HI! It’s been a while, and I need to update some of the pages and doings on here, but for now I have few things I should mention:
I’m in this anthology! Come on out to the launch: “It’s The PAC’N HEAT Launch Party! Come celebrate with us at See-Scape on Thursday Nov. 10th from 7 PM to 10 PM! Check out the video games! Drink some drinks! Buy some books!” https://www.facebook.com/events/514551702083634/
2. I’m teaching an Uncreative Writing Workshop at Naked Heart Festival (Saturday, November 12th at 10:30am):
The poem is part of a larger lyrical project I’ve been working on whereupon I take some of my old poems and remake them via new views and methods. It’s kind of like using an evolving vocabulary (words, colours, media, my mixed culture, language), as I look for the source of what drives me to write poetry.
2. My short story “Weird Girl” is up at Lynn Crosbie’s HOOD.
Also, a tiny part of a universe in which I’m basing the novel I’m currently working on. Accompanying image selected by Lynn Crosbie for our mutual love of Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson’s If…. (I was once a wee extra in a film with McDowell called SUCK, along with many of my goth friends. I only really said hello to him.)
3. I have a short story in this great anthology, Gods, Memes, And Monsters edited by Heather Wood:
A few other things are going on, one of which is that I’m concentrating on prose, poetry, and submitting more work. It is because of this that I’m trying to finish and tie up some of my current conceptual work.
I’m still doing this: http://gettinginsidejamesjoyceshead.blogspot.ca/(Joyce can be so frustrating, but I keep coming back to it.Today’s transcription started with Bloom thinking on space exploration and somehow ended up talking about ovaries and sperm. That woke me up.)
I wrote three paragraphs of 1984 and remixed them with three paragraphs from The Wall Street Journal’s headline story.
This project was inspired in part by my experiences as a dj and seeing how I could use them with just words. Olivia Rosane at The State did a piece on my project called “Living in Dystopia”:http://www.thestate.ae/live-blogging-dystopia/
I found many of the things she touched upon very interesting and her analysis blew me away. I didn’t have any big intellectual epiphany in starting it or while doing it. It just seemed like something to do while I fought off writer’s block.
I have printed up 5 paperback copies of the project. It is 411 pages.:
One copy I will keep. The other four I will be on sale from me personally for $198.40 each. Each copy will be signed, numbered, and come packaged with original artwork by me.
If you’d like one of the four, please email me at ravensee at gmail dot com.
A reminder that the “2016 Toronto Poetry Conference 1st planning meeting” is on July 22, 2015 at 8pm Pauper’s Pub (539 Bloor Street West) in Toronto. All are welcome, not just to plan, but to hear input or share in some grub.
That’s when I’ll select and finalize a date for the conference.
“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.” – Jean-Michel Basquiat
(This little ramble is a knee-jerk inspiration from walking through the Basquiat exhibit and many other things that are percolating in my brain at the moment. I have no thesis. I have no conclusion. I don’t even think there’s an argument here, but I feel like I needed this out of me, right now. Not edited because I have a busy day ahead.)
My motto when I create anything is to create from experience or what fascinates me. I get obsessed with things easily and although that can be a strength for a nascency of truth, it can be detrimental to it. In scribing Ulysses, I’ve taken a couple of weeks hiatus. James Joyce is pissing me off right now due to a variety of reasons, one of them being his own obsessions with the world around him. I’ve focused so much on his work for the past few years, it’s taken me a lot of patience not to tear his books apart. They’re beautiful. They’re motivating. But as I’ve mentioned before, I can only take so much murmuring. Tonight, I will start new, just to finish the damn project. I saw the Basquiat exhibit at the AGO last night, so it got me thinking about the finished product.
This is where it gets me: the product. It’s one thing to see a work of art in a picture, or your schoolbooks, or on the internet; it’s quite another to be in the presence of it. I was a never huge fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat, but I knew of him because of the cultural impression he made in the world of popular art. I followed anything to do with Andy Warhol growing up, so my interest mainly lied around that component of it. It was only until later that I came to know more about his music and collaborative efforts. He was everywhere, but not really. Basquiat was like an infusion. Something we need so desperately right now.
