Archive | April, 2010


28 Apr


This Sunday, I was delighted to don a dress and attend the Los Angeles garden party for Les Figues Press, a visionary literary vehicle ably driven by Teresa Carmody and Vanessa Place. When both Bloomsbury and Kathy Acker were invoked within Mistress of Ceremonies Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum‘s first welcoming breaths, I knew the day was made…and not least of all a joy was seeing Sarah herself preside throughout…she who authored the fabulous fabulist novel Madeline is Sleeping.  And the spooky sweet churchly organ stylings of Laura Steenberge were transporting (rather like the faery iron archway in the garden corner, where I saw a hummingbird fly in, and a pomegranate come out). I want to hear more of Mme. Steenberge, and as soon as eerily possible.

At a loss for summer reading? Start with the fine folks above and the Les Figues list, and the frying months will become scrying months, and inscribe themselves happily within your mind.

But back to yesterday afternoon, which included several readings by other favorites of mine whose new books await multiple re-readings.

Kathy Acker, Queen of the Pirate Words

Following other readers including Janice Lee and Matias Viegener, Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman shook the dusty air from out the very clouds above with her reading of several selections of her work featured in Les Figues’ collection Feminaissance: A Book of Tiny Revolts.  If a shamanic breath blew through our forsaken city around 5pm last night, thank Wanda, for it was in part her doing.

And from my MFAlma-mater SFSU came San Francisco poet Paul Hoover (I include the link to Paul’s blog, because I quite like his essay on memorability: “the Poetry of Forgetting”), who read from his often-merry, very textually elastic new collection Sonnet 56 (fifty-six variations on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 56), including a recitation of one of my very favorite pieces, in homage to one of my very favorite literary schools: Oulipo, founded by  Raymond Queneau, amongst others who include Italo Calvino. Paul’s piece uses the S+7 method, where each noun in a given text is replaced by a noun to be found seven places away in a chosen dictionary.

Raymond Queneau, Let Us Reincarnate You!

I use this opportunity to highly recommend another summer reading gem: Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual. It sits alongside Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Monique Wittig’s Les Guerilleres, and Jean Toomer’s Cane as lifelong beloved companions that broke boundaries in between words and witchcraft.

Seated nearby Wanda for much of the afternoon, it was lovely to see her hold the familiar spine of an old Black Sparrow Press edition of her work – a publisher long beloved by both admirers and practitioners of experimental text (Charles Bukowski and John Fante were bookends in their house of writers). Like Bloomsbury, Black Sparrow was the original home-on-paper of many artists who – were they alive today – would struggle to find a place in print in today’s corporate bookmarket.

The honor to sit in the garden yesterday was significant, because all us writers working on anything the slightest bit odd owe much appreciation to the fortifying vision and valour of independent publishers, and a growing handful of other journals and collectives of their ilk and kin and stripe and kind. (May the nascence soon transcend, amen!)

Time and again, conversations begin with the prices charged by the big chain bookstores to even stock books at all – those books featured at the end-displays of a row? the books shown face-up instead of spine-out? That’s a surcharge, please. Commercial bookstores are not as much bookstores, as bookshelves for sale to the highest bidder.

These bookstores remind me of cemeteries, where you must pay rent on your burial plot.

We enter an era where the art and wisdom of literary curatorship has vanished from bookstores, who once upon a time could be relied upon for recommendations, guidance, and navigational tools to facilitate discovery of latent treasure. Those days are gone, and many feel adrift in a vast and treacherous sea – awash in a plastic island of chick-lit and diet guides and hot pink word porn.

I look at unsuspecting Americans departing those corporate chains like the whale who died on Seattle’s beaches last week, its stomach full up with human garbage: bits of plastic beer hats, anal suppository wrappers, and the dismembered arms of action figures.

whale prostrate with grief at state of american publishing industry. Oh, I mean, as a result of human greed. Well, every desecration is pretty much a result of human greed.

Conversation rages on about the efficacy and potency of independent presses in re-shaping the empty-caloried American literary diet – a pursuit similar to Alice Waters’ whole food revolution (we hope it all works out, for how could it get worse?). It’s a David-and-Goliath enterprise.

