Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read Luis Negrón’s short story, The Chosen One.
Ever since I was little I’ve heard my mother tell the story, more than once, that when they presented me at church, barely forty days old, the preacher predicted that I would not be like other boys, that every step I took would be a step toward Jehovah. I grew up with the certainty of being anointed.
My brothers and father were opposed to this idea. Papi swore to my mother that they weren’t bringing me up right, that all the church and religion was going to ruin me. My brothers, backed by Papi, never went to church. They made sure I had something to talk about in Bible class when we’d discuss Job and his trials. They’d hide my Bible and my neckties. They’d spray me with a hose minutes before the bus arrived to take Mami and me to worship. If I cried, Papi would make me fight them and would shout at me: “Defend yourself like a man, goddamn it!”
Mike Polizze of Purling Hiss discusses his four-track roots, Ampegs, and letting his song-guts hang out.
Mike Polizze got a four-track recorder in 1999. He was 18 then, and fresh out of high school. Polizze spent a lot of nights playing around with home recording, and in 2003, he laid down the first tracks he’d release under the moniker Purling Hiss some years later. Each record since then half-buries two or three decades of influence, an amalgamation of Black Flag, Sabbath, and the poppier side of Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth, all of it cloaked in a buzzy, white noise.
Between their first record in 2009 and now, Purling Hiss saw an explosive output of vinyl and cassette, roughly two EPs, a split 7”, one compilation, a live tape, and five full-lengths. The latest of which, Water on Mars, seems a bit of a departure from the band’s lo-fi roots: it’s bigger, it’s crisp, the lows are lower (much lower), shattering the transmission loss between Purling Hiss’s heavy live shows and the lo-fi (albeit ripping) pop of their back catalog. I spoke with Polizze about buying that initial four-track, making the new record, and the space between the two.
Tyler Curtis What’s with the higher production this time around? It’s not masked by the buzz and white noise of everything before. Maybe your intention’s different with Water on Mars? Or at least, something more fleshed-out?
Mike Polizze I feel like I shed my skin a little bit on this one. All the recorded stuff I did before was poorly lo-fi, with varying levels of quality. Most of the past recordings weren’t intended to be released when I recorded them at the time, because I didn’t know what it was going to be. A lot of it was first take, a lot of it was just poorly mixed. And I kind of did it on purpose. A lot of times I buried the vocals, not always on purpose, but just sort of kept them underneath. It was sort of like the learning process, before I was confident with the drums or the vocals. Plus, it was fun to experiment. Using the four-track recording as the tool itself in the process to give it it’s aesthetic. It’s like part of it’s own personality.
I bought a four-track in 1999. I was 18 then. So for the first few years, I just kind of messed with it a little bit. But around 2003, 2004, I really started recording. And there’s kind of where the backlog started. I was just recording stuff, and by the time Permanent Records put out the first Purling Hiss record, I had already recorded a bunch. That was kind of new at the time, so they kind of got me right when I was doing that. But we’re talking like 2004 to probably like 2011, of stuff you might hear, whether it’s on a tour-only tape cassette release or another record I did.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Kenya (Robinson) reflects on the end of her MFA program and becoming a professional artist.
Kenya (Robinson) is currently wrapping up her MFA in Sculpture at the Yale School of Art after several years as a working artist. An astute observer of culture, (Robinson) explores a range of issues from race and class to perceptions about gender, privilege, and consumerism. Her newest work places rogue installations within store displays and merchandise to emphasize the act of shopping, beginning with a Walmart in New Haven. All kinds of people encounter art every day, she explains, making this a good moment to think about the American national character and its shifting nature. (Robinson) took a break from searching for fabric, materials, and other supplies for her thesis exhibition to meet with me in midtown Manhattan to discuss how graduate school has influenced the direction of her career and creative practice.
Lee Ann Norman You’re in New Haven now, but where are you from originally?
Kenya (Robinson) I’m from Gainesville, Florida. This is hugely important to my identity, almost as important to my identity as creativity. I’ve long been an artist, but it’s a fairly recent addition to my professional life. In the past, I imagined artists as people with a particular set of skills—painting, carving, drawing—I didn’t recognize that we each create in the context of our personalized experience. Sometimes it includes that level of specific training and sometimes it doesn’t.
But, Gainesville is a small, quirky college town, so it has this amazing dichotomy—being provincial in that way—very southern—
LAN —What school is there?
KR The University of Florida. When I was there, it was 38,000 students, and it’s continuing to grow. Because of that, we have international students, many professional schools, scientists, a lot of medical researchers. . . you have this element of culture that exists there neck-in-neck with that southern fried, Bible Belt thing. You can go downtown and hear some pretty good jazz, but in that same space, there will be a van rolling around with an anti-Muslim sentiment written on the side—that’s the town where that preacher was trying to burn the Qu’ran—
LAN Oh! That’s right!
Chris Gisonny on the rhythms of language in Peter Dimock’s George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time.
