Black Sun Lit previewed four poems on their site today along with four images, which are related to the series as object-translations of the poems. The poems are from a project begun in Havana and traversing ethnography, poetry, visual arts, and performance.
The poems will also appear in Black Sun Lit’s next issue of Vestiges, due out next month. The issue is chock-full of diverse and interesting work, and I hope you’ll check it out.
Difficult to locate, my heart bleeds
while they feed at my breasts. Slice
my tongue twice with a sword. Horses
are hungry, the serpent and moon waning,
volcanic sun socks a line to bread and iron.
Water virgin and a cow with one arm feel
a heart that does not fell. I have faith to be
blind, a selfish fish. Hubris leaps over yellow
akin to the monkey hands. Sprouts sores
with tree wire. Barbed blue eyes, not fleur de lis,
—from “In this Atmosphere,” forthcoming in Vestiges_02: Ennui
This may be as close as a word-art-sound thing gets to being a rock star, and I want to make a t-shirt with all the tour dates for 2014. Decades from now, hipsters will covet the thrift store find. “Check this out, man. The WPB Tour 2014. Whoa…stops in China, Warsaw, Austin, NOLA, Ojibwe Nation, etc. This thing’s a f*<!ing book!”
Thanks to Elizabeth Fields in China for tossing the gig my way. It’s not the first time, and if I’m lucky, it won’t be the last time that she reminds me of community and ties me to it via invitation and warm welcome. These are special gifts to an outlier among outliers.
…an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set.
It’s lovely to be included in this data set, among this company. For the uninitiated, to be included, I’m charged with answering four questions and then securing and introducing the next stops on the tour.
What are you working on?
Since 2010, I’ve been working on a project called American (post). It began with a performance of elegy/theory/text, was invigorated by ethnographic research in Havana, Cuba, and then developed into a book-length manuscript of poems, which I translated into 2D and 3D visual art objects. I installed it all as a set for a community performance and theory of text. Next stop Warsaw, where I moved last August to test the underlying hypothesis and some of its conclusions in a different socio-historial-linguistic context. Here, I’ve been translating the poems into seasonal video performances like the following winter installment called Exile:
I’m now trying to work up the courage to finish spring and start on summer. (Fall appeared as “American (post): Multiple Dimensions” in The Offending Adam 162.1). Additionally, and as a way of continuing to work through a project I began in 2004 and developed into a book-length manuscript of poems called Who are your people, Sugar?: a ritual history, I’ve been playing around with a photo-text series called Imaginary Friends & Family: Portraitsand an installation concept that includes the photo-text series and some poems from Who are your people, Sugar.
This project circles back on American (post) like a Möbius strip by relying on, and departing from, the theoretical underpinnings of American (post). Finally, I’m working really really hard, but often unsuccessfully, to avoid the immobilizing stress that accompanies the under-employment and/or financial insecurity, which tends to characterize the glorious, glamorous outlier life.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
For starters, this is a poem from American (post) translated into ceramic and metal and hanging in the middle of a room from the ceiling.
And, this is the collection of American (post) poems translated into ceramic and found objects, which is to say, this is a book.
I’m not wedded to genre, or even to medium, but to question and creative impulse. I tend to begin with language and observation, then I pour and sift them through poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, and sometimes I translate them across media into 2D, 3D, and 4D objects and/or performances. Generally, everything I make is intended as catalyst for the “reader’s” own journey from work to text. I’m fundamentally interested in catalyzing democratic participation with my work. Once it’s made, I consider it yours, not mine, and I hope you will experience the pleasure and power that come from making it your own consciously.
Why do you write what you do?
Because I hear it. Once I hear it, it flips a switch that activates all 7 of my senses (the usual five plus kinesthetic and 7th/intuition), which in turn activate my brain, which generally operates like a runaway train. Being governed, at least initially, by sound requires me to move about a lot. Some sounds and repeated sounds can be, or become, unbearable, whereas fresh soundscapes create space, context, and capacity for me to tolerate and make good use of the 7 Senses + Brain journey.
How does your writing process work?
I often start with ethnographic research or by sitting somewhere, anywhere, and I wait for something, usually language, to prick my ear. Then I walk around, identify useful tools, teach myself skills that might be helpful (or identify teachers willing to share), eat, cook stuff, play with my critters, watch more videos that I used to think possible, read, research, quell whatever stresses and demons crop up unproductively, work to cover expenses, and generally muck about in any and every genre and medium that seems to make sense until something happens. Then, I embody everything out-loud and repeat.
