Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of the award winning and bestselling novel House of Leaves, National Book Award finalist Only Revolutions, and the novella The Fifty Year Sword, which was performed on Halloween three years in a row at REDCAT. His books have been translated into multiple languages. www.markzdanielewski.com
House of Leaves, writes Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, is a “grandly ambitious, multilayered work that simply knocks your socks off with its vast scope, erudition, formal inventiveness, and sheer story-telling skills, while also opening up whole new areas of the novel as an art form. It's many different kinds of books rolled into one-part horror novel…part psychological study, part send-up of academic criticism, part family saga, part metafictional and metaphysical speculation, part meditation on the nature of fear (and the ways that fear is projected outward into hatred, anger, and sadomasochistic impulses), and part reflection on the ways in which the technologies of reproduction have already profoundly transformed our relation ship to memory, to ourselves, and to "reality" itself. House of Leaves is also a book deeply concerned with exploring what a novel is (or might be) and with demonstrating that novelists have as yet barely scratched the surface of the storytelling options that have always been available to writers.”
Lydia Davis is the author of six short story collections, including Break it Down, Varieties of Disturbances, and Can’t and Won’t, and the novel The End of the Story. Considered one of the most important authors of short stories in America, her work has been collected in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Among her accolades, which include a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Man Booker International Prize, she has been awarded the Order of the Chevalier for her translations of French authors such as Maurice Blanchot, Gustave Flaubert, and Marcel Proust. www.britannica.com/biography/Lydia-Davis
Speaking on the art of fiction with The Paris Review, Lydia Davis said, “Back in the early eighties, I realized that you could write a story that was really just a narration of something that had happened to you, and change it slightly, without having really to fictionalize it. In a way, that’s found material. I think it’s hard to draw the line and say that something isn’t found material. Because if a friend of mine tells me a story or a dream, I guess that’s found material. If I get an e-mail that lends itself to a good story, that’s found material. But then if I notice the cornmeal making little condensations, is that found material? It’s my own, I’m not using text, but I am using a situation that exists. I’m not making it up. I find what happens in reality very interesting and I don’t find a great need to make up things, but I do like retelling stories that are told to me.” [www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6366/lydia-davis-art-of-fiction-no-227-lydia-davis]
Debra Di Blasi is the author of The Birth of Eros (2022). Her other novels include Drought & Say What You Like (New Directions), The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions (FC2/University of Alabama Press), and Prayers of An Accidental Nature (Coffee House Press). Among her awards: James C. McCormick Fiction Fellowship, Thorpe Menn Book Award, Inspiration Grant from Kansas City Metropolitan Arts Council, &NOW Awards, and Cinovation Screenwriting Award. Her literary writing has appeared in many notable anthologies, journals and newspapers, with adaptations to film and radio in the US and abroad. She is a former art columnist, educator, and publisher. www.debradiblasi.com
The old house burnt to ash. The cattle dead. Acres sold to strangers. What is the shape of a place no longer approachable except through memory? Perhaps it’s the shape of a brain’s neural networks which resembles the shape of galaxy clusters which resembles the shape of the internet which likely resembles the shape of spacetime itself. These excerpts from the “Winter” section of my work-in-progress, Selling the Farm, form a small part of a 4D literary cartography describing the 880 acres where I grew up. In the same way one sees, through the lens of a telescope, a star that’s been dead for millennia, I see through the lens of memory those fecund acres that no longer exist — not, at least, as they or I existed there then, and at every there-then recollected from what’s important to me (lest writer confuse herself with reader, and vice versa).
And yet: Nowhere in spacetime does a placetime cease existing; the star is evermore, the farm too, and the dead. Entanglement, whether micro or macro, requires omnipresence, doesn’t it. Requires the “God” we created to blame it all away. Autobiography that does not doff its hat to the pretense of autobiography is mostly fiction, of course. As in physics, observing the experiment alters what is observed — in this case, the word paths between present, past, interstices and the phenomenon of memory. By this reasoning, questioning the veracity and precision of language as it overlaps ‘re-collection’ must thereby shift the paths. So let’s not call this an autobiography but rather a biography of a place I happened to intersect and happened to.
I prefer to evolve upward into a new understanding of the nature of existence for human and non-human animals alike. To pull into the present a way of writing and living most relevant to what we now know of the physical universe, and what we might anticipate to be truer representations of how we bear witness to any place and time, and ourselves amid them all.
Lesley Dill works in sculpture, photography and performance, using a variety of media and techniques to explore themes of language, the body, and transformational experience. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected and can be found in the collections of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Cleveland Museum of Art, Kemper Museum, Kansas City; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. www.lesleydill.net
My work is about human beings and our relationship to language. The images are of people : clothed, naked, eyes, hands ,torsos—and always with language. The intimacy and belief in the power of words is the core of my work. We think in words, we speak words, we sing words, we pray words, we breathe words in as well as out. We grow fat with language and we also grow thin as language flows out of us. I see words as revelatory through the visual depiction of thought, incantation, prayer, and song.
