Poetry News

If You Remain Not at a National Book Festival, Look at These Pretty Colors or Something

By Harriet Staff


While some of you-us-them are "in Seattle," hhmm, some of us profess our frolic in the unusually frigid locales we call "Etsy" "home." What's a poet without a convention center to do? At least we have clocks, uhm, you know. Might as well be Las Vegas in there! [...] Well, we could write a dream reflection for you? Or...yes you don't want that calligraphic solving of vengeance or whatever it says on this sticky note. Would anyone like to prepare for our class for us? Or...write an introduction for a reading? Or...take over this Deitch proofreading Projects? Feels like The Wide Road with this monstrous pronoun, less erotics. OK, poetry news! Look at this Das Platforms Issue 30!

...As Juán Gaitan suggests, we are seeing a “disavowal, a need to remove the 20th century, perhaps with the sense that it prevents the forming of an affirmative collectivity”. And as Iván Muñiz Reed writes, restoring (or the choice not to restore) “indulges in the same vices as the writing of history, giving us the power to build upon the meaning of an object or to change its meaning altogether, skewing and distorting to our will.” Indeed, Astrid Lorange describes the “certain kind of pleasure” elicited by the “dissolution of the fantastic seamlessness of representation”. There is pleasure, too, in the fact that certain relics are crumbling, certain ‘embarrassments’ are fading into static or dust. The 2013 exhibition Living in the Ruins of the Twentieth Century presented that notoriously troublesome century, pockmarked by wars and genocides, as one of “false starts, obsolete technologies and unrealised utopias”. Perhaps there is even a desire to view the entirety of the 20th century as a kind of systemic glitch, an accident, a mistake.

Another dominant theme that emerged for the writers within this issue is that of poetry, literature and art and the relationships between them. A history of these relationships is presented in Alys Moody’s essay Parallel Texts, via the example of the collaboration between Belinda De Bruyckere and JM Coetzee: “art and literature can be restored to each other—and re-storied by each other—secure in the specificity of their own mediums”. Elsewhere in the issue, Mathew Abbott responds in verse to John Gerrard’s Exercise, and Stella Rosa McDonald and Moyra Davey discuss aspects of the writer/artist relationship.
Visually, we begin this issue with Black Square and finish with a white page from Moyra Davey’s Burn the Diaries. In doing so, we also attempt a kind of restoration: from darkness to light, dusk to dawn. This is not to suggest that we have reached an endpoint, but rather a reference to the cyclical nature of both history and imagery – and to implicate the reader in the act of repetition.

Right? Cool. Now look at this! Space Administration!


Space Administration plunders NASA’s voice transcription of the first day of the Apollo 11 moon mission, uncovering a book of conceptual poetry that reimagines the erasure process as “spacecraft” (which is to say, the “crafting of space”). The book envisions its writing process as a venture of space exploration. Readers encounter a void populated by columns of numerical time-codes and by constellations of words. These textual “star-charts” evoke the materiality of the page’s empty space. The text performs an elegiac call to Apollo, the god of poetry, integrating every occurrence of “Apollo” (along with all deific terms such as “fire” and “hell”). Temporal and authorial language signals the text’s self-reflexivity, while optical language and direct address call out to the reader. The text reimagines Apollo as an alien entity dwelling in the empty spaces of the text, and efforts to contact Apollo transform the page into an event horizon, enfolding both reader and author into a space where time might seem eternal. The author can spend an eternity creating different erasures of the same page, erasures that the reader might spend an eternity reading. The time-codes add a temporal dimension to the empty space of the page. By timing silence, they draw attention to the absent text, enhancing its “hauntedness.” The numerical columns are juxtaposed alongside the organic constellations of words, evoking the tension between numeric discourses and lexical discourses, all of which sustain life aboard machines needed to survive in space (where amounts of fuel and oxygen must be constantly monitored and announced). A triptych “drop-poem,” created from the word “CONFIDENTIAL” precedes the erasure, and a series of asemic visual poems follow the erasure. The asemic poems invent a form of calligraphy out of the strikethroughs used to cross out the word “confidential” on the opening page. This calligraphy exemplifies the creation of a new text through the re-censorship of the declassified transcript. The book's rectangular cover page image (derived from the NASA logo), 1:2 page size ratio, and solid black flyleaf pages mimic the monolith from Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s film Space Odyssey: 2001. The black flyleaf pages perform the re-censorship of the document, suggesting that, by reading the erasure, the reader accesses an alternate censorship of the original text.

Mazel Tov Cocktail!