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
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
to ward off, remove mischief
used for averruncating
how does the snick of blades
compare with applause?
hands coming together
help us celebrate
what is severed
Leonardo on his porch sipping
weapons of war
none of them
the shape of hand
if you were the left blade
and I the right
if we entered a cave
and one of us fell
a left eyeball and a right
impaled in violet light
the best of poems
the best of poems
frantic averruncating below
the string that walked into a bar?
I’m a frayed night
scissors like a scar
black cloth of shadow
slow sad goodbye
girl leaves family home
imagine she says
sharp nothing divides
day night cloth leather
now from before
inventor escapes sack
“to sew songs [together]”
my left leg my right
the Mona Lisa cut
a thousand pieces
returned to paint
- a forest
- a cave
- a flock of birds
in the meantime
when I was a boy they told
about Jesus in the gym
felt figures on a felt Jerusalem
where “we” killed him
I looked for my brother
only other Jew
Ireland late 1960s
I invented a language
a prayer on filing cards
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
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
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
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
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.
“The idle singer of an empty day.”
— William Morris, ‘The Earthly Paradise: Apology’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We look for a beginning in the wreckage.
“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
hazier than the real tableau
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
Grey clouds squat, dulling conifers
biting wind curls hair around ears.
Push on, dead leaves crackle underfoot
Ashen curtain sinks
Feet, too hulking to drag across deck
in pools of milk of magnesia.
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
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!