Thursday, June 05, 2014


What is YOUR fragment? Poets discuss the fragment--where they first encountered this writing technique, how fragments are part of books they read and admire, but most significantly, each of the poets participating in this year-long blog project begun in early 2014 share a bit about how the fragment appears in their books.(see the original questions HERE and an elaboration on my reflections on what a fragment is HERE). Responses 1-11 have been supplied by (click names to see posts): Lisa Pasold, Marthe Reed, George Vance, rob mclennan, j/j hastain, Michael Ruby, Jennifer K Dick, Afton Wilky, Pearl Pririe, Tilla Brading and Laura Mullen.This week poet Adeena Karasick responds.

Adeena Karasick is an American poet and media-artist and the author of seven books of poetry and poetic theory, most recently, This Poem, (Talonbooks, 2012)—which you can watch her read from on Youtube at Four of her “videopoems” are regularly showcased at Film Festivals worldwide. Her work is marked with an urban, feminist aesthetic that continually challenges linguistic habits and normative modes of meaning production. Engaged with the art of combination and turbulence of thought, it is a testament to the creative and regenerative power of language and its infinite possibilities for pushing meaning to the limits of its semantic boundaries. Karasick’s poetic practices reflect her elaborate academic background and interests. Karasick earned an MA in Semiotics at York University, and a Ph.D from Concordia University focusing on the intersection between deconstructionist and Kabbalistic hermeneutics. She is internationally recognized for her intellectual leadership in the discipline of poetics and theory, and the intersection between divergent modes of communication. Her scholarship has focused on the development of meaning, with special attention to the work of Marshall McLuhan, Derrida and L-A=N=G=U=A-G=E theorists; on the historical relationship between modes of communication and sociocultural phenomena; on the impact of new technologies and media on language practice; on popular culture phenomena including television, film, feminism, Conceptual Art and Kabbalah. For more, see her complete bio on the  Fordham University site HERE and check out her home site at

Adeena Karasick's FRAGMENT:

not what the siren sang but what the frag me[a]nt  (bpNichol)

Whether using it to denote all that is absent or elliptic or broken,

the fragment foregrounds how everything is always already

broken from something and the fragment inside the fragment infinitely explodes

with all potential meaning.

Composed in the style of Facebook updates or extended tweets, This Poem (Talonbooks, 2012) is a collision of fragments. Mashing up the lexicons of Stein, Zukofsky, Whitman, the contemporary financial meltdown, semiotic theory, Derrida and flckr streams; fragments of post-consumerist culture, it documents contradictory trrrnds, threads, webbed networks of information, the language of the ‘ordinary” and the otherness of daily carnage, erupting as a kinda self-reflexive deeply satiric archive of fragments, updates, analysis, aggregates, treatise, advice and precepts.

The fragment allows not for a desensification but reminds us of how we are always engaged in a kind of euphoric recycling of information (shards, sparks) and how we are continually reinvented through recontextualization. And consumed with an ever-elusive search for definition, rerouted through infinite collisions, juxtapositions of defamiliarity, and asked to re-evaluate how we process information.

Recent collaborations with Maria Damon, Intertextile Text in Exile, Shmata Mash Up / A Jewette for Two Voices  published in Open Letter (Collaborations Issue) and Habits of Being (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), explores the rag inside the frag  --

the text as textile interwoven; text in exile, textatic;

is ribbed woven linen limning outlining the materiality of the sentence, s’entrance –

Because what is a  shmata but a fragment?

a rag, towel, washcloth, headcovering -- that which is ripped tattered worn.

Interestingly, with the addition of an apostrophe

Shma’ata is also the text   

and thus really foregrounding how inevitably the text

is always comprised of fragments, broken, torn

Always already ripped off

stretched out in the minutia of ouisie locutia

all ambiphractured and hemistiched

saying the unsayable,  waving towards and calling forth

all that is not present but resonant and echoic

palimpsested in a pool of reverberant  slips.

Interestingly, it turns out that with an addition of an “a,” Shemata

actually means to drop, let slip, slippage;  fragment

So, shmata engraved in slippery ellipsis oullipian slippage, full of cuts, scission derisions, elision; shattered, tattered reminds us how through the fragmentation of the words

the world explodes.


Further focus on the fragment most recently, is with my Salomé project

I’ve been working through fragments of history to tell the untellable

name the unnamable, say the unsayable re-writing her story

through shards, fragments of Kabbalistic and Midrashic infusions, histories mythistories heresies  repurposing her naysayers  (Bryant, Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, Richard Strauss ), re-presenting her not as  an evil murderess but

opening a space where she (as an apocryphal figure) is not repeatedly victimized, scapegoated and silenced, but occupies a new arena of polyvocality, transgression and desire

The fragment offers an openness not only to say the unsayable but to actively interact with the apostrophic silence reminding us its never silent but salient, resounding with all that is not said. And through the mash-ups and interventions, juxtapositions of conflicting discourse, the fragment allows a freedom from constraint, borders orders laws, flaws codes; a coterie of otherness, urges us to traverse new territories (because the map is never the territory), terror stories,

torah stories, erostories

celebrating all that’s manifest and secret, private and public,

secret and readable, revealed, concealed, unassailable, malleable 

And she is thickening her vibe


like a savage garish moody poster portrait

of debt-vetted affects

refracted parataxis

axioms of wracked praxis

And he is all swarthy charred

with loaded lilts, stilted jilter

filters fluttering

And she is trampling her

tangled transom

And he is cradling and scratching meaning

out from the fissuring of an architecture

of cynicism, of stuttered iterality

And she is

stirring her plotted contiguities

echoes, orbits, ambits of ravaged damage

while bathing in the operative gore of systemic repression.


