Hernán Rivera Letelier - From the lovingly, baroquely detailed descriptions of Providencia and its workers and management to the long, twisted digressions on the prophet’s life story, with liberal borrowings from Nicanor Parra, to the dark phantasmagoria of the final chapters

Hernán Rivera Letelier, The Art of Resurrection (Alfaguara, 2010)

The small stone plaza was floating in the midday heat. The Christ of Elqui, kneeling on the ground, his gaze thrown back on high, the part in his hair dark under the Atacaman sun—he felt himself falling into an ecstasy. It was no less than this: he had brought it to pass. Had restored to life a dead man.”

We meet Domingo Zárate Vega, “better known to all as the Christ of Elqui,” in the opening lines of Hernán Rivera Letelier’s The Art of Resurrection (Alfaguara, 2010), at the moment of realization of his greatest dream—of having mastered “the sublime art of resurrection.”
The novel follows Zárate Vega in his travels through a key week in the midpoint of his 20-year mission of penance. It is the last week of December, 1942; the randy Christ of Elqui journeys to the mining camp of Providencia in search of the woman he believes will play the role of Mary Magdalene to his messiah. His story of finding her and losing her again is an exuberantly comic, darkly sarcastic, heartfelt, and sentimental meditation on faith and loss, played out against labor unrest among the striking workers of Providencia.
The novel threads together life in the mining camp with currents in Chile’s history in a way that is characteristic of (and perhaps unique to) Rivera Letelier’s narrative voice. He has spent the past 20 years telling the stories of people who worked in the nitrate industry, an industry that formed a vital part of the story of Chile and, by extension, that of the industrialized world. (No nitrate, no industrialized agriculture!) The degree of precision and fluency in his descriptions of scene and character bring that past alive.
The reader’s sense of identification with and sympathy for the characters is heightened by Rivera Letelier’s peculiar trait of shifting frequently and without warning between the third person and various first people—“For his part, he must serve as a light for the world; he did not drink or smoke. A glass of wine at lunch, as directed in his teachings, was sufficient. He hardly touched his food; for among my sins, of which I certainly have many, my brothers, I have never reckoned gluttony.” I found this a bit jarring the first couple of times it happened but quickly came to love it—it gives a cinematic effect of shifting camera angles. Coasting between a character’s head and the world around him, between dialogue and paraphrase, all combines to give a distinctive, memorable access to the world of the book.
Rivera Letelier’s camera work shows him to be a gifted, versatile director. Take this long, sweeping pan—it brings to mind one of Herzog’s opening shots:
Set up facing the kiosk on the plaza, outside the union hall, the three great cast-iron cauldrons were blackening above the stone hearths; the fires were fed with bits of wood split off from railroad ties. The only shade was provided by a cloud of music coming from the Victrola in the union hall; the striking workers and their families were crowded together in the sun waiting for their “wartime rations”, as they called the proletarian plate of beans.
At a distance, it might look like chaos; but everything was laid out in a vivacious, rambunctious order: some kids, a stick in hand, took turns keeping at bay the pack of stray dogs attracted by the smell of food; stocky derripiadores, sweaty, splitting crossties to keep the fires going; a group of women, perspiring freely, aprons cut from flour sacks, their cheeks grubby with soot, ladled out the steaming lunch to the men, women and kids who stood waiting in a dense line, their chipped dishes in hand, their faces long with hunger. The menu, today as every day, was a generous helping of beans—one day with hominy, the next with noodles—seasoned with the sweet-smelling chili sauce bubbling away on another fire, in a deep black skillet.
From the lovingly, baroquely detailed descriptions of Providencia and its workers and management to the long, twisted digressions on the prophet’s life story, with liberal borrowings from Nicanor Parra’s classic Sermons and Homilies of the Christ of Elqui (1977; tr. Sandra Reyes, 1984), to the dark phantasmagoria of the final chapters: The Art of Resurrection is a masterpiece from a seasoned storyteller. - Jeremy Osner

Brenda Coultas unearths the eccentricities and tragedies that congregate along humanity’s borders: vanished nations, the mutable names of rivers, the clues left behind when families disperse; terror and beauty, the banalized crimes of complicity, the diversions of superstition—but also the persistence of clairvoyance

The Marvelous Bones of Time

Brenda Coultas, The Marvelous Bones of Time: Excavations and Explanations, Coffe House Press, 2007.
Incorporating memoir, folktales, fact, and hearsay into two distinctly moving poems, this collection begins with “The Abolition Journal,” set near the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and along the Kentucky border where “looking from the free state / there is a river then a slave state.” Here, Coultas delves into her personal history and uncovers a land still troubled by the specter of slavery. In “A Lonely Cemetery,” Coultas collects and investigates “true” tales of UFO sightings, poltergeists, legendary monsters, and eerie crematoriums, exploring the very nature of narrative truth through the lens of the ghost story.

“As the title suggests, The Marvelous Bones of Time is a meditation on earthly things: vanished nations, the mutable names of rivers, the clues left behind when families disperse; terror and beauty, the banalized crimes of complicity, the diversions of superstition—but also the persistence of clairvoyance. Resistance in the form of a poem such as this.” —Rikki Ducornet

When I first turn the pages of the The Marvelous Bones of Time I take a breath—the beauty of the space and the fractured lines. I love unevenness. In Book 1—The Abolition Journal—I find myself following Brenda—I'm sure it's Brenda and not a narrator—as she explores and maps out the place where she grew up. She wonders who am I, where do I come from, what is this place, what is this language: "I was a Midway Panther", "I (am a color", "I knew the names". We are following her on a poetic research project, through memory, observation, digging through texts and talking to people. And the past is always there in the present, the language transformed over time, but still when you set it side by side, piece by piece, Hoozier, Yankee, and those lyrical wonderings and speculations, Whitman-like repetitions, one poetic moment beside another moment, Brenda maps out a life and the uneven traces left behind. How do we define ourselves? Who are we? Here the emancipation proclamation comes back again and again as the border between then and now, between him and her, between them and us. between Kentucky and Indiana. At one point we get on a train with Brenda and she's talking to "the only African American passenger on board" and he tells her "Owensboro [is] Heaven". The next thing you know, in the next poem, we're in Owensboro, Kentucky, walking down the street as she reports on her project.
The second half of the book is a collection of short ghost stories. The three stories I like the best are "A True Account of When We lived in a Haunted House", "Where You'll Be" and "The Shed". The first one is a story of a welder and fashion model (Brenda did work as a welder) who is stalked by an unknown man who eventually forces her to relocate. A haunting? The fear of the unknown stalking you. "Where You'll be" is a story about a father who dies; it's an anti-ghost story, an ordinary quirky story about living with death.
"My sister placed a brand new set of socket wrenches in my father's coffin. The coffin was not very plush: in fact, it was bottom of the line; my mother wanted to spend a thousand dollars more for a plumped-up one, but we talked her out of it because he had always said not to worry about the dead, it is the living who suffer. The burial policy and veteran's benefits give us about five thousand to spend, just enough to cover the cost, including something for my uncle Harry who worked part time for the funeral home. My father said he didn't want any flowers, just a rose in a Coke bottle. But he did get flowers, some with angels that played music; he got basket and plants, most still living. My father didn't have a suit, so we buried him in Uncle Jim's old clothes and thought we better call Little Jimmy and warn him, so he wouldn't be shocked to see my dad laid out in his father's suit. We sent my father out into the cold darkness, wearing another man's clothes.
"When I think of death, I tell myself that I'm going to where my father is, and if he's there, that's a good place to be. I'm going to the place where all have gone before me, and that's what makes me human."
 Great advice for living. I love the simplicity of this story growing out of ordinary daily life. But finally the story I like the best is "The Shed," a continuation of Brenda's earlier film project. First there are stage directions to make a film in our mind of a pig shed and life around the pig shed, but the pig shed doesn't exist anymore. It's there in the film and it's also gone. And the story is about that process of being and not-being. There are directions for us to create this film in our minds: "Dig a wallow and fill with water." Then there are children throwing their dinner scraps into the "hog slop" and a reference I think to the ghost child in The Scarlet Letter, Pearl: "Can you film the ghost of Pearl? Pan out to the humans, on bicycles and foot, rooting in junkyards on the old Moore place, rooting in ravines full of abandoned cars." Then a close up to perhaps the center of the memory, inside the consciousness of a little girl in the pig shed: "I am a small human, so small that my underpants come up to my armpits". And then we move back in time with the narrator for an overview: "I dreamed of so many treasures buried in the earth or of just bones, all the bones buried by time, nature, or natives. Given eternity, we could find marvelous bones." Coultas is a collector, a collagist, a materialist, an objectivist, placing bits of language and narrative side by side, or at angles, and the white space around them gives the impression: yes we were here, yes all is lost, but yes with a little digging around, we'll discover again the past in the present—quirky, deep, ridiculous, outrageous, frightening and sometimes reassuring. In this collection, with this investigative project, Brenda excavates the marvelous human and pig bones in time and place. Thanks, Brenda. - Barbara Henning
As the title suggests, this collection is two books that take up history, memory and ghosts as they exist in “objects of the earth,” as Coultas writes. Both books seek to excavate and explain. The first book, which looks like poetry and sounds sometimes like reportage, looks at the poet’s ancestry by traveling the back roads, digging through the dumpster to understand who she is and where she came from. Interestingly, the second book, a more traditionally organized series of stories about ghosts, monsters and UFOs, ruminates around the idea that history can be known through mythology and folk tales.