Being immersed in his work, it brought tears to my eyes (ok, I’m extremely sensitive, but it takes a lot to move me that way). The work that provoked me so much was mounted on a little away from most of people’s periphery, but it stood out in its simplicity. It was a piece of foam, the kind you find inside of a discarded seat cushion, dirty and jagged in all the edges. Basquiat had painted a small stick figure car on it in his trademark style. The artist had a taken a piece of city, of the street, the places people forget, the objects people discard, the thrown away bones of the everyday, and made it his canvas. He appropriated this heavily manufactured, conveyor cookie-cutter item, and here it was accepted as world class art in a gallery. Most of his work with indelible shoe prints made many years ago.
Now, this isn’t new to me. I’ve seen collage before and continually expose myself to the vast spectrum in the art world. I have to. It’s where my head lies. But man, where’d the artist go? Where’d poet go? Where’d the creation of language go? It’s everywhere, but there’s no spontaneous infusion anymore. At least, that I can find and I’ve been searching, obsessed with the search, actually.
When I went to New York City for the first time, the thing that struck me was clean everything was. The dirty gritty realness I’d come to expect from films wasn’t a current reality, but I didn’t mind. It was just different. Since I go every year now, I still find the grittiness in other parts. I find the extemporaneous muck in explorations. I am stable when I’m comfortable, but I’m inspired and energized when I can see the forgotten filigree around me. I need to put my hands in it, my ears to it, smell it, just like my daughter does wherever she goes. She can’t sit still and observe. She must be a part of the setting around her. In essence, what I am saying, is that as artists we are way too comfortable today or rather, we are too happy with that comfort that we forget to deal with the reality. The reality is we have to afford to be artists….and why is that?
How much art school is in your art? How much emotion is in your art? How much logic is in your art? Most of all, how much of you and the world around you is in your creation? Does it even matter? Basquiat built his expressions through many conceits. He was politically, aesthetically, and emotionally charged individual. His brain took in so much and he internalized a big portion of that to be utilized entirely on his art or his obsessions. He appropriated, collaged, lyricized, painted over, destroyed, built up, and carved his expressions out of a true place inside of himself. I need to find that true place in myself.
It was hard having crowds voicing their opinions or perspectives out loud. Galleries can be pretty quiet normally, but last night was a little too much. I was happy, moving through the works, and I was misty eyed. It was embarrassing, but after a while it didn’t matter. The painting above said a lot of it for me. Basquiat sold his paintings to a very high art crowd, one he understood, but also one he had contempt for. He didn’t want to be a commodity. Yet at the end of the exhibit, among all the prints, there are Basquiat hats with his crown logo and pens. I bought a print of that painting above.
I don’t know. I just came out of there feeling like everything feels so manufactured. The music industry is set up like an assembly line. Revolutions are now t-shirts. Wars are streamed. And although I love the anarchy of the internet avatar, I don’t want to imprison myself in it. I am Marshal McLuhan prophecy, but I am not his product either. Basquiat new the power of semiotics, and I guess, a writer, an artist, intrinsically learns, or knows how to convey to her peers and the people of her time. I think we need to tear down the modern day lexicon, there’s so much of it. We need to stop being afraid of being uncomfortable. We need to start pissing ourselves off.
I wrote this status the other day:
I do enjoy this. I’d like to see how it’s changing anything though. I don’t entirely agree with it, but I want to know more and where it’s coming from and why. The revolution isn’t in manifestos though. And although my brain still parses a lot of the #conceptualism aesthetic, because I’m still working through it, I’d like to see #poetry / #art rebuttals as opposed to just blah blah blah. Give me something to look at, to percolate, to create in my brain. You know, use your art that provokes to move and start something. I’m so bored and tired of the manifesto/let’s label ourselves a revolution culture. You are not my revolution. I am my own manifesto. /end kind of a rant Had a bit of a rendering on twitter last night, so I woke up thinking about it. (I also love Poetry Foundation’s openness to discussing this stuff.)
It came to mind when two quotes by very talented white artists were mostly about how jealous they were of Basquiat. They didn’t explain why, but there you go.
