7TH ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Sneak Peek / Introducing this year’s Poetry Month CURATORS (aka OS Chapbook Class of 2018)!
Sometimes, you have a great idea for a project, and you do it for a little while, and then you think, “meh, enough.” And then, sometimes, you have a great idea for a project, and you do it for five years, and it’s only getting better, and you bring in a team to do it for the sixth year, and then in the seventh year, it evolves to somehow become even better and you’re SO THERE FOR IT.
“as we read and write this work, other poets become important to us for a million different reasons, often ones we could never entirely anticipate or explain — in observing our community one quickly notices that each person’s own relationship with poetry has grown in diverse and unexpected ways, with little known, local, foreign, or forgotten poets taking up solid and subtantial residence in the heart, mind, and psyche of each — in turn, altering inestimably our relationship to craft,”
and that the series sought to offer to creative practitioners outside of didactic, institutional systems the potentially life-altering gifts of shared influence, horizontally offered between poets from a wide range of communities and geographies, for free.
The series has become an evergreen archive: it now boasts 180 (soon, 210) personal, critical, refreshingly genuine entries of poets writing on poets who have radically and permanently influenced their lives and work. Any time you’re looking for a new poet to explore, look no further. Send your students here, for voices outside the canon and the classroom. Spend a rainy afternoon with us.
If anything, the curiosity and mission that drove the series being started has ramped up — as has our commitment to reaching beyond and through the invisible barriers that too frequently keep us siloed in echo chambers. One way to do that, I found, was to hand over the reins: Johnny Damm, PJ Ammonds, Janice Sapigao, and Stephen Ross, all OS collaborators were our amazing curators last year.
But this year begins what will be a new tradition: 4 weeks, 4 chapbook poets in our annual spring series=four poetry month curators! Which means that this year, Adra Raine (Want-Catcher), Mark DuCharme (We, The Monstrous), Jacq Greyja (Greater Grave) and Jared Schickling (Needles of Itching Feathers) have gathered folks from their communities into the next four incredible weeks for you. I’m lucky, I’ve already gotten to read them… you are in for a real treat.
Below, you’ll find each curator-poet’s description of how they approached their week, bringing you words and meaning from poet-scholar-creators worldwide, writing on a hugely diverse array of influences. I am so grateful to be building community and collaborating with these highly original humans, and I can’t wait to share April’s bounty with you all. Subscribe, if you want a little gift in your inbox every day this month!
Humbly, ONWARD — Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, founder / creative director
Week 1: Curated by Adra Raine [Durham, NC]
Given the alienations produced by late capitalism, I’ve found my friends and I constantly trying to define “community,” in order to locate it, create it, manage it, as a corrective to the ever deeper divisions and isolations we find ourselves navigating in our work and relationships. Moments of togetherness seem increasingly fleeting. But being given the opportunity to bring our voices into a common space reminds me that we are a community, however elusive its definition. The Research University brought me into friendship with each of the seven writers/artists whose works you will read this week — an institution which reproduces the logic of competition and imperialism that works completely against the intellectual, creative, and social community many of us went to the university seeking but were often unable to sustain in that space. Yet, still our paths crossed and now we are in the world together — which now I think is all that being in community really means.
Reading/listening to these seven luminous and challenging works, I see reflected so many of the conversations we’ve had about ideas, writing, and art, about relationships, jobs, and daily life, all the wondering we’ve done about where to live, how to live, who to live with, what to live doing, and what for. Sometimes we talk about living all together in one place, somehow, as the pressures of economic precarity keep spreading us out geographically — currently the eight of us are in Durham, Bisbee, Tehran, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, with future dispersals always on the horizon. It is a great pleasure and honor to bring us all into temporal and physical proximity for one week in the space of composition, to be in the world together with poets who have influenced the words, images, and sounds of our work.
Adra Raine is a writer living in Durham, NC. She is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches literature and writing and is completing a dissertation on contemporary U.S. poetry titled Resonance Over Resolution: Resisting Definition in Nathaniel Mackey, Ed Roberson, and Susan Howe’s Post-1968 Poetics. Otherwise, she is working on a book length manuscript of poems and prose about parenthood in late capitalism titled Wonder Weeks, of which Want-Catcher (The Operating System, 2018) is the first chapter.
Week 2 : Curated by Mark DuCharme [Boulder, CO]
This ocean, humiliating in its disguises,
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.
— Jack Spicer
[in My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. Edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian, Wesleyan UP, 2008, p. 373.]
This opening poem from Jack Spicer’s 1965 book Language strikes a nerve, or that is, poses interrelated issues regarding the production and reception of poems. “No one listens to poetry. The ocean/ Does not mean to be listened to.” Notice that Spicer does not say that no one reads poetry. The verb instead is listens — which could suggest attending a poetry reading as readily as it could taking heed of poetry, or that is, attending to its message.
Except that, of course, it “means/ Nothing” — or so we are told.
Poetry does mean to be attended to, to be heard, seen and sung. Yet its purchase on meaning is often slippery, complicated, or downright elusive. And that very slipperiness is part of its “meaning.” Poetry often resists (or evades?) the use-value of meaning, while, equally importantly, opening up possibilities for other meanings, other “uses,” other values, other world views, potentially. It is a space which, remarkably, exists outside but alongside the dominant culture, so-called, while implicitly critiquing the uses and values upon which notions such as ‘dominance’ and even ‘culture’ are built. It is, like Spicer’s “ocean,” a natural wonder and treasure, despite (or perhaps because of) its aloofness, its otherness, its seeming indifference.
