Monday, February 22, 2010


The series of poems you have in the current issue of Sir are amazing, incredibly succinct. You say, “Practice is a trope.” What a concept, especially in the context of the poem. Where did this idea come from and does it figure in this series of poems, “I Destroy Romantic Memories”?

I wrote this line a long time ago. This question is interesting because it makes me read the line in a separate context.

When I started writing this series of poems, I had ideas that were less interesting to me than what the poems started to become. I was learning how to write a series of poems, and learning how to get my ideas out of the way in order to figure out what the poems wanted to be (not say). I was learning to see things from the middle. I was at the cusp of beginning the program at Brown and hadn’t spent so much time alone with words in my life.

I don’t want to write a certain kind of poem. “Practice” with regard to poetry usually speaks to a conventional idea of mastery: that one can master technique and learn to write a more perfect poem. I don’t want to master poetry or ever feel like there’s any place to arrive. I don’t want to feel comfortable or complacent.

What's your daily life like? How much time do you devote to writing and thinking? (as opposed to all the other daily crap, including making money and also even writing-related stuff)?

I do my best thinking when I’m on the move or moving or in transit between physical and/or psychological spaces. I live in Brooklyn, NY and commute to Providence once a week to teach my Poetry I class and meet with advisers.

On the days I’m not traveling, my S.O. (Jeff) and I have a.m. kitchen table time—we drink coffee and read and/or talk and/or listen to music and/or talk about what we’re reading, hearing, speaking. Then we retreat into our writing room and write. (In a recent collaborative e-mail, we described the room as “intimate and autonomous,” a goofy but accurate description.) Some days I write for hours. These days, writing consists of a lot of revision and book making and slow-taking. At some point I take a break and go to the gym—I’m training to run a half-marathon in the spring—where I do my best thinking. The transition from 100% mind into mind-body works well for me. I’m still trying to figure out how to write down my thoughts when I exercise.

Can you talk about the Incuhabitations project at Brown?

Incuhabitations is a yearlong colloquium I curate with my friend and colleague, Adam Veal. The colloquium was sparked by our mutual interest in conceptual and performance writing. There’s been a lot of recent hype around American conceptual poetry, and Adam and I became interested in a broader, international approach to concepts and languages in poetic practice. Last spring, with the support of John Cayley and Thalia Field, we received a very generous Graduate International Colloquia Grant, which allowed us to bring Caroline Bergvall and Sandy Baldwin to Brown in September for Incuhabitations I: Performance Writing. On March 8th at 7:00pm, we’ll host Incuhabitations II: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry, featuring Rachel Zolf and Andrea Actis.

Here is a breakdown of the term Incuhabitations, which John, Adam, and I collectively coined last summer:

Incubate. Of a bird sitting on eggs in order to warm them, bring them to hatching. To have what is developing inside manifest outwardly.

Habit. A settled or regular tendency to practice. To dress, clothe. From the French: habiller. Déshabillé: undressed.

Habitat: the home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism. From the Latin: it dwells, it dwells.

-ation, denoting an action or instance of it, a result or product of an action, forming.
How has teaching impacted your writing? Do you want to be a tenured professor someday or do you have another plan?

My father says teaching is a social activity. I love meeting and getting to know people, and I love teaching. My current group of students is small, smart and cooperative; I know they’ll accomplish a lot.

I volunteered as a tutor at 826 Valencia in San Francisco, and I just taught a poetry workshop at 826 NYC. Teaching reading and writing to elementary and middle school aged students is eye opening! I taught the students at 826 NYC poems by C.D. Wright, Bernadette Mayer, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Ed Dorn, et al. They connected with the poems instantaneously. Are our intuitive means of reading and writing reversed as we move through systems?

In terms of my own writing, teaching has honed both my intuition and my editorial eye, which are most likely one and the same.

My parents are academics; the lifestyle affords time to travel, work, and think. (And, in most instances, to help others achieve slash ‘be their best.’) I’m not sure what my future holds. The academic job market is terrible; universities have turned into industries; I find the sometimes-ruthless dynamics of academia troubling. I’m currently trying to cast a wide net in terms of jobs. I’m applying for both academic and non-academic work.

You just launched Nasturtium Press with Cléa Liquard. Can you talk about the press and producing the first title, The Lack Of, by Joseph Massey? And what’s next for Nasturtium Press?

Cléa and I met as neighbors in the Providence Armory. When we discovered we were both interested in poetry and books-as-objects, we decided to start a press. In Fall 2008, we took a letterpress class at AS220; I also took silkscreening.

Joe and I exchange work frequently, and he sent me a draft of The Lack Of. Cléa and I gravitated toward the sparseness of the manuscript, and knew that we could come up with a spare design that would complement it.

Making hand-bound books is a slow process, and the production took several months. I’m still sewing books! I should make some this afternoon...

At the moment, future plans for Nasturtium include a new collective member and forthcoming chapbooks. I would love to print perfect bound books at some point down the line.

Can you name some of your literary cousins?

I develop relationships with everything I read, so it’s a big family! Currently, I’m reading Joan Didion’s We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Mina Loy’s poetry and biography, Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, Rachel Zolf’s Neighbour Procedure, Melville’s Moby Dick, and essays on new media poetics.

