A Selection of Work from David Wolach

Xpoetics is pleased to present a selection of work from the writer David Wolach.

**from Hospitalogy

**excerpt of "your nerve center taxonomy," from Occultations

**{eulogy for lyric} from Prefab Eulogies

**from Prefab Eulogies

David (Michael) Wolach is professor of text arts, poetics, & new media at The Evergreen State College, and visiting professor in Bard College’s Workshop In Language & Thinking. Prior to teaching, for seven years Wolach was a union organizer with the United Auto Workers, and served as consultant for the AFL-CIO. His most recent books are Prefab Eulogies Volume 1: Nothings Houses (BlazeVOX, forth. 2009), Occultations (Black Radish Books, forth. 2010), Hospitalogy (Scantily Clad Press, forth. 2009), Acts of Art/Works of Violence (SSLA/Univ. of Sydney, forth. 2010), The Cutting Room: Recovery Project Fairy Tales (Differentia Press, forth. 2010), and book alter (ed) (Ungovernable Press, 2009). Wolach’s poetry has appeared most recently in Dusie, 5_Trope, No Tell Motel, Ekleksographia: An Imprint of Ahadada Books (Amy King ed.), Little Red Leaves, Venereal Kittens, and Bird Dog. Often performative & employing multiple media, Wolach’s work has been performed or will be performed soon at venues such as Buffalo Poetics Series, The American Cybernetics Conference, The Stain of Poetry Series, The Tangent Reading Series (The Econovergence Conference), The Spare Room Reading Series, and PRESS Literary Conference. Wolach is also the editor of the journal and press, Wheelhouse. http://www.wheelhousemagazine.com

Poetics Statement (power point)

· Most of the poems in Prefab Eulogies: Nothings Houses are improvisations recorded into a microphone while performing some other activity. The work was then shaped onto the page thereafter. All improvisations are inter-poetical responses to work, sometimes individual lines, sometimes whole books, that, just prior to improvising, I’d worked through.

· Where, here, poetry is assumed to have use value beyond itself.

· Where the poems I’m in conversation with share the common assumption that artistic practices are contiguous with sociopolitical intervention.

· At some point I began to think of poetic practice as divorced from “poetry” often construed. I began thinking of most contemporary poetry as a power point presentation.

· Of, on the one hand, derivative structures left wanting, where de Certeau’s “poaching” has been stripped of its politics & become eulogy of the spectacle, forms empty

· Of faith in their impetus, dissensus (some “flarf” e.g.). And on the other hand

· Of occulted poetic practices.

· Of militant sound & site investigations (CA Conrad’s PACE comes to mind, as does work that’s come out of NONSITE COLECTIVE).

· The power point presentation 1) implies but does not ultimately signify (it admits of, and revels in, its emptiness, or hopes to con us into a system of belief external to the subject) and 2) is the evidence of prior activity.

· Prefab Eulogies is presented as poaching in the extreme, evidence of a prior integrated activity, some spontaneous movement between the poem and. So it manufactures its own target of critique.

· As I become less mobile thru systemic illness, the written becomes means & necessity: how can I “perform” the written text in ways that re-claim or re-locate this mobility (having in my work thought of the written as means—“score” or “shaped data”—rather than ends in an artistic practice, one that’s involved site-specific movement & gesture)? Occultations preoccupies itself with this question, a question that ultimately widens into how to matter.

· Hospitalogy is a book of poems written in hospitals or hotels (switching between the two when traveling long distances). Voice as sublation, the multiple subject in this setting in constant constrained mode of confession becomes my fixation. It occurs to me that the doctor-patient discourse is not diagnostic, nor can it be in our current healthcare system—it is confessional. Of what, & who is confessing turns into the exploration that are these poems. The letter-form as evidence of a wandering thru (derive of sorts) the hospital complex make up the rest of the book.