I’m very politicized at the moment. These past few years have seen a reemergence of the feminist in me, acknowledging my privilege as a mixed second generation Latina in Canada. I work with re-appropriating a lot of white men’s work (ie. James Joyce and I believe you can call The Wall Street Journal, a rich white man’s work too). I read women’s work every day as a film reviewer and book critic. I do my best to try to expose the unknown female artists out there. We all need to help each other to make this world equal. I have discussions with my son about feminism and activism. I try to make my work, my life, part of the artistic infusion.
You don’t sit back and wait for the world. You make the world. You experience it. You carve into it, paint on it, collage it, appropriate it, and make it part of the lexicon you use to impart your truths.
And I said I was tired of manifesto culture.
NO, I am against definitions because language is organic being, ever evolving, and breathing. If I want something new, if I want new infusions in my life, in my art, I have to be fearless from the get go. Guts are truth. Guts are not self-conscious. Guts are not self aware. Guts are heavily inside themselves and digest to yield and nourish.
Why do we care so much, but actually care for so little?
I will be going back a few times to the exhibit and probably pick up a biography or a movie in conjunction. I need more. I need to learn. I need to provoke myself.
I should really entitle this “After Avant-Canada 2014 and finally watching Jorodowsky’s Dune.” I’m a little discombobulated after watching the film. The overall theme of it being of opening the mind, but most of all, an artist’s passion for bringing their vision to fruition. Therefore, if I am set apart like puzzle pieces at the moment, like puzzle pieces this piece will be. This is also my blog and thus I can write in whatever form I want within whatever structures I chose. I am free to say anything, even if it comes across as nothing. It is the concept that matters and the lack of delineation that defines me as whatever it is that I am in what I do. Honestly, I don’t know what I do, but more on that later.
My starting point is taken from Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s book, Notes on Conceptualisms. The book, blue and pocket-sized, reads like a manifesto manufactured from a conversation which metamorphosed stream of consciousness. It’s a manifesto of nothing and everything in what is popularly termed as “avant-garde” writing.
Ideas stem from various seeds labelled archetypes, experience, DNA, nature, nurture, and all the things that make up a sentient being. The seeds are dominoes set up to fall forward, eventually gaining momentum in their falls until the last domino releases an energy spark in its culmination, setting a toy rocket free in the end. The toy rocket is the idea in its full form. The idea/toy rocket also goes through a similar sequence of events that are less theoretical and are more material based. The reason for this is that the person who has the idea must realize it in order to give justice to the idea’s formation. The seed must flower to pollinate in other minds.This last part, the materialization of the idea, is not as important as the processes by which the idea is first formed and is not as imperative as the idea itself. The idea is all.
Last month, I was invited by Gregory Betts to chair the panel entitled, “The Thinkership of Conceptual Literature.” I immediately (albeit very enthusiastically) accepted. Those on the panel:
Christian Bök (Calgary)—“To Ward Off a Diabolical Poetry.”
Darren Wershler (Concordia)—“Everyday Conceptualism.”
Derek Beaulieu (Alberta College of Art and Design)—“Words to be looked at but not read / Music to be heard but not listened to.”
Helen Hajnozky (Independent Poet)—“Lyric Conceptual Writing: A Study of Contemporary Canadian Women Poets.”
Natalie Simpson (Independent Poet)—“ TAKE WHAT YOU CAN AND LEAVE THE REST: Women Writers and Conceptualism.”
I introduced them as a coterie of scientists, thinkers, poets, writers, and artists. I would say that all of the panels and attendees could be defined as such. To me, it was an important event in a critical time where many seek out definition where there might not be one to be found yet. At least, I don’t believe it’s something available to us or are we given that power to label it at this conjecture. Definition is valuable mostly for the purpose of constraint. Nevertheless, in order speak about the experimental we must give it a name.
