Sunday, September 10, 2017

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Ted Landrum

Ted Landrum’s debut book Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems (2017) is a work of serious play interrogating the architecture of poetry and the poetry of architecture. His work has been published in a variety of local and international venues, including: CV2, Lemon Hound, American Society for Aesthetics, On Site Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Rhubarb, The Winnipeg Review, Edge Condition, and two books by Routledge: Quality Out of Control and Confabulations: Storytelling in Architecture. Between distractions Ted is building an archive of “archi-poetry” research at, and is a co-curator for Winnipeg’s Architecture + Design Film Festival. Ted has lived in nearly a dozen cities, including Chicago, New York City, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg, where he teaches architecture at the University of Manitoba.

1 - How did your first book change your life?
            Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems (2017) is not my first collection of poetry, but it is my first properly published book. The book is rooted in much change and persistence and calls for more of both—and something else decidedly mid-between. We can call this middle transformation changistanding permaflux, or life-strife. Everyone lives it—but poets try to say it, show it, reshape it; maybe intensify it, opening it/us up for questions and responses.

How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
            The short answer is I’m older, happier and angrier: angrier in politics, happier in love. I’ve read more, seen more of the world, and try to listen more carefully. On the other hand, twenty years later, I’m still learning from the serious play of poetry: philosophically, artistically and personally.
            As for precursors, there are three: a stapled gathering of poems called NY gist, given to friends and strangers (since 1998); and two creative research “books” from my university days, both mingling poetry with other modes of heuristic making: Tube and Tuber: The Quest for Criteria (’95); and This is Not a Thesis (’93). So, my debut book is less an emergence than a return to poetry; and a return to school as well, to teach and learn, struggle and play.
            If this new book has any consequences I damn well hope they are good ones.

2 - How did you come to poetry first? as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
            I made my way to poetry by jumping disciplinary and epistemic fences. Somewhat before poetry did, architecture appeared to me as a shining fork in the road, “midway” between engineering and theatre (science and art). I picked it up, and to my delight, this middle way continued forking: to archi-poetry, and to teaching. This forked place I call archi-poetry is an incomplete synthesis: a potential common ground, always under construction, seldom understood, and often under-siege. But there is more to the story of how I came to poetry—first.
            Although I refer to my work as archi-poetry, the real archi- (or beginning), for me as a poet, was not architecture but a mix of music and theatre. The first poetry was the poetry of music—not wordplay but sound-play. I’ve been particularly influenced by jazz, meaning: ensemble improvisation; experimentation with harmony, rhythm, melody and the altered voice; the play of call and response; and, ambiguous elaborations of physical, intellectual and emotional release. As for listening, I’m still learning from the world of jazz. I’m also influenced by experimental music, from Satie to Subotnick. Meredith Monk is easily my favourite musical poet: Volcano Songs, Dolmen Music, Do You Be. I first heard Meredith Monk’s ensemble perform in NYC in the mid ‘90s. At the same time, I had the fortune to witness live readings by her friend, the experimental poet Jackson Mac Low (including this “Merzgedicht” tribute to Kurt Schwitters), and other great poets as well: notably, Allen Ginsberg performing "Howl" (at the Knitting Factory jazz club); Charles Simic, and Charles Bernstein.
            Of course there were books too, but music was my first poetry foundation, building up all through my teens and twenties. Meanwhile, similar formative experiences in theatre (both acting & scenic arts) were taking place at the same time. Of course, it’s much more complex than that, but jazz and drama remain the most germinal roots of my approach to poetry.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process?
            The poetry muse is quick and slow. Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems took about eight months to assemble and refine, but gathers material spanning decades of inquiry and struggle. Several poems commenced when I began teaching eleven years ago, but their roots go back (as suggested) at least thirty years: when I decided (ca1988) to study architecture as an alternative practice (midway between science and art). It was on the threshold of making this decision—as I recall, on the mezzanine of a split-level bookstore—that I found and read Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats (1918). I now see in retrospect this book opening a way to archi-poetry.
            So, how long does it take? Thirty years, thirty days, thirty minutes, and thirty seconds. Biography aside, poetry involves both sudden vision and sustained revision. It’s not just slow cooking, but a cosmic cornucopia of festina lente twists—brief as breath, slow as shadow.   