Heid and I met at a 2012 reading I curated for Franconia Sculture Park in Minnesota. We read poems, along with Dobby Gibson and Wang Ping, on Bridget Beck’s sculpture, “Poetry Studio,” to celebrate its installation. A great reading at/in/on what is, hands down, the best venue ever. Moreover, I’ve really appreciated Heid’s regular contributions to my life since, mostly via her FB posts, of a dynamic and diverse sense of contemporary and historical Native American presence, influence, and experience.
Heid E. Erdrich writes, teaches, and collaborates with other artists across genres. She is author of four poetry collections, most recently Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems. A recipient of awards from The Loft Literary Center, the Archibald Bush Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, First People’s Fund, among other honors, Heid won a Minnesota Book Award for National Monuments in 2009. She is a 2013 Artist of the Year honoree from City Pages Minneapolis. Heid’s newest book Original Local: Indigenous Foods Stories and Recipes from the UpperMidwest is selling like Grandma Gourneau’s Corn Cakes!
“Hey, Michael. Looks like we found the freaks,” was how Nik “discovered” me along with Hungarian-modernism scholar and indie rock violinist, Fiona Stewart, at a conference in the Bayou in 2010. Since then, Nik has generously and deftly shepherded my experiments in text, poetry, theory, and video to publication in The Offending Adam, which he co-founded and edits; he’s contributed wonderful pieces to the blog I edit for the Michigan Quarterly Review; and he’s written achingly beautiful poems, one of which poet/editor Laurence Goldstein made a point of raving about to me as he tagged it for inclusion in Poetry Los Angeles. Someone publish Nik’s books, please. I want to feel a weight of objects to match the weight of words.
Nik De Dominic is a co-founder and editor of The Offending Adam, as well as the poetry editor of New Orleans Review. His work has appeared in Los Angeles Review, Guernica, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and literature inside Orleans Parish Prison.
Paula and I have never met in person. Instead, I’ve gotten to know her through her contributions to the MQR Blog; she joined the crew in 2013. Her range of preoccupations and concerns coupled with the way she processes and presents them for public consumption and her “weirdo poems“–which I concur, are the best kind of poems–have me holding out for a literal paths-crossing. Someone please publish her books, too. I want to read them.
Paula Mendoza is an MQR Blogger, an Assistant Poetry Editor at Newfound and Coconut Magazine. Her work has been published in DIAGRAM, PANK, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. She lives & writes in Austin, Texas.
To check out more gigs, Google any variation of “My Writing Process International Blog Tour,” or search same on FB, and enjoy!
When studio owner, Savonn Wyland, and I first started tossing around the idea of a literary series at Bernal Yoga in 2003, we had no idea that ten years later, the series would still be gathering a dynamic audience excited about taking off their shoes and sitting on the floor to participate in a literary event. But, indeed it is! On Sunday October 20 at 7:30 pm, the Bernal Yoga Literary Series will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reading featuring several of the series’ curators and special guests. Current curator, Jeff von Ward, has wrangled a line-up that includes the series’ first curator–yours truly, via avatar–the third curator, Keith Ekiss, subsequent curators, Elizabeth Costello and Matthew Iribarne, plus Maria Hummel, Glori Simmons, and musician, Jean Baudin.
The original formula for the series was two nationally known writers reading along with four writers from the local community followed by food and wine and hanging out. Ten years later, the Bernal Yoga Literary Series maintains that original spirit. As a literary happening that both includes the lit scene and embraces the community scene, it cultivates a diverse roster of readers and an even more diverse audience. Please join me in raising a glass to Bernal Yoga–and particularly to studio owners Savonn Wyland and Bill Wyland–for fostering and hosting such a vibrant and on-going literary event.
As the series founder, I couldn’t be happier, and I’m very grateful to all who have participated over the past ten years and to all who will in the years to come. Happy 10th Anniversary Bernal Yoga Literary Series!
If you’re in the Bay Area, be sure to catch the celebration!
