Celebrating Small Press Traffic's 40th Anniversary: Saidenberg, Murray, Reilly and Gladman in San Francisco

This season Small Press Traffic is celebrating its 40th Anniversary through a series of readings curated by former Small Press Traffic directors. 

The festivities began on Sunday March 10th, curated by Jocelyn Saidenberg (Director of SPT from 1999-2000), who invited us to enjoy the work of three powerful women writers: Beth Murray (via telephone), Evelyn Reilly, and Renee Gladman .

Jocelyn Saidenberg

Somehow, in the midst of the frenzy of end-of-quarter grading, and in the season of awaiting news from College Admissions Departments for my daughter, I've misplaced my notebook with all my notes! So, for this post, I'm flying on the magic carpet of memory only folks!

Beth Murray is living near Yosemite these days. Jocelyn arranged for Beth to read via phone and speaker, but the connection kept breaking up. We heard a tiny slice of some of Cancer Angel, a full length manuscript. Beth has been kind enough to let me post some of it here.  This is a small portion of a section entitled "Vile."

Beth Murray


here in the chest who will instruct?

in the branches who will locate motions?

however swift or slow,

several wheels turning trust

brass instruments blowing luck,

strings plucking faith have

inherited terrible violence around which

numbness injects unnoticed—


tumors too can be circles,

the path into curiosity, to ask

who are you?

sit quietly for what arises,

when the recesses of mind pop up,

there is a trembling in the bones in these moments

draw attention to this spot so that

other wayfarers know to

stop here, so that other

travelers holding offerings

are moved to give,

light dimming in what has fallen

tumor says,


I grow here to make bigger this



we are traveling

taking the thoughts back

‘the entire planet’ we say in our blessings

but inside the twitching there is no

boundary your gaze catches mine and we fall asleep knowing

until looking too closely

the space becomes difficult to see

the feeling of feeling is not the story of what happened

but the fabric that called you to your birth,

that decided you would meet  and

look with love beyond compromise –

who are you without years of counting?

who are you without breathing in the habitual direction?

waking to check–

the tumors are a voice speaking

the message of their own dissolving

and each message continues until

the waters of the tide fall in on it

under the continuity that cannot be

numbered upon which the bowl

is placed empty and all eat – in that continuity the blessing

that there will be others or there are others

blinking in the sunlight,

through the stillness of the diamond shapes

vibrating past orchestras and the witness of winds –

no more they shall blow you




I first took lamb-soft leave,

my lungs tightening from

these years of interruption tethering

the loss of children,

the passing of my brother,

the leaving of lovers,

releasing the oh well,

to come to we require another—


do not let your desires run down,

as the body will clock it

a year or many later reading

the moment of abandoning desire

or accepting obstruction –

the end of the entire hallelujah, not a celebrated slicing

pomegranate, bitter food of winter’s darkness:

I will not carry forward these

dark secrets –

ask yourself where is the space?

the freedom, the light

let yourself into the lit room

find the others who have sought the light

            tumor says,


                        I  grow here to make bigger

                        the struggling part

                        when the voice is not big enough

                        grow in the throat to augment


before how hiding

want something else and cannot

in my dream house,

barely able to lift my arm

            tumor says,


I make bigger your lip

                        to hide the size of your teeth


so Olympian

under pressure of expectation

            tumor says,


                        when loved ones are troubled

I grow as breast to nurture them





my only hope Adriamyacin they said -

syringe of vile, red liquid in

sealed manila envelope with doctor’s orders, the nurse

opens in front of me, she will be paid a few dollars to sit on my bedside and

place her thumb on the syringe, slowly press, she says

“you should not see it move”

faster would strip my veins,

she explains they call this “pushing”

she will be paid a few dollars to sit slowly pushing

he will be paid $15,000 for signing the vile red liquid order,

starts every woman with breast tumors as large as mine on vile red liquid,

it takes much longer for her gloved hand to

patiently hold the syringe

the first time I’m curious, watch the syringe,

feel for some change in my blood

is it cold, metallic?