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you?
            According to Wittgenstein: “Thoughts rise to the surface slowly, like bubbles.” (Perhaps he said this sipping on a lager.) Metaphors rise quickly too. Like a sneeze, or hiccups, they’re not easy to suppress. Likewise, poetry bubbles up: when we least expect it, when we shake things up, or become shook up. Does poetry come from within, or from agitated situations? Both! Francis Ponge says all this and more in Soap, comparing poetry, language and discourse to a bubbly, worked-up lather. Like Ponge, I’m interested in how poetry “again and again” works into the architecture of shared experience, as a loosening and leavening agent, then dissolves and evaporates—leaving us refreshed, awake and ready to start again.
            Anything can lead to poetry: a desire, a dilemma, a diversion, a doubt. More specifically, what I call archi-poetry, begins by hybrid questioning; by finding and making connections, openings and beginnings; by bending and breaking rules; and by responding to sources: books, poems, essays, paintings; situations, conversations, events, etc. Many of the poems in Midway Radicals are found-poems made by sampling source texts I’m learning from and responding to in searching & improvisatory ways. Why work with prior sources? Obviously, poems begin with desire for poetry, but poetry precedes us. Either it was built in “from the beginning” and is therefore everywhere, or it was forgotten, remaining latent in the negative. Whether as abundance or absence, poetry keeps bubbling up.

Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
            Like John Coltrane, "I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once." But poetry is a cosmic synthesizer, it “makes sense” in multiple directions, and multiple scales. The world of the “book” spins everywhere mid-between the macro-gestalt of big wide open questions and the micro-gestures within individual poems. Insofar as the book is a portable laboratory itself subject to experimental poetry (Anne Carson’s Float is a recent example), most of my experimentation happens in the minutia of individual poems: phrases are fractured by line breaks, by ellipses and caesurae, by sonic play, by narrative jump-cuts, by polysemic neologism and metaphor; by altered syntax, and by contradiction and surprise. I’m interested in form as a questionable phenomenon influenced by the play of content in a poem, as well as by the play of methods. What all that means for the form of a book, I’ve been less focused on.
            In my case, the fluidity of the book has been anchored, loosely, by the working title: Midway Radicals. This ambiguous rubric came to me roughly nine years ago when we arrived in Winnipeg, famous “middle” of the North American continent. Having arrived in the middle, we found ourselves in the midst of quasi-radical controversies, concerning (among other things), the varieties of media and mediation involved in making and interpreting architecture as an art. Were there inhabitable middle grounds, for example, between abstract and concrete, public and private, verbal and non-verbal, meaning and non-meaning? Similar midway radical questions regarding the poetics of in medias res, the philosophy of the golden mean, the intersubjective drama of participation in liminal and interstitial situations, etc, became generative of archi-poetic topics and methods. More than glue, it is this tenacious cluster of concerns, questions and milieux, that bind the poems into a book.
            The decision to aim for 100 pages helped, but a book wants to be more than a quantity of nailed together theses. It needs some sense of opening up at the beginning and unwinding, rewinding, at the end. One way I tried to do this is by opening with a hammer and culminating with a tower, a question, and wink. The wink, I guess, is the last word—“world”—used as a verb. Is that a spoiler, or bait on a hook?
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
            Yes, absolutely! I anticipate reading/performing poems for and with others. This is not merely a matter of post-compositional delivery, but part of what motivates the making and doing of poetry from the get go. Not only reading aloud but writing is a bodily, and social, rehearsal. To craft a poem on the stage of the page does not sever voice from eye, nor sound from sense; neither does it mute the play of senses beyond the senses.
            I’ll say it again: Poetry is (among other things) a mingling of music and drama—and that makes for serious fun! On the other hand, the potential for dramatic spectacle is embedded in the architecture of any text, perhaps especially a text transformed. To read over a poem, even in solitary silence, can be both an intimate rehearsal and a moving performance. Maybe a little/big curtain opens within the reader, and a transformative catharsis begins. Maybe when this happens, the reader is not alone.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
            There are many questions, obviously. And I will not shut up about them! Plus, readers bring their own questions to poetry’s table. This partial layering and spilling-over of concerns invites reflection. To paraphrase my partner in the crime of theory, Lisa Landrum: “theory” means looking and wondering adventurously, within and beyond your own situation, and sharing this festival of discovery with others. Like theory, poetry throws everything into question; back to school, if you will.
            Years ago, as an “outsider” student of literature, “reader response theory” became a topic of interest for me; along with “performative language” as discussed by J.L. Austin, the controversial Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, the “strange making” ostranenie in Viktor Shklovsky’s “Art as Technique”, and other post-structural meta-poetic flarf. As I see it, this material is eye-opening, emancipatory and fun!
            Alongside this carnival of lit-theory, I’ve pitched archi-poetry as a hybrid inquiry, since both sides can be thrown together into question, and because each side questions the other. I’m asking: What is an archi-poem? What is the architecture of poetry, and vice versa? For archi-theory, I’m drawing on my own experiences (and doubts), but am also testing what I’ve learned from others (especially Lisa!): What if “archi-” means beginnings, rules and sources? What if “poetry” means making, world-making and sense-making, but making entails finding, choosing and changing—our situations, and our lives. The tradition of “concrete poetry” is at play, and perhaps at stake. As is the long conjectured prima-materia logos a crucial question underlying every archi-poem: Is language (and the conditions for language) the ur-architecture we continue to inhabit, interpret, and reciprocally transform? Meanwhile, as pointed out, I’m curious: How the philosophy of the mean and the poetics of in medias res meaningfully jive, or not, in the crucible of shared experience. Archi-poetry is a an optimistic exploration, but I’m also keen to blow open the constraining limits of language, logic and sense, by breaking rules, challenging assumptions, and engaging in the play of interpretive improvisation. Perhaps I’m risking anarchy-poetry as much as archi-poetry.
            Happily, the reader need not share ANY of my mid-falutin questions. Theory aside, I enjoy poetry for its own sake, and expect readers do too.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
            Asking questions is not enough. We must respond creatively and critically, and provoke change. In other words: “save the world” (from reductive misanthropic ecocidal war-mongering fossil-fuel kleptocrats) before it’s too late! Seriously, poetry may not be fact-bound in the same way as investigative journalism or scholarship, but (like architecture) it has political and philosophical potency. Like any art, writing can renew our capacities for perception, choice and change; but the course of action remains open to question. What is speech? What is writing? What is art? What is life? Every work of poetry asks these questions, playfully and seriously; and with unknown others in mind.