But regardless of the rise and fall of stones and slings, presses like Les Figues keep alive the art of curating words. Providing leadership of eye and ear in the finding of writers and readers from lost corners. The orchestration of reunions, communions, collusions, collisions, and productive rendez-vous.

The Rise and Fall of Stones and Slings

Sunday’s garden party was a joyous sail in a rebel ship on the high text seas, capably crewed with madcap insurgents, theorists,  barricade-builders, clowns and jugglers and cockeyed saints and martyrs and ragtag bunch of heroines…with cucumber sandwiches, an electric organ, and quite a thrilling cascade of hummingbirds.


thanks for the cucumbers, getty images, and LES FIGUES!

App or Art?

26 Apr


Two weeks ago, I received an email from my friend/artist/curator Tobey Albright that started like this:

I’d like to invite you to an exhibition I’ve curated which is opening right now and running until April 24, 2010. This isn’t a typical exhibition insofar as it is taking place via a Firefox plug-in extension that replaces online advertisements with art-scientist/artist collaborations


Ever since taking a programming class from this guy in undergrad, I’ve been interested in web-experience as interactive art (for example: this or this). The show curated by Mr. Albright was made available through Add-Art, a Mozilla plug-in created with support from Eyebeam and Rhizome. Basically, Add-Art provides an interesting new way for users to experience contemporary art and curated bodies of work while internetting. Instead of being barraged with banner ads or animated .gifs for wrinkle cream or weight-loss supplement, one is exposed to new works from artists around the world in a totally innovative context. Amazing!

Luckily, Rhizome, which has been affiliated with the New Museum since 2003, shares my enthusiasm for web/art confusion and plays “an integral role in the history, definition and growth of art engaged with the Internet and networked technologies”. Recently, they held  Seven on Seven, a conference that paired 7 visual artists w/7 techies in teams of two to create and present a project within 2 days. One of the creations, brainchild of Graffiti Research lab’s Evan Roth and Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, rewards bloggers with a congratulatory video upon the publication of their post! (I’ll be testing this feature shortly).

Though Tobey Albright’s show The Hustler and the Carer was only available via Add-Art through April 24th, you can find more info about the project here.

KRAUSAS: What’s Next? Concert & Thoughts about GREEN

11 Apr

WHAT’S NEXT? ENSEMBLE                     reviewed by Veronika Krausas

On Friday April 2nd I went to the FAKE GALLERY – a super cute little gallery in an area I’ve never been – Melrose & the 101, by the Los Angeles City College.  The ensemble WHAT’S NEXT? was performing.  They’re a relatively new NEW music ensemble in LA started by several fantastic musicians from USC’s Thornton School of Music, violist John Stulz and percussionist and conductor, Vimbayi Kaziboni.

john stulz performing work by aj mccaffrey

what's next? at the FAKE GALLERY

At the concert they performed a minimalist guitar work by Rhys Chathem, a viola solo with an electronic track by AJ McCaffery, 2 movements of a fantastic work by Osvaldo Golijov for string quartet and clarinet with the fascinating title The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, Andriessen’s Workers’ Union and then some short snare drum works by yours truly (5 intermezzi for snare drum) that Nick Terry performed with spoken text.

nick terry @ the FAKE GALLERY

They’re a young group of extraordinary musicians who are really exploring all the new music in Southern California and combining that with, now established, 20th and 21st century standards.  I highly recommend checking out their 2nd annual new music festival May 26-28, 2010 at USC in the Newman Concert Hall.  Here’s their website for more details:

PS:  My favorite non-musical thing of the evening happened during the last piece.  While I was listening to Andriessen’s Worker’s Union I started to glance at the art on the walls.  There were a series of large color strips, the kind you get at the paint store when you’re trying to find paint colors.   The brilliant thing about it was that each different hue had a different name …  some quite conservative and others hysterically funny.  For the green panel, starting with Modern Green at the top, descending through Electric lime and then the last one was HORK.   My sick sense of humor found this brilliant!  It brought back memories of being at another new music concert in Montreal many years ago and there was some dreadful music being performed but they were trying to be  … well … I’m not sure what they were trying to do, but they were projecting abstract smears of color behind the musicians.  I remember my friend and I started to invent titles for the different projected ‘smears’.   There was an ugly greenish thing that we titled “Green Pond Slime.”    Ahhhh the images that green can evoke!

