No, I don’t necessarily agree with all of them and, like any list, each item depends on your own context. But if even just one tip makes sense, it’ll make up for the two minutes spent watching…
Deadline: May 10, 2014
We invite you to participate and send an artist’s letter. Free technique. On a postcard or envelope or any other object of your choice. Illustration, address and stamp on the same page if possible.
Galerie LE LAB
3 rue Bussy l’indien
Ruud Janssen has released a couple of collections of thoughts and writings on—and examples of—mail art:
- 25 Years in Mail-Art includes various thoughts and interviews from Janssen’s first 25 years of involvement.
The Statements Collection reprints statements from 1993-2008, many originally as published pamphlets and the like.
Good stuff about a form that fascinates me for so many reasons…
- Shakespeare in Three Panels
- Shakespeare’s plays, each in three panels. With stick figures.
- Like, Degrading the Language? No Way.
- “IF there is one thing that unites Americans of all stripes, it is the belief that, whatever progress our country might be making, we are moving backward on language. Just look at the crusty discourse level of comments sections and the recreational choppiness of text messages and hit pop songs. [...] However, amid what often seems like the slack-jawed devolution of a once-mighty language, we can find evidence for, of all things, a growing sophistication.”
- 101 Years Later, Message in a Bottle Arrives
- “A message in a bottle tossed in the sea in Germany 101 years ago and believed to be the world’s oldest has been presented to the sender’s granddaughter.” Cool.
- The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade
- “Scientists have known about childhood amnesia for more than a century. But it’s only in the past decade that they have begun to figure out when childhood memories start to fade, which early memories are most likely to survive, and how we create a complete autobiography without direct memories of our earliest years.”
- What’s Wrong with Sentimentality?
- This is a question I am deeply interested in, if not obsessed with. From the interview intro: ‘But how does another person’s suffering affect one’s own emotional intelligence? What are you supposed to do with someone else’s pain? [...] Jamison does not know the answer. But she searches for it by writing about episodes of attempted empathy in her own life—for example, the time she became “obsessed” with her brother’s bout of Bell’s palsy: “I spent large portions of each day imagining how I would feel if my face was paralyzed too. I stole my brother’s trauma and projected it onto myself like a magic-lantern pattern of light.” Was that empathy, Jamison wonders, or was it a kind of emotional theft?’
Where to start with John Berryman? It’s all about The Dream Songs for me. Not because all of his other work is inferior, but because the Dream Songs are the poems that speak directly to me. Somehow they see into me. They worm their way into my ears, heart and brain. They are so many things: beautiful, demanding, complex, confusing, private language and public proclamation…a hearty fuck you to the establishment and the body of poetry that came before and a loving embrace of poets from Shakespeare to Roethke. Berryman has been forgotten by many—and maddeningly dismissed as a “confessional” poet—but I see his influence, or at least poets trying (and mostly failing) to mine the vein of how our dreamscape feels as he did so well, everywhere. I could—and should—write at length about Berryman, but I’m trying to focus on the poems for National Poetry Month.
The most anthologized Dream Songs are anthologized for good reason and their brilliance is undiminished by familiarity. I’ve included a couple of them in this selection together with a few less commonly shared. There’s no substitute for reading them all.
“Dream Song 14″
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
from The Dream Songs
“Dream Song 76: Henry’s Confession”
Nothin very bad happen to me lately.
How you explain that? —I explain that, Mr Bones,
terms o’ your bafflin odd sobriety.
Sober as man can get, no girls, no telephones,
what could happen bad to Mr Bones?
—If life is a handkerchief sandwich,
in a modesty of death I join my father
who dared so long agone leave me.
A bullet on a concrete stoop
close by a smothering southern sea
spreadeagled on an island, by my knee.
—You is from hunger, Mr Bones,
I offers you this handkerchief, now set
your left foot by my right foot,
shoulder to shoulder, all that jazz,
arm in arm, by the beautiful sea,
hum a little, Mr Bones.
—I saw nobody coming, so I went instead.
from The Dream Songs
“Dream Song 235″
Tears Henry shed for poor old Hemingway
Hemingway in despair, Hemingway at the end,
the end of Hemingway,
tears in a diningroom in Indiana
and that was years ago, before his marriage say,
God to him no worse luck send.
Save us from shotguns & fathers’ suicides.
It all depends on who you’re the father of
if you want to kill yourself-
a bad example, murder of oneself,
the final death, in a paroxysm, of love
for which good mercy hides?
A girl at the door: ‘A few coppers pray’
But to return, to return to Hemingway
that cruel & gifted man.
