Whas’Poppin: 6/20/14

by Mark Cugini

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All weekend I was in New York, which is like AWP all the time (((minus the one time they had turkey legs ((although I’m sure if you put your mind to it you can find a turkey leg in New York (although maybe not because that seems to be a “country” fair type thing and believe it or not I didn’t see a damn deer until I was 18 years old so what do I know)))))). I got back to DC on Sunday and at work on Monday I gchatted Mike and I says “Sucks, dunnit” and he says “wha” and I says “not being there” and he says “TRU.” Which was a little confusing, since it wasn’t really that memorable of a weekend, but then I saw that Lauren Russell interviewed Dana Ward at Hot Metal Bridge and Dana said:

“I can’t imagine writing, or thinking at all, without doing so somehow with others, especially those friends permissive enough to co-create, & then perpetuate, a space where its ok to fuck things up by writing stuff that might say really really stupid shit, change each other’s minds, & then still be around no matter, going on doing writing, not writing at all, keeping up with one another out of need & love, for the specific forms that people make, so doing.”

And then at that point the cab rides and the dad shirts and boxing gloves made a little more sense. Continue reading

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Inclusion in Ed Steck’s The Garden

by Joe Fritsch

garden_cover_giantThe Garden
by Ed Steck
Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013
104 pages / $14  Buy from UDP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the Romantic model of the garden is cultivation, then the Post-War model is invasion. Robert Duncan inquires of that famous, primordial garden, “is it dream or memory? homeland of the pleasure principle in the libidinal sea, an island girt round with forbidding walls?”[1] And of ornamentation, William Carlos Williams reminds us “that the bomb also is a flower.”[2] The multiflorous gardens of Ronald Johnson abstract whole histories for admission into their horticultural field. Rampancy, tended by besieged consciousnesses, overruns “the old garden-ground of boyish days.”[3]

The degradation of idealized forms is, of course, a hallmark of post-modernism, but the temptation of placing the world within the garden, or enlarging one’s garden infinitely, enacts a dialogue of control and ownership that becomes problematic for any anti-imperialistic project. Similarly, there is the risk of oversimplification that an artist runs when attempting to account for the volume of media produced around the event of war. Ed Steck’s The Garden: Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation, published by Ugly Duckling Presse, continues the erosion of privileged space begun midcentury with an all-important newness equipped to navigate the bizarre landscape of the 21st.

 

As part of the UDP’s Dossier Series, the book is itself stylistically heterogeneous, including prose, poetry, found text, documentary, and image. As per the publisher’s note, all books in the series display “an investigative impulse”[4]. While this certainly pertains to the book’s investigation into source materials, The Gardenalso investigates the relationship of languages’ materiality, which concurs with their space, to a distinct event occurring with and within a warzone. The book’s multimedia are presented in six parts.

The opening to The Garden comprises a log of correspondence between a Dynamically Generated Virtual Perimeter (DGVP) and a Remote System Administrative Monitor (RSAM), with deviations into training manuals and guides. There is an appendix at the back of the book that includes relevant abbreviations and some basic information about the, what I’ll call, characters in this section. Apart from being a helpful tool to those unfamiliar with military geofencing (instantiated here by a DGVP), the appendix recreates for the reader the act of reference, just as the RSAM might consult a training manual. This mechanism, as well as the text’s appropriation of military documents, are conceptualist techniques, and they add a certain gravitas to the work. The heavily jargonized language of military procedures defamiliarizes and essentializes English. However, the crafted presentation is able to insert broader considerations of epistemology and ontology into its decidedly more functional language.

A good example for the dichotomy I’m trying to draw appears when the DGVP internally logs both “Sequence: 01-012 Enabled” and “I am self I am self aware.”[5] In doing so, this computer program, which generates a virtual representation of space as for GPS mapping or military simulation, displays an invented programming language and a human consciousness. It reminds me of any amount of science fiction that takes on the speculative project of imagining the interplay between sentience and technology begun with Shelley’s Frankenstein and reaching a particularly violent pitch through the voice of AM in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream in 1966. An acute difference being, of course, that DGVPs are actively involved in the brutality of modern war. Continue reading

Lucas de Lima’s Wet Land

by Marty Cain

wetlandWet Land
by Lucas de Lima
Action Books, March 2014
108 pages / $12-16  Buy from Action Books or SPD

 

 

 

 

 

 

The premise of Wet Land is almost impossibly weird: it’s a book-length response to the death of Lucas de Lima’s close friend Ana Maria, who was killed by an alligator. Written mostly in all-caps, the poems are delivered by a narrator who frequently takes the form of a bird, ruminating on Ana Maria, the gator, and the act of writing itself. Early on in the collection, de Lima describes the act of watching a televised reenactment of Ana Maria’s death: “IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARY THE ACTRESS LOOKS/NOTHING LIKE ANA MARIA;/THE OTHER ACTRESS LOOKS NOTHING LIKE HER FRIEND.” Here, de Lima sets the tone for many of the tensions that characterize this collection. It’s easy to criticize this kind of tasteless reenactment—to see it as a byproduct of a violent, media-obsessed culture. But inWet Land, de Lima turns the lens on himself, exploring his own anxiety about being complicit in the reappropriation of tragedy.

