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Attention Span 2012 | Anselm Berrigan

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Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge | 2011

Sure it can.

Anne Boyer | My Common Heart | Spooky Girlfriend | 2011

Totally opened up when I read it back to front, which set me up more acutely for the logics of its arrangement. The voicing structures morph under their surfaces in all these odd ways.

Hoa Nguyen | As Long As Trees Last | Wave | 2012

As the dude in Masked & Anonymous said, “sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean. Sometimes you gotta know what things don’t mean”

Joe Brainard | Collected Writings | Library of America | 2012

“Everything that has ever existed has been reproduced in miniature by someone, at sometime.”

Leslie Scalapino | Way | North Point | 1988

Read this along with The Descent of Alette (A. Notley) and Douglas Oliver’s The Infant & The Pearl in the late fall. All long poems coming out of the $$-bleak mid-late eighties. Major shit. Condescension-free ambition for the work to be large.

Fred Moten | B Jenkins | Duke | 2009

The last time I did one of these lists I put this book on it. But I keep reading it and reading it, probably more than anything else in the past few years, and every time I open it up again, it totally opens up again. So there’s that.

Maged Zaher | Thank You for the Window Office | Ugly Duckling | 2012

The main reason I’m doing this list is because I’m reading this book right now.

Lunar Chandelier Press

Lunar Chandelier has put out books by John Godfrey, Toni Simon, Lynn Behrendt, Vyt Bakaitis, and Joe Elliot since it started up in 2010. High quality reads and objects. No bullshit, no program. You can tell the work is cared for.

Camille Roy | Sherwood Forest | Futurepoem | 2011

Dynamic diction triggering layers of invitation. Makes me want to write.

Mary Burger | Then Go On | Litmus | 2012

Lent this to someone who won’t give it back.

Murat Nemet-Nejat | The Spiritual Life of Replicants | Talisman | 2011

I put down something about this book being a total breakthrough for the present art, on the levels of feeling bringing about events and speculative sensory observation, and that’s the way I feel about it.

Arlo Quint | Death to Explosions | Skysill | forthcoming 2013

Wrote about Quint for the Boston Review not so long ago. Now his first book should be out sometime soon. The thing I’m wanting the most to be in the world. I love listening to Quint’s work.

Michael Robbins | Alien Vs. Predator | Penguin | 2012

The only thing this book is missing is a Tebow moment, and maybe a podcast on betting lines with Cousin Sal.

Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011

Fabulous propulsion.

Note: all of Kevin Varrone’s baseball poem Box Score: An Autobiography is amazing. There’s a chapbook, but I can’t find it, because some kid hid it somewhere.

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Anselm Berrigan‘s contributions to Attention Span for 2010200920072004. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Matvei Yankelevich

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Sergio Chejfec, tr. Margaret Carson | My Two Worlds | Open Letter | 2008

I just found out about Chejfec at the ALTA conference this October, and am very pleased. This is a writer’s writer, translated by a translator’s translator. I strolled through this “novel” as slowly as the novelist recounts his walk, feeling each comma as a cobblestone in the park of prose. It’s a beautiful, understated work; likewise the translation.

Paul Stephens, Jenelle Troxell, Robert Hardwick Weston, eds. | Convolution No. 1 | Fall 2011

This magazine, the magazine of my dreams, situates itself in the trajectory of the Evergreen Review (of the ‘Pataphysics issue), The New Freewoman, and The Little Review. But it’s an update to something modern, beautifully produced, designed to enhance thought. This issue, if you can find it, has weird stuff on Duchamp, a Bob Brown reproduction, a fascinating essay by Nancy Tewksbury on Xu Bing, an interview with Charles Bernstein, a cool manifesto on “Patacriticism by Paul Stephens, and some really cool looking essays and art that I still have to get my head around. The editors have an incredible vision for what a magazine could be. It may be a little too hip in places (slight pieces by Sarah Crowner, Craig Dworkin); but it’s super relevant for the moment and engaging as hell—both conceptually and materially—to sit with and thumb through.

Steven Zultanski | Agony | Book Thug | 2012

This is a long lyric poem, a kind of sur-literal autobiography, from the author of Pad and Cop Kisser. My blurb couldn’t fit on the back of the book, nor even here, so here is just a part of it:

In a manner that parodies and surpasses the lunacy of American pundits, Zultanski leads us on a mathematical journey into the volume of humanity’s tears and saliva exchange in kisses, and the square-footage of breasts and pet-intestines to explore the Markson-esqe, Mobius sociality of the solipsistic self. […] Call it conceptualism, lyricism, the new literality, or agonic financial planning—whatever it is, Agony is not for the faint of heart.

Thom Donovan | The Hole | Displaced | 2012

Through epistolary poems and lots of back-matter (responses, essays, etc.) Donovan engages some current issues raised (very differently) in conceptual works. There’s actual poetry in this, taking up the bulk of it even. I love the whimsy of Michael Cross’s design and the way all the design choices support the process of digging the book as one digs a hole in the ground.

Alan Loney | The Books to Come | Cuneiform | 2012

This is one of the best books I’ve read about books—the reading of books, the making of books, the distribution of books, the hoarding of books, the etc. of books. The writing is precise, modest, laconic, easy. The thoughts are useful, provocative but without pushing any buttons. If you can find the earlier first edition (hard-cover), that’d make it even better.

Fred Moten | Hughson’s Tavern | Leon Works | 2008

This summer, I finally got this book and was very glad I did. Read the music. Note: it’s a thinking music.

