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Hannah Weiner (1928–1997). Public Access Poetry, Clairvoyant Journal versions, the rescue blanket, SILENT HISTORY etc. - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Hannah Weiner (1928–1997). Public Access Poetry, Clairvoyant Journal versions, the rescue blanket, SILENT HISTORY etc.

Blog 3 of 3 by curator Franziska Glozer

Public Access Poetry (PAP)

The situation of the voices, and the interruption and overlay, is quite clear if you hear the tapenade by New Wilderness Audiographics wherein Sharon Mattlin is a wonderful CAPITALS and bosses me around endlessly. (…) Peggy (De Coursey) and Regina (Beck) both sound as if they were scolding me. We worked it so that the voices came fast after each other, occasionally speaking unison and overlapping, and occasionally one of us would ad-lib comment. (from Mostly about the Sentence, Jimmy & Lucy’s House of ‘K,’ №7, 1986)

From 1977 to 1978 a group of poets were given a broadcasting spot on the New York cable television station where they launched an avant-garde TV format presenting contemporary poets and poetry. The show Public Access Poetry (PAP) aired once a week for half an hour and showcased the then mostly unknown poets of the trendy New York downtown scene, such as Ted Berrigan, Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, Jim Brodem or Charles Bernstein. When Hannah Weiner was invited she performed entries of the 1974 Clairvoyant Journal together with Sharon Mattlin and Peggy De Coursey. Likewise, the recording of the New Wilderness Audiographic Series of Cassettes 1978 was performed with three voices. This first explicit audio art label in the USA specialized on compilations and editions of cross-genre sound recordings, such as experimental and traditional music, poetry, stories and sound art.

1978 + 2014, two versions of the Clairvoyant Journals 1974

In 2014 Bat Editions reissued the Clairvoyant Journal from 1974, using the original manuscripts as source material besides the original first publication of the Clairvoyant Journals from 1974 in 1978. This resulted in a new formatting of the journal. In the preface Patrick Durgin quotes an amusing sentence from Weiner’s writing that points to one of the most interesting questions in regards to the visual appearance of her art: “bArrY CANT PrINT” refers to Barrett Watten, the typesetter of the Angel Hair edition of the Clairvoyant Journal. The usual frictions between author and the possibilities of execution will become even more complicated to determine in future exegeses, as she as the author is only present in the writing itself anymore.

Installation view Kunsthalle Zürich 2015 (detail) (Photo: Gunnar Meier Photography)

We had some discussions with Charles Bernstein, then decided to remain truthful to the concrete poetry aspect of her writing. It’s true that it makes a real difference. Also we had to deal with the handwritten part. The font we used in the book is Century Schoolbook and we had to create special versions of this font (only a few letters most of the time) to render properly the handwritten sentences by Weiner. – Charles Maze

The rescue blanket

[L]anguage does not have signs at its disposal, but acquires them by creating them, when a language acts within a language so as to produce in it a language[,] an unheard of and almost foreign language. The first interjects, the second stammers, the third suddenly starts with a fit. Then language has become Sign or poetry, and one can no longer distinguish between language, speech, or word. And a language is never made to produce a new language within itself without language as a whole in turn being taken to a limit. The limit of language is the

thing in its muteness—vision. The thing is the limit of language, as the sign is the language of the thing. (from Gilles Deleuze, Essays: Critical and Clinical, Minneapolis 1997, S. 98)

Form is not a fixture, form is an activity, says poet Lyn Heylin and is quoted by Weiner in her pamphlet Mostly About the Sentence. This statement pinpoints one of the main characteristics and strengths of Weiner’s poetic work. Her mode of writing is in “through-pass” of her times inventions, medias and the continuous happening of language. Moreover, she surpasses it by inventing new forms of writing, as writing that – to draw the line back to her code poems – happens intermediately, face to face, by “writing in form,” e.g. writing “form.”

Featuring Little Indians + Spoke

In Spoke (1984) and the subsequent publications Silent Teachers / Remembered Sequel (1993) and We Speak Silent (1997) a more autobiographical narrative becomes apparent. At the same time these more performulated works of writing entail clearly pictorial compositions. In Little Indians combinations of sentences and words, even letters, come together as fragile patterns of verse. The poems in Spoke often span several pages, testing out the potential of multi-linear layouts of lines and text blocks.

