Friday, August 22, 2014

Hank Lazer, Three Poems





The hand-made chapbook is supposed to give us privileged access—not unmediated (we’re not that naive), but privileged—to those distinctive processes we suppose “take place” when a poem comes into being. Especially as compared to mass-produced commodities like the major anthologies, they feel handheld, unplugged, analog. Hank Lazer’s three hand-written notebook poems are a good place to start in thinking about the way poems get mediated on any page. (And indeed, they are all meditations on that kind of mediation.) Each framing (and framed by) a quotation from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (trans. Donald Landes), the poems foreground a variety of challenges to transparency: first, there’s the opacity of Merleau-Ponty’s prose; then there’s the elliptical complexity of Hank’s language in response to Merleau-Ponty; and there’s the additional challenge of the hand-written language that is deployed in ways that subvert conventional left-to-right reading. Finally, there’s a multiple resistance in the digital representations as we crank our heads around trying to get it all in. (Take my advice: download these jpegs and open them in a program that allows you to rotate the texts—or, if you’re strong enough, you could simply pick up your computer and rotate it to read them. JM)
























Hank Lazer has published seventeen books of poetry, including Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit (Singing Horse, 2005), Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004), and Days (Lavender Ink, 2002). In 2008, Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008 was published by Omnidawn. Lazer’s seventeenth book of poetry N18 (complete), a handwritten book, is available from Singing Horse Press: http://singinghorsepress.com/titles/n18/. Pages from the notebooks have been performed with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar at the University of Georgia and in Havana, Cuba.
Recent features on the Notebooks appear in Talisman #42 (http://www.talismanmag.net/, including an interview conducted by Marjorie Perloff) and Plume #34 (http://plumepoetry.com/2014/04/featured-selection-5/, including a conversation with Glenn Mott, and an mp3 of a performance with Andrew Raffo Dewar).
Audio and video recordings of Lazer’s poetry and an interview for Art International Radio can be found at Lazer’s PennSound website: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Lazer.html.





Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chantel Langlinais Carlson, Two Poems






Chantel Langlinais Carlson writes, “Both of these poems were written using a quill (in response to a cfp I saw that was looking for writing that did away with 'newer' forms of technology/writing implements) . . . it proved a much more challenging process than I imagined, but it also made for an interesting writing experience! It looks easier in the movies.” (It’s worth noting, as a matter of principle, that everything looks easier in the movies.) Anyway, I asked her to send jpegs to document the whole process, and the result makes me very happy that Chantel (rather than I) undertook this effort to get back to goose-based technology. (JM)























         
     






































































































































         Aperture

Past thyme and rain on the window’s
stillness, a woman’s gaze
turns to blue. Quilled in blue seeped through
to vein the blood with ink
now gone dry. A woman’s gaze turns
to her skin, Rorschach forms
islands and daggers and ships sail
across life lines once held
in a gypsy’s palm. The bourbon
moon never tasted so
good. A woman’s gaze turns to shut
ticks and stocks of time-crossed
memory. Drawn feathered. Drawn blue.





         Extraction

My genius tired of beat boxing
in the corner, choking
on consonants I never caught.
He pulled cobwebs off his
eyelash and blew them into air
forming feathers that took
flight. I, too busy to notice,
stepped over them—now I
am ready—but never was good
at catching fireflies.
To wake the lost ghost kidnapped by
inconsistency, I
write. The corner shadows wisp–then—
only silence answers.





  

Chantel Langlinais Carlson received her Ph.D. in Modern Drama with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2007. She is currently an Instructor of English at Texas Christian University, where she teaches modern drama, poetry, film, and composition. Next Stage Press recently accepted her one-act play, The Exhibit, for publication. Her poetry chapbook, Turning 25, was published in 2011 by Nous-zot Press. Her poetry has appeared in Ekleksographia, damselfly press, The Southwestern Review, and The Louisiana Review, and her critical work has appeared in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Journal and the Louisiana English Journal.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jesse Poimboeuf, Ten Visuals








