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We are currently accepting submissions for the Affrilachian Arts folio.

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The final collection by award-winning poet Reetika Vazirani, published by Drunken Boat.

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Did you know?

We’ve launched our inaugural Drunken Boat poetrybook contest. Drunken Boat seeks entries for our first book contest in poetry, open to any work of poetry in English (hybrid, multi-authored, and translations into English are welcome). Winner receives publication, $500, 20 author copies, a debut reading at AWP and ads in print and online sources. Though we welcome multi-author and translation projects, we can only afford to pay one honorarium (which may be split as authors / translatorsprefer). Drunken Boat books are distributed by SPD. Excerpts from all finalists judged in house by the Drunken Boat staff will be featured in a special folio in an issue of Drunken Boat, international online journal of the arts. Deadline is June 25, 2014. Judge: Forrest Gander. For more information, visit https://drunkenboat.submittable.com/submit/27945.

Got art? Special Call, Poetry Comix folio. We are issuing a special call for comics, animations, video art and illustrations for a special Poetry Comix folio, to be guest-edited by Michael A. Chaney and Marco Maisto. Along with short animations, we are open to static comix (especially comics poetry) as well as more dynamic, web-based and digital graphic novel constructions. Particularly for comics poetry, we are more interested in work that expresses itself as comics and poetry simultaneously, rather than work that merely illustrates a poem. We want work that makes the relationship between language and art more tense than intuitive, more associative than referentially grounded.  The potential crossover between literary and visual art is a rich, ever-expanding horizon, and we’d like to capture snapshots of it in this anniversary issue. So please do send us your best work. If you have poetry or flash fiction in the form of comics or a multimedia/animation project, we want to see it! Deadline is May 15, 2014.

Special Call, Affrilachian Arts folio. Drunken Boat is also calling for submissions of literary and artistic pieces created by, or inspired by, voices of color from the Appalachian region for an Affrilachian Arts Folio, to be guest-edited by Kalela Williams. We are especially looking for work that juxtaposes place and displacement, questioning and confronting how one shapes cultural and personal identity within a physical setting. Submissions of prose, poetry, art, or performance-based work (such as spoken word poetry) will be accepted. Deadline is May 15, 2014. Submit previous unpublished (or published in a small circulation print journal) work as a Microsoft Word attachment, or audio/video links, along with a short bio, to paintedplume@gmail.com.



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Published May 07, 2014 - Comments Off


“To grow ourselves a new body. To give our body their voice back, with a practice of pleasure; to practice growing a body as one would grow a plant; a utopian body; a connected body; an anarchic body….with a brain that melted down to the flesh, the blood, the bones, the guts, the skin…a body in pleasure with eyes that see without naming, they see without knowing…” luciana achugar from OTRO TEATRO



photo credit: Ruby Washington/The New York Times


Witch Craft: to cast a spell through repetition, to find power in the mystery, to call for the unknown, to invite chaos, to get lost, to activate the atmosphere, to cause it to swell, heave, bellow and crack open. We do this in our own rooms, in the woods, by the river, and in a veiled way, when dancing at a club or the back of the bar. But do we do this on a stage? Do we do this behind a podium?


At an Alice Notley reading I attended six years ago, this crazy thing happened. I felt this vibration begin to well up in my throat. It continued to take shape against all the walls of my throat and neck, up through the back of my head and buzzed through my jawbones and then into my eye sockets. She kept reading, though I don’t remember what. I was reading In The Pines then, but was she reading from it? Was she reading from The Descent of Alette? I remember her voice being low.


“except under” “this shawl” “I can have” “this place” “I don’t want you” “Don’t want it” “Please don’t” “give me anything” “Money, clothes…ideas”


…”Under my shawl” “I try to be, I” “am” “another world” “a woman’s world–“Why I may be” “the only one” “the first one”…



 photo credit: Ian Douglas


It was the Summer after the one when I learned of telling the bees. It is that custom where when someone in the family dies, the bees are told the name of the deceased and a black cloth is draped over the hive. I had written then:


Drone in larynx, flayed thryroid


Rotten esophageal swell, STUNG


But a year later, it was happening. To me or within me. Through Notley, or just by coincidence, through her presence. Something somatic. Something slightly dangerous. A transmission? Magic.