· And wandering, poaching, confessing, statistically fonding - all these procedures born of the urge for the page to move (in both senses), to be a form of protest, to re-narrate & witness occulted structures. This narrative comes under inter-textual, polyvocal scrutiny in Occultations. This book is a sustained conversation with the poetics of the body, with disablement, with the graven in relation to catastrophe. So, it’s the most optimistic, or maybe the fullest, of the three.


from Prefab Eulogies

--David Wolach


filters in binary C++
slowed by
confessional poetry
guided by

1) historical precedent or
2) armchair muhajadeen


enter the kidney deeply & pick
title at random
how no inside, whole no
outside no hole
home-a-rama makeshift other
clutter & chances are

historical precedent
will fortify the walls of our living


enter orbital
or if thresh-
old keeps
questions & visions
make do
& like-
wise find no-
thing approxi-
mating barthian
bliss why is it that poetry is
at best

{eulogy for lyric}

from Prefab Eulogies
David Wolach

after kristin prevallet

As the hard aclines the limp-
Ness forgo act this once are
You and if then backspace

Me he went to the toilet
To gag on the volume of it
The sliver in throat to lung

From lung to hand me I
Want naked a bare skin-
Less being stripped of re-

Course and the wetness
His fingers way down
Into that other expanse

Of fullness rain cease-
Less and I-beams jammed
Calling up the words can-
Not now spill or mute

"your nerve center taxonomy"

Excerpt of “your nerve center taxonomy,” from Occultations
David Wolach


we: repeat the jumping things. urge for avalanche. won't you let us fall away in / your gathering question mark. who will summon you to death question mark. if you are music, then kettle drum this slow burn so we can drown in a pile of dusty words.

[ while a bladder gives
out in
front of a tank & some
body laughs ]


we after life a flip 'n' fray, ink slash ash, a book. an old fashioned e book. a street. an after. image. just as we are the street

(in so far as we construct it) so are we the buildings. to walk to walk for days, we said. is to picket our own. bodies. le petit mort suffers

coup at the hands of the hands of. peu de mort. jaw to hand you asked which first hand to jaw whose pain is whose, someone

said, it's. hose the paper mache locked out shouts. print some $ for road renewal. physiology's bff is kNOW for know.

[ some
pixel reverb
says what […]
do […] now ?!? pre-
tend to the deprive –
ate wants
but in what
[…] language?!? what want?!?
so […] strained […] tonite ]


we're mistaken backspace hand slash led: parasite for a still so called life. sometimes we're a. still so called born. it's about time. no, it's about many things. or. it's like this: we have more lives than you can upload a virus question mark.

[ detritus needs an i note to self
slash this thick dash ness as it un-nerves puts
feelers outsourced and everything is

works referenced (bold)

1. from charles alexander & sheila murphy, “prayer, rupture, dwelling,” jacket magazine
2. first bracket in response rob halpern, disaster suites – pg 71., “--not knowing what our flesh can do”
3. from Charles Baudelaire, “Tristesses de la lune”
4. from kristin prevallet, “a catalog of lost glimpses”
5. “eighteen die at sea while immigration crisis mounts,” expactica news,

from Hospitalogy

by David Wolach

/ / /

--The mirror makes faces at me, one of them

Door length leaning left-like just enough to be

Fixed in the present tense, of a me some years

Back before all this rx detritus gathering in

Crouched between two row houses listening

To their sick heaves and flesh slapping wide

Flesh, my penis I rub feels different out side

Maybe it’s the real air, or was it the common

Sense of this, fucking a thing good in itself

Things have use value as long as they don’t exist

As long as long as it’s private how a child, I was

Rehearsing Rilke’s Seven Phallic Poems I Was

Not thinking of trees, the folds and veins

And the melanin spots I still why when alone

Connect them with a felt pen like dots with

Coded mystery, as more arrive each year

The shape changes never says something

I don’t know, now I cum without warning

/ / /

Aspartame or black mold let’s trace causes

Rumors of traincars moved us from gulags

I want to lullaby what adulterates you

How do you vaccinate a small h his-

Story when from our ember chamber

The timbre of my want song alibies?

Translocamotive of some velocity

Your arm's under heavy scrutiny let's

Abdicate they're reality show hosts

---lullaby as amplitude


Translation in Performance--Brandon Brown & David Larsen

The Scene: Small Press Traffic's Reading at Timken Hall, Friday Night, September 18, 2009. A hot day turned cool.

