LIDIA YUKNAVITCH: How do you see the relationship between language and memory? Are they some personal and/or historical events and traumas that break language or put language into crisis? I’m thinking of personal and historical crises in representation and what that “does” to language…
JANICE LEE: Language is always in crisis, isn’t it? Lately I’ve been thinking about how much privilege is subtly written into the way we write. Stories, the way we conceive of narrative, as a cohesive structure, the way that stories convince us to buy into the idea of finality, but in a story with only one beginning, middle, end, there is a hierarchy created that dismisses the simultaneity of voices, experiences, multitude of difference that co-exist and thrive. In believing in finality, we also believe in extinction, and again, someone is erased. The sentence is another privileged and colonial form. The sentence is meant to contain a “complete thought.” Which points of view can operate naturally with that kind of framework? And beyond that, language is constantly failing. That’s why we write, we are articulating the inarticulatable, the necessary. What’s at stake here is everything. All we can do is try.
LIDIA: Do you ever wish (as I do) that mammalian writers of narrative would more often break tradition and explode and reconstitute form? Do you ever secretly wish the “market” would go inside out?
JANICE: GOD YES. I start talking about this in the previous answer. But it’s all up for grabs, you know? All these ideas of “mastery,” “craft,” etc. often just work to privilege certain types of writing and creating, certain types of stories, therefore certain types of bodies and points of view. Real shit is messy, uncertain, unclean. A carefully crafted sentence likes linearity, cohesion. There is a perceived elegance in the trimming of excess, a satisfaction in the disposal of what isn’t needed, of what isn’t relevant to the core theme or narrative. But the rest of know, that stuff that gets trimmed? Those are the best parts. The write root of the green onion that you chop off and throw off away? I replant those. Or boil them with ginger to make tea. The fat that you trim off your steak? That’s the tastiest part. The “excess” isn’t waste, it’s essential, simultaneous, part of everything that is connected and we are animals that make mistakes and sometimes forget to floss and why erase any of that?
Janice Lee Site
ON SLOWNESS & THE LONG TAKE IN BÉLA TARR’S SATANTANGO, by Janice Lee
Podcast: Imagine A Death, an excerpt by Janice Lee
Gesturing Towards Intimacy: An Interview with Janice Lee
Buy ‘Imagine a Death’
Janice Lee Imagine a Death
Texas A&M University Press
‘In the face of a slow but impending apocalypse, what binds three seemingly divergent lives (a writer, a photographer, an old man), isn’t the commonality of a perceived future death, but the layered and complex fabric of how loss, abuse, trauma, and death have shaped their pasts, and how these pasts continue to haunt their present moments, a moment in which time seems to be running out. The writer, traumatized by the violent death of her mother when she was a child, lives alone with her dog and struggles to finish her book. The photographer, stunted by the death of his grandmother and caretaker, struggles to take a single picture and enters into a complicated relationship with the writer. The old man, facing his past in small doses, spends his time watching television and reorganizing the objects in his apartment to stay distracted from the deterioration around him. A depiction of the cycles of abuse and trauma in a prolonged end-time, Imagine a Death examines the ways in which our pasts envelop us, the ways in which we justify horrible things in the name of survival, all of the horrible and beautiful things we are capable of when we are hurt and broken, and the animal (and plant) companions that ground us.’ — Texas A&M University Press
She is sitting at the base of a large and wide fig tree, the girth of the tree, its expansive roots, all testament to how things stretch beyond their limit and though she has torn her dress—it snagged on an exposed branch as she paced around the perimeter of the tree looking for a spot to sit down—and she thinks about how although this tree is not marked on any map, its extended survival in this particular point in space makes it a landmark, here the branches that extend and reach towards the sky as if reaching for homeland or ancestors, so that the bark of the tree is already fused with the universe’s history and to linger too long in a spot like this might lead to thoughts of suicide, that kind of experience evades the kind of description or narrative that she is used to articulating, but she has found peace with the ephemeral, has found, perhaps, her terrestrial habitat—here even her hair seems to be doing better, its volume communicates something about the state of her body that she is still not prone to hearing well—and this tree, which she couldn’t wrap her arms around, its circumference is perhaps the distance of eight of her arm-lengths, even if stretched taut, as if being