8 – Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Any editor who remains outside the poem is neither reading nor editing. But the editor who goes inside, not simply any particular poem but the poetry-in-the-making, that is an exemplary reader. To do this, the editor should have some familiarity, and sympathetic understanding, regarding the approach to poetry. An editor who rejects meta-syntactical pandemonium, for example, would have been a real drag for me. Happily, that did not happen!
I’m completely thrilled with the book in its published form, and very grateful to Garry Thomas Morse. Garry is an extraordinary poet, and his editorial camaraderie was an aid to me.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
            “Reality is a cliché from which we escape by metaphor”—Wallace Stevens                                      
            “Metaphor… is the supreme way of searching for truth”—Charles Simic
            Table-talk Sampler: Follow your bliss, but dodge the abyss. Less is more, but variety pleases. All things in moderation, even moderation. Listen to silence, but don’t take it personally. People need space, time, and something to chew on. When in doubt, meander. When sure, meander. Truth is a multi-story labyrinth, with ephemeral wings. The cosmos is human, and open. The human is an open cosmos. Apathy is blindness, in disguise. Anger is urgent, but riddled with blind spots. Same with love, only the blind spots become kaleidoscopic movie projectors. You are me and I am you, is the gist of many stories, whether true or not. Reading is an art. Friendship is honest, but knows when to change the subject. Be a friend to yourself, and others too.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose to visual art)?
            Easy enough to try, difficult enough to bother? No, that’s too flippant. Easy because these activities are not radically different. Difficult because each “genre” is a practice, with peculiar traditions, tools, tricks, tribes, turfs, etc. But any genuine practice is porous, mutable and mobile; eccentrically embroiled, utterly friable, and heterogeneously baked. Am I going too far? Not flarf enough? Perhaps genre-flux is the easiest and most difficult art. According to Kenneth Goldsmith, whereas “Easy is a window…Difficult is the foundation upon which easy is built...[and] easy can…be difficult to maintain.” Happily, we cannot rely on any single modality to explore the human universe.