Jesse Poimboeuf has made a great reputation as a multi-media and performance artist here in Lafayette, LA. (And in New Orleans; and elsewhere. Get him to tell you about his raccoon suit someday.)  But his whole enterprise strikes me as more mental than media—what’s at hand is made to serve (even though it also helps construct) his vision. I spoke with him about some of the ironies involved in reducing his (and others’) constructions to a flat digital format, but there’s also a provocative sense of competing perspectives (as in Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” maybe) as the eye tries to seize what the bytes chew up and spit out flat. I can’t provide instances of his performance work here (although I do have a fine painting that he did of a performance done in collaboration with me reading poems), but here are four representations of some of his constructions in three dimensions. (JM)



"Valentine Baby"



"Valentine Baby w/ Japanese Mask"



"Eye / Heart / Hand"




"Eye / Heart / Hand" (verso) 



A terrific collagist, Jesse often presses multiple media towards effects comparable to collage—his acrylics, charcoals, watercolors, oils, pencil, crayon, etc. establish distinct spaces, directions, perspectives, even timeframes, as if each medium insisted on its own dimensionality calling out to, but maintaining distinction from, all the others. Here are four examples. (JM)



"Surrounding" (Charcoal/Acrylic/Pastel/Colored Pencil/Canvas)




"untitled" (Acrylic/Graphite/Dye/Paper)




"Curtain at the Beginning" (Acrylic/Pastel/Charcoal/Dye/Colored Pencil/Paper)




"untitled" (Acrylic/Ink/Watercolor/Charcoal/Paper)



So what happens when an artist this engaged with sensuous media and materials goes digital? Jesse’s been working lately using an iPad app (Brushes) he discovered online in an article treating its use by David Hockney (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturevideo/artvideo/10408677/David-Hockney-unveils-his-iPad-art.html). It’s wonderful to compare these (I’ll upload three here) with Jesse’s otherworldly representations of wild birds in acrylics, colored pencil, and pastels (see, for instance, http://www.lemieuxgalleries.com/web/groups.asp?id=PaintingsAndDrawings.txt&WorksId=Blues; note, especially, his "Crazy Jay Blue"; JM).



"untitled"




"untitled"


I can’t help but comment on this last one, “Ruined Pixels.” There’s so much in it about working in a new medium, or working between and among media, and, again, the sense that what emerges (from the materials, from the machine) is fundamentally mental. I love the electric finger, poised over the (musical?) keyboard, and the way everything seems eventually to turn to waves. (JM)



"Ruined Pixels"






Jesse Poimboeuf was born and grew up in New Orleans, and has also lived in Lafayette (Louisiana), Denver, and New York. He now resides in the country on Bayou Teche near Arnaudville, northeast of Lafayette. He's taught Fine Arts at the University of New Orleans, Loyola, Tulane, Fordham, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He and his wife Nancy own the Kitchen Shop and Pistache in Grand Coteau, LA.





Monday, August 18, 2014

Jerry McGuire, Please Note: Erratum




I messed up the line-spacing on Lesle Lewis’s poems on the 14th, but I believe I’ve got it right now. Please have another looked at those beautiful poems now that I’ve fixed the spacing. And Lesle, please forgive me: I’m teetering, like Belushi’s samurai, on the edge of self-destruction for this editorial horror! (JM)



Dayana Stetco, "Living in a Suit"







A marvelous fiction-writer, playwright, and director (and, I suspect, producer, on-set psychoanalyst, and floorsweep), Dayana Stetco’s established a kind of shadow government for her theatrical productions in the form of persistently fascinating production blogs for her more recent works (see http://milenagroup.blogspot.com/2013/09/noir.html). You want process? Abandon all hope, ye who enter there. One of the crucial considerations of that process, of course, is mastering the many media (or at least, accommodating them) that must be harnessed to mount a play. (Having been a playwright/director myself in the past, the unruly stallion imagery comes to mind unbidden.) The piece she’s given us—a "motto" (her word), a brief clip from The Perfect Human, a meditation on an image of masculinity, a set of stills from her play Noir (and one shot of Cary Grant), and a sentence from The Perfect Human—is a fine indicator of the ways in which images provoke meditations that provoke further images—and so on, and so on, and so on. (JM)






            Living in a Suit



“Why does he move like that? How does he move like that?” 