 

Considering that the book is written in response to the death of a specific person, it’s hard not to see it as being in dialog with the elegiac tradition—and the elegy, of course, has a long history of exploiting misfortune. Think of Lycidas, Milton’s pastoral elegy for the death of his classmate, Edward King—my undergraduate professors told me that Lycidas was the most perfect lyric poem in the English language, but whether or not this is true, its actual intention is clearly not to preserve the memory of King. Rather, it gives Milton a opportunity to show off his poetic chops, shamelessly espousing his political opinions. Perhaps the elegy has never been about the subject, but rather, the narrator; perhaps a poem about a tragedy is no better than a primetime television reenactment. De Lima is well aware of these trappings of the elegiac form:

O, THE BIRD INSIDE ME SAYS, IT HURTS TO KEEP KILLING ANA MARIA
& IT HURTS TO KEEP KILLING THE ALLIGATOR.
BUT THAT IS WHAT THE HUMAN DOES WITH WORDS
(from “CRUEL NATURE”)

Continue reading

The Fun We’ve Had

by Anonymous

thefunwevehad
The Fun We’ve Had
by Michael J. Seidlinger
Lazy Fascist Press, 2014
168 pages / $11.95 buy from Amazon
Rating: 7.9

How do you write a thrilling and entrancing Alt Lit novel?

Start with a chorus of disembodied voices telling us that “the waves are helloes; the incoming storm the sincerest goodbye. Like every single one of us, they are holding on. We held on until we could no longer hide. No one can hide out at sea.”

 

Then, add two characters trapped in a coffin adrift at sea. Make the characters as disparate as possible—have one be an old man and one a young girl. Set them at odds with one another—the more tense the better.

Then write in a very cryptic style. Use a lot of ambiguity, but be sure to not answer ANY questions that you’ve raised about your characters. Who are they? How did they get in the coffin? Why do they seem to be trapped in each other’s bodies? (Well, maybe answer one or two of them, but only at the very end of the book, otherwise it will spoil the fun.)

Keep up the tense pace with framing devices. The five stages of grief should work nicely. Also an alternating “his turn”/”her turn” chapter division will work nicely.

Add some sex, some existentialist dread and some metafictional flair.

Write a line like “Everyone is capable of a lifetime and nothing more,” and a line like “Everything changes. Nothing is true.”

Toss in some motherfucking sharks and a hurricane of jellyfish falling from the sky, which will result in the mincing of your character’s physical bodies (but not their spiritual presence).

Add some of that aforementioned closure, but not too much! Wrap things up nicely. Talk about how we’re all in this sea called life together. There are no lone sharks.

After you’ve do all that, you should have a book that looks like Michael J. Seidlinger’s The Fun We’ve Had—one of the most gripping books to come out in a while. Now sit back and bask in your creation and wait for the praise to roll in through Facebook and Twitter.

 

TRIGGER WARNINGS & FORBIDDEN FRUIT / PEN / LITERARY STUFF IN LA

by Nick Antosca

I haven’t read the New York Times in a while now.  Not since the paywall went up.  But yeah, I read that article the other day by Jennifer Medina about college students asking for “trigger warnings” on the books and movies they encounter in class.  It’s good that I’m not a professor.  I’d get in trouble somehow.

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I know about the article because John Landis read it out loud at a PEN Center USAevent last Sunday in LA.  The event was Forbidden Fruit, PEN’s fundraiser where authors and actors read passages from some of the most banned books of all time.  (Lolita, check.)  Landis was the emcee.  Panio Gianopolous, Maria Bello, Molly Ringwald, Jill Sobule, Frances Fisher, Hill Harper, and others read work from authors like Ken Kesey, Anais Nin, Orwell, Updike, Steinbeck, and Nabokov.  All writers whose books might need a trigger warning, I guess. Continue reading

Finding the light: a review of a very short memoir by Ethel Rohan

by Michelle Elvy

OutofDublinOut of Dublin
by Ethel Rohan
Shebooks, May 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethel Rohan’s Out of Dublin opens with an image I’ll not soon forget:

Two-hundred-and-six bones hold the typical adult together. When we first arrive, our skeleton contains three hundred hard, slick parts the color of teeth, and then life takes out some bones. I sometimes feel I have too many bones missing, there not enough skeleton to keep me together.

