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manifest press

from        kate robinson <
to        Nicky Tiso <>
date        Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 7:03 PM
subject        whenever i type your name in the “to:” field

the first address that comes up is “” even though i have sent like 20000 emails to this address and maybe like 2 to that one.

wtf is that?

so the thalia field reading the other night was fucking awesome even though my interaction with her was awkward to say the least. i have this odd perspective on the whole thing that i think you would be interested in and i wanted to email about it rather than call you because i’m probably going to turn it into a blog entry, but i’d rather it be an email that i turn into a blog entry than just a blog entry or just an email because i think that’s also part of the odd perspective.

thalia read first. with miranda mellis (who i don’t know, but who teaches at mills) and a person named sarah (who i have never seen before and know nothing about). first she read from a prank of georges, the book she wrote in response to gertrude stein with abigail lang, her translator into french. i showed it to you when you were visiting.

last semester for my “artists’ books: conceptual approaches” class i made this book that was responding to four different works written by women called “sources and responses.” i took four texts (“composition as explanation” by gertrude stein, open box by carla harryman, a prank of georges by thalia field and abigail lang, and “blue notes from the know ledge” by joan retallack) that somehow inform the poetics that i am shaping for myself and, at least in my mind, are in conversation with one another about the nature of language, and wrote short poetic responses to them which i set in type and letterpressed. i also pulled words and phrases from the texts (or from sections of the texts in the cases of open box and a prank of georges) that i printed in a different typeface and cut out. the books were made of long envelopes folded and coptic bound together, each envelope comprising a signature. on the closed off side of the envelope i pasted the printed response i’d written, and in the open side of the envelopes i put the words/phrases from the original texts. the colophon explains that the poems are responses to those specific texts, but it doesn’t explain the fragments. their purpose is left up to the reader.

i would have liked to have talked to her about this project, but after my faux pas i felt a little too awkward to, which was stupid on my part, shoulda just done it. how often will i have thalia field in my back yard? dang.

anyway, she (and her companions) read from the exact section that i used to respond to in that project, which was kind of exciting for me. i sat there in the front row enraptured and recording it on my phone, which is at this point an impulse for me when i’m watching something i’m really excited about. recording all those punk shows in olympia, and then doing the video recording for the contemporary writers series at mills has pushed this archiving experience button in me. the thought crossed my mind that i should ask her, but i didn’t see her before the reading, and then i just got excited and did it. at some point during the reading i noticed her look over at me with a look that could have very well been complete disdain.


i had conflicting feelings about that moment, but i continued recording. i wanted a document to reflect on and think deeply about. a text to analyze.

after her reading, between readers, i was standing talking to jen burris (maybe you know or would recognize her, she was in monstrous possibility and she just moved down here from portland) and miranda mellis came up to me to say that thalia had some big issues about her readings being recorded and distributed. i apologized and told her that i’d delete the recording, then as i was going back to sit down for the next reader i approached thalia to apologize, which i did, then sat down to listen to the next readers erin morrill and allison cobb. i didn’t have direct intentions to “distribute” the recording, but i likely would have shared it with a handful of interested parties in olympia. you, for example.

thalia had every right to not want me to film her, but i also think i had every right to film her given the context. is a poetry reading public or private? what is a shared space? what is the nature of a public reading? a private reading? what is the use value of an archive and who decides what goes into an archive?

interestingly enough the next reader, erin morrill, started her reading by asking that people not record it through video or photograph. she made a really good statement about the devaluing of the direct experience, the value of actually being present for something, in our age of continuous self-archiving. she then read standing behind a projection screen onto which she projected photographs she’d taken of her life, her own personal archive: the places she goes, her body, her friends and presumably family, etc. incredibly beautiful and intimate photographs i might add, especially from someone who doesn’t claim to be a photographer. her reading was self-reflective about its contradictory nature (a performed self-archive asking to exist in an ephemeral time and space) and engaging.

my putting a camera between thalia and i immediately mediated our interaction, surely. that is not generally the kind of conversation i want to have, so i can recognize the incongruity of my position here.