pulled apart by horses in some primitive torture technique, and though she cannot see the other side of the tree from here nor can she find any line of sight with that part of the tree, she would have to walk several paces just to be able to see that particular spot and verify its existence, she trusts that it is there, that though the distance between this point and that point is not easily measurable as any straight line, it is familiar, close, empowering, that sense that the tree is still living, growing, becoming, and as she breathes she can feel the tree breathing too, the quality of breath here as reverent, almost sacred, she can feel her lungs fill to capacity with the displacement of mountains and then she can feel her lungs empty with the transfixion of a leaf opening in the morning to absorb the sunlight, and her entire body can feel that rhythm of breathing, not unlike the ebb and flow of the ocean tide, not unlike the effects of the moon on all bodies of water, not unlike the effect of gravity on all kinds of bodies, and at some point some surveyor looked at a map of this region and might have thought, This map is not complete, but like a bird that can only see from above, found that it was inclusive of all the pre-ordained landmarks and allowed this part of the forest to remain intact and “unimportant,” or, if it was not worth visiting, it would reach its own demise naturally, and as she breathes she feels the muffled shrieks move out of her body with the lightness of words and she feels cold for a moment but then warm again as she re-experiences the vicissitudes of the journey that brought her here, so many nights of crying, so many nights of feeling and not feeling, so many nights where she thought of death, and she continues to breathe, the breathing intensifying all of these memories and simultaneously converting them, momentarily, into cacophonous clouds disembarking and dissipating and being absorbed by the tree, all of the trees and plants around her, and she sees the abstract, gray and darkening schedule of her past shift slightly in the swirling air and here, sitting here, participating in this intimate communion through air, breathing among the generative and restorative power of the elements, she feels the closest thing she’s ever felt to peace, and the important thing isn’t that she feels calm or hopeful, the important thing is that she feels a continuance in the development of self and environment, that the slow and creaking ship that gently rocks among the other stranded vessels in the bay, the slow lapping of the waves and the rolling in and out of the thick fog, that there is time for movement and there is time for waiting, and then, there is time itself, and she knows that the tree has given her a tremendous gift, that though the nightmarish state of affairs might not be over forever, that isn’t the point, but that she could attempt now to understand the balance that connected it all together, that the tethers are not anchors that imprisoned or shackled, but rather invisible threads that connect and build intimacy between things, and she wonders, what can she offer the tree in return; she doesn’t know what she could give as a gift to the tree, this tree that has given her so much already, but, as she imagines the impossible navigation through fog, the dangerous rocks hidden in the shallow depths that beckon and threaten the lives of ships, she realizes that here, she is not out of place, she is rather, very much in place, and seeing the rip in her dress she thinks about all of the pain she has been carrying on behalf of all of the dead she has encountered, all of the pain that has been inflicted upon her and all of the pain that she has inflicted upon others, these giant rocks she has refused to unburden herself of, and the kind of sensitivity it has induced in her has helped her to get this far, but too, she can make space now to be open, to allow herself to receive and to love, to build up rather than to destroy, and she thinks, I will give the tree my pain, because she knows that the tree will not feel the sensation of her pain and suffering, rather, the tree will know to absorb it, to metabolize it, to turn it into a kind of energy for growth and continuance, and in this way, she too could do something good with her pain, could create a new ceremony to bind herself to the land, to be able to move forward and speculate on a future for herself, that this would be her gift, the possibility and imagination of a future where she, and others, could still thrive and remember, that though the trees are burning and the world is becoming uninhabitable, she can feel more than her own tortured past and trauma but instead a pain that is shared, intimate, and allows for a trajectory for moving forward, and so, she says thank you, and that becomes the tipping point, that feeling of gratitude, a feeling that she has never felt before now.
She gets up and brushes the dirt off her legs gently, and walks home. When she opens the front door, she sees that spot on the opposite wall, that without her glasses on, looks like a spider every time.
