Theory

Nomad Poetics Revisited in Boundary 2 by James belflower

Pierre Joris writes...

Ten years ago I published a volume of essays under the title A Nomad Poetics, core to which was the piece of writing called “Notes Toward a Nomad Poetics,” which — though the central concern had been with me even longer, much longer — I had started giving expression to even before 1993 & which had been published in an earlier form as a chapbook called Towards a Nomad Poetics by Allen Fisher’s Spanner Books. Note the tentative titles: “towards a…” & for the final version even just “Notes towards a Nomadic Poetics.” I said “piece of writing” purposefully just now, because one of the small misunderstandings regarding A Nomad Poetics I have encountered from time to time is that this piece of writing has been called a “manifesto” — with all the stern-brow seriousness & raised fist ardor the term suggests. I would like, 10 years after, to nuance this take a bit.
The manifesto, I’ve written elsewhere, is indeed one, if not the only new literary genre of the 20C, & I do draw on it to some extent — but I am very conscious of the fact that what I am trying to do is to write propositions for the 21C & to find a form that is both open & collaborative, that is culturally & politically critical, but not ideologically over-determined, as manifestos tend to be. It is neither an anonymous revolutionary pamphlet (as many of the Situationist manifestos were at a certain time), nor a synthetic piece with a number of signatures attached to it (from Marx & Engels, via the Surrealists, say, to the Manifeste des 120, for example, no matter how much I may like these). The proposition is different: it is a piece of writing I take full responsibility for, but to which I invite people to contribute — few have bothered to do so, though the 1993 text has at least the exemplary contribution of Brian Massumi, the excellent Deleuzian scholar & thinker

Me Is Not Me in the Machine: Further Thoughts Part 1 by James belflower

At the 2017 NEMLA conference in Baltimore, Joe Hall, Jeff T. Johnson, and myself discussed overlaps in the socio-political state of Precarity and the aesthetics of online synchronous collaborative writing. The panel was very productive and generated as many questions as it did more complex considerations. In the spirit of keeping the conversation going, I have asked each panelist to provide a brief summary of their paper along with thoughts and questions that are guiding their further thinking about productive interminglings of precarious labor and creative risk in digital environments.

Joe Hall

What’s a utopic horizon for these tools/writing forms?

An exceptional feature of mobile, synchronous writing tools like Slack and Google Docs is how they relentlessly annotate the identity of the composer and time of composition. They automatically save and date drafts—recording document’s extension and revision down to the minute. These tools have a great capacity to index the role of each poet in each stage of production. My paper, in dialogue with Heriberto Yépez’s theories on the imperial maneuvers in regard to time inherent in American modernist poetry, allows us to see something strange about these tools, time, and scale. On one hand, they invite a form of authorship consisting of micro-compositions distributed in a few slender minutes across days, months, and years. They also provided the capacity to grasp texts from anytime or text reflecting on any time in the total archive the internet aspires to be and to feed portions of these texts into their fields. With these tools, the time of composition can be small and scattered; yet it can involve, the appropriation and remix of a massive volume and range of texts.


Joseph Hall is the author of three collections of poetry published by Black Ocean Press and a PhD candidate at SUNY Buffalo where he is completing his dissertation on representations of liquid commons in the literature of the long eighteenth century. 

Birds Wheeling Flick Audibility by James belflower

For me, lines of bird flight are always audible. Birds wheeling flick the quick wisps of the conductor's baton tip into the blue, they curve shimmering notes up over the top staff line, or they bend like a light arc flickering through a lens pointed into the sun. But even more than resonating with other phenomenon, bird murmurs draw me into that moment of alien self-organization where I am confronted with confluences completely outside myself. Jane Bennett calls minor experiences like this enchanting and argues that they can remind us how wonder reorients our perception toward less habituated modes of experience. What I enjoy in enchantment is that although I associate the organized kinesis of the bird's swooping with musical expressiveness, the fact that birds understand what constitutes music differently than we do means that this expression is not reducible to a culturally legible melody or form. In short, bird murmurs remind me that there is always a pressure on the cultural conditioning my hearing and vision emerge through. I find this pleasure enchanting. 