The eight contributors here (seven, in addition to myself) are poets hailing from at least two countries and residing currently in diverse parts of this one. They write on other poets living and dead, poets born in this country and in other parts of the globe, poets of different ethnicities, sexualities and perspectives. On inviting each of them, I suggested a theme, “neglectorinos,” or in other words poets not (yet) as widely acclaimed as they ought to be, though I left it up to each to interpret that theme as she saw fit. The results are, I hope, inspiring and invigorating. I hope they bring you new perspectives on poets you already knew about and introduce you to poets you might want to investigate further. Many thanks to editor/ publisher Lynne DeSilva-Johnson for making this welcome act of cultural activism possible.
In closing, I’d like to reflect on the state of poetry in our current world. William Carlos Williams famously wrote, “Look at/ what passes for the new./ You will not find it there but in/ despised poems./ It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there.” In that same long poem, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” he writes about the bomb: “All suppressions,/ from the witchcraft trials at Salem/ to the latest/ book burnings/ are confessions/ that the bomb/ has entered our lives.” Then what are we to make of our lives today, over half a century later, with all the endless wars, drones daily striking distant civilians, suppression perfected to machine-like efficiency, rampant hatred & rapacious greed from low politicians in high places? Poetry, I think Williams believed (& I believe), shows us another way. It is an absolute refusal to live with the Bomb in our lives, even if only metaphorically. It is a reminder that life is not such a mean thing (in at least two senses of that word) after all. That poetry is, even when it is an act of resistance, an act of love.
Or, as Williams elsewhere wrote, “I myself invite you to read and to see.”
Mark DuCharme is the author of several volumes of poetry, ranging from chapbooks and pamphlets to book-length collections to his magnum opus, The Unfinished: Books I-VI (2013). Most recently, Counter Fluencies 1–20 appeared as part of the print journal The Lune (2017). Mark’s chapbook We, the Monstrous is forthcoming from The Operating System this spring. His poetry has appeared widely in such publications as Big Bridge, Bombay Gin, Caliban Online, Colorado Review, Mantis, New American Writing, OR, Pallaksch Pallaksch, Shiny, Talisman, and Vanitas. He has been a recipient of the Neodata Endowment in Literature and the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. He lives in Boulder, Colorado and is an adjunct English professor at a community college.
Week 3: Curated by Jacq Greyja [Oakland, CA]
The willingness to follow ghosts, neither to memorialize nor to slay, but to follow where they lead, in the present, head turned backwards and forwards at the same time. . . If you let it, the ghost can lead you towards what has been missing, which is sometimes everything.
In Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, Avery F. Gordon traces the holes in institutional knowledge — holes which become visible through a sensual recognition of that which is both missing from popular discourse and which connects, at times inexplicably, to the echoes of erasure within her own life.
[O]ur encounters must strive to go beyond the fundamental alienation of turning social relations into just the things we know and toward our own reckoning with how we are in these stories, with how they change us, with our own ghosts.
This week, seven writers engage in a like practice of unravelling how the self coincides and grows with poets living and deceased. They will lead us through varied accounts of following and hearing the murmurs of their chosen poets, traversing through both archive and selfhood. The writers present their findings intimately, at times erratically, boldly accessing the internal landscapes through which we come to know and love others: through music, serendipity, childhood, memory, (in)direct address, and waves of longing. The entries for this week move beyond memorializing the work and biographies of poets, instead submerging us within an intimate process of reading that is complex, affected, and without designated points of beginning or end. These entries, at the very least, offer us a glimpse into what Gordon calls the reality of being haunted by worldly contacts.
JACQ GREYJA is a queer jewish//latinx poet from California. They are the author of Greater Grave (The Operating System, 2018). Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry: Volume 2, Apogee, Hold: A Journal, Peach Mgzn, Yes Poetry, Berkeley Poetry Review, Nottingham Review, Columbia Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Their poetry and collages have been exhibited in “Way Bay: Poetry Assembly” (BAMPFA, 2018) and “Not Even: Poets Make Collage” (Bushel Collective, 2017). They are currently pursuing their MFA in Poetry at San Francisco State University, where they are a recipient of the William Dickey Fellowship in Poetry (2017).
WEEK 4: Curated by Jared Schickling [Lockport, NY]
When I was contacted about curating a week’s lineup for The Operating System’s 30/30/30 series, I was intrigued with the call’s multicultural and internationalist stance. Consequently, I sought out poets who I thought would offer in their contributions a plurality of cultural reference points. They didn’t let me down: Crane Giamo writes on Swiss artist Dieter Roth; Brad Vogler on French poet Eugène Guillevic; Brenda Iijima on Panamanian American poet Roberto Harrison; moi on Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert and Russian poet Dmitry Golynko; Marc Pietrzykowski on Japanese poet Ozaki Hōsai; Michael Farrell on indigenous Australian poet Lionel Fogarty; Michael Boughn on Canadian poet Garry Thomas Morse; and Noah Falck on American poet Graham Foust. I hope the reader enjoys their contributions as much as I do.
Jared Schickling’s most recent books of poetry are Needles of Itching Feathers (The Operating System, 2018) and The Mercury Poem (BlazeVOX, 2017). Other books include Province of Numb Errs (2016), The Paranoid Reader: Essays, 2006–2012 (Furniture Press, 2014), Prospectus for a Stage (LRL Textile Series, 2014), and he edited A Lyrebird: Selected Poems of Michael Farrell (BlazeVOX, 2017). He lives in Western New York and edits Delete Press and The Mute Canary, publishers of poetry.