Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young invited me to create (Soma)tic #43 for their piece A MEGAPHONE, forthcoming in CHAIN Magazine. Many thanks to Juliana and Stephanie.
"If you are very frank with yourself and don't mind how ridiculous anything that comes to you may seem, you will have a chance of capturing the symbol of your direct reaction. The antique way to live and express life was to say it according to the rules. But the modern flings herself at life and lets herself feel what she does feel, then upon the very tick of the second she snatches the images of life that fly through the brain." --Mina Loy in a 1917 interview
Gather twelve of your favorite books of poetry by living women poets. Divide your copy of Maria Raha's HELLIONS into twelve parts ("Uneasy Riders" is the name of chapter 7). HELLIONS is the perfect book to accompany this exercise. Talk to twelve women about visiting them. Tell them you will bring a box, and ask them to place a small object inside the box, something you're not to know about. It can be anything: a stone, button, shot glass, comb, lipstick, dildo, chalk, etc., but ask them to not tell you what it is. Ask them to sleep with it under their pillow the night before you visit. I told Maria Raha about this (Soma)tic exercise and asked her if twelve was too many, and she said, "If you don't know twelve women you need to SELF EXAMINE!" This is why it's good to ask Maria Raha. Twelve women it is! Take notes through the process of choosing the books of poetry, and visiting the twelve women to gather the objects. Write write write notes notes notes. After you have gathered the books by living women poets, and the box of twelve objects, set aside twelve consecutive days.
DAY ONE: As a preliminary, read the Loy quote aloud, then immediately watch Mary Wigman's 1914 dance HEXENTANZ on You Tube, and watch Wigman with the volume as LOUD as possible. Then read the first of the twelve sections you've created in HELLIONS. Climb into the bathtub, turn on the shower, open an umbrella, and lie down to read the first book of poems, pausing from time to time to YELL the poet's name! Take notes take notes. Reach inside your box and choose an object, but don't look at it. Smell it, rub it against you. Meditate with the object in the middle of your chest while thinking of the twelve women, water beating against the umbrella. SCREAM YOUR NAME with eyes closed in meditation. SCREAM YOUR NAME with eyes open. Harryette Mullen says, "proceed with abandon / finding yourself where you are". Look at the object. Do not put it back in the box, but do take more notes.
Choose a different location for each of the next eleven days. Stand in mud, hunch in the back seat of a car, in the basement with a candle, sit in a graveyard, on the steps of a courthouse, or stand facing the statue of a very dead old man. But be somewhere completely different each day. Before reading from HELLIONS, and the next book of poetry, and fondling an object in your box, read the Loy quote aloud, and watch Wigman's HEXENTANZ dance. Let these brilliant grandmothers loosen any knots, and always remember as Laura Riding says, "the words are only part of the poetic formula: the rest is ritual, and the reason in them must contend with the mechanics of magic-making in it – and must not win." Your notes might seem an endless chore of notes once you've completed your twelve days, but carry them around with you, and take more notes while reading them, putting them into a frame. The poem will come to you from those notes, it's in there, no doubt about it. You've infused the (Soma)tic with these others, and now your new poem is waiting.