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Matvei Yankelevich‘s contributions to Attention Span for 2010 and 2007. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

Attention Span 2012 | Benjamin Friedlander

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Matthew Cooperman | Still | Counterpath | 2011

This year I began reading Walter Savage Landor’s Imaginary Conversations. In one of them, Landor has Michelangelo say, “In our days, poetry is a vehicle which does not carry much within it, but is top-heavy with what is corded on.” Cooperman’s Still yields a retort: “Counterpoint: never the vessel for what’s inside, it’s tidings of thought and who’s drinking with you.” Which sums Landor’s appeal as well as Cooperman’s own, since the play of voices (or really, pronouncements) in Landor’s prose owes all to its ease and flow, a conviviality of form. Cooperman, for his part, has mastered the secret of the list poem—a cording on of things that drift by. His details are keepsakes, not provisions. There’s no stopping to unpack along the way—interiority is a given, but for ballast alone. Meanwhile, the movement forward is incessant, and speedy when needed, even when the vessel grows top-heavy.

Aris Fioretos, trans. Tomas Tranaeus | Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis: An Illustrated Biography | Stanford | 2012

Because of her Nobel Prize—and Holocaust connection—Sachs’s first Schocken collection, O the Chimneys, was the only book of poetry in our house when I was growing up, which means I came to her in the order of most readers before 1980: prior to Paul Celan. Since the order of reading is a chemical process, transformative and irreversible, I count myself lucky for finding Sachs first, undimmed by comparison, and then Celan in light of her. That said, my knowledge of Sachs remained pretty thin over the years. This thick description, produced by the editor of the four-volume Werke (which slipped into print in 2011), gives us a poet celebrated and forgotten before we really learned—by way of Celan—how to read her.

Lawrence P. Jackson | The Indignant Generation: A Narrative of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 | Princeton | 2011

As it happens, two of the poets most important to me—Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks—belong to the generation in question, or began there, so I was overjoyed to find a book so rich and readable on those years, which literary histories generally pass over as mere interval. And certainly the Harlem Renaissance and Black Power eras are more exciting. They’re also more copiously understood and documented—or were. I hope Jackson’s sequels and prequels are under contract.

Henry James | William Wetmore Story and His Friends | Grove | 1957, original edition 1904

Written for money, with much complaining, and little respect for its subject, the Storys, whose children urged on the task, this lapidary account of expatriate life in Italy is far more enjoyable—and more peculiar—than its neglect ever led me to expect. If I’d expected anything: I was hunting down a reference and couldn’t stop. The fretful syntax is typical of late James, but how strange, if not comical, to find it in the service of so pedestrian a genre: the two-volume Victorian “Memoir,” told through letters and diaries, with brief stretches of narrative to carry things forward when the documents tucker out. As a rule, these books have an honorable plainness, setting forth the facts to speak for themselves. But how could such an approach do for James? Investing discretion—that most sociable of virtues—with an antisocial charge, he dulls the shock to a stimulating burr, brushing us with the velvet he draped around his kind.

Paul Legault | The Emily Dickinson Reader | McSweeney’s | 2012

Every Emily Dickinson poem reduced to a single line. These are often wisecracks, material for the back of a class (zombies, really?), but the rest has an acuteness that puts scholarship to shame. And the whole has a destructive ambition worthy of its subject—though Dickinson’s ambition was of course trained higher. But she too relied on the reductio ad absurdum, and she too was given to wisecracks (some of which, drum roll, are now recited in class).

Haki R. Madhubuti | YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life | Third World | 2005

The segregation of taste that our warped institutions promote, with our unthinking help, has kept me for too long from appreciating Madhubuti’s importance. Which is all the more revealing—and mortifying—when I recall my high school enthusiasm for Don L. Lee, as Madhubuti was known before 1975. This book is very much Lee’s story, a tale that rivals Iceberg Slim or Michael Gold in its pulp power. And that would be enough! But it’s also Madhubiti’s tale, which means the story is told with a wisdom pulp only achieves in the hands of a Dostoevsky or Richard Wright—shaped with a gentleness all Madhubuti’s own.

Denise Riley | Time Lived, Without Its Flow | Capsule Editions | 2012

My childhood was a study in parental mourning, with methodical care preferred to expressions of grief, analysis to elegy, perhaps because the quickening of the mind was how grief was let go, temporarily—interest forgetting its struggle with depression. I wouldn’t presume to say the same is true of Riley, only that this remarkable book (not a memoir; a record of interest in one aspect of mourning, its temporality) sustains its care so methodically, grief itself is moved; not to tears, but a clearer perspective.

Lisa Robertson | Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, the Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities and Related Aporias | BookThug | 2012

The dependence of sense on the senses has never been more evident to me than in these essays, which let loose the mind in a world of color and perfume, texture and sound, a world so dizzying, only words can comprehend it unstunned. Making comprehension itself a sensual experience, interrupted now and again by a pang: how dull my own words feel in comparison.

George Saintsbury | A History of English Prosody: From the Twelfth Century to the Present Day | 3 vols. | Macmillan | 1906

Marianne Moore gave Saintsbury two places in her ideal library, as many as Coleridge, more than Plato. So why not, I thought, and requested these volumes from storage. Soon enough, the need to mark passages overcame me, and I acquired a set of my own: age-softened library discards, which I can’t take to bed on account of their smell. How pristine, in contrast, the prose. Bright and liquid as a stream, bubbling over the pebbles of opinion. Which do make for a slippery footing. Better, perhaps, to reach down and take away a charm, cutting one’s own path through the history of verse. Returning, of course, when thirsty.

Gertrude Stein, ed. Logan Esdale | Ida A Novel | Yale | 2012

Stein’s fictions are her flyover states, with Ida my preferred hub. This “workshop edition” (a corrected text with drafts, letters, related pieces, and reviews) took me out of the terminal, into the city. A destination after all!

Rachel Zolf | Neighbour Procedure | Coach House | 2010

There is a madness in thinking the problem of Israel and Palestine can be thought through or sorted out, a philosophical conundrum or puzzle of language; and there’s a despair in thinking that reason has lost its right, leaving all to violence. In Neighbour Procedure, Zolf chooses madness, but yields to despair her suspicion that reason never had a right—only a discourse of ruins, monuments and counter-monuments to hope.