Friday night: Brandon Brown in a coffee jacket with a complimentary, maybe silk (?), flower in in his pocket. Summer peach t-shirt beneath. Stage right: the large screen on which there was an image of the following Catullus couplet scrawled on the wall of a bar, Brandon said, the night before.

Odi et amo. Quare id facium, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Where to begin? Perhaps (read this as a pause, an anchoring doubt, a question that recurred throughout the reading.) Everything is complicated, conflicted, riven. Loving and hating. contiguously. Brandon explained that he is translating Catullus because it is both impossible and redundant. There are so many translations of Catullus, not the least of which is the Zukofskys'.

Perhaps it is the excruciating pleasure: the translator is torn apart--reading and writing. Strong feelings divide a subject--the reader remarks upon this while the translator repeats.

a fiery syntax lights up my feelings

Brandon, a shirtless David Brazil, Catullus, and later, the voice of Bernadette Mayer, haunted the stage with a conversation between Catullus and The Door from poem #67. Brandon reading along with and slightly off of Mayer's reading.

What can I say? This was an amazing performance, an embodied enactment of the difficulties, ambiguities, complexities, the excruciating pleasures and torments of translating, of being both reader and writer. This tangled nexus of the excesses of reading, writing, parsing and pleasuring, incised and excised incertitude, lascivious linguistic lilt and stutter....

Perhaps, perhaps.

The reader asks a question of Catullus. Where are the adjectives?

I hate your asks. I love your tusks. I love hats...

David Larsen was warmly welcomed back to San Francisco, taking the stage after Brandon, and after himself. What I mean is that first, David showed a video piece of him reading and riding MUNI, hanging out at the waterfront, the Ramp and on Third Street in San Francisco. David read from a variety of books and included a translation of a poem from al Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion, and a brief translation from Nietzsche's The Gay Science. There was a lovely piece about a bookworm.

There were two blonde women directly in front of me (mostly i saw the backs of their heads) with amazing manes and one seductively massaged the neck and head of her partner. Kevin Killian sat at the end of the same row. Rob Halpern and Michael Cross were to my side. Susan Gevirtz, Bob Gluck, Wendy Kramer, Kathleen Fraser, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Suzanne Stein, Sarah Larsen, Stephen Vincent, Bill Luoma and many others filled Timken.

A pleasurable evening. Hard to let oneself go and to track it all simultaneously. a divided subject.

Bios from Small Press Traffic blog here.

Brandon Brown is a poet. In 2008, TAXT press published Camels! In 2009, Mitzvah Chaps will publish Wondrous Things I Have Seen. He co-curated the Performance Writing series at New Langton Arts, The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand gallery, and publishes small press books under the imprint OMG!

David Larsen returns for his first Bay Area reading since leaving San Francisco last summer. For a time, he was a co-curator of the New Yipes poetry and video series at Oakland's 21 Grand. He now lives in New Haven, where he is writing a book on historical semiotics. His translation of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh's treatise on the Names of the Lion appeared this year from Atticus/Finch (Seattle).


Food, Body, Politics: CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock at SPT 9/11

Food is always better than bombs, especially on 9/11.

While I usually keep my food obsessions off xpoetics, since one of the writers I am posting a bit on here is CA Conrad (whose work in (SOMA)tic Midge involves food (and bodies)),I have given myself permission to post some booty from the farmers' market just over the hill from me. Aside: perhaps the two most exotic things here are candy-striped figs (delicious) and bloomsdale spinach (I could eat a whole field). It is all tasty and organic, and way cheaper (particularly later in the day) than at San Francisco's super pricey co-ops,fancy food and big supermarket stores....

I ran to Small Press Traffic Friday night after suffering through/enjoying Bikram Yoga (love you Funky Door Yoga),inhaling a bite of dinner, and post-dog walking. I arrived just in the nick of time. Both Conrad and Frank Sherlock brought what might be a Philly reading style with them--? Each proved to be a master raconteur--setting up and swerving from the poems they read by way of anecdote and story.Each read, I think, for nearly an hour.