In Blue Poem Girl , the model, my friend Rhea, is hand painted all over with the words of the Emily Dickinson poem “The Soul has Bandaged Moments”. I think of the language on her as a tattoo of poetry , as if the words she holds inside are staining through from the inside of her body to the outside.
Poem Eyes #3 “These Saw Visions , Latch them softly “ E. Dickinson is about a massage I got when I lived in India . I was getting my hair cut, and along with that you lie down and get a terrific coconut oil head massage that’s very strong and full of vigorous whacks. Suddenly the woman took her fingertips and gently put them on my closed eyelids and began to massage the pupils of my eyes. I felt an immediate sense of profound and somewhat scary intimacy – and then relaxed – and it felt as if the thousands of images layered and packed in my eyeballs were slowly releasing out into the air.
In both these photo based works—which are part of a larger series of what I call “tapestries” because they are cloth and are inspired by prayer flags—I wanted to make the photograph on a sculptural scale rather than a reading scale—something that affects your body in terms of size and also tactility.
Johanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known as a book artist, and her limited edition works are in special collections worldwide and recently completed Stochastic Poetics, a letterpress project. She has published on the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, fine art, and digital humanities. Her titles include The Century of Artists Books (Granary), SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Speculative Computing (Chicago), Graphic Design History, with Emily McVarish (Pearson). Digital_Humanities (MIT, 2012), with Jeffrey Schnapp, Todd Presner, Peter Lunenfeld, and Anne Burdick, and Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Harvard, 2014). https://dma.ucla.edu/faculty/profiles/?ID=99
Narratology was written in the early 1990s, inspired by a card that came in the mail on which was written, “Do you want to write for money?” Boy, did I ever! And there were the categories, the genres, in which these pulp houses churned out their stock fictions: Historical Romance, Sweet Romance, Science Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Supernatural, Horror, Sensual Romance, Adventure, Thriller, and Glitz. The very stuff of dreams and a girl writer’s dreams... I was fascinated by the idea of recasting lived events into the prose forms and visual images of mainstream pulp—in part because the way I imagined my life would unfold had been based on fictional images. Not quite Emma Bovary, but along those lines, I had absorbed the motifs and scenarios of classic fiction – Jane Austen, the Brontës, William Thackery, George Eliot—as a foundation for blueprints and templates according to which life was supposed to take shape. The discrepancy between such projections and the realities of existence have been a theme in several of my books From A to Z, Against Fiction, Simulant Portrait, Damaged Spring, and From Now. In Narratology the idea becomes the overt subject of the book, as well as a theme, and the line between fiction and narration blurs any ground on which a “real” event could be authenticated outside of the text. After getting that card in the mail, I set to work to make a book in which all of the genres it listed could be put into play. I drew on images from the history of pulp illustration, and redrew each image in my own hand. I wrote a story that was part real and part imaginings about my own life framed in terms of genre fiction. I borrowed shamelessly from the language of lurid prose and from the psychological critical terminology of academic interpretation. The blend of these was put through the transformative process of type composition in the still new for me mode of Quark. I could stretch the words to fit the shapes of text blocks on the page. I could make the word “Virtue” fit all the way across a column or shrink other texts so that they intertwined and alternated with each other in fine counterpoint of tone and value. The freedom was exhilarating, so accustomed as I was to the constraints of letterpress and all that that strict medium imposed on layout. I was no longer limited to the contents of my cases, or to the fonts in the shop, but could take any font on my computer and play with it. Once I had the layouts finished, I processed them into film for polymer, then made the plates, thanks to Anne Noonan, with whom I had partnered to buy a platemaker. I took the plates up to the Bow and Arrow press (I was living in New York at the time) and printed all of the black runs during a “printing vacation” in Cambridge with my dear friends Gino Lee and Charles Steele. I can’t remember how I got the plates there--the package is heavy, I know, since I still have it and recently moved again and found it --or how I got the paper home. I must have packed it all and shipped it by UPS. Then came the binding, which was done thanks to Nora Ligorano. She did a design consultation and then helped me cut the boards, assemble all the parts, and create the cases. We spent a few very long days in her studio casing in the books. Brad Freeman helped with all of this as well. I can’t believe she did all that for me in exchange for a copy of the book, but she did. After that it was time to paint the pages, each of which had to be done by hand. This was quite a process, and somewhere there are pictures of me taken by Brad with about twenty copies all open to the same page and me poised above them fiendishly concentrated on painting. I used a combination of watercolor and gouache, as usual, and it took quite a long while to do the books. I think I calculated at one point that it took about 8 hours per book, but of course I didn’t do them one at a time. I always did them in batches. But I didn’t actually finish painting all of the copies until years later, in Virginia, when I decided it was time to get them done before I left the East Coast. Before that, I would paint three or four whenever Steve Clay wanted a couple, or I would custom paint one for someone if I was giving them a copy. At least one copy out there is more erotically painted than the others... but I won’t say who has that or what the circumstances were that led to such a situation. Got to give my biographer something to do. I love this book, always have, in part because of how much pleasure it gave me to paint the images. I can feel those shapes, those bodies, those rippled skirts and draperies. I know them all so very well, I think I could paint them in my sleep. But I loved the large, clean pages of type and the stories of lives lived according to the terms of popular fictions. Letterpress from polymer, hand painted, on Rives lightweight, casebound in Asahi silk, 70 copies in the original edition.