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Benjamin Friedlander’s contributions to Attention Span for 201120102009200820072006200520042003. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

Attention Span 2012 | Omar Berrada

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Georges Didi-Huberman | Ecorces | Minuit | 2011

A beautiful and moving book, where one discovers that maverick philosopher-art historian Georges Didi-Huberman is also a writer of incomparable acuteness and grace. It is an account of his first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau—after having written extensively on the pictures taken by members of the Sonderkommando and their value as testimony. This short book is written as a meditation on pictures the author himself took during his visit. In particular pictures of bits of bark he stripped off from birch trees onsite. Fragments from the surface of reality.

Stacy Doris | Fledge—A Phenomenology of Spirit | Nightboat | 2012

“Since I love I fall down / since a ridge is all that / disintegrates so home”. This year’s heartbreak. So many of us have been mourning Stacy’s passing. I have not yet been able to read this book. Only one or two pages now and then. But I have been taking it with me everywhere, this “bunch of love poems of undying love”.  “Because we don’t make we’re / kin to permanent what / we touch”.

Forrest Gander | Core Samples from the World | New Directions | 2011

A heady exploration of languages and topographies via interweavings of poems, micro-essays, and photographs. A virtuosic voyage of the imagination. “But under their masks of muteness, the visitors go beyond listening to; they listen into”.

Nathalie Léger | Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden | P.O.L | 2012

A wonderfully insightful and well-written, and partly fictional, and largely personal, investigation into the life and work of Barbara Loden and her film/character Wanda. A meditation on life and words, words and image, actors and characters, description and invention, documentary and autobiography. Including a fantastic few pages featuring Mickey Mantle as reader of Proust.

Philippe-Alain Michaud | Flying Carpets (exhibition) | Villa Medici | 2012

This has to be the most stimulating exhibit I have ever been to. Richness of thought spatially unfolding, in the form of echoes between 16th and 17th century carpets, experimental films, paintings and watercolors, and recent art installations. For years now, Philippe-Alain Michaud (curator of film at the Centre Pompidou in Paris) has been exploring alternative genealogies of film freed from the technical apparatus of projection that the 20th century history of cinema as we know it has locked it into. For him, film is not a medium but a set of properties having to do with movement and framing. The present exhibit convincingly looks at carpets (moving surfaces, metaphors for flight, frames for endless motifs) as repositories of these properties, therefore as loci of a proto-cinema.

José Miguel Puerta Vílchez | Historia del pensamiento estético árabe | Akal | 1997 

This is monumental. Because of its size (900 pages) and because of its underlying project: to assume the existence of a tradition of aesthetic thought in Arabic, and to attempt to read it on its own terms (much more rare than you might think) and retrace its history. Two advantages, at least, for the Western (and, to say the truth, the native) reader: studying Arabic civilization through the prism of aesthetics, i.e. away from the usual theological reductions; and discovering alternative conceptualizations of images, of erotics, of beauty or of the sublime.

Equally recommended, in a similar (though less historical and less encyclopedic) vein, Mohammed Hamdouni Alami’s Art and Architecture in the Islamic Tradition—Aesthetics, Politics and Desire in Early Islam (I.B. Tauris, 2011)

Lisa Robertson | Nilling | BookThug | 2012

The essays in this collection are so intelligent and dense that you can spend days with this short book of thrilling definitions and recognitions of the author’s, the reader’s “fall into the luminous secrecy of reading”, where “I am only certain that I think insofar as I read” and “the text I read seeks through me to another text”. “How big is the subject? Quite tiny”, seeing as “contingency is larger than knowledge”. “Why speak of the soul? Capital isn’t secular”, though “time repeatedly donates inexperience to cognition”.

Ryoko Sekiguchi | Ce n’est pas un hasard | P.O.L | 2011

Ryoko Sekiguchi is a Japanese poet living in Paris, who writes both in French and in Japanese. This book is her diary over a period of 7 weeks, starting the day before the Fukushima disaster. “Je le comprends aussi; ce que je suis en train d’écrire, ce n’est pas de la littérature. / C’est un ‘rapport’. / Je dresse un rapport, le plus sincère possible.” Observing Japan from France and France from Japan. Disarming directness and devastating insights.

Truong Tran | dust and conscience | Apogee | 2002

I “discovered” Truong Tran’s work a few months ago, by chance, in a bookstore that had several of his books. I was encouraged by the look of them, and the blurbs, and a few lines read at random.  His sentences have a rhythm of their own, with no punctuation or capitalization, or linebreaks for that matter. What they do have is a lot of biographical directness, at the same time as what the french would call “pudeur”, a certain reticence, in accounting for growing up in America with parents who couldn’t speak English. The author/speaker shows a great simultaneous deal of defiance and tenderness with regard to said parents, affirming a life of his own yet preserving their memory through the very syntax and lexicon of his very virtuosic brand of broken English.

Morad Montazami, ed. | Zamân n°5 | Mekic | 2012

This journal is gorgeous. It is also smart and eclectic, claiming a sort of “heretical orientalism”. This new issue, the fifth, has, among other things, poems by Etel Adnan, an essay on Syrian-German painter Marwan with reproductions of many of his works, a study on poems by victims of the Inquisition found on prison walls in Palermo, delicious Iranian recipes, etc. This fifth issue is in fact the third, as the journal is a continuation, thirty years later, of a journal of the same title (Zamân, which in Persian, and in Arabic, means “time”), edited by the current editor’s father and uncle (Iranians in exile in Paris in the late 70s), and which had only two issues back then. The journal is all in French, though there is one place in the US where it can be found (the Saint Marks Bookshop).

Ghassan Zaqtan, trans. Fady Joudah | Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems | Yale | 2012

One of my regrets for 2012 is to not have met Ghassan Zaqtan at the Poetry Center in San Francisco on April 5. He was not granted a visa to go to the USA. Apparently, poet + Palestinian = dangerous. The event still took place, and Steve Dickison, as always, made it a warm occasion. Ghassan gracefully sent a video of his deep raspy voice, and Fady Joudah read from his beautiful translations to a packed room, in the face of “the absence / that never stops”.