Finally, the book’s eighth chapter, “The Challenge of Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters: (Re)Claiming Wholeness,” offers a new perspective on a relatively contemporary novel. In this essay, Ashley David argues that Bambara’s book has been marred by claims of inaccessibility, which has displaced the text’s underlying theme of everything/and wholeness. She asserts that dominant interpretation has failed to recognize “Bambara’s overarching project, which defines wholeness as broadly inclusive and which makes a case for humanity’s ongoing evolution of consciousness” (163). The novel is contextualized within the 1980s and the emergence of identity politics, which partly explains the prevalence of piecemeal interpretations along racial or gender lines, for example. According to David, while Bambara acknowledged the importance of racial matters, she most likely hoped that critics would eventually move beyond piecemeal understandings in order to arrive at the concept of everything/and wholeness. Her conjecture about what the author expected from her readership largely comes from her analysis of Barbara’s essays, “What It Is that I Think I’m Doing Anyhow” and “Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions.” Although neither David nor Bambara would suggest the need to disregard race completely, this essay suggests an interesting way of trying to imagine a better, more harmonious, world for all of humanity: “…although many scholars, critics, and readers, have defined “us” in terms of the African American community, a community which Bambara clearly embraced and championed with and through her work, much of the evidence seems to suggest…that “us” ultimately includes the species and the planet” (170). Although the essays in this volume overwhelmingly focus on diversity and difference, David’s reading of Bambara’s novel is unique in that the underlying message is the need also to recognize and embrace human interconnectedness.
It also includes pieces by Kathleen Rooney, Elisa Gabbert, Tyler Mills, Rebecca Hazelton, Liz Countryman, Kara Candito, Liz Hildreth and Zara Hildreth, Mary Biddinger, Brittany Cavallaro, Virginia Konchan, Jill Magi, and Nancy Reddy.
Let Spirit Speak!: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora, edited by Vanessa K. Valdés, is now available for purchase at SUNY Press and Amazon. The collection is an interdisciplinary celebration of cultural contributions of the African diaspora in the Western hemisphere, and it includes work by writers, critics, historians and poets. My essay, “A Prescription for Wholeness: Resisting the Discourse of Difficulty to Embrace Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters” is among the assembled company. It’s the third and final of my three essays on this amazing novel to appear this year, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to (re)read The Salt Eaters.
The book jacket of Valdés’ multi-lingual, multi-genre collection reads: “Beginning with the cries and prayers of Gina Athena Ulysse to the Haitian loa Erzulie in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, each writer in the collection engages in the recovering of the past, highlighting that which has been buried in the history of time. The contributors look at a wide range of artistic productions, from poetry and fiction, to art, music, and film, and martial arts produced in Cuba, Columbia, Brazil, Haiti, and the United States. Haitian Creole, Spanish, and English are brought together, giving the reader a vivid sense of the multiplicity of voices in the African diaspora. Rather than concentrate on the dispersion of peoples of African descent, this collection focuses instead on the multiple sites of origins in the Americas, as diasporic legacies are found throughout the continent.”
My contributor copy of Let Spirit Speak!: Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora just arrived and is beautiful. Congratulations to Vanessa K. Valdés for her visionary editorial work and to fellow poets, critics, historians, and writers for their wonderful contributions to this multi-genre, multi-lingual collection exploring the multiple sites of African diasporic origins in the Americas.
I’m headed to Minnesota this June to help Bridget Beck celebrate the launch of her newest interactive sculpture, “Poetry Studio.” As part of the 2-day extravaganza, I’ll facilitate two community poetry workshops and read from my current project, American (post), with Heid E. Erdrich, Dobby Gibson, and Wang Ping. The official press release from Franconia Sculpture Park follows, and I hope to see all you Minnesotans and intrepid travelers there!
Placing Poetry: A Poetry Studio Sculpture
A Two-Day Event with Poetry Writing Workshops, Readings, Theater and Music at Franconia Sculpture Park, MN
Every poet needs a brightly colored multi-ton poetry studio sculpture to write in—at least Bridget Beck thinks so. Bridget, with help from some very talented poets and you, debuts her newest interactive sculpture at Franconia Sculpture Park on June 22nd from 2 to 4 p.m. and June 23rd from 1 to 5 p.m. Bridget’s interactive studio sculpture comes with a bench swing, elevated writing studio, umbrella roof system, winding staircase, and escape hatch. The visiting public—the young and the young-at-heart—can participate by creating poetry during workshops held both days. Selected participants will read their poems alongside established poets, Heid E. Erdrich, MN; Wang Ping, MN; Dobby Gibson, MN; and Ashley David, GA & VT.
