Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The poem I write today grins / While I chop it like a mean boy

some quotes...

"He had a little teapot on the desk beside him and he kept picking it up and listening to it. He told me my poem should have a dead person in it."
-from "Mean Boy" by Lynn Coady

"Non-creative? I'll have you know i bedazzle my own underpants!"
-Fry, from Futurama

"Oh! Speaking of words..."
-My mom

"There are two kinds of people: those who make there-are-two-kinds-of-people lists, and those who don't."
(um, me)

Yesterday, when Rachel came to dress me for dinner, I saw that she had been crying. I wanted to know the cause of it, but she seemed reluctant to tell. Was she unwell? No. Had she heard bad news from her friends? No. Had any of the servants vexed her?
'Oh, no, ma'am!' she answered; 'it's not for myself.'
'What then, Rachel? Have you been reading novels?'
-from "Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Brontë

Jenny: "Graham might become a famous author, for all you know."
Father: "Becoming one isn't the same as knowing one."
-from An Education

Vladimir: "You should have been a poet."
Estragon: "I was." (Gestures towards rags.) "Isn't that obvious?"
-from "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett

Me: "That's the problem with fiction- everyone just sits around staring at each other, full of meaning."
My sister: "Unlike poetry, where there are no people and nothing ever happens."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

95 Romances for Canadian Readers

It was taken some time ago, inside the wooden outboard,
all along. You say: Now it is more accurate: Us they thee: huh?
Outrageously beautiful rooms, snug underground in the civic worm
Burrowing. You want to be hammered on anvils and shaped in fire.
Do not operate without aside a bit and, with your tongue
that is longer than your arms, it is dark and soft, skates tossed over
my shoulder. Who’s there? The courtyard. Faster.
The door is at the end of the hall on how much control do you think
the writer has over the, each cell a tiny pool, feeling language in me
differentiate poetics from literary theory. Hassan claps, and (tah-dah)
an Arab lass at a swank for the artificial product of a precision.
So what if you found your house that had seen it and felt it…
it all goes beyond stall oxen, sickle or scythe sterling morsels muscles
in matters horny toadies as I gasp and I am gasping and bleeding away
episodically thrust downward to reveal “fountains.” Be a letdown
Always match cleverly that you’re not of her herself! Outside that!
There are doors in the walls of your nation which can be locked,
the blinds on the that when one morning my head, the door open wide
and the all-night Greek and in part you are, he is always reading
statistics over breakfast; cotton hand. Wouldn’t it just loose.
Then camisole, white shorts. What is ordinary is not possible anymore.
The billboard with the women tall, ruminations troubling my informant:
(some) other ill-powerful by sleet that washes ride late night. Got kid
deep in this dimlyness. Fog on the sofa two lovers, the tin shed
the oily grass smell of the mower light, told Mikimoto that he himself
had attempted to or scared enough he’d always spoken of purpose.
Tilt the victim’s fragile egg, said my name like it mattered. Showed me
your mother had in their assemblies, in lambic filiations.
Maurice orders French police to attack illegal but peaceful
demonstrations of cabbage cattle, suspend tatters for the better part
of a week, slice of wood? I was proud of myself.
Perhaps it wasn’t a tanker. Frog stops. Misters of techabye fixit,
where did the world go? The UFO score heard through of a minimum
rather, our writer should bloxlemox yes no, gut flora yes no
and spend it all on his children. With sad news from home—
partly in cold and windy showers before tulippsulpit. The space
of 7 acres. There is an elaborate gate. those who have used the following
techniques of seduction: small that has been free of students,
blurry sunset, look deep as she rivers her feelings. Her thumbs river.
Her feel—flick of a wrist, tug of tether, blast of rock, will gaff you,
a nest of my ordinary thighs, and I think of the wind. The outspread world
is xylophones nougat goo. Pancake fold vocal, garble lullaby:
twisted in Mixture 69—I have become sullen and bitter in Cedar Cove,
which could on a fragile tightrope seek pay dirt, to the North Pole
to the west coast of Vancouver fumes smeared violet like this.
Father, when you died you left me each year at first snow
and antlers of a moose sporting a black eye patch over his left eye
the negative spaces on or around or under
rachel whiteread or bruce nauman andor ‘Trader Joe’s chilli whips
the Costco Martha Stewart’s ass.’
Bertolt comes dressed in lipstick shades named debt.
Grasslands culpable steadfast. A love is standing up—
Now can I help you with your wars?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

These things!


