The Small Machine Talks to Jennifer K. Dick, Episode 75

recorded on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 via Zoom

Jennifer K Dick is an author, translator, readings curator & assistant professor of American Literature at the Université de Haute Alsace, Mulhouse, France. Her previous books include Circuits & Fluorescence. That Which I Touch Has No Name is appearing in 2020 from Eyewear Publishing, London. Her chapbook, Afterlife, was published by AngelHousePress in 2017. She is circulating a book called Shelf Break.

Lilith: a novel in fragments (Corrupt Press, 2019)

Jennifer talks about Lilith: a novel in fragments and the main character of Lili who is blind and has a partner trying to control her. We discuss the origins of the character, female mythological characters,

Partial objects, Jennifer K. Dick’s ‘Lilith: A Novel in Fragments’, a review by Alexander Dickow in Jacket2.

Dylan Harris‘s art is on the cover. We discuss the work and how it was chosen.

HR Hegnauer is the designer of the book. We talk about her role, and the difficulties of laying out the book, the need for a wider horizontal space.

We discuss long poems and poem series. Jennifer talks about how the long poem opens up the possibilities of building up more within the poem. She talks about the various ways in which some of the work from the book was published. Lilith has movement throughout the fragments, series, and moments. I discuss the poetics of delay in Lilith. I ask about how Jennifer anchors the poem. She talks about the challenges of encapsulating and excerpting from the book. Jennifer talks about Lyn Hejinian‘s essay, the Rejection of Closure. Both Lilith and Shelf Break resist the left margin. We discuss the idea of poetry that questions and opens up. Form is a way for a poem to open up.

Jennifer doesn’t necessarily think about audience or the reader other than herself. I talk about the various anchors in this book: sound, imagery/senses. Jennifer talks about the repeating elements in the art of Robert Rauschenberg. She sees this in her work as “grounding moments.”

We discuss the possibility of the fragment as a feminist technique. The fragment in Lilith is unresolved, Lili wants to feel a sense of completion. I mention Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter which is a translation of Sappho’s fragments. We discuss the piece of peeled wall paper in the book, sewing, embroidery. I raise the act of citation, which Dani Spinosa talks about as a feminist practice. Lilith has numerous references to writers, artists and mythological figures. Jennifer writes when she reads. She’s interested in how someone finds and words language. I mention how That Which I Touch Has No Name is in response to Erin Moure’s A Frame of the Book. There’s also dialogue with visual artists.

We talk about Sandra Ridley’s Post-Apothecary, Susan Elmslie’s I Nadja and Other Poems and others who have written about women who are enclosed or committed, such as Anna O. Women’s resistance to doing what they are supposed to do have resulted at times in their being considered insane. Women’s mental health issues have often been ignored as well. Jennifer talks about moments of empowerment for Lili in the book.

I ask Jennifer to read pages 30-31 from the Enclosure 1 section. We discuss the second voice and the dialogue with the self and the body, as mentioned in the Assay in That Which I Touch Have No Name, and how it applies here. I ask about decisions regarding form and how to read multiple voices. We talk about the sound play. Jennifer says that as she writes, it’s sound that drives her forward. Jennifer talks about the idea of the woman that doesn’t have her own voice, only heard because her voice reflects the voice of another. I loved the way the erasure of the character is pointed out. I talk about the sparseness of the left vs the full sensorial description on the right hand side page as possibly a juxtaposition between the wildness and containment. I ask about how Jennifer engages with the senses. The book was revised over a long period of time. Jennifer is very visual and also excited by sound. She discusses her journaling as a way of liberating her brain from her brain. The five senses are consciously explored in Lilith in the different sections. She eliminated senses in favour of others. Jennifer talks about going to perfume makers to see how perfume was made, which resulted in Redolence, one of the sections of the book. In Retina, there’s almost no pronoun use. We talk about how Lilith doesn’t speak in the book.

Jennifer mentions that there’s a relationship between sleeping and waking/consciousness and unconsciousness with regard to women’s voices in the book.

We talk about forthcoming work, readings and online parties to launch a series of small chapbooks designed by Kate van Houten. She’s doing a collaborative work with Cole Swensen, Elena Rivera and Laura Mullen. We discuss the way in which the pandemic has affected Jennifer and her writing. She suggests taking online classes. She’s currently taking online courses in astrophysics and cosmology at Stanford University. She also talks about reading Susan Schultz’s meditation poems, and working with Da Vinci’s writings, collage methods with inspiration from Kurt Schwitters. She’s giving a talk on Lyn Hejinian‘s Tribunal and the colour of red in Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red in the Spring.

We talk about how great it was for AngelHousePress to publish Afterlife, a bilingual chapbook.

Lilith is the story of a woman who is lost, finding freedom and identity through the senses, away from the he, toward the wild, the ink stains, her own marks. With Biblical and mythological references, the incorporation of works of art, wall paper, lines of text by contemporary poets, especially by women and about women, Jennifer K. Dick creates a gorgeous dream canvas of colour, perfume, texture, motion and emotion. There is a yearning for freedom here that many women will recognize.

Thanks to Jennifer K. Dick for being on the show, to Charles for processing, to Jennifer Pederson for the theme song, and to all of you for listening and sharing the episode. Upcoming guests include Rasiqra Revulva, Dominik Parisien, Jennifer Mulligan and Lisa Richter so far.