Ben: A couple of points I’d like to pick up on here. I think it was Nick Piombino who recently said that he liked the idea of blogs being like public drafts of poems, ideas, etc. I’m not sure if he included a mention about working through ideas (and I’m not sure where to look to find out). For me, blogging is also a way of working through ideas, however simple or complex. Luminations is usually written on my lunch break and is, for the most part, a way to refocus on poetry in the midst of so many other things I don’t want to think about (an escape almost). However, the ideas that come up, if they come up, concern issues I’ve been thinking about for some time and want to give voice to. As part of the process, sometimes I publish something I wish I had never said! But I think that is really part of working through ideas: taking wrong turns, veering off course, and occasionally getting it right. Doing this publicly provides me with an unusual perspective though. First there is the slight distance created simply by having whatever it is I wrote out in the public sphere. Then there is also the feedback. There was one occasion when I wrote a couple of poems in the space of say 15 minutes and received several e-mails about how wonderful they were; but when I look at them I simply see the warts of writing what is in essence an automatic poem (not that I have anything against writing automatically, I just don’t think they’re worth commenting on). Basically, I’m saying that for me blogging is a useful way of positioning or exercising, a way of preparing for something else. What appears on the blog is not really intended to go much further. How would you describe your process(es) of working through ideas and questions, as you say, on SDPG? Bill: What I've liked most about blogging -- and I think the folks who diss it may fail to see this aspect of it -- is that I can use it for several different purposes, occasions, and I don't have to limit myself to any one process or program. Some days, SDPG is an announcement board, sometimes a journal or log book, sometimes a scratch pad, sometimes a zine, sometimes a promotional forum for other activities. So, I've tried to avoid banking on any one specific process (or approach) for filling up the fields there. The blog is definitely, as you say, a "useful way of positioning or exercising" or "preparing for something else" -- much of what I've done there I've revised for print publication or for posting/archiving on my site (factoryschool.org/btheater). But I also want to use the blog-site itself as a spot for "finished" things, a formal program, and to the extent that I manage that it may be a little different than the less formal blogs. One thing I do that may be a little different is keep a running list of "entries with titles" in the left column, mostly to create a sense of history and accrual -- and I guess to support that "zine"like presence. I like the ephemeral and contingent nature of blogging, but I also like to keep some of the content current/accessible as the blog otherwise bleeds forward Ben: The other point I wanted to raise is a probably not at all for public interest. One of the reasons I’ve been so extraordinarily busy this year is that I have been preparing my Ph.D. application for a number of US universities, UCSD being one of them. I admire the group activity and aspirations behind SDPG, and in fact have done something similar but less successful here in Tokyo, would you say that San Diego (I’ve never even been to California) is conducive to group projects, especially those involving cross-disciplinary work? The problem I’ve had in Tokyo is partly that everyone is on totally different schedules. Some people work weekends and are off during the week, some people work evenings or mornings, or, like me, work grueling 12 hour days. The other problem is that I have not been successful in finding a common ethic or aesthetic, but I imagine that could be the case anywhere. At any rate, the few meetings I was able to slap together did have a similar effect on me of turning my attention away from the print-focus and more towards something I’ve not yet been able to articulate… If all goes according to plan, I should be spending a few days at the beginning of next year in a recording studio with a ‘noisician’ but all is very tentative now. Bill: I think it is, but it's difficult to coordinate for reasons you mention re Tokyo. SD is one of those "cities of villages" that you'll find out here -- several neighborhoods separated by canyons and malls and freeways. It's very hard to bring people together due primarily (and sadly) to geographical distance and traffic and horrid public transit. But at the same time the city's grown a lot in the last decade or so (I've been here since 1990), and so there are more opportunities for group work, collaboration -- a lot more going on, more to look at. I read in our local reader that a lot of people coming up in music, for example, are not necessarily bailing out and heading to LA like they would have certainly done only a few years ago. There's a thriving hip-hop scene here that I've heard rivals LA's. In poetry, there's a lot going on too -- but in keeping with that city of villages motif, the groups tend to self-isolate geographically and aesthetically. One of the things I'd like to do, and the Guild is definitely one gesture in that direction, is to find ways to mix those "disciplines" and communities and see if we can generate some of that proverbial "critical mass." There are general signs that SD is coming of age, despite its reputuation as simply a surfer/vacationer haven, but these are early signs and so difficult to read let alone place any real faith in. Anyway, to answer your question, yes, I definitely think SD is conducive to group projects, with a lot already in the works -- but I also think there's plenty of room for more playful, experimental group activities, in poetry especially, and the groundwork for that still needs to be laid.