Bennett, Jane. The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001.

Louis Zukofsky and the Index of American Design by James belflower

I recently started planning a course which I'm tentatively naming "Poetry as Design." In this course I want students to consider poetic practice through the more pragmatic approaches often associated with commercial design. One of the first poets I turned to for material was Louis Zukofsky.

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When Life Gives You Lemons: Jack Spicer And Hollis Frampton by James belflower

  Cuneiform Press  hosts a full PDF of the original chapbook of   After Lorca

Cuneiform Press hosts a full PDF of the original chapbook of After Lorca

I want to sketch some rough ideas about the threshold where virtuality becomes materiality by comparing the San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer's discovery of a lemon, in one of his letters to the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in After Lorca (1957), with the slow unveiling of a lemon in Hollis Frampton's minimalist film, Lemon (1969). The film and poem (indeed all of After Lorca) are perfectly suited to each other in large part because they address how we translate an object's temporal dimension into concrete form. What I mean by this is that like Spicer's desire to "make poems out of real objects," his lemon emerges through a process of discovery (133).

"Things do not connect they correspond. That is what makes it possible for a poet to translate real objects, to bring them across language as easily as he can bring them across time. That tree you saw in Spain is a tree I could never have seen in California, that lemon has a different smell and a different taste, BUT the answer is this--every place and every time has a real object correspond with your real object--that lemon may become this lemon, or it may even become this piece of seaweed, or this particular color gray in this ocean. One does not need to imagine that lemon; one needs to discover it" (Spicer 134).

The discovery is that this lemon is not equivalent to anything but itself at that moment in time. This is why objects for Spicer do not connect in the poem they co-respond. Frampton's film also "discovers" the lemon, makes it visible, not only by technically shadowing where its shape meets darkness, but by refusing to metaphoricize the lemon. His film fulfills Spicer's desire, to transport the object through time rather than translating its viscerality to a symbolic, timeless dimension. The lemon's material rudeness tingles the back of your tongue, and its stippled skin rubs across your eye as it slowly emerges from the shadows. In Lemon, the lemon is not a fruit we imagine, as much as its visceral presence is disclosed to us through its passage across our senses. This means that the lemon is not preserved (pun intended), but like taste, it arcs into and out of our awareness. Both Spicer and Frampton carefully negotiate how the lemon "is lead across time, not preserved against it," because too much light, whether visual or textual, would exceed perception's footholds in the rind and point the edges of its appearance elsewhere (Spicer 133). As Spicer put it, and Frampton's film visualizes, it is a different act than imagining, because "the imagination pictures the real. I would like to point to the real, disclose it..." (133). Read the poems, enjoy the film, and make lemonade!

Read more on Jack Spicer here and here.

Read more on Hollis Frampton here.

Spicer, Jack. My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. Eds. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2008.

Echo Locution: Aural - Environment - Body - Poetics Part 3 by James belflower

Maryam Parhizkar, David James Miller, & James Belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the final installment in a three part series. We hope you enjoy!

Echo Locution

David James Miller

How might poetry of attuned attention function—connecting the deliberate act of listening inwardly to the self with listening outwardly to the environment? As in some experimental music, listening is somatic in such poetry, where one becomes open and receptive to dialogue between the self and the larger environment. Pauline Oliveros describes this as: “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, of one's own thoughts as well as musical sounds.” Her improvised, collective compositions (with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis) perform such attuned attention deep in an empty, underground military reservoir 70 miles north of Seattle. Likewise, the music by Taku Sugimoto and other so-called ‘Onkyo’ musicians, performing at the Tokyo performance space Off-Site at the turn of the millennium, enact a similar listening experience. Emphasizing a “conscious recognition of the reverberation of sound (oto no hibiki)” (Plourde), their performances are often almost completely-silent, resulting in music of an interactive dynamic, highly attuned to tensions between the material, sonic performance and the unplanned sonic experiences from the immediate environment. This recalls, for me, John Cage's statement that “the sound experience I prefer to all others is the experience of silence... and the silence almost everywhere in the world now is traffic.” This also recalls writing by Leslie Scalapino and John Taggart—poets whose writing connects (the body of) the self and sound, with the body of the many social, political, spiritual, and psychological environments we inhabit.