Rikki Ducornet. The author of nine novels as well as collections of essays, poetry and short fiction, Rikki Ducornet has been honored with a Fellowship from the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, a Lannan Literary award for fiction, and an Academy Award in Literature. Her work is widely published abroad.
I have always been fascinated by the anomalous, and also the outsider. Perhaps because I have so often been perceived as 'strange.' Growing up Latina (a Cuban father) in the fifties before there was a word for it, the daughter of a college professor during the McCarthy years and, among other things, having seen (I was eight) an infant pig with a horn in a bottle in the campus biology lab. I spent my childhood roaming the forests along the Hudson River. The wild child I describe actually existed, and when I discovered her I felt a kinship at once. Of course she demanded a story.
Rachel Blau DuPlessis A central work of poet-critic Rachel Blau DuPlessis is Drafts (1986 through 2012), a long poem in 114 cantos. Books belonging to this project include Drafts 1-38, Toll (Wesleyan), Pitch: Drafts 77-95 (Salt Publishing) and Surge: Drafts 96-114 (Salt Publishing), as well as The Collage Poems of Drafts, marking a turn into visual and hybrid texts. Some post-Drafts works—both poetry and poetry with collage—are Interstices (Subpress, 2014), Graphic Novella (Xexoxial Editions, 2015), and POESIS (Little Red Leaves, 2016). Forthcoming are Eurydics from Further Other Book Works, and Days and Works from Ahsahta. Her most recent critical book Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2012) is part of a trilogy of works about gender and poetics that includes The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice and Blue Studios: Poetry and its Cultural Work, both from University of Alabama Press. DuPlessis has co-edited several anthologies (including The Feminist Memoir Project) and edited The Selected Letters of George Oppen. She has held poetry fellowships from the Pew, Rockefeller and Djerassi Foundations and a residency for criticism from the National Humanities Center. http://rachelblauduplessis.com
“Draft 95: Erg” from Drafts is one of the line of poems that treats the theme and conditions of work. Different styles and genres, allusions, dictions, sound qualities, segmentivity, line break choices, sequencing of parts and many other poetic means are deployed in Drafts as a whole, but all the individual poems are “drafts” of something that can never really be completed, never fully be found, never totally be articulated. This feeling of the unknowable and the unreachable is very satisfying to the author, for it expresses the messianic deferral characteristic of her sense of the intellectual and ethical conditions of her “employment” as a poet.
Like many poems in Drafts, “Draft 95: Erg” is a serial work. A serial work groups a variety of unequal sections, which function not as a sequential argument nor a narrative unrolling but as a set of vectors, implying that both writer and reader be jostled and destabilized, curious and aroused. Serial works often make argument from conflicts and contradictions, sometimes without final resolution. “Draft 95: Erg” is a particular kind of serial poem, because it has only three sections. A somewhat heightened poem that has only three sections will evoke, if only in a shadowy way, the genre called the ode. Further, here, all three sections are split. The first section is split by repetition (“I just said this”). The second section is split between two voices focusing-–sometimes at cross-purposes—on the same question. The third section is split by difference—there are two quite different main metaphors (or events) in it: the snake and the watch.
In the middle of “Erg” is a serio-comic section, a dialogue between R and a Pen. The Pen is eager to know how the writer chooses, word by word, thought by thought, move by move. It’s a very good question. The Pen postulates that if the writer could just narrate these choices simply and directly (into a microphone placed inside the Pen), it would know how a poem is written. This proves to be an overly optimistic, or perhaps an overly simplistic postulate. The Pen is a positivist and gets frustrated with R, and a bit mocking, too. R seems to be so serious as to be impervious. At any rate, if you think about how the mind works, how synapses leap and jump, how quickly connections are made, and how choices are set down and then evaluated, but how sometimes one understands things only slowly, what you get is far more complicated than what the Pen thinks is going on. Perhaps what you get is literally untellable.
Craig Dworkin is the author of several books of poetry, including: Chapter XXIV (Red Butte Press, 2013); An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Williamstown (Publication Studio, 2015); Alkali (Counterpath, 2015); and 12 Erroneous Displacements and a Fact (Information As Material, 2016). In addition to two scholarly monographs, he has edited a half-dozen collection, including The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound (with Marjorie Perloff) and Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (with Kenneth Goldsmith). He teaches literature and theory at the University of Utah and serves as Founding Senior Editor to Eclipse Editions and Archive <eclipsearchive.org>
Parse is a translation of Edwin A. Abbott’s How To Parse: An Attempt to Apply the Principles of Scholarship to English Grammar. First published in 1874, the book played a leading role in the pedagogic debate over whether English should be analyzed as if it were Latin, and thousands of copies were printed as textbooks in the last quarter of the 19th century.
When I first came across the book I was reminded of a confession by Gertrude Stein (another product of 1874): “I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences.” And so, of course, I parsed Abbott’s book into its own idiosyncratic system of analysis. As Nietzsche famously wrote: "Ich fürchte, wir werden Gott nicht los, weil wir noch an die Grammatik glauben. . . . (I fear we are not getting rid of God, because we still believe in grammar. . . .).”
