My new film poem is in great company in the new alumni issue of Barzakh Magazine! With Walden employs improvised video, field recordings, drawings, and poetry to grapple with the claustrophobic vigor of love in the first months of fatherhood.
For the American Literature Association’s 2019 conference, Mark Scroggins organized a panel of wonderful papers that explored Johnson’s monumentalizing urge, gastrophilosophy, and sound art. It was a privilege presenting with…
Sally Connolly: “Formal Innovation and Ergodic Invitation in Ronald Johnson’s ‘Blocks to Be Arranged in a Pyramid: In Memoriam AIDS’.”
Devin King: “The Invisible Spire: Ronald Johnson’s ARK 38 and Bay Area Radio Drama.”
The excellent panel presentations helped me decide to start the book I’ve been toying with, a study of Ronald Johnson’s gastrophilosophy. My panel paper explored taste at the bookends of his publishing career, from his first book of poetry, A Line of Poetry a Row of Trees (1967) to his most comprehensive cookbook, The American Table: More Than 400 Recipes That Make Accessible for the First Time the Full Richness of American Regional Cooking. There is so much more, however, mixed throughout his oeuvre. His monument at the beginning of ARK to the Native staple “Bison Bison Bison,” his comparison of the brain to an orange, a critique of Columbus’s misunderstanding of the variegation of Native Corn, a taste of Thoreau’s “Wild Apples,” and a taste of William Bartram’s bitter orange salad dressings. I’ll explore all of these and more. I’ll let you know when the book is out!
I’ll be in Ithaca performing a new piece for electronics and text titled Techniques for the Oddity. Hope to see you there!
On 2/22/2018 I spoke with students from John Reed's seminar at The New School about Hybrid Poetry. We discussed the difficulties unique to creating hybrid work and the innovations that can result from collaborating with and through different mediums. At the end of our conversation all 10 of us participated in a real time collaboration through Google Docs. The goal was to write a short collection of hybrid work in 15 minutes. No other constraints were established, so if you were inclined to, you could simply delete for the entire time. No one did, but the discussion afterward revealed that the event pushed each one of us to write, collage, and negotiate different mediums in fresh ways. In the poem you'll notice multiple languages, humor, memes, confessional lines, questions, word acrobatics, texts, tonal juxtapositions, and advertising images, all mingled in a communal sense of play.
The experience was stupendous and the results were so irreverent and fun! I've published the pages from the collaboration below. Enjoy!
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
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.
JEFF T. JOHNSON
In the spirit of precarious online collaboration, of me-s that are not me, of becoming me-s and other me-s, of the attempt to subdue the authorial tyrant (authorship is arbitrary power), I offer a couple examples of collaborative folly in which I have taken part.
Here I use the following (fifth) sense of folly “A popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder” (OED online). The cost here is time, paid as risk (or wager that others will pay in attention). Here, the financial metaphor is contested.
And I proceed to link and even conflate precariousness and provisionality, in the following senses:
Provisional: 1a. Of, belonging to, or of the nature of a temporary provision or arrangement; provided or adopted for the time being; supplying the place of something regular, permanent, or final. Also: accepted or used in default of something better; tentative. (OED online)
Precarious: 2b. Dependent on chance or circumstance; uncertain; liable to fail; exposed to risk, hazardous; insecure, unstable. (OED online)
One folly is a time-costly provisional structure that existed, precariously and holographically, for one month in 2015. Another folly is a conceptual (and precarious digital) architecture and its accompanying theoretical interface.
One is a month-long time-warped improvised online high-school drama. Another is an ostensibly networked interactive open-field digital concrete poem that could become a time-and-space-fluid archive of writing.
All-Time High was a Netprov (internet improv) that ran in July 2015. It had a basic narrative structure worked out in advance, and a team of showrunners and featured players to keep it rolling, but it was built for drop-in public engagement. It was designed to be a collective online hallucination that would vanish after 28 days of infectious fever dream: What if everyone was back in high school, including you?
The Archiverse is a conceptual compositional space, and Letters From the Archiverse is a poem I have been writing in AutoCAD drafting software for the past 9 years, in a version of that conceptual space. For the past 5 years or so, I have been theorizing The Archiverse with digital media scholar Andrew Klobucar. We are currently developing a networked tablet app version of The Archiverse, which will allow an unlimited number of reader/writers to collaborate in real time, but also explore and manipulate an archive of open-field composition at any moment of its composition. The ambition of the project is to reimagine the way language is collaboratively positioned (and manipulated) in time-space. It is also an experiment in decentralizing and distributing—or even atomizing—authorial agency.
So my primary concern is dispersed authorship, collective texts and their resulting collections as digital archives. But I’d like to raise a related line of inquiry, in the context of this panel.
Jeff T. Johnson’s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in PEN America, Fanzine, Jacket2, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere. With Claire Donato, he collaborated on Special America, a multi-mediated performance intervention about American exceptionalism that stopped being funny when America stopped pretending not to be both self-absorbed and self-destructive. A Netprov feature player, he is co-creator of All-Time High. His open-field concrete digital poem THE ARCHIVERSE is documented at archiverse.net, and is anthologized in Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3. He wrote Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics (punctum books, 2017). A chapbook, trunc & frag, is at Our Teeth. He is currently a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute.
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.