fifteen minutes later syringe empties, she tosses it in toxic waste bin

I get up to pee, wheeling my IV stand with me

pee is red – it’s gone in –

the next day pee stings

knows corroding, knows killing cells

this will kill only the fast growing ones they say

so stomach lining, so hair, so tumor –

within a month hair is falling

each morning black strands on the pillow

satin pillows my femme friend says

satin pulls hair the least

my mother sends two satin pillowcases

Devatara shows me satin magnetized blanket

with bright yellow Buddha toward which to direct

cancer pulled from my breast out fingers send to Buddha

Buddha-magnets will absorb, neutralize

blanket costs $150, it’s the

size of a crib blanket for a toddler who will not suckle here

satin pillows from mom are free


after first chemo cannot eat for days

wait for the day I can get into the water

swim in fishy, toxic bay to clear my head

fingers slip into the water with each stroke

send cancer out my arm into the water

Devatara says you must only use blanket to absorb it

I think, “the sea is big enough”

sea will neutralize –

next time sight of red syringe turns my stomach

I cannot look, belly reels with fatigue and dying cells

red syringe flashes—

I look forward to more of Beth's work.

Evelyn Reilly,
photo courtesy of Kevin Killian

Next up Evelyn Reilly read excerpts from Styrofoam and Apocalypso, both from Roof Books. Reilly's reading was lively, and in particular, I was struck by how much her writing is studded with language of our moment though it is also intertwined with a diction attached to the past such as in her references to Browning's "Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came." Reilly's work is interested in the environmental, technology, the internet, science; she revels in linguistic play. Here's an excerpt from "Styrofoam," pulled from her website here.

from Styrofoam

Answer:  Styrofoam deathlessness
Question:  How long does it take?
& all the time singing in my throat 
little dead Greek lady
in your eternity.saddle
[hat: 59% Acrylic 41% Modacrylic
[ornamental trim: 24% Polyvinyl 76% Polyamide
holding a vial           
Enter:  8,9,13,14,17-ethynyl-13-methyl-
(aka environmental sources of hormonal activity
(side effects include tenderness, dizziness
                  and aberrations of the vision
                                 (oh please just pass the passout juice now!) 
Answer:  It is a misconception that materials
biodegrade in a meaningful timeframe
Answer:  Thought to be composters landfills
are actually vast mummifiers
                        of waste
                                                and waste’s companions                                          
                                    lo stunning all-color
heap-like & manifold.of 
foam 1 : a mass of fine bubbles on the surface of a liquid 
2 : a light cellular material resulting from the introduction
of gas during manufacture 3 : frothy saliva  4 : the SEA 
which can be molded into almost anything 
& cousin to.thingsartistic:
Kristen J
A low oven and a watchful eye turns bits
of used plastic meat trays into keychain ornaments.
Monica T
Soft and satisfying for infant teething if you first freeze.
posted 10/11/2007 at thriftyfun.com
hosted by FPPG the Foodservice Plastic Packaging Group
All this.formation
            & barely able to see sea
for the full poem visit Evelyn's website. 

Lastly, Evelyn read from Apocalypso, a book that continues her linguistic revelries, cast in shadow and humor, as in this piece, briefly excerpted here:

Apocalypso: A Comedy

And I became the Alpha
and the Omega

and my little dog too

Come and I'll show you what once
shall have taken place after this

forever and ever and ever, etc.

at which I took my glue gun
from its hipster holster

and twenty-four elders
began to sing:

Eight swimming creatures covered with eyes (state of the oceans, check)
Sixteen birds with sinister wings (state of the flyways, checkers)

But even the end of evolve, luv?        (I was down with the animals)

Then the twenty-four fell down:
clad in white garments
and wearing golden crowns

(this is the revised standard
sedition edition chapter four
verses one through ten

in which enumeration equals

a technique of calm

                            3 2 1 we are calm

So many pretty revels
in these devastation pictures

head as mollusk shell
whale with insect tail

and a twig become
a tiny musician
fingering a stringy box

(see Fall of the Rebel Angels
by Pieter Bruegel)

as I scan
my es-cat-a-logue

covering that part of language
concerned with reckoning
and the density destiny
of survivor species

For he poured his bowls of wrath on the earth
and a great star fell onto the rivers

For more, check out Evelyn's book:

Next up was Renee Gladman. In her intro, Jocelyn referenced the SPT African American experimental literature conference she, Renee, and Giovanni Singleton worked on in the spring of 2000, citing it as her first conference ever and one of her seminal experiences while at Small Press Traffic.