The sequel to Parse will take the grammatically analyzed text as a huge mad-lib and use it to write a new, coherent narrative. This new story will have the identical grammatical structure to Abbott's book, but it will tell a completely different story.
Brian Evenson is the author of ten books of fiction, including the limited edition novella Baby Leg. His books also include Last Days (which won the American Library Association's award for Best Horror Novel of 2009), Fugue State, The Open Curtain (which was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an IHG Award), The Wavering Knife (which won the IHG Award for best story collection) and Altmann's Tongue. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Slovenian. www.brianevenson.com
“There is a sense in my stories of being thrown into something and being a little bit lost, which corresponds to my sense of what life is like. I once had the experience of walking across a parking lot and seeing what I thought was a bird moving very strangely on the other side. I thought, ‘oh, it’s injured or trying to protect its young.’ I came closer but it wasn’t until I was 10 or 15 feet away that I realized that this was not a bird at all, but a leaf being blown around by the wind.
“I think things like that happen often to certain kinds of people. Ninety per cent of them probably never think about it again. But the other ten per cent have this feeling that reality has been pulled out from under them, that what was once a bird is now a leaf. You realize you’ve been living in a world as if one thing was in fact something else. Many of the stories in A Collapse of Horses are about that experience. You go into the stories and you’re not sure if you’re the one having a hard time or if it’s the narrator, or both. I want my stories to put you into a place where the reality of the world is breaking down or collapsing – both inside the story and for you as a reader.” (from The White Review). [www.thewhitereview.org/interviews/interview-with-brian-evenson/]
Percival Everett is the author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including the novels Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, Assumption, Erasure, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, Glyph, So Much Blue and most recently, The Trees (Graywolf, 2021). Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California, he has been awarded the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Believer Book Award, and the 2006 PEN USA Center Award for Fiction.
Writing in VQR, Matthew Dischinger notes that Everett’s work “often strikes a balance between asserting the political urgency of art and refusing to identify its own politics, revealing the complexity of sometimes oversimplified political discourse. Everett evades questions about his own stance or interest in categories like race, letting his work speak for itself. This balance is perhaps best exemplified by his 2004 introduction to The Jefferson Bible in which Everett imagines a conversation between himself and Thomas Jefferson that struggles to mediate between Jefferson’s intellectual contributions to American democracy and the duplicitous racism of Jefferson’s foundational philosophies: "So, I have shamelessly used this opportunity to make some kind of political statement, though even I am at a loss to coherently restate it." Indeed, Everett’s writing resists obvious political coherence without sacrificing an energetic political edge, embracing the subtle contradictions that others attempt to quietly efface.” [www.vqronline.org/interviews-articles/2015/07/construction-place-interview-percival-everett]
Kass Fleisher is the author of Dead Woman Hollow (Excelsior Editions, 2012); Talking Out of School: Memoir of an Educated Woman (Dalkey Archive Press); The Adventurous (Factory School); Accidental Species: A Reproduction (Chax Press); and The Bear River Massacre and the Making of History (SUNY Press, 2004). Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, Mandorla, Notre Dame Review, Postmodern Culture, and Z Magazine, and she writes plays and screenplays with Joe Amato. http://kassfleisher.com
"The Speed of Zoom" is an attempt to demonstrate what happened one time when two language workers met online and went on a date-which required one of them to get on a plane. It's autobiographical, but the what-happened-to-me part of memoir isn't as interesting to me, in this instance, as the effort to evoke the sensations I experienced as this thing happened. When people meet over text (email or otherwise), the notion of "understanding" shifts dramatically, not least because the "body" you're "getting to know" is a set of pixels. Fraudulence is quite likely, since each of the pair present not themselves to the other, but their self-mythology, as expressed in their own personal syntax. Then I do the same thing to the reader. The reader of my memoir is not getting to know me, but rather a text I have created in my own stead. If my reader doesn't "understand" the what-happened part of the memoir, I hope they can at least feel the sensation of what's-happening, of relying on language to make a presence: the break-downs that occur, the anxiety produced by a linguistic corpus. Ultimately, language fails when they do meet in-person. In the flesh there is nothing left to say, and a separate narrator steps forward to expose the disintegration of the utility of language. I should add that the found elements of the work are generally random, as random as the possibility of these two bumping into one another in cyberspace, or a reader finding this piece in book culture. The titles are things I wrote down during a class meeting of mine in which students were gathering to paint words on the fronts and backs of t-shirts, which they planned then to wear on the quad, rearranging themselves to form various "human poems." The titles are things they said to each other as they worked. The conclusions of each section are things that came to me serendipitously as I composed the piece, in articles or hanging on walls in the building in which I teach. I've found that when your point is to evoke, or demonstrate, the impression an experience makes on you, and you need language that will effect that evocation, just wait. It will appear, as it did for me while, in class, I labored to paint a huge "NO" on a t-shirt.
