The Operating System and Liminal Lab

POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: DAY 20:: Annaliese Downey on CA Conrad

CA Conrad gave a reading at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where I study poetry, about a week ago, and afterwards the general consensus among the students in attendance was that Conrad was “insane.” We meant this affectionately and admiringly. If the motto of the Situationists, with whom Conrad has much in common, was “Be realistic—demand the impossible!”, then a suggested motto for those wishing to proceed in the spirit of Conrad might be, “Be reasonable—do what is insane!”
Conrad’s most recent book of poems, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, [from Wave Books] is a guide to practical insanity. Collected within are twenty-seven “(soma)tic exercises,” instructions for the radical disruption of routine living at the individual level, and the poems resulting from those created conditions. For example: “(Soma)tic 7: Feast of the Seven Colors,” which instructs the reader to consume and surround themselves with a single particular color each day for seven days. Or “(Soma)tic 17: OIL THIS WAR!,” an exercise in making visible the linkages between waste and war. Many of the exercises are even wilder, weirder, and more uncomfortable than these, and Conrad has performed them all.
{Editor’s note: CA only recently gifted Exit Strata the wonderfully weird animation Luca DiPierro did  in celebration of Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon‘s publication, so we’re particularly pleased to have him, and this work, profiled here today!}
The most powerful quality of the (soma)tics  is their erasure of the dividing lines between quotidian life, art, and the body, which, at least for me, still manage to individuate themselves despite my best critical-theoretical efforts—thus the need for disruption. The practice of (soma)tics allows the practitioner to introduce art practice into the daily routine, and to mindfully experience the body as medium of creation and agent of power. Through their exercise, action is the poem and the poem is the action; through their instruction, the poet and the reader unify in action. The lines between performance, poetry, and the quotidian are crossed, questioned, tossed away: in short, you can make any damn life you like for yourself. Also powerful—literally—is Conrad’s attendance to personal ethics at the individual, bodily level. He’s a Foucauldian in the sense that he is very aware of how power and influence are exerted over the individual body, but also of how the individual body, working in collectivity, can gather its own power in positive resistance. “With our poems and creative core,” Conrad writes in the book’s manifesto, “we must RETURN THIS WORLD to its seismic levels of wildness.””
I must admit that I’m a greater pessimist than CA Conrad. But I also believe—fiercely—in resistance no matter what, and that whatever oppression and terror the world brings upon us must be matched with strangeness and beauty. Let us all be insane! Let us all be insane together!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Caitlin LaCourse Rya and Kepler-22b

‎”Venturing into the sun to smoke
I am proof of nature and all its declarations.”
–Ariana Reines

Kitten is my favorite spirit animal, a totem to conquer my various forgivable, discordant planes of constriction. But it is the cormorant I surrender to for my most morbid of human needs. A cormorant DIVES into subconscious water-worlds to resurface somewhere new, and agitates my soul into happiness. When I was a boy I yearned for webbed fingers and toes, and was grateful to Benjamin Franklin for inventing swim flippers. Telling Ryan Eckes about this new (Soma)tic exercise he said, “That’s what I try to do with every poem, I try not to drown.”
What animal will you require yourself to meet for this exercise? I wore nylon stockings on my hands, then DOVE into the morning ocean off Virginia Beach, American fighter jets howling across the coastal trails, deafening the gulls, frightening the dolphins, and me. Eggs in the sand, nest in the dunes, a wind where all instruction flattens my eager crest. Love in a cormorant call compels a vibratory trance throughout a feral heart, lungs, liver.
Draw eight pictures of your spirit animal in different phases of your enactment of their lives. On the back of each write a message. Write a bit of confession from the bird, hippo, or alligator you choose to be. Create an email account for this exercise to include at the end of the message. Leave the pictures on the subway, in the bathroom at a museum, or on the counter at a coffee shop. Anyone who writes you must receive your animal’s reply. Your animal correspondence is YOUR TRUE correspondence! All your notes from the exercise are for the poem(s) you will create.

a poem from Annaliese
Kissing yr brother, you,
’gainst coral
bosco. A forest of hands
mistakenly raised. Owls
drift thru leaves of the sea.
Yr brother is tar-net.
Crabbish-faced I kiss him.
You 2 boys are sailing thru
my trench I wish to
kiss to you, where you do go.
Where god’s got an island in doubt,
hazed in a white veil,

throwing stones, by a whale stoved.
Getting stoned without me.

So thrown from the horn,
i’ th’ sun.

Annaliese Downey was born in Pennsylvania and now lives in Brooklyn, where she studies for a BFA in poetry at Pratt Institute and works for LUNGFULL! magazine. She is currently at work on two projects: a collection tentatively titled Everything Was A Bad Choice Today, and Alexander, an epic love poem (of all things!). 

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