Q&A with KANPHATA, aka Aditya Bahl

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

 
We were mesmerized at first glance of KANPHATA’s NAME/AMEN, a series of concrete poems formed from the deconstructed names of canonical Anglophone poets — Auden, Eliot,  Plath, etc. What is the meaning of a name proffered then dissolved and its remaining fragments? We asked the poet about this; we inquired too about the influence of Wittgenstein and Badiou on this work. From there KANPHATA guided us through a vast terrain of language and ideas, moving swiftly from fake poets and language games to the gap between what exists and what can be said, the contextualization of names, as well as his coming to Anglophone poets as a nonnative speaker of English. 
 
 
Who/what were your inspirations and influences for NAME/AMEN?
 
The project NAME/AMEN follows from a sheer desperation with using English language for literary purposes. English is not my native language, I have hardly ever spoken it in the everyday life (before recently coming to the US). And yet, I grew up (as a poet) reading a lot of Anglophone modernist poets. Largely because significant portions of their work are available to read online. This project, as I understand it now, is the wasteful remainder of my ambition to cure myself of my “double consciousness” as a poet. I had been strenuously striving to work myself out of the influence of a decidedly Western poetry and poetics, and yet, it was as if the more I was meaning to formally subvert the Western paragon of newness the more I would end up imitating the “great” Western poets.
 
This neurosis, and its attendant trials and tribulations, (howsoever romantic they might sound in retrospect, especially to a reader’s “lyric-ears”!) could not be sustained for long, and it culminated into a very painful and traumatic (for me) breakdown of the language I had been working with. A total breakdown at that, right down to the bare physical elements of the language. Although I was loosely aware of traditions of concrete and visual poetry in Brazil and Italy, I was not sure where I was going with this. I mean there was no ambition to create “art” or “poetry” of any “avant” kind, which is why making these works had offered little compensation.
 
I have enjoyed the wondrous fake anthology of South American poets written by Kenneth Koch, perhaps all the more wondrous for putting into relief the then prevalent mode of “transparent” translation practiced by the likes of Robert Bly. Also, Kent Johnson’s A Question Mark Above the Sun. Robert Kelly’s Earish, his homophonic translations of Celan, is great. And there are several other works too, esp. Brandon Brown’s translations (!!!), but then, alternating between real poems by fake authors and fake poems by real authors, I ended up operating in a completely different medium, one which is neither (only) language nor (only) image, and the personal context of this work is very different too.
 
 
We found inspiration for the Review in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s statement (from his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus): “The limit can, therefore, only be drawn in language and what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense.” How does this speak to your process in NAME/AMEN, or contradict it?
 
Upon receiving my copies, I kept thinking about this quote from Wittgenstein, which prefaces the volume, as also about the relationship between philosophy and poetry in general. If only in a way, Plato onwards, philosophy has traditionally come to be marked by a rather tragic persistence to philosophize the poem. But, as Marx says, what takes place as a tragedy often repeats itself as a farce. It is not surprising, then, that with the advent of the ’60s the very realm of philosophy should come to be poeticized! In the light of this turn to language, a famous proclamation from Wittgenstein comes to mind : “I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: Philosophy ought really to be written only as a poetic composition.” But what is supremely interesting is that Wittgenstein himself did not write his philosophy as a poetic composition. At least not the Wittgenstein of Tractatus. Instead, he takes recourse to a propositional form of writing, one which is almost pointillist in its logical effects, in order to repeatedly hone and clarify the limits of all that can be said, and to thereby circumscribe “the unsayable.” I believe there are important insights to be gleaned from the Wittgenstein of Tractatus. The most crucial of these relate to the minimal but absolute gap between what exists and what is (or can be) said of this existence. To collapse this gap is to fall into an abysmal sophistry of language games, whereby the poet-players mistake their poetics of semiotic deconstruction and glitch-noise for a destruction and/or re-organization of the oppressive forms of social relations we find ourself materially implicated in. Of course, this is not to discount the efficacy and a possible strategic use of the poetics of semiotic noise, especially in the current political situation of the world, but one must remember that noise can remain noise if it determines itself as noise. And this, I sincerely believe, cannot happen if one remains stranded in a wholly sublimated realm of language.
 