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the novels Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Here I Am. He is also the author of the non-fiction work Eating Animals. His awards include the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at NYU. http://cwp.as.nyu.edu/object/cwp.faculty.jonathansafranfoer
In conversation with David Remnick, Foer explained how his writing process is “trusting that the ultimate good is having material you want to return to. So if that means stopping something after 250 pages because there’s something else you want to return to, then you should do that. If it means working on something that seems like the worst of all ideas, then it means doing that. People who love what they’re working on have no problem with finding the right time. You think about anything you’re obsessive with—maybe in a guilty way is the best kind, you have a sort of primitive relationship to it—you always have time for it. There is no shortage of time when you love something. So the challenge is to love a piece of writing, which is very difficult, in the same way it’s difficult to love anything. It’s just that you have to do it for longer.” [https://fsgworkinprogress.com/2016/12/unconditionally-present]
William H. Gass is the David May Distinguished Professor in the Humanities (retired) at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of five works of fiction and eight of literary criticism, the most recent of which is Temple of Texts (Knopf), Life Sentences, and the novel, Middle C (Knopf).
I have always been interested in the relationships that arts may have with one another, apart from the grand metaphors of connection such as "architecture is frozen music". Children become acquainted with language first by hearing it, and then by playing with its visual embodiments - alphabet books and blocks. Generally, only poets tend to exploit these necessary and initial properties. This is changing, even as the need for mnemonic devices has declined. The way we physically form our letters or pronounce their names plays an important part in the poetic arts, and notational studies are also on the increase. There are signs of a fresh interest in grammar and in diagramming sentences. My talk concerned itself with some of these issues.
Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin were founding members of the underground conceptual movement in Soviet Russia. Authors of books Russian Samizdat Art, Photoglyphs, and Concepts. Their artworks have appeared in many books and magazines (including the covers of The New York Times Magazine, Zoom, The Sciences) and are in collections of The Art Institute of Chicago; The Guggenheim Museum; The Getty Research Institute; International Center of Photography, NY; Nasher Museum, NC; The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria, and others.
The casuistic duality of nature can be illustrated by many means; perhaps, the most abstract of them would be a play of the binary demonstrated in Absolute–Relative, where these two words (the latter of which is inverted) are simultaneously shown in a state of war and peace. If we take the endings of both words as a unifying point, the letter “E,” accepted as a conventional glyph for energy (as in the formula of the theory of relativity E=mc2), would already seems to hint at the answer. Using multiple reverberating mirrors creating a corridor of similar images, we linked these two notions through their mutual energy, extending it into both sides ad infinitum. In a way, it’s a picture of multiplications of thoughts going in both directions: toward the absolute and toward the relative. They’re like two ends of a rope; the one inevitably follows the other. And both ends go off into infinity. This same reciprocity can be expressed philosophically in Sanskrit terms: for the ancient Indian mind, it was the usual state of the world when dharma (the right way) was always accompanied by maya (the illusion of creation). That state of the world is still the same, and apparently will be readily available in the future.
As if deploying a watchword together with a countersign, the image Be-lie-ve encapsulates both a mode of thinking and a set of beliefs in its paradoxical duality. When word becomes flesh, it’s possible to treat or mistreat it as such. In the Acts of John, one of the early Apocrypha, there’s a poetic passage about the torment of the Word, the piercing of the Word, the blood of the Word, the passion of the Word (97:102). In that manner, we literally dissected the word be-lie-ve on the forehead with the help of tresses. By demonstrating the treason of falsity, the word was forced to reveal its contradictory core, being almost doomed by the interpolated magical spell of “lie.” Should we be-lie-ve in its central component or pursue another manner of seeing? In whatever context, be it politics, religion, or art, the hypnotic hypocrisy is forever concealed in that binary. Subliminal suggestions are much harder to recognize; they invade smoothly and friendly, nice and easy. In reality, deceptiveness always has selfish goals. A lie can come in the form of a truth, and a truth can come in the form of a lie. Be-lie-ve it or not. By words, we can arrive anywhere, but not necessarily at the truth. The Sufi master Mullah Nasreddin once said, “I never tell the truth.” If this is true, it contradicts his statement. But if he was lying, as he indicated, it means that he really was telling the truth.
Noah Eli Gordon teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press. Gordon's recent books include The Word Kingdom in the Word Kingdom (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2015), The Year of the Rooster (Ahsahta Press, 2013) and The Source (Futurepoem, 2011). www.noaheligordon.com
When I was about twenty, I remember sitting in my room one night, annoyed with something my housemates were up to, and a bit bored with whatever my other friends were doing. It was one of those evening where you just feel aimless, off-balance, agitated. There was something gnawing at me, but I didn’t know what. Then, out of nowhere, a procession of sirens passed by my house. I mean there were fire trucks, police cars, a few ambulances, lots and lots of noise—sudden, alarming noise; then, nothing. It was dead silent for maybe a second or two before the sirens picked up again. This time they seemed to come from every direction, as though they were surrounding the house. But the pitch was off, all wobbly, a weird vibrato, like electronics trying to run on nearly-dead batteries. The sound wasn’t coming from the sirens at all. It was an animal sound. It was every dog in the neighborhood at once attempting to imitate the noise. None of them could do it quite right, but damn were they going for it. It felt simultaneously sad and triumphant. It was the exact moment I decided to be a writer. In a sense all I’ve done in the decades since is performing over and over again this very moment.
