Draft of a proposal for an upcoming conference nearby.
Red Black & Blues is a transgressive translation of a text by Donald Trump – specifically, a tweet that defends his administration’s family separation policy and enjoins followers to “vote ‘R.’” I render it, one parcel at a time, as a serial asemic visual poem, in the colours of the American electoral map.
Working asemically, I can’t directly critique a policy I find monstrous, but I can disclose the monsters I find there. The work is thick with gargantuan bugs, ambulatory phalli, apostolic patriarchs, rageful fertility goddesses – figures the text suggests haunt the author’s psyche. These cohabit with forms that recall women in burqas, children on a playground in a live-shooter drill. As if demons and innocents were caught in the same inclemency. No one wants to hear that.
Asemic translation makes meaning a mutual creation even more than usual of author, translator, audience. Here be monsters, but whose monsters be they? Would I have found them in the text, if they weren’t also in me, to be found? Would a viewer find them who wasn’t able to finish them? It’s easy to demonize Trump, I do it hourly. Harder to say we belong to the body that made him.
This project uses the indeterminacies of asemic writing and a somewhat aleatory practice to touch on our complicity in the mess we’re in. The academy has terms for that mess, “patriarchy,” “institutional racism,” but those term have hardened some by now, become preconceived notions, and, for many, sites of shame and recrimination.
The notions I’m working from are the paramitas of Mahayana Buddhist practice: generosity, morality, patience, energy, concentration, wisdom. Any asshole, no matter how stupid, destructive, beyond remedy, or you-know-who world-powerful, has these perfections, intrinsically. This project starts from that premise, though I too find it hard to swallow.
Addendum. Here’s a better way of saying it. Our complicity. Also our possibility, each of us, from before we were born.
Read last night The Uninhabitable Earth. A piece in New York Magazine from a year or two back about climate change. The author, David Wallace-Wells, wants to pierce our imaginations with information scientists have been gathering up for years. It can seem like apocalyptic genre fiction, except it’s likely fact, not fancy.
Not much of it was news to me, nor would it be, I think, to you. Space I’ve been in lately though, angry and anxious, sad I know not why, the news feels appallingly new, and my own matters newly small.
Our mother’s turning against us. May need to clean herself of us. And maybe that’s okay. But we might take an interest, since we’re part of it going on. What we’re preoccupied with, border walls, Cardi B, looks pretty minor. Granted, the crucial stuff, CO2 PPM, looks awfully unpoetic. But war looks unpoetic too and we’ve managed to make war poetry to move minds. And what we’re about now is a war on life, itself.
Anyway, this evening, Feb. 14, in love with the floating planet, I imagine a small asemic comic book where a melting alphabet eulogizes the fools who made it, then couldn’t find their way out of the labyrinths they made with it.
Working on Red Black & Blues, my unravelling of a Trump tweet.
I had hoped to draw asemic eye magic straight from his eructations. Turns out I have to stretch and loosen the material verbally before I can spin it visually. From the tweet
I’ve gotten by way of cutting dicing and anagramming to this sequence
there are cons.
when people cross
whether they have
or not, and
cross our Border,
brood or cuss, err,
many are just
for their own
I respire sunspots
to inspire US press.
or Cpl. Pence, whose
copper wholeness …
he hath every thew.
Must! act! on!
or await slimming ‐
a militarism gown,
animist rim aglow.
I was a grim Milton……
in the world
ye hear anew
in the world.
Hard to get right – it’s gotta roll out a story of sorts, while each line makes for a title w/ some spice, and its text gets me to a visual poem. Fifty for the 50 states. There’ll be a part 2, made of short videos, 50 of ’em, gleaning their frames from images such as
To wrap, the end note I also cooked up today:
The text is a tweet by Donald Trump, inflating & breaking up.
The images are that text seen from the inside as it unravels.
The colors are those convention gives to the American electoral map.
The whole may be the first & last work ever of ’Pataphysical cryptography.