The repetition of that vibration causing a swell up and into my mouth.


Recently, I had another reaction. It was in a theater. It was luciana achugar’s OTRO TEATRO; her endless turning, her chanting, turning in one direction and then another, the relentless phrase that was not a phrase that was a ritual that was a spell. It was not about showing me anything.


The theater was black, her cloak was black, and she heaved and shifted and turned. Still there are moments; when I am walking up the stairs to my apartment, when I am turning a corner toward the subway in the wind, when I am staring at the studio walls, I can hear her. Her voice made a space inside me.




photo credit: Ian Douglas


This chanting took shape over the course of an hour. Performers writhed and moaned in the audience, and began to come onto the stage. The bodies multiplied. She remained singular until the bodies formed a swarm that took over the entire room: stage, walls, chairs, stairs, every surface. I was covered in their sounds, their scents, the sight of their flesh.


And I grew beneath these bodies as I watched. Another time took shape, a time that we were making up together. There was no other time.


I watched all the bodies and became all the bodies.


Who talks about being in the audience as a body, who talks about becoming the body one sees? How do you review a body you’ve become? What is the weight of defining the body that performs and the body that observes?


After recording my notes in last month’s post, I began to reflect on the impact that curator, Amanda Cachia’s lecture had on me. I began reading Alison Kafer’s theoretical work. In Feminist, Queer, Crip she quotes queer theorist Jasbir Puar;


“categories–race, gender, and sexuality…are considered events, actions and encounters between bodies rather than as simply entities and attributes of subjects.”


To imagine identity as an event comes close to this experience. But then to imagine the body as an event. To imagine that the person is not the attribute and the body is not the thing, is then to encounter the person as an event and the body as an experience.


But then to think about time differently. To go toward the slippage from one kind of time into another. OTRO TEATRO was three hours long, but it felt to me like no time. It was ritual time. It was a suspension of that other time, the schedule.


I kept thinking of Cachia’s “Performing Crip Time,” and whether the suspension of time, the slippage, can be considered to be part of this sense. If the other is the event and difference is an experience, than time itself shifts. In Kafer’s words, “rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.”


Maybe it’s a leap to view OTRO TEATRO through the lens of crip time. The bodies onstage were performing a relentless choreography that assumed a stamina and ability, although there were other participants not trained in dance. At one point, the artist, Michael Mahalchik, a long time collaborator with achugar, took off his shirt to writhe his luscious torso. But questioning this one aspect of difference does not detract from the overwhelming permission I felt.


It was that permission that stayed with me long after the performance. It was an experience of another time with other bodies, it was an experience of a space that held all the bodies, and it was also a mass revolt. As moans developed into wails and cries, performers banged on the walls and the hardware of the theater, these sounds growing into a rhythmic pulsing that enveloped the audience. It was our task to be in this together, to allow ourselves to be overcome, and to surrender to sensation.



luciana achugar at the Walker Art Center

 photo credit: Alice Gebura


There is a truth there that holds for many bodies, that somehow the strength to continue and to endure, is not separate from the joy of sensing, feeling and being. Pain is something we see as terrible. We seek to avoid it, but it is also our foothold on this earth, and the body evidence of that struggle. Pleasure as, “a connected body; an anarchic body…” “with eyes that see without naming,” is less about bliss as it is about embodied revolt.



Marissa Perel is a Brooklyn based artist and writer. Her working method is interdisciplinary and includes performance, installation, video, text, collaboration and curating. Her work has been widely shown in New York and abroad, and her criticism has been published on many on-line platforms. She originated the column, Gimme Shelter: Performance Now on the Art21 blog, and was an editor of Critical Correspondence, the on-line dance and performance journal of Movement Research. She has contributed to the Performance Club, Bomblog, Bad At Sports, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others. www.marissaperel.com

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Published May 06, 2014 - Comments Off


Hey digital sailors…

The Electronic Literature Organization is proud to announce the ”The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature” and “The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature.” Below is information including guidelines for submissions for each.


“The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature”

“The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature” is an award given for the best work of criticism, of any length, on the topic of electronic literature. Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation from N. Katherine Hayles and others, this $1000 annual prize aims to recognize excellence in the field.

