Solid Quarter

Visit Trembling Pillow Press for poetry books, broadsides, chapbooks, and Solid Quarter Magazine.

Visit New Orleans Poetry Fest for the annual 4 day poetry festival directed by Bill Lavender and Megan Burns.

Megan Burns' Poeticsofbone&city project on Tumblr

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doll Baby: A Tale

Everyone has a story about a doll:

these babies came wrapped up like little mummies

 each with its own piece of webbing: cocooned

 asleep, waiting to be something different

coming out of the dark box, the grey gauze lovingly taped down
to be an object desired again

when do we enjoy the gaze, 
at the moment of looking
or of looking away

when the lights flash and dim in the bedroom
as I unwrap you
are you speaking to me
what are you saying
our deep silences together

sacred in the piece
and then of things we shall not speak about

floundering in this deep water
what will happen will not be gentle
words as they carve down to bone
but about beauty, less than
but about the caress of eyes upon
more so, and I will pour out 

                       (religious tract packed in the box about being saved)

at the bottom//belief 
be not unbelieving
 make// you// something// to// sing// about

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dario Robleto at NOMA

There are some obvious reasons why I like Robleto's work, but it's not all bones. His exhibit Prelives of the Blues has a wide range of displays, but the core of what he is doing is always manifested in the words that describe how these final projects came to be. I find that a bit fascinating that as an artist, part of the art lies in the telling. For instance, the making of the bone sculptures below. Not in the why, but in the how: so a very specific kind of telling.

I'm also intrigued by the title of the show: "Prelives." What is a prelife and how do these objects created after the fact inhabit the space of "pre." In a way, it's as though Robleto moves through time as a seer and is assuring us that in fact he can pull the template from the final: the end song. So that his works pre-date what we know temporally as the "blues" or more specifically what ends in song and rhythm. I think too, being shown in New Orleans, the show is confronting a historical attachment to the blues and its place in this region with a completely new approach to what we think of when we think 'blues.'  Robleto is attempting to tread in that space that comes from-- but in a more spiritual sense dwells before-- in the heart of what makes the magic of the blues resonate so deeply. Why else would one do these incredible complicated structures. Why would one play Muddy Waters to seashells for 48 hours, if not for the fact that it allows one to sit in the space of construction. The patient, meditative space that allows the subtext of sound and experience to begin to dictate a new way of seeing. Robleto is a poet in that sense, traveling in obscure lands and returning with a translated language that he then builds for us to also walk those paths. Here the language is of bone:

I like too that these two pieces are companion pieces, but this is the first time that they have been shown together. The hands are under glass while the pelvis is exposed (albeit protected by alarm if you get too close). I like to imagine them in conversation deep in the night held in the belly of the park and it's slumber music.

As we should, since the pieces desire our continued involvement in the drama of their post-blues lives. For instance, what of these seashells paired and then separated after being exposed to 48 hours of music by particular musicians? Aren't they being forced to hold the echo, to engage in a call and response that is at the heart of the blues, to be both in a state of longing and yet imbued with the particular mode of release from that sorrow. Aren't we all inhabited by loss that is shaped by the music that makes up our particular formations? Music in that sense is the medium excised from time, able to contain the past when we hear it and also in the initial hearing able to project a future-- in one sense, pre-lived in its very conception.

More information about Robleto and his exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art:

Video by Doug Maccash of Robleto discussing his bone sculptures: 

June 1st: Lecture by Dario Robleto at NOMA

NOMA's press release for the exhibit: The Prelives of the Blues

Exhibition highlights:

Inspired by Robleto’s autobiography, Sin was in Our Hips, 2001-2001, consists of male and female pelvic
bones made of bone dust that was ground together with melted vinyl from his mother and father’s Rock ‘n’ Roll record collection. The piece refers to the importance of Rock music to his parents’ generation, and music’s role in his own conception.

The series, Melancholy Matters Because of You, 2010, was conceived as a “B-Side” companion to the piece Sin Was in Our Hips, and the works will be exhibited together for the first time. Melancholy explores the transference of music across generations and is comprised of bone dust combined with melted vinyl and shellac records, and shaped into fetal hand bones (using his grandmother’s 78 rpm vinyl records), adolescent hand bones (made from his mother’s 45 rpm vinyl records), and adult hand bones (made from artist’s 33 rpm vinyl records).