Covering and uncovering recouvert

veiling though these letters of the

text all lexibly flexible, textured flecks

gathered rags or raggedy gags, rag tag frags of wriggly insignias

Thursday, May 29, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR FRAGMENT XI: Laura Mullen responds

What is YOUR fragment? Poets explain this technique as it appears in their books (see the original questions HERE and an elaboration on my reflections HERE). Responses 1-10 have been supplied by (click names to see their posts): Lisa Pasold, Marthe Reed, George Vance, rob mclennan, j/j hastain, Michael Ruby Jennifer K Dick, Afton Wilky, Pearl Pririe and Tilla Brading This week poet Laura Mullen responds.

Laura Mullen is the author of eight books: Complicated Grief is forthcoming from Solid Objects in 2014. Recognitions for her poetry include Ironwood’s Stanford Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award. She has had several MacDowell Fellowships and is a frequent visitor at the Summer Writing Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. Her work has been widely anthologized and is included in Postmodern American Poetry, and American Hybrid (Norton), and I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues). Undersong, the composer Jason Eckardt’s setting of “The Distance (This)” (from Subject) was released on Mode records in 2011. Mullen is the McElveen Professor in English at LSU and a contributing editor for the on-line poetry site The Volta.

‘Brevis oratio penetrat celum’, ‘A short prayer pierces heaven’—a phrase from late medieval England. “Schort preier peersith heven”--from The Cloud of Unknowing. Or, Woolf, from The Waves: “I need a little language such as lovers use…”

The fragment as broken blade, as shrapnel, or something softer, virus, pollen? It enters and goes on entering: it works its way in. Because it halts it continues…

In the place where an absence abrupt calls attention to itself (there’s something missing) there’s a sharpness, an edge we can’t help running a thumb over and then pushing into the skin.

At the site of the _____________ the possibility of something else there, marriage of what is and what could be: cyborg, hybrid thing, it’s the excited site of the active join…something made by writer and reader (and in this way all texts are fragments, fragmentary…).

The “readerly” text is made “writerly,” as starred—by Roland Barthes—in S/Z. A starring or scarring that makes of the text a collection of bits and pieces. Look up “analysis.” Break it down for me.

Shattered by attention, mended by attention. And vice versa.

Anything, as Gertrude Stein noticed, is interesting if you read it one word at a time.

The fragment is history’s gift, time’s present, the astonishing evidence of care and carelessness—from Sappho’s poems down to the phonemes found on the blotting paper in the library in a detective novel which become the clue or key (absolving, betraying) and on to all our willful contemporary erasures…

Isn’t the fragment “Antifragile” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s great word)? It gains from disorder, from the chaos of possible interpretations, from the force that eroded the original intention, from the creative power of the questions we bring to the encounter with the incomplete. Time and hard use are its friends and further destruction only opens further possibility… Maybe?

With each loss what’s left becomes more meaningful—up to a certain point?

Insofar as the fragment gives birth to the archivist, detective and scholar at once, it is the productive site of an ardent engagement involving memory and imagination, selflessness and an exquisite delight.

My first experience of the fragment in all its mystery / mastery was (I think) that one sentence chapter in a William Faulkner novel—(“My mother…” I could not believe what I was reading, I knelt as I finished the sentence “is a fish”)—my first experience in Art, that is.
In Life? Ah…
My most recent experience of the fragment is The Gorgeous Nothings, that transformative collection of Emily Dickinson’s aphorisms, scraps, drafts, explorations: short prayers still working their way inward in me, each with its pale wake of spacious quiet, each stillness, each stop, awakening “that awful stranger, consciousness.”

Murmur and Subject, the start of my love affair with what passes out of reach (oh I’m lying: that “love” would have begun when I was four, yes? With my parents’ divorce?): in Murmur the unfinished phrases make a constant enactment of the way even those of us not stopped mid-sentence by violence rarely get to see anything finished… But after beginning to think seriously about Stein, and then after “the Federal Flood” (in which my notes on Stein dissolved) I wanted more than ever to make openings (I think so, I think I think so, I think this is what I remember):                     writing
                        instead of      
not even now knowing the                                              
                                                                                              letter by

And then there was Zong!
It takes so much courage to stay at the site of the phoneme where the wronged begin to talk back to communicate in what wat

Fragment: I fall upon that
Fragment: rough splinters of smoke caught my
Fragment: half here or half gone, denial and suggestion
Fragment: souvenir site of some trouble to remember
Fragment: half silence
Fragment: at the end at the beginning
Fragment: at once ancient and young

And then, then…life. All this thinking and the giddiness of speech or rather writing and then recalling the face of the young woman who confessed she’d been molested, felt “sick,” about it didn’t know how to speak… Haunts me. The fragmented lives. The places where, torn open, silence intervenes, where shame shuts down the rest of the…the…

“I hate eloquence,” Helene Cixous said, in another language, a translated phrase that stays with me. The smooth power to assert put only to the exploration of safe topics.

Fragment: I stilled under the unwanted caress and stayed there
Fragment: sickened
Fragment: then it seemed
Fragment: this thing I wasn’t to speak of wasn’t sure had to no words for ashamed
Fragment: that it was not chosen is

Where the promising beginning was
 by greed by lust twisted power cruel and
. Or further, at the grave of the
or suicide.

Life itself as something we struggle to understand from the shards left to us, left in us…

Where we don’t even get to dream in the sentence, or where that notion of where we might have been able to go is only a ghost, lost phantom clause that could have, you have to believe me, would have, if only

Fragment: where was it you first learned to think of it like that?

Fragment: in celebration and mourning

Here is the hole, the holy broken edge of heaven, all we’ve been left, all we will leave.