©2019 by David Spittle. 

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7. Light Glyphs: Lisa Samuels

February 19, 2018

 

 

Lisa Samuels is a poet whose work diversely explores and inhabits a plurality of form and impulse: essays, sound art, collaboration, performance, film, theory, philosophy, and the continual intermingling of these fields in ways that energetically refute their distinction. From LETTERS (Meow Press, 1996) to Symphony for Human Transport (Shearsman, 2017), in the fourteen collections in-between and through editing a recent anthology (A TransPacific Poetics, Litmus Press, 2017), Lisa Samuels' engagement with poetry has always upheld a challenging and tireless ability to question and invent. Although it is facile to suggest any one defining characteristic in a poetics that prioritizes the mutable and mobile, it is in the confluence of body and language and the possibility to embody (or be embodied), that Samuels often returns. Syntax becomes a bending gristle of feeling, words are willed into somatic friction, and the page opens itself (as a self and its dissolution) to reacting anatomies of experience. Her poetry is complex, felt, and philosophically realised (without resolution) in the sensory and tactile proof of living, as that living pursues and loses grip and gulp of where and when to ground, in language, what living is.

 

 I want to begin by asking you about the writhingly glorious epic of skin, breath and water that is Tender Girl (Dusie, 2015)…taking Lautréamont’s proto-surrealist Les Chant de Maldoror as inspiration, you imagine the being that results from Maldoror’s tumbling sexual tryst with a shark…the consequence being titular ‘Tender Girl’: an amphibious shark/girl hybrid that arrives on the shores of mankind and spends the novelistic prose-poem’s entirety navigating patriarchal and linguistic resistance…exploring, experiencing and encountering…There is so, so much in this book that (before going any further) I would like to echo Carol Watts’ blurb in seeing the logic of calling it ‘a classic for our time’ and urge anyone reading this interview, to READ Tender Girl post-haste!

 

The interaction between textual and corporeal, somatic and syntactic, drives much of the book…to choose one moment (of many) that switches between a linguistic naming and a physiological functioning: 

 

The body emanates salt perfumes, tiny reeking.

She turns on soft light gets the encyclopedia images and begins

naming her parts: Sisyphus Amanda regicide wisdom serpent clam

pennyroyal bread Roland wingspan commoner fence.

 

This transitioning back and forth between language and bodily phenomenology often exists in your poetry, I was wondering if you could say a bit about this fascination? 

 

Thank you for your interested words about Tender Girl. I feel happy for the intensity of making that book that it can have the kind of committed reading you bring to it. And I think these transitionings you point out are imperative for me; they are the way things are in my experience. I breathe language or am breathed through by language, which yet also morphs in relation to non-lingual feeling and geometric cognizance and diaphanous imbuing. I experience my body intensely and it erupts or soothes itself by way of language. So yes, the transitions go at least “both” ways. 

 

And of course language is its bodies: its sounds, spaces, displacement, stretching letters, ink-shapes, tongues of fire and disdain, clusters of words or letters together (or solo swishes), wishes for ears, electric (digital) trembling, wet electric (mental) happenings, wishes to grow differentials (extensions, new forms) in relation to itself such as with human bodies. So it’s volitional, and that wilfulness is part of the social nature of language. 

 

At the same time languages operate always between at least two points or beings, object-events, persons, person-to-text-to-person, so the transitionings you perceive in my writing are always communicative in the broadest sense. Communication as attitude, sense-markers, message transfer, touch, invitation, threat, distance, closeness, and more.  

 

And bodies have languages: exhalations and imprecations having to do with blood, marrow, breath, holes, also communication with gestures, expressions, actions, also movement-shapes of the limbs and torso and head: all languages. Every gesture for me is a language in relation with the potentially expressible. So the relation is I suppose dialectical, though I don’t know that I have thought of it that way precisely before, much as I live in dialectics. 

 

 

Are there any writers, films or music that you turn to for inspiration, or in research, when considering the poetics of phenomenology…or for a phenomenology of poetics?

 

This is an interesting question for me at this point because it shows me that I have not been thinking recently so much about phenomenology per se in terms of reading philosophical works ascribed to it. 

 

And yet I think the question is about how I am reading things rather than perhaps what I am reading, thinking of reading as viewing and experiencing also. 

 

In the past I have liked Merleau-Ponty and Michel de Certeau for helping me think about how I encounter thinking and object-events, yet de Certeau wouldn’t be considered a phenomenologist. Latterly I have been recurrently obsessed with Charles Sanders Peirce, Theodor Adorno, and Édouard Glissant, whom I am using as support and door-opening thinkers in some as-yet-unpublished essays I am writing. And yet again: not phenomenologists per se, I suppose. 