The Sun Makes Him Sing Again (Brown), 2012, is a new piece inspired by funk singer James Brown. For the past two years, Robleto has been making cyanotypes focusing on the creative process of songwriters. In these pieces, he exposes original handwritten lyrics by deceased pop stars, using sunlight to illuminate the songwriters’ words. In this new piece, Robleto creates a cyanotype using original notes written by James Brown. The Sun resurrects Brown’s moment of inspiration, when he inscribed his lyrics onto the page.

Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens, 2012, is a new work inspired by New Orleans. Part of one of Robleto’s most recent bodies of work, this constellation of stars is comprised of the stage lights from various record album covers. Focusing on the lights that once illuminated musicians in the midst of their performances, the piece pays homage to moments of musical creation. In this new work, Robleto draws from albums that relate to the rich history of New Orleans music.

About Dario Robleto

Robleto, a native of San Antonio, Texas, has become internationally known for his use of unusual materials, instilled with conceptual significance. The subjects and materials he uses express his interest in history, music, and universal human desires. Past works have included dinosaur bones, wartime memorabilia such as bullets, letters, hair wreaths, and carefully chosen melted vinyl records and audiotapes.
His work has been the focus of numerous of solo exhibitions, most recently at Des Moines Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston. His pieces are in museum collections across the United States, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Chapbook from Dancing Girl Press

a city/ bottle boned by Megan Burns

I'm very happy that this chapbook came out on Bob Dylan's birthday. So happy I sang Song to Woody last night at 17 Poets! after reading some Bernadette Mayer poems to celebrate May Birthday poets. Some other May Birthday poets that were read aloud by our community of writers included Robert Creeley, Robin Blaser, Theodor Roethke, Arthur Cravan and others.

There's a great Jacket essay on Arthur Cravan and his relationship to Mina Loy here. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Claude Cahun: Aveux non avenus

from Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions (translated by Susan de Muth) originally published in Paris, 1930 and limited to 500 copies (translated & published by MIT press, 2007)

Translator's note: "The reader will note that two titles are proposed in this edition, the original Aveux non avenus presenting an abundance of possible meanings, allusions, associations etc. that neither Disavowals nor Cancelled Confessions fully conveys" (XVIII).

From the introduction by Pierre Mac Orlan: "I think that adventure here is, by its very nature, interior; but it is presented to us in a series of cinematic glimpses which insists on the cerebral, rather than the plastic, nature of the enterprise" (XXIV).

From translator Agnes Lhermitte who assisted Susan de Muth in this translation: "Claude Cahun's 'poem-essays and essay-poems' (as described by Mac Orlan) do not claim to construct either the psychology of a person or the narrative of her life, but imply 'the invisible adventure' of a scalpel's investigations into the dark zones of the psyche, the painful gaping of a cracked being" (XXI).

Section I

"I welcomed young monsters into myself and nurtured them. But the make-up I had used seemed indelible. I rubbed so hard to remove it that I took off all the skin. And my soul, like a flayed face, naked, no longer had a human form."

Section II
"Tendency to push everything to the absolute, and thus: to the absurd." 

Section V: 
"What does a well behaved child dream about, apart from the inhumane, the monstrous, the impossible? The ordinary."

Section VI

"it is only when we resign ourselves to necessary partialities, 
that we can allow our mask's moulds to set" 

Section VII

Section VIII

"May the birds not expect any speeches about aviation from me."

Section IX
"Angels with patched wings, sails: flirtations, last-minute modesties...let's use up heaven down to the dregs, the verb down to the insult, the espadrille and the lyre down to the last string."

Post Note:
"If the adventuress has managed to get rid of the whole paraphernalia of facts, has made herself invisible man and invisible woman, it's due to the indispensable collaboration of the reader" -Claude Cahun, from Ephémérides

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pierre Joris on Paul Celan: poetry, politics, & translation

Pierre Joris on Paul Celan in the 21st Century:

[Film Description from Youtube: A video recorded at the Edison-Newman Room, Houghton Library, (Harvard Nov. 2011) with a multimedia show, produced by Nicole Peyrafitte, the event integrates a range of elements including live narrative and translated poems, and a slideshow of visual materials including photographs, manuscript pages, etchings by Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, historical documents and other relevant and resonant materials. ]

This video captures Pierre Joris' nearly life-long engagement with Paul Celan's poetry and politics. He begins with an introduction to Celan's life and work and explains his relationship with Celan's poems from his earliest memory: a "cutting into the soul" memory, that begins his long relationship with Celan's words. Joris goes on to describe his history of translating Celan along with his meeting of Celan's wife and their subsequent relationship. Joris says he once said to her in regards to allowing more Celan translations to emerge: "Let 1,000 translations bloom."

