Jen Hofer is a poet, translator, interpreter, teacher, knitter, and urban cyclist. Her recent publications include The Route, a collaboration with Patrick Durgin (Atelos, 2008), sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre, a translation from Dolores Dorantes by Mexican poet Dolores Dorantes (Counterpath Press and Kenning Editions, 2008), and lip wolf, a translation of Mexican poet Laura Solórzano's lobo de labio (Action Books, 2007). She lives in Los Angeles, where recently she has been making hand-sewn poems out of foraged paper as part of the "Natural Habitats" project.
with Patrick Durgin
from Notes on Collaboration
Collaboration denotes a voluntary (active) relinquishment of deliberation (constructed as), which, in its best instance, connotes a permeability inherent to language. Voiced—say, at a poetry reading, because it'd make sense that the voice you are listening to could say anything—you disrespect connotative values, because you know that everything you hear is intentional, deliberate, partial to "any" utterance; the "voice" so many claim to find on the page is a crudely chance encounter. In page-bound discourse, you can't trust intent precisely because only certain things make sense to say.
Or it makes no sense (new sense) to say things this way, which is why we need these modes of saying? Being deliberate may be relinquished or wrested, but I'm not convinced deliberating can, though the boundaries that delimit it may slide: collaboration allows the deliberation inherent to any practice of articulation to be bound by the limits of someone else's imagination rather than by the limits of our own knowledge, alongside those at a parallel gallop. A parallel gap?
Gaping at some minimal index of the universe, being mindful means the image fails to belong—to whomever. Can there be, then, a failure of imagination? A failure to collaborate? You would have had to been Frank O'Hara to write "I don't know whose blood's in me," regardless of the heroic disavowal of such a line.
Is then "all writing collaboration" in the way "all writing is translation," according to Pierre Joris and Jerome Rothenberg (and myself), not to mention many others? And in exactly that way, where it both is and isn't? Perhaps part of my difficulty with poetry lately is that it seems so few of us "don't know whose blood's in us," or even think to ask. Or perhaps it's the bloodiness of nearly everything that gets to me, and that some of us have the privilege to choose not to worry about it. I get bored by my own lapel-shaking, yet can't shake the impulse.
It is easy to celebrate and protest the endangered integrity of the voice, the body, the body politic, but that ease is as vapid as echoes or spinning mirrors. If imitation was never possible in the classical sense of the term, what is mimicry? Boredom, in fact.
What Berryman referred to as "lack of inner resources" (followed by "and I am heavy bored," if I remember correctly). It seems there is only nominal integrity to bodies, politic and otherwise, which is perhaps why naming (ekphrasis of the world?) weighs so heavily. There is a potential and actual buoyancy to collaboration—or it is a buoy, really—which is the antithesis of boredom.
Paulo Henriques Britto
read in Chicago recently
and I listened as he read
his own translations—tout autre
—and I hear him say, or so I recall,
"an assembled bird in error"
and I built it into a poem
I had been worrying the distinctions
and implications between imitation,
immodesty, sobriety, and homage when
I heard this and realized worrying is not thinking.
It is a paradise
"to share a tangelo / is not to eat a peach."
As it is, worry bedraggles most
days, neither tangelo nor peach, a utopia
of satsuma, persimmon, cukes. The films
or perhaps more accurately film interruptions
of Austrian artist Martin Arnold, screened
last night in downtown Los Angeles at REDCAT
—according to Peter Kubelka, "the perfectionist
of the film medium," one of the three top spaces in the world
for seeing film, and though I am not a perfectionist of any medium
save, perhaps, the medium of nagging self-doubt, I must agree
about REDCAT—reduce gesture, expression
and speech down to their most basic elements, exposing
all utterance, all bodies, all relations
as in some deep molecular way
grotesque. Or beautiful and weird.
Is there a difference? Twitchy, magnetized, exposed.
The hand jolts. The face wrenches.
The kiss attacks. The door torques
our bodies already torqued.
Tried and tried
and tried again.
are always inseparable;
the possibility of arranging them
with respect to each
other which is
the excitement of reason."—Brice Marden, 1973