Thinking of NAME/AMEN in this context is kind of difficult for me. Each of these works is an improvisatory organization of black and white loops, curves, arms, chins, serifs, bars, stems on the white surface of the screen. Is this decontextualization of “the letter” a simple formalism of sorts? But then, why is each of these object-glyphs titled— name of __? Is there a hermeneutic to be sought, a bridge of positive correspondence to be built over the otherwise impassable gap separating the title (the name of __) from what it appears to refer to? Surely, this cannot be a meaningless exercise? Etc. There is, for me, an intense affective dimension to this work, one which refuses to be simply brought into consciousness. But let us not compensate the apparent meaninglessness of the work with a discourse of an ordinary pathos of biography, let us not make a spectacle out of the self-hatred the poet had felt while making these works. Let us just say that the work followed from an intensely affective experience with language, that of which one cannot discursively speak. In this regard, the work stands its own stead. To come to think of it now, this does chime rather well with the Wittgenstein of Tractatus— “Whereof we cannot speak thereof one must remain silent.”
 
 
The series begins with a quote from Alain Badiou: “ The proper of the name sabotages the common of the concept.” What is the significance of a name, common and proper, and of a name deconstructed?
 
I was really into Alain Badiou while preparing a manuscript for Meekling’s call for submissions. The quote comes from his essay on Nietzsche. For Badiou, the nomination of the indiscernible is a difficult enterprise. The “indiscernible” is indiscernible because it comes to “make a hole in the given situation,” and for the reason of its incalculable novelty it cannot be named . . . and yet. Badiou resolves this aporia by ensuring that the name of what is otherwise indiscernible is not of the order of signification, but rather it is a name which embodies an “evental quality.” To understand this difference, let us take the example of Kashmir, a symptom of the sovereign democracy that the Indian nation state professes itself to be. On the one hand, in the legislative structures of the Indian democracy, “Kashmir” is identified as one of the 29 states of the country and Kashmiris as legal citizens of the nation. But on the other hand, “Kashmir” is also the name of the freedom sought by those rioting masses in the streets, the masked men, women and kids who spontaneously emerge in the streets day after day armed with nothing but stones to pelt at the Indian army, resisting, in conjunction with an otherwise organized armed militancy across the state, the forced occupation of their homeland. The state, meanwhile, continues to exercise its “right to legislate,” and thus “identify” these militants as Pakistani terrorists or make sense of the riotous rabble as citizens of India who have been seduced by the Pakistani infiltrators and so on, and thus normalize the state of emergency it otherwise perpetuates. This antagonism between the ethos of democracy (farcical as they are) and the militant attempts which resist the forced Indian occupation of Kashmir is constituted and sustained by the same name—“Kashmir”—at once belonging to the legislative structures of the Indian constitution and sustaining the militant longing for freedom. Here, the difference between Badiou and the philosophers of language must become absolutely clear. For unlike the latter, for Badiou the interventional resistances stand in no need of a “different” register of signification. The newness of any movement lies not in the artificial novelty of the names it assumes for itself, for it is not the names themselves which exceed the situation. The novelty of a movement relates instead to the referential meaning of the name it assumes. The name “Kashmir,” if we are to go by Badiou, is supernumerary, is foreclosed from all determinants of Indian democracy, simply because there exist militants who have politically decided on the status of Kashmir, and have, thereby, chosen to demonstrate their fidelity to the same. In this regard, Kashmir is an empty name, or to put it otherwise, it has been named emptily, for it refers only to a world yet to come. The militant profession of the name Kashmir is a persistent clearing away of the forced occupation; it leaves the actual referent of the name void, to be duly filled in the future. What this historically entails for the future we do not know. Does it pertain to Kashmir’s emancipation as a nation-state? But, given the geopolitical situation, does not Kashmir’s emancipation rest upon the emancipation of the whole of South Asia? Of course, Badiou’s formalized abstractions are useless when it comes to these real geopolitical considerations. But I had found his rumination on the anti-Hegelian philosophy of Nietzsche particularly interesting.
 
