I have a short piece (“Face”) in the April issue of The Collagist:
Night and day, he thinks of nothing but the face: its narrow nose and deep-set eyes and chinless chin. Where has he seen it? If he can only establish a setting—a country, a state, a city block—the rest will fall into place, of this he is certain. The answer is close, painfully so, but it refuses to make itself known.
motel life lower reaches
I was driving across the state at the time, very fast. There were signs along the approaches to town advertising cheaper and cheaper motel rooms. The tone was shrill, desperate, that of an off-season price war. It was a buyer’s market. I began to note the rates and the little extras I could expect for my money. Always in a hurry then, once committed to a road, I stopped only for fuel, snake exhibits, and automobile museums, but I had to pause here, track down the cheapest of these cheap motels, and see it. I would confront the owner and call his bluff.
- ”Motel Life, Lower Reaches" by Charles Portis at the Oxford American
I make occasional eye contact with sentences in magazines and books and often wonder what on earth the words see in each other, what on earth they’re doing together, because they don’t look as if they’ve found excitement in each other’s company. Shouldn’t writing be far more sexual than sex? Sex is messier and doesn’t leave you with anything, unless you come out with a kid, and then the kid will likely as not grow up to be some brute vagrant anthology of your every ugliness—yours and the other party’s. Why is it that kids usually look like sick, sniggery parodies of their parents? Get your caricature done by some tank-topped street-fair charcoalist and be done with it already.
- Gary Lutz (interviewed by Derek White at BOMB)
carrie mae weems
The work tells you what form it needs to take. What’s important is knowing when to put your ego aside so you can see what the work wants to be. Being sensitive to the world around you and paying attention to your aesthetic tools… Once you know that you can make it, you get out of the way.
- Carrie Mae Weems (from BOMB)
I am interested in works in which something happens when you look at them. And also I am interested in works that have either the simplicity or the complexity to change their meanings. Good art, to survive, must change its meaning. If we still had to think about a Pollock the way he thought about it, we would hate it. He was crazy, he was an asshole. He thought he was doing Jungian Expression or something. Works of art have to be free enough in the culture to sustain reinterpretation over the years, and they have to continue to happen, and that’s very difficult. Works of art don’t have messages. They don’t have determinate meanings. They’re not just formal objects. Deleuze has a book about Lewis Carroll, The Logic of Sense, which is exactly about the way we perceive and sense things. Lewis Carroll has lines that don’t mean anything, but they have meaning. And that’s how art works. A Pollock doesn’t mean anything, but it has meaning, we can find meanings for it, if we care to. I am really not concerned with what the artist meant. It’s totally irrelevant. I have written a lot of fiction, I don’t know what it meant, I know that the story doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. Artists don’t know what they’re doing, so why ask them? What matters is, what the consensus of opinion of what the work means on a particular moment. And it really matters that a work of art can survive the changing of its meanings.
I am very concerned with the process of thinking and the process of meaning; I am not really concerned with thought or with what things mean. Works of art, according to TS Elliot, are objective correlatives; they are things in the world that we use to correlate our opinions about. That’s not meant to discount the artist. It’s meant to free the artist, so they can do what they want, because they don’t know anyway. I know some grown up artists who know pretty well what they are doing. Ed Ruscha knows what he expects to get, so do Bridget Riley, Richard Serra, and Ellsworth Kelly. But these are people in their sixties and seventies. Anyone who is much younger than that, if they are any good, are still improvising. And then there are people, like Rauschenberg, who are 70 years old and are still improvising. Bob doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s doing, but he is doing it every day. I am interested in that, I don’t like rules. I think art is for people who like art, who like to talk about physical things in the world. I don’t think there is any difference, say, between talking about the Lakers and talking about Terry Winters. Maybe that the Lakers are better, and you talk about them with different people. They are both occasions for discourse.
- Dave Hickey
w.s. di piero
Poetry, any art, can terrify, unnerve, thrill; it can break you down. Today I read the last pages of Cather’s The Professor’s House and listened to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and both left me in pieces, but who would want anything less than that intensity, that exaltation? No, poetry doesn’t depress. If anything, it clarifies, it illuminates, and in ways I don’t care to understand, the illumination can’t be separated from poetry’s mystery. The recognitions poetry brings into forms, no matter how hard or unsavory they are, do not depress. They can really disturb mind and heart, yes, but it’s a turbulence that lets through light. If poetry communicates suffering, it’s intensifying life, not stifling it, even if we know (in the moment of joy or pain) that we’re hostage to loss.
- W.S. Di Piero (from The Rumpus)
After the hoopla over Higgs boson died down, we thought long and hard about our next conquest. Had the mysteries of physics all been solved? Was there anything left to discover? A bunch of us scientists were hanging around the lab one night with a case of Old Milwaukee, when one of us—I think it was Günter—said, Shit, we should totally start a microbrewery.
That was all it took. The next week we were loading sacks of hops into the Large Hadron Collider, firing the green pods around the accelerator at incredible speeds (many of us believe the velocity helps draw out the natural flavor of the hops, though there is still some debate about this). Furthermore, our initial forays into genetic engineering have led to the discovery of several new yeast strains (look for our research paper in next month’s issue of Beer Ye! Beer Ye!).
The CERN facilities provide a perfect venue for craft brewing. Seemingly every room has a tank or vessel of some kind. Our computers are exceptionally fast and make processing large orders a breeze. It’s almost as if this place was meant for amateur brewing.
This new venture has reinvigorated our passion for science, and we couldn’t be more pleased to present our inaugural beverage offerings. First off, we have our Geneva White, a traditional Belgian-style wheat beer. It’s a light ale with hints of coriander, quark, and orange peel. The Fermi Porter has a slight toasted flavor, infused with spices and herbs that have passed through our Proton Synchrotron Booster. The Niels Bohr IPA is rich with hops, and a discerning drinker might also notice the bluish radioactive glow emanating from the glass. Our last beer, the Newton Lager, is a more summery blend: the taste of mesons and leptons give way to a smooth and fruity finish, making it a perfect choice for an afternoon picnic or game of horseshoes in the park.
If you enjoy our beers, we hope you will consider writing a letter of support to the member nations of CERN, detailing our contributions to the science of brewing, as many of them are threatening to withdraw their funding.
I’ve always been fascinated by the question: How does one write the contemporary? The answer to that (different, needless to say, for every writer) will by default be a form of the innovative, since the contemporary comes at us otherwise than it did for writers living in 1914, 1814, or 1314. In other words, the question behind my question is: Do I retell received narratives, thereby perpetuating their deep-seated lesson that the world of the text, the text of the world, should remain as it is, or do I short-circuit those narratives, imagine myself into different ones, thereby advocating that the world of the text, the text of the world, can (and should) always be a possibility space — which is to say other than it is?
So for me every engagement with the innovative — whether through the event of reading (which is always a kind of writing) or the event of writing (which is always a kind of reading) — becomes a fresh and always political investigation into not-knowing.
That’s what’s always excited me about the innovative: it’s a mode of art that asks us to continuously unlearn our worlds.
- Lance Olsen (from Bookslut)