Lynne DeSilva-Johnson with Amanda Ngoho Reavey

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson (photo credit: Joe Cosmo Cogen) and Amanda Ngoho Reavey (photo credit: Chuck Stebelton)

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Founder and Managing editor of The Operating System, talks with Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey, author of MARILYN. Forthcoming from The OS, 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.

The People: Episode 31 (Douglas Kearney and Tisa Bryant)

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.

Andy Fitch with Josey Foo

Andy Fitch and Josey Foo
Andy Fitch and Josey Foo

After publishing my Sixty Morning Talks interview 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”?

Zach Phillips with Felix Bernstein

Zach Philips and Felix Bernstein
Zach Philips and Felix Bernstein

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?

Teaching Popular Culture & Challenging the Canon in Academia: Rosebud Ben-Oni with Robin Ford and Bakar Wilson

Rosebud Ben-Oni, Bakar Wilson, and Robin Ford

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?

Travis Sharp with Ross Robbins

Ross Robbins and Travis Sharp

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.

Small Po[r]tions

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.

Kate Greenstreet with Megan Kaminski

Megan Kaminski

Kate Greenstreet interviews Megan Kaminski about her writing life and her second book, Deep City, out in October on Noemi 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.   

Heidi Reszies with Elizabeth Schmuhl and Sarah Xerta

Heidi Reszies, Elizabeth Schmuhl, and Sarah Xerta
Heidi Reszies, Elizabeth Schmuhl, and Sarah Xerta

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.