Gary Barwin

Episode 58 – Experiment-O – Part 1

The Small Machine Talks

Episode 58: Experiment-O Part 1 with audio recordings. Episode recorded on Wednesday, May 6, 2020.

Hello everyone and welcome to the Small Machine Talks Episode 58. For this episode I invited contributors to Experiment-O to send me their audio readings of their poetry.

Experiment-O is an AngelHousePress publication. It’s published online annually to celebrate the art of risk. It includes poetry, visual poetry, visual art and occasionally experimental prose from contributors all over the world. We started it in 2008 and I’m now working on the 13th issue.

Every year I invite 10 or 12 participants. Each issue has a dedication. Issue 12 was dedicated to the late bill dimichele, who was a great contributor to AngelHousePress and a wonderful artist, poet and publisher. I’ll share the link to Experiment-O in the show notes: http://experiment-o.com/.

For this episode, I received poetry and recordings by six contributors: Gary Barwin, JC Bouchard, Jason Christie, Concetta Principe and Elaine Woo. I’ll introduce each reader and they’ll read a few poems.

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, visual and multidisciplinary artist and the author of twenty-four books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His latest books include A Cemetery for Holes, a poetry collaboration with Tom Prime (Gordon Hill) and For It is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems, ed. Alessandro Porco (Wolsak and Wynn) A new novel, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy will appear from Random House in 2021. He lives in Hamilton and at garybarwin.com. Gary was in our first issue in 2008. In 2015 we republished his first chapbook, phases of the harpsichord moon, and in 2014 we published a visual poetry collaboration of Gary’s and mine, Bone Sapling. Here’s Gary reading his poem Leonardo Inventor of Scissors.

RECORDING 1: GARY BARWIN

Leonardo, inventor of scissors

Gary Barwin

1.

sharp brother to ampersand

crossed hands of the dead

what can this poem do?

he was a great man

but he didn’t invent them

averruncator

from Latin

to ward off, remove mischief

used for averruncating

the high branches of trees, etc.

how does the snick of blades

compare with applause?

hands coming together

help us celebrate

what is severed

Leonardo on his porch sipping

coffee

imagining

weapons of war

bridges

none of them

the shape of hand

if you were the left blade

and I the right

if we entered a cave

running

and one of us fell

a left eyeball and a right

impaled in violet light

the best of poems

2.

Leonardo writes

the best of poems

disappear

frantic averruncating below

the string that walked into a bar?

I’m a frayed night

scissors like a scar

eyes closed

black cloth of shadow

slow sad goodbye

(applause)

3.

girl leaves family home

long-ago BC

imagine she says

sharp nothing divides

day night cloth leather

now from before

inventor escapes sack

the tent

rhapsode

from Greek

“to sew songs [together]”

my left leg my right

4.

the Mona Lisa cut

a thousand pieces

returned to paint

then coloured

  1. a forest
  2. a cave
  3. a flock of birds

in the meantime

Leonardo invents

the staircase

sorrow

anger

angels

when I was a boy they told

about Jesus in the gym

felt figures on a felt Jerusalem

the donkey

palm branches

Our Lord

His cross

where “we” killed him

I looked for my brother

only other Jew

Ireland late 1960s

in school

I invented a language

a prayer on filing cards

the mystery

rosebush from front yard

rosewood what my father’s big desk

was made of

once I fell from a wall

scarred my forehead

bled as I crawled home

sister to Darkness and Night

the third Fate with scissors ready

the clip of scissors a war

on time and its alphabet

the body

we live

Our next reader is Joshua Chris Bouchard. Joshua Chris Bouchard’s collection of poetry and photographs, Let This Be The End of Me (Bad Books Press), was short-listed for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. He lives in Toronto. He contributed to Issue 9 of Experiment-O published In 2016. Here’s Joshua…

RECORDING 2: Joshua Chris Bouchard

Joshua Chris Bouchard

Oh summer

my red hot ass burns to lick

melting ice cream from your fingers

at dawn in the park on a swing set

bucking myself wild and barreling

near the cathedrals of blood puddles

just along the chalkline of where I have

met you

Oh summer

the lampshades are heavy again

my body in the pool of hollow bones

candy thrown from black canvas tote bags

the mouths of awestruck newly weds spread

SPF 50 deep catching seedlings under dumbfuck

half-moons groping themselves like a choir in heat

taking a giant piss on the canopy of eyelashes

We lose everything

the will to smoke and shop and eat and pet

pretending to live forever and ever on feathers

wet with firecracker white-light plumage

woe is me walking towards the picnic table

eating a rotten fig like an apple-stucked piglet

singing songs to the skunky hands in my sweat

and that’s all very good because it is summer

motherfucker it is always bright and spit shined

As I point to the sky

My right temple

This place

Our third reader is Jason Christie. Jason Christie is the author of four books of poetry: Canada Post (Invisible), i-ROBOT (EDGE), Unknown Actor (Insomniac), and Cursed Objects (Coach House Books). Jason’s work appeared in issue 8 of Experiment-O published in 2015. Here’s Jason reading Incantation.

