The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 13:29:44 -0500 (EST)
From: Alan Sondheim <>
To: Poetics <>
Subject: interview for m.a.g.


Interview with Alan Sondheim
by August Highland
(this interview will appear on valentine's
day 2003 in the "m.a.g. special edition" featuring
alan sondheim)

August Highland: How do you characterize the difference between your
work and your new poetry?

Alan Sondheim: I see one leading into the other; I was doing 'interference'
computer work
and programming back in the 70s already. I'm not sure btw that my work is
'poetry' - it's texting, languaging, of one form or another. My concerns
shift constantly; I keep wanting a 'definitive' text - which is what the
sophia text ultimately is - a text that outlines a philosophical position
by a process of accretion.

AH: Was there a context or turning-point that you consider to have been the
for the new direction in your current work?

AS: That context or turning-point was decades ago, when I knew Clark
and Aram Saroyan - they helped push me, or allowed me to push myself. My
work has always been 'wayward,' disruptive, contrary, and off-and-on
sexualized; it's also been philosophical and what I consider 'resonant' -
in the sense that every work capitulates the others.

AH: How would you introduce a new reader to the work you are
presently working on?

AS: Probably ask him or her to try and read it as trance-work; it will come
after a while, begin to make sense. Short-waves and long-waves will appear
and disappear. One reader told me that the words ultimately seemed to come
to him from himself - not from the text; this is a good idea of the

AH: What terms would you use to describe your work
to the type of reader who wants to categorize your work and
specify its genre?

AS: Genreless, composed of 'codework,' aphoristic, philosophy; 'wryting' in
the sense that it problematizes the body and its presence within the text.

AH: What do you deem your most significant work to date
or, to put the question another way, to which work do you
attribute the most personal value?

AS: Other than various parts of the Internet Text, probably the sophia.text
for the first part of the question, and the cancer.txt, about the death of
my mother, for the second part.

AH: Do your regularly correspond with other writers and if so
on what basis did your relationship evolve - was it on the affinity
of your aesthetic approaches or on your personal compatibility
or a combination of both?

AS: I'm always in touch with certain people - Leslie Thornton, the
maker, Tom Zummer, artist, writer, theorist, Ellen Zweig, artist, writer,
and numerous online people. The first three help me tremendously; I owe
them a great deal.

AH: Do you enjoy presenting public readings of your work?

AS: Yes - recently there have been so many different venues - video - at the
Robert Beck Memorial Cinema; laptop performance at a number of places
(Minneapolis, Bass Museum, Cosh-Coch); sound (Flying Saucer Cafe); and
these mix with straight-forward readings.

AH: Are you a disciplined writer with a regular work schedule?

AS: I write/video/image daily - from, say, 4 to 12 hours.

AH: Did you or do you still have literary mentors whom you admire
and who have supported your literary development?

AS: Not recently; years ago there was Clark of course, and very early on,
Richards sent me a very encouraging letter. I still like his Practical
Criticism. There are people I've felt close to at times - Vito Acconci,
Bernadette Mayer, Stelarc - none now. I'm influenced by Kathy Acker (with
whom I worked), Jabes, Blanchot, Adorno, Celan - you get the picture. As
well as Derrida, Irigaray, the physicists David Finkelstein, David Bohm,
John Wheeler, etc.

AH: Conversely do you have any close associations with younger writers
whose development as a writer you are supporting and nurturing?

AS: Various people online and off. There are a number of people who really
excite me; as associate editor of Beehive and occasional contributor to
Florian Cramer's Unstable Digest, I get to offer online opportunities at
times. I've also done anthologies, etc.

AH: Every writer wants immortality and to make an historically significant
contribution to the western literary tradition - what do you feel your
contribution has been up to this point in your professional literary career?

AS: None yet, in terms of acceptance. The development of a new language and
approach to writing - as well as an investigation into the phenomenologi-
cal roots of writing - in general.

AH: Which writer or writers do you admire whose work you
believe is being undeservedly overlooked?

AS: This is difficult for me - there are so many writers who excite me.
Perhaps Takuboku - author of Romaji Diary - and Seitatsu - at least in
terms of a western audience. I lot of theorists... older ones such as
Shestov and Sartre for example - I don't hear much about Lingis now who I
love. People like Lucan, Juvenal. Current writers like Marc-Alain Ouaknin.

AH: To what activity do you enjoy the most devoting your time
when you are not working?

AS: I'm pretty much always working. I'll watch tv for relaxation, but it's
usually background. I read constantly. I take a computer or digital
recorder with me wherever I go. Sometimes a digital still or video camera.
All this plays into my work.

AH: What question(s) would you have liked for me to have asked you
and what is (are) your answer(s)?

AS: Perhaps what is my attitude towards new media? To which I'd reply I work
on ideas, and the media come out of this. In terms of music, I'm
interested in the labor of production, and speed - playing as fast as
possible - as a way to inscribe the body into the work. Video allows me
the greatest lattitude - a way to involve the subject almost in the 'flow'
of the work through projection. And laptop performance/projection gives me
a way to inscribe myself into the audience, and to introject their
reactions - in the midst of image-streams.

Finally, politics? - yes, everywhere; we are heading towards an almost
uncanny brutality in the United States, based on a combination of paranoia
and mourning; this must be fought everywhere and constantly.

the m.a.g. quarterly
october issue

the m.a.g. special edition
the jim leftwich issue


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