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nberg matrix


Reading @ Nuremberg
Bavarian-American Academy
Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg
7:30 PM, 27 May 2013

For my reading, I took as a model my 1999 presentation at Kelly Writers House, about which Brian Ang wrote perceptively [here]. In that event, I used stanzas from “Non-Events” as my guide, alternating between a regular progress through the poem as semantic and rhythmic baseline, while adding selections from Bad History and prose from The Constructivist Moment… More

Geschichte des Zufalls no. 15

On 17 June 2012, I visited the Mauerpark flea market with friend and poet D— S—. The market was bursting at the seams with the detritus of pop culture; archives of tape and vinyl; retro furniture and avant-garde t-shirts; remnants of the former socialist state and occasional contraband from darker times; out-of-date art books and mass market magazines bleaching in the sun. A carnival of objects to anchor social ground within the shadow of the former Wall.

At the end of a long alley of stands, objects, and crowds—or at the end of a confusing story that was just about to arrive at its point—appeared a stall selling what look like small cardboard boxes, each with a stenciled number cut out on the top that let optical green paper show through, under the banner “Geschichten des Zufalls.” In the center of the table stood a gumball machine, containing wooden balls with the same optical green numbers. We were invited to purchase one of the boxes as a “chance object,” and to participate in a conceptual project in which we would inform the sellers/organizers of any coincidences that had occurred after its purchase. We could pay whatever price we felt appropriate for an opportunity to encounter chance in this way.

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A resonant passage from Lyn Hejinian’s The Book of a Thousand Eyes, which should have wide circulation (and links) for pedagogical and moral purposes.

I am a failed fire chief
I am a failed thief

Didn’t I fail at the wrong thing, aren’t I a failure at failure

Failure is inevitable
I am a fan of failure
I am a failure flailed by failure
I leap into failure
I relish the self-pity that’s produced by the self-loathing that comes as a consequence of failure

The sauce has curdled, the meat is tough, the custard is runny—the meal is a failure

Failure is the offshoot of argument—but then failure occurs too from a lack of it
Moral failure
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Planisphere, by John Ashbery. New York: HarperCollins/Ecco Press, 2009.

There is one poem in Planisphere I would love to have written. I see it as an apogee of Ashbery’s art, toward which all combinations of rhetoric and slippage, on their elliptical path, tend. This is language art at its finest. I’ll leave it at that:


You don’t see so much of these anymore,
not see so much of this. There were others
who saw more. Innocence is cool,
he offered. Now not so much.
Innocence is the finish. Through all our
wide day it stressed. It was foolish to argue,
idle to come undone. The post arrived.
It all failed. All failed somewhere. [104]

Turing Machine

“Jackson Mac Low as Reading Machine: Stanzas for Iris Lezak, Sampling, and Print Culture,” presented at High and Low, European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernist Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland, 11 September 2010.

[From the introduction] In this paper, I propose a historical and cultural reading of postmodern practices of textual sampling and “reading through” in the poetry of Jackson Mac Low. To do so, I will position the methods and materials of his magnum opus Stanzas for Iris Lezak at the intersection of several concerns. The first is the imperative to rethink modernism and the historical avant-garde in relation to the content, forms, and media of mass culture. … More

from “Ashbery’s Historicism: 
Nonsite Hypotaxis and Modernity Critique
in The Double Dream of Spring

Presented at John Ashbery in Paris: International Conference
12 March 2010, Institut Charles V, Université Paris Diderot

What makes The Double Dream of Spring both unique and exemplary for Ash­bery’s work is its positive critique of social modernity, rather than a mere ironic reversal of modernism, at the intersection of critical theory, poststructuralism, and romanticism. In the figural space of his works, Ashbery inverts of the poetics of radical particularity—seen in terms of an aesthetic of the fragment and the condition of reification under capitalism—that relocates what Altieri terms its “aesthetic agency” in an interplay of “partial local coherence” that at once proposes and disposes of any horizon of totality. … More

Tonight at MOCAD, San Francisco archive activist Rick Prelinger showed an hour’s worth of material from his vast collection of film images of Detroit from the first three quarters of the 20th century (earliest 1917; latest in the 70s). I attended, along with several hundred other people—the space was full to overflowing. The screening was open to audience participation, and Prelinger, after his opening statement, encouraged vocal responses.

This dynamic made for a unique occasion. To begin with, the range of Prelinger’s material was limited—indeed, its limitations made for a kind of interpretive framework in themselves. We saw clips of downtown and water transport (modernity); the auto industry (mode of production); suburbs (community) and family (reproduction); police work (power); and local landmarks that no longer exist (history). We did not see sufficient images of labor or the black community, as Prelinger noted, likely due to the distribution and use of home movies.

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Entry 09: Frequency of Posts

Yesterday was the first day since beginning this project that I was unable to add daily content. My initial plan had been to add “something” on a daily basis, and to make the necessity of doing that at such a frequency part of determining what “something” is (see Entry 07, “Is This Anything”). I remain interested in the exterior, conceptual dynamics of such a frame—after On Kawara’s “I Got Up” project as a task of daily self-understanding, over the long run. Yet I also recognize, in refusing conceptual dogmatism, that there are other exigencies. … More

Fugs Second Album.

Recent threads on The Fugs have brought to mind my early encounter with their music, and the band itself, during my first visit to the St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, November 1965. When asked for a short statement on the Poetry Project for Anne Waldman’s anthology Out of This World: An Anthology of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, 1966–91, I wrote:

Thinking back on the Poetry Project, I am reminded of an absurdist question posed by Gerard Malanga to Charles Olson in The Paris Review: “A school is place where one can learn something. Can a school lose by giving away its knowledge?” From my first involvement with it in about 1972, The Poetry Project seemed a place where a school of poetry—the New York School—was physically embodied in a group of writers who felt free to develop in the confidence of their mutual (and contending) assumptions, and I certainly learned something from that. … More

Entry 07: Is This Anything?

My resolve for this website project, at least at the outset, has been to post “something” once a day. But what counts as something? One of David Letterman’s fugitive routines suggests a standard for judgment: “Is it something, or is it nothing?” Not remembering the correct title for the routine, I searched the internet and came up with a number of philosophy sites that had used the line as a cue—but nothing like a record of Letterman’s usage.

The last post is an example. As the time frame for posting “something” on January 20 neared its end, due to the lateness of the hour and the difficulty of the day, I was starting to draw a blank. That in itself could be “something,” properly framed. I searched the internet for traces of “something” and, following the faintest of threads, came up with a 90-minute video I had not previously seen, a virtual screen test from the ontological bunker of aesthetic theory.

This was truly “something,” and suggested an idea for my next post: an account of David Letterman’s routine, were I able to substantiate it. Perhaps it was entirely ephemeral, made up—but the ghost of its effects in the larger culture remain. Chris Vitiello, on Facebook, posted a random entry that showed the way: “Who the **** is Jay Leno?” This may have been the origin of the routine, as I have never understood what Jay Leno is about, if anything.

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