The words appeared on my forehead in groups short enough for me to remember and write them down and the continuation or interruptions were included in this word-group seeing. This is true even though the style varies from a journalistic technique ( june & July) to a poetic technique (August) and a prose technique (Sept.). (from Mostly about the Sentence, Jimmy & Lucy’s House of ‘K,’ №7, 1986)

In the style of the Clairvoyant Journal the pictorial quality directly delineates from Weiner’s work process. Using visual language as quasi found objects, each impression is processed, internally filtered and formatted again through visual/pictorial expression.

Page from THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS by Hannah Weiner. The note book was originally the New Year 1989 present from Barbara Rosenthal to Hannah Weiner:
The provenance and textual history of the notebook is partially recoverable. A commercially produced blank book, 6” x 9”, with a heavy black cover and a sewn binding, it contains 110 pages. The pages, however, were ripped against a straight edge at different lengths and angles by the artist and writer Barbara Rosenthal, Weiner’s friend and occasional video and book collaborator, who gave the notebook to Weiner as a 1989 New Year’s present and a spur to writing. Weiner composed her texts on the turnable segments Rosenthal calls “pagels,” but the texts may also be read full-size by continuing down onto the longer pagels (what Rosenthal calls “slabs”) revealed underneath. (from The landscape of Hannah Weiner’s late work, Marta L. Werner)

The weekly “News” in Weeks (1986)

Every day. Day by day. The hours hang and the headlines punctuate a passage through time that we move through, head bowed at the collision of flesh and indoctrination. Yet there might be (might there be?) some doctrine to get us out of this vicious circle of self-enclosing artifacts that we call news, as if the world was already lost before we could speak a word to it.

In Hannah Weiner’s Weeks, the daily bite of world–event narrative achieves the grandeur, perhaps the quiet desperation, of background music (ambient ideology). Weeks is an unnerving foray in a world of prefabricated events: a world we seem to have fallen into, as if from the cradle.

Weeks was written in a small notebook, one page per day for fifty weeks. Each page of the book is the equivalent of a single week, with each day taking its toll in about five lines. The material, says Weiner, is all found – “taken at the beginning from written matter and TV news and later almost entirely from TV news.”

Here parataxis (the serial juxtapositions of sentences) takes on an ominous tone in its refusal to draw connections. Weeks, in its extremity, represents the institutionalization of collage into a form of evenly hovering emptiness that actively resists analysis or puncturing. (…) (from the preface to the publication Weeks, 1986, by Charles Bernstein)


“You’re stupid it isn’t black magic its speaking history persuasion.” (citing Patrick Durgin citing Hannah Weiner)

SILENT HISTORY is a later piece of writing and belongs to the manuscripts of the 1992 published collection The Fast. Each word is its own headline, completely unaffected by any grammar. These evenly distributed words, a block of words, lie emphasis on the force of each singular word. Weiners Silent History on a sheet of paper.

Mandala + “We must integrate into the next generation”

In a special edition of her Code Poems in 1982, published in SMS №3, a rotatable Mandala graces the cover and gives the reader the option to generate his or her own poems at random while raising the question: “Where does It or You begin?”

At the same time one of her late poems, published as part of the publication Silent Teachers / Remembered Sequel in 1993 and not written in “clair-style” (along with a number of later works, such as Nijole’s House, The Fast or Weeks) also phrases a demand: we must integrate into the next generation. This central statement is followed by a sort of “epitagraph” (as worded by Durgin): well the next generation could be the one that is done and gone and is teaching you now.

The invasion between past and future becomes tangible through the materiality of language that surrounds us. Silent Teachers may be found in words, voices, images, people and sayings. It is a teaching that is mediated to our understanding through language. Weiner’s work is based on an enlarged understanding of language. Language here is part of a sphere of human interaction with and within the world.

Thanks to: Margit Säde, who introduced me to Hannah Weiner; Daniel Baumann for his advise; the voices from Hannah Weiner's universe; the magic Kunsthalle Zürich Team and the designer Pascale Brügger, Photodruck.

All works of Hannah Weiner's were generously entrusted for exhibition purposes by © Charles Bernstein for Hannah Weiner in Trust.

Check out blog 1 and blog 2!