So the spine of the book is story, narrative -- first via poetry in the section titled The Abolition Journal (or, Tracing the Earthworks of My County) and the second, titled A Lonely Cemetery, via myth. Poetry serves the first section because it allows Coultas to muse and wander off the beaten path as she pieces together her family and looks for the answer to the question she poses early on, “are there any abolitionists hanging from my family tree?” Coultas, who received the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Faber First Book Award for her book A Handmade Museum, was born in Kentucky, “between the free side and the slave side,” thus the specter of slavery hovers like another kind of ghost in Coultas’ investigation. The second book explores how history can be revealed through the myth-making genre of the ghost story. This collection of tales gathered by Coultas is another kind of excavation. And here Coultas introduces us to stuff of myth -- characters and places that are quirky and vivid. One of my favorites is the Librarium, “a columbarium where book-shaped urns sat on enormous bookshelves…This is a very good resting place for a poet,” writes Coultas. These paranormal narratives serve several purposes. They’re quite different from the poems, and yet they illustrate what Coultas has been up to throughout the book. As she writes of her “rough, crazy quilt,” book, “I thought to loosen it all, to pull the thread/let the rags fall.” That is indeed Coultas’s impulse -- to dig , to loosen and to expose, not in grand places but at the edges of the ordinary. “The city dump is my memoir,” she observes. As good a place as any to uncover the bones of family and community narrative. - Pamela Hart


A Handmade Museum CMYK

Brenda Coultas, A Handmade Museum, Coffee House Press, 2003.

Following Mina Loy's footsteps to the dumpsters of the Bowery, New York poet Coultas works in public: "I write poems for twenty, that's twenty people to a poem." In these five sets of poems, Coultas unearths an entire America, "Buffaloville/ Newtonville/ Yankeeville/ Patronville." - Publishers Weekly  
Brenda Coultas’s prose poems take us on a well-documented tour from the Bowery, pre-1900 and post-9/11, to southern Indiana, pre-automobile and post-genetic engineering. Her poems are sculptures pieced together from bits of memory and a montage of American detritus. This cinematic and wildly original collection asks the big questions as it documents our private selves, playing out our lives in public.

Before becoming a poet, Brenda Coultas was a farmer, a carny, a taffy maker, a park ranger, a waitress in a disco ballroom, and the second woman welder in Firestone Steel’s history. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Conjunctions, Epoch, Fence, and Open City. She lives one block from the Bowery in New York City.
Mina Loy's poems were first ridiculed as waste when published in America. She was before her time, as they say. Coultas, too, ventures into unknown territory daring to collapse genres, contain the urban and rural and allow language to move along the surface of the ordinary. The first part of the book is an honest sketch of experiences in the Bowery at its most basic level. In the garbage, treasures and mere trash are discovered. It is what it is, and Coultas gives us a chance to see the world through her eyes. She also presents a world on the stage, behind the camera lens, projected and false. It can be manipulated, the world and the words that shape it. - Megan A. Burns







Agnieszka Kuciak - a faux anthology of 21 invented poets, with their poems and biographical notes.Mystical, mischievous, and musical

Agnieszka Kuciak, Distant Lands: An Anthology of Poets Who Don't Exist, Trans. by Karen Kovacik, White Pine Press, 2013.

Distant Lands is a tour de force, this faux anthology of 21 invented poets, with their poems and biographical notes, belongs in the company of world literature’s distinguished fabulists—Jorge Luis Borges, Fernando Pessoa, Franz Kafka, and Italo Calvino—in blurring the boundary between the textual and actual worlds.

“I have a shelf in my library I refer to as my sacred shelf, which contains only those books I love so much, I could reread them a hundred times and never tire of them. The shelf includes books by Rilke, Marquez, Borges, Pessoa, Michaux, Calvino, Milosz, Kafka, and others. I am forever looking for the next poet or writer who will inspire me and surprise me, not once, but again and again. Agnieszka Kuciak’s Distant Lands is my latest discovery. Mystical, mischievous, and musical, Kuciak enchants me with the scope of her imagination, her whimsical flirtations with identity, theology, and the very nature of human existence. I am delighted by her lyrical flare, her wit, and her remarkable ability to be both one and many poets, or one poet with twenty one voices.” —Nin Andrews

“A fact is a thing done, and a fiction is a thing made. In Distant Lands, Agnieszka Kuciak makes up for all the making up by transforming these fabulous fabrications into sublime art. Like water into wine, a sly stealth of miracles.” —Michael Martone

Breaking out of Reverence by Gloria Dawson
The chair mentioned the ‘opening field’ of poetry in Poland and I wondered if it was open-field as in poetics. But Simon was reading Charles Olson next to me so forgive me. Tomasz Różycki spoke of himself as the king of ‘some Eastern European country’ which, Plato-like, excluded ‘deserters, poets, traders and profiteers.’ Różycki’s strength is his ability to project himself into different stances, characters. Why is he the king of a regime which exiles poets? The place is always changing. But for Rozycki it is often islands and beaches, or looking into a watery mirror, which ‘moves, and the whole neighbourhood with it.’ This power is not just migratory – ‘nowhere’, he says later, is a comfortable place for a writer – but transubstantiatory. ‘The poet in his room will then eat God.’ There is a sureness in God’s presence in Agnieszka Kuciak’s work, as well; but the only guarantee is of his presence in the poem, not his actual substance. Różycki opens and closes his set with an (ironic? must be) statement of the ‘riches’ that poetry brings – but through that irony (the private island, all the food you can eat) is the real freedom – of thought, of movement.
Agnieszka, heavy with Dante, invents poets (I was reminded of Pessoa) rather than narratives. But she too touches on Plato’s exiling of the poets in the ‘Symposium’ (a hypothetical proposition). I don’t want to draw trite political inference from this, but it’s an intriguing overlap, the poets proposing the rope from which to hang themselves. She is deeply modest (irritatingly so); her poems, even in translation, are incredibly sensitive to the relationship between, for example, architecture and painful history – ‘roof’s yarmulke in place’ in the ceiling in the swimming bath tells us everything, and she doesn’t need to footnote the poem with the dark history of those baths ‘where I, unfortunately, learned to swim.’ I would have liked more of this meditation on culpability in the reading. She writes as though things say things for themselves rather than the writer’s solipsistic ventriloquism. The rain is ‘the tiny quiet yes that will destroy you.’ And writing, imagining, can take you too far, somewhere where ‘there are no dogs, no rooms, no mothers.’ Her relationship with Dante and fear – fear is something, for all her protestations of levity, that is holy, that is sacred. She characterises the poetry of Milosz and the Polish poets of his generation as ‘the poetry of incantation, of prayer.’ She is breaking out of reverence.





Montgomery (pdf)

"RETARDATION, an inconspicuous volume of poetry by Agnieszka Kuciak, is without doubt the most outstanding Polish poetry debut of the nineties. A witty poetic concept, irony and humour such as those seen in the poetry of Wisława Szymborska. The extraordinarily focussed vision and compression of meaning of Emily Dickinson. The elegant poetic structure of Brodsky or Heaney. The entrancing linguistic virtuosity of Barańczak. Unsurprisingly for a debutante, the master's voice can be heard in Agnieszka Kuciak's work - a fact, indeed, to which the poet willingly admits - but her poems nonetheless have an individual and discernible voice of their own. These are poems which are characteristic of the entire "Polish school of poetry", which speaks of existential matters and human adventure and the world." (Bronisław Maj)

Hanne Lippard - an impressive and equally idiosyncratic practice based at the meeting point of words, performance and visual art. At times graphic, playful and intimate, this is an artist using language in all its forms in an effort to create an original aesthetic of the word

Hanne Lippard, Nuances of No, Broken Dimanche Press, 2013. 

It is with great pleasure for BDP to announce the publication of Hanne Lippard’s Nuances of No, the first comprehensive collection of the artist’s text work. Over the last number of years Lippard has built up an impressive and equally idiosyncratic practice based at the meeting point of words, performance and visual art.
When composing her texts Lippard relies on the sounds that they trigger in her mind when she is writing but crucially also when she is speaking. The use of her voice has gained for her a typographical insistence, becoming her main medium of expression whether it be through the linearity of a mechanical narrator or through the use of her voice as a more personified melodic rhythm during her compelling live performances.
Her affinity with common speech ensures that hers is nothing less than a poetry that all of us can recognize. Common sayings, turns of phrase, everyday chitchat become for her a repeated chorus rather than a coherent meaningful construction of words: with Lippard they become melodies in themselves.
Aphorisms, love-songs, voicemails, quotes and slogans lose or gain value depending on how they are re-arranged and performed – in Nuances of No Lippard reclaims language for her own end to try and overcome any overruling claim to authorship. At times graphic, playful and intimate, this is an artist using language in all its forms in an effort to create an original aesthetic of the word.

  • Work
  • Lostisms
  • Postisms
  • Beige
  • Duonome
  • Reflection
  • Roundtripping
  • Still life
  • There are 36 ways to view Mount Fuji
  • Rusty Refusal

    Hanne Lippard (b. 1984, Milton Keyes) graduated from the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 2010. Her most recent exhibitions have been in Galerie Nord, Berlin, Marres, Maastricht, Suvi Lehtinen Gallery, Berlin in collaboration with Kati Kärki, TETO projects, Amsterdam and Spike Island, Bristol. She has most recently performed in Badische Kunstverein in Karlsruhe, ARCO Madrid 2012, The Showroom, London, Frutta Gallery, Rome, Poesia en Voz, Mexico City.

    Lippard has been most recently shortlisted for the inaugural Berlin Art Prize. www.hannelippard.com

    Finders, Keepers by Hanne Lippard

    Throw a stone in the water, and it disappears. The reflection also disappears. You are now no longer twice, just once, and you bend your back back. The reflection you now take takes you even further back. Back back back. But no further than what you have been.