I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid, and conceptualism didn’t really enter the fray in my writing until I was in my thirties. However, conceptualism and the avant-garde has always been a big influence. My appropriation, remixing, and re-writing projects were influenced by the bellicose writing movements of my time. Uncreative writing and conceptual writing is nothing new. In fact, the quality that drives me to these movements isn’t their rebellious textures, but its their nature, that which is closest the “idea;” the word “idea,” the thought “idea,” “idea,” fascinates me.
The conceptual writer writes out of the formation of a concept. A conference like Avant-Canada is a world plenteous of idea manufacturers whose experiments and alternative perspectives are birthed in the universe of ideas. We’re like Dr. Frankenstein’s creating gallimaufries of monsters because we can. We live in a world of “we can.” The internet and social media has given us that freedom and we must frequently stop and ask ourselves, “What are we doing here?”
Taking the analogy of the dominoes, are we the person setting up the dominoes? Are we the dominoes? Are we the spark, or are we the rocket? Looking beyond that, are we gear or cod in that machinery, or, when it is set in motion, are we even part of it at all?
These are all thoughts and questions that come to my mind after a conference like this. As I was watching Jorodowsky elucidate his vision for Dune, his passion for the project was so palpable that it became all encompassing. For a few moments, he becomes so expressive that his eyes take over the screen and I wondered if Herbert’s Dune was even a part of that vision, or if the vision itself was bigger than the director himself (I believe it was, considering the amount of everything the director had envisioned for it). In various parts of the film, his Dune is termed as “ahead of its time.”
If you look back at the films, books, and art of the seventies and eighties, a lot of what was predicted aesthetically and artistically, never came to be. There are no polygon hats at art shows, flying cars, teleportation devices…ok, I could go on. Also, these things might exist, but they’re not in the form that we predicted them to be. This has led to a surge of retro-futuristic art (8 bit, and Killian Eng comes to mind), music (Lazerhawk, and Drive soundtrack), and in a small way film (Beyond The Black Rainbow – but also this viewed from that film’s aesthetics and soundtrack, of which similar can be seen in Under The Skin, as well.). I believe popular culture aims to recapture the aesthetics of seventies and eighties futurism because it is still trying to catch up with the overwhelming amount of quick technological growth it has put itself through. In many ways, conceptual writing is trying to catch up with the amount of growth or overwhelming output its manufactured with the ease because of technology. We find ourselves trying to argue against or in favour of conceptual writing’s existence because we can’t stop to define it. The assembly line or idea factory is just too fast. When we attempt to define it, we stagnate, the assembly line slows down. Don’t let it slow down! It’s not in our natures! Like Frankenstein’s monster there are so many components we don’t know what to do next.
“Conceptual Writing, in fact, might be best defined not by the strategies used but by the expectations of the readership or thinkership.”
While a person appreciates art, the art piece is taken from the artist and becomes an entirely new piece in the viewer’s mind. The reader owns the text after it is written and it becomes a new piece in the reader’s mind. By viewing, appreciating, and listening, we are stealing. Never mind that the artist has gifted us their materialization of an idea, we are stealing for a universal comprehension through interpretation. Retro futurism, a taking of old ideas and making them new for now, is a symptom of schema created for the modern thinker’s survival. We own ideas, but no idea is original. Yet, the process by which the idea is formed is unique to its owner. Beyond that, it’s interpretation and reformation.
I met many women on this trip to St. Catharines. Within in the conceptual writing movement, within poetry, there’s a very powerful undercurrent of female poets with activist voices. I mean, by being anything female these days, we are speaking out against thousands of years of ingrained oppression. It was a heavy week of being reminded we are women writers within Can-Lit. So it was healing and rejuvenating to converse and exchange thoughts with these women.
“Radical mimesis is original sin.” – Place, Vanessa, and Robert Fitterman. Notes on Conceptualisms. Brooklyn, NY: Ugly Duckling Presse ;, 2009. 20.
I experiment with words. I remix, remodel, rewrite, and reform what already exists. My basis point has always been from a lyrical point, a creative view because this my nature. However, even when I assemble a work in an “uncreative” place in my mind, the end result reads as an innovation for myself. The only way I can classify that work as is from a poetic mind, thus the label “poet.” But even that label carries connotations with it that do not define most of my work. It’s kind of like I’ve rode with my processes and didn’t stop to think, “What am I doing?”