Before Jorgen Leth’s The Perfect Human, before the first Bond adaptation, before Alain Delon’s Le Samouraï and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, before Christian Bale’s ultraviolent Patrick Bateman and Idris Elba’s reluctantly heroic Luther (“You’re totally epic”) – an image that captures the perfect blend of masculinity and charm, a monochromatic subtlety to which we no longer have access: Cary Grant in a beautifully tailored suit. Single-breasted jacket, forward-pleat trousers, white shirt with double cuff, gray silk tie. The glen check fabric. The monogrammed cufflinks. The flow, the elegance, the promise of a perfectly tailored suit. Cary Grant, the man who “knew how to wear clothes,” moving effortlessly from scene to scene with a simplicity that baffles. The man, the suit, a certain economy of movement that translates so well to the screen, to the stage, a refinement impossible to resist – nostalgia for things we haven’t encountered in reality in a very long time.






“Today, too, I experienced something that I hope to understand in a few days” (The Perfect Human, 1967)






Dayana Stetco is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her book, Seducing Velasquez and Other Plays, was released by Ahadada Books in 2009. Her plays have been produced in the U.S., her native country, Romania, and the UK, and her fiction, plays and translations have appeared in several journals including Requited, Two Lines, Packingtown Review, The Means, Emergency Almanac, mark(s), BathHouse Hypermedia Art Journals, Metrotimes, Gender(f), Masque and Spectacle.  She is the co-editor of Audition: A Journal of Drama and Interdisciplinary Performance. In 2000 she founded the theatre ensemble, The Milena Group (www.milenagroup.blogspot.com).






Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rebbecca Brown, "Squall"





It’s worth distinguishing among some ways in which media may interact—for instance, accidentally, or in a relationship of subordination, or of coordination, or of integration, or of synthesis, or of conflict. When worlds collide, all sorts of things can happen. At (or near) its worst, this can take the form of that idiot’s cellphone going off (perhaps playing a few bars of “Stairway to Heaven”) precisely at the emotional climax of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. It is also the case that one painter may fill her studio with Mahler while another loops a ceaseless hiphop or bluegrass mix. Flannery O’Connor turned her writing-desk to face a blank wall, while Freud filled his office with archaeological doodads. (Any desk, any office, any bathroom, can tell the story of a life. HD read Freud's mind when she walked into his office.)
Often, I think, media work their way into written works as Jimmy Page’s guitar solo disrupts an old man’s tears in Swedish, a kind of smash-and-grab on our attention. And who knows, maybe sometimes there’s a kind of victory in that, a mediatory transformation from one mode of attention to another. We may forget the movie and leave the theater humming that melody to ourselves.
One can certainly say, too, that history is a medium, or rather, with Foucault, that historical epochs mediate human possibility differently. As such, writerly strategies for invoking variant histories may act upon us as differing media do. Rebbecca Brown’s “Squall” plays a perilous delicate game of balancing pure composition (which I mean in the same way that Hitchcock used "pure cinema" to describe a passionate attention to style) with some tricky historical allusion—not only those classical terms for linguistic figuration (you can find them all, except for “tautophrase,” here: http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Figures/Groupings/of%20Repetition.htm; “tautophrase” is roughly the same as what this page lists as “tautologia”), but also the dueling classicisms of Mae West and Gabriel Garcia Marquez—two geniuses of stylistic economy, cultural symbolism, and ceaseless mediation who I think would have got along splendidly.






     Squall



I. Epizeuxis
There are birds in my throat. The vibrancy of their wings is thrashing. They are false starts fledged with the humming—how many sentences stir with those tiny, truncated hearts?
Now that I’ve begun, there is no beginning, no return to the days when the breath hushed up and the moon was a source of wonder. We looked at it from a blanket on the dewy grass, and lately, when the comets chase their tales around like ragged, stupid dogs, all I can see are wisps falling through the sound of this lousy light. We are in the city where my little life lies, sifting the smog of a hundred years, where the streets stretch their lines of splintered trees as if their backs could never curl from cricks pained, deathly arthritic.
There there, now, I do not have to wait for you. There, there, now.