What do you see as the appeal?
            In short: “…the act of being / More than oneself.”—George Oppen “World, World—”
            The world is complex and variegated, and we participate in that world more fully, more truly, when we do so diversely, and artfully. To paraphrase the author of The Relevance of the Beautiful, (who praised “The Play of Art” and questioned “The Limitations of the Expert”) specialization can hinder compassion, distort judgment, and enable injustice by obscuring bias and complicity. On working multifariously, we needn’t force it, but the festival of life ought to be open to everyone who is curious. My own genre jumping has never been a simple matter of artistic freedom and curiosity. Circumstances have compelled me to experiment widely, and to resist the closing down of possibilities. Again: “Obsessed, bewildered / By the shipwreck / Of the singular // We have chosen the meaning / Of being numerous.”— George Oppen “Of Being Numerous”

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one?
            Maybe routine writing needs to be subverted. Maybe each project has it’s own vulnerability and resistance to routines. I do strive to coordinate my little poetry factory with the rhythms of the world. So far, I can’t say I’ve succeeded at this in any consistent way. I’ve found I need a project, and a provisional set of rules, to focus my poetic response. Poetry workshops are doubly helpful, being finite, and social. Participation in a monthly reading series with other poets who’ve heard my work, and with strangers, helps keep me on the toes of the game. Bursts of productivity coincide with opportunities to share my work in a new forum or context. Working hypothesis: if specificities of reception can provoke a poem, that poem is archi-poetry, and the situation is too.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? 
            I simply do something else, then return to my sources, my questions, seek out new sources, new questions, or I change the rules: which all amount to the same thing. I return to sources not only in “down time” but as a way of grounding my work in discourses and contexts larger than, and prior to, myself. My poems are not about me, but respond to topics and questions others have treated well, and differently, before me. Responding to other sources can be liberating, nourishing, humbling, aggravating, and maybe even boring. In every case, the work becomes less a private monologue, and more engaged in a shared manifold. This not only grounds poetry in the universal but makes it more dramatic, surprising and open.  

