical ‘form’ to locate its artist subject, taking cues from the research encounters.
Mirka Mora loved objects; her house was a clutter of dolls, toys, teddy bears, artworks, books, art tools, baskets, quirky furniture, collectibles and more. My biography of Mirka is developing as a series of poems that whirl outwards from objects that were meaningful to her (including her artworks), each one a pivot for story, fact, portrait, energy.
‘[untitled schoolgirl]’ responds to, and expands from Mirka’s soft sculpture artwork (Untitled (Schoolgirl)). The poem assembles biographical details about: her childhood; her playful engagement with other artists and their work; her workshops for the general public, especially women and children; and her views on colour, imagery, paint quality. The doll itself is a reference to the ‘Schoolgirls’ series of paintings by her friend and fellow artist Charles Blackman. Blackman’s series in part responds to the respective murders of a schoolgirl in Melbourne, and a young woman (a university friend of his wife) in Brisbane. Yet it was also inspired by poetry and French literature on themes of adolescence and alienation, and by his own feelings of fear and loneliness. The fourth part of this poem, then, draws out the entanglement of art’s influences, and a community that can band together – against violence, through art, towards joy.

Mirka Mora, Untitled [Schoolgirl] (doll) c. 1970 casein paint on calico, 42 x 27 cm, Heide Museum of Modern Art.
[untitled schoolgirl]

I want to make these dollssss until my last breath
                                                               —Mirka Mora

i. Doll

—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

Dear Charles,
Herewith, a gift or crafty wink;
a dialogue through fingers, probing
sun-smarts or introversion.

Dear Charles,
Herewith, one more solitary schoolgirl;
the elongated shapes of adolescent shadow;
her awkward footing, flared.

Dear Charles,
Herewith, a tribute, gaining heft;
her chest draws deep on menace
from your schoolyard breeze.

Dear Charles,
Herewith, two arms opened
onto blue skies and sun
to meet with warm regard.

iii. Friend/s
-----draw, cut, sew, invert, stuff, paint-----
-----draw, cut, sew, invert, stuff, paint-----

    imagine the moment
       of first joy       or fear
           big eyes
         a breath
   cuts along
       your own line—
always a first coat
  of white; always
    the best colour (Plaka brand)
            brushed into fabric—
                   wonder and diversion
               in equal parts, like so
    many offbeat comrades
        drawn together

-----draw, cut, sew, invert, stuff, paint-----
-----draw, cut, sew, invert, stuff, paint-----

iv. Museum

It takes a long time to get to the door
in a vast hall of mirrors

Betty and Alma, transitional
long shadows

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

the sun,
our gait

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.