II. Conduplicatio
This story repeats itself. Them again: the lovers like lightning seeking the wobbling earth, heat dazed in their death march, slicing through those sorry constellations, currents sharp as prickly pears, happy to strike here again. I withstand their smoldering heat. Shut my eyes and count the silence in between them.
When I was a little girl, my parrot flew out the window—disappearing quickly into the abundance of trees, flapping its frightened wings. He never learned to talk, to mimic the tape we played over and over called “Make Your Bird a Star.” An imitation Mae West repeated “Ah . . . [long pause] . . . Come up and See Me Sometime . . . Ah . . . [long pause] . . . Come up and See Me Sometime.” He would stare with those distant, black-beaded eyes, clanking his crabbed and tetchy feet along his perch, happy to get the hell out of there as soon as he had the chance, I bet.
You lived far away from there, where my little life lies, where the weather wears the trees to bone, shifting those struggling leaves around in shrouds of wind. I visited you often, and sometimes you would come up and see me. This story repeats itself, etched beyond those fickle tales of sorry constellations.
In Love in the Time of Cholera, Dr. Juvenal Urbino slips while reaching for his lost parrot and splinters his frail spine. The illusions of love are ultimately unable to sustain him. Newly widowed, Fermina’s lover returns after fifty-one years, nine months, and four days, yet Fermina still refuses. For a while there, refuses. Ultimately, she gives in.

III. Antanaclasis
This summer we stood in the petrified forest, gold chimeras littering the feet of pastel mountains, and as the clouds blew dandelion fluff over the desert floor, we joked about the hieroglyphics. A swarm of bees kept us from moving closer. The wind blew without noise and the sky slanted gray rain where there were no people. All that was left was stone.
I looked into the distance because I could not see your eyes, the disconnected depths that betrayed an often angry mouth. When you yelled, I thought I heard my father, saw those disappearing wings on the bird who could not have his way with words.

IV. Anadiplosis
I did not know you then, when she left during the night that knocked the power lines around, bending branches, breaking backs. Swarms of birds flew through the perilous, flickering lights.
Afterwards, you avoided her absence in everyone else’s eyes, and carried her sunglasses wherever you went. I did not want to touch or scratch them, but when I put them on, they illumined the loss that kept you hunched.
One day, we climbed to where the water fell. I took you to the hidden place with the crumbling mother Mary. Someone else knew this secret spot, had covered her hands with decaying frail thin roses. Beneath the roses, salamanders stealthily slithered and hid. I did not know that at the time those final moments were both yours and mine. I never saw the same again.
Here is a poem I wrote for you:
the cracks daze the cup,
shatters determined during

grains fusing toward temporary
stasis. we both understand

the nature of this—those
minute fractures, the future.

leaves scatter, temporarily adrift.

the silken scuff of the tulip
bruised by calloused fingers falls.

I loved you interminably this time,

wanted the fissions gracing the skin,
desire, desire, tethered so thin.

the finale is ending, another
spin on the soft spoke suffering.

each new love is this last loss,
inevitably these needs

that bereave you.


V. Anaphora
Marquez writes: He was aware that he did not love her [. . .] but as she kissed him for the first time he was sure there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love. They did not speak of it that first night, when they spoke of everything until dawn, nor would they ever speak of it. But in the long run, neither of them had made a mistake.
This story repeats itself, like the nights we talked of futures we would not have, accompanied by the beating wings I mistook for a rankled heart. I hear the sound of the storm we clutched through, when the wind bent the trees like beggars and blustered with fervent breath.
We were on the river when it struck, and had to forgo our leisurely float. As we climbed onto the bank, the silt slurped at our feet, and covered us with twigs and muck. We sat on a fallen branch and you shuddered. I thought you were frightened, but you said the rain was trickling through your bones, turning them to stone. You held out your hands, decaying frail thin roses.
On the night she left, the power went out and thrust you into darkness. You were afraid of getting struck. You drove away and the rain lashed at your windshield like a father’s fuming tongue. When the weather cleared, you went back and found that she had gone. After years of all that sickness, she had finally gone.
You told me this as we found our way to the service road. I felt we had made it, that the worst had happened early on, but I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong.

VI. Tautophrase
I’d rather remember that underwater world, where we walked with held hands among the subaquatic seclusions. The fish stared at us with diaphanous eyes through the blurry glass. I’d rather recall how the jellyfish blurted toward the surface, only to sift down again, tendrils of their currents defused in the vacant, constrained light. There are no wings in that liquid life, no chance for false starts or quick pleasures, no chance to flit or shift, to move beyond the confines that love and shelter in. A fin is a fin is the end is the end.
I do not want to recall that vibrant, silent bird that never seemed to listen, to see his wings beat freely. I am sick of repeating what I do not understand, come up and see me sometimecome up and see me sometime, come up and see me sometime, those grainy old illusions. I will not end like Marquez: Forever is Forever.
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. The sunglasses you gave me sit upon my desk. I do not want to look through them. I do not want to watch the wisps of ghosts that wind away with flight. I hear the squalls reaping in the distance, illusions of a love last lost, there there, again, again.