 

I suspect my more precisely phenomenological ponderings are forwarded by writings that are not disciplinarily philosophical, for example Ida West, a Tasmanian, wrote and published only one book, Pride Against Prejudice, which I’ve also been writing an essay about. The way she uses language as a foreign entity of encounter with the political intensities of her life comes across to me as ethical phenomenology shunted through the challenges of creating any way to speak about life. Leslie Scalapino, too, has long been a phenomenological writer I find really interesting.

 

As for music: huh. That’s such a different realm of being for me from the lingual and the scopic, at least in terms of being a listener. I’m not a devotee of particular musicians nor of type really, unless you want to point to the Unusual, or maybe to “new music” and free jazz and sonic play. I’ve worked with three composers to make poetry and sound events happen, and I could possibly talk a lot about that, but I want to consider your question in terms of what I “turn to” as a listener. For example in 2016 I encountered the work of trombonist Stuart Dempster, and part of what excited me was the environments – such as the “cistern chapel” (a disused water cistern) he played and recorded in with other musicians – and score-with-open-borders that he seems to work with, at least in terms of how I experience the music. My response to his work is certainly interpretable as devotion to environment and open script within the demands of working one’s instruments; that devotion describes at least one part of my phenomenological poetics. 

 

 

 

The other most obvious element in Tender Girl, which lends it a theoretical urgency, is how, in answering Les Chants des Maldoror with a hybridised female character – the literally untold story of Maldoror’s spawn – you invoke the historically troubled, marginalised, neglected, projected, and falsified presence of women in Surrealist art (I like to think your book belongs to the always more interesting category of ‘in dialogue with Surrealism’ as opposed to declaratively ‘Surrealist’). It also begins to uncover and play with the Surrealism of gendered experiences, and presents a shifting female re-configuration of thinking about, and as, Surrealism. Could you say a bit about the interaction between Feminism and Surrealism, as you see it, in Tender Girl

 

Again, I’m so glad you like this book and I am grateful for the book’s sake that you have given it so much time. Thank you for that responsive generosity. I know you are interested in Surrealism, which is a set of historical attitudes and procedures I have, at different times, attended to. You doubtless know far more about it than I do at this point, since I moved away from it as a topic of study after graduate school. It’s probably true that my moving away was for critical gender reasons, after I shifted from a pretty naïve engagement with Surrealism to a more sceptical one. One might say that working with Laura Riding’s writings is the closest I have come to a critical interaction with Surrealism. What I mean is that her writings perform interesting work with surrealism without being particularly astute – or interested in being academically situated in astute dialogue – about Surrealism as a European mode or a set of approaches. 

 

I feel a bit twisted up in answering this question, and I suspect that’s because I know how I feel about the question re Tender Girl, but I don’t know immediately how I think about it. Maybe I’ll try to talk about how I feel. 

 

My vision of the inciting idea of the book was sudden and unplanned. I imagined this Girl arising from the sexual encounter between Maldoror and the shark. So the shark gives birth to Girl, and later she rises out of the ocean and I imagined her learning language and learning to interact with the human world. 

 

 

 Certainly one can read that sexual encounter in Les Chants de Maldoror as a voluntary erotic violence, at least according to the book’s language, which is all there is of that imaginary encounter. So the female has already been scarily enstranged in Maldoror’s surrealism, which is of course not “surrealism” at all but rather an exuberant-to-violence masculinist imaginary set of encounters that the 20th century French Surrealists took as a grandfather text. This shark cannot speak though she is described as having volition with her body and in her eyeing the human male. And she exists only as language, so in that sense she is “speaking” or being spoken and spoken for. 

 

Yet there’s an interesting power balance available in Maldoror’s text at that moment, for of course the shark could kill the human easily, is among other sharks doing just that. So their fucking each other is a replacement violent desire. Can we say that imagination is permitted license to think the imagined shark-female has volition in her fucking? Well, the scene is very short, really, so what happens immediately is that we interpret, imagine, prolong or look away from, judge the fantasy that a powerful unlanguaged non-human animal would want to fuck a human. The grounds of Lautréamont’s imagining do not have to be ours, yet we are, as readers of the book, meeting his realm. So then, writing out of that realm is re-making the book from that point, empowering an off-script new imagination – or, to think of it in terms of your question, critiquing the book’s violence against females, its deployment of imaginative excess in relation to violent permissions. 