This is not just a lecture on Celan poetics; this is an example of how 20th century poetry is ushered into our 21st century and how our current technologies can be used to breathe a form of "new life" into the poems. Maybe not "new life" but certainly a new form of living, a new way of getting readers excited and interested in this work, which itself is timeless. This multimedia presentation with films edited and produced by Nicole Peyrafitte captures the viewer's gaze on many levels, from the cerebral deconstruction of the word at its most basic level in discussing translation to the aesthetic beauty of hearing Celan's words against a visually explorative backdrop with the use of the films. The collage of sound, image, and Joris' live discussion of Celan provides a multiple sensory response to Celan's poetry. Joris' talk is about translation and the presentation itself becomes its own form of translation, creating an amalgam of entries into Celan's work for the novice reader. Celan's poems, Joris attests, are a "threshold," a gate ushering us into the 21st century. It stands to reason then that one way of seeing Celan, of engaging with his work is in this 21st century medium of video, sound, images, and also the amazing opportunity of being present in the audience, (somewhat) at this event via the internet.

It's really beautiful as well to capture the passion and energy (and frustrations) of the translator as Joris really delves into specifics in word construction and language about 45 minutes into the film. This video captures Joris' concentrated involvement in the dissection of Celan's often complicated and exhilarating stretching of what the German language can do and how this informs both the poem and the translator's task. Joris lights up on the stage as he describes the "dark 'o' sounds" and "light 'a' sounds" of the poem "Todtnauberg" and the incredible task of ushering the poet Celan into the english language in this our 21st experience of his imperative works.

But I'll let Pierre Joris tell you:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Power, Minstrel Shows & Nicki Minaj Masks

The Nicki Minaj Project is not an attempt to discover a truth, but an attempt to gain entry into a mirage. 
As it shifts, we lose focus and yet a horizon is a plane of stability. What is this new trend of white privileged poets using the mask of inner-city gangsta rap to infuse their poetry with a sense of street and music? What is the mask and how tightly does it constrict? When one voice rises to the top, how many others fall silent? I am not interested in answers but in constrictions. I am not interesting in layers, but in a sheen of glossy images. I am not attempting to convey but attempting to collage to the point of distortion so the underneath can become a point of excavation. I am not interested in forgetting the discomfort of America as images of residents from New Orleans were led by gun point from the Superdome in August of 2005 in an attempt to rescue/ resist/ contain/ cage/ control/ suppress/ save/ or where does the line of discontent draw itself in the sand. 

“Fantasies are my reality”- N.M.

“Man, in effect, knows how to play with the mask as that beyond which there is the gaze.”
                  –Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Pyscho-Analysis

“Assuming power is no simple process […] for power is not mechanically reproduced when it is assumed. Instead, on being assumed, power runs the risk of assuming another form and direction.”
                                             –Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power

“black minstrels could initially not but reaffirm the ‘distorted black spectre already dominating the stage'  and offer white audiences a kind of ‘comfort and resistance’ in their beliefs about blacks’ natural inferiority”
                                                 –Mel Watkins, On the Real Side: Laughing, Lying, and Signifying—The Underground Tradition of African American Humour that Transformed American Culture, from Slavery to Richard Pryor

Huggins notes that black performers “tried to use the stereotype as an instrumental satire” by distancing themselves from damaging representations through exaggeration. (Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem Renaissance)     -" Of Blackface and Paranoid Knowledge: Richard Wright, Jacques Lacan, and the Ambivalence of Black Minstrelsy" by Mikko Tuhkanen

“I say girls are beautiful and girls are sexy and they need to be told that, and if they don’t have anyone to tell them that and mean it, I’m gonna tell them that.”   -N.M. 

What is the line between beauty and absurdity, the mask of the ideal and the undercover where the mask slips and the last line of defense becomes an attack. When the character of the character and then the character: Note my expression. Note my facial expression. Note my expression in contrast to what I deliver. Note my expression in contrast to the body. Note my expression. 

"swollen clitties wander cities/ shadow and conventions from/ the whole of photography" 
                                                       -Rachel Blau Duplessis, Draft 48, Being Astonished

object: central complex for the collision
to interpret alone or in a group
at the rate at which outside of the mind
& begins to order the external 
cut down and formed by the first impression
whittled away by every subsequent thought

body-in-pieces vs. body without pieces

tangled in the trespass place

              lips against

a line not unknotted