Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reading Room and Coffee House Press are pleased to announce Mass Read-In at the Walker Art Center's Open Field, Saturday, July 14th, from Noon to One p.m. It's part of Open Field's day devoted to all things reading, Field of Reads.

It's not complicated, really. We want as many of you to come down and read, by yourself, to yourself, to others, quietly, out loud, to your dog, to a stranger.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Well, the weather isn't cooperating for our first Reading Room of 2012. We're going to cancel the public iteration of today's scheduled reading room, which was supposed to be at the Lyndale Rose Garden. Instead, we would strongly encourage you to read on your own, wherever. Stay tuned for more Reading Room plans.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

poetry and sculpture

It could be that the answer, how can poetry be more like sculpture?, can be suggested, in part, by Trisha Brown:

I once told a friend, a poet, that I was interested in a poetry that was trying to be like sculpture. His reaction was surprising to me, I think he was actually a little angry. This was along time ago, but I remember him quoting Hegel. This was a turning point in our friendship, possibly.

My statement was meant to be more koan-ish than anything else, since there isn't an answer, only new doors of possibility that open up that, when pursued, will take poetry always short of a medium not poetry--or vice versa. An immediate and intentional misunderstanding of the nature of form, used as a constraint, is where, to me, the most interesting actions, or collisions, occur.

I don't know everything about this piece above. But I have seen her make pieces like this, and what I love is the convergence, the confusion of forms and mediums. How do you separate the painter from the dance?

Thinking about space.


This is by Trisha Brown.

Back again

Some developments.

So, we've been invited to re-boot Reading Room MPLS on the Walker Art Center's Open Field, which is the brain child of Sarah Schultz, who, because of Open Field, I think, has been made "curator of public practice." Reading Room is a public practice.

I'm meeting with Sarah in a couple weeks to discuss what regular, all-summer Reading Room might look like. It's not going to be in the FlatPak house again, I believe, which means it's outside, maybe at a table, maybe on the lawn, or maybe we provide chairs.

Reading Room is public practice, I say again. Shift. I run a publishing house, Coffee House Press. You might think, a publishing house publishes books, and you'd be right.

Some things have happened:

1) I saw Vito Acconci give a lecture once, about ten years ago, where he traced the evolution of this thinking. He started as a poet and literary editor, and became interested in Charles Olson's Projective Verse, where the poet can use the whole page as a field of energy--a kind of open field, actually. He then described how he moved from that, from poetry, into performance and then into conceptual art, and then into a kind of speculative architecture. This speculative architecture, to me, brings us back around again to literature, to fiction, a kind of nonexistent 3-D fiction.

So, what happens when I start thinking that way not about literature, but about publishing. How can a publishing house be a kind of speculative architecture?

These things are not in order.

2) I met the literary agent Anna Stein at a bar in Frankfurt. She recently had become the agent of one of our authors, Ben Lerner. I was asking her what she'd do to capitalize on some great early press the book was getting. She gave me some advice, but I didn't think that I could do what she was suggesting. "What are you talking about? You can do whatever you want," she said.

3) A college professor once asked me, "Why is Emma's mother dead?"

5) I met these people. Works Progress, and was introduced to something I already knew existed, but I did not know it was a thing. It has many names, but you may know it as something like, the art of social engagement. Or, see: Curator of Public Practice, above.

6) I became active in support of libraries, and joined the board of directors of the Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

8) 4:33

10) I see now that this has just turned into a list of things I think about when I think about Reading Room and publishing.

Anyway, these are the things I'm puzzling out. Reading Room is an extension of my work at Coffee House Press, but just how it is an extension is yet to be determined. But I think it's the start of something.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It is interesting to me that Reading Room is somehow causing controversy. Apparently, it is being thought of as anti-library by some people. I am not sure how this conclusion was drawn. In my project description, I wrote:

"Part of Walker Art Center's Open Field Field Office Fellowship program, Reading Room is an experiment in intention. Finding myself unable or unwilling to make time for personal, nonwork pleasure book reading, I realized that I would, probably, actually pay to go somewhere, preferably a quiet place with comfortable chairs, proper lighting, and no electronics, and read. In our busy lives, will book lovers actually make time, intentionally, to go to a designated place solely to read a book, for an extended period of time, unplugged? Does reading (a solitary act) somehow become more attractive, more meaningful when surrounded by others (a crowd) who also have taken time to intentionally read? By putting a frame around the act of reading, will participants somehow gain a new appreciation for their time, and take Reading Room on the road?"

Perhaps the sentence: "I realized that I would, probably, actually pay to go somewhere, preferably a quiet place with comfortable chairs, proper lighting, and no electronics, and read" caused the misunderstanding? (First of all, why would you care if chose to pay for this?) But surely, if you were on the Open Field blog anyway, you would understand that this was a free event. Or, if you were to look into who was putting this event on, on the internets, you would easily be able to see that 1) I am a book publisher and 2) I serve on the board of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.

Let's assume you didn't have that information. I am still unclear on how Reading Room could be considered anti-library. If you one wants to go read in a library, please, by all means, go read in a library. It's not an either / or proposition.

At its most basic, Reading Room draws attention to reading. Period. I consider that a good thing. It asks anyone who hears about it to think about reading and the role it plays in their life. If you don't read, then you don't need to think about it. If you do read, and, if you are like some people, you wish you had more time to read, just knowing about Reading Room might prompt you to read (at your house, at the library, on the bus, in a bar, in a park, or at Reading Room). You might decide, "hey, reading is important to me, I think I will make it a priority in my life."

Or not. I've said multiple times that if you don't want to read, then don't. This isn't about trying to get more people to read. That's not a battle I wish to fight. But the fact is, there are lots of people who do find reading worthwhile. Reading Room is for them.

This is not a perfect analogy, but it's close: There are grocery stores. Most meals are eaten by people prepared from the groceries they buy. There are restaurants. There are many restaurants. The existence of a restaurant does not supplant the existence of a grocery store. It in no way threatens it.

Did Reading Room get you to think about reading yet? Did Reading Room get you to think about libraries yet? Did Reading Room get you to think about the place reading has in your life? Yes? o.k. No? o.k.

It's true that libraries, like many public services, are facing increasing budget cuts. And they are facing increasing budget cuts in a time when library use is through the roof. Libraries are a vital part of a democracy, and an informed citizenry. I love them. I love reading in them. I love them love them love them.

In fact, I would invite you to join me in supporting libraries by making a donation to the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, which "enriches the resources and enhances the potential of the Hennepin County Library." If you love libraries enough to think they are threatened by Reading Room, then this is clearly something you care about too.

Donate here.

If you are unable to donate, you can also choose to volunteer.

If you are feeling really ambitious, you could talk to your elected County Commissioner about how you support libraries and ask them to please maintain or increase their funding.

At the very least, like them on Facebook or Twitter or something.

Reading Room is just something I thought of. I told someone about it and they asked me to put it on. A space was provided. It doesn't have to be in that space. It can be anywhere. It should be everywhere.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Books are three-dimensional objects. They become larger when you read them, as you interact with the book, you change it. Books, in the age of mechanical reproduction, are both copies and originals. Everything I'm saying is probably obvious, but when drawing a frame around reading, it is important to think about it in an intentional way.

When putting a frame around reading, you are in space, and you have entered the realm of dance and performance.

Also, you don't really need to think about it this much, either.