Renee and Kevin Killian at ATA
photo by Aja Duncan

Renee read from the third book in her The Ravickians series--Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, newly out from the Dorothy Project, and then later from a manuscript in progress, a book of essays, called Calamities, because, Renee said, they fail.

I confess not having yet read the previous Ravickian books. Event Factory, The Ravickians, and now, Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, are among many books awaiting time and space. I promise to clear the decks for them this summer as I was simply blown away by Renee's reading. I found her language to be roomy, roamy, expansive, deeply satisfying in its careful attention to thinking and thinking about thinking and living in writing, and doing it in a way that feels deeply important, weighty, enigmatic.  Examples will make clear what I as of yet cannot:

from Ana Patova:

I wrote this book in a circular home a hill, overlooking the city, which roams while we are sleeping; I wrote it in a café with my friends; I wrote it as I looked for hidden streets, while sitting in desolate and lush spaces. I wanted to say language leaves a trace, makes a simultaneous trail, of us and of the crisis. My walking leaves a trace, also my saying I have walked. And, this is important, because, though these marks do not render precisely the picture of our crisis, they do show where there are still people. The day fills up with monuments, and the book attempts to erect a fence around them. The book wishes to end a crisis by sheer fact of existing. But, rather than a History, the book becomes an index. It shuffles our bewilderment. It does not tell our story. It cannot do that. Nevertheless, it opens toward you. Tij.

                                       --Ana Patova

Meanwhile, the eye witnesses the story
of what we were when we happened,
when the last person left and the first
person returned as if the same moment,
as if the inhale began in the exhale, that
first person leaving, who belonged to all
of us, and what we became in his
leaving: our reaching for our cups. We
were holding space and making space
through stillness, looking for structures
to reflect what we were seeing, which
was nothing. I wrote about buildings,
and for the first part of the crisis this
kept me occupied. I was holed up in my
home. I slept on the books I wrote, which
I'd glued between board and given
unassuming titles, like Slow and Tired, but
these books were my life's work; I knew
once I'd finished them I would never
write again; rather, I would not need to
write or live or sleep, it felt like. When I
changed my mind about this, when I
changed my mind--but, it was me and it
was L and it was Z. and B., and we were
all high on coffee and sometimes pills,
waiting for some storm to come, some
document from abroad.

I am eager for Gladman to publish Calamities. They too were thrilling and deeply satisfying. Visit Floor to read an excerpt. Gladman gave a talk "The Sentence as a Space for Living:Prose Architecture" as part of the University of California's Holloway Reading Series on March 13th that I did not learn about until after the fact. This is regrettable as I have a feeling I might have swooned. Hopefully, the Holloway Series folks will post a link on youtube soon! I can't wait.


Three by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Continuing the Collage fest!
Homage to Hoch


Homage to the Baroness

More on Rachel Blau Duplessi here & here!


Collages by Norma Cole

Just because it is February, post-valentine's day, and because it is always a pleasure to contemplate collages by Norma Cole, here are two pieces for your delectation!

Untitled, Norma Cole

Pronunciation:  /kɒˈlɑːʒ/
Etymology:  French, lit. ‘pasting, gluing’

An abstract form of art in which photographs, pieces of paper, newspaper cuttings, string, etc., are placed in juxtaposition and glued to the pictorial surface; such a work of art. Also transf., fig., and attrib.