Mercy! my father; do not pull the trigger
or all my life I’ll suffer from your anger
killing what you began.
from The Dream Songs
“Dream Song 310″
His gift receded. He could write no more.
Be silent then, until the thing returns.
We have Goethe’s warrant
for idling when no theme presents itself
or none that can be handled suitably:
I fall back on that high word.
I hate his race though, except Hölderlin
& Kleist, whom he clasped to Henry’s bosom:
a suicide & a madman,
to teach him lessons who was so far neither.
The language best handled by a foreigner,
Kafka, old pal.
Henry, monstrous bug, laid himself down
on the machine in the penal colony
without a single regret.
He was all regret, swallowing his own vomit,
disappointing people, letting everyone down
in the forests of the soul.
from The Dream Songs
Erin Belieu’s poetry is clever, vivid, angry, funny, happy…heart-breakingly and heart-bracingly human. Love it.
Ars Poetica for the Future
The Rapture came
and went without incident,
but I put off folding my laundry,
just in case.
Also, from my inbox this morning,
“Lesbian Torture Camps.”
The mind ricochets like a fly—
is there anything left
for people to do to people?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend
looks forward to the apocalypse
like a retirement party
he pretends he won’t be
attending, like those idiots
in the movies who climb the highest
building, wanting to be the first ones
to welcome the spaceship. In this world,
I’ve given up sleep for dreaming
and art is still our only flying car,
but I can’t recall when anticipation
became the substitute for hope.
Recently, C. said “Now we begin
the poems of our Great Middle Period.”
I imagine digging a series of small
holes, burying poems in Ziploc
baggies. I imagine them as baby teeth
knocked from the present’s mouth.
from The Awl
Once I took it in my mouth, I had to
admit, pity tastes good, like the sandwiches
they make in French patisseries, the loaf smeared
with force-fed organs, crust that shreds the skin behind
your teeth. So bless the tongue’s willingness,
for it chooses like a wartime whore and it’s the picky
who end up dead against the wall. And bless also
the bouncers, who all last summer grew kindly
ashamed those nights I fell backward
off their stools. When A. said, “People are generous
with ugly things and you’re the Goodwill drop box,”
I counted the turns I’ve taken on that swing—
the handouts I’ve offered the fucked-up
and broken. It’s the playground rule,
everyone gets a ride: then you’re the girl at the party
trashing the patio furniture, or the man, later
that night, pushing her down in the street.
from Black Box
I intended to use a few of Matthews’ poems about jazz musicians here, such as his rightfully well known poems about Coltrane, Hawkins and Mingus, but I’ve done that before and you can find more for yourself. Here are a few poems that have a different kind of meaning to me. Matthews was a master of the unforgettable phrase (“a diminuendo in personnel,” “the sweet ferocity of excellence,” “it’s far too late to unlove each other”) and at rummaging around beneath the skin of what might in lesser hands be everyday mistaken epiphanies.
Pick up Matthews’ collected poems. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
luxurious; there is no past,
only an oceanic present.
You troll along in your glass-
Parents and siblings lurk
among the coral with thick eyes,
they will not eat you
if you understand them
well enough. Stop,
you whisper to the ingratiating
pilot, here we are,
maybe this mean an end
to all those hours listlessly improvising.
the link you think maybe
now you have it,
it will come up slick
with significance, laden
with the sweet guilt you can name.
from Search Party: Collected Poems
“Perhaps you’ll tire of me,” muses
my love, although she’s like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn’t tire of rain, I think,
but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can’t
control is what we could; those drab,
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may augur we’re on our owns
for good reasons. “Hi, honey,” chirps Dread
when I come through the door, “you’re home.”
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-
in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it’s far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let’s cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.
from Search Party: Collected Poems
They say you can’t think and hit at the same time,
but they’re wrong: you think with your body, and the whole
wave of impact surges patiently through you
into your wrists, into your bat, and meets the ball
as if this exact and violent tryst had been a fevered
secret for a week. The wrists “break,” as the batting
coaches like to say, but what they do is give away
their power, spend themselves, and the ball benefits.
When Ted Williams took–we should say “gave”—
batting practice, he’d stand in and chant to himself
“My name is Ted Fucking Ballgame and I’m the best
fucking hitter in baseball,” and he was, jubilantly
grim, lining them out pitch after pitch, crouching
and uncoiling from the sweet ferocity of excellence.
from Search Party: Collected Poems
I’m pretty devoted to short poems. It takes a special poet to hold my attention for more than a page or so. Albert Goldbarth and Denise Duhamel are among the few who do so regularly. Goldbarth keeps me engaged with his erudition and intellectual leaps; Duhamel captures me with her passion. Duhamel’s poems are smart, but where Goldbarth’s feel like they are extended because of the intellectual engagement, Duhamel’s often feel like she had to keep writing and the poems are just the length they need to be.
