Monday, January 26, 2009

Reading in Tuscon / Blog Fast

I'm taking a weeklong break (or so) from reading blogs and blogging. Blogland, I love you, but I have several projects that I need to work on this week: a website for someone else, my own website, more grading than usual, a lot of cleaning, and preparing to go to Tuscon this weekend to give a reading at the Drawing Studio. Details below:

Mark Wallace, K. Lorraine Graham, Lisa Cooper, January 31, 2009. 7:00 P.M., The Drawing Studio, 33 S. 6th Ave., Tucson, AZ

MarkMark Wallace is the author of a number of books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction, and criticism. Temporary Worker Rides A Subway won the 2002 Gertrude Stein Poetry Award and was published by Green Integer Books. He is the author of a multi-genre work, Haze, and a novel, Dead Carnival. His critical articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, and along with Steven Marks, he edited Telling It Slant: Avant Garde Poetics of the 1990s (University of Alabama Press), a collection of 26 essays by different writers. Most recently he has published a collection of tales, Walking Dreams, and a book of poems, Felonies of Illusion. He teaches at California State University San Marcos.


New indecision’s breakdown backdrop
won’t let me go to the store beside
a terminal discrepancy, I love you
and you love power and I become power
but really specifically, like a dollar bill
or a lost loaf of bread. Total hand
carries itself, bricks say to walls.
Sugar’s a good combustible head end.
Do you like poets or being one
earned refuge, check out those shacks.
Should we do Survival Island
and stake an emblem? Flustered.
Call a shift to not be home
under a renegade special effect.
It’s exactly not to be barking about
all the mud in the honey. Some silence
just ain’t worth its hogwash.

- Mark Wallace

K.LorraineK. Lorraine Graham is a writer and visual artist. She is the author of Terminal Humming, forthcoming from Edge Books in 2009. She is also the author of several chapbooks, including Large Waves to Large Obstacles, forthcoming from Take Home Project. Her poetry, critical writing, and visual art have appeared or is forthcoming in Traffic, Area Sneaks, Foursquare and elsewhere. A limited-edition CD of her work called Moving Walkways is available from Narrowhouse Recordings. She lives in southern California with her partner Mark Wallace and Lester Young, a pacific parrotlet.


"Oh, Hi!" he said, happy and startled. Then, he stared into ceiling space without speaking.

I introduced myself to the woman next to me. "Hello," I said enthusiastically. "I am likely to never see you again."

The wealthy community by the sea is far enough off the highway to be difficult to get to but still defined by the highway.

I ask if they have any mastic. Mastic, she says, is an Arabic thing. I say yes, I know, I want to use it in pudding, and you have a sign that says "Yes! We have MASTIC!"

Mention the rain. Your carnations are probably from here. A cousin of your friend was shot in the head by her boyfriend.


The male finch notes us and calls to the hatchlings. You're a car and I'm a goat. He pauses. A child is a strange thing to want. That's a nice person, we don't say that. I told my students the joke about the chicken and the road, and they stared at me. "I see," said one. "The question is strange but the answer is serious. It is funny."


Hugs which avoid direct breast contact, how my favorite people encourage a kind of social weirdness in me. Strong feelings of being a turnip.

When you leave your bearable job and intelligent, creative, attractive lover, remember that there really isn't anything better than this. This is all that there is, always.

It's important to not believe in a lamp burning for you or anyone in a window somewhere. I know that no one will call me home.

- K. Lorraine Graham

LisaA near-native resident of Tucson, Lisa Cooper is a poet, editor and a massage therapist. A collection of poetry entitled & Calling It Home was published by Chax Press in 1998. In addition she has two chapbooks—The Ballad in Memory and Tilt Rail. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including Sonora Review, Spork, Hambone, Blue Mesa Review, Logodaedalus and 6ix. Recent poems appear in EOAGH (#4) and on the Invisible City website, a multi-genre improvisatory collaboration in Tucson examining art-making in public spaces. She has received an Arizona Commission on the Arts Fellowship and the Sonora Review Poetry Prize.