Janice Lee reads an excerpt from Imagine a Death
Trias Reading (10/24/19) Janice Lee
‘Who is Jackie Ess, author of Darryl, and who is that novel’s eponymous protagonist? Ess herself is what I might call a burgeoning cult literary figure, armed with an unmistakable lyric deadpan and a taste for provocative subject matter. Sometimes that voice is ventriloquized into a figure like Darryl, this novel’s protagonist: a fairly ordinary guy who wants other guys to fuck his wife. It’s his fetish, and that fetish is deeply important to him. (“You know what absolutely sucks in 2017?” he points out plaintively. “People are scared to talk about the cuckolding lifestyle because they think it’s right wing.”) As with Ess’s various other personae (she’s published under quite a few pseudonyms over the years), Darryl’s is balanced precariously between the languid and the intensive, between a desire to poke and prod at orthodoxy and a blanket good faith so unshakeable that it’s almost scary. “[W]e cuckolds are the only sexual orientation that’s about the truth,” he earnestly declares. “Everybody else is about performance, pleasure, recognition.” Elsewhere, with equal earnestness, Darryl can recognize that this notion of truth and “meritocracy in the bedroom,” where cuckolded betas take up their “natural place,” might not be “very feminist”—but the last thing he’d ever do would be to wink at his own foolishness. Or rather, Darryl is fond of self-mockery, because he’s a fun guy—but Ess would never. There’s no wink here, though Darryl is a relentlessly funny book. There’s just different kinds of truth.
‘If you used to hang around a certain scene, you may recognize this brand of deadpan—Ess was a founding member of the Bay Area Trans Poets workshop, and Darryl’s cover sports a blurb by our mutual friend and colleague Torrey Peters, whose current and richly deserved mainstream success for her novel Detransition, Baby is owed in no small part to the east coast branch of that same trans lit scene. “Trans lit” gets its moment in the sun in Darryl through the character of Oothoon, the protagonist’s trans woman poet online friend. “I think these people sort of live in hell,” he observes with Ess’s trademark desultory frankness, “fighting over scraps, over nothing. The house was disgusting. I offered to do the dishes after lunch and quickly went over the counters with some vinegar, I felt like maybe that was passive aggressive, but what can I do? […] Apparently everybody is abusing everybody else. I didn’t follow the details.” After all, who would want to? As Ess pointed out to me over email about Oothoon, “The story isn’t about her, and that’s important.” …
‘Darryl is unmissable. It’s so unmissable I almost want to tell you its unexpected ending—but I won’t. Ess is working on another novel now, one that touches on neo-burlesque, psychedelics, racial passing, and perfume, and you’d better hurry up to devour Darryl before that one comes out. You might get caught blindfolded, staring at a locked bedroom door, while inside, someone’s reading the copy of this smoking hot novel that should have been intended for you—denying you all that pleasure, all those delightful words.’ — Stephen Ira
Jackie Ess Darryl
‘Darryl Cook is a man who seems to have everything: a quiet home in Western Oregon, a beautiful wife, and a lot of friends to fuck her while he watches. But as he explores the cuckolding lifestyle, he finds himself tugging at threads that threaten to unravel his marriage, his town, and himself.
‘With empathy and humor, debut author Jackie Ess crafts a kaleidoscopic meditation on marriage, manhood, dreams, basketball, sobriety, and the secret lives of Oregonians.’ – -Clash Books
‘Underneath the sharp satire and hilarious sexual irreverence this is a deadly serious book: a brilliant novel of a seeker, like The Pilgrim’s Progress refracted by queer internet culture.’ — Torrey Peters
Who the F*ck is Darryl??? | Jackie Ess
Cave Goblin Radio 80 with Jackie Ess
‘I get an odd kind of pleasure from writing longhand underneath pre-selected titles, titles that seem to imply or propose a tonal space from which to begin generating and/or arranging material. A small show of drawings, prints and paintings by Jasper Johns at the Museum of Modern Art titled Regrets made me curious to try that word as a title this past spring, and the term Pregrets — the fantasy or fact of getting ready to feel sorrow or distress, the attendant humors such a frame might provoke, the probability of not landing in the predetermined spot, the derangement of proposed memories — popped into place after awhile and eventually took over as the primary term to work under. As the process of writing these poems is on-going, I don’t have a further assessment to make of their makes, and don’t want to force one out just yet, out of fear of stopping the vehicle before it ends on its own terms. I can say that I’m relying heavily on what I consider internalized collagist wiring to make relatively quick decisions about what gets into the poems.’ — Anselm Berrigan
‘Berrigan’s Pregrets can be read as a series of undated diary entries. In a diary — as opposed to a literary form, whether it is a crown of sonnets or a series of quotations — the writer can work in multiple genres at the same time. This is what Pregrets shares with Johns’s Regrets, a series of paintings, drawings, and prints — or multiple genres — which together form a record of his investigation of a reproduction of a ripped, crumpled, and stained photograph of the painter Lucian Freud perched on the edge of an iron bed, one leg tucked under the other, with his hand clutching his hair as he looks down and away. Johns first saw a small reproduction of the photograph in the Christie’s catalogue announcing the auction of Bacon’s triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969). Commissioned by Francis Bacon, the photograph was taken by John Deakin around 1964.