Do Americans lack a language adequate to the history they are living? Peter Dimock believes so, and he explores this issue in his strange and remarkable novel George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time, published by Dalkey Archive Press. “Empire and democracy are not compatible,” Dimock writes. “By what narrative logic do we reconcile them?” The more specific question the novel poses is: What is it in our language that has fostered the American public’s complicity with their government’s use of torture despite its violation of international and domestic laws?
Dimock’s novel asserts that Empire’s delusions infuse the very rhythms of our language, which is to say our collective imagination. The US continually demonstrates an eagerness to defend its lofty principles via policies that negate those very principles. But this seems difficult for many Americans to grasp or confront in any meaningful way. In a broad sense this is probably due to what Dimock in his “Author’s Note” deems a “subjective internalization of [a] historical narrative of national triumph”—in other words, a pervasively accepted exceptionalism has crippled the critical thinking capacities of many Americans. The spurious pieties regurgitated endlessly by our pundits and demagogues do not help the situation; forging a collective sense of clarity in this purported democracy appears to be nothing more than the flimsiest of utopian fantasies.
But hold on, put down those cyanide capsules—we may not be completely fucked. Not just yet. The torture, the drones, the secret prisons, the assassinations of American citizens, the reduction of habeas corpus to some quaint, anachronistic custom—this is deplorable, yes, but as George Anderson argues, a true confrontation with Empire first requires us to confront Empire’s contamination of our own minds.
Christian Patterson discusses the re-release of Redheaded Peckerwood, comparisons to Truman Capote, and photographic secret codes.
After much anticipation, the third edition of Redheaded Peckerwood (MACK, 2011)—Christian Patterson’s widely lauded monograph—is finally available. The self-taught artist, who worked for William Eggleston in the early to mid-2000s, produced his first monograph, Sound Affects, in 2008, which pays homage to Memphis, Tennessee’s music culture. Redheaded Peckerwood is the culmination of Patterson’s five-year study of the murder spree that Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate committed through Nebraska and Wyoming in 1957 into 1958. It is a multi-faceted body of work that includes not just photographs, but actual pieces of evidence from the crimes, re-worked to fit into Patterson’s new narrative. After hearing him speak in late 2012 as part of the International Center of Photography’s lecture series, I was even more intrigued about the process of creating Redheaded Peckerwood, which has come to define Patterson’s style. When I met with him in his Brooklyn studio, he was editing the photographs he had shot on a recent trip back to his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a small-run book he’s working on as a reprieve before tackling his next big project.
Jacob Pastrovich How did you end up coming to New York from Wisconsin?
Christian Patterson I had a camera for a while, but I didn’t become interested in photography until after I moved to New York. I didn’t study art, but I was in a student organization in college that involved coming to New York once a year and like many people, I was very excited and blown away by the city and each year I came back I became more comfortable. When I came here, I had no idea I’d be doing some of the things I did or some of the things I’m doing now. I was offered a job in a completely different line of work and industry but that brought me here initially, and when I got here I began exploring the city, wanting to get the know it more, bringing my camera along, inevitably popping in and out of galleries, museums, and bookstores and seeing work that inspired me to try to make better pictures. It turned into an obsession.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read four poems by Travis Nichols with art by Bob Stang, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
Baby ibuprofen and a receipt
in my hand. You in your study,
intruded upon by your girlfriend
trotting in with flowers.
“Poem!” you barked,
one hand raised,
not looking up from your typewriter.
She withdrew, bruised, nursing the hurt
until you emerged triumphant.
The one burden you had, shed.
Time now, not for me, to fuck around.
Amy Lawless on the conceptual collaborative nature of Ben Fama’s Mall Witch.
Conceptual poetry has, in the past, made my skin crawl. I used to want to open up a book, approach it from my limited (non-omniscient) perspective, and read it on its own terms. I wanted to think, but was chiefly concerned with the (groan) fascinating bounds of my own mind’s processes as related to a connection with the work I was reading. I figured I’d read criticism or not read criticism later on. This is, of course, naïve. One can never read a book without previous knowledge. Usually, some prime move in your universe caused you to buy, borrow, steal, or even get a PDF of a book. Maybe the author looks kinda hot and do-able in the author photo. Maybe the historical significance of the work caused you a moment of autodidactic-narcissistic-self-flagellation-cum-PayPal-drain. Maybe you respect the press. Maybe you keep hearing a name at lit parties or in that gently annoying banter before a reading. Maybe you see quotes of it Tweeted or posted to Facebook by friends or by people you respect. Maybe your dead mentor told you to read Dryden, and you’re carrying that on your shoulders until you read some Dryden. Maybe you like feminist work. Whatever it is, we move toward things. We are impacted. We glide. We read. We are part of a literary community whether we identify as writers, readers, critics, or a softcore pullulating mix of roles. We ride. But does that context matter? Yeah it matters. It sticks like a burr in your brain and can help you understand the work. You can’t rid yourself of it. Sometimes that context is a history or school of poetics or maybe it’s a series of linked ideas (concept) as expressed in the book Mall Witch.