    Typo magazine 18 - Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001

    Typo magazine 18




    The first Venezuelan-American artist I ever noticed was Devendra Banhart. His acoustic albums, Rejoicing in the Hands and Niño Rojo, were a minor revelation for me when I first heard them in December of 2004. It was during a visit to my family’s house in Florida, and I sat in my old room playing these records repeatedly for days, feeling a sense of immediate recognition. Those infinite riches I looped in a little room for two weeks would eventually have a big influence on my own work. In the fall of 2003, I had started the blog Venepoetics with the idea of translating and writing about a handful of Venezuelan poets. Venepoetics would turn out to be the beginnings of an anthology called Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001. These English translations of twenty Venezuelan poets are my version of Venezuelan-American folk culture, hybrid and lo-fi.

    Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001 includes a handful of texts each by poets whose work is emblematic of 20th century Venezuelan literature. It goes without saying that my selection is incomplete and highly personal. I intend for it to serve as an introductory sample of poetry from a country that remains unknown on literature’s global stage. My choices are dependent on personal taste, as well as what I’ve been able to find during visits to Caracas between 2001 and 2010. Books from Venezuela rarely circulate abroad so this makes the task of researching Venezuelan poetry a matter of ingenuity, PDF files, photocopies, university libraries and contacts with Venezuelan writers via e-mail, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

    I have chosen two particular years as reference points for the anthology as a convenient frame for the 20th century. In 1921, the poet whose work inaugurates modern Venezuelan literature, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, published his first book, Trizas de papel [Paper Shreds], a collection of prose poems, essays and miniature short stories that was later incorporated into a subsequent book. During his lifetime, Ramos Sucre was acknowledged as a brilliant and admired poet whose work appeared regularly in Caracas newspapers and literary magazines. However, his radical reinterpretation of what poetry might accomplish was not fully understood in Venezuela until decades after his death. It was only in the sixties, when his work was championed by younger poets and critics aligned with the counterculture and the avant-garde, that his reputation as a foundational figure for Venezuelan literature was established.

    In the spring of 2001, Juan Sánchez Peláez published a handful of new poems in Verbigracia, the now-defunct literary supplement of the newspaper El Universal. These would turn out to be his last published work during his lifetime. Sánchez Peláez’s first book, Elena y los elementos [Helen and the Elements], was a turning point in Venezuelan poetry when it appeared in 1951, serving as a guide for several generations of avant-garde writers with its ecstatic, surrealist poems imbued with an oneiric sensuality. Over several decades, Sánchez Peláez would go on to pare down his work, adopting a more austere and minimalist style that is exemplified by his elegant final poems. I interpret his death as representing the end of Venezuela’s 20th century in poetry. I first read Sánchez Peláez in Providence, RI in 1997 and everything after that encounter was utterly changed for me as a poet and reader. His work almost immediately pulled me into its dark orbit. It was Sánchez Peláez who led me to Ramos Sucre a decade later when I was researching Venezuelan literature in Caracas.

    I’d like to briefly address the topic of Venezuelan invisibility for the reader to consider. While Latin American countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru have produced writers whose work has been translated into English, with many of them becoming global classics, Venezuelan literature is terra incognita. When one mentions Venezuelan literature in the English-speaking world the immediate reaction is silence, as there are no reference points to guide readers. Even the ongoing political conflict in Venezuela that has made international headlines in recent years has not been enough to break that silence around Venezuelan literature. This is partly a problem of translation and research, as well as a result of the unequal circulation of culture in an age of empire. But the invisibility of Venezuelan literature has yet to be theorized and it remains an enigma. I’m fascinated and disturbed by this invisibility, so I translate.

    In 1968, the poet and novelist Adriano González León (1931-2008), a member of the avant-garde writers and artists collective El Techo de laBallena, published the novel País portatil [Portable Country]. González León’s book evokes the contrast between 19th century rural Venezuela and the sprawling Caracas of the late 20th century. Its protagonist is a Marxist guerrilla who carries a suitcase across Caracas on a dangerous secret mission. The book’s title is based on the notion of Venezuela as a compact, transferable entity, a country that after the arrival of petroleum in the 20th century shifted the national discourse away from its agrarian foundations toward a postmodern, fractured identity. Although País portátil was awarded the prestigious Seix Barral Biblioteca Breve Prize in Spain, González León’s work never circulated much beyond Latin America. The invisibility of Venezuelan literature is a problem that will have to be deciphered by those of us who care about the country’s contributions to that amorphous entity known as World Literature. With that in mind, I present Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001 as a portable country, a prelude to a much longer, more inclusive book. I think of these translations as a form of Venezuelan-American field recordings, DIY and outside the academy.

    For readers interested in other translations of Venezuelan poetry, I recommend several titles: Juan CalzadillaJournal with No Subject, translated by Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Salt Publishing, 2009); Eugenio MontejoThe Trees: Selected Poems 1967-2004, translated by Peter Boyle (Salt Publishing, 2004); 5 Poems by Jose Ramos Sucre, translated by Cedar Sigo & Sara Bilandzija (Blue Press Books, 2008); my own translations of José Antonio Ramos Sucre, From the Livid Country (Auguste Press, 2012) and Selected Works (University of New Orleans Press, 2012); AnaEnriqueta TeránThe Poetess Counts to 100 and Bows Out: Selected Poems, translated by Marcel Smith (Princeton University Press, 2002).

    I include three wonderful translations by my friends Anne Boyer and Cedar Sigo & Sara BilandzijaSigo and Bilandzija deserve credit for being the first translators of Ramos Sucre into English, with their 2008 chapbook listed above. Most of my own translations emerged from my experiences among the community of poets I was blessed to be a part of in Durham, North Carolina between 2006 and 2012. Among these comrades, Joseph Donahue and Dianne Timblin have been particularly helpful with their commentary on my translations. My wife, the Venezuelan fiction writer and scholar Dayana Fraile, has offered invaluable editorial suggestions. Finally, I’m grateful to Adam Clay, Matthew Henriksen and Tony Tost for their interest in this project and their support at Typo and Fascicle.

    Spring 2013

    Portable Country - Venezuelan Poetry: 1921-2001

    Notes | 


    Sarah Fox - The First Flag is a mystic alimentary, blood, bone, and pearl poetics—utterly engaging in its seductive conversational tone. It’s a luminescent accomplishment, lush with decay, exploding with impossible meldings of stench and shimmer


    Sarah Fox, The First Flag, Coffee House Press, 2013.


    “The First Flag is a mystic alimentary, blood, bone, and pearl poetics—utterly engaging in its seductive conversational tone. But it’s an odd conversation as Fox periodically cries her brains out in ecstasy, disbelief, grief. It’s a luminescent accomplishment, lush with decay, exploding with impossible meldings of stench and shimmer. By way of a powerful natal femininity she claws back the oral threads of her got-away story. I wanted to be right there when her words crowned. Her sentences deliver. It’s not just that her language is a trip; she is really saying something you find you want to hear all the way down.”—Nor Hall

