Karen Weiser

Artist Statement, expiration date upon reading

I can only gesture what standing in your bedroom felt like, bed shortened to your century and big enough for only one. In the boudoir, stuffed birds flap and flop against domed glass. Each object refines away to a solid state of ornate—recreates a never before dear departed world—hangs up our compiled day as minor memento.

Dana Ward

More Than Anything in the Whole Wide World

"the world equal to x
or any letter which may stand for the unknown
a great loss, a damnable mystery
sold for a mess of pottage"

--Beverly Dahlen
(A Reading 18)

“The World”, is it there or not? A presence/absence hybrid sort of deal? I always thought of this as a divinely sophisticated question, & wanted to be preoccupied by it in some unnavigable way. It seemed it would be productive, expansive, and that no matter where one came down on the question (if one indeed did), there’d be an enormous amount of space created by considering it. Maybe it was some Zen sort of thing I picked up on in the foamy edges of Beat infatuation I’d floated on in high school? I’m not sure. But then I remember sort of ‘forgetting it’, or finding it complaining at the edges of my radar, only to have it go silent again while I worried over other things. Then one night I was in DC at Kaplan Harris’s house and he said something to me about my poems “bringing the world back in” in some particular way. He said some other poets around my age were doing similar things. I was confused as I’d intended no such thing. Whatever he’d keyed into, that seemed so explicit in the poems (& I trusted Kaplan immediately because he was convincingly brilliant) was not at all there for me, certainly not as some kind of program. Well this was obviously philosophical negligence on my part. I had to re-consider. Before I fell asleep that night in a deliciously large & soft guest bed I did remind myself that 'the World' as it once had been known had been disappeared under the banner of 'commerce' (this is the Potemkin village argument right?, not so much an erasure as a 'cloaking device'--Kevin Davies: "the papier-mâché potemkin/village we've spread like/ spreadable cheese over the surface of/ what we call earth"). At least from my privileged vantage I could see that quite clearly. I knew that. I thought that knowledge was an operative part of my poetics! So I guess I could see it but my work didn't perform it (show don't tell?) My thoughts went to Watten--"the world is everything that is not the case", (still a compelling inversion), & to Beverly Dahlen's A Reading 18 where she examines his arguments, Watten's, and others, in illuminating and glorious fashion. What of that elemental mysteriousness Dahlen speaks to in the passage quoted above, I certainly could not let that drift from the frame, that gripping uncertainty seemed (seems) the ground of my existence. & Creeley, Duncan, they'd use the word 'world' decisively but with a different sort of turn. The poet Stan Apps had written a poem called 'the World' that puzzled and thrilled me: "The whole idea/of something called a/'world'/is really reductive,". But there I was, tying my shoes or whatever. Where did I locate my body in this vexed apparitional zone? I needed to know because I wanted to examine more explicitly the license and ease of movement my white middle-class male body had permitted me all these years. My sexuality. The surfaces of bodies, what those enabled, prevented, what burned up upon contact. Was I attractive, & what in the hell did that mean, so contingent! & too, to stay game to those "neverthelesses". Nevertheless, the endurance of terror and ecstasy, which I always found at any site that commingled mortality and pleasure amid the enforced stratification that dominated existence. So there was 'the World'! It was that place, not the body, not the sensations or feelings, but some overlapped zone of all of it! "Too fucking easy" I told myself, rightly. But at least a place from which to begin. & there were still other concerns--was this an impossibly antique argument? If I'd been attending the requisite conferences and involved in more strenuous discourse with my peers would I have cleared this hurdle long ago, a blue and white hurdle I'd see now behind me, laughable and easy to clear. Perhaps not. I'm speculating wildly at this point and being maybe, just a little bit, paranoid? But I'm saying that only because what matters to me most is that my writing have some vitality in other's lives in the present, & maybe I was wrestling tediously with an angel from the past. Not in some intense way of arguing with tradition, as we're all in dialog with this or that writer long gone. No, just simply rehashing something that was settled long ago, in some comment box or symposia I'd never wandered into? All of that anxiety was nurturing because it gave the poems a life and a lot of nervous energy. There is a good deal more I could say--about the reading I did, and the thinking, but I don't want to explain the whole reading away. Some of us will be going out afterwards I can totally see myself clinging to what I've written here like some security blanket & not wandering down untrodden paths--and really y'all, what fun is that? I also discovered that writing is a total extravagance because people can read each other's MINDS.