The example I have used pertains to politics. The decontextualization of names that the project NAME/AMEN undertakes operates at an entirely different level of abstraction, that of poetry. It is dangerous to use either poetry or politics as an analogy to suit the other’s ends, but please, please indulge me awhile, and at least for now let me wager my thoughts! In a way, I think this project seeks to name these poets emptily yet again, to destroy the modernist monoliths. I mean who cares about the “great modernist works” and their “newness”? At least I did/do not.
 
 
You say you wanted to become a yogi but became a poet instead—at what point did these paths diverge?
 
In order to become Kanphata, a disciple of Gorakhnath, he had to have his ears split. But once it came to pass, he mysteriously turned into a visual poet, a people’s answer to Zarathusra’s complaints— “Must one smash their ears, so they may learn to listen with their eyes?”
 
 
KANPHATA: At my birth I split my ears to be able to see better. I grew up wanting to be a yogi. I ended up becoming a poet.
 

Aditya Bahl is a member of the Delhi-based Marxist collective Radical Notes. A book of poems will be out soon from Delet-e (Delete Press). A chapbook of poems is forthcoming from LRL Textile Series. A chapbook called this is visual poetry by aditya bahl was published in 2013 by Dan Waber’s imprint this is visual poetry.
 
 

Find more of KENPHATA’s NAME/AMEN in The Meekling Review:

Meekling Press Press

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

It’s been a festive season of fairs for us — a highlight was tabling at the first ever Chicago Art Book Fair, an exquisite gathering of art book makers both local and international, coming from locations as distant the UAE. We’re thrilled now to discover Meekling Press was featured as one of Sixty Inches From Center‘s five highlights from the fair! Thanks to Emily Breidenbach for the shout out — be sure to check out some pics of our wares (and our mugs) here:

Five Highlights from the Chicago Art Book Fair 2017

 

Flummery: Meekling Talks 12/3

posted in: Uncategorized | 0
Come out & join Meekling’s Department of Continuing Education for our final TALK of the season, with an evening of flummery. This event is a great event for lifetime learners, and for people who want to know things, regardless of the facts.
Thursday December 3rd, 8pm
Tritriangle, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor, Chicago
$5 Suggested Donation

Tonight’s talks will feature flummery & lecturing by our distinguished speakers—

GUY EYTAN in conversation with a gate (McKinlock Gate at Northwestern University Chicago Campus)

JAY BESEMER on The Sexual Practices of Popular Diacritical Marks

ANNA WOLFE-PAULY on Wind Reading

Things that should not be picked up in the first place

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Do you like going out on a Monday Night? Do you want to see a great performance? Huh? Huh?

Why don’t you come visit us at the Meekling Press headquarters, AKA Jura$$ic Park, tomorrow (MONDAY NOVEMBER 16) for a performance of Becky Grajeda’s

Things that should not be picked up in the first place: part 4

November 16, at 7:30pm, 2059 N. Racine Chicago IL

Here’s a clip from a previous performance in this series:

In Becky’s words:

Existing somewhere between sound and comedic art, Becky Grajeda’s “Things that should not be picked up in the first place” is a series of performances in which a panel of Chicago-based artists and non-artists improvise a conversation, while embedded in a live mix of sound art and/or music. Grajeda and fellow panelists will discuss topics ranging from the banal to the socially relevant, together devising, deconstructing, and perfecting absurd concepts and contexts. The live mixed sound art will disrupt and inform the panelists’ conversation, each taking turns at the periphery of the soundscape.