‘The difference between the artworks and the poems is that Johns is subjecting this motif to a variety of examinations in discrete mediums using distinct processes, while all sorts of writing enters Berrigan’s poems and, in many cases, exits just as quickly. Each is tenacious in its own way.’ — John Yau
Anselm Berrigan Pregrets
Black Square Editions
‘In the world of Anselm Berrigan sketchiness is next to godliness and repeated heavy-lifting becomes a pleasure. Pregrets has the fell of wandering a giant armory filled with enigmatic objects and pointed memories. Dust motes in daylight betray a thin path forward so the ‘tongue’ of the book seems in constant peril, addictively so. “red copter rises slicing a scraper into outer cubicle dreams…” Possessed of a haunted style that moves beyond surface. Fathomless’ — Cedar Sigo
‘With Pregrets, Anselm Berrigan captures environs and tonal intrusions that compose thought-break as society—a reflection of the seemingly scattered populace, where the all is broken while becoming thought, “unity would like/its finked deproductions back.” If we remove a cogent arc, the dips and peaks of our lives become weirdly accessible, where each observed indentation of skin on skin action becomes a jeweled aphorism, a telegrammed imagistic, from u to us—”I’m a covered base levitating carry-ons into sub-extinction.” Berrigan synthesizes time’s arrival as an act of pregret, by giving us regrets to degret from, now he’s got me doing it! The breathless yet finite scrawl of these poems—ecosystems of empowerment that infuse the neighborhood walk with the centered page—re-train listening as a sort of ekphrasis of unfolding, to capture the journey’s foundation with a delicate insistence on the everyday apogee found between the words, “being a thingless/telephat,” of the poet to reader, “give my love to the air out there.”‘ — Edwin Torres
I spent a certain amount of cash at Forbidden Planet
Tower Records, the corner store on 9th & 1st, southeast
corner, the corner store on 9th & 1st southwest corner
the corner store on 7th & 1st, northwest corner, the
candy shop on 1st between 7th & 8th with the Mr. Do!
standup video game, the pizza parlor on St. Marks &
A, southwest corner with Moon Patrol, the candy shoppe
on A between 8th & 9th with Double Dragon, the corner
store on St. Marks & A, northwest corner, that preceded
Nino’s Pizzeria, Oscar’s newstand on St. Marks & 1st
Garibaldi’s groceries with the buggy booberry cereal on
9th & 1st, northwest corner, the Yankee Stadium right
field bleachers, Gem Spa’s video game alcove on the St.
Marks side, & I want, I want to be paid properly for my
childhood acting career, no powdered candy, no welcome
to golden folks as forks, roll-tap consolation, it’s gonna
be really really hurt, your shot, beard at bad & gives
still can’t mishandle the low strike, low helicopter
hover in the pen, aluminum dog uploads obey the love-
me principles, kick to metaphorical id, tomorrow’s
probable parables charting chromophobes, the promise
of another person walking by makes an empty street
so frightening in the sketch, chase on the walk-off de-
flection, the walk-off bobble, splinter of consciousness
in the old open bowl head, don’t tell the aleatories
they’re being aggressive, a cabbie ran that candy shop
on 11th & 1st when it was a candy shop & he wasn’t
a cabbie he told me, front to back, through his cab’s slot
I regret knowing what time it’s ever been, I regret
not painting Not The Bathroom on your white
walls in big indigo letters, I regret the feint
of leaning in in that death by snake landscape
that was collage, I regret all kinds of nothings
little beautiful timidities I don’t long-view regret
it was a they, we added up, you have to give people
the space you didn’t know how to take, you don’t
you’re a sorting mechanism, you’re not actually
all slime, you’re a very fierce frail piece of guy
supposedly you didn’t turn around the last time
dad said goodbye, who needs to notice, you being
yourself don’t quite work your shit out loud
enough for the novelistic everyfucks, sunny
helmet kiss on forearm, light repulsion, at deep
night I come all over the courtly pre-imagined
my interest in desperation lies only in that
sometimes I find myself having become
desperate, I know ghosts, they’re being ordered
about, fucked as ever by limitation, a book
the size of your fingers told me to force it so
so I say a damned thing, with love crushed to
bring out flavor, your look at me way keeps feeling
space filled with massive non-participation, then
bodies force you to appear to measure out the
exacting space to not die in, or be non-dead already