    Sarah Fox’ second book is The First Flag, and it is one fierce standard to follow. The book dispenses a potent compound of divination, memoir, psychoanalytic insights, placental rites and resolute feminism. This list might evoke what Kathleen Fraser referred to in 1989 as “immediately accessible language of personal experience as a binding voice of women’s strength,” a “poetry of content” resistant to “fragmentation and resistance” at the level of the sentence.[1] While The First Flag is all about women’s strength, its style of writing is consistently inventive, innovative and imaginative. Yes, there is Voice in these poems, but it speaks paratactically and goes in unexpected directions; it out-foxes patriarchal syntax; it is as often bemused and reflexive as it is rhetorical or representational:
    By the time my symbols reached the other
    you, goldenly, I was elsewhere, “reported threat,”
    you know, quietly. I, unsorry & story
    wise, wanted a snake. An exact right. Mine.
    Her increased range over our little hole. This world
    is made by clearing what I’m doing . . . (“Wife Object,” page 13)
    The language alternates quickly between registers, turning on a dime from manicky-chatty to gnomic: “But I mean really what is it with poets? / Because litmus nucleus failure, how bright / the tongue glows for love” (29). Moreover, while the book begins by mapping the motion of dreams, by the time it ends, it has incorporated the dream into the very semantics of its sentences and lines:
    . . . I know I’m late,
    but not pregnant – after all I’m only a girl masquerading
    as My Pretty Pony circling the drain poke of the world’s
    cutest death goddess. . . .
    . . . I’m sporting my black Irish filly costume trimmed
    with mother’s perineal blossoms. (“Placental Economics” 142)
    Indeed, one gets the sense that, over the course of the book, its language, and perhaps its author, has gone through a transformation into something more powerful, surprising, and resilient than before.
    The title refers to Lloyd DeMause’s claim that “the placenta of the pharaoh was placed on a pole and carried into battle. This is history’s first flag.” Many of the poems turn on such powerfully resonant images, but there is a hermeneutic suppleness here, a fear and trembling when dealing with signs (in all meanings of the word). They remain overdetermined in the original (psychoanalytic) sense: generating too many meanings to be reduced to only one. “The solstice moon // pretends to be a cross in the sky. / It’s like the third eye of God / the boy, only rabbitish”: the ultimate Dianic symbol turns into Constantine’s conquering sign, that of the male (son) god. But it only pretends; it’s like a yogic third eye; it retains its rabbit. The father with a thousand faces seems alternately protective and threatening, both the surveilling “Man Who Stands Behind Me” and the wisdom-dispensing “Medicine Man” (133). “Father-shadowed entities gaze, / they root and coil and hunger, tongue my every / aspect. If they weren’t the only him I had / I’d ask the birds to peck out his eyes” (2). One gets the sense that this “father” is bigger and more slippery than any single view of Patriarchy – is maybe even a self-aware part of the daughter’s “birth sign.”
    However, The First Flag frankly confronts and aims to change chemical, political, and physical violence against women. Fox is a “D.E.S. daughter,” a group of women and girls whose mothers took the prescription drug D.E.S. from the 1940s to 1970s. This synthetic estrogen, whose inventor provocatively described it as the “mother substance,” was prescribed to prevent miscarriages but increased their likelihood – along with that of birth defects and cancers of the daughters’ reproductive organs.[2] The pall of D.E.S. – and the Herr-Doktor-Vater sense of mastery that “gave birth” to it – lies over all of the poems. “My mother and I have the same (m)Other, / man-made (m)Om. I came astride the butcher’s / alchemical homologue” (69). That (al)chemical homologue could be D.E.S. and a lot of other things as well; it is not enough – this protagonist wants the real thing, actual psychic/signifying gold out of the lead of the past.
    In the remarkable poem “Transitional Object,” the speaker relates a dream in which a man is dragging her “across a bleak terrain / inside a cage made of bones” which turn out to be those of her mother:
    . . . he simply
    could not let me out of the cage made of the bones
    of my mother, until I had accepted his apology
    for hauling me everywhere inside the cage
    made of the bones of my mother. . . . (3)
    This crazy, circular illogic of domination masking as concern could be that of a contrite wife beater or a weeping convicted rapist/football star. But the speaker thinks “‘Oh yeah’” and starts “to project into the space of my mother / a thought: my bones.” An earth(ly) body takes shape around this thought, thereby transmuting the nightmare into something that is “recomposing.”
    One of the I Ching hexagrams states that “shock brings success.” The female body, in these pages, is often grotesque – especially the maternal body, which “slurps back into a bulb, festering and sussurant” (142). The poet envisions a tumor in her breast as an exploding airbag and her husband’s “distressing excitement at being smashed by my giant, infested, toxic breast with tubes spraying pus and other gross fluids all over his hair” (49). True, the Father’s face is plenty scary: it “hosts a second face / seared by mental hazards the wolves / find stinky and reject.” But at the same time, “Mother dangles / the sucked-out pelts of her nonviable / children” (69). The proscribing/prescribing father and the devouring mother complement one another.
    Those last lines come from “Comma,” the 36-part sequence that Clayton Eshelman describes as “[t]he masterpiece of this extraordinary collection.” It is, at the very least, a show-stopper. In form, “Comma” departs from the long-lined, loose-limbed poems of the rest of the book. The lines are short and dense. There are two or three (titled) poemlets per page, both left- and right-justified. It is an image+text, as the poems are printed against the background of anatomical plates (of humans and animals) from the National Library of Medicine’s Historical Anatomies archive. Birth and death, sustenance and poison are never far apart here. In “Born in Prison,” the speaker describes her “daughters,” who jump rope and chant:
    . . . “Say say oh enemy,
    come disappear with me, and bring
    your pharmacy, climb up my torture tree,
    slide down my cutter blade, into my Seroquel,
    and fade away we will, forevermore – shut the door.”
    “Your father runs this hospital,” said the chaplain, disrobing.
    End of poem. In “Quarantine,” the “I” is subjected to iatrogenic suffering: “detectors beep and yap and ¡dream-whine! / and ¡chase after! when prompted by detection / of x y z exotic contaminants” (73). But the poem-cycle ends somewhat more hopefully, under the sign of the deer, who is “the daughter of our transformation.” The final (centered) poem concludes with “ancestral faces peering up through the dirt”; in a gesture of both defense and incorporation, “We eat them” (80).[3]
    But the transformation is only completed in the poem-essay “Naked.” In a ritual / performance art piece inspired by the work of Marina Abramović (and reminiscent of Cecilia Vicuña’s), Fox recovers a bag full of bloody deer parts left by a hunter; she places the rib cage of the doe on the beach of a Wisconsin lake. Just as the daughter/speaker identifies with/as the bones in “Transitional Object,” so the doe’s ribcage becomes the woman’s: “I am breathing in I am breathing out, I stand for my rib cage, for some mother substance. I stand within these bones that have net me. I shake off the flies and fashion my armor” (136). This armor defends against all avatars of “The Man,” because his “repulsion is our objective, his disgust is our beautiful armor and sorority (our sorcery.)” (138). The grotesquerie has served a purpose; by the end of the following poem, the speaker gives birth to a different sort of boy, who flies away, “flitting toward the royal blistering crimson hole of the Sun” (143).
    The First Flag is an extremely complex and ambitious book, one that cuts through the dead-serious “playfulness” and studied poses of much other experimental poetry. It is a book fashioned from the quick and the dead, the raw and the cooked. In it, Sarah Fox has created something profoundly daring, unique, unsettling, and beautiful. - Joseph Harrington

    [1] See Fraser’s essay “The Tradition of Marginality,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 10:3, 22-27.
    [2] For further information on D.E.S., along with a preview of Fox’ current work on it, see her “Next Big Thing” interview: http://foxopomp.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/next-big-thing/
    [3] For a generous selection from “Comma,” see Jerome Rothenberg’s Jacket2 blog: https://jacket2.org/commentary/sarah-fox-comma

    Sarah Fox in conversation with Rachel Moritz
    Rachel Moritz: There’s a journey in this book, though the experience of time feels more circular than linear. One thread, however, is the series, “Field Notes of an Advance Scout.” Can you discuss the kind of path these poems forge?
    Sarah Fox: The poems in the book do side with a more elliptical expression of time, in opposition to Western instincts. I think of this nonlinear approach as an organic articulation that poetry, in particular, is able to facilitate. Paul Celan: “I try to reproduce cuttings from the spectral analysis of things, to show them in several aspects and permeations at once.” As I was putting the manuscript together, I wanted to focus, however ambiguously, on this idea of a journey—a subtle narrative arc—launching from the imperative form in the first poem (“Guidebook For a Pleasant Stay”) into a territory of questioning. Questions are infinite. Edmond Jabés, in his poem “The Book of Questions,” writes “knowledge means questioning,” and further, “God is a question.” Questioning allows for negative capability. The Field Notes poems hope to ground the journey through the gestures of awak- ening they transcribe. They are sequential, but that’s mostly by coincidence. The first poem finds the speaker in a state of bewilderment, on a kind of threshold, as in a Grimm character who says “I would like to learn shuddering. That is something I do not comprehend at all.” From there, the poems follow a course devoted to disempowering certainty and temporal concerns, permitting the “spectral analysis” as memory, image, idea, and utterance cross-pollinate. I obviously pay homage to María Sabina (and others such as Anne Waldman), out of a sense of apprenticeship to a poetic lineage, which for me finds its roots in a words-as-medicine approach to poetry. María Sabina chanted “I am a woman who looks into the insides of things and investigates.” The “advance scout” could be seen as one investigating the rim of consciousness. Celan again: “Instrange yourself, / deeper.” The poems were lifted from a single long piece I wrote during a somewhat heightened state—I was reporting back as the advance scout of myself! But transformation, or any path open to the potential for mys- tical encounters, is universally available. At least I think so.
    Rachel Moritz: I’m interested in the baby as both a literal and symbolic figure. There’s something here about the feminine and poetry; while many contemporary women are writing about motherhood, I haven’t encountered as many poems about infertility, loss, or the choice not to parent (Ann Lauterbach’s “Nest,” is one that comes to mind). Some of your poems, like “Baby Shamanics for the New Millennium,” deal with the “real” child, and some, like “Imagining Girls,” work with the child as a representation of imagination and hope. Can you describe how fertility and barrenness function as literal and imaginative realities?
    Sarah Fox: Well, I’m a doula, a mother, a teacher, and the oldest of six, so birth and children are powerful in my life. I have also had some struggles with miscarriage and infertility, which I sometimes speculate might reflect a larger ambivalence about having more children (my daughter is almost sixteen). Undoubtedly, it is more of a challenge to find time to write, to focus, when you have obligations as a mother. But the role is so tied up with identity that I find it inseparable from my role as poet. To be unable to conceive a child, on the other hand, eclipsed any ideology about it for me, and led me into a more extensive (and productive) creative energy around the body, its systems, and its reflection of the body of the world. During a birth I recently attended, accomplished by c-section, I actually saw the uterus, pulled out of the mother’s body for suturing. It’s a pretty impressive metaphor (in addition to being such an impressive organ!)—even the cave paintings in Lascaux, and elsewhere, celebrate its symbolic manifestations. I think any personal narrative going on in the book around these issues is incidental, though; what’s more interesting to me is how all of this plays into the broader yearning for fulfillment that underlies our relentless cultural distractions. Both poems you mention feel to me like momentary thought-bridges, wrestling with paradox when choice is not necessarily available. I wasn’t thinking of him when I wrote these, but I think now of Whitman’s “Children of Adam” poems as toying with notions of fertility/infertility from the perspective of poet-maker. “Imagining Girls” originated as a cut-up of Anne Carson’s Eros, The Bittersweet, the Gospel of Mark, and a third source that I can no longer remember. I was reading these all at once, and the texts naturally fell into each other. I cut out phrases and then recorded them randomly. Later, a poem occurred out of that experiment that appears to examine femininity, female inheritance, actual and possible daughters and/or selves, uterine longings . . . Also, the maternal conflict of accepting the child’s physical separation, and facilitating her emotional independence while also maintaining your own. “Baby Shamanics for the New Millennium” came out of a dream, and a challenge from my friend Steve Healey to write a poem with the word “onesie” in it. He has a onesie poem too, in his book Earthling (as does Dobby Gibson, in Polar). I think the possible babies, like little ghosts, are haunting for women, but I find their hauntings fascinating, and strangely comforting. All children represent hope, and imagination. I was in Bolinas a couple of years ago on the Fourth of July, and their parade included a float of children with a banner reading “I pledge allegiance to my imagination.” What better to pledge allegiance to?
    Rachel Moritz: In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes, “The poet speaks on the threshold of being.” He also talks about poetic image as consciousness at its point of origin. Describe your own relationship with image and this zero point of consciousness/ origin as it works in your poetry.
    Sarah Fox: I would say that poems begin to occur, for me, in image before language. I had a student once who claimed he could not visualize images. He could not, for example, call to mind the sight of “dog” if he was not looking directly at a dog. I’d never heard of this phenomenon, but since then I’ve met other people who experience it. I don’t know that my own poetry would exist if it didn’t have images in the mind to draw from. I can see the poem, in my mind, so that language and form are the architecture of that vision, on the page. I understand the movement of the poem through its images, all of which are connected, in some associative or material way, to the instant of clarity that made way for poetic impulse. So I agree with Bachelard that poetic image pushes against consciousness at its origins, and that the interior space is where the poem happens for both poet and reader. Writing a poem, in my experience, is always an exercise in mining for truth, even simply the truth of what is taking place in the mind at a particular moment. For me, this feels very much like being in a liminal space, where image serves as a portal to some undetermined realization the poem is attempting to discover. Thus, metaphor. Again, this goes back to a willingness to question, to interview the image. Archetypally, you might say that The Fool, or The Child, are most comfortable with this mode of being, and I think of the various speakers in Because Why as embracing these roles.
    Rachel Moritz: One thing I experience in your poetry is a calling forth of community, of the living elements of the world and their interrelationships—human, animal, plant, spirit. How do you see the community of the poem mirroring the community of the world? And how do you conceive of experimental poetry as a space where these elements are brought into conversation?
    Sarah Fox: Community is very important to my work and life; I cultivate it on conscious and unconscious levels. What is the commu- nity of the poem? I don’t know, but I do feel that my poems want to reflect my values of community—including poetic tradition. Ange Mlinko told me recently that my poems feel “populated.” It’s a conscious choice—not only to avoid solipsism or unearned irony, but to acknowledge the relevance of equanimity. A poem is rarely successful for me if it doesn’t have a generous spirit. My concept of the poetic “I” is more Buddhist than Catholic, I guess. When the Dalai Lama says “I am the center of the universe,” he means every “I”: animal, plant, etc. We share that location as an interconnected whole (Duncan: “symposium of the whole.”) Similarly, string theory suggests this interrelationship in scientific terms. As does ethnobotany—the study of a culture’s relationship to plants and plant medicines—which is also an obsession of mine. I envision plants as great communicators, and locating their language, or translating it—through a kind of poetic alchemy—is something I attempt in many of the poems in Because Why. My poems are more interested in that intimate space between connections than they are in divisions. And of course I write from my own experience, and my daily life is centered around this nurturing of community. I feel an innate responsibility to establish little versions of “home,” which are constantly being revised, in both my poems and my environment. Poetry, for me, is profoundly intimate. The most minute details of even a very domestic scenario can be radically subversive through poetic utterance. I’m encouraged by the work of poets like Alice Notley, Fanny Howe, Hoa Nguyen, Catherine Wagner—who write from domestic experience using unorthodox syntax, phrasing, form, collage. This is achievable through a practice of disobedience, especially important historically to women, but also synonymous with thoughtful resistance. Maybe this goes back to the notion of circular time, and its feminine components, which find traditional methods of communication limiting, unproductive, even passive. I’ve taken to calling this a “domestic avant-garde”—epitomized, you might say, by Tender Buttons—but really it’s just poetry; you take what works and aim for your own truest expression.