The prize comes with a plaque showing the name of the winner and an acknowledgement of the achievement, and a one-year membership in the Electronic Literature Organization at the Associate Level.

Call for Nominations: April 15-May 10
Jury Deliberations: May 15-June 10
Award Announcement: ELO Conference Banquet

For more information, contact Dr. Dene Grigar, President, Electronic Literature Organization.

“The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature”

“The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature” is an award given for the best work of electronic literature of any length or genre. Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation from supporters and members of the ELO, this $1000 annual prize aims to recognize creative excellence.

The prize comes with a plaque showing the name of the winner and an acknowledgement of the achievement, and a one-year membership in the Electronic Literature Organization at the Associate Level.

Call for Nominations: April 19-May 10
Jury Deliberations: May 15-June 10
Award Announcement: ELO Conference Banquet

For more information, contact Dr. Dene Grigar, President, Electronic Literature Organization. dgrigar@mac.com

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Published May 02, 2014 - Comments Off

Cannulated Screw

Reappearing from one of the more recent issues, Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel’s “Cannulated Screw” is unique to the Vintage DB series as the first non-fiction selection to be featured. This short but captivating piece was first published in DB 15, Spring 2012.

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel’s most recent essay, “Liberace and the Ash Tree,” will be in the spring issue of the Iowa Review. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Whitman College. Visit her blog at kishalewellynschlegel.blogspot.com

Click to enjoy “Cannulated Screw”

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Published May 01, 2014 - Comments Off




In a 2012 interview with Fact Magazine, Konrad Becker says that: “The passive consumer’s musical hell is heaven for the active listener. For me it is more about learning to listen… and for instance to explore the sound of the city… At the same time repetition is the key to an active listener experience. Even if you play the same thing twice, it will never be the same. If you play it a hundred times it will be different a hundred times. Same with repeating a word many times: you start to hear ‘other’ words instead. A verbal transformation related to what is called ‘semantic satiation’. The language code loses its meaning and a new meaning emerges.”


Listening to Becker’s music recorded under the name Monoton, particularly to his 1982 release Monotonprodukt07, it’s easy to understand the importance of active listening.



The music is insistently repetitive, but it’s subtle, the melodies elusive and at times opaque. It’s music whose immediacy disguises an attention to nuance that underlay the songs’ construction. All of which makes for really interesting listening—partially because it’s accessible and likable stuff, partially because it’s smart and expansive. Still, it relies on active listening—listening as a deliberate act, as an embodiment of presence, as an attuned attention to. This attention to is also important because it ties together the experience of listening inwardly to the self and its responses to its environment, and simultaneously listening outwardly to the environment in which the self resides. In this, listening becomes somatic and experiential.


This isn’t too far off from Pauline Oliveros’ notion of ‘Deep Listening,’ which she describes as “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing… Deep Listening represents a heightened state of awareness and connects to all that there is.” She also writes that “Deep Listening is active.” She writes about this with a lot of depth in her essay “Quantum Listening: From Practice to Theory (To Practise Practice).”



The idea can probably be most easily (and audibly) understood in her 1988 recording with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis titled (guess what): Deep Listening. In this recording, each of the musicians traveled to the state of Washington, and climbed 14 feet below the surface of the earth into an old military store hold for millions of gallons of water: the Fort Worden cistern. What’s unique about this space is its super-long reverberation time, which gives each of these musicians a chance to easily compose and improvise via reverberative response and communication, with lots of easily apparent feedback on the notes one plays. It’s not a space where you’d play a ton of super fast notes though—each of the notes by necessity needs to be held, sustained, and drawn out into an expansive drone that’s often as meditative as it is ‘beautiful.’ I’ve been listening to this recording, and sitting with Oliveros’ ideas, for about 15 years now, and it’s seeped so much into my own thinking about poetics and music that it’s become that much harder for me to describe its [personal] importance.



This piece is maybe the most passive, among the others in the recording. I say ‘passive’ because the performance seems subdued, even though it’s still an extended and active improvisation in that space. But it’s the space I notice most in this particular piece. Other pieces on the recording are often dedicated to generating overt, assertive tones in connection with the space, foregrounding drone. Still others make much of tactile ‘non-musical’ noises in the space. The drones in this piece stay subtle, deferent.