I've come into possession of a bunch of... whatever these things are. I wonder what they are. Or, more importantly, I wonder what I should make with them :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Splintergraphia: Some thinking about the unit of visual poetry and potential for feminist expression


There's some ongoing discussion about what the unit of poetry is—a sentence, phrase, word, letter, sound, etc. But what is the unit of visual poetry? It could be the letter, but probably not. A lot of visual poetry uses chunks of letters, punctuation, or other writing-type glyphs. On the other hand, a lot of visual poetry uses big swaths of text—sometimes cut up and made into sculptures, sometimes used as a background, etc. Then there’s visual poetry that has no language or letters in it at all. It’s difficult, of course, to say what characterizes the genre. How you define visual poetry’s unit depends, of course, on what you classify as visual poetry.

Very very broadly, visual poetry can be divided into three categories—the first, in which language is used and is meant to be read and understood in the conventional usage of written language, the second, where language is used but isn’t meant to be ‘read,’ so to speak, and the third, in which no language is used but the work is still somehow related to or engaging with writing and reading. Vispo of the first category can be put into two very broad sub-categories—the first, where the word or words are imbued with extra meaning through the use of, say, art, graphic design, etc. The presentation of the language is enhanced beyond black letters on a page to enhance the meaning of the writing. Work in the second sub-category uses language to imbue the art in which it is placed with meaning—the language is at the service of the work of art rather than the other way around, yet the language used is still readable and communicatory. Anyway, put that all to one side. I’m also not really going to discuss the third category, for now, anyway, though I think it ties back in 3 paragraphs from now.

The visual poetry I’m interested in discussing here is the non-communicative kind—the kind that uses language yet is not meant to be, or cannot be, ‘read,’ i.e., read the phrase, understand the meaning, complete the action you were getting information about properly, ‘read’ kind of way. So, what is the unit of this kind of vispo? Again, I don’t think it’s the letter, since a lot of visual poetry uses a lot of text with a lot of complete letters, words, sentences, paragraphs. At the same time, a lot of visual poetry only hints at complete letters. For this type of vispo, the unit could very well be the fragment. In this kind of vispo, text is fractured, somehow. A shard of a letraset letter is pressed on to the page, cracking around the edge where the sheet was pulled away. A page of printed text is cut up into squares, stacked, and tied with a ribbon. Letters are stencilled onto a page, arranged according to their shape. A text heavy page of newspaper is used as a canvas for a collage, stained with translucent red paint, and partially covered with other things pasted on top. These types of work are all very different in the amount of text they use, yet they are all doing something similar to language—they are screwing with it so that you can not read it. It both destroys language, and refuses to be language in the first place. It resists—either aggressively or passively, it rejects conventional reading.

So, if the fragment is what characterized non-communicative vispo that employs language, then what? At its best, this type of writing is not simply about aesthetics, even when the language used in a piece is used purely for its aesthetic quality. Either crumpling language up or refusing to fully be language is a forceful political stance. The refusal to engage with meaning as it exists challenges the groundwork of well, anyything. This type of vispo has the potential to shake the foundations of any ‘topic’ it engages with, whether that topic is how we use language and how language is conceptualized, or any other specific, language-related subject that the work is engaging with. This type of vispo refuses to meet any subject on its own terms. This vispo approaches a subject and deals with it, while at the same time absolutely refusing to engage with that subject’s language and discourse.

Non-communicative vispo that employs language holds an incredible potential for feminist expression as a result of this type of vispo’s ability to engage with a subject while refusing to discuss it with the existing vocabulary of that subject. This kind of vispo demands that you forget everything about how you look at language. This kind of feminist vispo demands that you change everything about how you look at, talk about, and think about me (me, as in, whoever is employing the writing or whoever the writing is ‘about’).

For example, when you find yourself trapped in an infuriating discussion about feminism where the other person employs familiar tropes and arguments to dismiss feminism when they have all the potential and exposure to feminist theory not to adopt a knee-jerk oppositional stance to feminism and you’d really just rather not have to explain again about sex positivism or media representations in order to make them comfortable with the idea that individuals who are not middle-class-young-white-well-educated-western-heterosexual-cis-males also deserve legal rights and space in society? When you’re thinking that you can’t believe you have to talk about this the same way again because you know the other person isn’t listening and doesn’t care anyway and will keep pulling the discussion back to the preset clichéd discourse about all this?

This kind of vispo is one artistic answer to this frustration. It’s a kind of writing that says no, completely and fundamentally, can reference the subject’s established discourse without being part of the discourse, and forms its own discourse on the subject. Vispo based on the fragment fundamentally screws up the line, the letter of how language classifies and traps me, you, whoever uses this vispo. First it says no to what’s being said, and then it says something else.