Having Missed David Wolach

When David was in the Bay Area recently, I was at home, on one side of the rainy traffic-jammed Bay Bridge and David was on the other reading for Small Press Traffic in Oakland, and then Saturday found me fielding questions on the reference desk at the library while he gave his nonsite talk, so alas, I missed him. Twice.

But I have his powerful book Occultations, and I am posting some excerpts of it here. Throughout this collection which consists of the following sections/poems: transit, riverfire, modular arterial cacophony, your nerve center taxonomy, book alter(ed), body maps & distraction zones, Wolach stages various experiments and interventions in language and action. His is an art of appropriation, material & social palimpsest, somatic experiments, archaeological & political excavation, performed remixes, embodied imaginative flourishing and decay, all in an astonishing variety of active poetic experiments. David's book strikes me as a primer on how to write, right now, in doubt and in common.

from transit


who are you who embraces our poisons?

mouth stuffed nearly i can see the smoke

bracket evening were i to see you, who

with faith in the receding pines,

certain the wailing trees will

recuperate our gains and losses,

turn ash into act, you wishper i hear

you whisper, breath into breathe       (45)

from your nerve center taxonomy: eight staged distraction zones in miniature

Distraction Zone Staging: one person reads from two different texts; another person writes in response and reads what they are writing; a third person (me) writes in response to both audio inputs. Texts used: 1) Adorno's Aesthetic Theory and 2) leaked torture memorandum from Assistant A.G. Bybee, 2008.

6. (under_standing abu ghraib purchasables_)


A photo isn't a leg blown off
a struggling contradiction isn't yr Adorno's dialectical acrobatics
A text working overtime isn't working overtime
A crystallized conundrum isn't yr deep painterly meditation
A language rammed up against silence isn't what I witnessed
A happy garden isn't yr flaunting the chrysanthemums between
misplaced have-to's
A replica of yr washing machine isn't the imagerie of this either/or
tea trade in failures


Cramped, we expectation
Cramped, we complicit our techniques in a
Cramped, we verb the stress
Stressed, as water needed
We grasped
We body-farmed
We faxed sea-collar mines
Cramped, we mouth-sounded alarms
Cramped, we spread fingers spread
Spread, we wall the nameless several laughter
Shuts off & this is guilt's mechanism
Cramped, we muscle fatigue so many nouns tonite
Cramped, we nounds our open-eyed apology posture
("The body" is defined by capture of an incommensurate
Absence, of the area not yet wounded)
Wound, an archive archived
Wound, a side effect
Cramped, we insect
Cramped, we redaction brackets the loudest in hiding
Cramped, we water the eyes
Water, the blood when red is read as dying
Water, we comply with incipient panic
Panic, we does not breathe for seconds need
Breathes, we lift
Lift, we repeat
Lift, we review a they in a warmth kitchen wrapped
Cramped, no harm resolute goes the written as times sinking alibi
Harmed, without incident
Harmed without pulsing his leave is our evening  (124-125)

about your nerve center taxonomy, David writes:
your nerve center taxonomy  is a series of "staged occultations," where, owing to somatic practices a la ca conrad and others, work here uses both filters--repeating phrases or, in this case, conceptual frames--and rituals--predetermined activities/procedures--in order to be(come). they are, like "modular arterial cacophony,' poets theater pieces, intended to be reciprocally performed by others. in contrast to some of conrad's (soma)tics, which belong to a hugely important lineage of embodiment writing practices most profoundly associated, i think, with hannah weiner's work, these poems desire to be occulted (punished?) along with/ as extensions of their bodily environments, to be partially drowned out by their rituals (or vice versa?), rather than to emerge from their rituals.

all movements here seek to remain partially occulted, and the poetic writing is part of the ritual itself--where the ritual, or activity, divides the poem-space's attention, such that one does not write from notes afterwards, but one's notes are the poem, and the poems are the notes of the body signing in space and time. unlike the transcription practices of williamson or goldsmith, these "notes" are not jottings, descriptions, or pure dictation, but are rather staged writing acts in which the body seeks articulation thru a poetic mode from the outset, the transcriber attempting to write the poem on the spot, to, in a sense, claim itself, as mediated by and contiguous with its environment. this is to say that though the poems in this section are transcriptions, the object was to create an environment, a "distraction zone in miniature," part of which would be the "subject-body" attempting to voice thru signing, thru lyric, thru direct address, its struggle to "enunciate" or "speak" or "articulate" its fractures, multiples, constrictions, and, it turns out under such circumstances, its univocality, not to compile or to shape what has been compiled.



I plan to carry this book around with me for some time.  You should too.  It is available, as are most books mentioned on this blog, at Small Press Distribution.

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