1919   W. Lewis Caliph's Design i. 26   He..gradually drifts into the habit (a sort of progressive collage) of bringing his lack of painter's prowess and his nice feeling for art together.
1935   D. Gascoyne Short Surv. Surrealism iv. 66   Poems can be composed from random newspaper-cuttings (‘collage’ poems).
1935   D. Gascoyne Short Surv. Surrealism iv. 73   Max Ernst, with..his astonishing books of ‘collage’ pictures.
1935   D. Gascoyne Short Surv. Surrealism iv. 133   Parallel with these features..may be placed collage and frottage.
1936   J. Deschin New Ways in Photogr. 181   Before embarking on the making of a photomontage, it should be understood that the term refers to a photographic process entirely and not to the scissors-and-paste method (known as collage) practiced by some in the name of photomontage.
1936   H. Read Surrealism 62   The invention of the collage by Picasso or Braque—the work of art made of any old pieces of string or newspaper.
1937   W. H. Auden & L. MacNeice Lett. from Iceland 21   Press cuttings, gossip, maps, statistics, graphs; I don't intend to do the thing by halves... It is a collage that you're going to read.
1938   L. MacNeice Mod. Poetry viii. 144   The early Eliot's diction..is often a collage of other people's writing.
1939   Archit. Rev. 85 301   The accompanying ‘collages’ demonstrate a new use for the Object, particularly the Found Object (l'objet trouvé of surrealist invention).
1956   R. Ironside in A. Pryce-Jones New Outl. Mod. Knowl. 285   The technique of ‘collage’ would be improperly described as a photographic process.
1957   Observer 15 Sept. 13/7   His assured collage paintings.
1957   Observer 15 Sept. 13/7   Robyn Denny..has discovered new possibilities in collage.
1961   Times 4 Aug. 3/4   When calling to mind a picture which is a collage-painting the fact that it is a collage is almost the first thing that we recollect.
1969   Sat. Rev. 28 June 56/3   Berio's Sinfonia provided an excellent example of the ‘collage’ which some composers like to practice nowadays.

--courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary

Untitled, Norma Cole



Book Release: Janice Lee and Will Alexander

Janice Lee and Will Alexander at Alley Cat Books January 18th, 2014
Will Alexander at Alley Cat Books

It felt like summer not January in San Francisco last night as Eleni Stecopoulos and I walked through the Mission to Alley Cat Books on 24th and Treat to hear some poetry. 

We arrived to catch the tail end of Ivan Argüelles’s reading. Up next were Will Alexander and Janice Lee, each of whom read for about 15 minutes, Lee from her new book Damnation and Alexander from The Sri Lankan Loxodrome. After a break, Alexander and Lee read from their new Solar Luxuriance chapbook, a collaboration entitled  The Transparent as Witness. The two poets met some time ago at a reading and soon after decided to work together, collaborating by email. Alexander sent Lee a piece and she wrote back. Lee noted how easy this collaborative process was, how little they edited their pieces, and how a third-voice seems to have entered the work; neither could remember who had written some of the sections. 

The reading was beautifully organized; Alley Cat is a great venue. This was my first opportunity to hear Will Alexander and I couldn’t help smiling. His work takes me for a ride; I’m often not sure where I am going but it is always a cosmic, linguistically juicy trip. Lee’s work is new to me and this provided an intriguing introduction.  While the prose in Damnation reads as straightforward, some of her other books, for example, Kërotakis, are invested in more wayward explorations. You can read a review of Kërotakis here at Bookslut.

  Here’s an excerpt from The Transparent as Witness:

As sidereal cortex, there then exists a natural contagion, a magnetism no longer contained within the personality itself. One then exists as a ubiquitous solar germination, thereby knowing the secondary aspects of partially arisen telepathy. The latter being a symptom of what I’ll call the overwhelming. When Sombrero Galaxy is only a figment of this cortex, we know that the human field is morphing. Not according to the pre-conditioned idea, but akin to boulders which transgress the eons. This being the condition of a spiraling supra-kinetic. It being the hidden power which will allow the blood to turn green, allowing life to roam outside the palpability of the given. This being ferocity of insight which assimilates the unknown as motion.

This ferocity of insight we ought to hold on to, the goal being in reach, being easy to remember, being easy to forget. We enter a new place and fell the urge to create new memories. Or change old ones to fit the new paradigm. Memories are memories. They are malleable. They are forgettable. Painting can be done from inside a canvas, the mutilated shapes and colors that scream at the hand until they feel finished. Paint a woman’s face in her own blood. Sleep inside an egg as it slowly cooks in a pot of boiling water. The fragile shudder of the dream-wolf who nudges at the small of your back. You are in the wrong place. Or this is the wrong time.