drawn frogs appear to serve the exoskeletal goddess
in full mollusk shrug, shelves built for dated wreck
registers, cranial outbursts finely detailed, opening
at the outline of a spotlit ribcage, lists of thefts enter
micro-entry zones, respectability a possessive monster
needleteeth palms, langorous working in a front of
poured-in window light, off-white airshaft blue pushing
forward into the flatness of a room masquerading as
two wear out a corner, somnambulist soap performance
trickles along, black & white docu-film footage of
my fam’s thing-strewn space makes way into numbered
views, anyone may anonymously enter the screen
version of your interior & very few will, column
of skulls stands up a bulb socket, speed hump ahead
15 mph, minnows twig-hopping, playing pick up styx
in the hydroponic vape church fuming newness outs
of touch, & truth kicks back at a fool’s conception of
neutrality, thump thump, these kids need to stop falling
out of bed, ghost marooned on sock induces mock
shriek from the sub-aquatic generation I raise on stay
or no cookie, name of network: true, like & hurt go
hand in hand, the zebraic cosmologic selfie rides with
a drone stick, acktility expenses, tick trick carriers
careening into shape of snakes, sonar belts aura
saying activate instead of turn on, to radicalize a golden
tongue, dig the corpse & call it rotary possiblimity, we
just can’t help wiping the weird out of intelligence
Double Take: Proof – Anselm Berrigan
Anselm Berrigan reads Ted Berrigan
‘Yesterday, I took a photograph of abandoned plastic sleds in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The photograph’s blue shadows match the pullover Mark Baumer (1983-2017) wears in one of my favorite photographs of him. In it, he’s protesting Textron, an industrial conglomerate based in Providence, Rhode Island whose manufactured cluster bombs were used to kill civilians in Yemen in 2016. DEAR TEXTRON, Mark’s epistolary protest sign reads. STOP KILLING CIVILIANS / MAKING CLUSTER BOMBS / PROFITING OFF DEATH. Seated on the ground in nonviolent protest, Mark obstructs Textron’s front door while two other activists chain their necks to two additional entrances. Just after this photograph was taken, all three activists were arrested.
‘Tomorrow, December 19, 2020, is Mark’s 37th birthday. I’ll spend some of it writing the foreword to The One on Earth: The Selected Works of Mark Baumer, for which part of my research has included reading “Unconscious Processes in Relation to the Environmental Crisis,” by the late psychoanalyst Harold F. Searles. This article, written in 1972, feels contemporary as I reflect on Mark’s activism and how the violences we inflict upon earth affect how we treat one another—“how we take and push and mine and drill into one another” per Winter Count, a multi-disciplinary art collective whose work “engages with land and water under current threat by extractive industry.” Mark’s activism burgeoned when he learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: by understanding discarded plastic’s dangers, Mark began to recognize the interconnections between human and non-human life. Plastic is the greatest threat to the ocean; 80 percent of marine litter comes from the land. These statistics beg questions: Where do blue sleds go when they die? Do we go there too? And, in our dying, what do we lose?
‘Searles: “A technology-dominated, overpopulated world has brought with it so reduced a capacity in us to cope with the losses a life must bring with it to be a truly human life that we become increasingly drawn into polluting our planet sufficiently to ensure that we shall have essentially nothing to lose in our eventual dying.”
Or, as Mark writes:
We might all have the same brain. Unfortunately, I think the brain is dying. Literally, everything we touch is death. The water is going to kill the brain. The food is going to kill the brain. The walls are going to kill the brain. The society is going to kill the brain. The air is going to kill the brain. The stress of brain death is going to kill the brain. The only solution is nothing. Humans have done nothing but create brain death and any time we try to correct our mistakes we create more brain death. The brain will die. Somehow we must accept life after the brain or we must accept earth post brain. This is a little sad, but brains were never constructed to outlive earth. Even though I am not sure if I can live without a brain I’m pretty sure earth will continue without the brain. When my brain dies hopefully I will remember to walk out into the forest and sit down in the pine needles if there are still pine needles out in the forest.