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Omar Berrada’s contributions to Attention Span for 2009. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Suzanne Stein

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Charles Atlas | Hail the New Puritan | Distributed by EAI | 1985-1986

It’s the 80s in post-punk London. This 87-minute “docufantasy” follows the Michael Clark dance company while they’re rehearsing New Puritans—that’s a paraphrase or direct theft of the Wikipedia entry or else the blurb at EAI.  The film is a sunrise-to-sunrise day in the life of Michael Clark and company, via a sequence of camp vignettes and staged scenarios—including a space-age crash pad where it seems the Martians are getting ready to go clubbing—interlaced with studio and full-dress rehearsals; a scripted, subtitled interview with Mark E. Smith and Brix Smith; and, as noted by AD Jameson, assless dance pants. Starring and with choreography by Michael Clark; sets and costumes by Leigh Bowery; music by The Fall. Pure Charles Atlas, with signature intercuts, still snaps, cinema vérité views and jumpy mixes. Gorgeous, mesmerizing, and seductive; virtuosity in abandon. I wandered into the media galleries at work for a ten minute break early this summer and emerged an hour and a half later, purified, like I drunk myself sober.

A clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBqi3UvYTcA

The Bhagavad Gita  

Yoga is a harmony. Not for her who eats too much, or her who eats too little; not for her who sleeps too little, or for her who sleeps too much. A harmony in eating and resting, in sleeping and keeping awake: a perfection in whatever one does.

Rudyard Kipling | Kim | Doubleday, Page & Company | 1901

Kim’s an orphaned English boy in India raised by a half-caste opium smoker and trained later as a spy, whose job it is to go into rooms and remember everything in them, to be reported upon later. Or that’s how the story was told to me, and how I told it later, although that’s not precisely what happens to Kim. It amused me no end that the story begins when Kim becomes chela (disciple) to his lama outside the gates of the “Wonder-House”—the Lahore Museum. It’s possible to read Kim as more or less a religious text, a propaganda of occult imperialism whose motivating subtext is the occult adventure of the lama on the Path, who after hundreds of pages of Kim’s thrilling pretextual escapades is allowed to tumble finally into the waters of enlightenment—only shortly to be “saved” therein, from drowning, by a Punjabi operative working for the British.

Frances Yates | The Art of Memory | Chicago | 1966

My obsession with my fantasy of the memory theater of Giulio Camillo has lasted nearly twenty years, since borrowing this book from an acquaintance with a strange-sounding name I still suspect was an anagram.

In L’idea del theatro di Giulio Camillo we were able to trace in detail the basis in the Hermetic writings of Camillo’s efforts to construct a memory theater reflecting ‘the world’, to be reflected in ‘the world’ of memory. If man’s mens is divine, then the divine organisation of the universe is within it, and an art which reproduces the divine organisation in memory will tap the powers of the cosmos, which are in man himself.

Bob Flanagan | Slave Sonnets | Cold Calm | 1986

It’s rare, it’s fierce in its abjection, it’s tender; it has a cover by Mike Kelley and I got it free in the Reading Room at the Berkeley Art Museum, in March, because Camille Roy left it there. The cover is black and white, with a herringbone pattern behind an upside-down white heart (ass, balls, whatever), and inside the heart is another heart, one of those Mexican loteria el corazon-style ventricled cartoon hearts, red, skewered from the bottom up by a huge hunting knife, and the word Love written across it in a sort of punk-gothic tattoo script. A month before, a friend—whose life changed almost every aspect of my own life—died, and on the same day, Mike Kelley died. Also that day, the person I was long-distance dating and sort of in love with, who was still sort of in love with an ex-girlfriend, called to tell me his ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend just killed himself, maybe over the girlfriend. Later that afternoon, I discovered that my long-distance boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend WAS Mike Kelley. I googled the girlfriend. She has a Mike Kelley tattoo on her chest that looks a lot like the cover of Bob Flanagan’s Slave Sonnets.

Jalal Toufic | Distracted | Tuumba | 2003

Because it is included in this list, you know that this was one of the nine most important artworks I lived with this year; why now that I am looking inside it again do I feel like I’ve never even laid my eyes on it? The relation to the past has nothing to do with memory and everything to do with telepathy. The only freshness is the untimely. Then I look at it again and find it a little irritating, or, dazzling.

Brandon Brown | The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus | Krupskaya | 2011

 #65

The sixty-fifth poem in the corpus of Catullus is addressed to his friend Hortalus.

 The poem is in the vocative and is usually read as epistolary, a letter to accompany a translation that Catullus has made of a poem by Callimachus. This work of translation has been incredibly difficult, because there is a crisis in the life of Catullus that has made prosody frustrating.

The crisis in the life of Catullus is that his brother is lying on the beach dead in Troy and a wave licks his little pale foot.

The death of his brother has made it impossible for him to “produce the sweet fruit of the Muses.” As if prosody were a redemptive tactic against the total loss effected by death.

I find it interesting that Catullus, who remains associated with the anachronistic but persistent mode of the lyric, constructs a practice almost always including appropriation. Translation, and certainly as Catullus himself practices it, is an artwork of appropriation. And yet much contemporary translation as much as contemporary works of appropriation purport to cancel the somatic vehicle for lyric material.

That is, the conventional picture of translation, in which the translator is invisible, which excludes her body from the scene of translation, does not suggest a space in which the translator’s desire—or grief—can find any entry into the imporous mimetic activity they understand as “translation.”

The last ten lines of the Callimachus poem translated by Catullus as the 66th poem in his corpus were missing even when Catullus makes his translation.

Instead of making the loss of the text legible, Catullus inserts a brief catalogue of prayers, more in line with his own, not Callimachus’, aspirations: e.g. for concord in marriage and reciprocity in love.

