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Mnemoship #8: At the Gates of the Cannon – Jennifer Tamayo

To mark, digest, re-capitulate the cannon through strategic erasure/re-memory. To erase texts long dead is a genealogical act. To mark the moment of someone’s entry into the cannon via a retrospective and an erasure, writing against the living record and the attempt  to make alive their life’s work is something far different, I think. An act of bifurcation, with the museum on one hand but a still immanent force outside of it.

To recall the crimes the dead did while living or to recall the dead, a wife, a woman, the living have killed and sunk underneath their “work.” Jennifer Tamayo says it, of course, better at Fanzine.

In Dia Art Foundation’s 400 page artist book, CARL ANDRE: Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010 there are three textual references to artist Ana Mendieta– the one that makes reference to Mendieta and Andre’s relationship directly appears as a small footnote referencing another article. The note closes with the phrase “‘tragic end’” avoiding other more apt words like “defenestration” or “three separate indictments” or “death” or,  in Carl’s own words, “somehow gone out the window.”

These are the gestures of another type of erasure that is becoming too familiar to me in the context of poetry land. If we don’t outline the acts, if we don’t write down names, if we don’t share these names and acts with our friends and peers and children, the erasure is swifter, more potent.

Update: 8.11.15 This is to say, Jennifer Tamayo’ work seems to ask us to look critically at the positionality of erasure projects (who is erasing whose texts? does this continue a history of erasure by white, male, able writers of black, brown, queer, female, trans, disable etc subjects?) The more I think about this work, the more I see this an much of an un-erasure as an erasure work. Here Ana Mendieta’s (the Cuban American performance artist) person and probable murder is rewritten as the center of a story where the accounts which position Andre (white, male, American minimalist) as worthy of canonization reduce her to a footnote. Here I start to wonder about my own personal canon and the erasures performed by own reception of these authors and the criticism I’ve read. I’ll be returning to my syllabi for the fall looking to shake things up beyond simply making the syllabus more “diverse” but also emphasis on artists who have been actively written out or reduced to footnotes. Next on the ledger will be considering how to more ethically frame smaller assignments such as “found” poems–to think about the ethics of “finding” and the reframing of language outside of poetry.

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About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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