— Claire Donato
Mark Baumer, edited by Blake Butler and Shane Jones THE ONE ON EARTH: SELECTED WORKS OF MARK BAUMER
‘Writer, poet, and activist Mark Baumer was the author of MEOW (Burnside Review Press, 2019). In 2017, he was struck and killed by an SUV in rural Florida while walking barefoot cross-country to raise awareness of climate change. He once wrote 50 books in a single year. Mark Baumer was an award-winning poet, committed activist, devoted family member, and compassionate friend to many. He was in the midst of a cross-country journey―the second he’d undertaken in his young life―when he was killed. This crossing had a larger purpose―Mark’s cause this time was raising awareness about climate change, while simultaneously raising funds in support of FANG, a nonprofit organization and activist group in Providence, Rhode Island that he was a member of. Oh, and he’d be doing the walk barefoot. On January 21, 2017, Mark had just chronicled his 100th day on the road that morning as was his daily habit, utilizing various media platforms―something he’d been doing since leaving his house in Providence on October 14. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Mark was struck and killed by an SUV driven by Sonja Moore Ziglar, along U.S. 90 in Fort Walton County, in Florida’s Panhandle. He was walking legally in the middle of the paved shoulder, against traffic, wearing a fluorescent vest, on a long, flat straightaway. Mark was killed on impact when Ziglar’s vehicle left her lane and plowed into him at highway speed. He had turned 33 a month earlier, the week before Christmas. The Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund continues his work.’ — Fence
When the recess bell chimed everyone stopped touching Phil and went outside.
We all climbed under the portable trailer and dug holes.
One of the teachers on recess duty gave me a shovel.
As I dug my hole under the portable trailer I decided I would dig until the entire world was a hole.
I believed in the possibility of everyone falling in my hole one day and how I would be remembered as the person who dug the hole everyone lived in.
The longer I dug the more I worried my hole would be a failure and I would become the defining blemish of my generation.
For the rest of kindergarten I didn’t do anything except touch Phil and dig holes.
Kindergarten became another defining moment of my existence.
Every recess I would crawl under the portable trailer. When the bell rang, I would return to the blue carpet of my learning space.
The blue carpet was full of spilled milk. At snack time I liked to rub my face on this blue carpet until my face smelled like spoiled milk.
Sometimes I would rub my face in the corner where the blue carpet smelled like damp, burning goat candles and then my face would smell like damp, burning goat candles.
Kindergarten finally ended when the blue carpet didn’t quite look blue anymore.
In the shade beneath the portable trailer, the dirt was cool and moist. Once a small child’s hands strangled a turquoise bird in this shade. It was the only place I had ever been where life hadn’t succumbed to noise of sun-bleached gravel.
As a seven year old, I felt a half desire to give away my first sexual experiences to the hole I was digging.
I was free to be alone with myself and my hole.
March 26, 2016
I left the house at 2:30 and walked to the Douglas Ave highway on ramp. It felt weird. I held out my thumb. Some people laughed. A few yelled. One guy stopped and asked if I wanted a ride to the Providence Mall. I declined. Ten minutes passed. A truck stopped. I climbed in. The driver asked if I knew where the man’s club was. I told him I didn’t know. He said he liked Thailand. I asked him what he did for work. He said, “I collect scrap metal.” A few minutes later he let me out. I walked across the street to another on ramp. People seemed confused why I was standing with my thumb out. I held a sign that said “South.” A car stopped.
The driver said he had come from the hospital. His coworker was 400 pounds overweight and probably going to die. I rode with this man to the malls in Warwick. He dropped me off on the side of the highway. I walked through the woods until I found a good place to stand. Everyone leaving the malls seemed scared of me.
Eventually a slightly drunk woman stopped and said, “I don’t pick up hitchhikers” before letting me in the car. She was on her way to a blind date in Newport. I got out where the highway split. While I was waiting at the next on ramp I saw two men in fast food restaurant uniforms walk past me on their way to work. Someone eventually stopped and let me in his automobile. He kept laughing after everything he said. I told him I was on my way to Los Angeles. He seemed confused and said, “but Los Angeles isn’t in Rhode Island.” I nodded. He asked why I was going. I tried to explain I had a small press book coming out. He didn’t grasp the concept of small press books. The on ramp he left me at was very lonely. Very few cars passed. I went in the woods and looked at some pine needles while I peed. I think this was Coventry Rhode Island. After a half hour I got tired of holding out my arm. A truck pulling a racecar approached. I noticed the license plate said “new jersey.” I waved. The truck slowed and stopped. I was on my way to New Jersey with Gary and Joe.