RECORDING 3

Slow death

“The idle singer of an empty day.”

— William Morris, ‘The Earthly Paradise: Apology’

Incantation

Burnt umber grey earth rock

Mist and fog clouding and

Occluding the view of my

Yard, the yard, a sick pine

Tilting in the corner, run-

Down wooden garage, and

Pale deck flowing into focus

Arise with me, o world, dawn

First warms then slices through

My dawn. Arise with me, my

Sick pine, rotting garage, and

Pale deck into the hours of a

Day filled with family and fear.

1.

Aghast, I make coffee and

Ask my digital assistant to

Play music in the family room

Before my children wake,

Before my wife wakes, and

Before time succumbs to things.

2.

Before and after breakfast, I

Ride the stationary bike in our

Basement and lift weights. Any-

Thing out of the ordinary recedes

A little into the future. Whatever

That will be when we get there. I

Climb the steps from the basement

Into the noise of my family watching

Videos on the tv, listening to music,

Discussing the particulars of our day.

3.

Comfort and grace, the

Living room is still dark

Even with the lights set

Bright. Grey and rainy

And extending ourselves

One more minute by

Replying to email or a

Text message or phone

Call, deliberately checking

Each person in our lives

Off a mental list with a sigh.

4.

An ordinary day, uninterrupted

Time, minutes unbound from

Necessity, to stand at my kitchen

Counter and write a poem with-

Out children running at me demanding

Milk, hugs, goldfish crackers, candy –

Selfish and unkind thoughts, self-

Isolating, and yet to flip a slow death

And morph it to slow death’s approach

As it broadcasts from the kitchen hub.

5.

I’m the mud all morning, we

Smashed and buried rocks and

Chopped ice at the garage door.

My son asks: where do diamonds

Come from? Do these rocks have

Carbon inside?” And our elderly

Neighbour appears at the fence,

She asks how we are holding up,

Says they are doing fine, nothing

Too bothersome over there. I tell

Her we are happy to help if they

Need anything and she replies the

Same. I return to my son smashing

Rocks, wondering what this means

To him beyond being off school and

Self-isolating with his family? What

Does it mean to any of us? Why

Not smash rocks and dig in the mud?

My neighbours continue to shovel ice

And snow from their deck. My son

And I decide it is lunch time. We

Remove our filthy boots, wash our

Hands, singing happy birthday twice.

6.

More pancakes – the cry interrupts

The writing of this poem. Oh, to be

Living in a time with a surplus of

Pancakes. Why, the child shouts?

Why? Voice raised to the absolute

Limit, chanting and antagonizing

As any good six year old should.

Why can’t we go to the grocery

Store? Not angry, half asleep and

Full of hunger for the next new

Experience, he asks our digital

Assistant to play (Nothing But)

 Flowers by the Talking Heads.

7.

They scream from the basement,

They scream from the stairs, they

Scream from the kitchen, they scream

From their bedrooms, they scream from

The family room, they scream from the

Living room. One wants milk, one wants

New shows to watch, one wants a

Diaper change, one wants a new toy,

One wants a walk outside, one wants

To smash rocks, one wants what one

Wants. They scream in unison for

Either parent to attend, for the adults

To solve their problems, they resort

To social media to plead for help.

8.

Somehow we arrive at dinner

As a family, as individuals neatly

Made from our home, technology,

Relationships, needs, and wants. I

Make plain pasta for the children and

You and I eat leftover lentil pasta in

A tomato sauce while splitting sour beer.

9.

At bedtime we fall into each other,

Exhausted from proximity, from

Filling hours with words, sharing

Minutes we would have spent alone

Instead learning what we each feel

When confronted with night,

With the fear of night permeating

Each thought, tic, gesture, smile — as

News roles along and the numbers rise

Headline after headline showing no peak

And no valley for the virus and the slide.

10.

Faith at four am when you wake

To piss and can’t fall back asleep,

Faith when faced with your failures

And fears in the mirror while your

Children sleep, while no cars go by,

No lights shine in the world, and

All everywhere lay quietly coiled

In dreams without boundaries, in

Want of miracles and trembling,

Trembling and unanchored, adrift

Everywhere, waves upon waves

In silence sleeping, sleeping silently.