This Week on Luminations

An Interview with Bill Marsh

Ben: Thank you for agreeing to appear on Luminations, Bill. For the first question, I'd like to begin by asking you about you and the SDPG. In all truth, I don't know much about you. I've done a little searching on the web and see that you are part of the San Diego Poetry Guild, a collective that I certainly find exciting. The SDPG appears to embrace all forms of artistic speculation and enquiry with a fairly clear drive towards interdisciplinary collaboration. But perhaps most importantly, it is a *guild*. So could you tell us how you got involved in the SDPG (did you start it?) and how do you see yourself within the guild as whole? Bill: The Guild is still finding its edges, so it's difficult to give a clear history or even a clear explanation of our project. At heart, the goal is to bring writers in SD together around the idea of "poetry" or "poetic activity" but without necessarily limiting ourselves to poetry (print or performed) per se. A short answer to your question would be that two friends and I -- all Communication grad students at UCSD -- got together one day maybe a year-and-a-half ago and decided to form a poetry group for informal work-sharing and discussion. Last year, on a whim really, I started the SDPG blog -- admittedly as a personal attempt to work through some ideas and questions I had at the time about group formation and writing, but also (I hoped at the time) to provide a web forum for the group. The group blog never really caught on, so in a way "SDPG" (the blog) evolved mostly as a fiction. But as the initial group of poets grew to include a photographer/videographer and a couple dancers, in addition to a few more writers, we grafted the "guild" concept onto the group, and the name stuck. For some of us, the guild structure, even if only a fiction, invites interesting questions about the work of poetry (or art more generally) and the way that work gets distributed, shared, supported, and then "sold" or exchanged out in the world. So, as we solidify as a group, we do so around the basic idea that we're all contributing (and refining) labor and craft in part on behalf of the larger guild/group effort. In that sense we're trying to distinguish ourselves from the perhaps more routine or predictable activities of a reading group or collective, but to be honest we're still not entirely sure what the differences might be, at least beyond this fundamental commitment to sharing work and resources. Ben: As a guild, I imagine that there is a fairly strong sense of community and cooperation (perhaps this is idealizing somewhat), how has working as part of this diverse group (SDPG is a year old now) affected your creative 'output' and poetic thinking (if it is really possible to separate one from the other)? Bill: We've had perhaps six meetings since last year -- perhaps not as many as we should have -- but in the meantime I've spent a lot of time working with one other guild member putting together a performance piece mixing projection, audio, and his dance moves. To answer the second part of your question, the group/guild dynamic has changed my thinking (and my output) radically, in the sense that I'm working toward an entirely different set of ends now. Writing becomes more occasional and directed, and the kind of assembly or appropriation/collage work that I've always liked to do takes on an entirely different meaning. With hindsight I see some of my earlier writing as often limited to formal exercise and, I think, a short-sighted, maybe myopic, focus on print-publication (journals, book). I've been toying with web-based (visual/animated) assembly too for about five years now, and that stretches the frame a bit, but in general I've been mostly concerned with object creation for display, whether page or screen. Now I think more in terms of generating pieces, scripts, chunks of material (image, sound, text), to use in a broader, more processual, assembly work -- writing for eventual performance, for example, instead of (or maybe in addition to) eventual publication. So, re the first part of your question, there really is a strong sense of "cooperation" among us, and that obviously rewires my thinking about what's possible. While I've done a considerable amount of collaboration (usually "long distance") with other poets and artists, this is the first time I've worked closely with others for an extended period of time, and toward collaborative performance and installation work. It's pretty exciting and eye-opening. This past weekend, four of us took part in an exhibit called "Hotels/Motels" organized by a local installation artist. About fifty artists rented rooms at the downtown Travelodge and "set up shop" for the night. For the first time, the Guild had a "stage" and a presence, and we spent part of the day assembling the latest issue of our Guild zine (Zazil2). Later, J.R. (my chief collaborator in the Guild) and I worked out our evolving performance for rotating audiences. It was a blast, and I mention it because that "year" you mention has obviously brought me a long way from the kind of work I was doing before SDPG grew from fiction to (pseudo)reality


