Thursday, February 27, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR FRAGMENT III: George Vance Responds

What is YOUR fragment? Poets explain this technique as it appears in their books (see original conversation post HERE for the questions and a response by Lisa Pasold and the second response by Marthe Reed HERE). Today, GEORGE VANCE responds:

GEORGE VANCE: Ohio-born, long-time resident of Paris and now Reims, France, George Vance is the author of A Short Circuit (Corrupt Press, 2011) as well as the chapbook  Bent Time (2006). Other poems have appeared in Upstairs at Duroc, Pharos, and in the online magazines Ekleksopgraphia, Nth position and Retort. Vance has been involved in experiments with word/image fusion, tags, and street art. His hybrid language and image video installation, "HEIGHTS", was exhibited in Brussels in 2006, & he designed a 'totem' sculpture with a Kanak artist. He has read at numerous Paris venues including The American Library, Wice, Paris Writer's workshop, Live Poets, The Red Wheelbarrow, Poets-Live, Ivy Writers Paris and as part of the multi-voiced performance group "Quadriphonics" (with Jennifer K Dick, Michelle Noteboom & Barbara Beck). One of his recent plays was performed as part of Moving Parts, Paris, playreadings. Vance has lived in Liberia, Austria, Germany, the USA, France and the French overseas 'Country' of New Caledonia/Kanaky. His poems can also be found on the collaborative poetry blog Rewords, of which he is a member.

The Fragment--George Vance 

I’d go along to a point with the idea of erasures, whether conscious, unconscious, intentional and what I’ll call a second-nature impulse, it having been fairly well imprinted in my poetic-striving self (during fragment-type essays – I don’t use them exclusively) to leave out the extraneous  or explanatory bits, including articles, adjectives, prepositions, but also the surroundings impressions or images or transitional passages that otherwise make a piece more accessible. These latter may, as you say, be represented by the between-word spaces, line-breaks, page spaces, nearly empty or even empty whole pages. (pp72, 73 of my book--A Short Circuit)

This fragmenting now comes ‘naturally’ or on rereading or retyping on the computer from notes. But then another question arises: space       or runtogether? So is it fragmenting or free-association, or can they be the same? Probably erasure, conscious, unconscious or as impulse, plays a big part; as it does with perception in general, gazing at something for a long time vs capting a series of inputs, as while riding a bus or walking. And reflection = the difference between a brief flash of something and inner discourse – an image or idea arising from the unconscious or conscious (if one is Trying to think, or reading or listening to something), resulting in mono -vs -poly-syllabic utterances that get put down on the page after. Here I mean that the (probably) unconscious figment starts as a flash in the head, is part of a longer ‘explanatory’ idea that one wants to either explore or skip, depending on how strong the figment is (whether image or idea) and therefore whether it lends itself more to fragmentation or discourse.

As to your question on Beckett and my play off Beckett, I do use stammering (see page 33 of A Short Circuit) , as do you in various of your works., I’d hesitate to call his repetitions, truncated & reconstructed fragments stammering, or mine, in the B-inspired playlet. Unless you mean to expand the idea to the starting & stopping of images or ideas, as if (since in B the unsayable is that, unsayable) the starts & stops & start-overs are among the thousands of ways one tries to express the inexpressible (see B dialogues with Georges Duthuit), which surely can appear as stammering.

Taken to its conclusion, this notion would mean that every poem is a new try, or stammer. Which is usually rounded off (closure), since humans tend to like that for aesthetic/logical satisfaction, but which many of us avoid as being too easy or too ”wrapped up”, by which today I suppose we mean not exactly representative of present-day life, which may be the  source of increased use of fragmenting and expressive stammering.

This could go on for ever and probably will. But I’ll round it off now.

Good luck with your project!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What is your FRAGMENT II: Marthe Reed responds

What is YOUR fragment? Poets explain this technique as it appears in their books (see original conversation post HERE for the questions and a response by Lisa Pasold). Today, MARTHE REED responds:
MARTHE REED is the author of (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books 2013), Gaze (Black Radish Books 2010) and Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink 2007) as well as the collaborative ekphrastic book, Pleth, with j hastain (Unlikely Books, 2013). A fifth collection will be published by Lavender Ink in 2014. She has also published four chapbooks as part of the Dusie Kollektiv; a fifth is forthcoming from above / ground press. Her poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, New Orleans Review, HOW2, MiPOesias, Fairy Tale Review, Exquisite Corpse, BlazeVOX, and The Offending Adam, among others. An essay on Claudia Rankine’s The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue appears in American Letters and Commentary. She is Co-Publisher of Black Radish Books.

The ideas you have mapped for thinking about all fit, to some degree, my own practice of fragmentation. Increasingly I find myself interested in the collaged, the cut-up, the mash-up, the erasure, all of which provoke the fragment, as well as foregrounding both juxtaposition and silence.

However my interest in the fragment lies as much in my sense of the difficulties of language as I have inherited it to respond to catastrophe or horror, or perhaps what I mean is to adequately engage with what has come to seem a disastrous quotidian experience: terror, drone slayings, torture, environmental predation, global warming, extreme weather, hunger/poverty/homelessness and the intimacy of these with racism and sexism, of hate in all its forms. The fragment then becomes a means of levering open language, seeding it with gaps that mirror the gaps in knowledge or awareness or compassion or insight that afford the human choices that initiate and propagate disaster. 

Another, more pleasurable, effect of the fragment is the play it affords, the delicious juxtapositions and associations that can result. Here I am thinking of a kind of surrealist or Dadaist impulse toward encountering the unknown, wherein the use of fragments makes possible new associations, meanings, images, and experiences not only through the strange new couplings but through the silences/elisions that suture them into a new text.

