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.
On December 21st, 2012, Ivy Johnson sat down with Robert Greneir discuss his drawing poems. This interview was originally published in 580 split, an annual journal of arts and literature that publishes innovate poetry, prose and art by graduate students at Mills College in Oakland, Ca.
Ivy Johnson: My first question actually comes out of the statement you gave for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. You say that the drawing poems exist in a crack between poetry and the visual arts; they come from trying to envision a true name for things, of which the physical agency of drawing is important. Do you think that the physical act of drawing gives more agency than a speech act?
Robert Grenier: No. I would never say that. It’s not really a comparative thing. One undertakes it in order to do what the form seems metrically to be capable of doing. And so if I think back, there was never any real choice to abandon speech, which is the thing in This magazine that everybody quotes: “I HATE SPEECH” . . . abandon speech. Nor, later, was there any intent to abandon the typewriter. It’s just that something was around the corner, which was another kind of capacity that one can move to attain. And you will, of course, know that and find out more about it perhaps, as life goes on. There are certain changes that one makes, and for me it was not really planned or intentional. When you look back, in retrospect, one can speak to these and inquire into them. More, the drawing poems themselves, to me, seem physically closer to that of which they speak. They seem to gesture toward it and move to incorporate and acknowledge more of what one is given to see. And it does really all come from, not so much inspiration, but from direct seeing of some funny things that show up in the environment that want to be known.