To all those who have contacted me about the interview over the holiday, I will reply. The weekend has been very hectic! Sorry!


Somebody tell me how this obvious web of deceit goes over the average American voters head? What is most infuriating about this, er, man is that he can lie and lie and somehow gets away with it. I don’t like governments generally, harmless armchair anarchist that I am, but how is it that Clinton gets called for getting a blow job (so what?) and Bush can tell the truth about lying on the Diane Sawyer show and is still considered truthful? Where are the impeachment orders? Where’s the military tribunal? Where’s the Hague war crimes tribunal? Sorry for my ranting the last two days. Also, if anyone is interested in being interviewed on Luminations over the holiday season, please contact me. The most effective way is either the yahoo address above or: bbasan at zaa dot att dot ne dot jp. Thankfully, I’ll be away from work, which means I can spend a bit more time on worthwhile causes. Hey, if I’m feeling full o' cheer (ho!ho!) I may even give you a complimentary call (if you are in the US, possibly Europe – cheap call rates from Japan).


No time today. Just need to say that George W. Bush makes my blood curdle. I wonder if it could be said that he excites the passions if, when one hears him one feels the unbearable URGE TO VOMIT (accidental click of the caps, but I like it). Bush – that ‘thing’ as I heard in a British murder case - will be plagued by furies, just as his suppository arch-nemeses. Urrgh. My eyes are red.


Reading Factorial this morning on the train I wondered – as I did for issue one – how these collaborations work. It’s certainly fun to read through the work and try to work out what method, if any, the writers used; how each artist responded to the others work/prompts. Some, like the opening “unscripted behaviors” , seem to be fairly transparent. The first poem:






______________________________________________________ Jasmine, the hose fire, “When you go to your home by the ocean,” said the songs. The shadow’s leaking again. THEN you have to come back. Have a nice life she said. In answer to your question, it was to be an ambidextrous text. Here I would hazard that the first Jasmine terrace-like cue set off the “Jasmine” of the response (or is Jasmine a name?). And then the writer, I don’t know who, struts off of the other prompts in the text. “Fire” ,to me, links with “dry/night”; “ocean” with “wet”. Then she reacts to the opposites in the short top poem (wet/dry) with coming back, returning from the ocean and bidding it farewell. As she says, it was to be ambidextrous. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, but I’m having fun speculating. I mentioned yesterday, that I didn’t like one piece. It was, I’ll be honest, the “Whalebone Essays Volume 3” by, among others Noah Gordon and Eric Baus. I’m not sure why they chose the title, perhaps something to do with sifting or separating? The poem feels very cut-up, as though they had spent quite some time piecing together lines in some manner or other (well, don’t we all though?). There are some good lines in the poem, there are also some quite bad ones like “dreaming of the spaces between words”, but why I don’t like it? I’ll be honest, I just don’t know. I like long poems, but after page 3 I wanted this one to stop. Perhaps its not quite boring or exciting enough to keep me reading on?? I don’t know. Anyway, I brought this poem up because I am curious about the construction of the “Whalebone Essays vol. 3. The poem traverses 11 pages and each page sometimes has a distinct feel, or sense of containment. Off the top of my head, there were about two pages in which “ha ha ha” appeared and then there was one quite nice page that started with something like “ My babies swim in the sea” in which there was an obvious kind of mirroring going on with certain words and phrases (actually, I like this page a lot). So conjecture 1 is that each member of the collaboration wrote one page (but then what about the 11th page?) .. but I haven't found the link. Conjecture 2 is that because the lines have quite a cut up feel about them (they really remind me of the Tzara-esque words in a hat games I used to play with my little sister), each member had a poem that was ‘gutted’ so to speak, words taken out, and then replaced with others. I don't think there is a full cut up going on because there is a little too much cohesion. That’s all I’ve got time for today.


I don’t have a lot of time these days in the lead up to x-mas and new year. Many things to finish. At any rate, I wanted to point out two excellent poetry magazines, Sawako Nakayasu’s Factorial & Jesse Seldess’ Antennae. I am usually underimpressed with most magazines, but these two really stand out. Factorial is dedicated to good quality collaborative writing. Sawako has done an excellent job in selecting a range of energetic pieces that generally cohere within the x number of pages dedicated to each issue. The impression is that there is a clear unifying aesthetic between the pieces, even though style and content may be very different. Sawako’s own writing has a strong pulse and so do most of the pieces in Factorial. I’ve only been able to glance through Factorial 2 and it appears there is more in the way of recent work in this one. The only surprise thus far is that the one piece I thought I’d like (I like one of the writers), I really didn’t! Before discussing Antennae, I would like to add Factorial!’s distinguishing features are that the writing is very NEW and fairly interdisciplinary. Almost every poem in the magazine is doing something visual or musical or performative. And although you can say this about any magazine, one can really see a dialogue between other arts going on in many of the pieces in unexpected ways. Please remember I’m writing this in a rush! Antennae. I’ll admit that Sawako introduced me to this; in fact I’m basing my comments on the issue she lent me! At any rate, Antennae is a magazine of very musical writing. Some pieces definitely recall John Taggart and Minimalism with the heavy use of repetition and homophonic words, as well as the very careful shifts in emphasis and theme. And approaching the advances of a lot of modern music, many of the pieces are starting to move like the 21st Century. Wasn’t it Elliot who said something about poetry needing to adapt to the rhythms of the automobile? I wouldn’t say that much writing has gone that far yet. Stein perhaps?? (There is Christian Bok’s Motorized Razorblades!) Well, some of the work in Antennae is certainly getting close to it. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought that poetry was gathering dust and was becoming a happy parlor-game. Perhaps it is. These two little magazines help to dispel my doubts, at least for a while.. But I still hate poetry!


Notes Post-Viewing – Alvin Lucier

Piece seen at the ICC in Opera City, Nishi-Shinjuku. Just inside the entrance to a darkened room, about ten (hand-blown?) variously shaped thick glass jars with a green tint appearing at apertures and curves, stand on individual shoulder-height displays. Light is permitted to refract through the jars at a source either behind them or under them. Microphones are hanging into the jars apparently at an equivalent depth. The mikes connect directly to four or five small, but robust amps at the back of the room. Because of the lighting in the room the amps are barely noticeable until the eye has adjusted to the dark. Permeating the room is the subtly shifting hum picked up from the mikes, there is no constant sound or noise produced. Do we worship here? Should we sacrifice? A darkened laboratory in which the hypothesis is in the process of forming. Religion is tangential; science disavows the marshalling of religion. Centered on the light-space, where we define sound. Move away, lift your arm, breathe, twitch, and listen. And who moves? The alter is a… Do we alter the sound? Presence alters the entire room, and without it what becomes of the room? The sound continues; we know to distrust absence, silence. The room is particle to living and movement. Entrances and exits share the point of reading; movement, sound, heat together are melded and effect the tone of the point. Aurality is a reading, an intersection in a network of interactions; its placement is incidental and determined. To mark one point is always an aleatory gesture – an … context. Sound is language that circles forth…


I'm posting this for Sawako Nakayasu.


