Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Occasionally there will be Featured Poets, as well as offerings from "The Critic Writes Poems" series. Deadline is ongoing: reviews will be posted as submitted and accepted. Please engage!
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Publications by CLARK COOLIDGE, JIM LEFTWICH, JOHN M. BENNETT / MICHEL ROLY, LESLIE SCALAPINO, KEITH SHEIN, SCOTT MACLEOD, LYN HEJINIAN, BRANDON BROWN and RON SILLIMAN
SCOTT MACLEOD Engages
NOTHING COUNTRY [from But It Says Nothing and Country Autumn by Clark Coolidge]
NO FOR TWO [from Jim Leftwich Novella # 402] (vugg books 2007 & arrum press 2008)
O BEE [from Obey, a transduction by John M. Bennett of Michel Roly’s 1840 poem The Bee] (Rêvenance Issue 1 September 2016 ed. Olchar Lindsann)
INVISIBLE SINGING CHILD [from Day Ocean State of Stars’ Night by Leslie Scalapino, and Rumors of Buildings to Live In by Keith Shein] (Bay Poetics, ed. Stephanie Young, Faux Press 2006)
THE BEAR [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod] (2016)
These poems were carved out of existing poems, some by me but mostly by others. Every word of these poems was found in the source poems, and 99% of the time I keep them in the same order, case, gender, tense, etc. as they appear in the source poems. Sometimes I dig out these words (actually usually short phrases) while I read a poem, sometimes after.
I don’t have any conscious rationale for choosing which poems to engage with in this way; usually just a four-second visual scan tells me if the source poem’s vocabulary has some resonance with “my” vocabulary. I consider this type of thing successful if my poem sounds like something I would write but also keeps some sort of connection with the source poem. I like to think I am finding a vein that has let’s say the same ‘blood type” as the source poem.
I’ve always enjoyed the challenges of working within strict limits. As a sculptor, I work almost exclusively with found objects; my two-dimensional work relies heavily on found images and collage techniques; my videos are all appropriated and edited from other videos. I prefer to think of my practice as “philentropy,” my portmanteau word meaning “the generous and thoughtful rearrangement and redistribution of matter and energy.”
Appropriation started becoming a larger influence on my writing practice in the 1990s. In 1998 I wrote a novel, Anne Frank In Jerusalem, (a sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank), composed using only short phrases appropriated from forty works by other authors, including Emily Dickinson, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Koestler, Walter Benjamin, the Marquis de Sade, Adolph Hitler, Karl Marx, Anna Kavan and Hannah Arendt. For that project, I selected one short phrase from every page of every source text, writing lists on yellow legal pads, one pad for each book. Then every morning, depending on my mood, I’d select four or five completed pads to work from; maybe one day it would be Anna Kavan, Flaubert, de Sade and Benjamin, for instance. I’d start scanning the phrases until three or four began to stick together in a short sequence that seemed like it might lead somewhere, write those down and start hunting for the next couple of phrases that would elaborate the emerging narrative.
I’d continue in this manner for as long as the fragile thread held together. If I was lucky I would get a full page or two out of one session. Interestingly, for me, the seemingly unlikely combination of Dickinson and Céline generated the most lucid and powerful material, while Flaubert was a disaster, as if his sentences, though perfect whole, fell to useless mundane shards when cut up.
So there was a strictly constrained vocabulary within which I had to improvise constantly in order to provoke some sort of meaning from disconnected sources. The result, which purports to be a found manuscript that seems to be a sober, meditative diary kept by Anne Frank between December 1995 and March 1996, is a dense read:
Lift it up, take it off. The wheel and the brakes. The everlasting examinations, the instrument panel and the wretchedness. The particular mood that makes chemical factories, gasworks, as if there were no such thing as a bigger prison. Tall thin windows forming a large row. Air into calm white. Still on, the cones swinging, towards the edge, rattling doorhandles along the sidewalk. Beautiful girls disappear into the shadows. Amnesiacs, ataxics, catatonics who are on their way in gasps and bursts, into the same distortion of terror. Little girls and then a chalk face, the despotic face of the fallen.
Caught, to lull yourself in a gambling and indolent network of interpretations. Too concerned with measuring its rectangle or circle to mind its exceptional need to be protected from this directness, this happiness, these half-formed incoherences, the other volumes and cavities. Threatened by something reaching forever in the intervals between journeys. Charred shell, floating still, alone, returning. No word, no stubborn device. Some ashes which yet adhere. How hollow the reconciliation upon the features of the dead, like a flower, silent. The other volumes and cavities. Lay back down into this highly-polished beginning and laboriously grow cold, grow small.You cannot go further in life than this sentence.
The Anne Frank novel was the culmination of a growing tendency towards appropriation; after its rigors, I felt comfortable enough to use appropriated text in almost every subsequent project, and to use it more freely and inconsistently. It has since become such an integral part of how I work that I often do it just for fun. Fun that every once in awhile generates a few artifacts that other people might want to read, such as these poems collected here in Galatea Resurrects, all of which were taken from reading I was doing in 2017.
[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of five monthly installments from Scott MacLeod’s series. The first is available HERE, the second HERE, and the third HERE.]
NOTHING COUNTRY [from But It Says Nothing and Country Autumn by Clark Coolidge]
as one speaks
to see inside
the sky waiting
the volume and stones
and nothing moving
the dust and seasons
and nothing waiting
NO FOR TWO [from Jim Leftwich Novella # 402]
NO FOR TWO
time we’re throughlike a rock
so kindto stretch
O BEE [from Obey, a transduction by John M. Bennett of Michel Roly’s 1840 poem The Bee]
the au pair vents
furious loin snot
the ice melts
a fool’s been present
INVISIBLE SINGING CHILD [from Day Ocean State of Stars’ Night by Leslie Scalapino, and Rumors of Buildings to Live In by Keith Shein]
mother engine behind them
stands numb but growls
then a blackbird barking
then sidewalk again
but no one is hurt
that was the idea
THE BEAR [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]
seen by everyone, and they’re interested, isolated
sky is groundless, ironic, can’t be seen
when we’re not seeing it, not producing
unless speaking in the cold light, the action
movie of the adult’s life, a demanding
production, an organization of phantoms
on the side away from the spectators
the stream of runners in the darks, several
of them flowing on the street, attack dogs
in the night, in memory, in the hay
LATE REVEL [from Revelator by Ron Silliman]
words squeezed to scrapes
tight suburb offends
as blood predicts motion
one hour chem trail
mall wisps, shoppers sharp
too much action
too many wonders
Scott MacLeod has been presenting live, time-based, conceptual & static work in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally since 1979. His installations and paintings have been widely exhibited in the Bay Area at venues including Southern Exposure, The Lab, George Lawson Gallery, and SFMOMA as well as internationally in the Czech Republic, Belgium, England, Italy and Germany. Visual arts awards include the San Francisco Art Institute’s Adaline Kent Award (2000) and a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Visual Arts Award (2001). His fiction, poetry, theater and critical writings have been widely published in the USA and abroad, and he has co-produced several international cultural exchange projects between USA, France, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. He lives in Oakland, California.