The word Catullus uses for translation is expressa. An expressor is someone who presses or forces something out of something else. The word, as it pertains to translation, implies both the physical labor of the agent appropriating from the text which precedes the proceeding writing known as translation as well as a directionality characteristic of the epistemic tradition of translation and appropriation. Someone makes something out of something else.

 Again, Catullus makes an oath to the negative space once inhabited by his brother, consisting of a promise to always “love” him (in whatever figuration love of negative space can be attained). This love, however, is primarily activated by the promise to constantly write poems morte, or, “about his death.”

About. What’s he going to press out of his experience of being in love with negative space as a demonstration of his enduring love for his brother? It’s hard to say—there’s only one other poem in the whole corpus about his brother and his brother’s death. But like several poems about loathsome politicians.

We can’t know how much of his work might have been translation. We know that Catullus #51 is a translation of a poem by Sappho, and that #66 is a translation of Callimachus. In other poems he makes references to having done translations. In many of his poems something like an appropriative gesture of citation takes place, recuperating tropes from classical Greek and Hellenistic poems in order to “express” an “original” affective sentiment.

This particular translation is accomplished “despite” the fact that Catullus’s mind has been itself appropriated by profound grief.

Lawrence Rinder | Revenge of the Decorated Pigs | Publication Studio | 2009

More eso- and exo- teric sex and (art) worldly intrigue and adventure, with siblings, doubles, or twins (take your pick), disguised identities, mystical revelations, love, hermeticism, earthworks, and Ben & Jerry’s, in this roman à clef-ish tale from curator/museum director Larry Rinder. Kevin stretched and felt his muscles come alive. He wondered why he’d stopped going to yoga. “There’s nothing like getting fucked to remind you that you have a body,” he thought.

Cliff Hengst | Maybe | Live performance (part of Stage Presence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) | Thursday, August 9 – Sunday, August 12, 2012

In fact, all of Stage Presence, both the series of performances curated by Frank Smigiel in the Tucker Nichols-designed media theater, and the exhibition entire (subtitle: Theatricality in Art and Media), curated by Rudolf Frieling, belongs on this list. It would be an endless catalogue to say all that I loved in them, but as a quick gloss: the landscape I found so compelling here is intimate fractured lyric narrative; broken, reconstituted, reinvented identity; and humor and spirituality light and black, all of these things inhabited (or tried on) in the most playful and political possible ways, from Fischli and Weiss’s existentially inflected rat and bear films, Sharon Hayes’s re-performances of the Patty Hearst tapes; Geoffrey Farmer’s exquisite magazine cut-out puppet collages; the aforementioned Charles Atlas; and so much more. Costume, mask, rehearsal, reenactment, reversal, repetition, mirroring, comedy, it’s all there.

The backdrop of the exhibition was the precisely right situation for Cliff Hengst’s reprising of a suite of short works from two decades of performances. Cliff is an artist & longtime star player in Kevin Killian’s troupe of regulars for San Francisco Poets Theater, and so is very familiar to Bay Area poets in his infinite incarnations, in some sort of drag, of hilarious Killian-esque characters (many of them without a doubt written specifically for Cliff). But many of us probably are less familiar with Cliff’s performance works, less even than with his paintings and drawings, which like the live works are also funny, unfathomable spirit-works as much as they are spot-on gestural reflections and appreciations of hi-lo culture. All the Stage Presence iterations were three-show runs; a Thursday evening followed by Saturday and Sunday afternoon performances. Cliff began each of his three shows with Ballimbo (2004): Carrying an uninflated balloon, he approached an audience member at the front of the darkened theater, leaned in close as if to whisper in her ear or kiss him, and then after a few moments stepped back and blew into the balloon a little bit, before proceeding to a next participant. When he stopped with me, I felt he was gathering up a bit of my juju, my essence, and I felt this tenderly, though not everyone seemed so comfy with his approach. When the balloon was fully inflated—with audience spirit, don’t you know—he tied it to the front of the stage and commenced the rest of that day’s performances. On Thursday evening it was Incantation to Destroy a Cultural Institution (2012), which included cow bells shaken at all corners of the stage and other curious ritualistic gestures, along with a spooky live set by Aero Mic’d (Cliff with Scott Hewicker and Wayne Smith). I wasn’t at work on the Friday and missed the Saturday series but when I returned Sunday afternoon my colleagues all said thank god Cliff was going to remove the hex, everything was going crapwire, the museum was surely about to actually collapse. (Had he only but waited another day…). Sunday’s centerpiece, for me, was Maybe (1999)—a lip-synch to The Three Degrees’ cover of the blues classic “Maybe.” The media failed three times during Cliff’s attempt to perform this piece, and with consummate grace under pressure he finally gave it up after the third try—hex incompletely dissipated? In Shout Out to All My Departed Pets (2001) he called for his pets, like anyone calls theirs home (Snooooowwwballll!), followed by the equally drawn out, “I miss you”. (All the departed pets: Porsche, Gingerbear, Snowball, Sylvester, Moses, and Texas.) The afternoon closed with Stink Bomb (2005): the artist sprays himself with a full can of drugstore-issue men’s cologne head to toe til the can is empty. That cleared the theater. Such tenderness and deep deadpan hilarity throughout!—Cliff’s signature style. Waiting for him to clean up for the party, a dozen of us went into the media gallery and sat on beanbags in the dark, watching Hail the New Puritan. And then downstairs, to drink wine and eat Chinese food and celebrate our friend in the catering kitchen after. Other works performed that day: When Life Puts That Juju on Me (2009); You Can If You Think You Can (2012); You (2004).

Cliff Hengst, Maybe: http://blog.sfmoma.org/2012/08/stage-presence-cliff-hengst/

Maybe, The Three Degrees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1GHhDJ8uHI

Hail the New Puritan closing sequence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkGO-juzWac 

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Suzanne Stein is community producer at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the author of Tout Va Bien (Displaced Press, 2012).

