Barbara Henning

from DIGIGRAMS

Feb 24, 2016

—yesterday in the 20’s—stinging air—on skin and in lungs—today 50 degrees—and raining—a lanky guy comes into class—wearing earmuffs—making air quotes with his fingers—the word “safe”—slowly turning the page—his fingers relaxed—hands resemble—my former lover’s—I leave the room—cough—a young man in the hallway—hello—must have been—my student—some time before—at 9 pm the storm thins—brownish fog—in the gothic LIU garage—weird weather—the outlook for 2016—gloomy—German business leaders urge Russians—uphold a cease-fire—in the Ukraine—all agree—it’s going to stay warm now—walking home—on Avenue A—a man asks—do you want cocaine—

Feb 25, 2016

—a full moon—wake up late—open my mail—a check—damp and cold—on Avenue B—the way to the credit union—an american flag strikes the flag pole—news from outside the windshield—an archbishop guides parishioners—catholic-leaning alternatives—for girl scout cookies—during the crusades—thousands of children marched to their death—children crowding—into the earth school—cut the ball back to Müller—guide it seamlessly along the ground—coughing—lose control of the car—slam it into the cement guide—along the ramp—in the gothic parking garage—all bully university did for the man—was ruin his credit—

May 9, 2016

—pick up the inmate—in the woods—off the Garden State—a week on the run—70 something—too warm—traffic dense—biking in a cloud of smoke—yell at uber—big black cars—the air thick—watch a man in the park—big black boots—white wrinkled pants—trouble walking—lifting his knees—one at a time—as if with a pulley—3 hours sleep last night—must drive a cab 12 hours—to get by—you’re killing yourself—with eyes closed—at St Marks—the podium poet—whisks it up—stiff peaks form—Don Yorty takes a swig—of vodka—then the chatty—New York school—backwards—and sideways—out the door—we go—at 2nd Ave and 10th Street—

Aug 1, 2016

—truth and lies viral—rampant hatred—an American man dumps—boiling water—on two sleeping men—a curfew to quell rioting—after a police shooting—if only—as simple as—a belief—in ancestors—in Madagascar—to wear red—at the waterfront—you may incite—an ancestor’s wrath—naked under a sheet at 1 a.m.—in Marquette Michigan—the night so quiet—the trees still—no movement—a slight ringing—in the mind—we can squash Mr. Bully—we can we can—dear mother—dear grandmother—please—send qi—outside a high pitched ringing—between the rising wind—and a chorus of crickets—all other animals—in this house—are sound asleep—

Oct 26, 2016

—when surfing in 28 degree water—or stuck in traffic—for 63 hours a year—your brain freezes—your chin gets stiff—no angry mobs in Tehran—shouting “Death to America”— No McDonald’s in Tehran—instead, a homegrown Mash Donald——dreaming—of a woman with blonde hair—chin length—at a restaurant table—with a younger dejected bully—hey, don’t worry—she says looking down at him—I’ll let you see em later—he drops his head—a sad puppy—so sad—so horrible—when the phone rings—we all wake up—to headlines with his name—oh no—and they’re just not true—he says—everyone must love me—digital twitter talk—can’t be recaptured—and you can’t bury it—it’s out there—scattered in air, on land, at sea—North Africa to Europe—Seawatch reports—2400 migrants rescued—four children dead—

June 8, 2017

—on 12th Street—the refrigerator—whines and shudders—in a redbrick Quaker meeting house—in Denver—undocumented humans hide—the cortisol rising higher—a judge in Virginia—declares—the Supreme Court will surely shudder—the bully sends a tweet—Kim Jong-un sends a missile into the Sea of Japan—the doors to the bodega open—the heart of a fruit fly—beating at the same pace—as humans—up the hill to 12th Street—a group of men—smoking and talking—Hola—we nod—one to the other—

In 2016, I bought a collection of writing and art by the dadaist, Elsa Von Freytag-Lorenhaven, also known as the Baroness: Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011). I pored over this book, laughing at the way she took William Carlos Williams to task (old observations minted wisdom). She was the ultimate beat/punk artist, scoffing at bourgeois society. Reading her poems, I thought to myself — they are like ecliptic telegrams to the world — pieces of consciousness—streaming—piece by piece. At the time I was collecting poetic material from my journals, arranging, rearranging and collaging in news from the days before and around. Meanwhile I felt desperate — as did many others — about the political situation unfolding in the country. The bully was not yet elected, but the hate on mainstream media was shocking. Then he won the election — how horrifying. Greed, wealth, ignorance and hate arm-in-arm. As I read the Baroness, I picked up her rhythms and started translating my poems into ecliptic messages. I’m nowhere near as anti-establishment or as abrasive as the Baroness, but her rhythms and her streaming appealed to me. These are “Digigrams,” messages to the world from this particular consciousness, at this particular point in space and time, translated digitally, from me to you.

Barbara Henning is the author of three novels and several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015), A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, she presently lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 16)

 

Greetings, and welcome to Posit 16! It has been four years since we came out with our first issue, and our new contributors’ page gets to the root of my gratitude — to the extraordinary writers and artists who have entrusted their work to this publication; to the wise and wonderful fellow editors I have the pleasure to work with; and especially to you, our readers. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll through the list — and perhaps revisit some favorites, or check out something you previously missed.

