Poet Projective: Somatics, Clairvoyance, and Intuitive Engagements

Thursday, April 26, 2012
720 Records in Lawrenceville
8:30-10:30 PM
free and open to the public

As we were preparing the details for this next ((PRO) (FANA)), the University of Pittsburgh was barraged with a series of bomb threats over the past month. Given this ((PRO) (FANA))’s theme, it seemed fitting that all of this unfolded and peaked with Mercury in retrograde. “Poet Projective: Somatics, Clairvoyance, and Intuitive Engagements” explores how we can come to new insights when we turn aside from “rationality” — a deductive, empirically based method for understanding the world — and engage subtler impulses in pursuit of a new portrait of reality. Indeed, some of our most lauded and inventive minds have dabbled in the occult — Isaac Newton, Carl Jung, William Blake, Maya Deren, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch come quickly to mind — and the “New” Age in fact echoes our most ancient cultural practices.

“Poet Projective” brings together two of the foremost practitioners of intuitive engagements in contemporary poetry for an evening of dialogue and exploration. Join us as CA Conrad and Debrah Morkun discuss their poetic practices, how they came to this mode of writing, and some of the startling insights they’ve achieved.

CA Conrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers on the side of the highway for his teen mother and helping her shoplift. A skilled Dakini Tarot reader, Conrad’s numerous books include Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press), a collaboration with Frank Sherlock titled The City Real and Imagined (Factory School), and The Book of Frank (Wave Books) and A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books) as well as recent essays in the anthologies Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? (AK Press) and No Gender: Reflections on the Life and Work of kari edwards (Litmus Press). Among his various projects, Conrad also edits Jupiter 88: A Video Journal of Contemporary Poetry as well as Paranormal Poetics. His prizes include the Gill Ott Book Award and a Pew Fellowship by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Find out more about him at his website. 

Debrah Morkun believes in near death experiences and prays to the old gods. A graduate of Naropa University, Debrah is the author of The Ida Pingala (BlazeVOX, 2011) & Projection Machine (BlazeVOX, 2010) as well as several chapbooks. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she curates The Jubilant Thicket Literary Series & co-curates (with Kim Gek Lin Short) The General Idea Series. You can visit her at her website for more of her poetry and reviews.


Follow up to Disparate Soundings

What an incredible event — 720 Records was standing room only! Many thanks to our generous friend, Nate, for allowing us to use his store space, and to the many guests and attendees of the night. Below are the introductions we shared as well as some photos.

Lauren Russell is currently a graduate student of the MFA writing program at the University of Pittsburgh and comes to us by way of Los Angeles and New York city. Her chapbooks include The Empty Handed Messenger (Goodbye Better) and Dream-Clung Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press). Her work could be the love child of Michel Foucault and a tortoise shell cat, objectively remorseless with its gaze into what we culturally construe as “psychic well being.” She charms and terrifies us by turns, her whimsical word play coupling with the recognition of what our mad society has wrought onto ourselves. (SJL)

Yona Harvey teaches for the Creative Writing Program at Carnegie Mellon University and her first poetry collection, Hemming the Water, is forthcoming from Four Way Books. Yona’s poems beg the questions: How does a poem get made? What are its materials? Language, in Harvey’s poems, comes from a range of sources, including the quotidian — music reviews, fashion magazines, grammar primers, and cookbooks. The poems re-imagine what’s possible given the material that we experience everyday — the material that we take for granted — and casts this language into a new realm as if to command us to look at it again, to re-think what we thought we already knew about its powers. Harvey’s poems, as they recycle and reinvent might bring us to the ends of language, a butting up against those ends. (DLM)

Evie Shockley grew up in the shadow of southern trees and now teaches as an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University New Brunswick. As a poet, Evie writes through and feels strongly the traces of history at work upon our cultural consciousness. In her writing, we see how we are products of our era, which was in turn shaped by what came before. But in her whimsical, determined, vigorous prosody, these traces of history needn’t be pine coffins lined with pretty verse. The past is black — in all the glorious subtle shades of the word — a rich sod to till and draw nourishment from, to nurture ourselves with knowledge and understanding. It is alive and speaks even now to us with a challenge to be great — more human, more attuned, more inquisitive and alert to the world we move in and shape. There’s a strange and tender delight in her work, and I think you will love her.  (SJL)

Disparate Soundings: Poetics of the Speaking Female Body

Thursday, April 5, 2012
720 Records in Lawrenceville
8:30-10:30 PM
free and open to the public

It is spring. Officially. Some of us, if we find ourselves in The Academy (note the fancy caps), are plodding through its beauty waiting for summer. Sometimes, while we’re waiting, we teach and write about pressing contemporary questions regarding “identity”–or what it means to be a racially marked being, a gendered being, a person “belonging” to a certain nation, a person with a certain claim of sexual orientation. And then there are these realities–the need to write an email to a friend after witnessing some white boys on a train laughing while pointing to a black woman and, next to that, an image of a baboon; there’s the Trayvon Martin tragedy; and the impossibly violent hate crime against Shaima Alawadi, the Iraqi woman who was beaten to death in California. To summarize the poet Cornelius Eady, these things have happened so many times, they make some of us exhausted. How is it possible to speak into and against these acts? What is there left to say that matters?

Three poets offer possibilities for speaking into our contemporary moment that teach us, perhaps, that the languages of poetry in their disparate soundings can enact kinds of utterance that do more than simply witness.

Please join POETRY ((PRO) (FANA)) for an evening with poets Evie Shockley, Yona Harvey, and Lauren Russell who will read from their work.

Evie Shockley is the author of two books of poetry, the new black (Wesleyan UP, 2011) and a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006), and two chapbooks, 31 words  *  prose poems (Belladonna* Books, 2007) and The Gorgon Goddess (Carolina Wren Press, 2001). Her poems also appear and are forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Nation, TriQuarterly Online, qarrtsiluni, Talisman, Iron Horse Review, Indiana Review, The Southern Review, esque, Columbia Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Hambone, Callaloo, No Tell Motel, Harvard Review, HOW2, nocturnes (re)view, Achiote Seeds, Tuesday; An Art Project, Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the African DiasporaBlack Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, and Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets from the Carolinas. From 2007-2011, she co-edited jubilat; in 2007, she guest-edited a special issue of MiPOesias (called “~QUEST~”) that features contemporary African American poets.  Shockley currently serves as a contributing editor to Evening Will Come, a monthly journal of poetics. She is Associate Professor of African American literature and creative writing at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Yona Harvey is an Assistant Teaching Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Carnegie Mellon University.  She has a Master of Fine Arts as well as Master of Library and Information Science degree. She finds that her experiences in archives and information science, as a writer in the schools, and as a collaborator with other artists all inform her work as an emerging poet. Using non-poetry texts to read and compose poetry is also of interest to her: music reviews, fashion magazines, grammar primers, and cookbooks are all fair game.  She is constantly searching for new audio archives and rare recordings in poetry, which are becoming more accessible on The Internet.  Her first poetry collection, Hemming the Water, is forthcoming from Four Way Books.

Lauren Russell is the author of the chapbooks Dream-Clung, Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2012) and The Empty-Handed Messenger (Goodbye Better, 2009). Her poems and reviews have appeared in various places, including Eleven Eleven, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Harp & Altar, Lyre Lyre, Boog City, The Recluse, and Van Gogh’s Ear. She is an M.F.A. student at the University of Pittsburgh and counts the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, AmeriCorps*NCCC, and Goddard College among her alma maters.

Debut Wrap Up



Thank you to everyone for attending our debut: we had a wonderful conversation with Sha and Brenda, and we look forward to seeing how these dialogues continue here in Pittsburgh.

Sha was kind enough to record some of the event: if you missed his talk, you can catch it via his site at SoundCloud. Sha has several other short talks posted, so feel free to take the opportunity to poke around.

Below are the texts of the the introductions for Sha and Brenda, as well as a few pictures from the night. Stay posted for updates on our upcoming March event, details TBA!


Sha LaBare wants to remind us that the future is already happening. We are carrying it around inside of our practices, speech, arts, and ways of imagining. There is therefore no predicting it, only enacting. And Sha asks us to look at how we make this future: what are the grounds, the assumptions, the fundamentals that we stand upon? Simply attuning ourselves to such questions can take us into strange territories, opening wormholes in the human condition. This is scary work — dangerous, even. But the result could lead us to the most beautiful thing we have yet to encounter. Sha invites us to live more ethically, more at home within the strange wildness of life, more generously in relationship with the things we can never imagine understanding.  (SJL)

Brenda Iijima is one of the bravest, most versatile and attuned poets that I know. She writes, edits, curates, collaborates, listens, makes, and reads–all voraciously and with intense generosity. And across all of her projects, Brenda is interested in the way we can rejuvenate and transform ourselves through language; by getting down into the fibers and ligatures of word work, she reminds us that that there is always an infinitely more complicated and diverse world that we are part of and creating. Interestingly, as Brenda ushers us towards these rich future possibilities, her roadmaps are in fact vestigial: she turns to the practices and relationships that we’ve buried or become blinded to, but — with careful, charged interest — can discover again. Her writing asks us to get to the root of what we are and how we be.  (SJL)


SERIES DEBUT: Ecopoetics and the Ecology of Everyday Life

Sunday, February 12th
720 Records in Lawrenceville
free and open to the public

If the topsy turvy winter weather has you wondering about the environment and our place in it, by all means come out for this event!

It perhaps needn’t be said, but human activity has had an intensely powerful effect on the environment — from transforming entire landscapes, to creating the largest dump heap in the history of man, to modifying the genetic code of the life forms around us. This event reconsiders what “nature” might be in today’s world and how that impacts our relationship to the spaces we inhabit and the lifeforms we encounter. Come explore how poetry can help us think through these processes and lead us to a space of potential regeneration.

Join us for POETRY ((PRO) (FANA))’s debut as we hear author/editor Brenda Iijima and scholar Sha LaBare each share from their work.

Brenda Iijima grew up in North Adams, Massachusetts, and studied visual arts at Skidmore College. Based in Brooklyn, New York, she teaches and edits for Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, a publisher of poetry. Iijima’s poetry collections include Around Sea (2004), Animate, Inanimate Aims (2007), Subsistence Equipment (2008), Revv. You’ll—ution (2009), and If Not Metamorphic (2010). In her work, Iijima addresses the subjects of science, gender, ecology, and history. She is also the editor of eco language reader (2010), a collection of essays by poets on matters of ecological concern.

Sha LaBare is a widgeteer, nexistentialist, and straight up univore who works on science fiction as a way of thinking about and being in the world. He is particularly interested in radical ecological ethics and making first contact with the aliens all around us right here on earth. Sha recently completed his PhD – Farfetchings: on and in the sf mode – in the History of Consciousness program at UC-Santa Cruz, where he worked under the direction of Donna Haraway. As a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Humanities Center, his current project is called “The Ecology of Everyday Life”. This project focuses on creating and expanding sense of wonder in our encounters with the memes, critters, and widgets that make up the texture and tenor of our everyday lives.