(“Nicholas Arboretum” – Robin Dluzen)
Scroll through to read the issue in order, or click the links below.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“Dear Sister” – Fady Joudah
“My Walter Benjamin” – Lucy Biederman
“(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual and resulting poem” – CA Conrad
“The Poem of Sentence Nine with No End” – Gene Tanta
“awesome camera” – Laura Goldstein
“Comrade District Attorney” – Larry Sawyer
“When I Was a Child, I Lived as a Child, I Said to My Dad” – Philip Metres
from “As We Know” – Amaranth Borsuk and Andy Fitch
Work by Featured Artist Robin Dluzen
Whether matter (prima materia, language, or the logic of metaphor) can “think” is a pressing question for our times, as writers, poets, and citizens engaged with the long-deferred threat of emancipatory modernism: actual upheaval. For social revolt against rigged, multibillion dollar elections, and corporate racketeering by pharmaceutical giants, oil companies, and multinationals to occur, however, requires concerted action and community building, as well as an elevation of imagination beyond the reflexivities of corporate capitalism, the immediacy of the commodity form, and other post-empire imaginaries.
In 2013, we labor for our most basic rights to a living wage, retirement security, and freedom of choice, increasingly usurped for the 99% while tax shelters, offshore banking, and corporate bailouts are readily farmed out to the elite. The cost to the citoyen moyen is steep. As Jean-François Lyotard remarked: “Whoever is the wealthiest has the best chance of being right.”
The end of metaphysics coincides with what Jean-Lucy Nancy and Phillipe Lacou-LaBarthe call the “retreat of the political”: the withdrawal of contemplative space for a recognition of injustice stalling agitation for change. As poet Laura Goldstein says, in “Awesome Camera”: “Across the calm world, small battles, people playing . . . for a few fraudulent months, the debate followed the election . . . on the surface a language replicates itself for a republic, under the ashes the other is whispered, spreading waves through a community. The leaders are stronger than ever.”
In our post-industrial service economy, few goods are actually “made” (or, new language coined) yet the frenetic speeds, exploitative structures, and assembly-line homogenization of productive capital retains its hold. Cognitive capitalism within a commercialized urban landscape and, virtually, cyberspace, have made irrevocable changes to how and where we think: the very neuronal plasticity of our brains has been reformed, and artists of all mediums transfixed by and nostalgic for an escape from image-driven culture. Baudrillardian simulacra and depthless surfaces have become Harlow’s wire monkey, supplanting the “authentic” so fully that most poets writing in globalized English can’t remember an “outside” grounding referential language, so chimerical, or threatening, has the “real” (the other, or non-Western paradigms) become.
For Heidegger, the “not-yet-thought” of an author’s work was its greatness. Derrida calls this trope “unknowledge,” an ante-epistemology not haphazard but following its own schematic progression (the logic of the unconscious, perhaps): “The unknowledge that will know where and how to exceed science itself . . . it will not be circumscribed by the history . . . of dialectics, but will be the absolute excess of every epistemē, of every philosophy and every science.”
Time-as-event: the felix culpa of rupture between kairos and chronos, unknowledge and its coming-into-form?
Modernity’s “messianic future,” as spoken of by Walter Benjamin (reframed in Lucy Biederman’s poem “My Walter Benjamin” as “The carnivality of belonging to an epoch”) overwrote a missing present: the material and ideological structures built in its wake are a colossus of temporally and spatially ungrounded ruins, and thus “unsustainable” as dwellings for both body and mind.
The writing of difference (post-modernity’s unthought thought), and teleological pursuits beyond a continually regressive present, is contingent upon self-possession, and resistance to the “order of the same”: essentializing, pre-packaged “norms” based on white, male, or heteronormative experience. Bearing witness to the differend reanimates the relationship between aesthetic labor and the evacuation of political praxis: the slow work of critical assessment amid streams of liquid capital and pop culture. We undergo this work conscious of the legacies of scientific rationalism and deconstructionism on our thinking and language use, poetic and discursive. While Derrida saw deconstruction as a creative act of “liberating” language from accrued connotations and an unmediated relationship between signifier and signified, post-deconstructionism (a double-negation) invites self-erasure by the affixing of “post” to all identitarian claims. For any subject who has experienced hegemonic censorship, these terms still clearly have weight: Deborah Copaken Kogan’s essay, “My So-Called Post-Feminist Life in Arts and Letters” in the April 2013 edition of The Nation, in which she describes being forced to title her memoir as a war photographer Shutterbabe, as one recent example.