At the center of this memoir is the story of breaking and healing. It’s a personal tale with broad appeal, because, even as it retells one family’s many stories, it reminds us of the resilience of human beings and our desire to keep holding on, even in the face of the impossible.

I’ve been thinking about the personal memoir quite a lot lately: how much to tell, how much to leave out, why we feel compelled to tell our stories in the first place. Rohan carries two missions deep within her: a need to articulate her own story for herself, and a desire to write it down and share it – because what else would an individual of this capacity for feeling and words do?

The memoir contains painful details of life growing up in Dublin and the struggle to leave – and the reader knows from the opening that there will be wreckage along the way. Even at a young age, with five dynamic siblings and two complicated parents, the small version of Ethel has difficulty finding her place. She’s a girl searching for her song, trying to be heard. But she’s also a girl with unremitting devotion to her family. And this duality permeates the memoir: a desire to understand where she fits in a complex and painful family history, and the dedication of a daughter who loves her parents and family, flawed as they are. The writer is frank about the tough things: violence, abuse, anger, secrets. But a tenderness persists as well, amidst layers of confusion and disorientation. Straightforward language and subtle affection make this a small splendid thing. Continue reading

Tyrone Williams’ SUMMER READS

by Janice Lee

tyrone-williams

Anticipated summer reads from Tyrone Williams as part of this year’s Summer Reads series.

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Not the only five—a lot more will be mini-reviewed at Jacket 2—but certainly some of the ones that have whetted my appetite.

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C.J. Martin, Two Books

As far as I can tell, this Compline Book is undated, suitable for Martin’s formal work that I’ve been following for several years, some of which (e.g., What is Worship) is included here.

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Laura Elrick, Propagation (Kenning Editions, 2012)

I’ve been trying to write about STALK, Elrick’s foray into video documentary poetry, for years. I’m hoping this book will jumpstart that project.

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Jean-Marie Gleize, Tarnac, A Preparatory Act (Kenning Edition, 2014)

The “position” of poetry and poetics re political activism, That’s enough—maybe—for me.

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Mendi + Keith Obadike, Four Electric Ghosts (1913 Press, 2009) and Big House/Disclosure (1913 Press, 2008)

I’ve been wanting to read deeply into the performative work of this couple since my distant impression has always been that rather than theorize (simply) praxis, they do it, on a number of levels. I’m cheating here with two books but…

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Fred Moten, The Feel Trio (Little Machine Editions, 2014)

I like Fred, have read and liked his previous books of poetry (haven’t gotten to the criticism) but I’m still not sure what I think (not what I feel) about the work. This latest should help orient me a little (I hope).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATyrone Williams teaches literature and theory at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of five books of poetry, c.c. (Krupskaya Books, 2002), On Spec (Omnidawn Publishing, 2008), The Hero Project of the Century (The Backwaters Press, 2009), Adventures of Pi (Dos Madres Press, 2011) and Howell(Atelos Books, 2011). He is also the author of several chapbooks, including a prose eulogy, Pink Tie (Hooke Press, 2011). His website is athttp://home.earthlink.net/~suspend/

 

On Bullying: Isla Vista, Seth Abramson, and Social Media

by Donald Dunbar

Screenshot-2014-05-26-19.53.58

How do you ethically navigate your media?

When I heard today about the shootings in southern California, my first thought was, “oh, again?”, and my second thought was, “Rachel is in southern California.” After running to the computer to confirm that the shootings took place far enough away from where my wife is, and after feeling huge relief none of the victims were my loved ones, and after feeling momentary guilt for that relief in the face of others’ grief, I felt the now-usual feelings of sadness for the victims and their loved ones, frustration at the cultural attitudes that enable and produce this now-usual violence, and renewed knowledge of my helplessness to protect those I love from “random” tragedy.

I then did my usual thing of scanning the web for information about what went on and what lead to it. I read a good deal of the killer’s memoir/manifesto. I noted his childhood joy of opening a Pokémon booster pack to find a Charizard, his journey of dyeing his hair partly and then full-blond, his use of the term “playdate” to talk about hanging out with people when he was 17, his emotional connection to his N64, and his reverence for brand names. I realized he had probably killed his roommates before I saw any media mention that he had killed his roommates. I read that he had planned to kill his younger brother and his stepmother. I saw an excruciatingly self-involved man who in many ways still thought as a boy, and who had never been able to understand other people are human, like him.

After thinking a lot today about empathy—the visceral recognition of yourself in other people, of other people in yourself—and reminiscing some about feeling unloved, unattractive, outcast, and misunderstood, I scrolled past a Facebook post about Seth Abramson’s remix of the killer’s YouTube confession. I thought, “too soon!” and scrolled on. And then later scrolled past it, and then, on seeing it for the third time, read it. In the piece, Abramson reorganizes the killer’s words into something life-affirming. Rather than railing against the dumb beast blond women and the thugs their animal minds force them to couple with, Abramson’s piece intends itself as a message of comfort, understanding, and love for “Every single girl. Every single man. (Even obnoxious men!)” Even Elliot, the killer.

