Drunken Boat will be hosting an off-site reading at the 2012 AWP conference in Chicago together with Blackbird, Memorious, and other journals. More details below.
(RSVP on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/events/287026274693649/)
O, Canada. It’s that time again. When your southern neighbors toy with the quadrennial urge toward your seemingly gentler shores—your healthcare, your bilingual road signs, your blessed absence of Newts and Santorums. Do you hate all of our false promises, our threats? Do we even know who you are?
As the U.S. presidential elections and their attendant conservative bluster loom ever closer, I went back to the “Canadian Strange” issue of DB (Issue #8, 2006), to indulge my migration fantasies. And that issue was strange. And fantastic. It’s worth a second look.
My favorite part of the whole issue, I have to say, are the short stories of Sheila Heti. They’re like mean little fairy tales, exquisite and glittering in their oddness. Heti captures the sadism of children with particular acuity, and the ways they externalize their interior worlds, the way they frame their captors.
One of the stories here is about a very inventive girl, and one who’s quite lazy—and both move swiftly as beads tapped along on a prayer string. At the end, you find not a cross, but an explosion, that’ll leave you reverent for days. If this is Canada, I’m sold.
Cris Beam is the author of two books as well as a memoir called Mother, Stranger which was published in January and is available here http://atavist.net/mother-stranger/
As part of our series spotlighting outstanding pieces from back issues of Drunken Boat, Joe Milazzo comments on Jonathan Minton’s poems from our fourth issue.
Reviving the Digilogue
by Joe Milazzo
What was chance? In the increasingly historical early 2000’s, machine-generated text offered an aesthetic thrill that seems to have since lost a bit of its spark. Opening your email (remember that this was once a morning ritual) and discovering semi-digested chunks of Victorian social realism streaked through the mass of pharmaceutical keywords that had made it past your spam filters could genuinely upset your defaults, and with a suggestive rather than invasive jolt. Such were the marvels, in the Surrealist sense, of venturing out into “cyberspace” (a dead metaphor?) with little but a username and an unsecured password: you could, in your daily rounds, blunder upon an orchid growing out of a dungheap.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but with the rise of social media and the return—vengeful, even Freudian— of the subject, the nature of digital discourse has changed. The Internet is more Baroque than it has ever been, a megaphone of unprecedented volume held close to a mob of personae.
But there is a quiet, if insistent, estrangement to be acknowledged in those capitalist cut-ups that have become passé in the era of Google bombing, Wikileaks and trending hashtags. Jonathan Minton’s “Digilogue” (Drunken Boat 4, Spring 2002), however, offers a reminder of the still as-yet unrealized possibilities of a literature that is equally code, and vice versa. The product of an algorithm released into the overlapping textual spaces defined by John Cage, Andre Breton and Charles Tomlinson, these roughly automatic poems come to the reader unbidden, not as inspiration does, yet still much as they did to the author. True, these poems arrive at regular intervals (every 90 seconds), and emerge from an initial set of voluntary or created conditions. Minton has turned the program on, and we have followed first our curiosity—here revealed as a gesture—and then a hyperlink. But the poems that constitute the Digilogue soon become involuntary, obeying their own protocols. Minton compares the results to the weather, a “materialization” of atmospheric conditions, but indifferent to us even as affected by our presence and perceptions. Breathing, or any other relatively hidden biological process that carries on with or without our will, provides another analog. In both instances, the implication remains: these poems are not meant for anything so utilitarian as reading. Rather, these texts are to be appreciated, and at some leisure, for how intent and significance dissolve into their dreamily fidgeting echoes and rhythms. And, like answers to questions never asked, these individual poems do accumulate. Spend enough time in their presence, and you might discover how, as a collection that is constantly reorganizing itself—a set of sub-sets—their formal diversity impresses, and how there is something lovely in their concentration (if such a word even makes sense in this context) on language’s clinamens: conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions, the latter of which Claude Royet-Journoud has identified as the “whole of poetry.” It may carry on independent of our notice and with ostensibly philosophic one-sidedness, yet the more mere attention the Digilogue receives, the livelier it becomes.
Below is an excerpt from Minton’s work:
[Editor note: Image comes from the cover of Leidner's book recommended below]
I’m reading or have recently finished a handful of recently published poetry books. Many of them combine an interest in how historical/political/social narratives intersect with the instability and surprise of our internal lives. I recommend:
Come and See by Fanny Howe (my favorite of the books of hers I’ve read)
The City She Was by Carmen Gimenez Smith (I like how the book combines social satire with the slipperiness of self-making),
Mind Over Matter by Gloria Frym (love the music in this one!)
One-Bedroom Solo by Sheila Maldonado (wonderful, fresh, unpretentious voice)
Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me by Mark Leidner (crazy and wild metaphors combined with parody–always a winning combo).
The first solo museum exhibition of DB contributor Quintan Ana Wikswo, entitled PROPHECY OF PLACE, opened in NYC in August and, after the honor of two extensions, will at last close after this coming Sunday, February 26.
If you find yourself in Manhattan in the coming week, the remaining hours for the exhibition are:
Tuesday 2/21 from 11am-5pm
Wednesday 2/22 from 11am-8pm (free admission)
Thursday 2/23 from 11am-5pm
Friday 2/24 from 11am – 2:30pm (free admission)
Sunday 2/26 from 11 am – 5 pm
Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
New York City, New York 10011
Below is some information from the museum regarding this fabulous exhibition. Please stop by and enjoy Quintan’s wonderful, important work!
In her first solo exhibition in the United States, multidisciplinary artist Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Prophecy of Place is a constellation of over fifty new works in large-scale multi-panel photography, multichannel and projected video, original text installations, books, site-specific interactive assemblage, and live collaborative performance works. Wikswo’s conceptual and aesthetic vision questions the disquieting presence of beauty at the site of atrocity, and challenges the control and concealment of trauma and memory within historical mythos,
The artist works with salvaged fascist military cameras and battlefield typewriters to explore and re-envision unmarked places where crimes against humanity took place. Within the seemingly quiescent sites of primordial forests, spectral alleyways of medieval cities, and contemporary industrial wastelands, the artist’s works illuminate the secret existence of mass graves, execution ranges, slave labor factories, and medical killing facilities.
The project began in Munich, where the artist located and retrieved a box of broken cameras manufactured by female slave laborers at Afga’s Dachau concentration camp factory. Using these cameras, she went in search of the forced-sex rape brothels at Dachau, where crimes against humanity were committed against lesbians and other women. She discovered no signs or memorial – only a pile of gravel, violets, and dandelions in an unmarked corner of the camp.
The unsettling tranquility of architectural, ecological and textual fragments suggest a secret second landscape inscribed with memories, meanings, and histories that are unmarked because they create discomfort. This landscape is human, and it is more than human: it is a seen and unseen realm that lives alongside us, whether we agree to acknowledge it or not.
(More details at http://yumuseum.tumblr.com/Wikswo)