June 25, 2007

Obsession of the moment: Jessica Smith

Organic Furniture Cellar, by Jessica Smith

Okay, follow me on this one...

This morning I was going through the dozens of litblogs I read each day via RSS, like normal, when I came across writer Daniel Green talking about Andrew Ervin reviewing Ron Silliman's new book, The Age of Huts. You see, Silliman is a practitioner of what's known as "language poetry," a particularly avant-garde form of that medium that lends itself quite well to ridiculously complex conceptual writing projects, of which I'm admittedly a big fan, because I like anything that's ridiculously complex and conceptual. And indeed, Silliman doesn't disappoint when it comes to this subject: The Age of Huts, it turns out, is merely one "cycle" of a much larger work entitled Ketjak, but can also be broken down in the opposite direction into four sections of its own, all of which are written in an experimental style that resists easy categorization. Whew! I love it!

Anyway, so that led me to Silliman's popular personal blog, where among other things he gets to talking about a recent reading he did in New York City with fellow language poet Jessica Smith, wherein she actually got on the stage and literally did a silent reading of one of her pieces, staring at the page and inviting the audience to silently follow along via passed-out copies of the piece. And I thought, "Wow, that sure takes some balls, to stand on a stage and do a silent reading of one of your pieces," so I ended up checking out Jessica's site as well, not to mention her own popular blog.

And that's when I learned the surprise; that far from the bitter and pretentious conceptual artist I expected to find, Smith in fact is a highly conversational and down-to-earth writer, that her "silent reading" had more to do with nervousness than making a Grand Statement, and that her actual creative work is not only highly inventive but sometimes quite entertaining as well. (I in particular really liked the project where she translated haikus into Morse code, then expressed the code via beads on friendship bracelets.) And not only that, but prolific as well; she not only has a new full-length book out, and maintains a second blog to promote that, but is also involved with the small press Outside Voices and maintains their blog too, plus is the author of the zine FOURSQUARE and maintains yet another blog about that.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what's kept me in Jessica-Smith-Land the entire day, getting sucked into newly-discovered brilliant website after newly-discovered brilliant website, and why it's 4pm here in Chicago and I'm still desperately trying to get all my CCLaP entries for today written and posted. Damn you, Jessica! Damn you to hell! Anyway, I encourage you to check out this large body of work yourself, whenever you get the chance; and don't forget that Jessica's a self-publisher on top of everything else (my favorite kind of writer), so needs your support even more than normal.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:57 PM, June 25, 2007. Filed under: Literature | Profiles |