This has nothing in common with personal insular mass or personal jaundice quaking in the atmosphere, which thereby allows an objective examination of vertigo, knowing its scales, its rhythms, its optical azures shaking within the turbulence of eggs. One can then ask about the solar locale and its referential state of particles. Perhaps they can be called in-human suns rising and setting over the wrathful sky of Saturn. Perhaps they vary their vexing angles within a quarter billion miles per hour. In this sense each planet has its various registrations. Take Earth, with its wastes of ice and floods, its uninhabitable parching canals, without the need of anthropomorphic deafening.  For instance, without the chilling posture of Descartes or Hobbes, or hoards of the befuddled following Jesus Christ. This being the body as etched tungsten attempting to dissect zodiacs, by means of simulated fire or darkness. Simple nuance is never decreed. Ghosts are destroyed. Thus, the universe seems willed by an absence of kindling   (10-11).


Amiri Baraka

In Memory of Amiri Baraka

an excerpt from  "How You Sound??"

"HOW YOU SOUND??" is what we recent fellows are up to. How we sound: our peculiar grasp on, say: a. Melican speech, b. Poetries of the world, c. Our selves (which is attitudes, logics, theories, jumbles of our lives, & all that), d. And the final...The Totality Of Mind: Spiritual...God?? (or you name it): Social (zeitgeist): or Heideggerian umwelt.

MY POETRY is whatever I think I am. (Can I be light and weight-less as a sail?? Heavy & clunking like 8 black boots.) I CAN BE ANYTHING I CAN. I make a poetry with what I feel is useful & can be saved out of all the garbage of our lives.        (1959)


Holiday Giving!

Support SMALL PRESS TRAFFIC's 2014 Season!

This holiday/solstice season, give the G I F T
of experimental, thought-provoking poetry,
performance, and genre defying writing!

Why, you ask? Why?

Here's why:

Giving is easy. Click here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/spt-s-40th-anniversary-season

Small Press Traffic owes it all to you for its 40th Anniversary 2014 Season. 

For 40 years, Small Press Traffic has been at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area innovative writing scene, bringing together readers, writers, and independent presses through an influential reading series, publications, conferences and talks. Our mission is to promote and support local, national and international writers who push the limits of how we speak and think about the world. We aim to engage an audience for independently published literature while cultivating a culturally diverse avant-garde.
Throughout its history SPT has produced ground-breaking work and SPT needs help to produce its upcoming season in which includes:
+Poets Theater THEN&NOW Festival: NOW IN SUMMER!
+Events guest-curated by former SPT Directors Dana Teen Lomax, Elizabeth Treadwell, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Dodie Bellamy and Robert Glück.
+Dialogues program: PEEP SHOW a new reading/talking hybrid where invited authors give us a peep into their new projects and process and we get to talk about it as a group
+The Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture in 21st Century Poetics
+Endless Summer, a ridiculously long marathon
+Traffic Report, an online forum for critique and conversation
+Monthly online workshops with writers around the globe
+Experiments in the Archive: an Artist-in-Residence program
+Small Press Traffic's FIRST ANNUAL RETREAT

What We Need & What You Get

  • Through this campaign we are attempting to raise $10,000. This is what we need to  cover the costs associated with providing a forum for innovative literature, including writer's honorarium, insurance, marketing and staffing costs.  To give you  the overall agency budget for the year is $65,000, with an additional 35,000 in in-kind donations. We work hard to cover our costs with public and private grants, memberships and admissions, but this funding will help us ever so much. Everything over our goal lessens the stress on other funding sources.
  • Donating to this campaign at any level will get you shout outs and endless appreciation. Each level has a unique gift package from t-shirts to Kevin Killian's voice on your outgoing phone message , to a specially designed (Soma)tic Poetry Ritual by CA Conrad! 
  • Most importantly though, donating brings us together as a community. It's a magic that we all create together because we all realize the importance and need for it. It's our organization. Let's all be owners of it.

Other Ways You Can Help

You might not be able to contribute $$$, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help:
  • We always welcome in-kind donations and volunteers, advice and feedback. Also, if can: Spread the word. Tell your friends. Participate in the 2014 season. Keep reading experimental literature.


Karen Lepri on Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and NanGoldin

Last August in Annandale-on-Hudson at Bard College, I heard poet Karen Lepri read a piece on two 2012 exhibits in New York by artists Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and Nan Goldin. I enjoyed the swerves the writing makes and I asked her to share it with xpoetics, and she has.