Rebbecca Brown’s work has appeared in American Literary Review, Confrontation, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Eclipse, Requited, H_ngm_n, and Ekleksographia (among others). She is the recipient of an Honorable Mention from the Academy of American Poets, the Rachel Sherwood Prize for Poetry, and First Place in the LACC Writing Contest for Creative Nonfiction. They Become Her, her first novel, received Honorable Mention in the 2009-2010 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Contest and will be published in October of 2014 by What Books Press. She lives and works in New York City.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Bob Grumman, "An Evening in June, 1952"







Robert Frost's "There Are Roughly Zones" is one of those poems (like every poem in which he uses the word "something") in which his fundamental ambivalence takes over, creating (as it must) an ambivalent universe. There are no laws (he implies), just "roughly zones" that determine, for instance, how far north you can reasonably plant a peach tree. And yet the peach tree is planted. "What comes over a man, is it soul or mind / That to no limits and bounds he can stay confined?"
Suppose we say instead, there are roughly forms. Which is to say, there is no overwhelming reason not to make your sonnet fifteen lines long, or to skip a repetition in a pantoum, or to shift from iambic to dactyls in mid-line. Form accommodates variation. We can change from English to French to Tagalog as many times as we want; we can invent our own language. In some sense, the medium is built of flexible forms. Every poet depends on that “roughly,” more, as they say, or less. The reason seems to be that, while we are not victimized by a world of absolute strictures, we are subject to a readerliness that knows when its expectations are being messed with. That extra foot, that off-rhyme, that invocation of Kiswahili don’t violate any “laws,” but they make us aware of the zones we traverse.
So Bob Grumman wrote of his submission that “I'm not sure how mediatory it is, butstill not really grasping the term. . . .” This is fine with me. What I’m looking for (and at) here is the question of how to understand mediation, what we mean by a medium, and how this affects the various relationships artists establish with the world of things and the world of other people. And I see those questions as immensely vexed, partly because “the media” is a meaningful expression—a powerful expressionand yet (because of the expectations it invokes) it tends to overshadow (see Jim Finnegan’s poem) other senses of “medium”: as material, as vehicle, as code. Bob’s “mathemaku” (I hope I have his terminology right) speak to the stringency with which we tend to view evidently opposing codes. He’s written of this poem, or at least part of it, that it not only employs the coding-structure of mathematics, but also of cryptography (I’m loosely paraphrasing, and perhaps making some dubious assumptions here; but Bob can comment to his heart’s delight if he wishes). Elsewhere I’ve written about the dance of frustration and gratification that we play, and Bob, for all his precision where it counts, isn’t averse to this dancing—which can be quite, as we say, abandoned. Sometimes, we know, a little frustration is a good thing. (JM)



     An Evening in June, 1952





































Bob Grumman is a retired substitute teacher who also worked as a computer operator but managed for most of his working life to avoid gainful employment. His specialty as a poet for the past twenty years or so has been visiomathematical poetry, but he also composes fairly conventional free verse poems.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lesle Lewis, Two Poems







The principle of the “AND gate” is this: when you have two digital signals, each measured at either a “1” state or a “0” state, inputting these to an “AND gate” will produce the following outputs: two “0” inputs results in a “0” output; one “0” input plus one “1” input results in a “0” output; two “1” inputs results in a “1” output. Thus the AND gate acts as a switch producing a “1”-level output only as a result of two “1”-level inputs. There are also gates called “OR,” “NOR,” “NAND,” “XOR,” and “XNOR”; these manage the way Boolean logic works in a binary system.
Or so I vaguely recall from the training I received as a young man—you’re probably better off checking the Wikipedia articles on “Logic Gates” and “Boolean logic” if you want the precise lowdown. My point here has to do with my response to Lesle Lewis’s enigmatic, surface-simple poems—not just the ones she’s sent to Truck, but basically everything I’ve seen in her five excellent books.
You could approach this rhetorically, through what Aristotle called the “enthymeme” or “incomplete syllogism”—his idea that the sentences of ordinary (or rhetorical) language enunciate an approximate, allusive, tropological, and elliptical logic. To extend this to what Donald Davidson says in the twentieth century, our relationship with language is always such that we must register hypotheses about meaning: meaning is rarely (at least when it rises to the level of “interest”) transparent. People engaged in communication have no choice but to be actively engaged in interpretation, of filling in gaps.
And not all gaps are alike. Some tease us to see the obvious, while others require great leaps with no assurances. Poetry, the arts in general, have thrived on this, manipulating the gaps of interpretation in an ongoing process of challenge, frustration, and gratification. Lesle’s poems—just considering, now, the ones I’ve uploaded—play between the logic of the AND gate and the enigmatic conjunction of frustration and gratification—the place, or one of the places, where “and” breaks down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with our digitally-mediated present, but I suspect it does. Or, more to the point, this may describe a kind of tension between the simplicities we depend on in our everyday existence and the complexities we are always trying to avoid or deny—the things the arts insist on. Our gadgets make things so simple that, at some level, we know we must invoke a deeper suspicion. Our lives remain frustratingly analog, and every AND gate’s logic is fuzzy. (JM)



      Animal


I am up and done with complaining about you.

You dress strangely and encompass two oceans.

You are out dancing and in danger.

You can and cannot direct your thinking down either the dark channel or the light one.

Are two and a half pills significantly better than two and a good way to get closer to
really good?

It’s a beautiful day to be a child.

You might give it all away in English or in cash.







     I don’t know what to do with this machine.


I walked to your party through the crusty crash-through snow the color of pig dung.
The party was way too feel-goodish.
I had to come back over bad roads.
Then the power went off.
If “scraps” is the answer, what’s the question?
Is it the art of wanting?

We walked your puppy in the field and you confessed your feelings.
This time of year can be the worst for feelings.
Competing streams of information hit each other.
Situations outside ourselves pull down our shades of happiness.
What really happens, happened.
We play this game in steps.

Absoluteness sits on me.
I’m not great.
My brain is a bad boy.







Lesle Lewis's newest book is A Boot's a Boot. Lesle lives in New Hampshire and teaches at Landmark College. Her website is leslelewispoetry.com.







Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Alan Sondheim, "Arguably a Corporation Is a Person"






I knew that Alan Sondheim would have something interesting to say about mediation, and sure enough. I knew too that Alan likes to work with various algorithms/recursive strategies to produce these uncanny constructions in nonce/procedural forms. Certainly we’ve been going round and rounder about sculpture, painting, music, theater, and cinema (and, more recently, radio, tv, and various environmental arts) as frameworks of thought and emotion speaking (back) to whatever our own medium is. (And that’s the central question, right? Is our medium “language”? “poetry”? some specific regime of “thought,” or even of “brain”?) But now we have “the digital,” and I don’t mean finger-painting. It is true that I can’t paint a believable foot or sculpt a verisimilitudinous nose; still, I have a very concrete understanding of what paint is, what marble is. I’m incapable of playing a melody on a piano in any way but crudely, but I “get” the piano. In contrast, our interaction with the digital is inherently uncanny in the sense Freud meant that: everyone has it, everyone knows it, everyone is comfortable with its heimlich familiarity, but only a few (who are thus alienated from it?) perfectly grasp the full set of technological events that must transpire every time one touches, say, an “a” on one’s keyboard. Again this reminds me of Freud’s great image of “the dream’s navel . . . the spot where it reaches down into the unknown.” The digital is immediate to us but also occupies an invisible world. (In this, it is like other people, another instrument we all play on without appreciating the depth of that playing.)
And of course, the digital proliferates—it’s spread its seed everywhere on earth—or, at least, everywhere you can get a signal. It is multiform, multi-tropic. It’s the thing we have in our laps, in our palms, and yet “it”—as something we might grasp—is ever more abstracted and distant. We know it through our actions, and through its satisfaction of our desires. In this it is like those hand-held gadgets in Wenders’s Until the End of the World, on which it is possible to view externalized images from dreams (the defining shot: a crane shot of a group of people, each in his/her separate space, each oblivious of the others, each fixated on an individuated dream on the gadget).
I won’t pretend to be able to figure out the algorithm Alan’s messing with here, but I know that the sense of degenerating machines and degenerating language rang a between-media bell (Round Ten!) for me, precisely with its deep alienation of the familiar (and one we all dread—communication with the person who actually does understand the tech). What goes on in those machines, and in those (in any) minds? And doesn’t that “please please reply reply” make your skin crawl? (JM)










Alan Sondheim is a Providence-based new media artist, musician, writer, and performer. He's concerned with issues of virtuality, and the stake that the real world has in the virtual. He has worked with his partner, Azure Carter, and the performer/choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilite.
Sondheim is interested in examining the grounds of the virtual, the way that the virtual inhabits the real body. He performs in virtual, real, and cross-over worlds; his virtual work is known for its highly complex and mobile architectures. He has used altered motion-capture technology extensively for examining and creating new lexicons of behavior.





