Gary Sullivan

Wendy Kramer

kramer.gif (44511 bytes)"Ear Rant" by Wendy Kramer

Gary Sullivan:
Having had the fortunate opportunity to see you read your collages and Corrugated Love Poems a couple of times now, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on, internally, when you make the transformation from Wendy Kramer to the reader / versifier-of-words-&-pictures ... I mean, the transformation is remarkable; you seem to suddenly be occupying a whole other mental / emotional space. What do you experience when you’re reading these collages and assemblages?

Wendy Kramer: When i’m reading the collages, i experience self-conscious thoughts like: "where do i go next; how do i sound this; are people interested..." also, i have intervals of concentration, effort, and absorption. These intervals feel truest, when there are solely thots of what’s being read.

I also experience feelings: glee, satisfaction, sadness, frustration, amusement, and curiosity are a few. Mostly i experience learning.

GS: In your essay "On Singing Pictures in Poems as Verse," I note that you privilege or at the very least acknowledge a kind of subjectivity of reading that goes beyond what I think we’ve become used to with respect to considerations of so-called "reader-response" writing ... I mean, there’s at least the suggestion that the reader’s interiority is going to color any interpretation. And, in the case of your live readings, there’s an interesting sort of fork created: the work bending off into its live interpretation, and then, of course, however it’s going to be taken in & processed by your listeners ... can you talk a bit more about this whole process? Are you aware at all of how your reading is being taken in by your audience?

WK: i know how my reading is being taken in by people in the audience by what they tell me, & from feeling out the moods of the room, trying to sense whether people are with me. Some things people have told me include that when they watch me read a collage, it looks like a dance. different people will tell me their favorite collage of that reading, or ask questions about how i read them or how i make them. they ask if i read it differently each time, and whether i practice, or whether it’s spontaneous. they ask if i’ve considered having someone else perform them. sometimes, come to think of it i think the reading seems to be taken in with some relief, relief in the sense of "often i am permitted ..." or relief of relaxing conventions of poetry readings.

As for privileging or acknowledging a person’s subjectivity in reading, i don’t think of it that way. i mean, it’s not so much a reader’s interior i consider, so much as it’s that the outside of the pome is different from print poems, so it looks and sounds differently. and because there’re no beginning or ending points in the pome, since it can be read starting anywhere continuing anywhere and ending anywhere, and because it includes pictures to be verbalized, it reads differently each time. yeah, i think i think of it more as how the poem reads as opposed to how the reader reads. of course, each person reading or listening at any given moment will read & see & hear differently from any body else or even from themselves, and i do acknowledge it, but i don’t privilege it. i privilege that the pome will be read differently each time both because of the pome and because of the reader.

now, the fork you talk about, yes, that fork if i understand you rightly is that if someone is reading the poem aloud to other people, there is one tine of the fork that is the poem’s interpretation by the reader, and other tines of each person listening to that reader read. and with this, as i said above, when i am the reader, i know how the poem’s being taken in by what people tell me afterwards & a little bit by feeling out the room. but, it’s mostly by what people tell me afterwards, because if the reading is absorbing, i’m so there it’s like there’s no there there. no self-consciousness, & so no conscious consciousness of how it’s being taken in. kind of like exhilarating exercise.

GS: Can you describe how it feels and what sorts of thoughts and impulses are going on when you’re in the act of constructing one of your collages? How do you sense when something ought to be added or isn’t working?

WK: That’s a difficult question. I’d like to know the answers to that question myself. Although I have ongoing methodical questions for the poems, such as the aforementioned how should i cut and stick pieces by sound, or, how do you read a picture, or what would happen if i worked in black and white, the actual impulses are intuitive and, much of the time, instant. I don’t go by a plan or a vision. I don’t imagine what a poem will look or sound or feel like when it’s done. If i knew those things, there wouldn’t be any question, and so no need to make the poem. So, mostly there is no sense of something not working. i have a lot of frustration but that’s somehow not about what isn’t working so much as it’s about needing patience and spaciousness of mind. i get a lot of dread & irritation & overexcitement by turns. and of course boredom & absorption. So, thoughts, well, I talk to myself a lot, telling myself what to do or how to calm down. I think about things outside of the poem, especially when I’m cutting, you know, what song I want to hear, memories, plans, etc. And then too I have thoughts — intellectual thoughts — where I’m working out what is or has been happening with the poems. and even though i said vision is not the sense with which i’m mainly concerned, i’ve definitely become more involved with vision the last three years. so, a lot of times lately i respond intuitively to pictures and the way i lay out pictures and words.

GS: Have you done much non-visual writing since you got interested in collage? The first thing of yours I remember seeing was a chapbook called — I think it was — Patinas....

WK: Yes, it was called Patinas. That was a Meow Press chapbook from I think 1996? Patinas was written right before and during the start of the collage poems, so that when it was published, I had made a collage cover for it, with a postage stamp bird and crossword clues. Tanya Hollis & Taylor Brady have the original.

But no, not published, no poems. None that I can think of.

Funny you should call it non-visual writing. I have trouble figuring out what to call all of it, the poetry, which is a good thing. I mean, I take your question to mean have I written what I call print poems.. with a pen on paper or on the computer. I did have a spate of e-mail postings after I started collaging, posted to the core-l listserv for Charles Bernstein’s poetics seminar. & I sometimes post to the larger Poetics list. Then there’s the essay in Open Letter you mentioned. But that’s it for public writing, and no poems. I think that’s it. I off & on do a lot of private writing: journal notes, personal letters, and personal e-mail. every now and then a try at a poem, but rarely. I write a lot of poetic material, which can be anything. I write down a lot of citations of books I never read.

GS: Can you talk a bit about some of your influences and/or enthusiasms?

WK: New ones keep developing. I think this is extremely important because they accompany a person’s poems. My favorite poets — Michael Basinski, Gertrude Stein, & lately, Jackson Mac Low — have this quality of everdeveloping enthusiasms. The way they make or made (as in Stein’s case) poems keeps changing. This is, to me, the most attractive aspect of them as admirable poets.

So, my influences and enthusiasms run to other poets and artists, to reading, and to activities. These all contribute to make the questions that generate poems, & poems are my greatest enthusiasm.

As far as other poets and artists who are influences & enthusiasms, my main squeezes have included: the three named above, and also Jonathan Williams, Jess, and Ray Johnson. Funny, they all have J’s. I love Helen Adam. My friend Tanya Hollis — her art work influences me greatly. Of course there’s lots more. Ed Dorn just died..I love Gunslinger.

My reading goes all over the place, because I work at a public library. Lately my reading matches my newest activities, buddhist meditation and running.

& lesbians. i am very enthusiastic about and influenced by women i’m attracted to. or more accurately, by sexual feeling generally. the collages have a lot of sexual feeling in them.

& finally, as you know, there’s my enthusiasm for my new cat, dodie. she has four teeth.

Work Online

"WinePress" at EPC
"Ear Rant" at EPC
Reading "The Blind Poet" and "Wood or Wire?" at The East Village Poetry Web
Untilted Collage at Light and Dust
Numerous Collages at Meridian

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