we walked out on the sidewalk, a kingdom of ants
a sprig of rosemary & every plant a favorite member of the family
my foot, my book & my subterranean mist
how did we get so tired?
my shoulder is a common piece of the surrounding terrain, wedged into a dress
tuck— tucker— is it time to cross yet?
at 5 a.m. music can seem especially loud—
this has merit!
otherwise I can pay someone: 5 pennies now, 5 later & 5 to get to heaven
tick-tock!got loose!— gone fishin’…
your legend got too big, distinguished as a courtyard office—
I’m telling you at these speeds it seems to handle rather well—
& after dinner I’ll say it again:
now we’ll play this little game of chase
in which your word is tiger paw, mine is sugar
& none is never be redeemed

- Lisa Cooper

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brielf Moment of Celebration and Optimism

One of my manuscripts is a finalist for something I didn't think it would ever be a finalist for. (In addition to the manuscript in question, I have three more finished manuscripts on my desk in addition to Terminal Humming, forthcoming from Edge Books in March or so). Regardless of who actually gets a book published in this particular situation, here's to people who don't really know each other liking each other's work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How I Celebrated the Innaguration

I'm behind the guy dressed as Obama--I've got a green hoola hoop and I'm wearing a purple boa on my head. You can read the article in the North County Times. The comments at the bottom of the article are especially worth a look.

(Nathan Morland wears a President Obama mask as he leads a colorful parade of some 50 participants north on Highway 101 towards downtown Encinitas to Stonesteps Beach in Leucadia on Tuesday. (Photo by Bill Wechter - Staff Photographer)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not enough Marxism, too much Marxism, or: how avant-garde artists and writers describe their work

Last Thursday, Mark and I headed down to La Jolla to see Sophie Calle speak at the Museum of Contemporary art. I adore her work, and she was fabulous in person--wore heavy floral perfume that still somehow smelled good, was clear and precise when describing her work but still very charming and personable.

Some of her early work made me think about the kinds of demands that writing has to always explain itself and be virtuous. In "The Bronx," she asked strangers in the Bronx to take her somewhere meaningful to them. She then photographed them and wrote down their stories. I immediately thought of Brenda Coultus' A Handmade Museum that a kind of historic documentary/tour in poetry of the Bowery. It's a work that is very consciously investigating how we inhabit space, notions of public/private, and the very real effects of corporate capitalism and neoliberalism etc in a post 9/11 New York and beyond. Calle' s "The Bronx" is also a kind of documentary tour of a New York neighbourhood, albeit a different neighbourhood in a very different time. Unlike Coltus' A Handmade Museum, it doesn't attempt to justify itself as, well, some kind of art that's going to either liberate its participants or combat Capitalism, or even describe the effects of Capitalism.

I wonder if reviewers and Calle's peers ever discussed it in those terms. When briefly describing "The Bronx" on Thursday, Calle said that she wanted to create a piece that 1) highlighted the danger and risk of living in the Bronx (hence putting herself in the care of a stranger) and 2) wanted something that acknowledged the "ghetto" aspect of the Bronx--and it was clear she meant ghetto in the traditional sense of the term--a place in a city where a minority lives because direct and indirect social and economic violence force them to live there and make it difficult for them to leave. I mean, the whole piece clearly does illuminate all sorts of interesting and complicated social, economic and political relationships. What I'm most struck by, I suppose is the fact that Calle clearly didn't feel like she had to describe the piece in the Leftist theoretical terms that reviewers use to describe Coltus' A Handmade Museum.

When I was up in LA for the Cal Arts conference Untitled: Speculations on the Expanded Field of Writing," I saw Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (Marc Voge and Young-Hae Chang) talk on a panel and also present one of their pieces. Stephanie Taylor & Heriberto Yepez were both on the panel, the title of which was "The Concept of Conceptual Writing: What is the relation between conceptual writing and the trajectory of conceptual art?" I bring up YHCHI first because the piece they presented could have easily had direct political implications--it was a very charming comic narrative of someone who buys fake documentation to come to the US, has a series of mishaps, but eventually makes it to the US alright and has a happy ending. I'm not sure anyone on the panel actually talked about the relationship between conceptual writing and the trajectory of conceptual art. However, there was a major difference between the way Yepez presented his work and the way Taylor and YHCHI presented their work. Yepez spoke very directly about the need for overt political engagement in art, Taylor and YHCHI didn't. Marc Voge said, "We have to admit that we haven't considered these issues." Yepez is a writer, Taylor and YHCHI are not.

I'm paraphrasing, but in a conversation I had afterwards with Joseph Mosconi, he said that it was kind of retro or passe for artists to justify or describe their work in direct political terms. (Joseph, is that what you said? Do you remember? I can't remember the specific word that you used).

