Attention Span 2012 | Corina Copp
Georg Büchner, trans. Michael Hamburger | Lenz | Frontier | 1969
Read last summer in one go on a yellow metal bench, and again this. The tear of self-preservation and hopelessness…night torments…pages of descript on the crumbling of a natural composition…read after I got up from the bench that a key term from Celan’s Meridian speech is “majestas,” Latin for “sovereignty,” “Medusa’s head”; after this is the crumbling bit: “I saw two girls sitting on a stone; one of them was unfastening her hair, the other was helping her. Her golden hair hung down; a grave, pale face, and yet so young, and the black dress and the other one so anxiously busying herself. The finest, most intimate pieces of the German school can hardly give us an idea of what this scene was like. Sometimes one would like to be a Medusa’s head, so as to be able to transform such a group into stone and show it to people.” So, to recognize that motive, artistic impulse as a will to power. But the face of stone as it actually shifts through light and dark throughout Lenz’s wandering/madness/”atheism” is the ultimate, quietist joke.
Tina Darragh | A(Gain)2st the Odds | Potes & Poets | 1989
So late I know! Hadn’t read this one, and Erica Kaufman corrected that, gifting it to me in Jan. Love Darragh, and thinking about her especially now in proto-concept literary climate (of course and glad to see her in the Les Figues I’ll Drown My Book) and re: intensified (for some) political engagement. “late 1800s | with the specialization of / labor, ‘unemployment’ is / seen as distinct from ‘idle,’ / except during worker strikes.” [...] “you must have a machine to think,” then, “you think better with a machine”. Her nonfiction and science sources distilled to great effect…and of course all related in her thoughtful and light-handed way; reminds me of some WPA/Federal Theatre Project plays…e.g., entire scripts made in the 1930s from newspaper clippings on farm policy. Darragh is less pointed, questioning user passivity and collisions of self and culture production.
Marguerite Duras | Duras by Duras | City Lights | 1987
Marguerite Duras, trans. Richard Seaver | The Ravishing of Lol Stein | Pantheon | 1986
Marguerite Duras, trans. Barbara Bray | The Malady of Death | Grove | 1994
I’m deep in a Marguerite Duras kind of way. Working on three performance texts based on her work (might take some years!), and am calling the trilogy The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, which is lifted from a Le Monde blurb on the back of The Malady of Death. Duras by Duras I came across at Unnameable Books—it was pleasantly waiting for me on the table where Adam Tobin & co. subtly set a rotating collection of seemingly whatever strikes. Duras by Duras as a title is a slight misnomer—the book includes critical essays on her work from Blanchot and Lacan, among others, and script fragments of India Song and notes both on that film and her relationship to crossing/inhabiting form(s) in general—this all occurs way outside the “mimetic stage” (or cinema)—making place a condition for listening. Lol Stein also works this way, a character as a doubled space, and she also acts a bit like the stone for Lenz, though more impossible. I can get past (and completely in) the melodramatic tenor/constant despair of Duras (as one of her editors said, “The avant-garde in recent times has had no love story” [hmm])—because she also wrote very basic things like, “A lot of people left the cinema a long time ago. That is why it still goes on” and she worked from that nothing, from standstill.
Lisa Robertson | Nilling | BookThug | 2012
I’m hung up on the first essay, “Time in the Codex.” For some reason in my reading (“leaning into chiaroscuro”), I kept replacing terms—”the small inconspicuous track of no-time” renders time as qualified by what’s visibly left pretty moot, perhaps what she means by “invisible.” I thought “unowned” for “inconspicuous,” though not the same. “Her autonomy undoes itself and disperses into a devotedly plural materiality. Her identifications are small revolutions and also the potent failures of revolutions. She is free to not appear.” (Rather than a resistance to subjectivity.) I think by “revolutions,” LR means “turning in the ruin” and by “potent” she means potential. And overall feel that it’s not the object (a book) I should be so afraid of, though the “material infinite of the fold” is a nice reminder that maybe I should be. But a misread. “When will desire replace identification?” Hopefully soon, personally. Later I reread The Men with all of this in mind…learning to read Robertson is to be less entranced (by the language, the permission, the agility) and to see it all as more reasonable, and by reasonable I mean accurate. So often we/I look at accuracy in close relation to more minimalist or compressed texts, so a luxurious break.
Keith Tuma | On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes | Salt | 2011
Absolutely enjoyable read from Tuma, who seems to conceive of gossip as a space to mine for integrity, can you imagine—written on sabbatical, On Leave looks at the history and meaningfulness of the anecdote, and is personal without any cloy whatsoever. Anecdotes used to be strings of facts! We were interested in their material! There was no wit! (My exclamations.)
Lorine Niedecker | Homemade Poems | CUNY Lost & Found Poetics Document Initiative | 2012
Chuck Stebleton bought me a copy of this at the CUNY Chapbook Festival, after he saw my empty pockets, and somehow it was all I took home. So grateful for these poems’ newfound tangibility that I might even try writing one by hand sometime.
Denise Riley | “A Part Song” | London Review of Books (link - sub only) | 2012
Must champion Riley’s first publication of poetry in a decade (has since been followed by a book-length essay about the death of her son, Time Lived, Without Its Flow [Capsule Editions]).
Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez | The Femicide Machine | Semiotext(e) | 2012
I saw Rodriguez give a talk after I read this book, and realized that a formal intention of The Femicide Machine was to stall a differentiation between journalism and literature, something I didn’t pick up while reading it. Certainly it’s all fact, what’s going on in terms of institutionalized oppression, public space as hunting ground, electoral-level aggression against women, and on and on in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Bodies of women are being reduced to a medium between cartels and police; rather than average daily violence against women being committed by people they know, we’re dealing with second-tier violence—crimes against women being committed by people in power. Discusses state responses, art-world response, border-town associations with contraband, how arms, drugs, people, become equivalent. And importantly in a broader sense, how to counter morbid fascination and engage with culture as space for solidarity.
Doris Lessing | The Golden Notebook | Harper Collins | 1962
The leveling of formations of political thought with banal personal desires on Lessing’s part…a constant enacting of talk about writing and composition itself, even as the narrative circles a familiar base feeling…the primary fondness for hyperreal behavior and perspective…the ongoing joke about which friend would have killed the other if only ten years prior or which fresh young revolutionary will be first to fossilize, a nearing to love but never quite…”I feel what I felt with sleeping Michael, a need to laugh out in triumph, because of this marvelous, precarious, immortal human being, in spite of the weight of death”; it’s all a somewhat-gorgeous ruse—as complex and dark philosophically, maybe, as the doubling in a Duras story but structured to be comprehensible—fuck, it’s almost alienating (in the best theoretical way); at the least it’s clever. Again late to the party, by about fifty years.
Corina Copp is most recently the author of Pro Magenta/Be Met(Ugly Duckling, 2011), with publications forthcoming from Bad Press, Minutes Books, and Trafficker. An excerpt of her play The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, Part 1: SUSANSWERPHONE can be read at The Claudius App 3 and will be presented in October at the PRELUDE.12 Festival. She lives in Brooklyn.
This is Corina Copp’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.