Students from Daniel Nester's English 218 Read Nate Pritts

Some interesting audio at Poetry in Performance, Daniel Nester's blog for his ENG 218: Oral Interpreation of Literature at the College of Saint Rose. Link below to hear audio of Daniel's students reading the poetry of Nate Pritts:

Katelyn L. reads Nate Pritts’ “Big Expectations.”
Melissa D. reads Nate Pritts’ “Lines.”
Dawn G. reads Nate Pritts’ “Diagram.”
Chelsea S. reads reads Nate Pritts’ “Sad Girl-I-Did-Not-Stop-To-Inquire-Of.”
Kristine L. reads Nate Pritts’ “Morning Ice.”
Ashley M. reads Nathan Pritts’ “You Can’t Put a Price on This.”
Jeremy R. reads Nate Pritts’ “This One Red Leaf.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cousin about Town...Kate Schapira

While she may not be one of our zillion Irish cousins, Kate Schapira is one of our best Providence townsfolk (and treasure)... And she's got a new book of poetry out that is very cousins-ish, in a way. 

  • Come see her read tonight 2/13 at Ada Books on Westminster Street at 7pm. Heard there'll be treats.
  • Or, head out to Symposium Books in downtown Providence on Thursday, 2/25 to hear her read from Town.

Unlike Providence's genesis on the seven hills (oh so like Rome), the genesis of Kate's town was more conceptual: she asked about a hundred people to describe an imaginary town. She built the contributions of those who responded into poems that explore how we live differently in the same world, who we mean when we say we, what we mean when we say here.

To see the book:
To buy the book:

To hear more about the book and Kate's thoughts, keep reading:

COUSINS: What kinds of formal constraints did you give yourself for the project?

KATE:  63 people (including me) contributed. I committed to, and succeeded in, using something from every contribution -- sometimes the exact wording, sometimes parts of the language, sometimes just the information. The contributions came in in a few different ways -- some were more narrative and informational, some were developed with more attention to language, some were mostly images, one was just a word -- and the forms in which contributors presented them definitely affected the way I used them.
The only real formal constraint (besides the basic conceit of the project -- ask for contributions and treat them all as true) was the way the titles/headings work. There are a number of categories -- "plumbing/sanitation," hauntings" and "commerce/currency" are a few -- and each poem has a heading that lets us know which categories it addresses. I think my original mental model for that was a manual, something that the mayor might leave behind for her successor.

COUSINS: It seems as if you work fairly often in collaborative projects. How does your writing process differ when you write with others, or using others' voices? Or does it?

KATE: I am continually interested in the ways communities work and decide things, include and exclude, what "standards" and "okayness" are -- as well as violations or failures or ruptures of these-- and I feel that people's estimate of how much control they have over that is rarely accurate. So ...I wanted to see what would happen with this distribution of control, which is different from the one I work with when I'm just working on a project on my own -- and different again from projects where I'm including or working from material that already exists in the world and I just select it. My favorite thing about the way I set this project up is the "everything you tell me is true" clause, because that really required me to think about consensus and contradiction -- what they require, how they shape what happens, what they make possible or impossible. I think collaboration is always about that for me -- it's a way of reminding my ideas, feelings and actions that they share the world with (many, many) other ideas, feelings and actions--what kind of gravity are they exerting on each other?

COUSINS: How does a local community affect/influence your writing? An online community? 

KATE: Well, I run this reading series in Providence, Publicly Complex, and a lot of the people who attend are writers, so we get to see each other, which I love. I'm good individual friends with some writers here in town, and I love hanging out and talking with them about writing and writing-related things. I think they affect my writing primarily by helping me remember that this is a real thing that people do, that I'm not foolish for wanting to do it, that the mini-frustrations and mini-triumphs are real as well as mini. (Here's that idea of "okayness" back again...) I hope I do that for them as well. Also, of course, their work often brings me a great deal of pleasure, and it's possible that I might not know about it if we didn't live in the same place. Some of them I have a relationship of mutual critique and commentary with; others I just enjoy.

I wobble a bit about online community. Most of the people I feel close to emotionally but not geographically, and deal with largely online, are people I've met and spent time with in person, although there are exceptions. I have a lot of feelings about online behavior that I'll be happy to share with you if you buy me a strong drink (although you may not be happy to listen) and what it means to "know" someone online, what you give them and what you need from them, which I feel IS different from knowing someone in person (even if you see them rarely) and certainly different from living in the same place as someone. On the other hand, stuff I've read online, being part of online publications, and even acquaintances I've made online -- writers who, BECAUSE we don't live in the same place, I might never have encountered were it not for the magic of the internet -- have played a huge role in my work itself as well as how I present it. Clearly I need to think about this a bit more.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cousins News

Heather Christle has been added to the March 7 Cousins lineup! She joins Claire Donato, Matt Hart, and Nate Pritts.

A new Cousins reading has been added on May 2, featuring Sandy Florian, Elisa Gabbert, and Lara Glenum.

Adam Gallari has a new piece at Kill Author.

Molly Gaudry has a new piece at Kill Author.

Darcie Dennigan is reading at Dire Literary Series on Feb 5th with Joseph Riippi and Hannah Baker-Siroty. Dire is Tim Gager’s great series, located at Out of the Blue Gallery, 106 Prospect Street, Cambridge, Mass.

Darcie is also reading with Joanna Fuhrman at the Naked Truth Reading Series (The New England Institute of Art),on February 10.

William Walsh is reading with Jessica Bozek, Ori Fienberg, and Elisa Gabbert at Small Animal Project on February 27. This reading celebrates the release of Artifice #1! It is an afternoon reading, starting at 3PM at Outpost 186, (186 1/2 Hampshire Street, between Prospect & Amory Streets, in Cambridge).

Cousins Reading Series is featured at Abe's Bar, located at 302 Wickenden Street in Providence, Rhode Island.