Suzanne Stein’s contribution to Attention Span for 201120102009. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Corrine Fitzpatrick

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Lisa Robertson | Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, The Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities and Related Aporias | Bookthug | 2012

Evan Kennedy | A Cyclist: Fourteen Stops Toward a San Franciscan Terra Firmament | self-published and live-performed | 2012

Jacqueline Waters | One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t | Ugly Duckling | 2011

Bhanu Kapil | Schizophrene | Nightboat | 2011

Maria Lind | Selected Maria Lind Writing | Sternberg | 2010

Susan Sontag | As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980 | Farrar | 2012

Joan Didion | The White Album | Farrar | 1979

Laurie Weeks | Zippermouth | The Feminist Press | 2011

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi | Girona | New Herring | 2011

Rosi Braidotti | Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, 2nd ed. | Columbia | 2011

Ariel Goldberg | The Estrangement Principle | self-published | 2012

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Corrine Fitzpatrick, a poet and an art writer in Brooklyn, NY, will host the 2012-13 Talk Series for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church.

This is Corrine Fitzpatrick’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Joseph Mosconi

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Brandon Brown | The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus | Krupskaya | 2011

Brian Kim Stefans, ed. | The LA Telephone Book, Vol. 1| Free Downloadable PDF | 2012

Andrew Choate | Stingray Clapping | Insert Blanc | 2012

Kate Durbin | E! Entertainment | Insert Blanc | 2012

David Graeber | Debt: The First 5,000 Years | Melville House | 2011

Ariana Reines | Mercury | Fence | 2012

Adam Pendleton | grey-blue grain | Kunstverein | 2010

Alexis Smith | Alone | Self-Published | 2012

Donato Mancini | Fact ‘N’ Value | Fillip Editions | 2011

Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011

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Joseph Mosconi co-edits Area Sneaks (currently on hiatus). With Ara Shirinyan & Andrew Maxwell he co-directs the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles. He is the author of WORD SEARCH (OMG! 2010), But On Geometric (Parrot, Insert Blanc, 2010), and Galvanized Iron on the Citizens’ Band (PRB, 2009). His book Fright Catalog is forthcoming on Inset Blanc Press.

Joseph Mosconi’s contributions to Attention Span for 2009, 2006, 2005. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Lauren Levin

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Michelle Alexander | The New Jim Crow | New Press | 2010
Ruth Gilmore | Golden Gulag | California | 2007
Jonathan Simon | Governing Through Crime | Oxford | 2007

Three powerful lenses on the prison-industrial complex. Prisons, policing, and surveillance as the racist legacy of Jim Crow laws, re-tooled for a supposedly colorblind age. Prisons as California political economy, warping the landscape. And finally, the rhetoric of “crime” as neoliberal governing paradigm, with the victim enthroned as paradigmatic figure in a culture of fear. I want to read these three again in 2013.

Lauren Berlant | Cruel Optimism | Duke | 2011
Lauren Berlant | Supervalent Thought | Ongoing

“A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing.” Cruel Optimism is the best kind of political education: patient and compassionate; rigorous and unflinching. I might love Lauren Berlant’s blog Supervalent Thought even more. If only because, like optimism and history, Supervalent Thought is still being written.

Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011
Jacqueline Waters | One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t | Ugly Duckling | 2011

These two genius books arrive, arrows from the depths of the mystery of poetry, and I’m slain. PS – One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t showcases the best Punxsutawney Phil poem ever written in the history of humanity.

Samuel R. Delany | Times Square Red, Times Square Blue | NYU | 1999
Martha Rosler | Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism | e-flux | 2011

Samuel R. Delany’s classic on urban space, on contact vs. networking, on public sex as opportunity for cross-class communication, on gentrification. Plus, Martha Rosler’s three recent e-flux essays on the “creative class” and the transnational city as depoliticized pleasure dome. Read together, these two projects were an endlessly provocative utopia / dystopia—troubling the right to the city.

Lara Durback | Projectiles | NoNo | 2012
Sara Larsen | All Revolutions Will Be Fabulous | Ypolita | Forthcoming, 2012
Alli Warren | Personal Poem | City Lights | Forthcoming, 2013

This has been quite a year. Often events outpaced poetry. But, I heard Sara Larsen say “Hunger is free.” Alli Warren said “Lust before dishonor.” And Lara Durback told me, “I didn’t hold any of my own possessions. First I just didn’t have them. Later I rejected property.” Readings by these three scrambled my atoms when I needed it.

Samantha Giles | Deadfalls and Snares | Futurepoem | Forthcoming, 2012

Tender, pained, at times brutal work on (among other issues of empire) the Abu Ghraib tortures. This book re-sees, from many angles, the suffering muted by discourse and mediation. It’s tied, for me, to my first experience of it, at a reading organized by kathryn l. pringle. I wish I could hear all books of poetry read aloud and then talk about them with a group of thoughtful friends and strangers.

Brenda Iijima | Untimely Death Is Driven Beyond the Horizon | Unpublished MS

Antigone enters. Pesticides, eco-cide. a guiding conversation with Leslie Scalapino and the beloved dead. The drone poem and the brain-body of the dancer. This dense, velvety and deeply charged writing is a timely call and warning: also a furnace of the imagination. It “plunges the brain into darkness where it doesn’t fester.”

Killer Mike | R.A.P. Music | Williams Street Records | 2012

Reagan is a tendency. And this Killer Mike album is a testament.

Jared Stanley | The Weeds | Salt | 2012

Poems, like the tenacious weeds themselves, insist on the animist “intelligence of a disturbed earth.” Pathos, cynicism, and wit: or, “What is it you do with your skin / fuckorama worldly knives?”

Dan Thomas-Glass | The Great American Beat-Jack Volume 1 | Perfect Lovers | 2012

This exquisite object has to be held to be believed, and has to be spiraled to be read. And then there’s the poetry. I love Dan Thomas-Glass’s music, his honesty, and his tireless explorations of community, memory, gender roles, and the future—embodied in his daughters Sonia and Alma, and in political hope.