CA Conrad was up first and he blew us away. He read a bit from (SOMA)tic Midge. I've stolen a blurb about this amazing book from Small Press Distribution's web site:

The seven poems that make up (SOMA)TIC MIDGE were each written after eating a single color of food for a day, and carrying the color externally. For the RED poem CA Conrad ate only red foods while wearing a red wig, right side straight, left side in curls. The BLUE poem was written while listening to Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet" on a loop for a day. Anti war, yet at the same time not taking the magic of renewal for granted, CA Conrad's WHITE poem was written after writing "108" on his forehead with his boyfriend's semen, which of course was white for a little while.

Here's a bit from the introductory note from (Soma)tic Midge :

I cannot stress enough how much this mechanistic world, as it becomes more and more efficient, resulting in ever increasing brutality, has required me to FIND MY BODY to FIND MY PLANET in order to find my poetry. If I am an extension of this world then I am an extension of garbage, shit, pesticides, bombed and smoldering cities, microchips, cyber, astral and biological pollution, BUT ALSO the beauty of a patch of unspoiled sand, all that croaks from the mud, talons on the cliff that take rock and silt so seriously flying over the spectacle for a closer examination is nothing short of necessary. The most idle looking pebble will suddenly match any hunger, any rage. Suddenly, and will be realized at no other speed than suddenly.

Conrad read the White poem from this collection. To find out more about CA Conrad's somatic exercises--a treat in and of themselves, click here. The exercises are fantastic and I mean that quite literally, because, to some extent, one cannot really (can one?) perform some of them. See the White Helium exercise that CA read at the reading followed by the poem composed using this method. As Conrad wrote, "Take notes. Take notes. Take notes..."

CA also read from a number of his other books, including Advanced Elvis Course and The Book of Frank, taking us on a wild ride full of risky affect, social criticism, sheer pleasure, terror and love. I don't think anybody else pushes as many boundaries as CA does. I really loved his work and his reading.

You can read some of the poems from his The Book of Frank which won the Gil Ott award as chosen by Nathaniel Mackey, Myung Mi Kim, Eli Goldblatt, and Charles Alexander here.

Check out CA's blog here. You'll find interviews, reviews of his work and lots of other goodies.

Here's a thought for a CA-like exercise: go to the farmers market and stay until it closes down. Like Agnes Varda, observe what's left over and see what you and others can glean. Talk to the gleaners. Take notes. Take notes. Take notes. Eat some of the leftover food you have gleaned from the market. Eat something that is bruised or nearly rotten. Take notes. Take notes. Leave the market. Look at an image of your favorite painting. Take notes. Take notes. Take lots and lots of notes. Select 3 lines from your notes about the painting and make a poem using these lines interspersed with lines and language that you glean from your farmers' market notes.

Frank Sherlock was the second reader and he tore up the stage with his poems delivered in rapid fire, story interspersed. You can check out Frank's blog here.

Here's a piece from Sherlock's book, Over Here.
The line formatting isn't really holding here, so to read it as you should, click here, and scroll down.

Out there is sunsetted a low-wattage glow to backlight the active to give the theories their shine Stacked books of forever stamps have already blanketed trails Finding the next lost history via these lives will be a wandered conversation beginning w/ the theory that turns on the active A child stands alone w/ a gas can in handBomb belt hula hoop juice box w/ a pull pin Keep the straw squeezed & nobody gets hurt It has almost been covered almost a memory like the time when the bison had space

Here's what Drew Gardner had to say about Frank:

“Frank Sherlock’s poetry uses a poetic composting system, where thoughts and noticings which might evaporate or be discarded from the mind are collected and made into an area of material where perceptions and insights can grow. Like Buck Downs, he uses a kind of poetic witness protection program to relocate micro-social speech rhythms, self-reflective process descriptions and figures of speech” – Drew Gardner’s Blog

You can read more of Frank's work here.

On Saturday these two writers from Philadelphia held a workshop jointly sponsored by Nonsite and Small Press Traffic. I couldn't go, because I had to work. But, I bet it was transformative.


Singular Examples: Artistic Politics and the New-Avant-Garde

Tyrus Miller's Singular Examples: Artistic Politics and the New-Avant-Garde published by Northwestern University Press, 2009.