In an age when flarf and digital poetics constitute the final flourish on post-lyric democratization (to quote Vanessa Place, “when The New York Times is generating haiku algorithmically, it’s time to hang up your dancing shoes”), is it no longer useful to distinguish between visual and textual fields of reference (“surface reading” versus abrogated “depth hermeneutics”), aesthetic and ethical orientations, or Clement Greenberg’s abrogated “kitsch” and “avant-garde”? What language acts comprise today’s vanguardism (“post-avant” as the the revolutionary cadre within the academy, and neo-absurdism or surrealism, from without)?
In a poetics fueled by oneiric desires, does no one, not even the jailed or oppressed, “need” to make their voices heard, hear those of others, or attempt to represent the alienated “selves” of those silenced by the ruling class or dominant discourse?
Philip Metres, in his essay “‘Under the Bombs’: On the Failure of Protest Art, and Why We Still Need It,” speaks to the importance of continuing the legacy of resistance literature, spurred by Walt Whitman, Muriel Rukeyser, and Denise Levertov, despite the failure inherent to representing violence, war, and the ideological terrorisms endemic to “politics”: “ . . . This is why protest art—art whose allegiances to the actual often come at the cost of its art—is still necessary, and sometimes a vital supplement both to the historical archive and to the history of art. It says: this happened, in the way that Herodotus—the father of history—begins: ‘I Herodotus of Halicarnassus here set down what the Greeks and Persians did so as to prevent these deeds from drifting into oblivion.’ Though we think of protest as a sort of negation, the word protest, after all, comes from the Latin for ‘to testify before,’ meaning a public witness.”
Matter contributor Gabriel Gudding, on the 20th century swap of the linguistic for the ethical turn: “the way we excite the political and invest the excluded is precisely via insistence on ethical reparation. That is necessarily its function: ethics is the means by which we pull the abject into the light of consideration, into the light of the political; its purpose is to argue on behalf of those who are not even considered ‘those’ yet.” Acknowledging the incapacity of object-oriented-ontology’s “radical democracy of objects” to grant subjectivity to “non-human” others, Gudding insists that speculation about ontology must be done in concert with ethical practice and empirical verification. The subjectivity of animals must be properly and carefully represented in how we think about Being if we are to move beyond an “already incomprehensible calculus that has transmuted the very limit of ontological reality – suffering – into a commodity itself.
The commodification of human and animal capital is a legitimate fear, given language’s instrumentalization by communist and fascist ideologies, and the shotgun wedding between technoscience and capital, yet deranging language’s ability to communicate (or declaring language’s communicative function obsolete) are not the only solutions. If the novel is the site of world-making, according to Lukács, poiesis is the province of self- and place-making as well as, since Homer and Hesiod, valuation. Without an ethics of solidarity, a competition-driven market may continue to fuel aesthetic production (e.g. a book a year, in a market where opportunities for publishing, print and online, proliferate apace with the viral speed of production) but not necessarily a meaningful, embodied connection with the past, future, or each other.
As Susan Bordo said, critiquing culture doesn’t keep us from enjoying its problems. Form anesthetized of risk, affectual content, audience sensitivity, or subject “matter” is a linguistic game began in the absence of no descriptive “real” on which to found a unifying meta-discourse. Yet, the belief that shared language has no real-time, intersubjective consequences if not able to be totalized as “real,” keeps writers from speaking out against terrorist insurrections erupting the wake of identifiable “authority”: the delusional ideologies of those who try to mete out “justice” through destruction (often instigated not by vengeance, but motiveless violence).
Matter is space where visual artists, poets, and writers of all genders, races, and ethnicities can contribute work without first bleeding it of subjectivity and criticality (whether of social and financial institutions, the other, or ourselves). We hope what transpires will be an evolving forum for desired change, humor, and provocative art that transcends the false binary between politics and aesthetics, as well as lyric, language and conceptual antimonies based on perceived inabilities of those discourses (musical prosody, semiotic play, and formalist abstraction, in turns), for structural critique.
We thank you for reading.
Robin Dluzen, “Power Lines, Adrian, MI,” “Turquoise Series, Stacks,” “Untitled,” and “Nicholas Arboretum”
Robin Dluzen was born and raised in Southeast Michigan. In 2008, the artist received a BFA in Fine Arts and Literature from Adrian College in Adrian, MI, and in 2010, Dluzen received an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently the artist maintains a studio practice in the city of Chicago, and Dluzen’s work has been featured in such venues as the Union League Club of Chicago, Ugly Step Sister Gallery, Chapel Projects at the Charnel House, Chicago Artists’ Coalition and 22 in Berwyn, IL. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Art Critic at Chicago Art Magazine, Dluzen is currently an art critic contributing to Art Ltd. Magazine, Visual Art Source, New American Paintings blog and Art F City.
