San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Poker Ante [concluded]


I just got back from Barbara Kruger and Jerome Rothenberg discussing IMAGE & TEXT over at the Vis Arts building at UCSD. The question of categories, as you'd expect, held fast as a centerpiece of conversation.

"Kaku," J.R. noted toward the end, is the Japanese word used for both "writing" and "drawing." He wondered aloud how things might be different in the West if we likewise only had one word for that activity of moving the hand across a surface with a marking implement.

Jerry evidently spent a few of his twenty-odd years at UCSD trying (unsuccessfully in the end) to get "creative writing" moved from the Lit to the Art department. The disciplinary walls, he said, were just too hard to "punch through." (He did himself , however, have a joint appointment (Lit/Art) throughout his tenure at UC.)

As his anecdote suggests (if obliquely), absent typically from discussions of "IMAGE & TEXT" (or choose your favorite binary) is the effect of institutional / administrative (even architectural) logistics on the ways we make sense of our various "kakus." I approached J.R. afterward to get the right spelling for this Japanese word, and he asked in passing if I was in Lit now and I had to confess that, no, I was in Communication, another disciplinary demarcation adding another piece (corner?) to the image/text puzzle.

Because, as Lev Manovich rightly pointed out in Q&A, it's not just about image and text but also motion, and yet it's also not just about image, text, and motion but also action or interaction. Communication is interaction is art (and this in reverse), meaning there are ways to think about art (and art practice) as communication that go beyond the justifiable claims made by Lang Pos, among others, that poetics has suffered over the years from implicit and explicit reliance on the communicative fallacy -- basically that good poems communicate their meanings in the way good pipes pump hot water.

I don't know quite where to go with "poetry as action-as-interaction" (anybody have a suggestion? reading list?), but meanwhile:

"Half with loathing, half with a strange love," The Poker (3) communicates (partial list) Fanny Howe from On the Bus ("Turn back time!"); Dale Smith from Notes No Answers ("Shall we make it perfect?" and other moistly poignant rhetorical questions); Dan Bouchard from Evensong (ratcheted-up intertext, pieces of which I also heard read in NYC last year at the Subpress reading); Durand interviewing Kevin Davies; Alan Davies (from This Is Thinking, which it is: "A good poem deflates the ego. It breathes out."); Fanny Howe again on music, religion, poetry, and Henry Hampton's "Eyes on the Prize" and the camera as "social animal."

In the call for work at the back: "Essays by poets will be prized." (!)

Antennae (5) is one of those nicely conceived mixed genre journals that pushes at some of those real/imagined boundaries separating poetry, art, performance script, document, lecture and musical score. That really compelling examples of each are included is impressive enough, but also the works tend to start looking like each other, or maybe unlike themselves, as the thing moves along. That was the message I got, at least, as I paged through: Ridrigo Toscano, Dennis Barone, Sawako Nakayasu, Steven Timm, Matthew Goulish (whose "microlecture" is f---ing astounding), Keumok Heo, Leslie Scalapino, and Patrick Durgin, among a bunch of others.

Antennae has something like an "aura of occasion" to it that I really like. I want to write something specifically for it, in other words, whereas on other days I'm wondering whether something I have might fit a particular journal or zine. Maybe the latter approach is wrong-headed anyway, but I wonder if there's something to the journal/zine itself (its size, shape, texture, print run, smell, font, focus, etc.) that either attracts or repels active-interactive response of this kind.

Anyway, I'd like to see more of these kinds of operations where what seems to materialize, in the end, is a sense of invitation to communicate with the people and projects happening in the pages of the zine/journal occasion-object. Maybe that's what all of them are doing, in theory anyway (and some obviously print that invitation on the inside cover), but I'm starting to find that some do it more generously (even if not explicitly) than others.

And for the record I think these three -- Submodern Fiction, The Poker, and Antennae -- come packaged with really nice, effective invitations.


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