And such a performance is carried out, led, orchestrated by the slim, cylindrical pronoun of the self, the “I”—our one letter, when presented without serifs, that resembles nothing so much as the conductor’s baton, active, authoritative, kinetic, at once controlling and yet disappearing into the very music over which it dominates. To watch a conductor translate the raw physicality of the body into the symphonic complexity of music is tantamount to unlocking some remote, clandestine secret of alchemy; rarely is one given so thorough a glimpse behind the curtain, into the control room, under the hood. But even here, in a statement on writing, each time I type “I” I am invariably acting. Sometimes the performance is subtle, understated, barely noticeable; sometimes, as now—right now, when I’ve gone to lengths to announce it—it’s unavoidable. It’s Novel Pictorial Noise.
What good is a theory of prose in the age of the author’s control of the margins? Verbal alchemy’s an oily mechanism, digitally speaking. If it’s a sentence, it must mean something, right? Très passé. The only post I believe in is the one pried from the ground in order to steal the bicycle that was locked to it. Writing. There it is. That’s what we’re doing. Okay, so writing is a genre. I know it when I see it: billboards, traffic signs, novels, menus—there is order and there is one’s order; and there are poisoned appetizers. What are you working on? “I’m writing a menu for the How to Live What to Do Café. We do not serve Flash Fictions.” Just because you’re engaged in an ancient craft doesn’t mean you’re any more likely to stay afloat. Robert Graves via God of War & Clash of the Titans means my menu makes hunger mute. Audio: a common word with the highest vowels to consonants ratio. There’s enough there to shape several formal allegories, but that’s the business of those intent on talking themselves into future commemorative plaques on student housing. Our literature does not age with us. It is we who are aged by it.
Nothing is as indispensable as the notion of the time-honored mode, for time would continue working its rust over casting elements into a medallion destined for the display case. Nonetheless, our habitual return to particular scenarios speaks of the desire to canonize the footprints we’ve been following, even if they turn out to be our own. Would that the woods of literature really were so bewildering! A few trees make a forest not. A stranger’s arrival is another’s departure, which is to say there is only one form after all: disruption. Thus to begin to hack, saw, and mulch the remnants of whatever may have been rooted within our notion of genre is to honor its plurality by pointing to the remaining spot, and, no matter how bare it might appear, calling it the most spectacular verdancy one has ever seen. To trample a garden is to refuse again the world of shadows. I is never an empire. If I ever make it to the end of the board, I just ask for another pawn—the real work of fiction, poetically speaking a prose.
Carla Harryman is known for her genre-disrupting experimental writings and performances. Her published works include Adorno’s Noise (Essay Press, 2008), W—/M— ( Split Level Press, 2013), Gardener of Stars, a Novel (Atelos, 2002), and There Never Was a Rose without a Thorn (City Lights, 1995). Her Poets Theater and performance writings are collected in Animal Instincts, Prose, Plays, and Essays (This, 1989); Memory Play (O Books, 1994), the French and English editions of Sue in Berlin (To Series, 2017), and in Open Box, a CD collaboration with Jon Raskin (Tzadik, 2012). Her collaborations include The Grand Piano (Mode D, 2006-2010) and The Wide Road with Lyn Hejinian (Belladonna, 2011). She is co-editor of Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (Verso, 2006) and editor of Non/Narrative (Journal of Narrative Theory, 2011). Her performance works have been presented nationally and internationally, and she has received numerous grants and awards in both writing and performance including from The Foundation of Contemporary Art, Opera America, Next Stage, and The Fund for Poetry. She serves as Professor of English at Eastern Michigan University and on the MFA faculty of the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College. http://carlaharryman.com
Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, translator, and teacher, currently serving as the John F. Hotchkis Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Her academic work is addressed principally to modernist, postmodern, and contemporary poetry and poetics, with a particular interest in avant-garde movements and the social practices they entail. She is the author of The Unfollowing (Omnidawn Books, 2016). Other volumes include The Book of a Thousand Eyes (Omnidawn Books, 2012) and The Wide Road, written in collaboration with Carla Harryman (Belladonna, 2010). In fall 2013 Wesleyan republished her best-known book, My Life, in an edition that includes her related work, My Life in the Nineties. Wesleyan is also the publisher of A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field 1982-1998, and the related Poetics Journal Digital Archive, both co-edited by Hejinian and Barrett Watten. She is currently the co-director (with Travis Ortiz) of Atelos, a literary project commissioning and publishing cross-genre work by poets, and the co-editor (with Jane Gregory and Claire Marie Stancek) of Nion Editions, a chapbook press. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lyn-hejinian
The seven prose poems included in this volume are all from the second, expanded version of My Life, which came out in 1987, seven years after publication of the first version. Premised on the notion that the language of one’s life shapes the subject who lives it, the sequence of 47 poems of 47 sentences each (equal to the number of years the author had lived when she expanded the text), My Life is a study of language and the experiences, whether actual or remembered, that it purveys.
