Thursday, June 29, 2006

1913 editor/poet Sandra Miller sent me notice about the Rozanova contest for 1913:

For a collaborative and/or visual book, to be published in a beautiful, perfect-bound edition by 1913 Press.
Winner also receives standard royalties contract and 25 copies of the book.

All contest entrants will receive a copy of the winning book.
$20 entry fee
1913 is now accepting entries through September 13, 2006

I'm always for poet/artist collaborations. There isn't enough of them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bulgasari is the name of a friend’s experimental noise music series based out of Seoul. Musicians include Sato Yukie, Chulkie Hong, Joonyong Choi, and Han-gil Ryu. They are very awesome. Check out their site here.

Bulgasari is also North Korea’s Godzilla cult classic made in 1985. A feared monster, yet gentle friend to peasants, chews his way through iron and leads a revolt against the king, ruthlessly destroying the king’s army (thousands of North Korean soldiers were drafted as “extras”). Kim Jong-Il, an insatiable cineaste, was so insistent on having this film made that he kidnapped South Korea’s renowned director, Shin Sang Ok, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-Hi, so that Shin could direct the film and Choi could be the star.

Before Shin, North Korean films had titles like “The County Party Chief Secretary” and “The Fate of a Self-Defense Corps Man.” After the abduction (and after 5 years in a re-education camp), Shin was reunited with Choi in Pyongyang. Then, Kim Jong Il gave him 3 mil a year, a studio, and 700 employees at his disposal. Bulgasari was born.

I actually met the director Shin when I was a kid. He and his wife escaped their North Korean minders in Vienna and made their way to L.A. where they hid in my childhood friend’s home for a few years. The man wore shades and a silk neck scarf even when he lounged around the house, watching TV. I guess Kim Jong-Il passed on a few fashion tips to Shin before he fled.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I live on St Felix Street, which will soon be overshadowed by Frank Gehry’s behemoth, “Miss Brooklyn.” Read Jonathan Lethem's letter to the architect who will not be sated.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I was up at Mass Moca this weekend and checked out a group show of artists reenacting history. Some of it was inevitably didactic but I finally had the chance to see Paul Chan's video, "Happiness," a hypnotic digitally animated take on Outsider artist Henry Darger and Utopian thinker Charles Fourier. The scroll-like horizontal projection depicted scenes of girls (with male appendages) frolicking in some kind of prelapsarian garden before they were visited upon by their tormentors, a battalion of suited men bearing cell phones, batons and other nefarious weapons. The animation was homespun and pixelated, kind of like early Nintendo games. It was beautiful, scatalogical, and disturbing.

Paul Chan is one of the few artists who juggles dual roles as artist and activist. He's worked with the Teamsters, IndyMedia, and was part of Voices of the Wilderness, an anti-war organization that is based in Iraq. On top of that, he’s blown up as a video artist (he’s on the cover of June’s Art Forum). But despite his stated need to separate the roles, Chan creates work that is explicitly political and yet it is work that maintains a rich complexity. Part of what is so nuanced about Chan’s work is his formula: he uses the raw materials of our current political situation to create a fictionalized, bizarrely imagined world. (Another brilliant example of a video artist who does this is Lebanese video artist Walid Raad.) Village Voice art critic Jerry Saltz included Chan in his sweeping pronouncements about art in the present age:

“Now, artists are meshing history with lived reality. They're attuned to the sadness, the terror, and the ecstasy of history. They understand that the present is history.”

Years ago, poetry was visual art’s partner-in-crime (think Dadaism, Futurism, etc etc etc and etc), but now hardly a relationship exists between the two as one medium is immersed in the Market while the other has fallen in the dustbins. Yet a relationship, I think, still exists. So I wonder if this mindful awareness towards history and the collective will be a trajectory for contemporary poetry too or has poetry (and I am of course speaking very, very, very generally as I tend to do) already become too trapped within academia's myopia, in that the only history poetry now recognizes is its own literary past?

Friday, June 02, 2006

For a few months, I considered moving back to LA, but feared its cultural vacuity. The art world, of course, is booming but poets there seem more marginalized there than anywhere else. Wichita appreciates poets more. I know Harryette Mullen is there, as well as Martha Ronk, Cal Bedient, Maggie Nelson and I hear Claudia Rankine is moving to LA, as well as many other great poets...but perhaps I just can't get past my memory of doing a reading there with local poets who blew soap bubbles and read about their "clitora."

Actually, Sun and Moon Press used to be in LA. I once interned there for a winter term when I was a bored college student. It was a storefront press two blocks or so from LA County Museum, on Wilshire blvd, which is a major thoroughfare. The press was cavernous, gray carpeted, many roomed, hushed since it was usually only Douglas Messerli, the Sun and Moon editor, who padded around its empty hallways. I had it in my head that I would meet poets and go to their apartments and eat their brie and listen to their thoughts on Tristan Tzara. But bored at home, I was now bored at the press, where I would open desperate little cover letters and put them in a neat stack which was never read. My only company was Douglas Messerli who was a bearish man with a whitish beard who did not think much of me, which is understandable since I was 20.

I was an idle intern and I had a hunch that Douglas Messerli devised Sissyphean tasks just to get me out of his hair. One day, he told me that he had a grand project for me: to manually count all the books in the storage room. He needed a grand total. Why, I had no idea, or for what purpose, I was not sure. There were thousands of books, towers of books, shelves and boxes of them. So I took my little step ladder and started counting the books, one after another: Bruce Andrews, David Antin, Eleanor Antin, Rae Armantrout, Daphne Athas, Paul Auster….I wrote down a number at every 50 books to keep track. After the third hour, I resentfully began losing count and making up an estimate in my passive aggressive way. I could not finish the task in one day. The next day I asked, rather hopefully, what the agenda looked for the day, and Douglas Messerli looked up and said, “Oh, continue the inventory.” And I was banished into the storage closet to continue my count. I continued to count and count, like the flawed little human abacus I was. On the fourth day, I still wasn't finished and I had it. I told Douglas Messerli that I don’t think I could do it any more. He understood and then banished me to the backroom where all the file cabinets were and that was where I was sent to alphabetize all the order forms. And that was my first encounter with Language Poetry.