Laura Elrick reading report

Terrific reading yesterday from Laura Elrick. Tracy Grinnell quoted Jill Magi on Laura Elrick in her introduction: “Interlacement is the mode”: I loved this both in reference to video and in reference to lace (see my panel presentation at adfempo): also Tracy’s characterization of Laura’s work as “fiercely personal.”

In Laura’s delivery, the poems moved like miniature fireworks: shooting, exploding, and then flicker-fading. Almost “hysterical” bursts of speed. The core of each poem seemed to be a sentence or list or often colloquial utterance that then splintered (as if almost run through some kind of “splintering engine”) into recombinations to forefront materiality. Deconstructions of the colloquial. Lists, including a grocery list (lemon pops!). Wonderful attention to sonic detail, some almost with the effect of tongue-twisters.

Extraordinary range of sources and modes: each poem a moment of intense focus/meditation/refrain on these: some captured lines:

imaginary girlfriend name of jelly

the blue demon and hop devil are chock full o’ nuts

oh my dresses

yes the breasts whiskers

riding the tilt-a-whirl and the roundup all night

it isn’t very real fake blood

immense transfixed hippopotamuses

affect subcontractor in the tenderloin

why that svelte little pixie is dancing in the hallway

incantation burping these incantresses

a tangled ink of joy it scoots


Themes explored in the Ponge/Stein-like investigations: violence, gender, how names signify, “tech language” (including a super-quick piece that sounded like a proofreader enunciating code symbols)…

A favorite moment: “‘Faster’ say the montagists…” read in almost unbearably slow motion.


Well-Meaning White Girl

I started to write my thoughts on Alli Warren’s new chapbook, Well-Meaning White Girl, and I realized that I was picking out the dirty parts as I read. Here, then, are the dirty parts, pretending to be a new poem.

Gold Dirt

out of several secretions
come bursting through the ground
secret swelling

in gaping engagement

must be made more moist
with spore sacs and sac fruits

and we were all like
plugging the whole


all gummy in the mouth

breathing and peopled cupping

we wipe each other off

waxing real hard

pussywillows whip in the wind

I lick around the perimeter and then I lick under

insert two fingers to bring breath
the flooding comes
donk for days

I lay my button down on naked ladies

if this is decadence

I had something special on
for pants

big breathy icons

and fruity knockers

I held it in my mouth

In fact, Alli has written a pretty sexy little chapbook. I say pretty sexy and not sexy-dynamite because it is coded and restrained, the lines above notwithstanding. The code and restraint are perhaps signals of artful adeptness and also maybe a coyer kind of sexiness.

I felt the same thing reading Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites: his poems skirt around anal/phallic/emotional ecstasies without actually BUSTING OUT and wallowing in them. People don’t really “bust out” a la the late great Lenore Kandel anymore, do they. No.

In these books, sexiness is tempered with, for example, metaphors of economy. Gold. Capital. Is this superimposition of “materialist discourse” a way of borrowing legitimacy for the form-seeking of their pleasures and longings? Not that economy economy is an unsuitable analogy for libidinal economy; if anything, it’s all too apt.

I wonder though, if it might function as a sort of id-mask, most noticeable in the moments where the mask wears thin? Well, I suspect all art, no matter how stringent or astringent, is id-sluice of some sort…does anyone disagree?… but it’s one thing to funnel it and another to mask it. There are those little holes where you can see the real eyes, that the nostrils can breathe through. Breath makes the nose and mouth parts of the mask a little annoyingly moist.

Well and so what if I do want to peer inside (or now and then take a crowbar to) everyone’s Pandora chora? Well, now we laugh at Kandel, we are too smart for that sort of thing now: she’s just “too much.” Someone has scratchitied “CHAOS” onto the armrest thing of the F train. Well, we’re cool, everyone’s cool. The poetry is delicate and understated, which makes it different from life.

Speaking of codes, she really is adept at code switching line by line starting from say a gospel or blues voice and moving into nature study then lit crit then medicine, then something decorative, then something colloqial. Or maybe it starts punk moves to faux-ghetto and then becomes consumerist, then Californian, then macho, then “community-addressing”, punk again, then quotidian, then something I don’t understand, then back to nature, biology, and finally back to faux-ghetto. All these strains. They don’t make direct statements, they aren’t rhetorical, and they don’t wallow, and they don’t let anything out of the box, quite: the little imps kind of just peek out, webbed fingers clutching the wooden edge, their wicked eyes going this way and that.

There are things I don’t understand like why are gold and cash “themes”– even reinforced by the gold tissue endpapers – but only for the first three pages or so? And then is the title a kind of main idea and if so why doesn’t it have anything to do with the gold? I like the title, but these are not, I think, hairshirt poems. No, they are masked pleasure poems, or at least, that is what I am positing here. What do you think?


Extraordinary. Not only was it a trenchant critique of its time and a metacommentary on the faculty of seeing and the medium of film, but also prescient of the soon-to-come doors-of-perception cleansing with which LSD was to douse the culture. Worth seeing just for the pink 1950s optical instruments and the partygoers doing the Twist naked in the main character’s enhanced vision.

also a brilliant video by Dani Leventhal as part of a program curated by Peggy Ahwesh, ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME, featuring mainly young women filmmakers. I enjoyed the other films as well, but Dani’s was a standout. In the Q and A afterwards, she said she had been influenced primarily by sculpture and drawing, and that made sense, but the edits really seemed like poetry to me.

Also on the program was Otis Turner’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ from 1910, which Peggy cited as an early influence, and I found this VERY interesting as my own last two movies have used images from the series of early Oz films. I stumbled on the DVD on a trip to Cape May last summer: what a treasure trove! And here it is (part 1)…


These callipygian longings.
Not to have seen you naked =
the greatest injustice known
to man! But don’t assume
that I am writing about

Stunned daffy energy
morphosing on the lipid
pleasure of revolution
in tartan tights. I love
it when men tell me what
to do I love the timid crust
of need on the surface
of false order. There.
You have your orders.

Life beribboning
itself with more
and more and more life:
then twisting into its
same old spiral.
In semicostume as always
prying the sticky lens
from the bioglobe.
Opinionated. Injured.
All the little…


I can’t ketchup to you
to sweetly relish
your interiorities:
not even with all this
pelvic mayonnaise. The poems
are the crucial chutney
to the bland daily “special.”
Nothing else matters,
not the wasabi
of your personality,
the coarse mustard
of my mannered
or the gooey duck sauce
of these noxious phantasms.

Wallowing in Gaudy Baubles

Sol Lewitt wrote:

New materials are one of the great afflictions of contemporary art. Some artists confuse new materials with new ideas. There is nothing worse than seeing art that wallows in gaudy baubles. By and large most artists who are attracted to these materials are the ones who lack the stringency of mind that would enable them to use the materials well. It takes a good artist to use new materials and make them into a work of art. The danger is, I think, in making the physicality of the materials so important that it becomes the idea of the work (another kind of expressionism).

I find this quotation very entertaining. What exactly is this “danger” that he refers to?