The Operating System

6th ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: DAY 10 :: Stephen Emmerson on John Latham

HAPPY POETRY MONTH, FRIENDS AND COMRADES!

For this, the 6th Annual iteration of our beloved Poetry Month 30/30/30 series/tradition, I asked four poets (and previous participants) to guest-curate a week of entries, highlighting folks from their communities and the poets who’ve influenced their work.

I’m happy to introduce Janice Sapigao, Johnny Damm, Phillip Ammonds, and Stephen Ross, who have done an amazing job gathering people for this years series! We’re so excited to share this new crop of tributes with you. Hear more from our four guest editors in the introduction to this year’s series.

Hungry for more? there’s 150 previous entries from past years here! You should also check out Janice’s piece on Nayyirah Waheed, Johnny’s piece on Raymond Roussel, Phillip’s piece on Essex Hemphill, and Stephen’s piece on Ronald Johnson’s Ark, while you’re at it.

This is a peer-to-peer system of collective inspiration! No matriculation required.
Enjoy, and share widely.

– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator

 WEEK TWO :: CURATED BY JOHNNY DAMM
PROPOSITION:

Every time a WRITER sees another WRITER on the street, WRITER # 1 yells the following question:
“Who are you reading?”
WRITER # 2 answers, also yelling, and at the first word, EVERYONE on the street stops walking, presses hands over mouths of cooing/crying babies, slams down car brakes and hurriedly unrolls windows.

EVERYONE listens, the world not allowed to resume until WRITER # 2 stops yelling.

SMALL REVISION:
Keep everything exactly the same, except make sure that WRITER # 2 is a talented writer, a fascinating writer, that WRITER # 2 is the present or future of what literature should be.

PROPOSITION:
Hush, y’all. Listen as Colette Arrand, Stephen Emmerson, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, E.G. Cunningham, Douglas Luman, Travis Sharp, Raquel Salas Rivera, and Terri Witek yell into the street.

Johnny Damm is the author of Science of Things Familiar (The Operating System, 2017) and three chapbooks, including Your Favorite Song (Essay Press, 2016), and The Domestic World: A Practical Guide (Little Red Leaves, forthcoming). His work has appeared in PoetryDenver Quarterlythe RumpusDrunken Boat, and elsewhere. Visit him online at johnnydamm.com.

Stephen Emmerson on John Latham

His medium was the book. The partial destruction/reformulation of. His medium time. I mean Time. I mean TIME….He built towers of books and burnt them publicly. He called these performances Skoob Tower.

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John Latham outside Flat Time House

John Latham wasn’t  strictly a poet. Although I believe he did once declare himself one. He was a visual artist. A huge influence on conceptual and performance art. His medium was the book. The partial destruction/reformulation of. His medium time. I mean Time. I mean TIME.

He lived in London. I mean Nodnol. He built towers of books and burnt them publicly. He called these performances Skoob Tower.

In 1966, whilst teaching at St Martins, he invited a group of his students to his house for dinner. The meal was the university library copy of  Art and Culture by Clement Greenberg. They removed the pages and each of them chewed a section to pulp and spat it out. Latham added chemicals and left if to ferment. Upon receiving an overdue item letter from the library Latham returned a vial marked ‘Essence of Greenberg’ This gesture became Still and Chew: Art and Culture 19661967.

He was sacked by the university.

John Latham used time like some artists use pencils. Time/The Event was an integral part of the performance. Whether it was pages from a surveyors report submerged in a fish tank with piranhas, Towers of burning books, or Time Base Rollers. Linear time was a construction that Latham attempted to break through. Bringing the dimensions of time together in an object could unify religious and philosophical differences. Time, for Latham, is the enemy of expression, yet by manipulating it, one can curate a series of works that directly express TIMEs pure construct.

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One of Lathams One Second Drawings, created by pressing the nozzle of a can of spray paint for one second. The image displayed is the verso. Latham sprayed the front, that is the event as it happened, and then turned it over, that is the event as you see it. Events in time are never quite what they seem. Time emiT Time.

John Latham opened a portal in my mind. I saw how poetry could be a record of the act of creation, a record of the act of destruction, a participatory performance, an act of creative reading. His work, (if not always a direct influence), taught me how to SEE poetry, and how to think around it rather than inside it. From my Rilke Translations, through Remains, Poetry Wholes, and Family Portraits, no other artist or poet has changed my approach to the presentation of language more than John Latham.

To Find out more about Latham check out the Flat Time House website.

Some examples of my work:

http://glasfrynproject.org.uk/w/4386/stephen-emmerson-the-making-of-the-english-working-class/

http://www.abadpennyreview.com/from-ikkyu-rewritten/

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Remains by Stephen Emmerson

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Photo by Lucy Harvest Clarke

Stephen Emmerson’s books and objects include: Telegraphic Transcriptions, A never ending poem…, Pharmacopoetics, Remains, Stephen Emmerson’s Poetry Wholes, and Family Portraits.  He co-edits Blart Books with Lucy Harvest Clarke. More info can be found here: https://stephenemmerson.wordpress.com/

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