One was a father. The other was a son. Gary laughed when I told him I was going to Los Angeles and then he laughed again when I told him I was going because my small press book was being released. The majority of America does not understand small press books. Gary kept saying, “You’re going to be a best seller.” Someone called. Gary shouted, “I picked up a hitchhiker.” An hour later we stopped at a rest area. The fast food restaurant flags were at half mass. Gary asked if I wanted and sandwiches. I tried to think of a way to explain how i probably wouldn’t eat anything in that rest area. Instead i shook my head. When we got back in the truck Joe and Gary talked about racecars. Joe then talked about how his friend got drunk and partially cut off a finger. Not much else happened for the hour. I sat in the extended cab of the truck and didn’t say much. Sometimes Gary would tell me to quiet down and then laugh. We ended up missing a turn. Instead of driving around New York City we were going to drive though it. There was a large bridge. Gary told me to take a picture.
Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.59.38 PMAfter I was done with the picture, we were in New Jersey. It was dark. Gary asked if I was going to hitchhike in the dark. I shrugged. He pulled off the highway. The truck slowed. I climbed out. Gary told me to send him a book. I said “okay” and got his address. He laughed and said, “It’s going to be a bestseller.” After he drove away I saw a motel across the street called “Wayne Inn.” The lady behind the desk asked if I wanted one or two beds. I said, “One is fine.”
Hitchhiking to Cleveland
In a world where everything is destroying something…
‘Hi, my name is Madison (he/they), and I have two books of poetry coming out in the next 2 years.
‘FREAKOPHONE WORLD (Inside the Castle) is forthcoming in August of 2021. My second book, THE CRYPTODRONE SEQUENCE, is forthcoming with Black Ocean in 2022. As far as the journal world is concerned, Denver Quarterly published one of my poems earlier this year; maybe some luck was involved; of course, the poem itself took months to write. Lastly, I guess I don’t promote this much, but over the summer the poet Asiya Wadud invited me to contribute to a public art project called Echo Exhibit, through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which is still on display. A strange move for me (public poetry), since my work feels so indebted to secrecy.
‘My debut book, FREAKOPHONE WORLD, for example, speaks as a kind of restless, encrypted “object of interactivity” (to borrow Lisa Nakamura’s language) that aims to problematize the power dynamics between art-object and viewer. The text itself is a pulpy, unstable book-length poem that incorporates painting and diagram, pointedly drawing attention to its surface. As a part of my dissertation work, I’ve been assembling (slowly) an Augmented Reality App to supplement the book, taking my cue in part from the collaborative, concrete poetry of Amaranth Borsuk & Brad Bouse; an admittedly labor-intensive ‘digital coda’ which, in some ways, lets me re-encounter myself as a visual artist.’ — Madison McCartha
How would you describe your work in three words or phrases?
‘spookprism’, eyes crossed, ‘freakologic’
What is your favorite line from your work?
“There’s no bigger world // than this sound”
Tell us 1) the most fragrant location (the fragrance can be lovely or putrid, of course) that you’ve ever had the chance to write in, 2) the noisiest site you’ve ever written in, and 3) the softest place you’ve ever written in (can be metaphorical or literal).
1) The bar at the downtown Milwaukee Hilton was almost always deserted when I got off work (as a long-term temp): an old building with a distinct funk.
2) There weren’t too many public places to be alone in Milwaukee, especially in the winter, so I used to write in a bar called Palomino in Bay View, Wisconsin, before meeting a close friend for drinks.
3) The basement lounge in the old student center at the University of Notre Dame, at 7 am, was completely serene.