So, after that panel, and after hearing Sophie Calle speak last night, part of me was thining about how much I'd love to not have to explain myself, and how much more flexible and fun the visual art world sometimes seems. (Or maybe life is just better for artists in France and LA--that's also quite possible).

On the other hand, I confess that I do become frustrated with writers who, for example, can quote Bataille, Bakhtin, and maybe Baudrillard, but they probably haven't read Guy Debord and know almost nothing about the Frankfurt School. Or if they've read Debord they haven't read Society of the Spectacle. They've studied aesthetics or only the most aesthetic political theory without studying any political theory. Fredric Jameson anyone? Monsieur Louis Pierre Althusser? Horkheimer and Adorno? And really, how is it possible to get through, for example, Judith Butler, and not want to go further into both Marxist theory as well as pyschoanalytic literature. Don't get me started on how we need to read more Freud and Lacan, but people who read a lof of Freud and Lacan are often annoying.

Sticking with the feeling of being annoyed: I get annoyed with art and poetry that can only define itself in terms of a very narrow version of Marxist liberation, and I get annoyed with art and poetry that doesn't address social and economic conditions. I get annoyed with art and poety that addresses social and economic conditions but then can only talk about them in terms of Marxist theory.

So, what to do? Is anyone thinking about these things and fascinated/annoyed with them?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Some New Multiplicities

Mark has posted round one of a conversation that we've been doing with Joseph Mosconi about multiplicity and interdiciplinary art.

It has nothing to do with Ron Silliman's idea of the post-avant, but you should read it and comment.

Unrelated, but today's horoscope is helpful for once: "So it sounds odd to your dear ones that you've decided to pursue a career in medieval feng shui. So what? Are they going to pay your bills, or are you?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This week I can feel every little vibration. If a large truck goes down the highway, I can tell. If my neighbors downstairs take a quiet little step or take a shower, I can feel it. My sensory processing is haywire and accurate. I just went outside, down the stairs, and across to another building in the apartment complex because I could hear that someone left the outdoor hose barely on and that water was dripping out of it. I wish someone would do some balanced research on PMS and sensory processing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sonic Booms at the Beach

Someone was making early Valentines:

It's warm here, even for San Diego. Mark and I went to the beach. This is the (gasp!) fourth January we've lived here, and the first time we've ever been to the beach in January. Other than hearing several sonic booms, all was peaceful. Was it the military? Probably. Fireworks or other random exploding things? Possibly--the San Diego Chargers are playing now.

Anyway, the tide was super low, and all that packed sand makes a great natural dance floor

Friday, January 09, 2009

“Lorraine is a very uncertain quantity, my dear.”

“You wear the costume of Lorraine,” he ventured.

“Is it not pretty? I love it. Alone in the house I always wear it, the scarlet skirts banded with black, the velvet bodice and silver chains—oh! He has broken my chain, too!”

He leaned on his gun, watching her, fascinated with the grace of her white fingers twisting her hair.

“To think that you should have first seen me so! What will they say at the Chateau Morteyn?”

“But I shall tell nobody,” laughed Marche.

“Then you are very honourable, and I thank you. Mon Dieu, they talk enough about me—you have heard them—do not deny it, Monsieur Marche. It is always, ‘Lorraine did this, Lorraine did that, Lorraine is shocking, Lorraine is silly, Lorraine—’ O Dieu! Que sais’je! Poor Lorraine!”

“Poor Lorraine,” he repeated solemnly. They both laughed outright.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lester Friday--er, Thursday

In cheesy, Photoshopped watercolor:

And bonus snow bunting!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Failed Attempt at Being Chill

I went to a restorative yoga class this evening to "relax." It was a great class, but I don't relax well unless I'm physically exhausted. Next time I'll do the vinyasa class beforehand. I was rather cynical, I even hated the asanas I typically like: twists were irritating, and I remained congested for the entire class. When I rolled into fetal pose after savasana, I thought, "fuck this pose. I hate it. It's uncomfortable. I don't want to be metaphorically born again into the world."

It's my overall mood today. I'm happy, but any time I've attempted to be introspective has resulted in some rather fierce, uncomplicated hostility. Tra la la la la!

Monday, January 05, 2009

It was one of those moments when I wished that I had a wig that looks nearly exactly like my natural hair.