 

So the Girl of Tender Girl is partly an extra-human avenger – who yet “achieves” nothing in her vengeance. She does not mean to be one, by the way, nor did I plan her that way when writing. She sometimes avenges herself against those who take advantage of her, and she clashes against social pressures; but sometimes she is simply violent accidentally, as part of her physical powers and combinatory body. Almost all the moral action of the book is at least polyvalent, partly because almost all the males of the book are configured as consequences of their worlds. The characters are almost all opaque or symbolic, canvases and response points for the dominant story of Girl. 

 

I think one of the things I have to say in response to this question is that my literate or literary background is itself hybrid. For example I have no grounded relation in a particular discourse of either Surrealism or Feminism. I was carefully trained neither in French Surrealism nor in, say, Continental Feminisms or their Anglo-American-Australasian counterparts or counterpaths. The very name of the principal male in Tender Girl, for example, comes from an entirely different place, say a place that is outside of theory unless one zeroes in on the personal in all theory: I chose it because, once upon a time, a kind Palestinian named Ramsey gave me a copy of The Jerusalem Bible, when I was a teenage girl living in Jerusalem. I still have that bible, and the episodic nature of biblical – or, say, recurrent theistic – discourse is part of the self-permission and picaresque of Tender Girl. It’s like she’s a Nothing god-female, an unwitting version of the dual-action divinity in The Book of Job, a litmus slathering through human action. Ramsey is the only male who comes in to any kind of focus and the only character with a normative human name in the book. 

 

So it might be interesting for me to push on why that is, since my carrying on in that fashion was instinctively done rather than critically decided and controlled in terms of how I wrote and revised Tender Girl

 

Something salvific in the Ramsey character keeps Girl from entirely despising human masculinity, though she still accidentally then increasingly consciously bristles against those male figures who condescend to her and/or molest her. She grows more and more feminist as she has more human experience, and there was never a question that her offspring would be a female, since the offspring is a rebirth of identificatory possibility and a marker of continuation. Also we never know – I never knew – which seed Girl chose from her blue-sharkish pouch for insemination. This matters in terms of your question – which I realize I have veered around in relation to – because volition and plotted blanks, non-available motives and uncharted ingredients, are part of Girl’s powers across the human zones she encounters. Insofar as she is a moving target of para-surrealistic legibility, her character is in type and action evasive of knowing: like history or selves.

 

One point I think of here, finally, in terms of the Feminism in your question, is that some small part of Tender Girl – “part” in the way that a piece of water is part of a large body of water – is a critique of The Awakening, a novel I find deplorable, depressing upon the head of woman whilst presented as some kind of female wake-up narrative. 

 

In saying all that, it’s important to recur to Girl’s non-actuality or non-possibility. “Girl” is a nonce equation: biological unachievable, carried by discourse, maybe by theory, which is what your question supposes. I can’t answer the matter of feminism and surrealism adequately by resolved exposition nor by normative mimetic dramatic character. So I took it up through Girl. 

 

 

Building upon the destabilised centrality of bodily experience as textual/textural experience or the relationship between both experiences – a moving back and forth that denies a settling certitude – and considering the title of your collection, Wild Dialectics (Shearsman, 2012), could you elaborate on the role of theory and philosophy in your work? Are you immersed in one and then turn to the other for expression…or are they more simultaneous to you?

 

When you write “one” and “the other” in your question, I wonder whether you are contrasting poetry and theory/philosophy, or if you mean theory is one thing and philosophy is “the other”? I prefer to think of the second option because it’s so interesting to think about the difference between theory and philosophy. 

 

I have two essay manuscripts developing. Their delay is due to limited time to work, and I admit that my limited writing time gets preferentially allocated to so-called “creative” works, mostly. Anyway the difference between theory and philosophy forms part of the energy in my “creative theory” essay manuscript. That ms. begins with “Wild dialectics,” an essay that has nothing to do with my poetry book of that title per se and everything to do with the nominal intuition proposed in my mind by the idea of wild dialectics, which is focused on the hinge of thinking. I realize, though, that I can’t really explain that essay nor fully take up your question in the confines of this interview – there’s too much to say, and the answer might be: the essays I am writing. 