All of this as a preface to my selection of two shorter poems. That’s why you need to buy her books…
I just didn’t get it—
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.
I just couldn’t grasp it—
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one minispeck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap—
“The world doesn’t revolve around you!”
The earth was fragile and mostly water
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third-grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures–
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me—even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yo-yo.
I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.
from Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems
the heart beats 100,000 times a day, which leads me to think I could write a poem 100,000 words long, each word a beat, each beat how I feel about you. Each word would have two syllables, words mimicking tic-toc, ocean, thunk-thunk—trochee, iamb, a few spondees thrown in for when I’m really pounding. I do the math and realize my potential poem will be 300 pages, no punctuation or sentences, only word after word—and it will probably take you a whole day to read, a full 24 hours, and the poem will probably make sense only if you read it all in one sitting. So then when would you sleep? And why would you take the time to read such a poem-beast when you could just put your hand on the skin right over my heart? And why would I take time to write 100,000 words when everything I want to say is already said when you pledge your allegiance? Da-dum. Arise. Vroom-vroom. Beep-beep.
Heather McHugh is a linguistic trickster in the best and devilish sense. She plays with words, writing poems that embrace me even as the poetic knife is sliding between my ribs.
Instead of angels, give us aero-
gels. Diaphanous as surfaces of soap,
lightest of the solids on this earth,
an aerogel won’t burn, beneath our most
insistent blowtorch. We created it to be
a lightweight indestructibility,
just as we did (in good
old days) our bombs, and just
as in the good old days, we’ll sell
a bit of it to you. Just take
our word for it, it’s better
than the gist of gism, better than the best
of bed. Directly out of it will come
the aero-arrows of idea, which lead
to speech balloons and quick ignition pens.
Between the coupled wars, and times, and causes, prime
seems fed up, misled, laid. A thought
is nothing but a need
for energy, a body’s mission: be
suggestive to a head. Instead of angels,
give us urges. We’ll take over, if the mover’s dead.
from Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
Calm comes from burning.
Tall comes from fast.
Comely doesn’t come from come.
Person comes from mask.
The kin of charity is whore,
the root of charity is dear.
Incentive has its source in song
and winning in the sufferer.
Afford yourself what you can carry out.
A coward and a coda share a word.
We get our ugliness from fear.
We get our danger from the lord.
from The Father of Predicaments
“Language Lesson 1976″
When Americans say a man
takes liberties, they mean
he’s gone too far. In Philadelphia today I saw
a kid on a leash look mom-ward
and announce his fondest wish: one
bicentennial burger, hold
the relish. Hold is forget,
On the courts of Philadelphia
the rich prepare
to serve, to fault. The language is a game as well,
in which love can mean nothing,
doubletalk mean lie. I’m saying
doubletalk with me. I’m saying
go so far the customs are untold.
Make nothing without words,
and let me be
the one you never hold.
from Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993
- Click. Sound. Color. Fun.
- History of Letterfolds
- A brief look at the history of letter folds with images and links.
- “This is not Writing” (But is it Literature?)
- “Walking into Brown’s CAVE is kind of like walking out of Plato’s. I can’t decide whether to be dazzled or paralyzed by the light — whether I’m thrilled that the artistic possibilities for “writers” are expanding ever outward, or terrified that my definition of what literature is has been shattered. [...] For the past 20 years, the field of electronic literature has been developing beneath the noses of academics, book lovers, and college English majors like me. Now it is ready to reveal itself to the masses and revolutionize the way we think about the book, whether we’re prepared for it or not.”
- Paper for Fountain Pens (store)
- I haven’t purchased from them, but all the reviews on various networks are good. They carry cream and white Tomoe River paper in pads, blank books, and loose sheets.
- Great Unsung Science Fiction Authors That Everybody Should Read
- An interesting mix of the definitely unsung (John Brunner, anyone?) and some I’m not so sure belong there (Kage Baker, really?). Still, a good list to which we can each add our own.
- The Uncomfortable
- This has to be some kind of designery litmus test: just how uncomfortable do these designs of everyday objects make you feel? They make my skin crawl and I just want it to stop.
- Fontshop rebuilds
- Fontshop is rebuilding from the ground up…this should be good.
- One Artist Is Printing 250,000 Pages of Pirated JSTOR Documents, In Tribute to Aaron Swartz
- Kenneth Goldsmith’s work is usually uninteresting. But printing Aaron Swartz related JSTOR docs is brilliant…