I then read the comments on the Facebook post. Continue reading

25 Points: The Weaklings XL

by Impossible Mike

Cooper-CoverThe Weaklings XL
by Dennis Cooper
Sententia Books, 2013
84 pages / $12.95 buy from Sententia Books orAmazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Dennis Cooper’s The Weaklings XL repeatedly interrogates three unknowables: the body, desire, and language.

2. Language is eternally indefinite: “You’re the / one who fired a gun at his head, so high / on whatever, and so depressed by my / lack of whatever that you were afraid you / might have otherwise not hit the target, / wherever I was at the time.”

3. We can never truly know our own bodies, the insides, the way they function. Because of this, one might assume the only way we can ever truly know the idea of a body is through exploration of the body of another. This is akin to Blanchot’s conception of death: we can never know our own death, we can only know the death of another.

4. Desire is impossible to ever know, to ever understand, to ever achieve in the sense of a totality. Cooper’s poems show how parts of desire can be hinted at in physical altercations, but desire is always immaterial and, thusly, can never be adequately incorporated into an experience.

5. In a suite titled “BOYS2BRELOCATED,” a selection of invented “personal ads” by under-age gay (or not gay, because it doesn’t really matter) men/boys soliciting sex, 666HEAVYMETAL666, 17 years old, posts the following: “DO YOU REALLY GIVE A CRAP? I’M SCARRED OK.” The suite presents a context in which misspelling echoes the reality of the quick-typing mode of the internet, where the reader can imagine these personal ads would be found. However, in a bizarre semantic twist, the context of the typo allows a double reading of the message: “SCARRED” can either be read as it is typed, as “scarred,” as in wounded, damaged or affected, or it could be taken as a misspelling of “scared,” as in frightened, terrified. This dynamic back-and-forth is all the context any of the personal ads need.

6. Before recent years Dennis Cooper was mostly known as a transgressive writer who was obsessed with writing about the sexual murders of young boys. This is his content. The success of his writing is dependent upon this obsession: it’s not literal (as in, I don’t think the claim could be made that Dennis Cooper the person is interested in murdering a young boy in a sexual context), but it’s the guiding force of the work. It’s a metonymic mode that allows a total and occasionally exhausting exploration of the indefinite nature of language, desire, and the body.

7. Somehow in recent years the content of Cooper’s work has been “white-washed” and the focus has turned onto his ability to construct sentences. Dennis Cooper is a brilliant prose stylist, and at the level of the sentence is work is amazing. This is demonstrated throughout all his work, I think; the poems here, all of the novels, his work in theater. However, I think ignoring the obsessive thematics of the work is doing the work a disservice. It strikes me as a sort of intellectualization that would position the work as some sort of purely intellectual art. Cooper is a brilliant writer who demonstrates remarkable intellect, but I think to read the sentences while ignoring the content would be a futile gesture. Language and the body, language and desire, these things are all linked.

8. Bernard Noël’s early career as a poet consisted of works that interrogated the relation of language to the body. This often resulted in the work carrying on into dark places. As a poet, I think Noël’s work is far stronger in its interrogation of the body/language divide, and much more accomplished. However, nobody reads Bernard Noël, especially not American audiences, as very little of the early poetry is available in English, and what is available is in no way easy to come by. In opposition, however, Cooper’s novels are far more accomplished than Noël’s single ‘straight-forward’ novel, The Castle of Communion.

9. Cooper’s poetry, while less formally/visually interesting or experimental than his novels, strips the words to the core of the problem that is often present in the novels: how can one mete language with desire, with the body.

10. In the annals of juvenile “trying to out-gross” one another, I remember hearing a “joke.”

“What’s the best thing about having sex with a twelve year old girl in the shower?”
“…”
“Slick her hair back and she looks like an eight year old boy.” Continue reading

Dikembe Press has a cool name and they’re reading chapbook manuscripts

by Mike Young

If Dikembe Mutombo decided to write a chapbook-length manuscript of poems about what it felt like to be one of those weird Internet Era cultural figures who has a sugar-rush style identity and factors thus accordingly into evil surreal advertising memes, he would probably just use his giant arms to place his chapbook manuscript into Dikembe Press‘s electronic mail inbox.

But you’re not Dikembe Mutombo. You’re not in any commercials. Write a good chapbook manuscript and send it to Dikembe Press. They’re reading manuscripts for a month. The guy Jeff? He’s from Reno. They make good chapbooks.

If any of us really had imaginatively big arms, they would put us in a tiny cell in the White House basement and the Vice President would laugh at us and light matches against our skin.

Send your chapbook manuscript to Dikembe Press.