After watching Jorodowsky’s visions I can only assume that he didn’t care what he was doing. He tried to do it, failed to make it so, but in the end, the world of film ended up making many versions of his idea. His creation. His monster. His concept. His idea.
What did he do? He watched the dominoes fall.
P.S. I will always regret not being able to dance with Fraggles on the last day of the conference.
Also, no one told me Magma was going to be in Dune.
James Joyce is a maddening writer to read. If you were to ask me why I love reading him though, part of that love is in the aggravation he causes with his writing.
Typing A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man was one thing, writing Ulysses by hand is quite the other. In A Portrait, I had the pleasure of not having read it, thus being exposed to the work was like being presented with an interesting set of data. The experiment was what that set of data, how it was arranged and collated, would affect me. The early chapters made my creative work suffer. The infantilism and repetitive structure of it at the beginning, handicapped my writing. I couldn’t come up with proper sentences for a while. After young Stephen Dedalus finds the poetic language within himself, I found my own writing took off as well.
When copying from a book to a page (whether that be on a computer or on a piece of paper), I digest the work in a sort of peripheral type of reading. I’m reading the words as visual objects while transferring them over to a new environment. I know the controls: pen, paper, and a somewhat quiet environment. While writing/typing it, I notice little ticks or weird punctuations in the work because I’m focusing on transcribing what’s right before me. Half of my brain is on that, while the other is reading the words and doing what our brains have been trained to do while reading: visualizing the scenes. A Portrait was interesting because in its newness to me, I was absorbed into the pages.
I’ve re-read Ulysses several times because there are always new things I’ve found upon the re-read. And I’m known to get a little obsessive with my interests. Ulysses happens to feed something in my head. The first time I read it was back in a third year course on modernism. I was in the middle of mid-term exams and suffering a long bout of insomnia. I had just finished a long exam on Nietszche and Hegel for a philosophy course and headed home on the eastbound train from Islington station. My commute from UofT Erindale College was about two hours (bus and subway to Jane station, then up to Weston Rd. and Eglinton. Torontonians will know this intersection as the giant Monster Donuts stop). I spent that commute reading my course work and I was at Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis in Ulysses when I fell asleep. I dreamed. In the dream, Stephen Dedalus was watching the sea from a hill with books from the library tucked under his arm. His head was full of every single insight he had gathered in his conversations of the day and the sun shone blindingly in his face. It was still image, but what I remember most was the churn of the water and the tumultuous thoughts coming in and out of Stephen’s head.
When I woke up I was at Christie station, many stops away from where I supposed to get off, but I didn’t get up in a fright. I kind of floated in a euphoric state, on the cusp of an eventual epiphany. And it happened when I hit my head on the window sill of the train. It was like a rush of everything I’d read my whole life was in that book in my lap. The best I can come up with to describe that event would be as if you could smell a rainstorm approaching, hear the thunder and see the lighting for years and then suddenly the sky opens up and it’s raining every truth all around you. I felt truth all around me in that subway car for only a few seconds before it left me as quick as it came. Ever since then, Ulysses has had a special place in my heart and mind. I don’t know whether it’s because I want to relive the epiphany or if its a weird addictive curse born out of a compulsion for a spiritual high again, but either way, Ulysses upon the re-read has never failed to deliver to me many insights on writing, reading, and some pretty wacky perspectives of life. And hell, is Joyce ever wacky. Horny for spirituality and physicality, Joyce masturbates and orgasms his way through an ordinary day in an ordinary life.
I started handwriting Ulysses on December 9, 2013. Today I’m in the first half of Episode 9 and on the second green moleskine journal. The journals I’ve used have taken a beating because I’m a heavy handed writer. When I flip a page, I can feel my pen marks as if I had dug them into the page instead of just writing them. I’ve exhausted four pens in the process, and that’s not counting the ones I’ve lost as well. I began with a few constraints (writing down where I was writing it, or indenting the cited poems/songs), but I’ve decided to just stick with a random flow on each writing session.