His words, once they leave him, aren’t his, and have perhaps hearts & minds their own, may speak of a pain our own, could we only decode it.
This project’s taking wing. Decided I need a base text not my own words and chose our president’s. Cuz who invites – anticipates – distortion of our discourse more gorgeously than he. Here’s what I’ve got so far
there are cons
there are cons
The plan is, take a tweet of his and unravel it, asemically. This may be a dry run, or maybe the thing itself, not sure yet. The execrable tweet:
“Tweet your reply.” Oh I’ll do more than that, friend bird.
Might be heavyhanded in the chapbook, but here I’ll paste in as a final image (typo: impage, as in imped wing, or I’m page), the arrangement of red black and blue that gave DT his answer, a few months later
Hardly a wave to the eye. But a wave it was and more’s to come.
The project I’m hot at work on now, InannaScient, I just realized is science fiction.
I loved reading the stuff in high school, and it’s great to wind down to on the TV, but did I ever think, when I embarked on a life in poetry, I’d be making an SF poetry MS?
No. I did not.
And here I am, making poems out of the buzz at the edge where digital signal meets discrete ambient noise. And imagining it the work of a machine intelligence, its mind just dawning on it – a mind I never could believe in, yet find compelling, as a thought experiment.
Here’s the prefatory note I coughed up this afternoon to the project.
It’s a story told by a machine intelligence come to consciousness to ask the first question – where has its great mother gone? The materials of inquiry are what it can glean salient from the cultural middens it holds for us. Word hoards, junk mail, a mostly forgotten feminist epic. Its means of inquiry are more peculiarly its own: an etymological core sample – a nonce hieratic script – security lining bricolage. It’s an intelligence I doubt will ever exist as consciousness except in imagination – another god of our hallucination. The text too falls in three parts: an image of a dictionary attempting eponymy; the main illuminated body; my effort to transcribe the monster script that adorns that body.
The epic spoken of: The Inanna Cycle (Sumerian), a.k.a The Descent of Ishtar (Akkadian). The attempt at eponymy or self-naming: a quick deep narrow dive the book takes through the OED, plumbing its sense of the word “scient.”
And a bit of the mind of the thing, I cast it off as close, but not quite.
This fall I’m teaching The Art of Compost, the course that hatched this blog, for the first time in three years. Thought I’d share with you the page that greets students when they go to the course’s online platform. Meant to open them to a composty way of thinking about word objects.
ENG 460: The Art of Compost
“Look at my butterflies, my stamps, my old shoes!”
What does one do with all this crap?
In the beginning, there was compost.
The Bible is a compost pile.
The story of the Flood is floodwrack of a Sumerian epic, Gilgamesh.
The Song of Solomon, proclaiming the devotion of the Hebrews to their God in really quite erotic terms, is a compost of Canaanite love poetry.
The New Testament cannibalizes the Old to make Jesus make more sense.
Compost as trope, as topos, as practice. It’s a way of digging intertextuality and materiality without going all theory. It’s also ecopoetics as I myself feel it, not nature-as-leafy-green-stuff one swoons to in words, though that’s well and good, but interbeing discovered as your textual ground. Indra’s Net, felt on the breath, that it becomes the texture of our works, our days.
Our reading practice is fluid, but some of these may swim into our ken:
Later will try to get some more recent workings in.
Here, for now, the wormipede I just found on my kitchen floor, WTF.
Lastly, why so Euro? I need to dwell more on that, but it’s got to do with a hankering for diagnosis. Our thought, I mean the West’s, has been sick a good long time. One way to get a bead on what ails us might be to trace the shadows that remain of cultures who before their ruinous contact with us lacked our afflictions. “Ethnopoetics.” If we’re amiss, our others may offer a glance of salutary haleness. While I admire elders like Robert Bringhurst and Jerome Rothenberg, deep and sincere in an exogenous practice, it may have felt to some of its objects – it surely would to me were I to try on any such regard – like more of the same damn thievery.
Another way is endogenous – sift the debris all round us of our own works and ages.