For more information, please visit http://robindluzen.com/
a September is had
in Shatila a 14 years-old girl wrote
“My love I’m like a rose
some days I decorate weddings
other days graves”
She’s not alone
life is a conspiracy
you were subaltern you couldn’t speak
or you spoke when no one was listening
were spoken for when silent
in Phoenix an American woman’s been saving
Her French husband who helped
in the kitchen said
The Congolese understand
Fady Joudah‘s 2nd poetry collection, Alight, is available from Copper Canyon Press. “Dear Sister” appears in Textu, his third collection, forthcoming from Copper Canyon ebooks. Each poem appearing in Textu is 160 characters long, and composed on a cellphone. Joudah’s translation, Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, is shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize.
Vast separation from the beloved.
Tagging temptations like a rogue librarian.
The crowd rushes from the opera house unmoved.
What he had for Lucy was unwritten.
Shame, confusion under the rainy tin sky.
Death as an accident: a handheld mistake.
“Women are never satisfied.”
The carnivality of belonging to an epoch.
What’s the word for an undiscovered word?
Honey-rubbed maple years bored by necessity.
Newsprint flaps through the platz like a hurt bird.
It’s rude to stare too long at a Century.
Tivoli Gardens, Buckingham Palace.
Here: a map of a spiral. It’s worse than Venice.
Lucy Biederman is the author of two chapbooks, The Hardest Part Is Done (Grey Book Press, forthcoming 2013) and The Other World (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). She is a PhD candidate in English Literature/Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana. Her poems are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, BOMB, The Literary Review, Bone Bouquet, The Tusculum Review, and other journals.
EQUINOX EVE: Silent Meeting Group
–for Allison Cobb& Jennifer Coleman
“I like to listen to new age music at heavy metal decimals!!”
Over seven billion human beings live on Earth now. We have displaced or made extinct so many other species of animals, insects and plants that we have actually lost track! In the age of Emily Dickinson less than a billion humans were alive and wild bison roamed the open plains of the United States. Today there is just a small group grazing in Yellowstone National Park, and those were put there to be wild on purpose. They are museums of fur and hooves. We love our museums, they comfort and soothe us when we feel uncertain of the choices we have made.
This (Soma)tic ritual gets us a little closer to how strange and troubled we humans are. I made a flier and hung it all over Philadelphia:
SILENT MEETING GROUP
WENESDAY, MARCH 20th
5pm to 6pm
2nd floor couch area of
THE BOOK TRADER
(2nd St. & Market St.)
ONLY RULE: NO TALKING
Do not fear LOOKING at these people. The kinds of people who show up will understand, and will be looking at YOU as well! Look at how WEIRD our world can be! What are we conveying without speaking? As much as 80% of human communication is nonverbal, remember this detail. As soon as the hour is up, casually walk away WITHOUT TALKING! NO TALKING! GO, GET GOING, GO SOMEWHERE where you can sit and quietly take account of your silent meeting. Take the quiet with you to write a poem.
dear glen of
I would have
not being devoted to the way
you want me to
be fearless but
I cannot relax in
your world I can
go home where
success collides with
all the bad
fed me to the
tyranny of the
you ask if
I say the love of
hisJuliet and his
Romeo was as
outlaw as it gets
devoted to theway
things are means the
odds are bad
sometimes white men
with long hair nod to
me downtown because
I’m a white man with
I love you
CA Conrad is the author of several books of poetry, and he is a 2011 PEW Fellow, a 2012 UCROSS Fellow, and a 2013 BANFF Fellow. He is also a 2012 and 2013 visiting faculty member for the Summer Writing Program of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University.
The heat ate up the grass,
turned it yellow at the roots.
If you need me to get precise
I’ll get precise.
Already, my headache
is the worst part of today.
I dreamed a dream
of us outside a silo.
Or inside a landscape.
I can’t be sure
if the heat ate the corn
the dust turned to wind.
I don’t care
about the silo,
the terribly burned grass.
But you deserve to know
that when you opened your hand
you had seeds there.
You had a cardinal
in your other hand
or you were bleeding.
The way I bleed in dreams
is birds flutter
out and out of my body.
How you bleed in my dreams
is that a horrible shine
stretches over you
like a broken windshield.
My cardinal ate
whatever it was
out of your other hand
its beak breaking
the seeds in loud procession.
If we have many souls,
we must feed each one separately,
I’m sure enough of that,
but why would I not tell you?
Sometimes when we talk
on the phone, I think to myself
that all words are a form of animal.
I feel so stupid saying this
over and over beside the silo.
I feel so stupid
saying you’ll forgive me soon
the birds leaving my mouth
over and over like a prayer.
Kyle McCord is the author of three books of poetry including Sympathy from the Devil (Gold Wake Press 2013). He has work featured in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Third Coast and elsewhere. He’s received grants or awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Baltic Writing Residency. Along with Wendy Xu, he co-edits iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, and he is lead content editor for LitBridge. He teaches at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX.