Thursday, May 29, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR FRAGMENT XI: Laura Mullen responds

What is YOUR fragment? Poets explain this technique as it appears in their books (see the original questions HERE and an elaboration on my reflections HERE). Responses 1-10 have been supplied by (click names to see their posts): Lisa Pasold, Marthe Reed, George Vance, rob mclennan, j/j hastain, Michael Ruby Jennifer K Dick, Afton Wilky, Pearl Pririe and Tilla Brading This week poet Laura Mullen responds.

Laura Mullen is the author of eight books: Complicated Grief is forthcoming from Solid Objects in 2014. Recognitions for her poetry include Ironwood’s Stanford Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award. She has had several MacDowell Fellowships and is a frequent visitor at the Summer Writing Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. Her work has been widely anthologized and is included in Postmodern American Poetry, and American Hybrid (Norton), and I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues). Undersong, the composer Jason Eckardt’s setting of “The Distance (This)” (from Subject) was released on Mode records in 2011. Mullen is the McElveen Professor in English at LSU and a contributing editor for the on-line poetry site The Volta.

‘Brevis oratio penetrat celum’, ‘A short prayer pierces heaven’—a phrase from late medieval England. “Schort preier peersith heven”--from The Cloud of Unknowing. Or, Woolf, from The Waves: “I need a little language such as lovers use…”

The fragment as broken blade, as shrapnel, or something softer, virus, pollen? It enters and goes on entering: it works its way in. Because it halts it continues…

In the place where an absence abrupt calls attention to itself (there’s something missing) there’s a sharpness, an edge we can’t help running a thumb over and then pushing into the skin.

At the site of the _____________ the possibility of something else there, marriage of what is and what could be: cyborg, hybrid thing, it’s the excited site of the active join…something made by writer and reader (and in this way all texts are fragments, fragmentary…).

The “readerly” text is made “writerly,” as starred—by Roland Barthes—in S/Z. A starring or scarring that makes of the text a collection of bits and pieces. Look up “analysis.” Break it down for me.

Shattered by attention, mended by attention. And vice versa.

Anything, as Gertrude Stein noticed, is interesting if you read it one word at a time.

The fragment is history’s gift, time’s present, the astonishing evidence of care and carelessness—from Sappho’s poems down to the phonemes found on the blotting paper in the library in a detective novel which become the clue or key (absolving, betraying) and on to all our willful contemporary erasures…

Isn’t the fragment “Antifragile” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s great word)? It gains from disorder, from the chaos of possible interpretations, from the force that eroded the original intention, from the creative power of the questions we bring to the encounter with the incomplete. Time and hard use are its friends and further destruction only opens further possibility… Maybe?

With each loss what’s left becomes more meaningful—up to a certain point?

Insofar as the fragment gives birth to the archivist, detective and scholar at once, it is the productive site of an ardent engagement involving memory and imagination, selflessness and an exquisite delight.

My first experience of the fragment in all its mystery / mastery was (I think) that one sentence chapter in a William Faulkner novel—(“My mother…” I could not believe what I was reading, I knelt as I finished the sentence “is a fish”)—my first experience in Art, that is.
In Life? Ah…
My most recent experience of the fragment is The Gorgeous Nothings, that transformative collection of Emily Dickinson’s aphorisms, scraps, drafts, explorations: short prayers still working their way inward in me, each with its pale wake of spacious quiet, each stillness, each stop, awakening “that awful stranger, consciousness.”

Murmur and Subject, the start of my love affair with what passes out of reach (oh I’m lying: that “love” would have begun when I was four, yes? With my parents’ divorce?): in Murmur the unfinished phrases make a constant enactment of the way even those of us not stopped mid-sentence by violence rarely get to see anything finished… But after beginning to think seriously about Stein, and then after “the Federal Flood” (in which my notes on Stein dissolved) I wanted more than ever to make openings (I think so, I think I think so, I think this is what I remember):                     writing
                        instead of      
not even now knowing the                                              
                                                                                              letter by

And then there was Zong!
It takes so much courage to stay at the site of the phoneme where the wronged begin to talk back to communicate in what wat

Fragment: I fall upon that
Fragment: rough splinters of smoke caught my
Fragment: half here or half gone, denial and suggestion
Fragment: souvenir site of some trouble to remember
Fragment: half silence
Fragment: at the end at the beginning
Fragment: at once ancient and young

And then, then…life. All this thinking and the giddiness of speech or rather writing and then recalling the face of the young woman who confessed she’d been molested, felt “sick,” about it didn’t know how to speak… Haunts me. The fragmented lives. The places where, torn open, silence intervenes, where shame shuts down the rest of the…the…

“I hate eloquence,” Helene Cixous said, in another language, a translated phrase that stays with me. The smooth power to assert put only to the exploration of safe topics.

Fragment: I stilled under the unwanted caress and stayed there
Fragment: sickened
Fragment: then it seemed
Fragment: this thing I wasn’t to speak of wasn’t sure had to no words for ashamed
Fragment: that it was not chosen is

Where the promising beginning was
 by greed by lust twisted power cruel and
. Or further, at the grave of the
or suicide.

Life itself as something we struggle to understand from the shards left to us, left in us…

Where we don’t even get to dream in the sentence, or where that notion of where we might have been able to go is only a ghost, lost phantom clause that could have, you have to believe me, would have, if only

Fragment: where was it you first learned to think of it like that?

Fragment: in celebration and mourning

Here is the hole, the holy broken edge of heaven, all we’ve been left, all we will leave.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recent publications.... and pics, plus an event announcement!

Travels and travails. The spring is alive with movement, with the awakening despite, today, a return to a fallish greyness here in Paris. But to combat the grey cloudy mood one needs so little, so little of something--perhaps just a bit of joy? Or shiny souvenirs of fabulous encounters and travels and new publications to make one feel loved and to also lead one to discover new authors one is published alongside. SO--here below are a few pics of recent events and announcements for new publications. This mini list ends with info on my forthcoming June 7th reading in Amsterdam! 


As these photos show (reading pics by Prague-based photographer Robert Carrithers republished here with his permission, the final pic is by me, as it has the great nightmood of central Prague--taken near Celetna 20), I travelled to Prague for their annual Prague Poetry Microfestival where I met for the second time the wonderful, talented young translator and writer Olga Pekova who brought some of my CERN poems into the Czech language. We gave a reading on one of the 4 nights of the festival, but I was especially excited to discover so many other authors--in particular the novelist who wrote DWELLING (Reality Street books, 2011--click title to order), Richard Mankin--who read on the extra-conference Fiction prequel night to the Microfestival. And what a delight it was to see old friends and new in-person friends after long cyber-contact: Michael Farrell and Vanessa Place. Here is a great picture of them contemplating the wall in the Prague Czech Repulic Senate garden!:

MOLLY BLOOM issue two, available free and online HERE, includes work by Rachel Lerhman, Rob Stanton, rob mcclennan, Mark Russell, Sarah Crewe, Frances Presley, Jennifer K Dick, Osip Mandelstam translated by Alistair Noon, Vahni Capildeo, DS Marriott, Clive Semmens, and Geraldine Monk. It is edited by Aiden Simmons

author and critic AMY CATANZANO for Jacket 2:
--What do you think? Am I part of U+F+O+L+A+N+G+U+A+G+E poetry? Read what Amy says HERE and let me know! See her article to check out a GREAT image by Maria Damon whose work and many others is discussed by Amy in her article.

IV) TEARS IN THE FENCE ISSUE 59--including my 10th column in the series entitled "OF TRADITION AND EXPERIMENT" 
See TITF's website for more info or to order a copy at:
Or join their FB group at:

My article is Of Tradition and Experiment X: a roundup of 5 excellent small press publications : Afton Wilky's Clarity Speaks of a Crystal Sea (Flim Forum, 2014), The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather (Birds LLC, 2013), Matvei Yankelevich's Alpha Donut (United Artists Books, 2012), Laurie Price's Radio at Night (Lunar Chandelier Press, 2013) and Jackqueline Frost's You Have the Eyes of a Martyr (O'Clock Press chapbook). 