I’ve found Joyce to be a difficult writer to transcribe. Ulysses is basically pulled together by the inner thoughts of people, some of them very random. Joyce tries to capture a reality that storytellers fail so often at capturing: the humdrum. If Leopold Bloom is thinking about the skirts of his mistress, he will go into detail about the smell and feel of the skirts, the colour of her hair against the light, the scent of her sex, while still making a point to list the errands he has to get to during the day. If it occurs to Mr. Bloom it will get recorded and archived. Beyond the incredibly entertaining conflicts that happen to Leopold or to Stephen, beyond the philosophical psychedelia that is the meat of the book, what glues it all together is this frustratingly mundane minutiae. It’s boring to read and frustrating to write, especially if you have a short attention span like me. Yet life in general is made up of mostly frustrating and mundane stuff. Life can be distracting in its grandness, it can be in the focus of its banality, and vice a versa.
I was recently discussing this with Tony Burgess at a poetry night we did. He asked about Ulysses and I had had particularly trying session with the page I was writing that day. I said, “I yell at the book sometimes. Fuck off, James! Again with the murmuring and the sighing! Today I wanted to throw you across the room.” That day Mr. Bloom was observing the people around him eating and he was thinking of eating and what others thought of him eating. It was such insular blabber, but it’s what we do every day in our heads. This is the brilliance of what Joyce set out to do. The day in the life of Leopold Bloom is the day in the life of you and me, or rather what he perceived to be the every day person. Upon the reading his approach read with an eerie accuracy.
Many scholars have picked Ulysses apart and will probably continue to for hundreds of years to come. I’m not bringing anything new to the table, I think, but it is in my reading and in my transcribing that I’m finding myself attuned to the unique perspective in the minuscule parts of my day. I know now that I handwrite my “f” in two different ways. My handwriting is also a mixture of cursive and printing. I write sloppier towards the end of the page and neater when it’s in the middle.
This “uncreative writing” project has made me a transcribing machine. I am but a means for those words to end up on a different format. Are they read? That’s not the point. Neither is it the point for me to know more about Joyce through handwriting his work. No. Getting Inside James Joyce’s Head is just a title. For me, this endeavour has me learning that writing is copying what is in your head to make it material in the real world.
Manifesting the prosaic, (whether it be lists, errands, important dates on a calendar, etc.), by common means is an extraordinary endeavour. It is just one of many ways one can be intimate with a novel or a piece of art. People copy paintings and trace drawings to learn how to draw and paint. Writers sometimes retype work (the quotations in an essay are integral part to that essay’s defense). Hunter S Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby just to get the feeling of typing a great novel. Replication of thought and ideas is what Joyce did and it’s what many authors already do. My work with James Joyce’s work is mundane, ordinary, and perplexing to me, but it’s my work. I have infused Ulysses with my own thoughts in the margins and have been physical with its words through a pen that I hold and maneuver. I often think about monks transcribing important literature before the printing press. I am a printing press.
The concept of person as machine is an important one to note today. The objects we utilize (computers, televisions, phones, lights, dishwashers, trains, buses, etc.), were once dreams in somebody’s head and those dreams now conveniently help move the world. If we didn’t have the machines, we’d be spending most of our days in desperate pursuit of the next meal and busy transporting ourselves with our own two feet. Now with all this convenience, the machines have made it possible for us to explore. The machines themselves, ones we built with our brains and hands, are exploring too.
It’s time to explore past the line of traditional and try new things and new methods of doing those things. I’m constantly reading books (not just Joyce), and usually have two or three on the go. I also find that the best books, inspire new ways of reading (having read a book backward online and remixed another).
Handwriting Ulysses may be the dumbest thing I’ve done, but Joyce was an idiot to write all the thoughts of Leopold Bloom and call it a novel. I really don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not keen on labelling it anything more than uncreative writing at the moment. It’s art in its performance. It’s a concept in my explanation of it. It’s writing in my execution of it. It will be a feat in its completion. It will most likely take me two years to finish.
I am very excited and happy to announce that Derek Beaulieu’s no press has published four pages of my work. ULYSSES by Jacqueline Valencia is now available for purchase. Details at the link: