Open House Presents: Housten Donham with Fred Moten

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For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. In this piece, Open House co-editor Housten Donham interviews Fred Moten about his book The Feel Trio [Letter Machine Editions, 2014], which was nominated for a National Book Award.

Housten Donham: The visual appeal of The Feel Trio is one of the first things that struck me. Many of the poems stretch horizontally across the page, some in multiple columns. The visual field is utilized in a variety of ways. Did you work directly on the final arrangement of the poems on the page when they went to print? What was your practice for determining the right look to these poems?

Open House Presents: Madison Davis with Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

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For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. In this piece, Madison Davis interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn about the meshes: an iteration in 2 acts, an experimental stage performance inspired by the work of filmmaker Maya Deren. 

Madison Davis: I would love to hear from you about the premise of the performance. What do you consider the play to be about?

“How the Whole World Crashes Into Silence”: Open House Interviews Joseph Massey

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Joseph Massey’s To Keep Time (Omnidawn 2015)

Cosmo Spinosa: To me, there is a subtextual exploration of human effects on the environment that runs as a theme throughout your work. These seem like thoughtful and pointed juxtapositions, and not simply an arrangement of “things.” They seem like decisions informed by environmental issues, and in some sense, they seem political to me. As you were writing To Keep Time, was your process motivated by environmental issues, or were they more linguistically and aesthetically motivated, or both? Your work seems to reinforce and play with ideas that are commonly associated with eco-poetics, but your name isn’t usually brought up when people talk about the subject of eco-poetry. Do you think that your work fits under the category of eco-poetry?

Joseph Massey: No, because I’m not interested in formulating an ethical position prior to the composition of the poem — at least not consciously. If there are ethical concerns in the work, and I agree that there are, they’re an afterthought.

Open House Presents: Ivy Johnson with Emji Spero and Joel Gregory of Timeless Infinite Light

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Emji Spero and Joel Gregory of Timeless, Infinite Light

For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. On January 5th, 2015, Emji Spero and Joel Gregory, editors of Timeless, Infinite Light, sat down with Ivy Johnson at Pretty Lady, a diner in West Oakland, to discuss their small press art cult. This was their conversation.

Ivy Johnson: Hi, Timeless, Infinite Light.

Emji Spero:  Hi, Ivy.

Joel Gregory:  Hi, Ivy

Housten Donham with Josef Kaplan

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For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. This interview concerns Josef Kaplan’s Kill List (2013). Visit Open House for more interviews and contemporary poetry.

Housten Donham: I think that I’m just going to ask you some stupid questions, if that’s alright, because it seems to me that stupid questions might be the most important questions to answer, if questions are going to be answered, when it comes to engaging with the “around” of your work.

For example, usually when I explain Kill List to people who aren’t poets, they almost always immediately ask, “How did he determine whether the poets were rich or comfortable?” Which may be a stupid question, and yet, when I asked you that a few months ago, I found the answer quite interesting: you based the qualifications solely on rumor, on what poets you had talked to had told you. Which is great because that seems to coincide with many of the larger concerns that I personally, at least, read in Kill List, around the social network of contemporary poetry. I see it as a kind of coterie poem, but one which breaks down or at least threatens the social fabric of the coterie. Do you think it is productive to read Kill List in this light, as a kind of social document of contemporary poetry, as something that records, reflects, and reduces the social network and the concerns and interests that make up much of the poetry community?

Cosmo Spinosa with Kate Robinson: “A Willful Resistance to be Named”

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Kate Robinson

For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. This interview concerns Kate Robinson’s work with the visual poetry of letterpress sigil design. It was first published by Open House in November 2014. 

Cosmo Spinosa: Let’s start with some preliminary questions to position your work with sigil design. What initially inspired these sigils? Who or what are your influences for this work? Some cursory research I’ve done on sigils and their history has shown that sigils are considered to have magic powers, being a sort of signature unique to a person or entity that is used in rituals, holding a special place in the practice of magic. Did you begin creating your sigil designs with magic in mind? Did you consider this a magical process?

Kate Robinson: I first became aware of sigilization through my former boyfriend, although it could have also been a mutual friend of ours, but I’m pretty sure it was Jed. He would draw sigils himself as a magic practice. It’s a way to focus one’s intention and manifest desires or protection. Initially this was just a personal practice, it wasn’t really intended as art, or, if I’m totally honest, fully magic. I’ve always been fascinated by letterforms at a sort of basic level. When I was a kid/teen I would doodle alphabets, it’s kind of surprising to me that I didn’t become a type designer…anyway, I think I sort of pretended that I was making them for magic purposes, these letterform symbol doodles, but really I think I just enjoyed manipulating the familiar forms into unfamiliar and pleasing symbols. So I guess my influences were my friends, who were using them for their more serious magic practices, and some sort of innate interest in letters. There are artists who have sort of secondarily influenced me, like Jen Bervin and Anni Albers. Albers, a weaver, often used a typewriter to make weaving patterns, and Bervin encountered these while doing a residency at The Albers Foundation and decided to make her own versions, some of which were in I’ll Drown My Book. “The Preliminary Pattern Study” (featured in 580 Split and the TIL anthology) is explicitly after them. Then there are some artists who aren’t really influences as much as sort of coincidences, people currently working in this mode. Letterpress printers Jack Stauffacher and Graham Moore are doing sort of similar things, layering letterforms, Stauffacher’s being more sigil-like than Moore’s. As well as some painters, I like Elijah Burgher, but some of those I don’t like at all, there’s one guy, Will Boone, who just seems to layer the letters on top of one another with no play of balance and form. I find those paintings to be really flat.