    I Slid Out of My Mother’s BodyOf being numinous. Of drift and syringe.Of metal atonement. Of a tube-fedmelancholy. Of post-terror karmic.Of a certain amount of ear. Of the smogsmear around the blood hollow. Of theossified berry like a cave cataract. Ofmy mind branched out through the fontanel,antlering, leaves letting go of me.
    ExogenyI entered air a poisonous object subtracted
    from a poisoned mother. Her radiancescathes me. I'm a pharmaceutical interpolator.
    My mother and I have the same (m)Other,
    man-made (m)Om. I came astride the butcher's
    alchemical homologue. The butcher said,
    we'll grow up on this street. We'll wear masks
    to conceal our monstrous mutual disease.
    He said, look at my throbbing moneybags.I roam over a burial site, my cosmovisage,
    some myness that is not quite dead yet.
    A birth plan spilling cosmovergence.
    Doll BoxQuestioning began to break circuitry into the air
    between myself and the listening surround.
    At first my mouth formed only a zero
    and I was mistaken by some for a doll.
    This air shielded the world from my sound,
    which was clotted and seizing, a stirring interior.
    I only want to feel myself the mother of something.
    I want, and want to redeem my fire. But a menacing
    voice perseveres, blacks out my no more logos!
     Brain LetterOne day I woke up rearranged like a sleepwalker
    misplaced upon a terrain of erotic grenades.
    Am I a manifesto? Am I cloudless, now?
    Little fuses sizzled and unfurled smoke signals
    targeting thoughtpods in outerspace.
    Each grenade was a tiny twin of my own brain,
    a memory vessel: my buried fetal cunt, its plastic crust.
    MergeI began to notice the quality of song glass
    makes metabolizing. I began to fuse what was left
    of my body to this noise whose shape resembled what I knew
    of jaguars. My jaguar was a hypnotist who insinuated a paradise
    where the scalpel king remained tied-down in the wellhole.
    My jaguar opened his mouth and produced a horse for my climb.
    He pointed one way, then another. He said, Do not try
    to force your horse up slopes like this one.
    It is bad for you and For your horse.
    My jaguar, my sound, my saddle, my trance, my transgressive ascent.

    Born in PrisonWhile everyone else goes off to war, I am confined
    to a ward. Ursula — repulsive nurse — locks me in.
    I'm a comma on the cot. Some soul scraps
    catch air from the vent and abandon me
    like strands of hair. It's January and there's snow.
    The lounge TV features our Patriarch lauding
    noble attacks on small, foreign targets.
    He places his hand on his heart as instructed
    by God. On the ward below, my daughters
    in nightgowns circle the citadel, they swallow
    their meds. Outside the E.R. a school bus catches
    ice, then plows through the hospital windows.
    Nurses toss fire back and forth. I pretend to regurgitate
    their pills, but I like drugs. If only I had a fever.
    My daughters engrave the names of future
    children on their inner arms with slivers
    of bulletproof glass; they drizzle their red
    syrup, circling circling, burning foxholes
    into the floor with their footpads.
    Those dear girls source their own arteries
    for jumping rope, and chant: “Say say oh enemy,come disappear with me, and bringyour pharmacy, climb up my torture tree,slide down my cutter blade, into my Seroquel,and fade away we will, forevermoreshut the door.""Your father runs this hospital,” said the chaplain, disrobing.
    I Don't Wantwhat I haven't got. I don't want leprosy or seasickness
    or a parasitic twin. No less flesh, no fetish, no ghostdad.
    I never wanted a penis. No subzero minddrift.
    Not a pyrrhic foot. No harness. “No more babies."
    No sandman or awful apple, no blue stirring
    in the dosage. I don't want a horse. “I don't want
    your despicable money.” I do not want aural cathexis.
    No dragon, no morphine drip, “No more love, okay?”
    I do not want: feminine rhyme. The moths. Monastic
    silence. Nurses' corners. No more masks! Or nouns.
    Side EffectsWe can invent language every time, one syllable after another. “Reports of pain will be believed. Controlling your pain may
    speed your recovery.” Patient K shrieks in his pen. “Not everyone's a good candidate for treatment.” He screams
    himself a new body, rough flesh disgorging from its animal stone.
    My dreams are white and in lockdown, the medicine’s lumbering
    upset. I now recall the last time I felt lithium tour my brain — 
    at the speed of trees. “The only way to get an accurate
    diagnosis is to have a complete mental breakdown.”
    The brain’s metallic synaesthesia whips my eyeballs.
    Patient K, verb-headed, pursues new horizons of noise.
    Consciousness is nothing special it just happens to be.
    I wake up talking in my sleep: Tears are liquefied brain.
    Poetry as MagicOffspring of my absolute desires shrivel on the lake’s
    hide while the Great Blue Heron orates windily
    from a moss cove. The cold is not absolute or abetting.
    The scarlet branchtrap's latch is merely aesthetic.
    At Flame School, they taught me how to reach into the mercury
    for more death. Or else to wade through want waves pretending
    the blades on my thighs are grass and won’t scorch me.
    AmbassadorRaccoon midwifes the baby from the eye of the firepit,
    headfirst blooming through white ash into flame.
    Raccoon reaches in with trowel-handed forceps.
    This baby is an ambassador for all the dead babies.
    He’s char-dusted, the birth muck melded to him. Surgically,
    raccoon sets the baby to cool on a pit
    rock, steals off to pick and teethe the placenta.
    I look at my baby boy on the rock.
    He had been immaterial to me,
    like a god, like a disease.
    Little Boy LostSt. Blake baby projects a dream onto the atmosphere
    as evidence that life once flickered within him.
    The dream is a film I enter as a second mother
    through forest to clearing where I find a boy
    pulling an object from a lake. The boy uses our secret
    language to communicate that object is a postcard
    on which a morphing mouth screams. I believe the boy
    is frightened, as I am frightened of the boy
    and his prophetic debris. But I am his mother.
    Let us peer into the mouth together, but the mouth
    is now a vase — vaguely a human face — and we understand
    that in it lingers the essence of a child. The vase
    keeps changing and makes the boy laugh, now.
    CentrifugeIm walking under some noisy trees.The trees have panther breath and teeth
    at my back. My hair seems to be on fire.
    The trees hunger. They are flame-eating
    panthers. I’m walking under a green cloud
    shaped like the mother of all insects.
    The cloud bulges with the sentient residue
    of history. She refuses any longer to contain it.
    The mother of all insects will soon release
    newly gestated monsters into the atmosphere.
    The panthers hiss. I’m nervous. I wonder
    what the trees will do, if it will hurt.
    Poison PathI conjure sulfur and snakespit for sacred somatic
    circumnavigation: pores & orifices & dream lymph.
    My inner chambers convert poison to tonic.
    Like an egg, when pierced with milk. Or a womb —
    its crimson coastline, its lunar fuss. “The earth's condition
    is receptive devotion.” I grew tired of being an ode.
    The path of medicine is a poison path. Your bitters
    are my nectar, I've grown tired of being a bruise.
    All the smitten birds call me out of my body, I'm so tired
    of being observed. “Poison” is a lie, from sea to shining sea.
    “Dominion over all things.” Censored psalters, even.
    Woman and Poison share an ancient alliance.
    Skull Collector
    I deliver the egg to the top of the tower.
    I had disguised the egg as a skull
    thrown in like all other skulls
    in my cart. I'd been a skull collector;
    my cart rattled with skull requiem.
    The stars and the snow contrive a rhyme,
    it sparkles my hair. I toss the skulls and coil
    up the stairs to the top of my tower, cradling
    the egg in my blouse. I reel the pain in
    and the pail. I reel in a blazing fire.
    My egg, its incandescence!