i don’t have answers for these questions or contradictions, nor am i sure that the answers really exist. inevitably they are answered in context, within each specific space and reading. but i’m interested in stimulating discourse around it.

you know how i’ve been collecting footage of myself using my laptop camera to use as some of the source material for those video collage poems i want to make for my thesis project? well i just started going through the footage the other day, watching what i’ve collected a little. it was both really weird and really great. i managed to catch myself doing so many of the things that i would not want anyone to see me doing. watching what i’ve watched so far was both unsettling (gross. really. creepy.) and fascinating. a lot of gestures to dissect.

the other good news is that i’m actually considerably more photogenic than i think of myself as being.

i have this increasing desire to engage with things that make me uncomfortable or push at my boundaries. i mean, i guess i’ve had that forever, but it seems to be heightening and seeping into parts of my life wherein it didn’t seep before? i’m not sure yet where that’s coming from. i assume it’s also connected to my continual struggle between desiring an undefined existence AND some sort of stability.

this is the borderland of private and public, the question of what is private and what is public in light of our mediated experiences of the world through screens and other technologies. a mediation we can either embrace or reject. i usually embrace technology, but tentatively, and with a lot of questions. then there are the times i just don’t.

i think it also connects to the privatization of the poetry community that juliana was blogging about that you referred to in your last post. i mean, how much of our own poetic practice is bound up in relationships with our peers? and what happens when we’re young and moving around from place to place? obviously i would love it if all of my people were physically around me all the time, but that’s not going to happen. at this point my art practice is so totally bound up in the conversations i’m having with my peers, and a vast majority of those conversations are mediated by technology, by a screen.

i’m writing an email to you with the intention of posting it on my blog, for chrissakes!

pretty much every project i’ve undertaken in the last 2.5-3 years has had an element of collaboration; basically everything i write is in direct conversation with someone(s). or at least the writing that i do that i’m excited about. should i only be engaging with the poets/artists/thinkers immediately around me? sorry, my life and the relationships i’ve constructed are not shaped in that way. i often need the technological mediation in order to access those potentialities, ie. email, video chat, facebook, whatever it is that keeps me actively connected to the people i want to be working with/through who live far away from me.

the thing is, though, when i’m directing that impulse towards someone(s) it seems to flood out so much more intensely than if i’m just sitting in my lonely writer tower trying to spring a well from inside my chest. which is why i just gotta keep pushing forward with this whole “writing as a tool of social empowerment/engagement” agenda. which is why i think i’m stating these ideas so much better in an email to you than i think i would be if i were writing a blog.

i don’t want to create an insular language, but i realize that’s kind of what i’m doing. when people outside of my little circle of thinkers/collaborators, or people who aren’t involved/educated in avant-garde poetry movements (even other poets in my mfa program) read my work they’re usually like “oh, that’s neat. i don’t get it. what does it MEAN?” which is, well, it’s the worst. when i turned in my first chunk of work for workshop this semester it was half that fragmented narrative project and half my MANIFEST manuscript. the only feedback i got was on the narrative work. not a single one of my classmates said a single word about the other work. i’ve got to figure out how to fix that. it’s my number one problem.

i told amber dipietra the other day when we were sitting and having an amazing chat that i didn’t really care about getting published, that if i wanted to be published i’d just do it myself, or with my friends, and she affirmed that desire in a way that really excited me. i think i’m going to start doing workshops with her (and others she’s in conversation with), which i am really excited about, and about moving in with cheena and brittany and doing workshops at our house. i want writing to be an active and continual process of communicating with people immediately around me as well as those in the wider (i.e. national/international) poetry community. world community. what if i could start doing satellite skype workshops? what would that look like?


i’m really looking forward to seeing you. in my head you’re going to stay the night in olympia on sunday, but i realize this might not fit with your schedule. i hope it does, though, cause i want more nicky time than just the thesis discussion.

❤ ❤ ❤

Kate Robinson
Mills College MFA candidate, poetry + book art
Place for Writers TA
co-manager, Poetry Professional Development


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