Additional mini-reviews included at the closure of my column mention Lily Robert-Foley's M (Corrupt, 2013), Michelle Noteboom's Roadkill (Corrupt, 2013), Frances Richard's ANARCH. (FuturePoem, 2012), Matthew Cooperman and Marius Lehene's IMAGO for the fallen world (Jaded Ibis, 2013), as well as Shira Dentz's door of thin skins (CavenKerry, 2013)

V) CELEBRATORY READING for CONVERSION in the midst of the gorgeous art show for bookmaker, sculptor, painter and engraver KATE VAN HOUTEN of ESTEPA EDITIONS at ELIANE FIEVET's home gallery space.
This was a beautiful evening of sharing poems in a space filled with the most amazing sculpture. If you are interested in ordering a copy of CONVERSION, the limited edition book in handmade boxes, numbered 1-50, can be ordered through Kate Plus Books and via email directly at estepa [dot] editions [at] gmail [dot] com They are 50euros. See an image in the announcement below of the book.

INFO for event: 5PM on Sat 7 June at Boekie Woekie bookstore, Berenstraat 16, 1016 GH Amsterdam in The Netherlands.
BIOS/ ARTIST INFO: Kate Van Houten, founder, editor and creator of Estepa éditions, is a visual artist, bookmaker and book-binder based in Paris, France. Her collaborative and individual books include publications of one-off exclusive art books to a more affordable range of small editions of up to 100--see a few samples at She has worked with Jennifer K Dick on two occasions--first for a bilingual edition RETINA/RETINE in 2007 with art and binding by Kate, poem in 8 sections by Jennifer K Dick and a translation by Rémi Bouthonnier (available at Boekie Woekie). Now Jennifer and Kate will be coming to Amsterdam to celebrate their most recent collaboration "CONVERSION"--a set of 7 folio pages in an edition of 50, text printed in a deep blue ink with watercolor and ink images by Kate Van Houten traversing the pages and some of the texts. This is "bound" in a bordeaux colored handmade box in which the folio pages and their cover page slip in and out delicately. Jennifer composed these poems in Greece and Paris and they have the island feel of summer. Jennifer works for the Amsterdam-based literary magazine, VERSAL, and is the author of various other books and chapbooks. 

photo courtesy of

Boekie Woekie's home site is at:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR FRAGMENT X: Tilla Brading responds

What is YOUR fragment? Poets explain this technique as it appears in their books (see the original questions HERE and an elaboration on my reflections HERE). Responses 1-8 have been supplied by (click names to see their posts): Lisa Pasold, Marthe Reed, George Vance, rob mclennan, j/j hastain, Michael Ruby Jennifer K Dick, Afton Wilky and Pearl Pririe. This week Welsh poet Tilla Brading responds.
Tilla Brading’s work has evolved from drawing on her experience of her up-bringing on a hill farm in Wales, of people and situations to move away from such rooted ideas and seek a freer exploration of language and semantics, performance and the visual.  She is currently resting as Editor of Odyssey/PQR, formerly based at Coleridge Cottage, and was recently working on a collaboration with Frances Presley, taking as a starting point, the stone settings of Exmoor but is now tracing some chance threads. Her poetry books include: Possibility of Inferno (Odyssey Poets 1997), AUTUMnal Jour (Maquette Press 1998) and Notes in a Manor: of Speaking (Leafe Press 2002). Her poetry has also appeared widely in a variety of magazines including: Shearsman, Oasis, Fire, Staple, Ramraid Extroadinaire, Terrible Work, and Memes. To see a few recent extracts of her work, click to check out: HOW2


out of      categories                present            ruptures    
in  space
    as accretion becoming

Probably finding de-construction led to my dropping stitches in a thread of linear sense and leaving holes where words had been. It also reflected a disintegration – the 80’s recession, relationships, parents, the status quo.
I welcome the elusiveness of meaning, the unsaid speaking, the visual random.
Also, I have found that fragments as objects have featured in pieces of my work

de-construction                       dropping stitches                     thread linear sense
holes where words had been   disintegration

elusiveness                  unsaid speaking                      visual random.
      fragments as objects                     pieces