    A deer awakens within the blue eye of the blessing.
    She awakens on the pretty hills, amid flowers.
    We are together and refrain from weeping.
    “There is no one who regrets what we are.”
    The deer presents herself to the flaming
    wreck of our worst-remembered days.
    She is the daughter of our transformation,
    and fire releases her from the seal
    of ordinary matter. Her wounds boil into eyes
    watching us witness her vanishing: her meat
    and movement shaved off the face of the earth.
    Elsewhere her life reassembles, while we are full of her.
    Inside the DeerInside the deer our wish for sanctification gestates.
    She sleeps on the scrap side of the desert,
    and her dreams fly from her mind
    as seeds that supplant and swell
    into ancestral faces peering up through the dirt.
    These ancient ones multiply and flower. 
    We eat them.

    [NOTE &  COMMENTARY. The foregoing poem marks the arrival of a strong new voice for our continuing poetry project, concerning which Clayton Eshleman has written: “The masterpiece of this extraordinary collection (The First Flag) is a hexagonal 36 poem cycle, Comma. Sarah Fox envisions herself as a separation daemon in a birth theater. By exorcising the hordes and weevil casts of her uteral spectres and conceiving of the ‘family romance’ as mantic veins to be pumped, she achieves the denouement of becoming fully (not just physically) born. Birth as apocalyptic breakdown; the work? Imaginal punctuality.” Or Sarah Fox selbst in clarification of the vision here & in her earlier work Because Why: “The poems in the book do side with a more elliptical expression of time, in opposition to Western instincts. I think of this nonlinear approach as an organic articulation that poetry, in particular, is able to facilitate. Paul Celan: ‘I try to reproduce cuttings from the spectral analysis of things, to show them in several aspects and permeations at once.’ As I was putting the manuscript together, I wanted to focus, however ambiguously, on this idea of a journey — a subtle narrative arc — launching from the imperative form in the first poem (‘Guidebook For a Pleasant Stay’) into a territory of questioning. Questions are infinite. Edmond Jabés, in his poem The Book of Questions, writes ‘knowledge means questioning,’ and further, ‘God is a question.’ Questioning allows for negative capability. The Field Notes poems hope to ground the journey through the gestures of awak- ening they transcribe. They are sequential, but that’s mostly by coincidence. The first poem finds the speaker in a state of bewilderment, on a kind of threshold, as in a Grimm character who says 'I would like to learn shuddering. That is something I do not comprehend at all.' From there, the poems follow a course devoted to disempowering certainty and temporal concerns, permitting the 'spectral analysis' as memory, image, idea, and utterance cross-pollinate. I obviously pay homage to María Sabina (and others such as Anne Waldman), out of a sense of apprenticeship to a poetic lineage, which for me finds its roots in a words-as-medicine approach to poetry. María Sabina chanted 'I am a woman who looks into the insides of things and investigates.' The 'advance scout' could be seen as one investigating the rim of consciousness. Celan again: 'Instrange yourself, / deeper.'” The complete interview from which this is taken can be found at http://coffeehousepress.org/authors/sarah-fox/#author-books. (Jerome Rothenberg.)]

    Because Why2006 SPRING

    Sarah Fox, Because Why,  Coffee House Press, 2006.

    "Fox's Because Why rearranges syntax in a fluid landscape in which a horse can become a cactus and a teenager a tree. The experience is a lot like wandering through a hedge maze that is at the same time a tightrope stretched over a large canyon, a travelogue and the dark side of the moon."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

    "These are not narrative poems with easy-to-grasp 'aha' moments, and yet, they are exquisite renderings in ink that will leave you thinking. . . [Fox's] work has a deeply personal vein running through it that clearly draws on her experience as a woman, a mother and a doula."—Madison Capital Times

    "An engaging collection of evocative and original poetry . . . Because Why showcases the focus and brilliance of Fox's wordsmithing imageries."—Midwest Book Review

    "Sarah Fox has found a way to make poetry both experimental and accessible. Her poems are strange but strike a deep chord. They are playful and dark, thought-provoking and silly. . . . A wonderful read for both the well-versed poet and a general audience."—Altar Magazine

    "In equal measures absurd, existential, and just plain exhilarating, Because Why eloquently expresses the strange times in which we live, without resorting to the erudite, self-conscious tricks that have come to be the hallmark of so much postmodern poetry."—mnartists.org

    "Visually as well as verbally exciting."—Jacket

    "This edgy, energetic, and irreverent first collection introduces a poet we'll hear from again."—Library Journal

    "Part joy, part mandate, part irreverence and all poetry . . . Fox's poems continually press out into the margins of consciousness and understanding."—Xantippe

    "Sarah Fox has given us a gift—each poem in this thrilling collection inhabits a quotidian mystery, yet always tugs at the limits of knowing, pushing into dreamscape, into realms of the unconscious. Art, science, pop culture, religion, motherhood, loverhood—all are gathered here in the necessary service of dumbstruck awe. Read the whole book, then read it again."—Nick Flynn

    "Sarah Fox has found a way to create spaces where different sensibilities—lyric, narrative, surreal—can coexist and change, one into another. This fullness of range allows moments of complete surprise when Fox shifts from one tone to another. Because Why is an accretion of motions, of touchings upon words, into a primarily aural sense of the relationship between idea and feeling."—Bob Hicok

    "Here we have strange combinations, surreal deliveries, and reliable musical syntax. This is how the theory of relativity begins to manifest itself in the poetry of our time. Words are almost only sounds, pressed forward by an anxiety of objectless activity. 'Days are short here, nights / shorter. We sleep / like blind sailors in bed // that deliver us secretly home.' In this new poetry we can begin to trace the way our thinking behaves. Everything that is, now is not. Why not? Because."—Fanny Howe

    "Sarah Fox's poems buzz with energy and imagination. Sometimes it's a slideshow at ten frames per second; sometimes it's an alchemical crock-pot simmering with the indignation of witness. Sometimes it's a dive through the possibilities of a holographic syntax."—Dale Pendell

    Poems by Sarah Fox

    I want to tell you about etymology, transparency, excess, spontaneity, chance, and total embodiment. That aggression is propulsion toward visionary action. That we can resolve and transform ourselves through ever-malleable tools—psychoanalysis, myth and fairy tale, divination, allegory, incantation. Raccoons, birds, trees, sticks — all sorts of Whitman’s “divine materials” — are all around me and participating in the same life moment, and if I naturally am inclined to see the world as enchanted and conscious it doesn’t seem like appropriation. I want to tell you about excesses — of the body, the excessive astral body, excretions of the body and soul. I want to offer you a transcript of my human operating system and digress about the poet’s interest in, the poet’s political obsession with, origins, truth, beauty. I want to talk about so many things, flags and Ronald Reagan and cauls and succubi and symbols and shame and dismemberment and even things like Betsy Ross and Neptune in Pisces, and in so doing defend the nature and value of this thesis I’ve birthed and this essaying I can only dream-deliver, using that collectively-invented and collaboratively-sustained ball of fire called “Language.”

    Because Why  i. m. Lorine Niedecker

    Trees are a matter of fact
    adorning what? They matter
    are sturdy to sit on, are
    windy and standing not with.
    In fact trees for example.
    Those ones, from shifty windows.
    Ticking there for stop.
    Time to go time
    to birth on the hourly snow.
    April mattering (Stop) Because
    I licked it. Young birch
    branch. Rhyme scored
    white curled in dirt.
    A many birch. I saw
    at it, rupture. No,
    maple. Here. A skyway
    zone because swing. Trees
    to pain matter-of-factly.
    Bowls upon, clink, ivory
    chimes. Carry so much never.
    Feel perhaps patriotic, burned,
    broken. Sad
    to fall and bald and shed.
    With standing. Not
    per se walking. In fact
    we don't certainly know,
    perusing only so-called rings.
    I remember other than, buffalo
    (Heard buffalo? Thunder buffalo?)
    Rain, an instant. Mercy
    (Whistling. Making wishes.)
    And swings, creaking,
    do arouse: trees
    matter: to themselves?
    Adorning your very own
    window yard. Stopbox.
    In fact they are (speaking)
    simply like thought, as in
    like something odd, yarn,
    invisible. We can't hear.
    What matters in the green
    communion because nameless.
    Snow, April: we are in fact nameless,
    sorry. Perhaps
    soothe nothing. I feel
    now, only. The Woods.
    Are lovely are dark are.
    Across my feet the rubbery yard
    wet. White. My feet. Trees
    too probably stop, cry out.
    In fact they may cry out.
    Matter of course.
    For April is snowing.
    Trees do because they do because.