Panelists:
Becky Grajeda
Nicholas Davis, sound and performance artist, member of Meekling Press
Neal Markowski, musician, sound artist, founder of the Single Action Rider label
Jacob Layne Miller, writer/actor/director, producing partner at Gratuity Not Included Productions

Tickets: $10

“Things that should not be picked up in the first place” is being developed during Grajeda’s Artist Sponsorship at High Concept Labs, Chicago.
highconceptlaboratories.org/becky-grajeda/

 

 

Chill Horizons coming SOON SOON

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

chillhorizonssub

 

July 14 2015. The New Horizons spacecraft sped past Pluto, snapping pictures, gathering data, and creating, in effect, a “scientific bonanza” while giving witness to previously unseen and uncharted sights on the edge of our solar system. We launched our Chill Horizons Chapbook Series in solidarity, an effort where we sought glimpses of beauty and darkness and hybridity in the hidden contours of the literary cosmos.

And after months of diligent work and preparation, we are proud to announce our findings.

Chill Horizons Chapbook Series will consist of seven books released over a series of seven months, or slightly more than half the time it takes to make one revolution around the sun. The first fifty chapbooks include a limited edition print as a centerfold to accompany the text. The final line-up includes works by:

Heather McShane
+++
Suman Chhabra
+++
Evelyn Hampton
+++
Holly Lee Warren
+++
Hannah McHugh
+++
Mairead Case
+++
Brad Vogler

Additionally! Full subscriptions to the Chill Horizons series are now available. The cost? $40—a meager amount, which will bring not only the delight of a new chapbook in the mail each month, but also it will help us fund this series and others like it.

We can’t wait to unveil them. We hope you will join us in this exploration.

Back to School with Meekling Dept. of Cont. Ed.

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

The information presented by these distinguished lecturers may be fabricated, but that makes it no less useless. Please join us for the first evening in our 2015 fall lecture series: Meekling TALKS: Confabulations.

at

Tritriangle
1550 N. Milwaukee, 3rd Floor, Chicago
8pm, October 8, 2015
$5 suggested donation

Facebook Event

The Clairaudient at Work

Nicholas Davis describes and demonstrates his practice of CLAIRAUDIENCE, receiving audio signals from creatures & objects that have passed beyond the grave, from aliens in the farthest reaches of space, and from the deepest depths of the human psyche. Supernatural or just super? You be the judge.

 

Understanding Molecular Typography by H.F. Henderson.
Understanding Molecular Typography by H.F. Henderson.

 

Woody Leslie explores H.F. Henderson’s UNDERSTANDING MOLECULAR TYPOGRAPHY, and the system explained therein of deconstructing letters into their constituent molecules. Will this change the way you interact with words, language, communication with your peers? Will you soon see the letters on the page start to dissolve into vibrating strings right before your eyes? Yes, probably!

An Interview with Miranda Steffens

posted in: Uncategorized | 1

In anticipation of the upcoming launch party for Peripheral Vision, we sat down with author Miranda Steffens to ask all of the questions — read on for some of her insights on the writing process, making an e-book, and the weird convolutions of English grammar.

±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±

 

MP: One of the first motifs I noticed in Peripheral Vision was the parenthetical, self-conscious commentary on choices made by it speaker — a demand to better articulate a given claim, or observing the finer points of changing tense, made at a slight distance from the “other” story we’re being told in the book. Could you talk about how you developed these parenthetical parts, and how you see them working in conjunction with the other sections?

 

MS: Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking of the parentheticals as a removal from the narrative but rather going into it deeper, which probably is also sort of removed — trying to follow the meaning behind each previous section. I guess that does in turn pull away from the moment through the overthinking and over-analysis.

 

MP: Totally, I think the speaker even says outright in the book that those moments are distracting them from a task at hand … I’m also really interested in this book’s commentary on being alone or loneliness, especially since the speaker sometimes sees this loneliness as a result of their own artwork, could you touch a little bit on that on that?

 

MS: Well, the piece actually came as a response to a video I saw —

 

MP: Oh really! I didn’t know that.

 

MS: The reason I didn’t mention that was, I don’t remember the name of the video or who it was by! It was from a prompt in a class I was in with Matthew Goulish called Writing Systems. My assignment was to respond to this video in writing, and because I’m not a visual artist I had a really hard time with it. The video was sort of abstract and conceptual —interesting, but I had no idea how to respond, so I probably got a little anxious about it and felt rather isolated from the piece. I was trying really hard to do it justice, but writing is so much more logical than a visual piece needs to be. The first section is a dream, because when I had that dream I thought, Okay, I need to use this because it’s going to be the only way I can respond to this video! So I wrote it down, thinking I would use it somehow and not knowing how. Then I ended up deciding to respond to my own dream, which was in turn a response to the video — so, taking my subconscious response to this work and adding a conscious response. And at that point I had a piece that was totally separate from the original prompt.

 

MP:  So was this dream of the object you reference in the book, the board with the four openings?

MS: Mhm. Now I remember her video had something to do with a ball bouncing, just one shot of it, so in the dream that art piece was my only way of making art — I’m not a visual artist, so I don’t think in those terms, so my brain gave me this object and I knew I needed to work with it.

 

MP:  Speaking of objects — so what was it like to collaborate with us on the book; could you talk about how you made certain decisions in the design? Now that we have the finished product it’s so compelling to me because every aspect feels so intentional — the vellum pages, the binding, and so on.

 

MS: It’s been really cool having other people work on it because the original piece was already a response to someone else’s work. So with Peripheral Vision, further collaboration seemed like the natural way to take it … actually, for my reading I’m going to do something similar where I have the audience interact with the text. I feel like the piece is about responding to something, whether it’s responding to your own thoughts or other people, so it seems really appropriate to let someone else see where they can go with it. Rebecca [Elliott] was totally spot on — the slightly transparent paper, and visually separating each thought from page to page.

 

MP: Oh, absolutely. I also love the overlap in certain sections, how once sentence will partially obscure one on the next page.

 

MS: Totally — and I think that’s actually how the brain works, how you’ll have one primary conscious thought and then so many other fragments behind it that you can still kind of see, and it’s just a matter of getting to them.

 

MP: Going off of that, could you talk about the way different grammatical tenses work in Peripheral Vision? I’m so taken by how the speaker is literally transparent about it! It’s funny because I feel like that’s something that we wouldn’t normally try writing about — the ideal of “too much telling”, or whatever — but it’s so lovely to see what can happen here where there is that amount of disclosure. I became so aware reading this of how the shifts in tense would seem very natural until the speaker went on to break it down further, at which point one could see the scaffolding, so to speak, and notice how unusual it was — and how much room there is for error.

 

MS: The tense thing … it’s interesting, now that I think about it I wasn’t actually doing this when I wrote Peripheral Vision, but I teach ESL, so I’m really aware of verb tense and how when people misuse it totally changes the meaning of a sentence. I did also teach for a bit before writing the book, so maybe that was it. But what tense to use in writing is always a question, regardless of genre — the present tense makes it more immediate, but if you’re writing in the present tense about something that really happened, then by the time you edit it you can’t anymore since it’s already in the past! I think that’s what I was going for, this process of each movement down through tense as an editing of the previous section.

 

MP: So cool. Well lastly, this is kind of a trendy question, but what was it like for you to make the e-book? Actually, how do you feel about e-books in general, and did that change after you actually made one?

 

MS: I never read e-books! It changes the way reading feels, you can’t handle the paper or anything — and it’s bad for your eyes. But I also think there’s a lot that e-books can do that paper books can’t quite do, so I was open to making one. I’d thought about trying it myself in the past for other pieces, but I don’t have the technical skills; I’m not very good with computers. When I was talking with Tim [O’Rourke] about it, he was describing all of these possibilities and I was totally blown away —you can make something in three dimensions! It was such a fun process, and even though I don’t personally read e-books, if I knew something like what he made existed I would want to look at it.