RECORDING 4: CARRIE HUNTER

Carrie Hunter received her MFA/MA in the Poetics program at New College of California and has two books out with Black Radish Books, The Incompossible and Orphan Machines, and has published around 15 chapbooks. Her third full length book, Vibratory Milieu, is forthcoming from Nightboat books in Fall of 2020. She lives in San Francisco and teaches ESL. Carrie’s poetry was published in issue 9. Here’s Carrie reading two poems

“The Orchard That Was Right for You”

Setting: The Water.

Shawls, a wharf, a rope, a password.
Smiles are a pattern you wear indicating a dagger.
An outfit, an ensemble. An ensembly. An assembly.

Acquiescent demands. The water a place
to be pampered. The setting not a specific setting.

The coded language of a region inaccessible to the uninitiated.
What we think we know, but we don’t.

Always confusing deictic and enclitic.

Sinkholes open up cleverly disguised.
Everyday mundane questions; Another summer
coming to take its hand from the sun.

This is a land memoir.

“Fish tales” is an idiom that means the fish are speaking.

Bluetoothvegetables. Talking in specifics around a nonspecificity.

Pointed accusations coming to

take their hands from the moon.

Not a space for stopping to think or reconsider,
but something to fall into and be lost forever in.

“That odd, dank furor of attention.”

No sense of time rushing past or other people’s sense of time.

Being the pivot, but stopping just short,

but being adorable. And in the shadows,

the memories of everyone else

who’s ever looked down into

Rivers, basins, lobes, deposits, locks, and levees. The Gulf.

Wishes that are shadows.

Wishes you never remember.

Wish’s decline a sort of wholesomeness.

Animistic wish flying but no longer a wish, a bird.

A list of things that are fresh or might be.

A word that reminds you of a previous crisis.

That moment after a sound reverberates.

Negative striation.

We look for a beginning in the wreckage.

Verdancies profligate.

“Nurse of the Arcades”

Question of whether we are at shores or gardens.

“there there,” she says, or there —> pointing. Deictic.

“It nourishes other asides it knows nothing of.”

I don’t want to say what comes after. Dancing
after, sidestepping what’s passed, is still passing,

passes over us. Tedious crossfading.

Something to escape, or something to escape to.

“My fear is like a small house: you can come visit me/

but it will not go away.” Passing through as a sort of

departure. Something is always coming loose in the poem.

Chilly, unripe fruit, timeless or nonspecific time.

Being put to the test, but not now, sometime in the future.

For now, some non-test activity, or battling the weather.

[Not at a] pinnacle of some decision or other.

“Haint” blue, whispers of taint, it is and it ain’t,
what taints, is tainted.

Psychics who are right.

A list of metaphors for building something.

The city and the city’s lair.

All lives have battle sections.

Definition of the one and only in horticultural terms. 

“They handed us over to it/and we were alone.”

The battle scene leads to the Arcadian scene.

The animals, pilgrims, defeated, supplicants, bushes, virtue,

an antidote. The domens, a joke, a centipede, morass.

A beast, a lair. Apathetic wondering.

An unnamable coherence.

Love’s crescendo, but inside a fermata.

Fear’s wall; a depression.

A man walking his dog with a dog ball launcher,

and I say, “That man is walking alone holding a single flower.”

A bird is screeching outside my window. I ask, “What is that?”
He says, “An eagle.”

“No center, only the circuit”

NOTE: Lines in quotes are taken from John Ashbery’s “Flowchart,” unless stated otherwise. Italicized lines are from or inspired by Marthe Reed’s posthumously published “Ark Hive.” Lines that are both italicized and in quotes are also from John Ashbery’s “Flowchart,” but italicized in his text.

Our next reader is Concetta Principe. Concetta Principe is a writer of poetry and creative non-fiction, and scholarship on trauma and literature. Her recent collection, This Real (Pedlar Press 2017) was long-listed for the League of Canadian Poet’s Raymond Souster Award. Her creative non-fiction project on suicide is forthcoming with Gordon Hill Press in the spring of 2021. Her work has appeared in Canadian and American journals including The Malahat Review, The Capilano Review, experiment-o, and Hamilton Arts and Literature. She teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at Trent University, Durham. Concetta’s poems appeared in issue 12 in 2019. Concetta is reading some of the work from the issue.

RECORDING 5: CONCETTA PRINCIPE

EXCERPTS FROM – EX NIHILO: 9 Uneasy Steps to a PhD – concetta principe

EX NIHILO 3

Fed up, she breaks it. Bursting of things. She breaks it not like the boy who takes the stick to his piniata and screams victory; she breaks it not like the musician does his instrument against the brick, careening; breaks not like the boy’s smile with chocolate all over his face. What she breaks is inside, under cover, near the spine, brittle as flowers to remember walking in summer. She breaks it not like she means it. She breaks it because the fast must end. The fast-lane and Betty is driving again. From the rim of “mother” we are born into a world of naming, rimming the world with our pissy semantics, Romantics, Wordsworth and Byron, Saussure’s signifier and Lacan’s point is…. Badiou and Žižek, Baudelaire and Stein, Freud, Wittgenstein, and philosophy stewed prunes. Derrida’s ‘aleph’, two. Of lips and anus and ears and eyes and then the hidden rim, the second hidden rim, not between her legs, but the one deep deep down between her lips. Very. She aches. 

EX NIHILO 3.7

Beating the board to make her point; beating the dress to flatten her hips; beating the matter into a ghost of itself. Beating the odds at Woodbine. Beating the meat for Dexter’s art. Beating the horse is a crime in all countries. Beating the chest to say, “I did this!” Beating the wall till it crumbled. Beating the neighour in a game of chess. Beating the odds and the bleachers. Beating the Canadiennes teaches you something about passing on the defence-line. Beats me. Beats me. Ears and nose and mouth around the eight-wheeler of another crime, spinning off the tracks of CBCs Hockey Night. Beats. The beating. The ice was as black as her smile was red. So very.

EX NIHILO 5

My Marxist was a Derrida cat. My fascist was the Blanchot bird. My cat and bird played crazy eights. Why are eights so crazy? The struggle to stay afloat is called treading the universal. An eight falls over and goes eternal. Tread the halls, the tutorials, students, lectures, essays, and all the effing signifiers without end. Feel the eighties slip around as if you are laddering failure. Forever. It is ok to always be falling or struggling. It is ok never to catch Farah Fawcet and her hair. Shampoo and shoulder pads godawful. Swimming practice in your birthday suit. This very watery, so many particles, so many words, word bubbles, so many pieces of words, so many threads to each piece. So much to count. Things are so very whole numbers. Fuck the fractions. There was chocolate. There was Marx and a fascist. I want a noun now, says the doctor. There were almonds, as well. I will sell you the verb, says insurance. Allergic. The psychoanalyst said nothing but cut deeply.

Our final reader is Elaine Woo. Elaine Woo is a poet, artist, and librettist living on the West Coast of Canada.  She is the author of the poetry collections, Put Your Hand in Mine and Cycling with the Dragon.  Her work is published internationally:   in Canada, the US, Australia, the UK, France, and Hong Kong.  Elaine’s poetry appears in Experimet-O in issue 10, published in 2017. Elaine is reading four poems from Put Your Hand in Mine, which came out with Signature Editions in 2019.

RECORDING 6: ELAINE WOO

Feeling the Way

                                                                   bleeding colours

                                                                                             hazier than the real tableau

                                                        broken-thermostat-delusion

path art     a braid

                                                                                entwining of light and shade strands

dandelion helices—I sing the body electric!

                                                             water daemons flit through meaning

trustworthiness, a boulder

                                                 every boulder, the thermostat whines blue

   willow limbs drape mood

                                a curse            abstract this labyrinth

                                                   trip into gasps

                    skip stepping stones of robust bones

                                                                                      grin in hands

                                                                 retain nylon plane, fly through tears in sky

Tumult

                                                                                  Grey clouds squat, dulling conifers

                             biting wind curls hair around ears.

    Push on, dead leaves crackle underfoot

                                                                                  crumple, fragments.

                                Ashen curtain sinks

             Feet, too hulking to drag across deck

                                                  in pools of milk of magnesia.

                                                                                                         SLOOGE!  OOGE!

                                                                                                                                  Falcon dive.

                 This, maybe a video game:                       crawl midway before eyelids droop

    Every muscle, drained batteries                   throat dry of words

                               mind manipulates bodily joystick

                                                                                     barrel feet clump on, falter.

                                                      Ambulance siren scrapes past.

                                                                Ambiguity of voices

                                                                                                        peaks,

                                                                                                                      fades

Debt

Spider pauses on her silk nexus considering the wet that pelts her abdomen.  Eight legs

consider                       aluminum ledge.

Mottled mushroom, an awning for ants and other modest behemoths of the forest.

Iridescent mussels on slick rocks by the jagged shore, whether or not the tide should

bring them plankton, they rooted cling.

Indebted to those of soil, oceans, the blue.

Arm’s Reach Away

Not exempt from the rent of loneliness

torn by barbed wire of misunderstanding.

Creek ripples register a companionable shrr  shrr

fronds sweep the air in reply

camellia platters, red buds of depth

wild rhododendrons trumpet

planetary dispatch—lively communion

leaches through this isolate cloak.

Thanks to all the readers and thanks to you for listening. Thanks to Charles for processing and putting the recordings together, and thanks to Jennifer for the intro and outro.

I hope to have more episodes with readings from Experiment-O contributors and others in future. Stay tuned!

Episode 41 – Visual Poetry Part 1

In this episode we discuss visual poetry, its his…

Episode 5

a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl discuss recent and upc…