Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Conceptual Poetry Feature—Issue 41, May 2014)

Kate Robinson

*quotations culled from I’ll Drown My Book: Women in Conceptual Writing



the movements made entrenched always grazing the arms of surrounding bodies

you cannot gather without clustering

the feeling of another’s breath on your face


This was something you wanted to write about:

not producing a fact of infrastructure, a dilemma of resources

everyone needed a touch.


Somebody started yelling about something that had happened to them in the past.

Someone was trying to listen, someone was trying to drown out the sound

of her breath in the microphone.


…the gesture toward an apple

is now more compelling than the apple itself…1

‘conceptual’ phase which focuses on

the subject of experience rather than the object provoking it.2

the mode of non-function a form of institutional critique, for

its avowed awareness of the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion

intrinsic to the project of establishing a corpus…3

one course of action could be inactive, awaiting desire, awaiting pushback

One is not one self.

One has not one self.

One’s speech is that of others.4


this isn’t new it’s perpetual

each step away from the last

with an opportunity to change course offered literally at every moment

the open field

the matrix of points

…a disavowal of totalizing views and its products, an embrace of process5

the grasping

over punctuated

extended into a vibration over time depleting, barely registering


if you use the limited to explore the unlimited you will become exhausted

grinning like a madwoman on display6


I cannot write about my ability to perceive, peer into, how it haunts me,

sends me places I might not have wanted to go.

As a statement against positioning myself, which would imply an aspiration

on my part to attain status within a hierarchy:7 What has accomplishment gained us?


an art of low stakes vs. an aesthetic of low stakes:

An art of low stakes makes no challenges to any sort of system, cultural or otherwise.

An aesthetic of low stakes doesn’t intimidate its audience.


a deliberate adoption of multiple, often clashing positions

resulting from my engagement with the task at hand: inclusion/exclusion

ALSO → competitiveness

ALSO → performativity

ALSO → identity as performance

ALSO → personas

ALSO → multiplicity

positions, by definition, are tactical8


There are two ways to see this resistance to meaning:

there’s so much, such a glut, it just doesn’t matter


there’s just so much, it’s inevitable that it will mean

try on as many as you can and something’s bound to look good on you

Meaning happens without understanding.

And the reverse also holds as well:

understanding takes place without “meaning.”9

When we decide that something doesn’t

make sense

what are we making decisions about?10

…[conceptual texts] prick us into socio-politicized consciousness about our habits

of meaning making

and text-use.11

materiality in “political writing”:

exists external to the work:

the material is the (potential) real world action

taken by the (potential) reader

or the political events/movements

that are being pointed to.

“Political writing” points to an external material condition and tries to evoke a material response.

materiality in conceptual writing:

exists in the work itself:

The materiality of the writing points to

the conceptual underpinning.

The political event in this case happens in the working of the work itself,

in its production, publishing, and continual persistence (existence) afterward.

The material textual condition creates a site for political growth?

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives […] it survives,

A way of happening, a mouth.12


Everything that’s happening is not happening

in the framed object,

in the entity on which we’re supposedly focusing our attention,

but rather

in the immensely involved ways of looking away from it

and engaging with peripheral entities around it

that might redefine not the object,

but the very notion of an experience of art.13

But I also like—no,


when the text opens up

for an action beyond the space of the text.

A possible action.

When the text not only points out something broken and empty and dead (allegorical),

but also makes a gesture

to a hypothetical future action.14


[W]hat resounds as an ethical question is more accurately a material one,

and a question of social structure.

That is, the descriptive turn in critical theory is motivated by

the impossibility of finding the right relation to one’s object.15

A spire


Paints over the thing

Betrays herself with words

autonomous and self-determining subject: precarious self

Is there a logic that could put us all on the same level?

this articulation of commonality: a compendium of features

This tenuous we is an apt description of this assemblage,

or the notion of conceptual writing,

which is still evolving.16

She said that the Bay Area came to mind when she thought about conceptual poetry and

I felt bored or out of touch or insecure or a little lost.

I don’t even know what that word means: “women”

women in



I do not believe the conceptual—

especially in the work of women—

can be separated from the body.

Isn’t that what fucked up Western Culture in the first place—

the wrenching of the conceptual from the embodied?17

“women” are big black hole

in its radical primordiality, as the emergence of verse from the pure Nothing18

the open




The thing about not knowing

not wanting to know the breadth

the thing about history

the thing about mastery.

Mastery asserts control.

