Reports from the Events

BIRI 2013 #2: A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon by C.A. Conrad

Books I Read In 2013

A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon
C.A. Conrad
Wave Books

(This is a book of C.A. Conrad's (Soma)tic Exercises with the poems he wrote after doing the exercises. I read the book and got increasingly enthused and ended up writing an exercise in tribute. Here it is.) 


"the / deer and / daisies are / not why it's / remembered"
- C.A. Conrad

Exercise: Find a site of dehumanization and trauma or violence or warfare. It can be something recent or something in the more distant past. Something close by or something you have to travel to. Terrorist attack. Drug violence. Perhaps a murder site. Perhaps a battle site nearby. Perhaps your own home. The thing is you should know right where it happened. Or have a good idea of right where it occured. You are going to go there.

As C.A. Conrad says, "The exercises are designed to fling us OUT OF our routines. Routine is what puts a cap on the imagination. [...] So the exercises give EVERYONE—no matter who—the frame to bust out of that routine, if only for a little while. The exercises get us to deliberately engage the world in unexpected ways."

Sit down in a spot where you can feel comfortable. First record the sounds of that particular place for a while. Like a few minutes. Or ten minutes. All the while take your notes. Just notes and notes. Think about what happened, but don't write about it. Feel your body in the space. Feel the fear of something bad happening to you in that same place.  Was the site a place where recent violence happened? Are you afraid something could happen to your body? Think about the ghosts that might run through that place, afraid. If you feel afraid in the space, write in that fear. If you don't feel the fear, then write in the feelings that you do have. Write what you see, what you observe, what you feel, taste, smell. Write down all of that. Try to make your writing of these notes match the rhythm of the scene, write notes with the same rhythm of the noise around you. Don't turn away from that noise. Stop and deeply listen to it. Let the writing of notes flow out of the scene in front of you. Don't feel bad about the writing not being good. Don't stress yourself in that way. Just write what you are able to write in that particular moment. Let the writing occur without getting in its way too much. There is a poem in there somewhere. Try to tease it out later.

This process of teasing out can be dicey. As C.A. Conrad says in an interview at the end of the book: "In shaping the poems there are often lines that jump out and present themselves as lines for the poem, yes, but very often lines present ways to entire new structures that were not even considered at the time of doing the exercise. Trusting the notes. Trusting too that at the time of carrying the notes around to form the poem is its own kind of exercise, BEING in the world with the notes. Does that make sense?"

If you lose hope, here is another quote from C.A.: "But WHY DO THIS? Because the world is beautiful, and I'm here, knowing its beautiful, and I'm tired of some people having money to BREATHE while others suffer. Suffering is a big part of what I look to for guidance. Suffering and love. Resistance is most urgent. Resitance is the real magic. As you soon as you set yourself down thte path of NOT being agreeable to the directives of others your poetry becomes THAT LIFE! It becomes YOUR POEMS, YOUR LIFE!"

And remember: "I never want to be anything but a student of this world who travels with other students, anxious, disturbed, always eager to imagine yet another kind of handle on the door."

A Report from the Scene: UCSD MFA First Years on May 25, 2011

So in line with this continuing series of "reports" from the events, I took notes at the recent end-of-the-year performance for the students finishing their first year at the UC San Diego MFA in Creative Writing.

My idea is to become more of an active listener-participant at events that I attend. Appropriating words from readings and performances and making a kind of listening poem or participative, collaborative text. Moving away from listening perhaps towards writing. Trying to redefine listening as an active act that implies writing as well. Writing moves closer to listening and makes the listening an act of copying and recycling. And since I am often copying in the dark or writing quickly (so as not to be noticed and given judgmental stares), I make mistakes, I rearrange, I mess up. Then when I am trying to turn my handwritten notes into a computerized blog post, another layer of trouble arises. So much troublein the world (Bob Marley dixit). In the end, they are pieces of a moment, a bit of an experience of listening (Dolores Dorantes dixit). The spirit of recycling.

Here are my notes from the event:

Here are the retypings/rewritings of the notes:

From Amy Forrest

1. Gin rummy picks a
blemish, fiercely .
2. Edie watered a
fluid arc an orb.
3. Susie the organist plays a
other wife and second grade teacher.
4. Pill box hat fucked a
secretary with blank eyes.
5. Frostie freeze frowns a
pushed back chair.

From Kara Ford-Martinez

Take a Sentimental Journey. Go away, I'm getting out. The urine soon. Her children carry her to her clatter as she tried to raise her old pickle jar. I have my glass of wine and disleveled hesitantly. The crowd was cheering wildly.

From Jennifer Lorene Ritenour

What do I need gold for? Pearls made me young again and kiss me first. What does it feel like? Swim up to the beach in the sand. Toes shaken with a knife. She doesn't like him floating inside of her. The bleeding head hung low. A nuisance making her hungry and sick while holding her. Screech.