Scott Helmes is a poet, book artist, writer, artist, architect and photographer. His experimental poetry has been collected, published and exhibited worldwide for over 40 years. His books include 1000 Haiku (Stamp Pad Press), Poems From Then to Now (Redfox Press), Ireland and The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008. In 2015, two works were included in The New Concrete an international concrete poetry anthology from Hayward Press, London. Photography is included in Architecture 2012 (Universe Publishing). The Walker Art Center recently acquired a photography book Museums. Book work has been exhibited at the Handmade/Homemade exhibit-Pace University, NY and The Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania. Artistic work since 2012 has included Art on the Plains X1 at the Plains Art Museum, Fargo; and Snippets: Visual Text at the R&F Gallery, Kingston, NY. At the 40th Northern Lights White Bear Lake Arts Center juried show in 2014, he received an Award of Excellence for a Sonnet work on paper. A Minneapolis Star Tribune review of the Minnetonka Center for the Arts ‘Abstraction in Action’ exhibit prominently noted two of my works. His studio is located in Minneapolis, MN, USA.
The mathematical poems are about language, process, and organizational form. As a trans-language, they do not use the traditional poetic and linguistic meanings, but involve the reader in processing thought in dada or surrealistic ways. While mathematics quantifies, language expresses; and thus the friction between these fundamental concepts leads one to unexplored regions of language, thought and communication. When read out loud, they seem nonsensical, a bit of a jumble of words, and somewhat humorous, often due to the lack of immediate comprehension. In the time since these poems were originally written, the visual programs of personal computers and the internet have resulted in the development of other forms of mathematical poems. Overall, this form of poetry is still a bit of a mystery to me, which is why I find them very relevant.
High Muck A Muck Collective
Fred Wah grew up in Nelson, BC, working in his father’s Chinese restaurant. Fred went on to become internationally recognized poet, critic and the Poet Laureate of Canada. His work often explores the notion of hybridity, returning again and again to the tension of his mixed blood ancestry. Fred has published poetry, fiction and criticism in Canada and internationally for over forty years and participated in hundreds of readings, talks and panels.
Jin Zhang was born in Beijing China and came to Canada in 1990. Jin is known as a composer who actively promotes combining of Eastern and Western musical expressions. He has received commissioning grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and has composed for many ensembles, TV productions, CD recordings and the theatre. Jin has composed and/or conducted for the Canadian Music Centre, the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Westminster Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra. www.jinzhang.wordpress.com
Nicola Harwood is a writer, theater and interdisciplinary artist. She spends a lot of joyful time working in collaboration with others, including artists from other disciplines, technologists, youth, incarcerated individuals and communities. Her work is motivated by a politic of liberation and has been produced locally, nationally and internationally. She currently teaches and practices in Vancouver, Canada on the beautiful, unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. www.nicolaharwood.com
Thomas Loh is an architect, artist and dancer. Born in Taiwan and educated in Toronto, he has made Nelson his home for the past twelve years. Thomas is an active architect and has designed many projects in the built environment – as well as practicing conceptual video, installation art and dance. He regularly works with community members to realize site-specific visual art and dance / movement projects.
Bessie Wapp is a theatre artist and musician and former Co-Artistic Director of Mortal Coil Performance Society, a Vancouver group specializing in stilting, international touring and site-specific work. Bessie’s site-specific work climaxed in 2008 with Letters from Lithuania, an epic based on her family’s stories of Jewish diaspora with a cast & crew of more than 30 artists. More recently Bessie has partnered with Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson, BC to create performance, produce community-engaged work and teach.
Hiromoto Ida is a nationally recognized director, choreographer and performer. With his own company Ichigo-Ichieh Dance he has created Please Dad, SENTAK, KESSA, and The Gift, all of which have been performed at international dance festivals. Ida originally studied drama and performance in Tokyo, then moved to Vancouver in 1987 and joined the Karen Jamieson Dance Company, performing at the Canada Dance Festival, Nouvelle Dance, Dancing on the Edge and the Kiss Project.
Tomoyo Ihaya’s primary mediums are printmaking, drawing and installation work. She has received numerous awards including grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and VADA award and scholarships. Her curiosity about other cultures and a strong belief that art and one's life should be intertwined has lead her to participate in artist residency programs in India, Mexico, Thailand, the United States and Canada. She has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.
Patrice Leung is a filmmaker and first assistant director. She has worked in film production for over 30 years, in Vancouver and around the world, cutting her teeth on CBC’s The Beachcombers in 1982. Her documentaries have screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Vancouver Queer Film festival. She immigrated with her family to Vancouver from Trinidad in 1967, maintaining the Chinese diaspora through four generations from China to the Caribbean to Canada.
Phillip Djwa is an artist and web strategist with 20 years experience in the tech industry and has worked on a wide range of technology and web-integrated communications projects through his company Agentic Digital Media. A career-long social entrepreneur, Phillip has provided support to many worthwhile community initiatives, including the First People’s Heritage Council, Friends of Chamber Music, and the First Nations Technology Council. Phillip has a BA from Simon Fraser University in Fine Arts with a concentration in electronic music, and an MFA in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York.
