Miniature Chairs for E-People ...
because the image and concept of an 'empty chair' resonates ...
and resonates so powerfully new poems may even surface. Moi is also the curator of the miniature "BOOKS ON CHAIRS" project, to which you are invited ...
I’m so pleased to receive the mini-tome LIVING IS NO LAUGHING MATTER, RIGHT? by John Bloomberg-Rissman.
But before we go further, let’s first admire the very special stitched fabric cover to the book, made by Kathy Bloomberg-Rissman!Here is the book’s front cover, and then an image of the front and back cover:
Kathy’s “got skills,” as John puts it.And Moi agrees! I love Kathy’s color diction and how the stitched mini fabric expanses imply both landscape as well as textual lines.I find it logical that John would come to describe how he made the poem inside the book as being “stitched,” no doubt “after” Kathy’s creation.
So, John “stitched” the book-poem together from lines by Nazim Hikmet’s ON LIVING (translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk) and Gregory Corso’s ZIZI’S LAMENT.John thought the combination makes for a funny, yet “totally true” paradox: “life is no laughing matter and yet one has to laugh to truly get why it’s no laughing matter, etc.”Hence, his text which I write here as “stanzas” and each fit one-per-page on his accordion-type book:
LIVING IS NO
YOU MUST LIVE
G O O D
Oy, vey.It hurts moi brain to parse this text.It’s way deeper than Moi.I will share that I appreciate its form=content, by which I mean that the ending question (to me) agonizes in perhaps the same way one might agonize over the meaning of life or one’s significance during a mid-life crisis (as regards the latter, NO THIS BLOG DOES NOT MANIFEST MOI MID-LIFE CRISIS!).By agonizing, then, it shows that the poem’s persona does not have that “laughing sickness.”
I read the text to signify an acknowledgement that Life is significant if not valuable (not a laughing matter or insignificant) and, thus, the poem’s persona acknowledges that s/he must behave in a way that honors the value of Life.So that while I consider the ending question to be agonizing, the questioner is not despairing and questioning his/her/hir value (as might be implied by “What good am I?”).The questioner is actually questioning how s/he is to manifest the “G O O D” that s/he should be in order to honor Life.
People who don’t ask this question—or these types of questions—on the other hand, are often those who are unthinking, unaware, jaded, unconscious … the list of adjectives can go on but it also would include those who choose to make a joke out of everything.
But note, too, the fourth stanza:” I MEAN/WITHOUT/LOOKING FOR/SOMETHING/ABOVE &/BEYOND / LIVING—”.This is an interesting sentence.To me, it reveals how one might dishonor Life by not living in the present and one’s environment, but instead in illusion.Illusion here can encompass religion, political dogma, or just illusion itself—elements where one could escape from real life to something else that may not be real.(This is mini-philosophy from a Mini Moi sitting on a mini chair, so let’s not get into that “what is real” question, okay?)
Anyway, that’s enough for now.To prevent my brain from exploding, allow Moi please to direct you to the images of the front and backside of the accordion page inside the book:
Well, well. I so appreciate the last page with its “FOR EILEEN TABIOS”!
Since I also just wrote a critical essay for a critical (pun intended) anthology forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press, READING THE DIFFICULTIES co-edited by Thomas Fink and Judith Halden-Sullivan, let me also note how John’s creation of his mini-book is consistent with his technique of recent years in creating his poems.The following is an excerpt from my essay on another of John’s publication, 2ND NOTICE OF MODIFICATIONS TO TEXT OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS:
In response to interviewer Tom Beckett’s question, “Where did/does poetry begin for you?” John Bloomberg-Rissman replies:
It begins for me in a constraint-based making of new texts out of a chorus of other voices/writings, other others, other sames, in a voyage of discovery. // [But] I don’t approach language only in terms of its materiality. I don’t think Wittgensteinian language games are purposeless (after all, the builder wants to be handed that brick, and wants to do something with it), or that Snyder was wrong when he wrote, “The moral imperative this yuga is to communicate.” So, yeah, I am trying to “say” something.
