Place & Behrendt intros

Lynn Behrendt with Brenda Coultas

Gary’s intro for Lynn:

Lynn Behrendt is the author of 4 chapbooks: The Moon As Chance, Characters, Tinder, and Luminous Flux. A full-length collection, petals, emblems will be published this year by Lunar Chandelier. She edits the Annandale Dream Gazette, an online chronicle of poets’ dreams.

Of all of the value categories we speak of with respect to poetry—prosody, use-value, torque, relevance, “new”ness, etc.—the most difficult to pin down or describe, and thus perhaps among the least written and spoken of, must be “urgency.”

“It starts,” as Lynn writes, in an unsigned epigraph to her most recent book, Luminous Flux, “with this ache to tell you something.”

But can we assess urgency? Like pornography and art, will I know it when I see it?

Let’s put it this way: Most works of art, whatever fabulous things they may do for us, however relevant or exciting they may be, don’t necessarily feel as though the maker had no choice but to put this particular thing down, NOW, and in just this way. There’s a certain edge, for want of a better word, to a few things that maybe we can all agree on: Carolee Schneeman’s Interior Scroll, Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, Charles Mingus’s Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Kathy Acker’s Great Expectations, Chantal Akerman’s Letters from Home—work that is as emotionally charged as it is psychologically, philosophically, and formally so.

As Nada wrote on her blog when she first read Lynn’s Luminous Flux: “It pulsates.”
Published—self-published, I believe—in an edition of 20 copies, Luminous Flux is one of the rare books of poetry in recent memory that completely blew me away. Every line of this amazing poem simultaneously sings and sears:

I’ve got my scythe & I’m not afraid to use it
template of sound scraping
owl streaked sky
put this in her pipe & smoke it
choke weed persuasion
ranked quantitatively but not qualitatively
subordinate ratio of somber to pubic
implication hasty
I’ve said nothing, nothing at all
shift to tropical city
sound of hoofs […]
yellow silt starts to gather at the edge of every image
too old, I’m too old, too polished
I can’t stop & don’t really want to […]
I am just temporarily sheathed

Reading each line feels like I’m suddenly fully awake, until the next line, which makes me feel even more so. I’m fully conscious of the language and am totally there for it, imagining not Lynn’s influences or references or sources or methods but what it is that makes her alive.

I love this book. It is a real honor to have Lynn here to read for us today.


My intro for Vanessa:

Vanessa Place, co-director of Les Figues Press, author of Dies, a sentence, La Medusa, and (with Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms, is also, in the words of sociology professor Barry Glassner, a “brilliant defense attorney.” Her newest book, “The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law,” has been called essential reading for “anyone interested in criminology, specifically including legislators, judges, attorneys and prosecutors.” As a lawyer who specializes in defending sex offenders, she subjects language and representations of events in language to intense scrutiny, and cannot help but question the fabric of language that we call law and truth. Her vocation requires toughness and brilliance, qualities that Vanessa and her writing fairly exude.

I put out a call on facebook for contributions to this introduction, and here, barely edited, are friends’ contributions;

James Wagner
The rarest of writers–twinly gifted in lyricism and criticism.

Brian Ang
militantly essentialistically chilly

K. Silem Mohammad
Sexy like a hand grenade.

Gregory Betts
definitely the sharpest blade in the cookie jar.

Derek Beaulieu
Vanessa Place’s writing exposes the most wretched, most dangerous moments in language. In STATEMENT OF FACTS the quotidian is anything but — each moment of transcription, of testifying, of witnessing, dangerously re-inscribes and reveals the terrifying nature of language itself.

Kate Zambreno
her coining of the term “subjective correlative” in dies. the guyotat-like bulimia of her baroque, brilliant binges. the dizzyingness of la medusa and dies. how she theorizes glorious failures. one of the only american intellectuals who mirror the french feminists – theorist as well as stylist. sly and wicked.

Tony Dohr
When asked how she managed to write a ‘grammatically correct’ sentence 50,000 words long, Place replied, “Well i believe that the comma splice is not un-grammatical.” So i guess we can say, ‘Very Liberating.’ If we were an undergraduate who didn’t care about proof reading.

Tony Dohr
& ‘Why didn’t i think of that?’ If we were James Joyce or Marcel Proust

Kate Durbin
Radically evil.
(a very, very good thing)

Matias Viegener
Place is bulimic: bouts of excessive overindulgence are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting. She understands language as pus in which one might expectorate or rather suppurate words. Her writing alternately oozes primordial mud or turns into a stainless steel transcriptive implement.

Lemon Hound
embraces underbelly’s underbelly

Joshua Corey
Scary good scary.

So: darkness, sharpness, coldness, terror. Vertigo, severity, slyness, ooze, explosions. Vanessa is formidable. All she has to do is shine her dark light onto language, and we see it: naked, phosphorescent, shivering. baroque, abject, magnificent.

And here she is today to shine her dark light onto us.

One thought on “Place & Behrendt intros

  1. This was a great reading to listen to (it's available on

    My ears perked at (what I now see was)an ad lib in the intro to Vanessa Place, and another statement that's in the written version here too. These comments seem to too much exult the legal profession at the expense, maybe, of poetry work, and I chafe against that.

    Nothing against Place, whose work in law I don't know but whose creative writing I REALLY enjoy and respect, but the comment in the first paragraph, after the first mention of her legal work, that “she’s doing the real thing she’s not just out on the limb of poetry like most of us” seems to credit legal work too much. From where I sit, poetry work is just as “real.”

    Also, I think the statement, in the text of the intro, that Place's “vocation requires toughness and brilliance” over-states what it takes to do legal work. Law school entrance and bar exams do not test for or require brilliance. I think a listen to lawyers at work (even of that small percentage, for example, that do their work in courtrooms) would show that brilliance isn't particularly necessary.

    “Toughness” may be a bit different, if toughness is intended as shorthand for a high tolerance of drudgery. I think here of Richard Nixon, who self-described himself as “iron-butt” when telling of how he made it through law school.

    To me, it's Place's avocation — her creative work — that requires toughness and brilliance.

    Anyways, thanks for these intros and like I said at the top here, it's a great reading!

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