Allen Ginsberg I hope my good old asshole holds out 60 years it's been mostly OK Tho in Bolivia a fissure operation survived the altiplano hospital-- a little blood, no polyps, occasionally a small hemorrhoid active, eager, receptive to phallus coke bottle, candle, carrot banana & fingers-- Now AIDS makes it shy, but still eager to serve-- out with the dumps, in with the condom'd orgasmic friend-- still rubbery muscular, unashamed wide open for joy But another 20 years who knows, old folks got troubles everywhere-- necks, prostates, stomachs, joints-- Hope the old hole stays young till death, relax March 15, 1986, 1:00 PM


Over the weekend the words from my notebook were almost all stolen, lifted from the page into some sneaky thief’s pocket. And on the barren white pages, only these words remain: A snowball in summertime that's what I am; a matchbox Round the decay of that colossal wreck, as they say, boundless and bare, the lonely white pages stretch away.


OK now, on the other side of things today. First, heartfelt sympathies to Ron Silliman. It appears his wife is quite ill and in the hospital. Ganbaremasu Ron and family! Also, I’ve decided to add Noah Eli Gordon’s Human Verb to the side links today. The decision has nothing to do with the dream, consciously at any rate. Actually, I’ve oft admired his poetry and think he’s one to watch out for. That said, I have no idea where this New Brutalism is headed.. nor do I really know where it comes from. Is there a Brutalism? I know, of course, Bruitism, but there is obviously no connection. At any rate, the pieces he wrote in Word for Word Vol 2 really catalyzed my own writing and for that I’ll be eternally grateful!
Last night I dreamt that I was attacked by a grizzly bear. I was attending a BBQ at a house that reminded me of a Frank Lloyd Wright – perhaps because of the surrounding forest and light colored brick. Was I in Canada? I’ve never been to Canada. There were a lot of people there. S was there. There may have been orgies going on, but as usual I was talking over the food. Who was I talking to? It may have been Noah Eli Gordon, who I’ve never met or even talked to. I remember that whoever I was talking to had tattoos and was about the same age as me. I remember in waking life being surprised that NEG had so many tattoos. NEG and I heard a deep bass growl. Oddly no one else heard the sound and continued about their profligate party antics. A naked dark-skinned woman – was she Asian? - ran out of the forest towards the beer kegs. The sound got louder. NEG said he’d check the sound system (even though there was no music playing). And at that moment, the light-brown bear ran through the bushes and pounced upon what became my frail body. I woke up. My wife asked who I had been dreaming about because I was calling out a, presumably female, name. (she won’t tell me who) **********************************************


Poem secret

Is poetry like a dirty secret? Art, like painting, sculpture, filmmaking, etc, is acceptable. Music is acceptable. But poetry? What makes people frown at the thought of someone reading poetry for pleasure? I’ve been led to believe that in fact poetry is dangerous… But it does not pose real danger, but the danger of being useless. Art, the story goes, fulfills a social function. It can even be useful for business. And what is life without music. Everyone, even evil men like george bush and eviller men like Osama bin Laden {cough}, needs music. But poetry? You must hate society to like poetry. You must be a pervert. Poetry is like a work-from-home ad. Poems hover alongside more important things in magazines like the New Yorker. Even if those aren’t good poems, they’re poems. Poems are for high school. Life is for career. Poems are for sentimental, lachrymose people. Poems are written under the bed-sheets in private bedrooms. They express feelings. Algorithms express relations. Everyone writes poetry, it’s the only language we speak. Poets are refined everyones, and everyone’s a poet. But you read Poetry?