From Allie Moreno

To take to steal
to move to probe
to explode my name
muddies the hurt
untitled hold sky.
To broom the want
roof drink like
the pillows. I read
her I do that I
didn't no capital
the traded lemon
conditions buckle
the broke rewrites
wasted uncomfortable
munching cuddly
deamon we often
conjure spearkly peeling
the river spools.
I want to, my voice.

From the Franolous Voeltz

Borders rip blanket
still over your fingers
snow tacky flake
all six kilometers
jerry canned game.

Today people live in rooms never touched by death.

A seagull found
shimmering geese
safety time one
tell me one third
boot dance duck
shape juice out.
A river jump
off naked flesh.
Never asked blood.

From Sean Ryan

Bermless friesling cocktail erasable flowers
grass the gripping receptacles ontics the Camry
the joists and drusses migrate erasing relations
curving concrete un-self-yielding to images
of signals worn carpet ashtrays signals toilet
paper ownedness crashes ontics douchebag's
sarong its sari assasin to its own visibility.

A Report from the Front

In this case the front is last night's So Much I Want to Say: An Evening of Performances with Future Plan and Program Authors curated by Steffani Jemison at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. Future Plan and Program is a publishing project featuring book-length literary works by visual artists of color. Shockingly strong work. In this case these are words appropriated from said performances as a means of reviewing, participating, collecting, archiving, remembering, saying. Appropriation makes exchange out of property, maybe. In the best of cases. In the worst of cases, the property is just taken, stolen, removed.

(As an extension of that point, I feel a bit strange, uncomfortable posting these copied notes from the performances. I am guessing most of the artists have Google Alarms on your names and will stumble on this eventually. I copied down words from each of your pieces during the performances. In the process of copying, I surely made mistakes and desired those mistakes and I definitely added some new words and made different pieces than the ones you performed. I see this as a way of being in dialogue, exchange. It is a process based on taking though, so knowing taking has a history, all feedback is welcome and will be responded to.)


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Writers's block. The circumvolutions of stopped minds. You get the idea.


All the dead voices
make noise like feathers.
If you can't transcend, you might as well descend.You can start from anything.
The silence clamors in my ears.
Let's confront each other.
What if we gave thanks for our mercies.
Where did all the corpses come from?
These skeletons?
Words fail. Is that not so that even words fail at times?
I am not a historian.
We embraced.We were happy.
Let's just keep going. The things you put into your head are there forever.
However much we resist, we're barely contained.


(I/this feeling of awkward/us)


Don't worry about what others are doing. We are all doing the same thing in a different sequence.


Spiritual warrior or one who is warlike. This is not a real name. To become a freer name in the process. On the other hand, a title explains. We've reached a point where the images aren't enough⎯a title appears. The typeface is feminine⎯strong and confident in the middle of the frame.

(We have no way of getting to things anymore.)

In case you ever find yourself asking what the right thing is.

(Different is MLK without his voice. When his words become a title.)

Malcolm X thinks there are plenty of good people in America. Consider the today of the past. He is no longer a boy leaving the hood. The writing on the wall. They're not representative⎯they're instructive. I suggest giving up. Make yourself vulnerable. Be moved by the spirit of the show. Open yourself up to the opportunity of being used.


that looks like me
in the middle who
locked up line.
my siblings.
a baby a desert a wizard to
fit in the weather
he was raped.

(Pay attention to the tap dance. Or don't. Slideshows are the epitome of boringness.)

a common reaction that you have to do
you stamp your feet
this is cutthroat
i tell him "pancreatic ducts"
the tap dance,
more steps.

blue bonnets and a black man in a blonde wig.
until you're tired.
of the tap dance.

(Play with boringness.)

Out of the David Bowie the den.


1. From the performance of Two Poems By Michael "Truth" Graham & Khorey "Greatness" Smith
2. From the performance of Better then Than When Life Was Babble? By Harold Mende
(Acted by Autumn Knight and Michael Kahlil Taylor)
3. From the performance of The Discussant By Jina Valentine
4. From the performance of So Much I Want To Say By Ayanna Jolivet McCloud
5. From the performance of The Didactic Possibilities of Film Titles By Martine Syms
6. From the performance of Adventures in Babysitting By Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Some Paraphrased Thoughts of Jen Hofer I Noted Tonight

There is no writing outside of constraint.

I get tired of making the same comments about the world.

A colophon is the part of the zine/book/chapbook where you write the process of the production of the object.

Makes me think of Mallarmé and the Coup de dés. All writing is one book and each of us adds a few lines.

Live film narration called Benshi is a genre.

Konrad Steiner calls it talking back to the talkies.

I write like a translator.

I'm going to choose to use the most politically charged lanuage and make something that makes possibility out of impossibility.

I want to bump against the language I hate.

Poems are notes we take to ourselves.

Re-presentation is always original.

It's useful to inhabit many vocabularies. We can inhabit someone else's words.

Check out the

Buy your own copy of a literary journal in a matchbook: Matchbook. Volume Two features Matvei Yankelevich, Hoa Ngyuen and more.

A Partial Reading List:

Your Country is Great by Ara Shirinyan
Holocaust by Charles Reznikoff
Transcript by Heimrad Backer
Zong! by NourbeSe Philip