Thursday, September 30, 2010

Amber DiPietra's Workplace Somatic

 Michael Cross, Lesley Anne Selcer, David Wolach @ Nonsite talk, photo by Amber DiPietra

I've been meaning to publish follow-up notes regarding my trip to the Bay for reading, Nonsite Collective talk/workshop, and other things--a triad of posts, and so far I've only gotten to one, on the wonderful evening I had reading with Rob Halpern for David Brazil & Sara Larsen's reading series. Notes on the Nonsite event are to be published on the Nonsite website. Crucial follow-ups, especially now that Halpern, Thom Donovan and Stephen Collis just did their panel discussion on the commons up in Vancouver as part of the KSW series. All talks relating to reclamation of public space, re-envisioning the commons and commoning. Teaching has been the primary culprit in not sitting down to flesh out what paltry illegible notes I have. But one thing I did ask of those in attendance was to, at some point, perform a poetic intervention in the form of somatic practice (specifically concentrating on "giving up a sense of propriety to your body") in the workplace.

Notes to come, but Amber DiPietra beat me to the punch in humbling ways. DiPietra, besides being a wildly talented poet, works as a social worker and advocate for "the disabled," which, as she has noted in her crucial paper on a new poetics of disability (available as pdf at Nonsite's website), often comes into perceived conflict with her other work, poetry and poetics. The conflict between trying to place "disabled" people into fixed employment, while as poet and participant in Nonsite, working to undermine normative ascriptions of "disability" in daily life and (same thing) in poetics, where on the one hand poetics of disability over the past several years has emphasized ableism, or on the other, has tried to reposition terms via deconstructing them: making the obvious point that "disability" assumes--is parasitic on--"ability," an assumption that is variously challenged. DiPietra is among the folks uniquely situated to realize the pitfalls and problematics of both sets of theses. And she performs that struggle, making public her oscillation between worlds, the unresolve-able tensions here between the Now (as people who are specially tuned to recognize and be subjugated by the hostile physical environment of the marketplace) and what could be/should be, commoning practices that recognize and communally accommodate in-essential differences, which, of course, are just as easily described as particularized capacities. After reading this post by Amber, though I obviously don't have any deep understanding of her day to day work, nor do I think these tensions are somehow overplayed her, I still get the sense that DiPietra (along with amazing Nonsite dancer-coreographer-poet Petra Kuppers), due to their very particular work, enact a kind of body-commons intervention at and as their different workplaces. Amber the poet uniquely informs her position as Amber the social worker. Where I'd imagine the two sometimes, tho for DiPietra perhaps not enough, fuse into one.

Nonetheless, and in a larger societal sense, these tensions play out; and do so in DiPietra's recent blog entry describing--and beautifully displaying--her workplace somatic. And yes, I say to her opening with acknowledging that every day for her is a somatic practice--yes, that resonates with me deeply. In writing Occultations that was one thing I wanted to enact in non-normative languages and page construction. And also thru performativity. So I was just now alerted to this writeup, despite it being posted over a month ago--I am so unhelpfully Cartesian sometimes! Thanks for this, Amber. As usual the insights here, along with the tensions, are palpably lasting and visceral.

Since in another post, that regarding the talk/discussion itself, Amber hits on the part describing my  hospital poem practice, which is, alas, shaping up into a book, Hospitalogy (initially, prior to re-thinking its architecture, this was a section of Occultations--talk about the long form, yikes!), I decided to post one of these poems below. That I hope speaks to Amber's workplace somatic-mini-essay. I don't edit these, hand-written in hospitals during stays or in other kinds of medical clinics, so... er... well...

Well, I guess I've finally begun collating my notes on the Nonsite talk! Thanks for that too, Amber.

Squeeze Box, 2am

                               ---for Amber DiPietra

Dear accident,

Like the line 
Meant to hitch

Slow the lazy eye 
place back the spectacle(s) 

Fox News Crawl
Goes Celan: toIqraq and scandalwas 

It reads.  

And like oft-talked-of fact 
Invention, night channel
Talkingpoints to word invention all we
Need now is a news form of life.  

Job security in the Aussie’s Paramilitary
Post-Industrial Complex,
You said.

Last night Geraldo Rivera was at large
In the killing fields of Orlando.  
Scumbag he called some
Scumbag Undoubtedly

His Mustache feels like 
What I just said.  

Your senses struggle to become 
My theoretical underpinning.

Talkingpoints to scumbag all we
Need now is verificationist revival, the claim:
Categories do exist.

I would like to lean back like people do
I would like to look forward to Jewish

Christmas this year but the old Amtrak
Station glass caught

In my eye we used to play 
postwar there

And yet I can do this and this and this 
And this and this and


Here comes a biconditional
Proposition: this year
I will work on developing ptosis.

This year I will look like a young Ali

Mother waited up listening
For crashing tokens to stop crashing

Was this a prelude to climate
Change or thermostat 

Discovery in dark casino imago.  The 70s were so
Childhood.  Childhood is a term
Used by children, by the Paris

By Geraldos,
By what. 
Do they end,

Your hours, our bedrequest
And where does the facecloth go

In the mornings when I go.  When you
Fold traces of me, what do you think of.

Do you dream of facecloths

When the world sleeps.
Do you dream in your private language
Or try hard to integrate separately but equally

Out of your dreams.

Your language fenced in, a college wish
A bourgie meditation, mine
Is not in Catalonian

Remind me as I lift this fuck off doorsign
That we are not inIraq
That this diode has never met

My ventilator life, your

Extended family do you have
An extended anything but scandalwas.  
Imagining a life with perpetual

Rumor to throat, transnational 
Exchange economy of

Words  – 

Those dark tracks,
They took us to Toronto once. 


  1. Oh! I am just now seeing this. I really cannot tell you how exciting--facecloths. Though they are sort of terrifying because they remind me of pain. Also, about reconnecting the face to a steaming geyser, when we were lime and rushing through geologic layers. Old white terry cloth.

  2. Hi Amber! Great to hear from you, & glad you like(d) the poem. Facecloths are both terrifying and nostalgic for me, dredge up memories of parents using them & I thinking, like you, of the pain. I love the geyser image. Thank you...

    Saw that you posted a link to the hospitalogy series on Write to Connect. Cool. Thank you for that too. Looking forward to catching up when I'm out yr way soonish... Talk later, d