Echo Locution: Aural - Environment - Body - Poetics Part 2 by James belflower

Maryam Parhizkar, David James Miller, & James Belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the second of three parts. We hope you enjoy!

Reckoning in the Feedback Loop: Some Notes on the Poetics of Transcendence/Transfiguration

Maryam Parhizkar

The feedback loop – in sonic terms, this is the event in which a produced sound, an output, is returned to the input, causing changes or modulations in the new output, but always being a continuous buildup of what came beforehand. I’m going to mangle with this idea a bit, figuring out ways in which the idea of this buildup – this coming back to oneself in a performative act that is of past, present and future at once – might be a way for us to think of how language, whether musical or textual, can be used, and what such a buildup might be working toward.... This project aims to transcend the restraints of the body, or, “the limits of body” to think in resonance Akilah Oliver’s question. In other words: how the loop can be an act of constant reckoning, especially for those who create and perform from the several variations of the margins. To transcend, or rise above, can require a change in the performing body – in other words, a transfiguration. How does a politics of transfiguration operate in this constant return?  The politics of transfiguration is what scholar Paul Gilroy describes in The Black Atlantic as the utopic intersection of politics and aesthetics in a “emergence of  qualitatively new desires, social relations, and modes of association,” working in a lower frequency,  “under the nose of the overseers.” My emphasis, in thinking of transfiguration within this context, is on the literalness of the word: trans/figura, the changing of the figure, or, here, the body. Transfiguration as possibility. To work in counterpoint with Akilah’s question: what are the possibilities of the body when the body becomes language or sound?


Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics - Part 1 by James belflower

At the Disembodied Poetics Conference: Writing/Thinking/Being at Naropa University, in October, 2014 David James Miller, Maryam Parhizkar, and myself discussed the influence of music on our critical and creative writing practices in a panel titled "Echo Locution: Aural / Environment / Body / Poetics." The conversation afterward was very rewarding and there were many questions about the various textual and musical sources referenced. To say thanks, and to keep that conversation going, we've posted a brief summary of our talks and a list of resources from our papers. This is the first of three parts. We hope you enjoy!

To Know Noise Is to Know Another: Luc Ferrari's Sound Newspaper Far West News

James Belflower

The Italian-born French composer Luc Ferrari was pivotal in the musique concrète scene emerging in Postwar France, which was characterized by the use of found sound, tape manipulations, and extended instrumentation. From one of his first found sound experiments in Danse Organiques (1971-73), which recorded two women making love, to his extended aural travelogue of he and his wife’s tour through the Southwest in the late 1990s, Far West News (1998-99), Ferrari provocatively pulled intimate noise into an historical period where abstract methods of music composition dominated the European and American scenes. In Far West News, Ferrari employs found sound, minimalist editing, and a variety of innovative compositional techniques to create a Sound Newspaper, a haunting "ambiguous realism" composed from recordings of his sightseeing tours, conversations, and ambient audio during their trip. Contrary to the alienation noise typically provokes, Far West News suggests that an encounter with noise is instead a form of communication rich with intimacy. Ferrari's meticulous, sensitive, and hands-on approach to collecting and composing with found sound demonstrates that when we consider noise as deeply relational it allows us to practice non-referential and comparitivist approaches to reality through our senses. Ultimately, noisy encounters encourage us to understand how resonances of all varieties inflect materiality by engendering sonic affinities between human and non-human players in what Ferrari called the "dialectics of the everyday."