[-empyre-] Poetry and Play

Lynne Sachs lynnesachs at gmail.com
Thu Oct 10 16:57:22 AEDT 2019

Hello empyre community,

Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. In 2014,  Queens Poet Laureate
Paolo Javier invited me to create a short film that would speak to one of
the poems in his newly published collection *Court of the Dragon*
(Nightboat Books). I chose the poem "Starfish Aorta Colossus" and interwove
text from Stanza 10 with my own images. In my film of the same name, I
travel through 25 years of my own unsplit Regular 8 mm film -- including
footage of the A.I.D.S. Quilt from the late 1980s, a drive from Florida to
San Francisco, and a journey into a very un-touristed part of Puerto Rico.
Paolo’s poem became the catalyst for my digital sculpting of a five minute
Kodachrome canvas. His syntactical ruptures and his celebration of nouns
that moved without the assistance of verbs pushed me to illuminate
twenty-five years of my own rediscovered cinema archive. You can see the
film here: https://vimeo.com/124461098

Poets and experimental filmmakers share an obsession with / repulsion for
grammar.  When we decide that we want to break the rules of common syntax,
we are freed to make the work that we love and - to use the word of the day
in empyre-land - we begin to *play*.  A few weeks ago, Tender Buttons Press
published my first book of poetry *Year by Year Poems *
While writing poetry has been at the foundation of so much of my work as an
experimental filmmaker for the last 30 years, this is the first time that
my writing has appeared on a published page.   I did a reading at Penn Book
Center in Philadelphia recently. The very first person to buy my book was
none other than beloved science fiction author and literary critic Samuel
Delany. Immediately after his purchase, he explained to me that he was a
prose writer – only – as much as he appreciated poetry. I asked him why
“prose” had gotten such a bad name for itself when turned into its
adjective “prosaic,” and he immediately followed the etymological root to
“prosa” or “everyday, straightforward”.  In contrast, poetry begins with
“piling up, building, making” and has, somehow attained a kind of elevated
stature. Then Delany quoted a character in Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

Monsieur Jordain: Oh, really? So when I say: Nicole bring me my slippers
and fetch my nightcap,” is that prose?
Philosophy Master: Most clearly.
Monsieur Jordain: Well, what do you know about that! These forty years now
I’ve been speaking in prose without knowing it!

In my collaboration with Javier and in my conversation with Delany, I
discovered an irreverence for any form of rigid differentiation between
forms of expression. Whether I am making a film, writing a poem, or
“speaking” in prose, I try to bask in the inchoate evolution of form.

On Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 1:45 PM 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

Lynne Sachs
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