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Lauren Levin is from New Orleans and lives in Oakland. She wrote Working (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), Song (The Physiocrats), Keenan (Lame House Press) and Not Time (Boxwood Editions). Recent work appears or will appear in OMG, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Rethinking Marxism, 1913, and Catch-Up, and critical essays on Anne Boyer & Stephanie Young, and Brent Cunningham, are in Lana Turner Online. She co-edits the Poetic Labor Project blog and the journal Mrs. Maybe.

This is Lauren Levin’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Liz Kotz

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Lutz Bacher | Do You Love Me? | Primary Information | 2012

The new book project by Lutz Bacher, the influential California-based artist whose work—with language, image, sound, video, and pretty much everything else—has percolated out into the world over the past four decades. The book is made of transcripts of conversations in which the artist interviews friends and colleagues about their impressions of her, intercut with family pix, artworks and other ephemera. The results are moving, maddening, and mostly evasive. A post-it from a friend observes, “I often see the world as a found photograph by you.”

CA Conrad | A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics | Wave | 2012

Another wild ride of a book: 27 “soma(tic) poetry exercises” to let the grit of life into writing, and the resulting poems, plus an interview, notes from a couple workshops, and suggestions for reading. It’s a manual for living with awareness and imagination.

Richard Hertz | Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia | Minneola | 2011

I found myself re-reading this one after seeing the recent Goldstein retrospective. A quasi-biography of the late artist constructed from reflections by friends and colleagues—John Baldessari, Troy Brauntuch, Meg Cranston, Robert Longo, James Welling, et al—as well as Goldstein himself, it’s a classic fractured narrative. We follow Jack from Chouinard to Cal Arts and the booming New York artworld of the 1980s, and learn more than we might want about romances, rivalries and betrayals as his career builds and then unravels. Profoundly sad and revealing, it’s a great antidote to the usual mythologization of the “Pictures generation” and the Metro Pictures scene.

Branden Joseph | Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage | Zone | 2011

One of the hits of recent art history, Beyond the Dream Syndicate theorizes the emergence of interdisciplinary artmaking in the 1960s through the work and life of the experimental filmmaker and musician Tony Conrad. Densely researched, with forays into projects by key surrounding figures—Walter De Maria, Henry Flynt, Jack Smith, and La Monte Young, among others—it offers what Joseph terms a “minor history” of our recent past.

Kevin Killian | Selected Amazon Reviews, Part II | Push | 2011

Kevin Killian reads more than anyone I know, with a range and depth that confounds me. He also writes Amazon reviews, 2430 at last count. This second small volume of “selected” reviews—of poetry, critical theory, biography and how-to books, DVDs, jewelry, household items and Ibuprofen—reveals Killian as the connoisseur of everyday life, the bard of our moment. Like CA Conrad, he understands that anything can be an occasion for writing. At a time when everyone is translating informal online writing—blogs, facebook posts, discussion boards, you name it—into book form, Killian’s devotion to the humble “amazon review” feels right.

André Leroi-Gourhan | Gesture and Speech | MIT / October | 1993

The grand theoretical treatise of the late French anthropologist, paleontologist and scholar of prehistoric art, Gesture and Speech understands language as fully imbricated with human physiology, sociality and technology. Leroi-Gourhan moves from the basic physical organization that makes us human—frontal orientation, “tools for the hand, language for the face”—to explore the roots of markmaking and what Derrida later terms “primary graphism.” Originally published in the 1940s, it underlies key currents of 1960s poststructuralism—it’s hard to imagine Of Grammatology or the “body without organs” without its lead. Although long out of print, you can find a PDF online.

Eileen Myles | Snowflake / different streets | Wave | 2012

Two books in one, depending on which side you open. One skips across the weird placelessness of Southern California and endless hours on the freeway, with quick jotted efforts (some transcriptions while driving) to grasp the feelings that constantly slip by. The other returns home to a familiar but now different world and self, in Myles’ characteristically slim spacious lines.

Chris Kraus | The Summer of Hate | Semiotext(e)/Native Agents | 2012

How could you lose with that title? A novel, I suppose, about an LA-based writer escaping town to Albuquerque and the recently sober ex con she falls in with, The Summer of Hate is also the story of our fucked-up present, our appalling prison and legal systems, and various other catastrophes. Through a romance played out over car trips and court dates, it holds out hope for redemption.

Yvonne Rainer | Poems | Badlands Unlimited | 2011

A slim book of poems by the acclaimed choreographer, filmmaker and writer, mostly written since the late 1990s. Language has always been one of Rainer’s primary mediums, and here she plays with it in spare and deceptively simple forms that look backward from a life lived well and still going forward.

Mark So | recent scores | Mark So / uploaddownloadperform | 2006-2012

For the last few years, the composer Mark So has written text-based scores—hundreds of them—that wander between music, poetry, drawing and various less formalized ways of moving through the world. Some are typed in unique copies, others handwritten on staff paper, and others use printed sheets of text and overlaid transparencies. One of my favorites is “To avoid possible boredom and the stain …” (2011), which scatters letters and punctuation marks drawn from the Ashbery poem “Rivers” across the page of five transparencies, which one places on top of the title page to generate an ever-changing process of reading and looking. It is great to see someone breaking new ground. Available online here.

La Monte Young, ed. | An Anthology of Chance Operations … | La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low | 1963

I’m always surprised that not everyone knows this book. Consisting of scores and texts that the minimalist composer La Monte Young collected in 1960-1961 from a bunch of then-young and emerging composers, sculptors, dancers and poets—George Brecht, Walter De Maria, Henry Flynt, Simone Forti, Jackson Mac Low, Robert Morris, Dieter Roth, Emmett Williams, et al—and designed by Fluxus founder George Maciunas, it crystalized emerging forms of artistic interdisciplinarity and continues to be a strange and inspiring object. Long out of print, it is available as a PDF on ubuweb.