In the same interview, Bloomberg-Rissman speaks of his process of “writing beyond [him]self”: “…for the last 5 years or so [his texts] have always involved appropriating/ sampling/ collaging/ assembling/ mangling other texts.” He regards “this assemblage-work” as “the opposite of a tight corner. It ties me to, opens up for me, opens me up to, the human universe.”
Bloomberg-Rissman’s 2nd NOTICE OF MODIFICATIONS TO TEXT OF PROPOSED REGULATIONS, REGULATION AND POLICY MANAGEMENT BRANCH, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION is a document that the poet unexpectedly received as a .pdf. Its text addresses modifications on regulations for how the death penalty is administered in the state of California. Bloomberg-Rissman decided to print it out. He then created a cover to be folded around the print-out and, voila!, ... a “poem” was born.
That’s right.John’s decision to use the lines from others, in this case Nazim Hikmet and Gregory Corso, reflects a poetry-making desire to open himself up to whatever the universe contains.It is a goal currently being manifested by his in-progress project, IN THE HOUSE OF THE HANGMAN, which he’s blogging as it unfolds over at Zeitgeist Spam. Please do click on that link to see how far poetry has progressed—and if you do go to the link, you will see each blogged post followed by the many sources John accessed in order to write each section of IN THE HOUSE OF THE HANGMAN. (IN THE HOUSE..., by the way, is the third part of a larger project, Zeitgeist Spam—which I mention because moi Meritage Press published the second part, FLUX, CLOT & FROTH. Order this book—HERE for Vol. 1 and HERE for Vol. 2—to see how far Poetry has stretched since Shakespeare!)John’s projects show the commitment, restlessness and curiosity of John’s beautiful mind…
….distilled so enchantingly in his mini-book contribution to SitWithMoi’s “Books on Chairs” project.Thank you, John.But of course you’d be interested in this project … because you’re interested in the universe!On behalf of the universe, Thank you for Seeing Us!
Indeed, you saw us so clearly that you actually paid attention to the desired scale of the book: no more than 2” x 2”!That is exactly the scale of your book, which is not at all a coincidence!
Okay, where shall we “shelve” John and Kathy Bloomberg-Rissman’s book? Oh Moi thinks it’d look enchanting—and does look enchanting!—on one of the Mab Graves stools!
And because "everyone loves miniatures," as Liza at the local bookstore exclaimed, here's a close-up:
I am so sad to not have these chairs! I ordered them from an Etsy shop, but there’s been some local thievery around our country lane postal boxes and they were taken! They are so sweet—I miss them though I never met them:
According to the shopkeeper (who is not at fault and so I don’t want to mention their name), the chairs were purchased in about mid-2012 during an estate sale in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The elderly man who died and left the house did woodworking as a hobby, and such is reflected in the quality of the pieces. The shopkeeper did not know the chairs’ age, but they were just raw wood at the time of purchase. Here’s the kicker: it was the shopkeeper’s Grandma who varnished and painted the chairs—and you can tell from the photo that she did a lovely job!
R.I.P., sweet chairs…
You shall not be forgotten by SitWithMoi. Indeed, you are now our "Elijah" chairs!
[Scale: 10" tall, with the seat 3" off the ground]
Alice Brody is a fabulous quilt-maker living in New York City; samples of her quilts are "Spiral Words Variation I" and "Starburst" (click on links to delight yourself!). And that's also why we have two of her art quilts at la casa. Here's one in a bedroom (which was done in collaboration with one of my poems):
Here's a second one in the dining room (a treasured house-warming present, thank you Alice!):
Which is all to say, this explains why I unashamedly begged her for a mini-book for "Books on Chairs" -- I thought it'd be easy for her to put one together by, say, simply putting together some fabric swatches and then there'd be a new book like
MY FAVORITE FABRICS by Alice Brody
But the mark of a true artist is when she might take your suggestion but still makes the idea truly her own. That is, Alice did put together what looks to be fabric swatches ... but the topic of favorite fabrics is clearly too easy for her. Instead, Alice put together a book which I shall show you below, page by page, whose fabrics somehow succeed in providing an abstract narrative befitting the book's title: JAPAN TALES. You know (you know!): like Gertrude Stein -- put randomly-chosen words next to each other and somehow a connection/narrative will surface ...
But, first, moi blather (who is Moi without blather after all) on her book cover:
See that tiny mirror on the cover? Well, this means the reader can see him/her/hirself before said reader opens the book! The significance, you ask? Abstraction requires interpretation (well, so does realism but work with me here) and for a book like Alice's, it's up to the reader to interpret the visuals and create meaning, if not a narrative. So, let's have a go at it -- this is a story not being spoonfed to you, Dear Reader, but a story that you as much as Alice will create. Here is Alice Brody's JAPAN TALES as it unfolds:
My read? I won't share it as I don't want to affect yours. But it has a happy ending (re: dog wagging tail!). I love happy endings -- hence this blog!
Anyway, because it's so visual and one could linger over the patterns as one peruses the book, I don't mind that Alice's book is also a "coffee table book" since it's 2.75" x 3.0". Now, where shall we "shelve" it? Do I have to buy more coffee tables (oh, wait: got one on the way!). Well, for now, let us shelve JAPAN TALES atop the coffee table of the Philippine narra sala set (keeping company with the BABAYLAN MANDALA book):
Every library--any library!--should have a dictionary! So we're so happy to get one, even though it's only 1" x 1.25"!
But it's pretty special! Its cover is made from birch!
And then painted with its title and spine color by Jennifer of JeniveavesGarden. Jennifer says about her art: "All creations are uniquely made, one at a time using mostly recycled and repurposed materials. Creating functional beautiful pieces that bring joy and reduce waste. Designs and patterns are my own, based on whimsy, old magazines from the thirties, and life's observations. Working mostly in 1/12th scale but always willing to custom make a piece in any size requested."
And we at SitWithMoi are very grateful for her willingness to custom make pieces. Because -- yes, I couldn't help moiself -- I just had to order a bookcase for this project! I mean, we're "shelving" books on chairs here, but I'm going to be optimistic and believe that we will get so many books from you e-people that we will need to deal with an overflow with the traditional way: shelve some books on ... a bookcase!
Here is SitWithMoi's first bookcase when it first arrived, along with the dictionary on the shelf and some mini-books for "Books on Chairs" on the "floor" waiting to be shelved.
It's a very well-made bookshelf. I believe she used cardboard as a base that she covered with birch. Here are front and backside views attesting to its meticulous craftsmanship:
And here's a final view of The Poet With Chairs admiring it with some books I'd shelved to taste-test it! Yes, that's the Richard Odom Stool next to La Poeta.
Such fun. WE HAVE A DICTIONARY! But, wait, on which chair shall we "shelve" the dictionary if it's not on the bookshelf?! Because a dictionary, of course, moves around instead of staying in one place as the need for it occurs. So, for a temporary resting place, why don't we put it on one of the narra rocking chairs gifted by moi brother! There's a mini-New York Times on the matching rocker so, the set implies, one might be reading the newspaper and then have to look up an unfamiliar word!
Actually, the pages of this tiny dictionary are blank. That works, too. Because Moi is a poet and a poet can sometimes disrupt instead of abide by inherited definitions. Jest sayin'!
Everyone is invited to "Books on Chairs" but I also am making books for this project. What's been surprising is how I've taken so quickly to making the type of books I'm creating: books based on what randomly surfaces in my environment (e.g. the junk mail I receive) rather than based on something I intend to write about. Now I'm realizing that these tiny books are just another extension of my long-held poetics practice of wishing "to write in the world in the poem" versus relying on the constraints of my "I" -- and "eye." Of course, in creating works this way, one hopes that one's "I" -- and "eye" -- are also widened in expanse and vision. One hopes ... anyway, here, to date, are books reflecting my fondness for foundness (click on the titles below for more info).If the named author is someone else instead of Moi, it's because I "edited" that person's book into its tiny being. (They are listed in reverse chronological order of their making. I will update this list as I generate more books--you can click on its link to the right under "Empty Chair Poetry" if you want to follow it.)