Madison McCartha Freakophone World
Inside the Castle
‘FREAKOPHONE WORLD performs both as a book-length poem and occulted terrain, which together reimagine black diasporic life in an increasingly imperiled and globalized society. The speaker in this poem comes from a long tradition—of FREAKS, outsiders, others, and spirits calling out to the living reader from the undead, black, and unapologetically freakophonic space of the text.’ — Inside the Castle
‘Like a spider web, the FREAKOPHONE WORLD is a sub-detectible version of our own— sub-detectible, that is, until it’s right in our face—and then it is our face. Madison McCartha’s debut volume serves as a svelte, arachnoid landing site for their multimodal project of presencing the katabatic, freakophone web whose filaments we tremble as we shiver, sleep and shake.’ — Joyelle McSweeney
Madison McCartha intros his work
Black.Queer.Alive. Episode #41 – Madison McCartha
p.s. Hey. The wonderful writer Jason McBride has written a long article/essay about this blog that’s quite amazing, and I recommend it highly to you. Here. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey. Yeah, that’s certainly the best attitude to have about snow globes, but, oh, when they start to look like liquid ashtrays, it’s pretty sad. Yay, my ears, my ears! Everyone, There’s a spanking new Play Therapy that will kick your weekend into the most perfect high gear. To wit, ‘The new episode of Play Therapy is online here at Tak Tent Radio! Ben ‘Jack Your Body’ Robinson serves up Acid Hall, classic Italo and some scary Giallo Disco vibes as well.’ Whoop! ** Dominik, Hi!!! It’s murderously great! One time I went to Disneyland on Ecstacy, and something about the drug made my eyes super attentive, and I could distinguish all the undercover security people and dressed down, ‘secret’ employees from the park goers, and there were a lot, and I mean a lot of them everywhere. It was spooky. Ha ha, your love has my full attention. Love in a weird mood, G. ** David, Confusion is the best. It’s where God or whoever lives. I’m sorry about Colin. I’ve been losing lot of friends lately. I got the shit beaten out of me in a pit at a Melvins concert once. It wasn’t even a pit until that happened. I don’t know Pam Ayres. Should I? ** rewritedept, Hi, Chris. Oh, hold on. Aw, thanks for the awesome and sweet sentiments, man. Uh, let me get through the kind of full throttle assault of Zoom and Skype things I’m going through at the moment re: my book and my projects, and then, sure. Love back, love black in black even. ** Misanthrope, I fielded no small number of potential Timothee heads, but none floated that particular boat. My store didn’t have Joy’s book yet. Or the new issue of The Wire even! I walked seven blocks for nothing! Odd and me go way back, man, as I surely didn’t need to tell you. Thanks for your so-far good thoughts about ‘IW’. Hope it keeps on keeping on. That’s an eclectic book pile there, yep. Your weekend sounds like a potential keeper. Mine … should be all right, seemingly. ** Sypha, Ah, I had no idea those toys came from, well, anywhere in particular. I do like how gifs almost never indicate their sources. Thank you very, very much! Obviously, I’m super happy you like the novel. George did want the moon fitted with Mickey Mouse ears for Xmas that year, yes. I was very happy to get to finally use that somehow. Anyway, thank you again, James. That’s very, very heartening to hear. Have a swell weekend. ** David Saä V. Estornell, You too, sir! ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks for the background on him. Robert Wilson doing the costumes is probably the most intriguing tidbit for me. Huh. My mom really liked Jane Powell. I think they met once or knew each other a little or something. RIP. ** Florian-AF, Hi. No, Frederikke (Puce Mary) is staying at this artist residency called Cite … (it has a long name, but I don’t remember it) that has outposts in the Marais and Montmartre. She’s at the Montmartre one. Um, well, I was making less sophisticated thematic gif stacks like the one yesterday, and I realised all these accidentally interesting things were happening between the gifs, so I started organising them to deliberately create those effects, and I ended up writing gift novels. Strange. I just kind of fell into it. Project-wise, there are the ones I think I mentioned (1) the video game-like walkthrough 3D haunted house, (2) the new film I’m making with Zac, (3) I’m in the early stages of writing a new theater piece for Gisele, (4) finishing a strange short novella. Those are the main ones. What are you working on? ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Glad you found ‘IW’ obviously. Yes, his interest in rock is interesting, I agree. And he’s brilliant enough that, at least so far, everything he’s making is really something, I think. Lucky you re: the NYFF, obviously. I always wish I was in town for that. I’ll be curious to hear your takes on those films. I’m not sure when they open here. Great that the podcast is up. I’m there. Everyone, Here’s Steve, and I recommend you join me in taking his suggestion and listening, obviously. Steve: ‘The podcast I recorded earlier in the week is now up, if anyone wants to hear a roundtable discussion between myself and Chicago-based critics Ben Sachs and John Dixon about new releases and Kiyoshi Kuroswa’s WIFE OF A SPY.’ ** Right. There’s a veritable avalanche of amazing books coming out right about now, and today I offer five of them that I highly recommend. Please use some of your weekend to give them your consideration. See you on Monday.