    My Antler

    The poet Antler wrote me a letter about my book and some recent poems, which I sent him at his request after meeting him at the Celebration of Midwestern Poetry. Antler is a poet from Milwaukee. I am also from Milwaukee, but I never saw Antler when I lived there, and sometimes confused him with Sparrow, who probably has nothing to do with Milwaukee. I moved to Minneapolis on my twenty-ninth birthday (Saturn Return).

    Almost the first thing Antler said to me when I met him was that he had lived with his mother during the month leading up to her death and had, at the end, "birthed her into the next world as she had birthed me into this one." Actually, he didn't say that. He told the story and I suggested the metaphor, probably as some kind of segue into talking about my father or my work as a doula.

    Kelly told me she got a contact high just from being next to Antler. I don't know if Antler was actually high. J, Ron Smith, and I went out to the car to smoke hash before the reading component of the Celebration of Midwestern Poetry, after having met Antler. Maybe Kelly meant something different by "high." When I met Antler I could tell that he was mystical, which relaxed me. Antler seemed both trickstery and Gary Snyderesque. While I "knew of him" when I lived in Milwaukee he was, at that time, "crashing on Allen Ginsberg's floor in San Francisco."

    Antler appears to be very healthy and glowing, and probably only gets high for ritual or medicinal purposes. I wish I were like that. I wish I were more like Antler.

    At the Celebration of Midwestern Poetry, Antler—a featured reader—read a poem about "birthing the mother as she had birthed the son." He abandoned the podium, almost dancing, nearly rollicking: he was all third chakra and "cocks" and Vietnam and "Whitmansexual"—Whitman was grass-sexual, sleepersexual, corpsewatchsexual, luckier-than-was-thoughtsexual, cosmos-sexual.

    He deserved a standing ovation, which I felt moved solely to give him, but it was one of those readings where the clapping etiquette had not worked itself out. And, being high, I wasn't up to causing a scene. I did, though, feel specially equipped to privately beam my veneration into Antler's brain. The day after the Celebration of Midwestern Poetry, I sent Antler an e-mail (antlerpoet.net) and told him that I loved him. He e-mailed me back and we shared deer stories, and he said that no, he had never heard of Marina Abramović. A week after the Celebration of Midwestern Poetry (where I and five fellow panelists—who had been asked to address "The Future of Midwestern Poetry" during a public dialogue with Rob Casper of the Poetry Society of America—more or less evaded the topic), I flew to New York and waited in line at MoMA for two days to sit with Marina Abramović (I made Marina Abramović cry).

    It doesn't bother me that Marina Abramović has breast implants. While I would "never get breast implants," I confess that I've fantasized about what it might be like. Most of the time, my breasts don't preoccupy me, nor do I pine for their youthful fortitude or any of the other stuff about youth. But I secretly appreciated it when the nurse at the Hope Chest Breast Center referred to me as a "young woman," for whom tumors such as the one noted, on mammogram and ultrasound, at 12:00 in the upper quadrant of my right breast ("1.7cm hypoechoic mobile mass"), were, in the cases of "young women such as yourself," almost always benign. Sometimes they call it a lesion, and sometimes they even call it a tumor-which doesn't sound benign but apparently, in medical parlance, it occasionally is.

    The radiologist, who retrieved five core tissue samples through an intravenous tube puncturing my "mass," told me his brother was a dermatologist. His father had been an obstetrician and his mother a nurse-midwife, which allowed me to segue into my own family's medical lineage, as well as my work as a doula. And when he said I was not to lift anything "bigger than a dinner plate" for twenty-four hours, I told him that if my client went into labor that night—since she was already overdue—I'd have no choice. And then he confused "doula" for, I think, a kind of antidoctor homebirth anarchist, because he said, "Well that's true, I guess if you have to go out and deliver a baby, a baby's bigger than a dinner plate." People often become mystified by the word "doula." Once when I tried to cross the border into Canada to hike in the virgin pines, a Manitoba border patrolman detained me for four hours and had me strip-searched after I told him I was a doula, and worse, he noted, a doula with tattoos. He scrutinized my bumper stickers, and asked, "Have you ever smoked marijuana in your life?" Which was confusing, because he was kind of nice at first, and I mean, doesn't Canada even have medical marijuana, and allow the sale of cannabis seeds? I probably said, "Yes, in my lifetime I have smoked marijuana," and that for sure was a mistake. He detained me on the basis of "suspicious plant material" found on the floor of my ("Is this North Korean-made?") car; he scanned every item in my purse with his infrared drug detecting device. He was really an asshole, he shouted—after finding two Klonopins in a tic tac container for which no, I do not have the prescription handy but I'd be happy to call Walgreens, whose number I know by heart, so he could speak with a pharmacist—"Will the pharmacist at Walgreens be able to identify you down to your tattoos? We do not let just anyone wander into the sovereign nation of Canada. Please read aloud the statement on this plaque regarding your detainment."

    I'm totally serious! And you think those captive Palestinian schoolgirls are a pack of conniving terrorists, and that extraordinary rendition is a fantasy of the "radical left"; you probably also have a "savings account"—sucker. Obviously, he detained me because he hates women, let's not beat around the bush, especially women who call themselves doulas. I only wanted to go for a hike in the virgin pines.

    I'm like, "Sir, I'm here to teach poetry at the Roseau High School," which, as I'm sure you can guess, only made matters worse. Roseau is boggy and treeless. I really missed trees. I wanted to walk around in the pines. Fuck the patrolman at the border, every border within and without. I'm talking to you, he kept saying, but No one else was around. I wonder if "doula" sounds too much like "vagina" combined with something akin to "voodoo," and almost evokes a "feminine sex drool." Much of the time people don't know what a doula is, and seem not to want to know anything about any witchy feminist initiation ceremony type of thing. A thing maybe involving weird placental rites, and women who don't shave their armpits or bathe. When I was his doula, Steve Burt told me that doula is "a Greek word meaning 'female slave,'" and he knows what he's talking about. Microsoft Word, for example, does not recognize "doula" as a word in English usage.

    I do shave my armpits, and am on the whole rather vain about my looks. To cut to the chase, last week at a wedding I pulled out my pipe in the parking lot and asked an older sibling of the bride if he minded. He said, "only if you share." (I always share.) After a while he admitted that he'd nailed me as a stoner during the ceremony, which had improved his outlook for the rest of the night. I've been told this before, and it always surprises me. Do I really look like a stoner? How come? Isn't the whole cannabis situation utterly insane? Is my I not what I think it is?

    The people in line with me at Marina Abramović didn't seem to view me as a stoner, maybe it's not like that in New York. I told someone in line I thought Marina Abramović was "a shaman," which others in our proximity overheard and in the convening line-talk I was designated "the poet" who had "more of a mystical take on what's going on here." In his letter, Antler noted, "it would be hard for adult person to curl up inside gutted deer, but in the dream anything can happen and make sense. Baudelaire miniaturized himself to Tinkerbell size and imagined taking his beloved to see a hideously rotting maggots corpse, he told her 'someday you'll be like that' in hopes it would turn her on to be with him. Hmmm." Antler writes a lot of addenda sideways along the margins such as: "P.S. I sent some of my gay poems to Raymond Luczak & he sent me Mute with a simpatico letter of friendship & solidarity." Also, "Comma seems a Paleolithic hallucinogenic dreamstate phantasmagoric shaman voyage," and is "Intense & Real . . . Tell John I'll try to listen to his CD soon and give him some feedback."

    The Hope Chest Breast Center nurse wouldn't let John into the biopsy room because "there isn't enough space." I suddenly envisioned the tumor in my breast as analogous to an airbag that, when surgically punctured, might burst out of my body and pin everyone against the mauve wall, and I pictured John's distressing excitement at being smashed by my giant, infested, toxic breast with tubes spraying pus and other gross fluids all over his hair and the machines and the sweet bald doctor whose brother is a dermatologist. Literature in the "After Care Guide for Breast Biopsy" folder warned: "You may notice bruising in the area of the needle biopsy or sometimes in the lower portion of the breast, the blood will flow with gravity settling at the bottom. This should resolve." I had to wear one of those white gowns that open in front and that had come directly out of a warming device, like an incubator. They really pamper you at the Hope Chest Breast Center.

    I like how "hope chest" rhymes with "dope fest." After the radiologist had snapped up five pieces of tissue, and reassured me that "in all likelihood this is going to turn out to be a perfectly benign fibroadenoma," the ultrasound tech showed me the tumor on the screen. "It's that black hole above all the white stuff," she said. I could see there was definitely something there, and that it was filled with a dark archive.

    from The Brain Letters


     Raccoon midwifed the baby from the eye
    of the firepit, headfirst bloomed through
    white ash into flame. Raccoon reached
    in, trowel-handed like a forceps.
    The fire attracts into itself like a mirror,
    beings—their faces—fall into and rise from it.
    The baby is an ambassador for all the dead
    babies. He’s char-dusted, the birth muck
    melded to him. Surgeon-faced,
    raccoon sets the baby to cool on a pit
    rock, steals off to pick and teethe the placenta.
    I look at my baby boy on the rock.
    He had been immaterial to me,
    like a god, like a disease. The others and he
    are the same one. I crave him, dead or alive.


