Poetry News

Social Reading Number One: Rachel Levitsky & Ariel Goldberg on Erika Staiti's 'The Undying Present'

By Harriet Staff

erika feat

Rachel Levitsky and Ariel Goldberg are beginning a new collaboration at Jacket2 entitled "Social Reading:" a collaborative, social practice in which Levitsky and Goldberg discuss writing that "has some urgency to it." Levitsky and Goldberg's political, aesthetically driven correspondences will explore "subaltern, queer, prose, hybrid, or unpublished writing." In Social Reading Number One, they discuss Erika Staiti's new project, "The Undying Present."

The first thing I notice in the excerpt from The Undying Present is Staiti’s use of multiple and switching pronouns and the determined unnaming of characters. It has an effect of denuding the narrative, by generalizing the action, muting agency.

We readers are instructed that something else is happening, something structural, not personality-based, although the central action is driven by a narrator.

I find it striking that despite the removal of affective signs and deictic relations between particulars, an assertive and deep affect remains palpable.

“Sun warms the skin but burns it sometimes too. They roll down the window for some air and then roll it back when the wind picks up. This is how the days go by. Staring straight ahead. Marching down a city street or running. Statements made and never heard. Hearing fails. Blood sheds daily.”

What do mean when you say affect?

I mean visceral emotion that lingers. The goopy stuff that is between things.

There is something S&M about The Undying Present.

The title is from a poem in Les Guérillères, Monique Wittig's 1969 feminist novel.

"A woman is dancing. She wears a tight silver bodice. Another woman stands against the wall with dark frizzy hair. She wears red. Two men are kissing in the center of the stage. One has a dark moustache and the other is blonde and smooth and looks very young.

Something happens to the dancing woman. She writhes on the ground. Was she shot?"

Read the rest, and follow Levitsky and Goldberg's discussions and learn a little more about Erika Staiti's stunning craft at Jacket2.

Originally Published: August 7th, 2013