Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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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.


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.


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.


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