color strips @ THE FAKE GALLERY in Los Angeles

Here’s my very bad attempt to take a picture of the green color strip and magically the percussionist Vimbayi Kaziboni walked by and made it a very interesting shot .  But that almost makes it enticement to go to the gallery and see the paintings yourselves.  I’m very embarrassed to say I didn’t have a chance to see the name of the marvelous artist who did this.  I’ll include myself in that group who has to go back to the gallery and check it out again.

GUEST BLOG: Canadian writer André Alexis in Australia

6 Apr

This week we’re featuring a GUEST BLOG by the Canadian writer André Alexis, who has just returned from Australia where he was a featured writer at the Adelaide Book Fair.  Alexis has worked with Catalysis Project’s member and composer Veronika Krausas for over twenty years.

my most lasting impression of australia will be that left by the slightly obsessive and thoroughly engaging winemaker at samuel’s gorge, the vineyard in the mclaren vale. the man’s name is julian, i think, and he’s young, maybe somewhere in his mid thirties. on the day we were there, his ginger hair was in slightly ratty dreads, held loosely by a kerchief, he smelled of a few days sweat, and he was unshaven. he wasn’t sure what to make of us any more than we knew what to make of him. but once he felt we were serious about wine, he opened up and began telling us how much he wants to change the perception people have about australian wines. he wants to make wines that are subtle, more complex, more like old world, european wines. now, all that’s interesting enough, i guess, but what struck me was, when he allowed us to taste the batches of shiraz he’d have to combine  for this years vintage, the absolute – almost van goghesque – obsession for detail, his reliance on instinct, his near-rageful gropings to express details of taste in words. his attitude was like that of all the poets i’ve met in this life: eccentric, committed, slightly off-putting but, ultimately, attractive. so, for half an hour, in the middle of this resolutely commercial, winemaking vale, i thought of poetry even more than i thought of wine.

Here’s the vineyard’s website

Scelsi, an 87-year-old singer, and aural purging

4 Apr

MUSIC: Veronika Krausas

On Friday, April 2, 2010 I went to a fabulous concert featuring an 87-year-old singer MICHIKO HIRAYAMA who sang CANTI DEL CAPRICORNO, a 20-song cycle written expressly for her between 1962 and 1972, by the eccentric Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88).

The concert started with this tiny Japanese woman slowly ambling onto the stage in a bright red print gown, high gold heels, and a gong hanging around her neck.

She had thick glasses on and sometimes, when she was reading the top line of the score, and because of the light and the glasses, it looked like her eyes were 5 times their normal size and were staring right at me.

These amazing vocal pieces use no text, but phonemes to color the pitches.

They’re chant-like songs that are mostly a capella except for a few:  one is with saxophone, two are with percussion, and one is with double bass.  And of course, the first one is with Michiko Hirayama accompanying herself with the gong, hanging like a large bauble on her chest.

The zodiac “capricorn’ relates to an area extending from India to Central America, which Scelsi mentions as the last refuges of a prehistoric human culture.

When the concert was over there were two things going through my mind:  one, what an amazing singer AND she’s 87, and second, I felt as if Hirayama was a witch doctor or shaman who, with her singing,  had completely purged me of all evil spirits!

There’s a CD (I think it’s out of print?) that has 19 songs on it.  I picked a copy up in the mid-90’s and every time I hear it, it still sounds like an ancient ritual that is sometimes shaking a finger at me, sometimes ignoring me, and at other times slightly smirking.

There are some excerpts on youtube:

Here’s her link:


There are two events that are NOT to be missed at Disney Hall in the next week or so.  The British composer Thomas Adès is conducting a concert of his works including his spectacular Violin Concerto with the violin virtuoso Anthony Marwood.  Concerts are April 8-10th.   The second concert is LA COMMEDIA by the Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen on April 13th.  It’s based on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Check out the LA Phil’s website for more info.