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Liz Kotz is the author of Words to Be Looked At: Language in Sixties Art and the co-editor, with Eileen Myles, of The New Fuck You. She teaches art history at UC Riverside and writes on contemporary art. She is working on two book projects—a collection of interviews with LA-based artists and an examination of La Monte Young’s collection An Anthology of Chance Operations—as well as an essay on Bernadette Mayer’s exhibition and book Memory (1972/1976).

This is Liz Kotz’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

Attention Span 2012 | Erika Staiti

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Clark Coolidge | The Crystal Text | Sun and Moon | 1995

One morning in June, I pulled this off a bookshelf and read parts of it while lying on the living room couch. I do this every couple of years. Someday I would like to read the whole book in one sitting, though I think that might be impossible. It’s crystalline—you can’t see the whole thing at once, you can only take partial views into its center. It’s too bright. Not bright, sharp. It is dull but luminous. The language is like white noise, unassuming but persistent.

Samuel R. Delany | Dhalgren | Vintage | 2001 (orig pub 1974)

This is the central book of my year. Always throw a big ass crazy novel into the mix. I’ve often thought I would like to live in a place that was cut off from the rest of the world, but now I’m not so sure. Bellona is dirty and alluring. Dhalgren has been haunting me since the day I picked it up and it continues to linger. 801 pages and I’m about 500 in. I have to take breaks. When I first started, I read it every morning and night for many days in a row and I almost went insane. I might always remember Oakland 2012 as DHALGREN.

Eiko and Koma with the Kronos Quartet | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts | 2012

Performance as text. I sat transfixed while Eiko and Koma lay naked on a bed of dirt with the Kronos Quartet playing behind them, their movements so slow I could hardly track them. I watched with painful attentiveness, like a close reading of movement and stillness, rhythm and structure and syntax. Four hours later, walking out onto Mission and 3rd was a jarring shock to the senses. When art transports you to a different universe, it is a rare thing. This was an epic.

Samantha Giles | deadfalls and snares | Futurepoem | forthcoming 2013

Bold enough to go places that most people can’t, or don’t want to. SG’s first book (Hurdis Addo, Displaced Press, 2011) is an elegy for every person murdered in the city of Oakland, CA in 2006. deadfalls and snares deals with Abu Ghraib tortures. I often find the writing on such issues of public trauma to be cliché or sensationalist or just plain bad, but Giles opens up a space that not only complicates an issue, but also challenges readers to consider their relationship to it as victims, perpetrators, and onlookers.

Ariel Goldberg | The Estrangement Principle | 2012

Staggering number of references in this chapbook-length text, a series of musings by Ariel Goldberg on the label “queer” as used by and applied to artists and writers. Expanded aphorisms threading slantwise through a conclusion that has yet to be reached, that is perhaps unreachable. The thing I love about this piece is that some of it perfectly articulates thoughts of my own, while other parts cause me to shake my head or cringe with disagreement. This is an honest text. It’s raw. It preserves the juiciness of its subjects. It doesn’t attempt mastery. It is not making a corpse out of the art or culture it critiques. The questions it asks have immediacy and vitality. This is an evolving program and I can’t wait for the next version.

Pamela Lu | Ambient Parking Lot | Kenning Editions | 2011

The long-awaited Ambient Parking Lot arrives, toting with it an amorphous group of ambient musicians exuding smugness and self-satisfaction, anxiety and paranoia, revelry and disillusionment. They are a singular character embodying a WE. In the center of the book, an anecdote spans 50 pages–a sustained bravado, a tale of adventure and heartache, an individual belting his story out beyond the backdrop of the Ambient Parkers. Then, a radio interview with a dancer and former collaborator of the Ambient Parkers enfolds them in a new self-consciousness–the sudden realization that they have been seen and judged by others, not merely by themselves.

kathryn l. pringle | Fault Tree | Omnidawn | 2012

One of the obsessions of this book is TIME. The narrator cannot escape time, and cannot make sense of it. I believe kathryn l. pringle has invoked a narrator so powerful that he influenced the actual text to resist conventions of temporality as well. There is no beginning, middle, or end. It is circular in a way that makes me feel almost as paranoid as the narrator. I have read this book many times, heard it read many times, I even lived alongside its creation, and yet every page, though familiar in the moment I encounter it, seems to appear in a different place each time I return. The entirety of the book takes place in one moment. The MOMENT. I encourage you to revisit KP’s first book RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Factory School, 2009), as it might make a little more sense now, or if not now, it will soon.

Viktor Shklovsky, trans. Shushan Avagyan | Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar | Dalkey Archive | 2011 (orig. pub 1970)

Hadn’t read anything by Shklovsky besides Zoo but now that will change. I am already having intense feelings about this book and I only just started reading it. Trying to fathom Shklovsky’s life in the Soviet Union through the greater part of the 20th century. Looking at his style, words, anecdotes, and criticisms with enthusiasm and relief. He is offering me alternatives to the mundane. He offers new questions. I think being moved to consider new questions is a good thing. Potentially life saving.

Suzanne Stein | Tout va bien | Displaced | 2012

The excitement I felt upon reading through this book I cannot say I feel very often. I see this work/collection as its own living and breathing organism that I can hold, have conversations with, listen to, grapple with, consider and reconsider. I deeply appreciate its architecture. I appreciate the moves it makes, its gestures. It is free, literally.

Cecilia Vicuña | SABORAMI | Chain Links | 2012

The re-release of this collection of writing, drawings, painting, and ephemera by Cecilia Vicuña after the death of Salvador Allende couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Her live performance in February of SABORAMI at Small Press Traffic in San Francisco included text, voice (in song/words/whispers), projected visual imagery, storytelling, and inspiration from this luminous spirit that is Cecilia Vicuña.

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This is Erika Staiti’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 19, 2012 at 10:30 am