Honing in on "the rhetorical, contextual, and performative characteristic of neo-avant-garde practice, including its relation to politics," Tyrus Miller's Singular Examples: Artistic Politics and the New-Avant-Garde examines a wide variety of largely American post World War II modernist cultural compositions--including the verbal, visual, musical, theatrical, and cinematic--illustrating how we might think productively about the diverse cultural compositions and practices from this period. Miller's book stresses the singular exemplarity of these compositions, articulating this exemplarity as “a crucial model for neo-avant-garde artistic politics” (182). This suggests that the works of the new avant-garde do not set forth programmatic authoritarian logics, but rather offer themselves up as interventions in such paradigms. They become singular examples of how to be otherwise in the world--to think, perceive, feel, differently. In many of the examples in Miller’s book, interestingly, this entails a writing or working through earlier modernist texts. Intertextuality or “writing through” becomes one means for acknowledging and reworking critically rather than merely repeating or resurrecting the materials of an earlier modernism. Miller describes how such intertextuality works in his chapter “Example 4: Pound’s Cantos Lost and Found: Paragram and Authority in John Cage and Jackson Mac Low.”

My previous chapter focuses on the ways in which Mac Low’s paragramatically generated texts served as models for exemplary sorts of subjectivity, ‘selves’ that at once are shaped by and give shape to particular generic configurations of public and private discourse. In this chapter, I go further into the political implications of such generative procedural writing, exploring the intersection between Cage’s and Mac Low’s procedural ‘expropriations’ of other texts and their explicitly anarchist politics. From the very moment of composition, by taking their words completely and explicitly from other texts, both writers experimentally put in play the relation of self and other, new text and old text, writing and reading, and poetry and other discourses. They also engage, more implicitly, the meta-historical work of exploring the modernist past of their own postmodernism, the roots of the postwar new-avant-garde in the classic avant-gardes of the early decades of the twentieth century. Their intertextual procedures suggest, through their choice of texts and creative handling of them, a highly conscious version of what Michel de Certeau called ‘reading as poaching,’ one type of a vast range of subversive tactics for consuming dominated culture and for reframing the ideological and historical values that cling to its products. As a specific tactic of citational reading/writing, Cage’s and Mac Low’s intertextual poems represent exemplary demonstrations of anarchist poetic (and more broadly, cultural) practice (66-67).

The chapter closes with “In rejecting the tie that Pound established between techniques of intertextuality and the political and historical truth of art, Cage and Mac Low break through into an exemplary elegiac space with Poundian epic in which the truth-claims of art can be weaker, more complex, but perhaps anarchically freer than before” (88).

Singular Examples is divided into three sections. The first is composed of analysis of works that offer a more hopeful vision of postwar possibilities while the second half explores works that suggest a more problematic view. The closing section of the book ruminates on postwar avant-garde pedagogy, specifically in relation to the offering of an example, of which Miller's book itself, is a fine example.

Each chapter is offered as an example of both an exemplary cultural composition and practice, but also as an example of a critical and scholarly approach to such works.

Example 1 Introduction: Latter-Day Modernists

Part One: Out of the Cage

Example 2 Situation and Event: From, The Pronouns to the Destinations of Sense

Example 3 Anarchy by Design: On Jackson Mac Low's Stanzas for Iris Lezak

Example 4 Pound's Cantos Lost and Found: Paragram and Authority in John Cage and Jackson Mac Low

Example 5 Merzing History: Kurt Schwitters, Jackson Mac Low, and the Aesthetics of Dada Trash

Example 6 Transduced Objects and Spiritual Automata: Dimensions of Experience in David Tudor's Live Electronics

Part Two: Forays to the Dark Side

Example 7 Brakhage's Occasions: Figure, Subjectivity, and Avant-Garde Politics

Example 8 Fictional Truths: Sorrentino's Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things Between Image and Language

Example 9 Beckett's Political Technology: Expression, Confession, and Torture in the Later Drama

Part Three: Coda

Example 10 Didactic Drifts: One or More Conclusions


Being Human--Said & Stevens

My fabulous Language & Thinking Class at Bard in August produced this performance by combining language from Edward Said's "Movement & Migrations" from Culture and Imperialism and Wallace Stevens's poem "The Snow Man," (which is quoted by Said along with other poetry including Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied Beauty," particularly the line " All things counter original, spare, strange") inter-cut with language from the question that shaped the Language & Thinking program this summer: "What does it mean to be human in the year 2009 on an abundant and fragile planet, with memory and possibility, with people like ourselves and different, with affluence and squalor, hope and despair, with mountains and rivers and trees, with herons and cyborgs, music and noise, with art and TV and infinite space?"

