Virginia Grise with Sharon Bridgforth: River See and Theatrical Jazz

Sharon Bridgeforth & Virginia Grice
Sharon Bridgforth & Virginia Grise. Photo credit: Vanessa Vargas; Emily Mendelsohn

This conversation between Virginia Grise and Sharon Bridgforth is part of a series focusing on genre-crossing performance and poetics and centers around the theatrical jazz aesthetic and Bridgforth’s latest work, The River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation. The full recorded conversation is below; the transcription of the conversation is below.

Grise/Bridgforth Conversation


Virginia Grise: My name is Virginia Grise and I’m here with Sharon Bridgforth. Sharon Bridgforth is an award winning artist, writer of the bull-jean stories, love conjure/blues, delta dandi and most recently is the creator of The River See Theatrical Jazz Performance Installation. I just wanted to start off—Sharon, if you could talk about your artistic lineage.

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

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.

Hip Hop Connection from Puerto Rico to Califaztlan: Black Rhythm and Chhoti Maa

Chhoti Maa & Black Rhythm
Chhoti Maa & Black Rhythm

This Intersecting Lineages conversation between Black Rhythm and Chhoti Maa is the first in a series centering global cross-community connections between artists of color.

Black Rhythm: I was conducting a beatbox workshop in Casa Cultura Ruth Hernandez, and my friend Sofia asked me about my work. Once she heard that I was a beatboxer, she immediately talked to me about you, Chhoti Maa. She told me you were a rapper from Mexico and that you planned on coming to Puerto Rico to do an artist residency.

Chhoti Maa: Yeah, Sofia was really excited for me to meet you. So I came to PR for the third time in September 2014 to Patio Taller. I talked to Sofia who invited me to UPR, the state university of Puerto Rico where you and I met. I remember we connected immediately and started freestyling.

BR:  Yeah! It was like “Hi” and in the next second we made a video together rapping, singing, and beatboxing.

The People: Episode 24 (John Zane Zappas and Lindsay Preston Zappas)

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 25 of The People, featuring: John Zane Zappas and Lindsay Preston Zappas

John Zane Zappas is a sculptor living in Los Angeles who currently has an exhibition called N U S T A C H U S at Outside Gallery a General Project of Insert Blanc Press which runs until April 5th 2015. We’ll be talking with John about his work and his role as co-director of Hammock Gallery.

Lindsay Preston Zappas an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. She’ll be discussing Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles the online and print quarterly that she founded and which launches in April of this year.

Mg Roberts and Timothy Yu: Nests and Strangers and the Asian American Avant-garde

In this conversation, Mg Roberts and Timothy Yu discuss the origins of Kelsey Street Press’s anthology, Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets and the Asian American avant-garde.

Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets (Kelsey Street Press, 2015)
Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets (Kelsey Street Press, 2015)

Mg Roberts: Your name has become synonymous with the Asian American avant-garde. How did this specialization happen?

Timothy Yu: My interest in the Asian American avant-garde really came through my discovery of the poetry of John Yau. I first read him just after college, at a time when I was beginning to think about Asian American identity but found myself dissatisfied with the typical narratives in which that identity was usually expressed. Yau’s work seemed to challenge and undermine those narratives while still actively exploring the way the “Asian” was represented in our culture. His work seemed to show me a way I could link my interests in experimental writing and my exploration of Asian American issues, which ultimately became the focus of my dissertation and my book, Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry.

Andrea Rexilius & Anne Waldman with Margaret Randall

Anne Waldman, Margaret Randall, Andrea Rexilius

In collaboration with Essay Press, Anne Waldman and I have invited four guest faculty from this year’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodies Poetics’ Summer Writing Program (June 14-July 11, 2015) to discuss our theme, The Braided River: Activist Rhizome. We are starting the conversation off with an interview with Margaret Randall. The remaining three conversations, with Omar Berrada, Rachel Levitsky, and Fred Moten, will be published in an online chapbook by Essay Press in the fall of 2015. – Andrea Rexilius

The Braided River: Activist Rhizome
We take our imago “braided river” as an alternative to the traditional “tree of life.” Here, we have the image that symbiosis teaches, that life is a braided river. Things come apart—like algae or fungus—and then come back together again. We want to look at the complexities of our own lives, our gnosis, our natural environment, the urgent issues around—just one example—water scarcity and its opposite: flooding—the way we stop and start and are interrupted by the exigencies of unnatural weather, of illness, of death, of endless war, strife, genocide, apartheid, just as we stop and start in our artistic lives and work through creative crises. How many strands go on simultaneously in our documentary poetics, in our fictions, our librettos, in our collaborations? We want to invoke a contemplative awareness of how to tread on our increasingly endangered planet with grace and intelligence and mindfulness and keep the weave and ambulation going, inside and outside, as we make our work and incorporate ideas of radical investigatory form: third mind (Burroughs & Gysin), the long poem, the cine-poem, the appropriated conceptual poem, the shamanic trip to the other side, meta-fiction, memoir, and dharma and somatic poetics.

Artistic Director: Anne Waldman
SWP Faculty Director: Andrea Rexilius