 

So maybe I’ll turn the question a bit: in the way that we say everyone should write poetry, we might say everyone should write theory. Everyone with privilege to think, given basic security and bodily care, should consider how to develop a consciousness rather than assuming they already have one, to paraphrase Nietzsche’s critique (in The Gay Science). I perceive theory as more open to human permission than philosophy, in terms of its cultural and disciplinary positioning. To be sure, people often try to solidify position and builds walls, but really I think theory is still a free virus among the chances. I reckon perhaps the digitas has opened up those chances in something of the way enjoyed by speculative essays, broadsheets, pamphlets, etc., at various historical periods. 

 

Well, every sentence here is making me think of how much more there is to say, but again I’ll curb, and turn to the other interpretation of your question. If I could work on my projects full time I think I would constantly range back and forth between the creative and the critical. As I sometimes say to students, I find each one to be REM sleep for the other. But they are not the same thing to me. I want poetry to be theory; I want creative writing to have the status of first-order thinking. Just because it doesn’t, in general, doesn’t mean one stops working on that border. When people are irritated by experimental creative work it seems to be because they think creative work should be mimetically normative stories only. Super-short (poems) or extended (narratives), in any event stories.

 

 

When people are irritated by experimental theoretical essays, it seems to be at least partly due to a (however understandable) desire for “clear” narrative or for focused furthering of a topic deemed to be disciplinarily shaped. For me, I am not interested in univocal certitude. I’m simply not interested. Nor do I concede any conversations as finished or as dominated by some set of persons or styles. I suppose similar assertions could apply to my poetry, so again: these associated realms of poetry and theory allow my own work to have more discursive instruments and my mind to have more voices.

 

I’d like to move on to talking about Tomorrowland (Shearsman, 2009), this book-length sequence has led to a film (adaptation/extension) … in addition to the double CD of accompanying sound experimentation… could you contextualise how this came about? What was your creative relationship like with director Wes Tank? 

 

More big questions!, whose answers encompass years and many possible thoughts. Well, Tomorrowland was the first book of mine for which I had the urge to record and compose soundscapes. It’s an epic – in the sense of a poem including history, and also in its sustained length – and it’s an intensely motivated poem. I wanted a sound performance to exist as an embodied translation of the paper text. There’s a narrated quality to the book that comes out probably more vividly in being read aloud. But I also wanted to make soundscapes; I really enjoyed the process of creating sound differentials and thinking about how they could be contra-puntal ambience for the recorded voice of the different sections of the poem. I have many different musical instruments and other sound-making objects and I like to play them dis-connectedly or improperly, to conjure diastolic differentials by way of diachronic systole, to adopt a heart metaphor. 

 

Anyway the film happened very differently and surprisingly: Wes Tank contacted me about making Tomorrowland into a film after he had listened to the CDs repeatedly. So I consider that the film started with the CD soundtrack rather than with the paper book. I had known and taught Wes as an undergraduate student in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and he had become in intervening years a musician and videographer in addition to a writer. We met up in person in late 2014 and storyboarded part of the film, which was a fascinating process. Wes printed out the text of “All the Buildings Made of Voices” and cut up the pages into small aspects of lines, 2-6 lines or so apiece, and then glued them to a large board. We went through each of these textual sections and discussed possible interpretations of most of them. What did they mean? How could something like that be filmed? 

 

Finally in June 2016, when I was on research leave and based in Seattle, we filmed with a ten-person crew in Milwaukee. Then in January 2017 Wes flew to New Zealand and we filmed with a more minimal crew. Those two location shoots gave us the footage out of which the Tomorrowland film was sculpted and edited. There are countless hours of footage made with multiple cameras, and Wes and his editorial team created what is now the viewable art short. He imagines creating a different and longer version at some point, but whether or not that happens is up in the air. In terms of your question, our working relations have always been great, and it’s worth noting that the film result is principally Wes’s vision out of the potential of my materials in both the book and the CDs. 

 

 

 

You also appear in the film as the alien-like, travelling figure of Eula. Was it important for it be played by you, do you see your poetry in conversation with elements of performance art? 

 

Casting me as Eula was, in the first instance, purely economics. We had no money to make the film, and Wes suggested I play Eula. I had to get over an initial surprise and resistance to the idea. I trusted Wes, so that was not a problem. I just imagined casting someone other than me so I could be more distant from the film, have more of a critical or maker’s eye. I also register the fact the film is not the book: Wes has created a film narrative that is not the same thing as the possibilities of Tomorrowland as book and as CDs. The film’s Eula arrives as a space alien; the book’s is not. The film becomes meta-narrative in a way the book really doesn’t, for example. But of course a morphic translation – a new mediality – is always different from another media state. 