The whole class performed this for the last student reading. Each line was said by a different student and all said the final line together. The piece was put together by John Wood, Molly Ostertag and Sarah Coolidge. Here is their script:

Sarah plays a short tune on her toy trumpet.
Charlie plays a tune on the guitar throughout the piece.

At some point, people begin vocalizing:

What does it mean to be human in the year 2009

One must have a mind of winter

It must surely be the decade of mass uprisings outside the Western Metropolis

To regard the frost and the boughs

Think not about what should be read but how it should be read

On an abundant and fragile planet, with memory and possibility

Of the pine trees crusted with snow

There was a carnivalesque aspect to the milling crowds in Gaza.

With people like ourselves and different

And have been cold a long time

A rebellious people paying a very heavy price for their resistance

To behold the junipers shagged with ice

Amplified and disseminated by a perfect media system

With affluence and squalor, hope and despair

The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Provoke administered violence and rapid xenophobia

Of the January sun; and not to think

Is not aggressive but transgressive

Of any misery in the sound of the wind

With mountains and rivers and trees

A search for fresh concepts not yet encompassed by the general pattern

In the sound of a few leaves

Insisting on their separation and distinctiveness

With herons and cyborgs

Which is the sound of the land

Music and urban noise

{Sarah plays ambulance noise on toy trumpet}

Religious fervor seems almost and always too obscure notions of the sacred or divine

Full of the same wind

Obedient service against the empire of evil

That is blowing in the same bare place

The negative advantage of refuge in the émigrés eccentricity

For the listener, who listens in the snow

With art and TV

Commandeered the media to help carry out the operation

and nothing himself beholds

A real alternative to the authority of the state

Nothing that is not there

And infinite space

Nothing that is

What does it mean to be human?

(special thanks to John for salvaging this and sending it to me for posting here.)


Poems from Uche Nduka

I met Uche recently in New York. I didn't know his work, but came home to San Francisco and checked out his book eel on reef from the public library. Here are some of the pieces from it. No titles. Lots of water and linguistic jouissance. And apropos of recent posts here--some ships/boats.

your father was
a seaman who could
not disown the bells
of the waves.

a liquid sessioneer, he bawled:
give me some mammaries!
where is your stepladder?
where is your screwdriver?

his gigs were interactive.

he mined your line
for age and rust
and made you wobble and
sink in the dust.

his nuggests, frameable.


centralize my prayers
certify my wankings

fumigate cultivate
the gardens of my body

my interrogational
abysses and crossings

my attempts to come ashore
upon your summering affection

leaven with delight
my fisherfolk my naturalists

the vagaries of faith
on the edge of days

absolve needy eyes
from fractal entrapments.


are we only to have
flowers and fruits
talk to us
at table,
hug us
with stalks,
chasten us
seeds where snowflakes
veil our blemishes?

water splashes through itself
and into its own door.
we dive into it
and emerge on the other side
of a glistening tabernacle
a unio mystica?

we fall into ourselves.
we fall like rainsnakes and rain,
droplets on bellies and
details of sailing.
without our knowing,
we are water's burden.
fugitivies from
the hotchpotch of highrise blocks.


you danced slaveships into you.
rejoiced at bloated bodies.
chained hands and feet
flattered your waves.
you betrayed your algae
your conches your anemones.

i'm a victim of your speech
yet i like to hear you speak.
perishable is sleep perishable is sleep
yet i like to fall asleep beside you.

eel on reef
is published by Black Goat. The cover painting is by Chika Okeke. Uche Nduka was born and raised in Nigeria. He is a poet, percussionist, essayist, and lecturer. He lives in New York.