     I drownproofed myself and the dead
    babies with shriek vests and we set
    off across the lake on our raft towards
    another shore whose inhabitants might
    welcome us. We were transfigurational
    pilgrims, the water re-shaped us and
    we knew that the lake was merely
    the surface of our dream, like the raft
    was just a borrowed womb the babies
    couldn’t leak through. A clergy of crows
    cropped up as a magnetic chorus on
    the horizon. I grew fins and amped up
    our destiny. I was willing to submit
    to the crows’ reconfigurement, become
    beak-scarred, learn to speak out from
    the dungeon where I hoard all my skulls.


     St. Blake baby projects a dream onto the atmosphere
    as evidence that life once flickered within him. The
    dream is a film I enter as a second mother through
    forest to clearing where I find a boy pulling
    an object out of a lake. The boy tells me in our secret
    language that the object is a postcard on which a
    morphing mouth screams. I believe the boy
    is frightened as I am frightened of the boy
    and his prophetic debris. But I am his mother.
    Let us peer into the mouth together, but the mouth
    is now a vase—half gray, half red—and we understand
    that in it loiters the essence of a child. The vase
    at times vaguely resembles a human face,
    it keeps changing and makes the boy laugh, now.
    We drop the vase back into the lake.
    The lake is my belly. I want the scream back.

    I Slid Out of My Mother’s Body  

    Of being numinous. Of drift and syringe.
    Of metal atonement. Of a tube-fed
    melancholy. Of post-terror karmic.
    Of a certain amount of ear. Of the smog
    smear around the blood hollow. Of the
    ossified berry like a cave cataract. Of
    my mind branched out through the fontanel,
    antlering, leaves letting go of me.


     I began to notice the quality of song
    glass makes metabolizing. I began
    to fuse what was left of my body
    to this noise whose shape resembled
    what I knew of jaguars. My jaguar
    was a hypnotist who proposed
    a paradise where the scalpel-minded
    king lived down in the wellhole.
    My jaguar opened his mouth
    and produced a horse for my climb.
    He pointed one way, then another.
    He said, “Do not try to force your horse
    up slopes like this one. It is bad
    for you and your horse.”  My jaguar
    is a hypnotist of the first magnitude.
    I will miss his glass-furred music.

    The Other Husband 
    I shook my chain on the bridge of sighs
    where bog meets bramble and the sound
    made a rupture in the mist: diaphanous
    aperture that quickly filled with loose
    shadow matter other creatures had shed
    into the moss weeps. Thus enchanted,
    a form materialized and wooed me. He
    inhabits, at times, your own darkened
    reflection and even your face. He’s
    like a caul; I taste his peat on your lips.
    He contributes his mass to all
    the grounddusk shapes in my sphere
    and over any lightless surface
    that might lean in to meet my
    encounter. I thought he rose up
    only to haunt me and to pursue
    a subsistence off the dregs
    of my affection. Then I noticed
    the pricks on my fingers from
    the needle I’d used to stitch him in.
    He will run, and disappear.

    Raccoon hurls herself into the vault
    of prayer. She is predynastic and
    evanescent in corpse oratory. Cradle
    mortis pulpit, a heart-sized sacrifice
    for the gnashing hoards of like-faced
    philanderers. Sprawled like a whore,
    raccoon’s burn drizzle licks open
    each word’s germ box. The children
    vacantly wander like deaf flottage.   

     I was walking under some noisy trees.
    The trees had panther breath and teeth
    at my back. My hair seemed to be on fire.
    The trees hungered. They were flame-eating
    panthers. I was walking under a green
    cloud shaped like the mother of all
    insects. The cloud bulged and churned
    with the sentient residue of history.
    She refused any longer to contain
    it. The mother of all insects
    would soon release newly gestated
    monsters into the atmosphere.
    The panthers hissed. I was nervous.
    My thoughts rioted like dark
    birds trapped in the branches. I
    darkened down into the mindshaft.

    Placental Economics
    I emerge from a slippery haze on the gnomic side of the lake.
    I’m dressed as a girl in pinafore and ruffled undies. Pink
    plastic bird barrettes. Rainbow Brite kneesocks. The mother I
    ‘d traversed slurps back into a bulb, festering and sursurrant, 
    forever refilling her self with her substance. I know I’m late,
    but not pregnant—after all I’m only a girl masquerading
    as My Pretty Pony circling the drain poke of the world's
    cutest death goddess. How did I swash through that asscrack
    without claws, why did my growl have to wither
    to death. I’m sporting my black Irish filly costume trimmed
    with mother's perineal blossoms. Love and nothing co-exist
    as a body amorphous, as fetal relation. But gestational fusion
    is merely symbolic, inner eye candy for Dad—on deerback
    in his wet suit—who’s always hoarding the Hand of Glory,
    sometimes disguised as a knife splicing from one body
    an entirely second body. Were it not for him we'd still be
    exchanging nectar with cave demons and licking the meat-
    hedge that regulated our wing spans, as in "personal space".
    Mister Daddy Decider, a.k.a. Fr. Kronos, prehistorically
    ate the original little shits—obviously masked as steak
    or by ketchup (fake blood)—to prove that his sacred 9th
    hole was just as good as any 10th for expelling, and in much
    less time, the products of conception. That's why he's the maker
    of everything. What a cut-up! And while he's a handsomer devil
    in the portrait than his starry-eyed corpse of a son, he privately
    lacks the balls to grow his own stigmata, or to go lopin’ along
    through the cosmos with blood in his pants. Or so the radiant
    son is said to have squealed into the bosom of a virgin ewe                       
    before Pops chimed in with, "Tell it to the hand." High-five!
    I’m performing a beast brothel and am not going to freak
    when amnion starts to leak, languidly, from My Pussy Party
    while I crouch braying into the bloodbath of my mother’s
    tender cavity. I surveil myself birthing a birdboy whose wings
    are exact replicas of each half of my vulva—away he goes, pecking
    and flitting toward the royal blistering crimson hole of the Sun.

    5 poems on Altered Scale

    Google and the Vagina


    Susana Gardner generously tagged me for The Next Big Thing interview series, conveniently providing a framework and impetus for producing an inaugural post on this my first kinda flopsy little cybershack. Thanks Susana! ;)
    What is the working title of the book?
    The manuscript I’m currently working on is called Mother Substance, a term I lifted from a 1938 quote by E. Charles Dodds announcing his discovery of, in his own words, “the mother substance”—a synthetic estrogen he called diethylstilbestrol. You can also find “mother substance” in the OED’s definition for MATTER: The substrate from which physical existence is derived, remaining more-or-less constant amid changes. The word MATTER is derived from the Latin word māteria, meaning wood. Māteria traces back to the word māter, meaning mother. Thus considered, matter is the mother substance.”
    My second book, The First Flag, has just been printed by Coffee House Press and will officially release in April (currently available for pre-sale at coffeehousepress.org ;) ), but I surmised that since it’s an “already” instead of a “next,” for the purposes of this self-interview (and, no doubt, by virtue of my Virgo ascendant, which for some can manifest as “wearing glasses,” and/or, to extend the metaphor, getting super literal — “seeing clearly” — “accuracy at any cost!”—when following instructions) I opted to focus on the thing-in-progress, which aspires to become my “next big thing.”
    [By the way, if you google "history of 'The Next Big Thing'" or "Who started the literary self-interview phenomenon 'The Next Big Thing,'" the thing you'll predominantly encounter is the word "tagged."]
    Where did the idea come from for the book?
    The idea for the book sprang up in me during a semi-dreamstate I’d DES_Ad__3_op_568x820been encouraged to inhabit while participating in a “Delicious Movement” exercise with the performance artist Eiko Otake (of Eiko & Koma). I elaborate on this event in a “poem ;) ” called “Naked” (the title of Eiko & Koma’s environmental installation performance at the Walker Art Center in 2010), which appears in The First Flag. “Naked” describes, in part, the circumstances of my in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), while also asserting aesthetic tendencies—collage, multivalence, collaboration, dramatic dialog, transparency, the use of photographs and other images—that pretty much go postal in Mother Substance. The book will also include language from interviews I conducted with DES Daughters and Mothers, as well as doctors, Big Pharma execs, activists, and other concerned parties.
    In a sense, the idea for the book has been living in my body since before I was born, and has been gaining momentum and illumination from a variety of helpers—scholars, poets, artists, activists, doctors, complementary healers, animals, landscapes, plant medicines, psychoanalysis, yoga, pregnancy and childbirth as well as bearing witness to others’ pregnancies and births as a doula. The increasing array of literary documentary projects (such as Joe Harrington’s Things Come On, Eleni Sikelianos’s The Book of Jon and The California Poem, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal and Schizophrene, the oeuvre of Mark Nowak, for sure Dale Pendell’s Pharmako trilogy; along with the formidable Juniper Fuse by Clayton Eshleman (a formative text for me in many ways), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, and Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead, just to name a few), as well as an emerging practice of somatic poetics, and discourse around violence, contamination, excess, possession, and translation developed by comrades on Montevidayo, gave me access to renegade imaginings of how form and content might interact when emancipated from conventional genre boundaries.
    What genre does your book fall under?
    If I could assign a genre under which it falls, I would call it PSYCHOMAGICAL-ACTION-FOR-A-WORLD-GONE-WRONG. But probably Mother Substance will fall under the genre of poetry (viz. Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body: “There is only poetry.”)
    Otherwise: N/A

    Posts on Montevidayo

    “Junk Drawer” at the Soap Factory
    Altered Scale reading
    Knox Writers’ House
    Joe Milford Radio
    10,000 Poets for Change
    Dollhouse Reading via Skype

    Joe Harrington at Knox Writer’s House
    Juniper Fuse
    Killing Kanoko
    Gone To Earth