But be sure to save time for the gorgeous work in this new issue, much of which has a certain coiled and quiet potency, enfolding us in its figurative and figured fabrics against the “pale glove / of winter” — “because a legacy of facts / Tramples the empty pages of an early white snow tonight / & because the sky is still falling like a stuntman” (Raymond Farr, “Realism is in Bloom!”). Here you will encounter a number of more or less direct engagements with our alarmingly falling sky, including Peter Leight’s topical (if not literal) “Wall,” and Barbara Henning’s dispatches from our news-menaced daily lives, evocatively dubbed Digigrams. Other works, like those by Charlie D’Eve, Grey Vild, and Alexa Doran, grapple with more personal if no less urgent intersections of justice and identity. Still other pieces apply a calm and sometimes light touch to the grave task of “shaking [their] tags to wake the jangling chorus in [our] wreck” (Jennifer Fossenbell, “Preface to Salivation”).

Herein:

Charlie D’Eve’s frank yet elliptical verses, juggling the harmonies and tensions of confidence and self-protection, advance and retreat, “the times when one part / wants thing / And the other part / wants Thing,” and “it’s all political all;”

the virtuosic profundity of Alexa Doran’s love-songs to the “half party, half sustained injury” that characterizes motherhood at its most passionate, which can be as transfixing and devastating as “a Buick at the back of my knees;”

Raymond Farr’s artfully relaxed couplets to the ordinary miracle of mortality, in which “life is big but not grandiose,” “History is a lot like life & the facts are a lot like / Our own lives in particular” and “death is a sink stacked high with dirty dishes / After we’ve eaten our fill of everything;”

Jennifer Fossenbell’s “Preface to the Obvious” which is anything but, popping with energy and weighted with foreboding, “sparked, in other words . . . Signified” by imaginative leaps and dazzling wordplay that entices us to “lean . . . in closer to hear what [she is] hymning about” and “call[ing] for a ritual, a cerebration!”

Jeff Hardin’s provocative interrogations of existence via query and negotiation with what “Stand[s] in a Center That Is Too Often Tuneless,” deploying his art to “usher us out of the staid and the worn;”

the staccato reportage of Barbara Henning’s Digigrams, a series of “ecliptic telegrams” delivering their condensed amalgam of happenings interior and exterior, optimistic and grim, inflected by the moral failings of our contemporary political moment, with its “truth and lies viral,” “2400 migrants rescued – four children dead;”

the vibrant tension barely contained by these excerpts from Caroline Knapp’s forthcoming chapbooks, The Hunters Enter the Wood and Tanzsprachen, mining the “ditch beside song where // quiet gathers” to reach “the invisible that / shows like stars” and “salvage . . . [from] silence . . . / a fixed and savage song;”

the sly and suggestive counterpoint of Peter Leight’s “Needlework” and “Wall,” their content embodied in their forms, the connective stitches of the first poem’s lineation juxtaposed tellingly with the second’s solid block of prose, reminding us to ask: “is this the only way? Will it always be like this? Or is this an episode that ends when everybody stops watching?”

these cryptic and provocative excerpts from Barbara Tomash’s forthcoming book, Pre–, mining the suggestive instability of “the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience” via the “automatic relay” of the versatile and ubiquitous prefix, “a temporary modulation . . . // leaping from its horizontal transverse axis / into a remote key;”

the wry humor of J.T. Townley’s “Dead Cat Bounce,” a Q and A of contemporary reality in which “we’re all enmeshed in a web or wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired” while “a bottoming process is being experienced” in which “switches might start flipping;”

the gorgeously screamed incantations of Grey Vild’s “carnal, carnival sun-drenched, scavenged throat of worship” of idols which “can only be flesh” yet “refuse to be flesh” like “chalk screeching down a bald board” or “a soundless thunder rumbling a dry sky;”

and the quiet lament of Nicolette Wong’s collaborations with photographer David Heg, the counterpoint of their words and images “reverberating through the blinds” with “the rhythm of rust” “in a room of dust singed by erasure.”

My thanks to them all, and to you who read this, for being here.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to Posit 16’s visual art!

Lou Beach makes the most deliciously wicked and subversive collage pieces I’ve ever seen. His universe jumps into yours with the antics of the creatures, human and sub-, that he creates. Beach is a technical virtuoso. Laboriously constructed, these seamless collages appear effortless. His sly, cock-eyed yet clear-eyed view of the world is both personal and universal. He skewers politicians with fearless precision. Plus they are just so damn beautiful!

Karen Hampton is a visual storyteller. Her profoundly moving mixed-media pieces tell tales of hope and despair, slavery and freedom. Made from stitched fabric, these pieces harken back to the tradition of ‘women’s work,’ and Hampton plays with these resonances to tell stories of urgent immediacy. She utilizes digital printing and hand-sewing to literally and figuratively weave together narratives that are both contemporary and historical, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to our collective histories.

The work of Bryce Honeycutt is intensely tied to her relationship with the natural world. She takes her interactions with the land and delicately filters them into exquisite artifacts. Her marks, whether drawn or stitched, are like poetic maps of these experiences. Her fluent use of a wide range of materials imbues the work with a sense of life. Rather than looking fabricated, the work seems to have ‘grown’ into the forms it takes.

Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantell have collaborated on an intriguing project entitled “Pages from the Frozen Sea” (referring to a quote by Franz Kafka). The photographic project explores the endlessly fascinating, ever-changing nature of ice as a material both solid and ephemeral. Their photographs of embedded objects play with the ways light interacts with the ice and the objects inside it. It takes a minute to gain your footing with this mysterious work. Once you figure out the construct, you are left to wonder, with a measure of awe, at this work’s marriage of materials.

Viewing the sculptures and drawings of Millicent Young, I am drawn into a meditative state. I begin to think of the passing of time – how long must it have taken to tie those knots, or wait for so much ink to evaporate? Her work addresses time in a way that evokes the creation of the earth and the very slow movement of geology. These pieces asks us to consider the possibilities inherent in ‘patience.’ Young’s use of natural materials and a neutral palette speak to her gentle approach to our world and her acceptance of the transitory nature of life itself.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern