Christy Davids: One might describe the poems in The Empty Form Goes All the Way Up to Heaven (Ahsahta 2015) as airy. The poems on the page task and reward the reader with multiple readings; they encourage and practice non-binary thinking, which is consistent throughout the book. Can you speak a bit to your philosophy of the page?
Brian Teare: That’s a good question for this book because I think this is a pretty full articulation of a shift in my thinking about the page. In both Sight Map (University of California 2009) and Companion Grasses (Omnidawn 2013), I was working off of my own kind of personal reading of Olson’s “Projective Verse”—I think that’s not surprising for anyone who knows my work—and in Companion Grasses that was particularly true in terms of thinking about prosody, and also thinking about poems on the page as being a scoring of an encounter with a place or a species. Because so many of those poems—all of them, really—were written on foot, were written in the field, I was really trying to use prosody and typography as a musical registration of an encounter, and combining Olson’s belief in the page as a kind of musical score with the ways in which breath and ear change in relation to whatever you’re in relation to. I was interested in the phenomenology of prosody—that it could, theoretically, capture or register relation differently between each encounter with place, with species, with a particular day or meteorology or whatever. Continue reading →
I first came across the work of Matthew Salesses in his essay “Psy the Clown Vs. Psy the Anti-American” over at The Rumpus in which he examined racial and historical power dynamics between Korea and the West (particularly the U.S.), and the importance of understanding context outside of one’s own culture. His newest book, The Hundred-Year Flood, dropped this September, and I caught up with Matthew on its conception, the influence of Twitter (follow him @salesses) and talking those “different differences.” –Rosebud Ben-Oni
Rosebud Ben-Oni: In “Different Racisms,” you tackled race and self-contextualization both in personal history and popular culture. Are there any new “different differences” you are facing today? Continue reading →
For the past several years, Stacy Szymaszek has been at work on a number of poetic journals that are now being published. The first, hart island (Nightboat Books), arrived in May 2015, followed by the chapbook Journal Started in August (Projective Industries). Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals (Fence Books) is forthcoming in January 2016, and A Year from Today (Nightboat Books) in 2017. All different in scope and attention, this remarkable series is underpinned by Szymaszek’s seemingly boundless wit and attunement—she is that writer on whom nothing is lost. We corresponded via email while texting enough asides to make a whole other interview.
Matt Longabucco: Lately a few sources pointed me towards the lecture series by Roland Barthes published as The Neutral, and it’s been fitting to read it alongside your journals. This concept of “the neutral” has many resonances for Barthes, one of which, as I understand it, is that pleasure is often to be found neither in the site nor the form where we’ve been led to believe we should seek it. For Barthes, rather, pleasure is nuance, the small but thrilling variation, an unexpected ripple in the text of the world—“blue appetite and smoky/quartz the combo who knows/is just pleasing to clack/in my fist.” And true pleasure is the thing that by its nature defies the categories we’ve erected in order to capture and tame it. I’m mesmerized by this idea, and think my sense of what’s worthwhile as a reader and as a writer involves leaping again and again into this gap between the ostensibly recognized pleasure and the actual, almost always unarticulated one. If I said I thought a similar investigation was part of the project of your journals, would that claim give you pleasure? Continue reading →
The different strata of the small press ecosystem are bound and wound in collaborative action and influence. Within the world of small press publishing, everything, everyone, and every place (physical and digital) is interconnected, but often in ways that are not apparent. As publishers of Small Po[r]tions, a limited-edition Risograph-printed journal that focuses on experiment and innovation, we were interested in examining the practices of small press publishers who are also poets to see how they apportion their energies and how they situate themselves within this ecosystem. In these interviews we map small press connections through the discussion of collaboration among presses, editors, writers, book artists and readers. That is, collaboration in an expanded sense: influence, inspiration, community. Ecologies require study to sustain them. These interviews look to be a part of a broader and continuing conversation on the ways presses and poets sustain themselves and enrich one another. Continue reading →
This interview was conducted following the publication of Bill Berkson’s book, Expect Delays (Coffee House Press, 2014).
Jane Joritz-Nakagawa: Expect Delays is divided into four sections, the first of which is titled “Lady Air.” I’m intensely curious as to what “Lady Air” refers to or how this title came about or was chosen. When preparing a speech about Catherine Walsh’s book Optic Verve for a local (in Japan) Irish literature conference I came across a quote by D. H. Lawrence, which worked its way into my speech:
A woman is not . . . even a distinct and definite personality . . . A woman is a living fountain whose spray falls delicately around her . . . A woman is a strange soft vibration on the air, going forth unknown and unconscious . .
Although very likely your title has nothing to do with this!
Bill Berkson: “Lady Air” is the name of the section and, as you know, also of one of the poems in that section, poems that were included in a chapbook that preceded Expect Delays. There’s another poem in the final section of Expect Delays called “Sister Cadence.” If you think of those two titles in tandem you’re in the neighborhood of “Mother Russia,” “Father Time,” and perhaps the Rolling Stones’ song “Sister Morphine.” But I had in mind the gentle sustenance that air is, the godliness of it. “Fair” air, so to speak. The gender specificity feels accurate. Then again, I had “air” as in “song,” in the old sense. One is calling upon air as Dante might call upon the lady Beatrice, or Auden upon Dame Kind, which is a medieval epithet for the natural world. Continue reading →
This conversation with Maria Miranda Maloney of Mouthfeel Press is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-community solidarity readings and panels among poets involved with organizations such as Kundiman, Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), Institute of American Indian Arts and VONA (Voices at Our Nations Arts Foundation).
Ching-In Chen: You founded Mouthfeel Press, an indie press which publishes poetry from the borderlands. What inspired you to found the press and what do you think characterizes poetry from the borderlands? Continue reading →
The People, with Insert Blanc Editor and Publisher Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Artist Ben White, features the voices and ideas of The People that make up the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the west coast, and beyond on KCHUNG 1630AM every 3rd Sunday at 3pm and podcast on iTunes as The People Radio. The People is me, The People is you, The People is we, and You Can Too! … like a Broken Record magically repaired. In this issue of The Conversant, we feature episode 32 with Kristin Cammermeyer and Claire Rifelj.
Kristin Cammermeyer is a multi-media artist in Los Angeles focusing on site specific projects.
Claire Rifelj is a writer, curator and art historian in Los Angeles, currently finishing up her dissertation through NYU.
After publishing my Sixty Morning Talksinterview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers. Nightboat will publish this interview collection late next year. This interview focuses onAndrew Durbin’s book Mature Themes and was recorded March 23, 2015 and transcribed by Nicole Monforton.– Andy Fitch Continue reading →
Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Founder and Managing editor of The Operating System, talks with Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey, author of MARILYN. Forthcoming from The OS’s new imprint with Brooklyn Arts Press, MARILYN features original cover art from painter Joo Young Choi, and will celebrate its release at Woodland Pattern December 5th, 2015 and in New York City in early 2016.
MARILYN began as an exploration, through somatic experiments, of what it means to stay and become a fragmented map of the immigration system, the international adoption process, and family. How do you articulate disenfranchised grief? How does a person who has no origin write herself into existence? What happens when all you have left is, as Sarita Echavez See says, “the body to articulate loss”? Framed by a return trip to the Philippines in 2011, her first time back since leaving, Reavey takes the most intense images [real, imagined, dreamed] encountered while living in-between six different countries, and expunges them in an attempt to stitch the Filipina, diasporic body. The result is an ancestral line, a path back not to the beginning of life nor just before, but rather to the primordial. To ancestral roots. To orality: a name. Continue reading →
The People, with Insert Blanc Editor and Publisher Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Artist Ben White, features the voices and ideas of The People that make up the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the west coast, and beyond on KCHUNG 1630AM every 3rd Sunday at 3pm and podcast on iTunes as The People Radio. The People is me, The People is you, The People is we, and You Can Too! … like a Broken Record magically repaired. In this issue of The Conversant, we feature episode 31 with Douglas Kearney and Tisa Bryant.
After publishing my Sixty Morning Talksinterview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers. Nightboat will publish this interview collection late next year. This interview focuses on Josey Foo and Leah Stein’s book, A Lily Lilies and was recorded March 10, 2015 and transcribed by Nicole Monforton.– Andy Fitch
Andy Fitch: Could you recount your book with Leah evolving from or alongside Imprint, a dance performance of movement poems which premiered in 2002? Could we discuss Leah’s site-specific compositions, your own life in the Southwest, the fact that A Lily Lilies presents this clear demarcation (poems by Josey Foo, notes on dance by Leah Stein), though collaborative roles often blend together? And could we address these topics under the sign of this book’s last line: “all movements become one imprint”? Continue reading →
Felix Bernstein’s Notes On Post-Conceptualism (Insert Blanc Press, LA 2015) documents the fiery transit of the young writer’s inborn need to “overwhelmingly refuse valorization” as he declaims a host of critically celebrated discursive renovations on its ideological horizon. This unusual book, which could and should be read as a TKO of that ersatz aesthetic “radicalism” characteristically comprising the rhetorical center of every constellation of contemporary art stars, seems to me despite all that a deeply unpolemical piece of writing: Felix’s parrying serves more to narrate his arrival at the resulting dead end of his negative path of engagement than it does to play at any authority-ingratiating critical respectability or to prescribe a one-size-fits-all teleology for the lived art practices that constitute his hidden subject. To put my own gloss on it, Notes contributes vital evidence to the indictment of those illusionary makeovers of oligarchic power that belie the naked facts: namely that the same old normalizing institutions, elite ideologies, and exclusive canonical lineages continue to hold court over the aristo-aesthetic rituals of capitalistic privilege and secular idolatry that have come to be termed “contemporary art.” What’s next? Continue reading →
As the fall semester heralds in the academic year, I’ve been thinking about the canon as of late, particularly that of the U.S., and why the canon must evolve. So many voices have been left out, and the “reigning” voices shape a skewed version of history and truth itself. I’ve invited Bakar Wilson and Robin Ford, both writers and professors at colleges which are part of The City University of New York system, to discuss Race and Academia, bringing popular culture into the classroom and their breakthrough moments in teaching. Check out their advice on designing an inclusive syllabus for your class.—Rosebud Ben-Oni
Rosebud Ben-Oni: How do you bring the creative side of writing and pop culture into your standard composition class? What creative aspects do you bring to the classroom that helps them engage the texts in a more fulfilling way? Continue reading →
The different strata of the small press ecosystem are bound and wound in collaborative action and influence. Within the world of small press publishing, everything, everyone, and every place (physical and digital) is interconnected, but often in ways that are not apparent. As publishers of Small Po[r]tions, a limited-edition Risograph-printed journal that focuses on experiment and innovation, we were interested in examining the practices of small press publishers who are also poets to see how they apportion their energies and how they situate themselves within this ecosystem. In these interviews we map small press connections through the discussion of collaboration among presses, editors, writers, book artists and readers. That is, collaboration in an expanded sense: influence, inspiration, community. Ecologies require study to sustain them. These interviews look to be a part of a broader and continuing conversation on the ways presses and poets sustain themselves and enrich one another.
Travis Sharp: What are the origins of Bone Tax: how did it begin, why did it begin, who did it begin?
Ross Robbins: In 2013, I started self-publishing my writing. I’d wanted to get my work published for a while, as all writers want to be published, I guess, except for Emily Dickinson. I met Kevin Sampsell at Powell’s, which started carrying my chapbooks, and people responded to them. They bought them, at any rate. I got it in my head that I wanted to publish other people. As I was working toward making that happen, I was offered the opportunity to start a reading series at a coffee shop I used to go to. I started putting together the reading series, and the two happened organically. They grew out of each other. Continue reading →
Kate Greenstreet interviews Megan Kaminski about her writing life and her second book, Deep City, out in October onNoemi Press.
Kate Greenstreet: We’ve been friends for a while but I realize I don’t know: how long have you been writing poetry?
Megan Kaminski: While I have always loved reading literature—from reading Little House on the Prairie as a kid to falling in love with Shakespeare and Faulkner in high school to studying poetry as an English lit major in college—I didn’t start writing poems until I was in my second year as an undergraduate. I was very busy playing sports (field hockey and track) in high school and then college, and I never really considered myself a creative person. But one day in class, during a discussion of Emily Dickinson, my professor took me aside. Somehow she saw something in me that I didn’t yet see in myself; she assumed that I was a poet and suggested that I take a poetry workshop in the department the following semester. I was too shy (and flattered) to tell her otherwise, so I signed up for the workshop and wrote my first poem. I’ve been writing poems ever since. Continue reading →
QA, a collaborative project by Elizabeth Schmuhl and Sarah Xerta, is a (chap)book of questions and answers. Whether to read it as poetry or prose is up to you. The authors invite readers to write their own responses to the questions posed in QA, in the space provided. Each book is assembled by hand and zigzag stitched down the spine. And the cover—made of paper pulp infused with wildflower seeds—offers yet another invitation: to plant the book and see what grows. In the dialogue in QA, Schmuhl and Xerta explore questions like “What is the center of a poem?” and “When do you feel most alive?” This work invites a discussion of “the mystery that keeps us clinging to life,” among so many other vital things. After reading QA, I made a list of questions to send to the authors, then ceremoniously planted my reading copy. What follows is our edited Q and A. —Heidi Reszies
Heidi Reszies: I’ve heard writers say that in a collaborative project a third voice develops, so that you don’t know who “I” is. In this work, who is Q and who is A?
Elizabeth Schmuhl & Sarah Xerta: I think we both already felt like ‘one,’ so the third voice was both of us. I never felt or thought about a third thing, only OPEN, the space we’ve created between the two of us. It’s a space where we feel safe, where we feel comfortable revealing ourselves, opening, because we have no ulterior motives. We love each other unconditionally and we don’t experience this kind of love in other spaces/places often. I would say that not knowing is the point. It is my favorite kind of love. Continue reading →