Karen Lepri

No Cock Sorry

There are no cocks—sorry—male members—visible in the three pieces from PS 1’s Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt:
Tender Love Among the Junk showcased on the museum’s website, but walking through the exhibition feels like the inverse of Where’s Waldo—he’s/his is everywhere though unlikely to show up had I photographed the work, the rainbow glare of foil in every hue, the dominant tinge of all-over gold, and the almost pointillist fanaticism and fibrous, microscopic details washing out—or shall I say, tenderizing—the hundreds of cut-up black and white male nudes.

My mother always counseled, No one will even notice!, when two shades of black were “off” from each other, or when I was the only girl at First Holy Communion wearing vestment and tights with rubber-soled white sandals (as opposed to white patent leather Mary Janes), but in the photograph with my skewed smile I still notice.



Lollipop Knick Knack (Let's Talk About You). c. 1968-69. Mixed media. 9 x 16 x 5 1/2 inches. Courtesy Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Photo fromMOMA PS1

Lanigan-Schmidt’s work builds a bomb out of the sacristy, out of outer layers, priestly garments, doilies, altars, confession booths, plastic wrappers, lasagna trays, all things used to hide behind, masturbate behind, conjure a dual sense of salvation and condemnation … behind—exploded, exposed, the shards comprise a renovated, effervescent object d’amour, or rather embody out-right worship. 

Nan Goldin’s nudes have almost always been house-enough themselves, meaning, one with other surfaces, structures, enough to hold what’s human inside.


Nan Goldin, The nap, Paris (2010). Image via Matthew Marks Gallery.



In Goldin’s retrospective Scopophilia at Matthew Marks last Fall, the photographs of Classical sculptures and Renaissance paintings of female nudes acted as our tour guides to the irreverent or simply luscious moments within a gaze of the total work—here fingers pinch a nipple, hair dangles between breasts, stone returns to painted surface returns to flesh—Medusa’s stare reversed.

Is my attraction a form of penis-phobia (it’s so small—how do I find it?) or does every viewer’s eye lynch onto the protruding form, its muddled shadows, assured epicenter of every male nude photo collaged into one of Lanigan-Schmidt’s pieces? 


My friend tells me how a boy on the playground tells her daughter, You must like princesses because you’re a girl, to which she replies, lying, No I don’t, to which he retorts, scientifically, Then you’re not a girl, to which she rebuts, plainly, and in my opinion unknowingly losing the battle, Some girls play with boys’ things and some boys play with girls’ things.

A key difference between the photograph of the painting detail on the left and the photograph of “real women” on the right in Goldin’s 2010 The Nap is that in the painting detail photo we can’t see the women’s hands, can’t see how they sleep or play.


 “Lesbian bed-death” is where a non-incestuous sexual relationship between two women, or lesbians, transforms into a potentially incestuous non-sexual relationship through meta-physical, not physical, bonds—or so I have heard.

There is nothing to dramatize about the cruelty of ceasing to desire the body of your lover or your sister before it even barely begins to die, meaning the desire, meaning unlike Oedipus and Jocasta or Claudius and Gertrude, Gertrude being not a sister but by marriage, still wrong enough, or simply fast enough, to pulverize Hamlet’s mind.


In The Nap, the paired couples seem joined at the legs, one body with four torsos, four heads, diametrically positioned, the thigh of each bottom figure rising to meet at the juncture of two frames, the left-hand arms peeling away to expose four breasts, the huddled right-hand arms forming an ‘X,’ a literal coat of arms.

After Lanigan-Schmidt, my two friends, boyfriends for five years plus, and I are finishing our “snacks” at the museum restaurant when a waitress drops a glass that shatters everywhere, and Paul, ever a comic, throws a wine bottle to the ground, catching it on the bounce, the embarrassed waitress now smiling, glad to be doubled, her blooper refracted back to her as if to say, Yeah, we noticed, but nobody cares.

November 27, 2012

Karen Lepri is the author of Incidents of Scattering (Noemi, 2013) and the chapbook Fig. I (Horse Less Press, 2012). Lepri received the 2012 Noemi Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in 6x6, Boston Review, Chicago ReviewConjunctions, Lana Turner, Mandorla, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Queens College.