At times I think I have forgotten how to compose sentences within the poetic project, and it is my resistance to transparency that pulls me toward the fragment and fragmentation. For similar reasons, I create visual collages, sometimes with text though not always.

After Swann is a straightforward erasure in which I revisit Swann's treatment of the he beloved via a feminist re-reading enacted by elision: in the forced new associations, her dilemma is fore grounded along his ignorance and self-centeredness, (Em)bodied bliss used the cut-up and collage of numerous sources, sometimes isolation from one another, sometimes cut into my own language, sometimes layered within/amongst other borrowed texts that I have cut-up: reportage, testimony, government documents, speeches, etc.
PS:  The most influential origin for me, vis the fragment and fragmentation, is Lyn Hejinian's My Life. The epigramic fragments that head each year-section were the music, the rhythm that stitched the book together for me. "a pause, a rose, something on paper", this one in particular has never left me, it's phrasing and music, the insistence on the noun, on the list, were/are fundamental to me. In the fragmentation of the prose sections themselves, the splintering narrative that stops turns circles cuts away and returns has also been fundamental. Always what the gaps reveal, what the juxtapositions reposition. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

CONVERSION by Jennifer K Dick and Kate Van Houten at Estepa Editions

CONVERSION by Jennifer K Dick with artwork by Kate Van Houten IS OUT. 

This is a collection of 7 folio-pages on a gorgeous off-white, slightly yellow paper, with the words printed in blue, the images by Kate floating above and through my 7 prose poems, all of this encased in a hand-made box which is papered in a lovely burgundy tint. This limited edition artbook (50 boxed sets) was made by Estepa Editions. 

To purchase your own copy--
Conversion can be purchased directly from the visual artist and bookmaker, Kate Van Houten (estepa[dot]editions[at]gmail[dot]com to request a copy and make paypal or check/money order purchases). 
If you want to learn more about previous works do check out the Estepa blog at Kateplusbooks which Kate says she is hoping to have updated soon. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What is YOUR fragment I? Jennifer K Dick and Lisa Pasold get the conversation started...

Jennifer K Dick, from Lilith, a novel in fragments
I (JKD) think of the use of FRAGMENTS in poetry as falling into a few different categories, such as these three:
          1) fragment as ABSENCE: as something which remains when something has been taken away (into which one might put the practice of erasures, but also that of work retrieved but only in part),
          2) fragment as bits of SOMETHING BROKEN-- language spaced over a or many pages opening up the white of the page to various ends, fracutred narratives and identities, ruptured languages
          3) fragment as ELLIPSIS--making a place for the unsayable, the white page to act as a unit of (unspoken) speech, including in this case a densification of the pause or caesura.

What is YOUR fragment?
Can you take a moment to reflect on this question and also to suggest books which, for you, fall into the category of books you like and/or wrote which for you use "the fragment". Where did your use of fragments emerge from (a particular tradition, reading someone or many people, or realization about space on the page, for example?) AND what do you think the fragment contributes to your work in particular? Feel free to list books you have written which you consider good examples of poetic fragment in use.

(Lisa Pasold is a Canadian writer and journalist who divides her time between Paris, New Orleans and Toronto. Her most recent book is ANY BRIGHT HORSE. Her first book of poetry WEAVE, was hailed as a masterpiece by Geist.  Her second book of poetry, A BAD YEAR FOR JOURNALISTS, was nominated for an Alberta Book Award
and—in line with reflections on the fragment in her work, Bryan Evans, in Fast Forward Magazine, stated that in A Bad Year For Journalists, "She weaves disjointed memories, from rusty jeeps to lust to typewriters." Her debut novel, RATS OF LAS VEGAS, was described as "enticing as the lit-up Las Vegas strip and as satisfying as a winning hand at poker" by The Winnipeg Free Press. See more at:
This is what she had to say:

My use of fragments emerged definitely from reading others’ work. 

Fragments continue to be useful in generating my own work because of the obvious practical issue of building long poems (which I prefer writing) from my daily writing (which is short gatherings from conversation, signage, reading, thoughts throughout the day).

Relating to your definitions 1 and 2 (fragment absence and fragment as bits of something broken or as ruptured language), my 2006 poetry collection A Bad Year for Journalists most directly uses these kinds of fragments. I wrote these poems as a mash-up of the language from my various journalism gigs: my job in the music industry (writing for Billboard) and other kinds of reporting work, including some experiences while I was in Kenya. Fragments of various friends’ and war correspondents’ life stories, lyrics from songs, and news headlines found their way into the manuscript. I worked on these poems as a quilt, piecing together used and/or left-over lines of language, binding them together to create a new pattern which pleased me. Like a quilt made of personal scraps, I look at the poem and see references to the original source material, but I think the result for other readers is more abstract. This abstraction then makes the work feel as if there is an absence—and that absence made sense to me when writing about the emptiness of journalism. I was trying to discuss how the music industry and the war reporting industry both produce a whole lot of verbiage, yet leave huge unspoken yet officially-sanctioned gaps in which facts are chosen to be discussed. Those absences often appear in the journalists’ lives as an acute experienced rupture from normal life. I was trying to write about the emptiness that journalism can produce.

Now that I think about it, though, I realize that I’m currently trying to stay away from the kind of fragment you define as an ellipsis, maybe because I used it too cheaply early on in my work and when I do find myself slipping into that kind of pause, I am suspicious of my motivations. And yet, all my poetry does come out of an assemblage of fragments.

Friday, February 07, 2014


The new Versal website is now live! After many years of prep and reflection, this site is FABULOUS! Check it out, sign up for the Versal Monthly newsletter on the "about" page, get info on the FEB 2014 event JOURNAL PORN taking place in Seattle, WA for AWP and prepare your own work for submission by subscribing and reading previous issues!!!