Monday, July 28, 2008

THEY ARE FLYING PLANES

The most mysterious package arrived in the mail this morning containing two publications in a transparent acetate envelope plastered with stamps. One of the two saddle-stitched books is the magazine They Are Flying Planes. Rather than attaching a name to the sticker bearing a return address, there is only the title of the journal. Further, although there's an address included in the journal, the name(s) of the editor(s) are not disclosed. It begins with a table of contents, but once we move past the table of contents the names of authors and artists have been omitted and, like the early numbers of Cid Corman's Origin, do not appear beside their work.

The roundup of poets in the journal is an amazing blend of poets and artists, some I know well and others I'm encountering here for the first time: Michael Basinski, Ryan Gallagher, Lisa Jarnot, Clint Krute, Willem John Doherty, Carol Ann Davis, Helen Phillips, Orlando White, Patrick Durgin and Jen Hofer, Randall Sellers, Evan Kennedy, Tim Morris, Adam Thompson, DG Nanouk Okpik, Edward Hopely, Matt Reeck, Anselm Berrigan, Michael Keenan, Derek Fenner, Dustin Williamson, Tetra Balestri, Ed Go, Christopher Stackhouse, Mary Millsap, Cat-Bear, Nora Almeida, Buck Downs, Jessica Pavone, Thom Lessener.


As an object the magazine is something to behold. Its format is large, the cover simply a large (18" x 12.5") white envelope folded in half with Japanese endpapers and two separate signatures, both of which are hand-stitched to the cover. A small handful of ephemeral items also appear in the magazine — two small broadsides, one on translucent vellum, a screen-printed three-color visual image, and a small screen-printed envelope which bears the image of a hand giving the okay sign and is filled with grains of something or other (it makes noise).


The journal has a whimsical Fluxus feel, something like Justin Katko's Plantarchy and Critical Documents publications, but was clearly assembled with tremendous care. The thing is interactive, it demands a lot of the reader, makes of the reader something of a participant or performer in the project. The envelope is to be shaken and one must be careful to keep the broadsides from falling out. When reading through the poems this morning I was thrilled by the absence of names, an editorial gesture that forced me to read the poems as anonymous or authorless or collaborative works -- outside any relation to a particular name. What I encountered were simply texts standing on their own -- unless, of course, I flipped back to the table of contents to track down the name of the poet or artist. Such a strange book. Given the size of the thing, flipping back and forth from poem or visual piece to the contents page demands much of a reader, forcing the reader to move in strange ways and focus on the magazine. It controls the situation in a sense — much like a car might when it breaks down.

And what does it mean for an editor or group of editors from Brooklyn, a stone's throw away from Ground Zero, to call a journal of the arts They Are Flying Planes?

Unfortunately I missed out on the first number of the journal. But I look forward to getting future numbers.

The second book, Mike Basinski's auXin, is similarly wonderful. Black bristol cover with screen-printed title. Visual images screen-printed across the inside of the cover. And the text:

the fungi constitute a kingdom
of their own mutations including
me, deletion, duplication
the arrangements, translocations, inversions one
word witch two

This brought out through Amphibole Books, which I imagine has some connection to TAFP. The address: 570 45th Street Brooklyn NY 11220. No website.