 

Anyway, I do certainly see my poetry as in conversation with performance art. The CDs are performance art, for example, and I have recorded toward making other CDs that will eventually exist, barring sudden death. I want to make more performances, but again: world enough and time. I have a full-time academic job, and for now performance works happen hither and yon amidst other work. 

 

A different way to take up your question is that the interlacings of signs, the prospects and possibilities of interacting modes, is brought out when something happens with more than one technical aspect or platform of its possibilities. So if there is sound with print, or moving bodies with dialog, then engagement has structured dialectic to work with. When there is modal dialectic, there are multiplied chances to see, feel, and think. Which might seem to put pressure on anything apparently mono-modal. Isn’t it okay to read a book, for example? But there again I would say that the reader is the contrapuntal modality: the reader’s embodied mind is the performance space of the book’s textual object-event. In other words, everything is already multi-modal. Performance art torques and displays and overtly plays the keys of multi-modality. 

 

It also struck me that, in the film, the sense of Eula as a wandering, nomadic explorer …begins to resonate with the character of Girl in Tender Girl…is this a consciously reoccurring interest…as the outsider, a female (but whose gender seems ambiguously in play away from any binary) who allows a perspective through which to re-encounter everyday experience…to estrange and interrogate our accepted experiences? It reminded me, to an extent, of Scarlett Johansson’s alien abductress in Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel Under the Skin (2013).

 

I have not seen that Glazer film. But I can say that once I realized what Wes Tank wanted to do with Eula, I thought of Liquid Sky, the Slava Tsukerman film from the 1970s that made a keen impression on me when I saw it on video in the 1990s. If you have seen that Tsukerman film then you can imagine how Eula became a visualization for me in terms of Wes’s film vision. In terms of picaresque experiences, though, Girl is much more akin to the Liquid Sky heroine than Eula is, in both the book and the film version of Tomorrowland. Oh, things get all interwrapt!

 

 

 

Certainly a predominantly female-figured consciousness in imagined cultural spaces has become a legible obsession in my works. Hardly surprising, perhaps. I am more interested in the differentiations in various works than in the type-trace per se. But it’s possibly interesting to see this androgynous-female figuration intensify in my work. In the Tomorrowland book Eula isn’t a character so much as a para-narratorial figuration whose name stands for End User License Agreement and whose position is partly androgynous contemporary. Similarly but not identically, the other named principles of the book are not characters but symbolic forces. But Wes had to, or wanted to, work with human actors, and he set up Eula in a fairly stable body relation to actors who play the other named principles (ideas, that is, not mains) in the Tomorrowland book, that is: Fasti, Manda, and Jack.

 

 

What films have inspired you in the past?

 

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I wasn’t raised with films. I saw possibly ten films in cinemas before the age of about 14, and after that I went only somewhat more often until I got into my 30s. I don’t consider that I have much sophistication or depth of knowledge about film, though in the last decade I’ve seen a lot of children’s films because of raising my son and mostly watching movies that appeal to children. 

 

Most of the time I don’t want to see what is showing at the cinemas because it sounds too obvious: pre-interpreted dramatic situations of greater or lesser intensity. However, there are films that have moved me a great deal, and of course film as a medium has formidable powers of engagement with our bodily (scopic, sonic, and kinetic) and leisure-motivated (cinema-going) and critical selves. I’ve just mentioned the Tsukerman film. If I had my way I would almost always watch strange films, things like Buñuel’s, anime whose resolution isn’t too loud – perhaps The Red Turtle is a good contemporary example, mytho-symbolic as it is, though I saw Spirited Away when it first came out in theatres and I can’t think of an anime film I like better.

 

 

 

I should try to answer your question with more specifics. What films have inspired me? With manipulated dread and nausea: Pan’s Labyrinth, and its type of film. With desire and curiosity, Orphée. With discomfited interest, Theresa Hak Kying Cha’s short films, and similar short works whose makers and titles I forget because I have simply come across them while scrolling through ubuweb looking for moving image work. Werner Herzog’s films, too, especially Fitzcarraldo. Oh and also the legible-as-film digital kinetics of some of the work in the online Electronic Literature Collections, the most effective collocation of digital/new media works that I know of at present, however one might think at least twice about the ELC’s English-dominant orientations.

 

 

The merging of film and poetry, or the one-in-the-other dynamic, is a really difficult, but fascinating area – are there any particular coordinates of film or poetry that you look to as encapsulations of when these two mediums work well together? 