Mastery anathema to: primary vulnerability POINTS TO → social vulnerability as a body

to apprehend that interconnectedness of things

to urge, press, reply20

feelings we don’t recognize as feelings because they’re cerebral

ALSO → iterations of seriousness

ALSO → compelling illumination

ALSO → a complexity of lifeforms is desirable

ALSO → poetry thinks relationally

Something about the things you know manifesting unconsciously in your speech and actions

the cognitive role of experimentalism

definitional tension

Something about well-worn patterns

Could conceptual writing be drawing reframed?

understanding incommensurate points of view

ALSO → benefits of difference


ALSO → continual minor delinquencies

ALSO → potentials for synthesis

ALSO → die of the roar of it

POINTS TO → and the signal turns inside out



write a motion

write emotion

don’t care about writing


emptied and desiring of emptiness

only enjoyed as a function

passing across and touching on the other side

he said she wasn’t

she wasn’t


her notes were strong and strange

a bomb threat in the library

that surprised me because

as if I follow and I go on

as if this machine had no place

to have something real/not make anything physical

The ‘conceptual’ mindset, then, is about looking and noticing:

…Not just, I think, to linger:

to somehow penetrate what is noticed until it penetrates you.21

What will have been obsessed with looking?

Why add more to the pile other than because you must?

What is “must”?

a way out of stagnancy

…parts of a larger investigation

…working in conjunction with my interest in



and translations…22

What is integration?

What changes with a woman at the pen?

I didn’t create language, writer thought.

I can’t make language, but in this world, I can play, can be played.23

POINTS TO → the unintelligible

POINTS TO → re-imagining (pre-figuration?)

POINTS TO → assassination of mastery

POINTS TO → failure as the goal of conceptual writing


I am this mix of hegemonic and emergent

in relation to even the critical edges

of that culture

in which I am also saturated,

and through which I have expressed my longing.

Or part of that longing.24

ALSO → The author may have disappeared but language remains privileged…

what could be illuminating in the ways

human and non-human animals don’t have language.25

ALSO → We need prostheses for everything.

Language is one of those first prostheses;

the voice, that turns into language.

I often ask myself what kind of prosthesis a poem is.26


who looks like

a desire to choose

a desire to browse

it’s harder

to do that now

it seems to be

all maps


this is new://

The exact moment before

something never seen before: appears?


a marginal image

this is exactly what my life is like

these days

we have to climb over

getting very close to

the unfamiliar

it’s really all there is

…you can’t necessarily buy who you really want to be. You have to buy the available images.28

who this is

the air is

he is

the tree is

the sea is

the cage is

the air is

the wound is

It began as a night vision that landed on the page as a wave.29


she passes



beats against


These beatings and burnings join in layers of raptures…30

…a physical and temporal

movement through an intellectual frame,

a frame constructed in curiosity,

curiosity being desire.

The end result is simply, the material evidence of this movement,

muddy tracks

in an English garden,

or on the page.31


is education

is flesh

is a book

is over there

is splendid

is the sky

is bruised

is far

is half reflection (recollection)


both connection to and ambivalence toward the naming of the group

what’s a     

fallen from     


sinking feeling

discovers solitude


created space between


 ↓  ↓  ↓


in order to be




to carry

a sudden


sent out waves

Decided that since what

she wanted to do was

just to write,

not to find her own voice,

could and would write

by using anyone’s voice, anyone’s text,

whatever materials she wanted to use.32


we’ve reached

a collage of the real33

a sloppy, unfinished, bricolage held together by a borrowed framing device,

in turn framed by a borrowed framing device,34

in turn framed by a borrowed framing device.

The ideal would probably be a constant reduction towards almost nothing.35





1Marcella Durand
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2Christine Weirtheim
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3Monica de la Torre
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4Caroline Bergvall
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5Monica de la Torre
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6Monica Mody (breaking the rules, not from the book)
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7Monica de la Torre
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8Monica de la Torre
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9Oana Avasilichioaei and Erin Moure
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10Renee Gladman
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11Judith Goldman
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12Frances Richard
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13Kim Rosenfeld quoting Irit Rogoff
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14Mette Moestruo
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15Sarah Dowling
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16Laynie Browne
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17Dodie Bellamy
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18Rachel Blau DuPlessis quoting Giorgio Agamben
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19Anne Boyer (breaking the rules, not from the book)
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20Cecilia Vicuña
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21Nada Gordon
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22Sawako Naykayasu
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23Juliana Spahr
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24Rachel Blau DuPlessis
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25Tina Darragh
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26Chus Pato
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27Bhanu Kapil
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28Harryette Mullen
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29Cecilia Vicuña
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30Stacy Doris and Lisa Robertson
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31Yedda Morrison
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32Juliana Spahr
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33Jennifer Karmin
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34Monica DeTorre
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35Cia Rinne
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