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
            I’ve had many homes, few of olfactory distinction. The best smells remind me of vacations. I’m habituated to the smell of old books, and cats, though my partner will now and again sneeze. We’re not into potpourri, though I suspect our neighbours are. I wish there were a bakery next door, not just for the aroma. In case of emergency, we’ll open a window or spray-paint the air with blasts of gaseous lemon. If you ask about my childhood home, that’s easy to paint-by-nose: cornfield mixed with tree breeze and a hint of limestone, punctuated by wafts of bug spray, molten marshmallow, and chlorinated pool.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
            Yes, I’ve been going on and on about them. Absurd as it is, the entire encyclopedia I try to learn from and synthesize. But I have biases. Of nature, I’m concerned with human nature. Of science, human science. Of art, the arts of being human, from Aesop to Zelig, from Quipu to Parrhesia on the internet.
            As for hard science, I still get a vague charge from quantum physics, especially as described by Lucretius and the pre-Socratics. “Catastrophe Theory” once captured, then released, my imagination with epistemological folds, in the form of diagrams bull-fighting the unknown.
            The role of media and mediating technology (think McLuhan) is a recurring fascination. Compared to architecture, poetry is wonderfully low-tech, and this contrast is part of poetry’s appeal, and leverage. In truth, the medium of language, is hardly simple. And perhaps there is no technology more complex than poetic language. The true medium of poetry is neither letters, nor speech, nor sound, but the reflective capability of responsive human beings: poetry is a mimesis of human action, and can be observed in all the arts. I’m interested in all the arts, but also in prosaic human actions.
            As for artistic influences, I’ve mentioned music and drama. Obviously, architecture is an ubiquitous and pressing concern. I’ve said the poems are not about me, but my architectural experiences have informed every poem. Louis Sullivan’s Bayard-Condict building (in New York), for example, is present (between the lines) of “So Nets the middle of Crosby and Bleecker”—both the intersection and the building are extraordinarily captivating. You’re not asking about books here, but specific texts on and around the topic of architecture are not only influential, but have been appropriated as source texts, which I’ve taken cross-sections through, salvaged material from, and thoroughly renovated. Roland Barthes’ essay on the Eiffel Tower gave rise to three poems, each sampling text in a different way. In making those poems, I’m also drawing on my own memory of visiting the tower, as well as on certain paintings, photographs, films and poems, featuring the tower: including Rene Clair’s silent film, Paris Qui Dort, which imagines the tower as a diabolical time machine, and Apollinaire’s famous Calligramme, which figures the tower as a tongue stuck out at occupying Germans.
            I’m interested in artistic processes that deal with appropriation and assembly of found materials and fragments. Montage in film, and collage as explored across the arts: Arcimboldo, Schwitters, Rauschenberg, and the ready-mades of Duchamp. Collage is happening in every line of every poem in the book; but the distribution of text is also sometimes operating as a mosaic, or fragment of a larger mosaic in progress, which the reader is invited to fill in.
            As for direct artistic influences, there are several ekphrastic poems in the book, created in response to an exhibition of paintings called “Re-Configuring Abstraction.” This series of poems, called “Systematic Encounter (in Plural Parts)”, responds not simply to individual paintings, but to the architecture of the gallery, including the arrangement of paintings relative to one another in the space. It also reinterprets examples of ur-ekphrasis: Homer’s description of Achilles shield; and Enkidu’s ritual haircut, a scene in the Epic of Gilgamesh which we all re-enact from time to time. If you’re curious, please go read the poems, because all this explaining is growing long.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
            Every thing by Francis Ponge; Gertrude Stein’s “Portraits” and Stanzas in Meditation; Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago”; John Cage’s Composition in Retrospect; Lyn Hejinian’s The Cell; A.R. Ammons’s Sphere and Tape for the turn of the Century; most of Jackson Mac Low; Charles Simic (whose essays are also good); Paul Celan (via Hamburger and Joris); e. e. cummings; Marianne Moore; David Antin’s “talk-poems”; R.D. Laing’s Knots; Mary Ellen Solt’s Concrete Poetry: A World View; Creeley’s Hello; Jacques Prévert’s Paroles (via Ferlinghetti); George Oppen’s This in Which and Of Being Numerous; Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets; Ron Silliman’s Age of Huts; Kay Ryan; Auden’s About the House
            I’m keen on Canadian poets too, but am a late learner. Steve McCaffery’s Theory of Sediment was my starting point. Since then, bp Nichol (in small doses); Jan Zwicky’s Wisdom & Metaphor; Christian Bök’s Eunoia and Xenotext; Sylvia Legris’ Nerve Squal; Sina Queyras’ MxT; Deborah Schnitzer’s Loving Gertrude Stein and Gertrude Unmanageable; and the accumulating fireworks of Derek Beaulieu. Fred Wah’s is a door struck a chord with me for the way he dramatizes the “in-between”, and I’m now digging into Scree. The growing influence of Canadian poets on my work has come via friendship and workshops. Other Canadian archi-poets, or architects turned poets, whose work interests me, are Lisa Robertson and Ingrid Ruthig (This Being). I’m on the lookout for archi-poets, so please let me know if you are one or know any!
            Regarding “archi-poetry” the most important precedents are: Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings; Le Corbusier’s Poem of the Right Angle; Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space; John Hejduk’s Such Places as Memory; Jill Stoner’s anthology Poems for Architects; certain poems by Francis Ponge, and many others I won’t name. Just about any book of poems has archi-poetry in it, but my definition is very broad. Much like nature, the theme is universal. Which reminds me, there are several key chapters in Alberto Pérez-Gómez’ Built Upon Love, in which he celebrates the role of language, metaphor, emotive intelligence, and poetic imagination, in understanding of architecture.
            I’ve long been an adventurous if erratic reader. I don’t have much patience for novels, I regret to say. I’m most fond of experimenters: Italo Calvino, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Georges Perec, and Bruno Schultz have been favourites. Back on the side of theory, in my graduate studies I was introduced to some key texts by Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Philip Sidney, Lacan, and others either mentioned above, or easily guessed. I’ve also read widely in the area of drama (Stanislavsky, Artaud, Beckett, Jarry, Ionesco), and more than the usual share of philosophy (beginning with Nietzsche’s Zarathustra).
            Finally, as hinted above, one of the most important authors in my life is my partner Lisa Landrum. Her scholarship continues to provoke and inform my work, giving me cause to read more than I might have otherwise. I probably would never have gotten around to reading much of Homer and Hesiod, Aristophanes and Euripides, Plato and Aristotle, Gadamer and Ricoeur, etc, if it were not for her research. Much of what I’ve said here springs from conversation we’ve had over the years, learning from each other. Anyone interested in architectural theory should definitely look at her work, which is far more important (and rigorous!) than my poems.  