Oliveros’ ideas all stem from a moment she first used a tape recorder to record the sounds in her bedroom once when she turned 21. She remembers this moment she listened back to the recording and first heard the environmental sounds she hadn’t noticed before: “I said to myself then and there: ‘Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening.’” This now well-known statement has since been the foundation of her musical practice, and has influenced listening-based practice now for decades.


There’s a strong connection between Oliveros’ ideas and those of the so-called ‘onkyokei’ group of musicians performing in Tokyo around the beginning of the 21st Century. A loosely-gathered bunch who got together at the now-defunct space Off Site, the genre’s improvised performance style relies as much on attention to the environment around them as it does to what’s actively being performed. In her essay “Disciplined Listening,” Lorraine Plourde says that “[onkyokei] has been explained by musicians and music critics in Japan as a style in which the primary emphasis has shifted from producing or performing sound, to that of concentrated and attentive listening (mimi wo sumasu).”


One of the driving forces behind onkyokei at Off Site was Taku Sugimoto, whose own aesthetic within the confines of onkyokei performances might be summed up by his simple question “[d]o you think that the mysterious relationship between sounds and silence could possibly give us a new scope for the imperceptible world?”



By some onkyokei standards, this piece from his Opposite record is downright aggressive, but it’s still subdued to the point of near-silence though—which is of course the point. The simultaneous attention to silence and to the environment in which the piece is being performed makes for a specialized performance of an attention to, with both the performed clusters of sound and the place of performance becoming contiguous, integral parts of the piece, and with each being an extension of the other.


What connects each of the onkyokei musicians to the others I’m writing about here is their definitively minimalist approach and style. For all of the musicians, an attention to is what marks their practice: an explicitly active approach to listening as an active part of composition and performance.



. . .


Here’s where I point to work by a handful of poets whose writing I associate with these musical ideas in some way—either by thinking of their work as sonic clusters of sound (or text), as a connection between self and spatial relationships, as repetitive and meditative gesture, or as a form of somatic, yet minimalist presence.



Isabelle Garron, from Face Before Against (tr. Sarah Riggs) :



enter in

the station





the parallel”






will be


plus one


at the modal imprecation

came to suspend

. and against which







. bitter night             in the black

—reversed            or the whiteness

of your oval / sliced





. . .




Myung Mi Kim, from Dura :



Before the Pacific is an ocean placed



Wrought holes at even paces



Call ancestry lost



Collapse and valence



Brevity and gesture



House with rooms cut of various sizes



An America as big as it is






Extract salt from brine


Dig black stone from veins




:            Baked clay blocks, water clocks


:            A rake for covering seeds




Slope of the street graded to the height of the arch


No fewer than a thousand carriages loaded with silk





. . .



Leslie Scalapino, from New Time :



Their going into houses killing

is the fact—

the fact is delicate—in the existence even





can’t be a form, which would be as: wanting to be liked


there are only people

as: on the brown night





black half circle that isn’t dawn

even, that’s there—only, no night


waking. town-specks in a blackness, that’s barely at the rim as

one is flying of sky (which is above—dawn’s above)

—flying in a base which is none of the black.





. . .



Claude Royet-Journoud, from Four Elemental Bodies (tr. Keith Waldrop) :



the noises are not distributed

they belong






first crossing.

the outside,

thought went through the roles.























the idea of place

well or a look around





. . .


On the eve of this blog post’s publication, a poet friend (thank you Lou!) emailed to let me know about a recording of a piece of music by minimalism’s great unknown composer: Dennis Johnson. I don’t have the space to write about the history of November here, but you can read about it here. And to know that this was the piece that influenced La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano, pretty much seals the deal, making it one of minimalism’s most significant works.


Also, the piece a breathtakingly beautiful and essential listening—all 5 hours of it.



David James Miller is a poet, musician, and educator. He is the author of the chapbook Facts & Other Objects (JR Vansant), and his writing may also be found in Otoliths, elimae, Diagram, The Cultural Society, and elsewhere. He writes from New Haven, CT, where he lives with his wife and children.

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Published Apr 29, 2014 - Comments Off

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