[-empyre-] Poetry and Play

Kenji Liu paramista at gmail.com
Thu Oct 10 05:02:17 AEDT 2019

Hello everyone, glad to be with you all. Many thanks to Margaret for
inviting me to participate in this forum, I'm looking forward to the

I'm primarily a poet at this time, but definitely interdisciplinary—I
also work in graphic design and digital video. My most recent poetry
collection, Monsters I Have Been (which came out in April), is
definitely play-oriented in its methodology.

To write many of the poems in the book, I developed a process called
"frankenpo" (or frankenstein poetry), which owes its inspiration to
other techniques such as erasure, collage, and Oulipo's n+7. I was
interested in finding a way to write that didn't rely solely on me as
an author generating some kind of personal narrative.

Frankenpo plays with ideas of composting and taxidermy. As you all
might know, Frankenstein's monster was a "man" constructed from the
parts of other men. In this way, frankenpo finds 2 or more source
texts (news articles, speeches, film scripts, songs, religious texts,
academic papers, etc), combines them, breaks them down to their
individual words, uses text manipulation software to randomize, which
results in a big jumbled block of all words from both sources. I then
chip away at the block, focusing on finding interesting phrases and
juxtapositions that emerge from the randomization process. I then take
the remaining text and arrange them into a final poem.

The political aspect of this is in the choice of source texts, and how
one decides what to keep and arrange into a poem. For me, I was
interested in exploring masculinities—especially toxic masculinity,
but also un-conventional forms of masculinity. So the source texts I
chose had something to do with these topics.

Here is one example of a frankenpo:

Some of the other poems in the collection also engage artificial
intelligence, divination, and google translate in their writing
process, but I can save that for another email.

Just to finish this intro, my arts practices also find grounding in
the community work that I do in the Los Angeles Little Tokyo
community, directly and indirectly. This comes out of a long personal
history of being both an artist and community activist.

These days, I'm increasingly social practice-oriented, due to the
"creative placekeeping" work that I do in Little Tokyo, where I help
facilitate creative projects that are community-engaged and social
justice oriented.

That's all for now -- looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts.

Kenji Liu

Monsters I Have Been  |  Alice James Books, April 2019  |  IG:
Craters: A Field Guide  |  Goodmorning Menagerie, 2017
Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry
Prize  |  Inlandia Books, 2016

[he/him/his]  |  kenjiliu.com  |  Graphic Design  |  Manuscript
Consultations (Poetry/Essay/Hybrid Genre)

On Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 10:45 AM Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> Writing again to start a new thread for this week on Poetry and Play.  Honored to introduce the following poets to this week who play across poetry and other artforms; such as the visual art of Truong Tran, textiles work of Maria Damon, graphic design interventions of Kenji Liu and experimental films by Lynne Sachs and her new collection YEAR BY YEAR POEMS just released by Tender Buttons Poetry.
> The artists this week express a range of practices in conversation with poetry. Building upon this notion of play, and other issues that emerged such as logics and academic capitalism for example, we’re honored to hear further from this week’s participants to share about their work and practices of play in multiple genres and poetics. I placed their bios below, and the description of the forum. It would be great to hear further about your poetry practice and as it intersects with other art forms. Thank you Truong, Lynne, Kenji, and Maria for joining us.
> Bios
> Truong Tran is a poet and visual artist. He received his MFA from San Francisco State University in 1995 in the field of writing. He is the author numerous volumes of poetry. He is a self taught visual artist whose work has been exhibited in venues including the California Historical Society, California Institute of Integral Studies, SOMArts Gallery, Telegraph Hill Gallery and The San Francisco International Art Market Art Fair, Avenue 12 Gallery and The Peninsula Museum of Art. Truong lives in San Francisco and teaches at Mills College.
> Lynne Sachs makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Her work embraces hybrid form and combines memoir with experimental, documentary, and fictional modes. In recent years, she has expanded her practice to include live performance with moving image. Lynne was first exposed to poetry by her great aunt as a child in Memphis, Tennessee.  Soon she was frequenting workshops at the local library and getting a chance to learn from poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Ethridge Knight. As an active member of Brown University’s undergraduate poetry community, she shared her early poems with fellow poet Stacy Doris. Lynne later discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Carolee Schneeman, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.  Lynne has made thirty-five films which have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Festivals in Buenos Aires, Beijing and Havana have presented retrospectives of her work. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn. In October, Tender Buttons Press, which publishes experimental women's and gender-expansive poetry, is releasing Lynne's book YEAR BY YEAR POEMS (2019) which is now available through Small Press Distribution.
> Kenji C. Liu is a visual artist and author of Monsters I Have Been (Alice James Books, 2019) and Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize (Inlandia Institute). His poetry is in numerous journals, anthologies, magazines, and two chapbooks, Craters: A Field Guide (2017) and You Left Without Your Shoes (2009). An alumnus of Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers, he lives in occupied Tongva land, where he lectures in Asian American Studies at UCLA, Art at Occidental College, and manages creative place-keeping initiatives in Little Tokyo.
> Maria Damon teaches in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies and in the Department of Writing at the Pratt Institute of Art. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and a B.A. from Hampshire College, and taught for many years in the Department of English at the University of Minnesota.  She is the author of The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry(University of Minnesota Press, 1994) and Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries(University of Iowa Press, 2011), both of which explored the edges of “poetry” from alternative canons to subcultural imaginative verbal practices. She co-edited (with Ira Livingston) Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader(University of Illinois Press, 2009). She has published a number of online multi-media/poetry projects with mIEKAL aND, which have also been published as print books: Literature Nation(Potes & Poets), which was the first full-length hypertext poem online; pleasureTEXTpossession(Xexoxial Editions); and eros/ion(Ntamo) –all of which (and a few more) can be found at http://joglars.org/multidex.html. She has also collaborated with Adeena Karasick, Alan Sondheim, Michelle Goldblatt, and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen. Her scholarship has been published in American Literary History, SAQ, Cultural Studies, Cultural Critique, Postmodern Culture, Modern Fiction Studies, jacket2, Xcp: Cross-cultural Poetics, Cybertext Yearbook, Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, Electronic Book Review, etc., as well as in a number of books of essays on subjects such as performed poetry, cultural Jewishness, modernist American poetry, queer beat poetry, diasporic avant-gardes, and individual writers such as Bob Kaufman, Jack Spicer, Gertrude Stein and (forthcoming) Nathaniel Mackey. She edited a special section (focused on the work of Bob Kaufman) for a special issue on jazz poetics of Callaloo.
> She also has a practice as a textile worker in weaving and counted cross-stitch, and has produced two chapbooks of “x-stitch vispo” (cross-stitch visual poetry): meshwards(Dusie Kollektiv, 2011 and http://www.dusie.org/Damon%20Meshwards.pdf) and XXX(nous-zot, 2015). Her work has been exhibited in various visual poetry and/or text/textile shows.
> On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres
> In this month's -empyre- forum, we take up the question of productivity and and the politics of play, and how playing across genres, mediums, forms, disciplines, and departments, etc. makes for new kinds of innovative art, thinking, and community; and in doing so, better intervenes and gestures toward transformative futures. The current conspiracy-us versus them- culture perhaps exemplifies the problem of singular thinking and the need for creative, eclectic, and innovative practices more than ever. We’re interested in artists, thinkers, and activists with practices that cross over boundaries and intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to justice, we explore how multiple forms of art practices prompt us to reimagine different kind of worlds, as strategy and survival. Initially inspired by Tony Conrad's work, his practice spans across film, music, writing, and sculptures, we playfully ask how play lends itself to more libratory ways of creation and practice.
> We begin with the first week on media and new media art in conversation. with Tony Conrad's playful work across mediums, we then move into a second week asking questions on poetry and playing across the visual, cinematic, and theoretical, the third week is dedicated to the theme of ethnography across forms such as photography, film, and poetry, the forth week focuses on the ways artists advocate for decolonial and racial resistance through playing across genres and forms. While seemingly diverse, we hope the loosely organized topics will lend itself to connections between the weeks, and across the genres and themes presented. With attention to questions such as capital, creativity, institutional critique, and justice, we’re honored to have the following artists and thinkers join us for this conversation and reflect on the possibilities of practice, gestures, and play.
> We also invite our -empyre- subscribers, whose own work broadly resonates with the themes of practice and play, to join the conversation. What are the ways your practice has played or plays across genres? Have you faced institutional challenges in crossing disciplinary divides, and if so, how did you overcome them? Is play and practice productive? We explore this topic of play through four loose themes. We welcome our guests and all -empyre- subscribers to actively participate and post this month and share your practices and experiences of playing across genres and any questions that arise. We look forward to the conversation.
> --
> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
> College Fellow in Digital Practice (2018 - 2019)
> Department of English
> Harvard University
> Assistant Professor in Media Theory (2019)
> Department of Media Study
> SUNY Buffalo

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