Our title High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, suggests the complexities of mimesis at the vortex of diaspora and globalism. Here is an opportunity to scrutinize the reflective nature of “playing” with dreams: is the gold of “Gold Mountain” perhaps shifting back to Asia? And, beyond a Chinook jargon, what accouterment of hybridity have we recuperated from the contact zone? As artists, how can we offer some mediation between history and what has become an increasingly “mixed up” world?
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese plays with the notion of fakery, of imitation, of wearing the master’s clothes; of a reversal of roles as white Canada now strives to serve a Chinese economic master. It expresses some of the internal community struggles that erupt between different generations and classes of immigrants and it challenges the racist paradigm of an all white Canada into which Asian immigrants enter but are never fully allowed to arrive.
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration to “Gold Mountain” by juxtaposing this classic narrative against one of mobility driven by the exigencies of contemporary global capitalism. Disrupting a charming world of hand-painted graphics and traditional Chinese music is the winking gleam of a highly adaptable, well-monied, digital class. As we take our chances and enter the diaspora, the myth of immigration as a pathway to increased fortune and happiness disintegrates from within. The journey may take you nowhere, the winnings of the game may be bitter. Home becomes forever dispersed: the Pacific ocean is the real boss.
Nicola Harwood & Fred Wah.
Lily Hoang is the author of Changing, recipient of a PEN Open Books Award, A Bestiary, winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center's Non-Fiction Book Prize, as well as other books. With Joshua Marie Wilkinson, she edited The Force of What’s Possible: Writers on the Avant-Garde and Accessibility. She teaches in the MFA program at New Mexico State University, where she is Associate Department Head. She is Prose Editor at Puerto del Sol and Non-Fiction Editor at Drunken Boat.
Changing is my attempt at translation of the I Ching, or the Chinese Book of Changes. Except: I don’t know Chinese—at all. Using the hexagram as formal constraint, Changing hybridizes memoir with fortune telling, fairy tale with translation.
Susan Howe was born on June 10, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the author of several books of poems and two volumes of criticism. Her poetry collections include That This (New Directions), The Midnight, Kidnapped, The Europe of Trusts, Pierce-Arrow, Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979, The Nonconformist’s Memorial, The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems, and Singularities. www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/susan-howe (See Susan Bee for statement on Bed Hangings.)
Jason Huff is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and designer. His work is included in the Library of the Printed Web, has been cited in Dazed Digital, the Daily Dot, Electric Lit, and The New Yorker. Huff’s work has been exhibited and performed in London, Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Brussels, Tel Aviv, and Hong Kong. His writing can be found on Rhizome and in The New Inquiry. Currently he is co-organizing a series of salons around New York focusing on new media forms and dialogues amongst artists and cultural theorists. http://jason-huff.com
Born in 1983, Microsoft Word reigns as the standard application for digital word-processing—despite Google Doc’s entrance into the market. Three decades of improvement and software development have created a piece of software with countless additional feature improvements, some with hyper-functional capabilities. AutoSummarize is one such hyper-functional feature of Word that allows the writer to transform texts beyond the executive summary and into a more poetic form.
The excerpts in this anthology are a product of Word’s AutoSummarize feature, bound as a book. The book, titled AutoSummarize, is a collection of the top 100 most downloaded copyright free books condensed using Microsoft Word 2008’s AutoSummarize 10-sentence function and organized alphabetically by title. The program itself describes the function’s promise: “Word has examined the document and picked the sentences most relevant to the main theme.” Kafka’s Metamorphosis becomes a cogent brief on Gregor’s identity and transformation. War and Peace, in its heft, is reduced to crumbs. The Iliad, a short-list of epic explanations.
The experience is an exploration of constricted language’s potency, emphasizing the brevity present in everyday online communication tools like Twitter, Facebook, and text messaging. Furthermore, the collection reflects on millennial's experience with CliffsNotes—the seminal, human-authored summaries of classic novels deemed important by 90s secondary school curriculum guides. In one way, this collection of stories asks, “What new insights will we experience when algorithms distill meaning from our most popular novels?” The answer lies in the poetry of the summaries—in a world where the activity of reading is changing and expanding as writing contracts and stretches into digital space.
Matt Huynh is a Vietnamese-Australian visual artist and storyteller. His bold brush and ink paintings are informed by calligraphic Eastern sumi-e ink traditions and popular Western comic books. His illustrated essays, comics and animations interrogate the vast repercussions of war, with a particular focus on amplifying diasporic voices, telling refugee narratives and the experiences of asylum seekers and migrant communities. Huynh's paintings, comics and murals have been exhibited by the MoMA, The Smithsonian, The Sydney Opera House, Brooklyn Museum, and New York Historical Society. His work has been honored by the Eisners, National Magazine Awards, Pulitzer, Webbys and World Illustration Awards. Collaborating with producer Kylie Bolton, he was the artist on the adaptation of Nam Le’s “The Boat,” which appears in this anthology. http://www.matthuynh.com.