Poets have long been inspired by various forms of art, and these workshops invite you to interact with sculpture in new ways. Poems will grow out of sculpture and the surrounding environment, and, in turn, the sculpture and environment will grow with the poems they inspire. In these hands-on workshops, you will use colorful origami paper, magnets, your imagination, and a sense of play to make your poems. Poet, Ashley David, will facilitate the writing workshops. The poems will become part of Bridget Beck’s sculpture, “Poetry Studio.” Selected poems will be read to the audience on both workshop days.
In addition, during the Saturday poetry workshop, poet Wang Ping will join us with the Kinship of Rivers project. Kinship of Rivers is a joint project between communities along the Mississippi River and the Yangtze River in China. Gifts such as art and poetry are created and exchanged between the two river communities and installed along the length of each river. Wang Ping will work with participants to create colorful river flags to be installed along the Yangtze.
After all the poetry activities, on Saturday, June 23rd, Franconia will present its second 3-D Concert of the year in the Earthen Amphitheater. The entertainment will include performances by the Cromulent Shakespeare Company and Thea Ennen, who has been described as a “new folk, country-rock chanteuse.”
The schedule for the two-day celebration:
Friday, June 22:
2–4 p.m., poetry writing workshop and readings—local youth are encouraged to participate; reserve a spot by contacting email@example.com or calling 651-257-6668. Free event.
Saturday, June 23:
1–3 p.m., poetry writing workshop—the community is encouraged to participate; reserve a spot by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 651-257-6668.
3–5 p.m., poetry readings.
5-9 p.m., Cromulent Shakespeare Company and Thea Ennen perform in the Franconia Earthen Amphitheater. Free event.
ABOUT the ARTIST & POETS:
After completing a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, VT, Bridget Beck was inspired to create the sculpture, “Poetry Studio,” which expresses her vision of building a sculpture in the likeness of a poem. When asked to explain what poetic space is and how a sculptor might build poetically she says, “Poetic space tells a lot with a little and never the whole story. It doesn’t let you guess the end before you finish. These spaces grab a person in a way that is specific but incredibly vast at the same time.” Bridget wonders if she’ll ever really be able to build this way, whether she can will a place made of steel and wood into poetry. When asked if a person has to have a bit of magic to get sculpture to verse, she says, “Hard work is central to pulling the rabbit out of the hat. I do know that.”
Participating poets include Heid E. Erdrich, Wang Ping, Dobby Gibson and Ashley David. Heid E. Erdrich is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems from University of Arizona Press. Wang Ping is a Chinese-American author and academic whose writings center on the past and present of China and the experiences of Chinese immigrants in America. Dobby Gibson is a poet and author of the collections Skirmish (2009) and Polar (2005). Ashley David is a poet, PhD candidate at The University of Georgia, and a 2011-2012 pre-doctoral resident-artist fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.
ABOUT FRANCONIA SCULPTURE PARK:
Franconia Sculpture Park is an innovative community arts organization that provides residence and work space to emerging and established artists. The 20-acre park, with a rotating collection of over 95 contemporary sculptures, reflects the creative talents of local, national, and international artists and is free and open to the public 365 days a year, dawn to dusk. Franconia Sculpture Park is located 45 minutes northeast of the Twin Cities at the intersection of Hwy 8 (Lake Blvd) and Hwy 95 (St. Croix Trail), three miles west of Taylors Falls in Chisago County, Minnesota.
DETAILS in SUM:
Placing Poetry: A Poetry Studio Sculpture
A Two-Day Event with Poetry Writing Workshops, Readings, Theater and Music
Friday, June 22 – Poetry writing workshop and poetry readings, 2–4 pm
Saturday, June 23 – Poetry writing workshop with Kinship of Rivers and poetry readings, 1–5 pm, plus Cromulent Shakespeare Co. and folk artist Thea Ennen, 5–9 pm
Franconia Sculpture Park, 29836 St. Croix Trail Franconia, MN 55074
John Hock, Franconia Sculpture Park 612-743-6664 email@example.com