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
            Finish this questionnaire? Honestly, the work I’m doing is not done. Teaching at a university is one of the best jobs anyone can have, in part because fresh students help you start all over again every year. Poetry fits very well into this teaching work, because it helps me continue to learn, to keep an open mind, to push myself critically and creatively, and to vent in a fruitful manner. In addition to poetry and teaching, I’m involved in an annual film festival, which is wonderfully inexhaustible. And Lisa and I have been collaborating for twenty years on artistic projects, which we’d like to do more of. Much of our creative energy goes into teaching, and that work is happily never done.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be?
            I love the variety of work I’ve taken on, teaching, poetry, collaborative art projects, the film festival, but sometimes I think I should be doing more to avert the end of the world. Personally, I think I’ve made the right choices. It’s as a society we need to make big changes, end xenophobic wars, rein in oligarchs and profiteers, divest from global apartheid and fossil fuel ecocide, etc!
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
            “Thought leaps on us’ because we are here. That is the fact”—George Oppen
            Plus, I don’t write instead of doing other things, I write as part of doing other things: because I can and must; and to make my participation in life more meaningful, more enjoyable, and more  transformative. Is the decision to write a personal choice, or a social and political imperative? Does the urge arise out of circumstance? Yes, it bubbles over. Poetry was always already in the air: music and drama made me do it. What else? A mix of intellectual curiosity and artistic desire, which I picked up from an early age. Of course, there have been many productive discontents.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
            One “great book” I’ve just read is a fresh (but posthumous) text by Francis Ponge. The Table (Wakefield Press 2017) is an open-ended interrogation of the poet’s writing table. Like many of his poems, it discloses not only the wonder in ordinary things, but analogous qualities of language and human existence. Just notes, really, it’s an example of poetry as research. Begun in 1967, Ponge was still working at it when he died in 1988. A short book on a small table, it is able to open huge and inexhaustible worlds. The Table is also “great” when read in relation to Ponge’s other cosmo-poetic works: “The Pebble” and The Making of the Prè (or meadow). Partly by chance, partly by choice, the cover of my book features a painting (by Lars Lerup) displaying a similar table. Upon that table are some curious artifacts, perhaps architectural models, in the midst of being made—not a still life, but a tableau vivant. I’d been thinking about this table for months, as a magical threshold inviting readers into archi-poetry. Then came to my own table this little book on Ponge’s table.
            I have to mention another great little book, operating in the reciprocal direction: Proust’s On Reading (1905). Ponge on the table is optional, but Proust on reading is not!
            Regarding films, my cinephilia is as bad as my bibliophilia. I’m involved in Winnipeg’s annual Architecture + Design Film Festival, so I could name many great films on that subject, among the best being Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle. A more recent film I loved is Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog (2015). As for other poetry-films: Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson (2016) is kinder and calmer than Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool (1997); and Justin Stephenson’s documentary on bpNichol, The Complete Works (2015), is a CanPoetry must.

20 - What are you currently working on?
            I’m trying to arrange readings in other cities to promote the book, and hopefully generate some cross-disciplinary exchange. There’s also a collaborative project ongoing with some eccentric poetry friends, but I don’t want to jinx them, so enough said about that. Otherwise, I have an expanding universe of poems in progress, continuing along the same lines as what I’ve been doing, and responding to sources.
            I can give a few examples of sources I’m working with. I’ve just finished a poem called “Reversible Destiny” as a tribute to a decades long project by the artist couple Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa as described in their book Architectural Body (2002). That poem will be published in Warehouse, an annual student journal where I am lucky to teach. This will be the second poem I’ve published in that venue, because I’m keen to introduce poetry to students as a mode of creative and critical research. Other poems I’m working on renovate source texts by philosophers, critics, theorists and poets: including Giorgio Agamben, John Hejduk, Freud, McLuhan and others. These poems could be called found-erasure poems, or found-sound poems (since I’m playing with sound as well as text and sense), but I’ve come to think of them simply as archi-poems, where archi- acknowledges that poems have “sources” and “rules”—one key rule being intuitive improvisation. I began by transforming prose essays into poems, but have also been making poems from poems. All of this is auto-didactic, but also serious and liberating fun.
            There is a long tradition of working through prior texts, and I find this recycling paradigm is itself a source (archi-) of discovery and delight. It’s also simply a way to keep reading. I agree with aspects of Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author argument, but we all know the author is not dead, and neither is poetry. What worries me more is the Death of the Reader. When the reader is dead, what then? Long live libraries!

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