Sunday, August 10, 2014

Darrell Bourque, "On Location in Marfa"






I remember, some years ago, a gathering of writers talking about “the local”—mostly about how it had disappeared or become irrelevant. Did I say this was the 90s, when everyone was trying to out-postmodern everyone else? In any case, the idea that “the local” was forever henceforward to be trumped by mediation—by our cell phones and streaming video, for Christ’s sake!—struck me then and strikes me now as having suffered, for some of the same reasons, the fate of platform shoes and disco balls. More to our immediate needs, I’d say, would be a theory that makes sense of the way locality is mediated by the technology of mass communication, and the way it mediates that technology. Does my digital tablet make me forget where I’m from, and in fact, make where I’m from disappear? On the contrary, when I’m driven through the Hudson valley now, everything else disappears for me but the crushing sense that I’ve re-acquired a part of myself. We could be driving the world’s biggest and fastest supercomputer, and it wouldn’t make any difference: the local trumps the gadget.
Darrell Bourque, from Church Point, Louisiana, understands the pull of the local in the most intimate ways. He’s written some of the most persuasive poems about being from this specific place. Even here, in a poem that resonates with the pressure of “character” as well as the pressure of “form,” there’s a sense of a media mythology grappled with and subdued by a specific feeling for place (Marfa, Texas, where location shooting for Giant, James Dean’s last film, took place). Digging a little deeper shows that this is no idle exercise: the relationship between place and myth was vexed from the start. Most of Giant was in fact shot on a Hollywood sound stage. Much of what was shot in Marfa was Hollywood illusion—house façades, miniature oil wells. And the difference between James Dean and “James Dean”—the constructed story, the configuration of visual and theatrical seductions—is the very crux of mediated myth. And then there’s Marfa itself. To quote Wikipedia’s entry:
The town was named "Marfa" at the suggestion of the wife of a railroad executive. Although some historians have hypothesized that the name came from a character in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, etymologist Barry Popik found that Marfa was actually named after Marfa Strogoff, a character in the Jules Verne novel Michael Strogoff.
So oddly the backstory of Marfa and that of James Dean seem made for each other: a shady mix of Dostoevskian darkness and Vernean potboiler. That these are brought together, first, by the Hollywood mythmaking machine and then, again, by Darrell’s poem, shows how the two media like to tear at each other, and at any fabric reality might be constructed of. Indeed, the very idea of the fantasy involved in the phrase “on location” points to this deeply intermediated rupturing—a function, perhaps, of the incommensurability of the visual and the verbal. At the core of that disruption, maybe, is something like “the local,” that location we’re never quite perfectly on. (JM)





     On Location in Marfa

No one knows for sure what came to rest in James Dean’s eyes
when he looked out his window from the Paisano Hotel.
He made it his business to seem to have few ties
to anything, or no ties at all. What fell to him always fell,

it seems, just to the side. That water froze
in the fountain in the patio last winter,
that the grasses here burn in the summer, he chose

to turn his collar to, chose to pull down his hat
so he could look up from under the brim to those
who entered a sight line and insisted on some contact.

All the maps inside his head, all the muffled cries
he couldn’t cry; all the ways of getting away swelled
in him and then stayed. The last straight road that lies


open and waiting for him, the one story he had to tell. 






Darrell Bourque is a former poet laureate of Louisiana. His Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie (University of Louisiana Press, 2013) recently was named the best poetry book of the year by Next Generation Indie Press Awards and is a finalist in the Forward Review's Best Poetry Book of the Year. His most recent work is the Yellow Flag Press chapbook If You Abandon Me, comment je vas faire, An Amédé Ardoin Songbook (2014). He will receive the Louisiana Writer of the Year Award from the Louisiana State Library at the Louisiana Festival of the Book in November 2014.