Today I went into pick up my paycheck at the EFL school where I teach--though I'm taking a term off right now. I chatted with my coworkers and a few of my former students, and was reminded of a reoccurring conversation I've had with many students about English and it's relationship to immigrant and diverse ethnic communities. Most of my students live with host families in Oceanside, and some of those host families are bilingual--they speak Spanish, or Tagalog, for example, in addition to English. Beyond their host families, students quickly learn that there is a wide spectrum of English spoken in the United States: what they hear with their families and on the street (or in this case, in the mall, since one can't really be "on the street" or "in the street" here in San Diego county) is not necessarily the same thing that they'll hear in my class. Moreover, there are massive discrepancies even between textbooks and the way different teachers speak. This drives some of them crazy and makes them really, really angry. For other students, it becomes a chance for them to think about the continuums that exist in their own languages.

I think all the time about how Spanish as a language is practically mainstream here in San Diego county. There are obviously a lot of native Spanish speakers, but almost everyone here speaks some Spanish, and a huge percentage of place names or names for geographical features are Spanish, or English versions of Spanish, or Spanish versions of native American. There are taco shops on every other corner. White people order tamales for Christmas. At the same time, though, there's a neurotic denial of the extent to which all of this non-WASPy culture really is mainstream. I think San Diego identifies with both LA and Tijuana, but doesn't really know what to do about it, because it also identifies with Dallas and Atlanta.

A few months ago, I started incorporating an activity into my EFL classes called "Random Vocabulary." It's pretty simple. Every morning, students bring any words or phrases that they've heard, or think they've heard, to class, and we discuss them. This means that they bring in a lot of slang--the word "güero" is one that surfaces every few months. The slang tends to fall into some basic categories: surfer slang, Spanish words, Bay area hip hop slang, and general suburban or valley-girl slang.

I've been thinking about my own use of Englishes and languages other than English in my writing. I want to use Spanish, French, and Chinese because these are all languages I've spoken at various points in my life, though I'd never claim to be fluent in any of them. But I have a great deal of anxiety about it, being more or less white and more or less solidly middle class. (Isn't anxiety my default emotion?)

Almost no one will speak Spanish with me here, and those that do are almost always either new to town, wealthy, or else extremely marginal--the workers waiting for the bus who don't actually have enough money for the bus but who can usually count on getting a ride anyway. It's easier to find people to speak French with, but I confess I've never found a way of using French in my work without it feeling tonally pretentious, so I need to work harder on that. And Chinese, well, a lot of the sound play in my work is based on Chinese, pronunciation, although I don't know if anyone can tell except for me. I'd like to incorporate it visually, but, again, I haven't found a way of doing it that feels right :

当我是十五,我从墨西哥城搬到广州,中国,我在法国学校学习八个月. That feels really pretentious, and I don't even know if my grammar is correct.

I've been thinking, too, about a slightly tipsy conversation I had with Jasper Bernes at the New Years Eve party. He said "Viva Hamas!" and I said "why viva? Why not yay or power to or yalla or something like that?" I have complicated thoughts about Hamas--it's a terrorist organization, a government, and a social services organization. But my feelings about Hamas aside, there is, of course, no reason not to say "viva" anything, except that at midnight at a party in a beautiful house in the Berkeley Hills, our conversation struck me as rather hilarious.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I still have hives. And now I have a sore throat. Yes, I'm getting sick.

I took the train and my bike to pick up Lester today, it rained, but only I got wet. There's an amazon parrot named Laura who lives in the waiting room of the vet where Lester boards. While I was preparing to take Lester home, Laura climbed down to the bottom of her cage and got under the paper, just like Lester does. As it happened, Lester was also under the paper at the bottom of his cage. Laura began to talk and sing. Not one to be shown up, Lester also began to go through his repertoire. Eventually, Laura started to laugh, and then Lester laughed, and then everyone in the waiting room laughed. This went on for several minutes. It was, indeed, hilarious.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Today is my father's birthday! Happy Birthday, Padre!

I have hives, probably from the fabulous dim sum I ate with Lisa and Bill on Sunday. No doubt my very overexcited socializing is contributing as well. But other than that I feel quite good. I head back to San Diego tomorrow. Once I'm settled, I'll try to make sense of some of my notes from the conference and the readings. I've met people I wanted to meet, hung out with people I already knew and liked, and spent some quality time with old friends and with family. After much poetry and socializing, and many late nights out, and a thoroughly enjoyable New Year's Eve party, I'm feeling a bit sated and ready to go home.