Thursday, November 29, 2007

E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S curated by TOM BECKETT


E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S: The First XI Interviews, Curated by Tom Beckett
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2007)

Willing to Risk

Art (and sometimes the art reviewer) are usually transfixed on a butterfly pin, around which each static piece of art revolves in carefully controlled perspective). The joy of E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S is the movement of innovation brought to the book by the unique energy of each extraordinary artist.

Most of the artists interviewed in E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S are interviewed by Tom Beckett. The interviews offer a personal and intimate transcript of our finest avant artists (but no -- by the time I write this, the avant garde will morph mad mutate…). For the most part, these experimentalists are kinder than artists in the commercial world. They have helped each other: They have brainstormed, shared their skills, collaborated, critiqued, argued for just the right shade of umber, and supported each other on the daring artworks they undertook. I suppose, if you choose to set off to explore the uncharted regions of the Yukon, trail companions are a necessity.

Life at new frontiers, not always friendly ones, is the common lot of our interviewees. It takes courage to bring forth an art that is your deepest longing and few others want in the world. After building, After Taxes , his complex abstract masterwork, Thomas Fink warns, “I’m serious when I insist that how one conventionalizes one’s work is dependent in what one is willing and unwilling to risk.”

As for the individual artists, with each interview, the astute Tom Beckett and guest interviewers examine the work of each poet. One of the bonuses of this book is that it provides a selection of 8–10 poems by each interviewee. The poems are richer and more meaningful for the reader due to this intelligent arrangement. The interviews also provide a wealth of “shop talk” from experts in each of these poetic forms, so that the reader is schooled in the art which follows.

The interviews range from synoptic to the detail of a rhyme. Sheila Murphy’s discussion of feminism is born from the natural word play in the titles of her two collections, A Clove of Ginger and Falling in Love with You Falling with You Syntax (Selected and New Poems). Murphy examines her clove -- ginger? garlic? -- expanding it, using the poets rhyming prerogative, “why not love, glove”. She defends her expansions: “One way in which you joyce(ce)-full fully expand linguistics surprise is to develop new words -- for example, mooncoism, Harvard as adverb, musclshiritng….”

Beckett asks Jean Vengua which road she takes when she starts a poem. The road implies externality, and for the writer? There are roadblocks, obstacles, mediations. She writes, “I wish to shake it off, this meditation, through the direct experience of writing. And I think 'mediation' is one of those problems. . . of existing with various frameworks of knowledge, and assumptions that are sort of written on my skin. No -- not just shake off but to become aware of it, to see it for what it is, not direct experiences, because that isn’t possible, but to see,… “

As Crag Hills’s essential SCORE VISPO keeps Vispo alive, it now accepts audio submissions and lineated work. Like the valiant SPORE/SCORE, other magazines fight to keep homes for VISPO. Interviewed by Ron Silliman and Crag Hill, Geof Huth fields some of there technical and aesthetic queries. Asked how he would describe creating a visual poem, he provides the metaphor of a mixing board. “A visual poem requires evaluation from a number of perspectives at once.” The mixing board of his creation would include three input channels working in concert with and in opposition to each other. Huth continues to further describe how these valences may be use for images, the verbal content of the poem, photographs, photograph encases, embedded images and concrete images.

Nick Piombino, with passion for time and psychoanalysis (we hope his shrink has a generous session timer!) was central to the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E movements, with collaborators like Patti Smith, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Bernstein, Anne Waldman and Ed Friedman. Piombino’s interests ranges from visual poetry to his current involvement in the Electronic Poetry Center, and a childhood in.erest in aphorisms, The latter, he confesses, was born of his Catholicism, Despite turning away from the faith, the poetic interest in the form remains.

Here a poet’s warning From Contradicta:

To be an artist is to be forever hungry for things thing you have never tasted, to reliantly search for things you have never seen and can’t understand, to relently and warmly welcome back the most confused, lonely and unfair part of yourself and the world -- all for the singular joy of having something you can only experience by releasing it.

Describing his evolution as an artist, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen spoke of being happy and prepared for new directions. And the signal step toward that was “to give up using existing works by other poets.” Kervinen accepted the paradox of giving up poetry and poetic format to seek what was truly his own. Today Kervinen maintains many web logs and websites, leaving a unique legacy for the computer poets who have followed him.

An inflatable deer head on a magazine cover may seem too avant for us; it is the grist for the Google poetry mill for K. Silem Mohammad. The use of Internet and email are a form of “dyraphism,” a word Charles Bernstein coined from congenital diseases, to mean a prosodic device. Mohammad explores the Internet for language without out the usual characteristics -- euphony, sense, syntax. Still, Mohammad is intrigued by sequence, even if it does tamper with the stochastic processes with which he is creating his infinitely random Google verse.

Stephen Paul Miller. To introduce this interviewee, I’ve chosen a poem of Miller’s. I think this verse demonstrates the power of simple words. You can, of course, read the full interview and poetics discussion, as well as the collection of poem, in the books.
April 03
Notes on a song

There’s only one guy in Iraq
who wants George Bush
to take over their country
and become their boss, and
that guy’s an idiot, my six-year son
                Noah says at the Burger King’s
Glass wall facing planes taking off.
                And landing

                Noah says walking
To our gate. “Yes”
“George Bush is a murderer”
                “I know”

                At the security entrance an
airline worker makes a guard laugh and
I point to a sign
Discouraging “joke,”
The guard smiles.

On the plane Noah says Murderer
Has two E R’s in a row. It’s like singng.

We are glad that the gifted poets Barbara Jane Reyes and Pablo Javier, not only survived the brutalization of their MFA programs but, have lived to discuss their new work. The new books mark the dawn of a new educational and publishing opportunities for Filipino-Americans. Both authors are unveiling second books. Still, the difficulties at Bard and colleges known for experimental, open programs are distressing. Barbara Jane Reyes’ book is poeta en san francisco (TinFish) and Paolo Javier’s is 60 lv bo{e)mbs.

Woman of opposites, delicious blogger, award winning poet, socially concentrated citizen. And she is posed this question: Beckett asked Eileen Tabios: “What does poetry mean to you?” Tabios answered, “It depends on the color of the sky,” explaining, “I would like no seam between how I live and how I write my poems.” Some of Tabios’ poems deal with autism, and she is a champion among Filipino writers battling to shake the restrictions on their educations and advancement. Unabashedly political, she states: “My goal is that the reader ends up also becoming interested in the social-political-concerns that interest me.”

A neologism offered by Tabios has entered my vocabulary and I believe it will have wide parlance. At least, in our age, we hope that it will. It is a hybrid of the words poetry and ethic. Poethic. A word to be remembered in those journeys to the edge of art, where it may stand between the racy and cheap commercial choice and the heart’s true expressive need.


Larissa Shmailo has been published in Fulcrum, Rattapallax, Drunken Boat, Big Bridge, Naropa’s We, and many other publications (please see for a complete listing). Her CD, The No-Net World, has been heard on radio stations and the Internet around the world. Larissa translated the Russian Futurist opera Victory over the Sun by A. Kruchenych; a DVD of the original English-language production is part of the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. She recently contributed translations to the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry to be published by Dalkey Archive Press. She is a director of TWiN Poetry, an informal collective of 7,000 audio poets and public coordinator for Fulcrum.

1 comment:

Tom Beckett said...

Thank you, Larissa, for your review. I want to make one small note though: the word "poethics" was coined by Joan Retallack. I strongly recommend her book of critical writing, _The Poethical Wager_(University of California Press, 2003).