May 5, 2014 writing process blog tour
So I was invited by Maya Weeks to participate in this “writing process blog tour,” and I’d been thinking that I should get back to thinking through things on this thing, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
The idea is that each person “tags” three other people (Maya was tagged by Francesca Lisette, and she tagged me, Nico Peck, and Ted Rees), so I decided to do a sort of generational survey with the people I’m tagging. Look for responses next week from Steven Hendricks, my Evergreen professor who taught me to print, showed me my first artists’ book (Humument by Tom Phillips), and essentially changed my life; Nicky Tiso, my classmate at Evergreen with whom I’ve collaborated a lot, both in tangible and intangible ways, and Beck Levy, my student this semester at Mills, who has taught me so much and who excites me so much with all of her talent and skills.
1.) What am I working on?
I’m working on too many things at once. Where to start…
First off I’m teaching my first college course, so that’s been a lot of work, and a lot of anxiety and a lot of fucking up and a lot of success, and it’s almost over, but that feels like a book I wrote or something, about how to figure shit out by the seat of your pants.
Connected to that I’m using the funding from my teaching fellowship to turn Brittany Billmeyer-Finn’s beautiful manuscript The Meshes into an edition of massive artists’ books. This involves creating 10 books of varying sizes housed in a big codex box type thing.
I’ve never taken on a project so massive, with so many different components and so many things to plan. I have to: make 11 polymer plates to create 15 ft accordion, set 7 different long poems in type, bind a German case-bound book, design a print on demand book, and then construct the codex box to put it all in. 10-15 times (hopefully, edition size tbd). I also have to make some collographs and smaller plates for imagery, and dye yards and yards of fabric to handmake the book cloth it will be covered in. It’s a lot to take on, but Brittany and I have been talking about and thinking about this project for like 3 years now, so it’s amazing to actually have the opportunity (and funding from Mills College) to make it a reality.
In regards to my own writing, I’m writing a lot about gender violence, both physical and psychological/emotional. This is taking a few different forms, a long poem and a couple letters mostly, but I’m hoping to subsume them all into a performance that I’ve been obsessing about/tumbling in my head. It would involve a cathartic performance of violence, a large group of women, and a lot of blood (probably fake, but definitely not actually issuing from anyone’s body on stage). It’s still unclear as to how this will manifest, but I can’t get the notion out of my head.
Performance is really on my mind lately. I’ve been meeting with a small group of poets who are also interested in this, reading, talking about performance, and moving our bodies around together. We’re calling ourselves The Third Thing. We’re in the midst of organizing an event thinking about jobs/work (work as in a job, not work like your writing), a series of performances that would take place hopefully over an entire 8 hour work day. Check out our call for submissions here.
I’m also working on a project that I’m calling an “exercise in densities” titled Dark Matter. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but it’s actually very simple. It’s a series of squares of the letter “W” overlapping and shifting away from each other. Each page has two layers, a bottom layer that is stable and the top layer where each square of the grid shifts 3 pts away from the previous square as you move across the rows and down the columns. I’m working through as many different iterations as I can imagine (both layers right side up, one layer right side up, the other upside down, one layer turned right, etc…). Once I work through all of these iterations I’m going to start turning the top layers. 3 degrees at a time. I’m imagining this project to eventually live in a massive perfect bound book with full bleeds on every page.
2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hahahahahahahahahaha…I don’t even know what my genre is. “Intermedia book artist” is what I’ve been calling myself, which catches all the different things in one title.
Lately I’ve been feeling very alienated from the label “poet.” In one sense I feel like I’m a person engaging with language in a myriad ways, both semiotic and material, and thus the term “poet” fits, more so than even just “writer” in that I think there’s more of an implication of play there. But on the other hand I feel like “poet” is evocative of a whole history and culture that I’m only tangentially related to. Meaning that I kind of don’t really know a lot about poetry, and I’m actually not particularly interested in learning more at this point. I have my little niche interests, and every once in a while I get obsessed about a certain poet, but…I dunno. I feel strange connecting myself to a tradition that I feel somewhat ambivalent towards. Especially because I’m surrounded by poets who are POETS ie. they have direct and clear lineages, their writing could be contained under a sub genre of poetry, etc.
Sure, I can connect myself to traditions of visual or concrete poetry, to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, to video poetry, to poet’s theater/performance poetry…but those all feel partial, awkward, incomplete. I mean, my connections to high school theater, jazz, punk, d.i.y. culture, social justice movements, and teaching are just as important,
Which brings us back to “intermedia book artist” and thus I can avoid saying how I differ from anyone, because it’s an umbrella that could contain multitudes.
So, I guess my work differs from other poetry in that it’s book art…
3.) Why do I write what I do?
Obsession. I’m obsessed with perception and language and materiality and communication and relationship and power dynamics. To me these things are totally bound up in each other. Every single thing I write/make is about this tangle
4.) How does my writing process work?
In undergrad at Evergreen I started doing this language collecting/collaging process that has totally stuck. I “write through” things: a bus ride, a poetry reading, a conversation with a friend, a lecture, a performance, etc. little fragments or phrases, full lines, full paragraphs, etc. in my notebook, by hand, all the time. Every day, at least a little bit. That’s a lie, I don’t do it every day, but I do do it most days. At least a little bit. Then at some point I dump it all onto a digital document (I love the program WriteRoom! it blacks out the entire screen and the text is white, distraction free!) and I move shit around, look for connections, build poems that way. Cut and paste and move and cut and paste and edit and then I have a poem. Or poems. I often put a WriteRoom document into a Word document that I then flow into InDesign for further manipulation. I know that sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s all part of the process, and I’m also obsessed with process.
The other thing I do is that I play with letterforms on InDesign a lot, and then I often translate those into mock-ups for letterpress printing projects. This started with sigil making, which then led to things like the patterns that are forthcoming in 580 Split and the Timeless Infinite Light collection of Oakland poetry. I also did some hand drawn letterform patterns for Where Eagles Dare (page 23). These then led to this Dark Matter project. Who knows where that will lead…