 

This is a good question. The problem of language in relation to anything else rises up acutely. The potential swamping of abstraction by sensory particulars also. I’ve already talked about multi-modality, so I think here I’ll say something about control and the open line. I have an essay called “Soft text and the open line” (coming out in Axon journal), and I’m thinking of it now because I know part of my experienced resistance to watching films is about control and swamping. Except when I go to the movies for what I call brain candy films, I don’t want to be seized by art; I want to be conscious. To sustain that consciousness, I want art to leave openings in itself. Such openings might be what are sometimes judged to be mistakes, which I think is part of the public pleasure in continuity errors in film editing – modern watches on the wrists of historical characters, for example, allow or force the audience to become conscious of the made experience. That consciousness actually increases the pleasure of immersion in the constructed film, at least for some viewers. 

 

But open lines can happen in more deliberately constructed ways: internally-skewed aspects of a work can function as waking points, breath moments interposing in the coherence of a made work. These open moments can be rougher, and perhaps feel like mistakes, or somewhat smoother and structured into a non-integrated and yet whole work. 

 

Even in terms of open lines film and poetry have different “coordinates,” as you are calling them here. For the sake of considering this question further, I want to acknowledge yet set aside the expansive possibilities for “film” and “poetry,” either of which can be almost anything that a maker and context wish to say they are. So film could be, for example, an audience raising its mobile phones – in a theatre with no central film showing – and filming what they see for ten minutes, then declaring the end of “the film.” Or poetry could be a person being handed slips of language written on tree leaves by another person right then on a boat, reading the slips aloud, then letting them fly out to sea. 

 

Actually, though I intended to imagine two examples that are different from a film in a cinema and a poem on a page being read in a book or on a screen, I find those imagined examples of ephemerally-focused control-loosening film and poetry to provide sufficient images of modal “coordinates.” The scopic-experience orientation of the filmic and the performed-interpretation orientation of poetry have a great deal to offer each other in terms of exponentializing dialectic opportunities and therefore mental food. 

 

You have mentioned in another interview (on ‘Jack Ross: Opinions’) the writers you are most often drawn to: ‘certain writers are recurrent for me, sometimes as a matter of the note I need to have plucked at a moment of thinking. Writers of excess can help me re-imagine our boundaries and exposures in the world – here I’m thinking of William Blake, Lautréamont, Friedrich Nietzsche, Laura Riding, Georges Bataille, Kathy Acker, William Vollmann.’ I was wondering whether the world-creating and ambitious excess of these writers, which certainly enters your work in the book-length explorations of Tomorrowland, Gender City, Tender Girl, and Symphony for Human Transport, is something that you think any other contemporary poets are doing? Who have you read recently that excites you?

 

It isn’t poetry, but I read without stopping The Stolen Island (2017), Scott Hamilton’s narrative of the pillaged island of ’Ata. It speaks within alternative histories of places – and I mean alternative ways of telling and considering histories – with and from a sustained “irrational” commitment (the way love is an irrational commitment) to Oceania ethics, identity, and histories. And Erín Moure’s Kapusta (2015) is one of my favourite recent books: translingual poetry and prose, experimental drama, investigation of communal and familial self – it performs multiply. Alice Notley’s poetry books are go-to readings for stripped encounter, not to be reductive, but certainly to be summary in terms of your question. By stripped encounter I suppose I mean poetry written in an unvarnished (hence “stripped”) self-encountering with many different aspects of life and death and utter commitment to imagination as thinking bodies. These encounters are of course artistically considered and shaped, and I’m conscious of imagining how they were written when I am reading her books. 

 

 

In terms of “world-creating and ambitious excess,” well, people create in their contexts and therefore zeitgeist recurrences zoom out everywhere. I am sure there are many poets writing now, whether or not I am aware of them, whose work features this large-creating aspect of imagining that you reference in your question. Don Mee Choi, for example, has completely entered my zones of attention: I am moved and discomfited by everything she writes, and she too writes in multi-modal history and lingual re-making. And in terms of more writing I am excited by – it’s hard to pause and think of more writers to mention, but some come up without too much push: Laressa Dickey and Nathanaël, for example, are both in the new women : poetry : migration (2017), edited by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, who has performed a service for the transnational imaginaries I live in by compiling this anthology. And the writers included in my own anthology A TransPacific Poetics (2017, co-edited with Sawako Nakayasu) are resonantly interesting for me: Don Mee is there, and Melanie Rands and Jai Arun Ravine for example. And in the new Chicago Review issue, Anne Kawala is a discovery for me; I’d like to find more of her poetry to read.

 

- Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, February 2018

 

 

 

 

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