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Michael Leong

Michael Leong is a poet living in New York City. He teaches creative writing at Rutgers University and is the author of Midnight Marsupium, The Hoax of Contagion, and e.s.p.

Blurbs

"Using Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition (1846) and Stein’s Composition as Explanation (1926), Michael Leong has 'lifted out individual words and phrases from the two source texts and used them to slowly accrete linked assemblages of verbal tesserae' and, in the process, intentionally constructed a novel work of constraint–based, conceptual poetics. It enacts the phenomenology of finding language, of imagination-at-work, while performing a critique of editorial and authorial ethics."

– Delete Press

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Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-composition as Explanation

It’s smart and beautiful and yes, at times difficult to wrap your head around but we all need that sometimes, don’t we?

02/17/12

Last summer, right before Crane Giamo and Kelley Irmen left Fort Collins, CO for Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Daniel Bailey and I went to their house to say goodbye and take their pictures. They had sold everything, so we didn’t have much to do but sit out on the landing right outside their doorway and watch Crane light things on fire.

Crane made his own gunpowder. Out of his own urine. And he showed us these wild designs he could make on paper if he sprinkled a little powder and lit it with a spark. He gave me an envelope full of charred willow sticks (amazing for drawing and also made in someone’s backyard) and he and Dan burned holes in paper. Man, I miss you guys.

A few months later, Dan and I got a copy of The Philosophy of Decomposition / Recomposition as Explanation: A Poe and STein Mash Up by Michael Leong. Each copy was handmade by Crane, laid out by Jared Schickling. And each copy features an original piece of gunpowder artwork. It’s an experience just to hold these in your hands.

Leong’s poetry works well with the book art, and let’s face it, the book art really has the potential to overshadow the words it’s holding together. But instead, the design really compliments the book’s subject, “a mash-up/re-mix/collage of Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition and Stein’s Composition as Explanation.

I hadn’t read either of these two works so I don’t know that I would have picked this up without a recommendation. And this long poem is heady, there’s no getting around that. I mean it’s not a beach read, it’s not something I would bring to an airport. It’s more for keeping around when you need to have a think about something. Like after you’ve been watching The Wonder Years for like, 3 hours straight and want to feel your brain work again. It’s smart and beautiful and yes, at times difficult to wrap your head around but we all need that sometimes, don’t we?

I want to also talk about Delete Press’s work in general, because we were lucky to receive with The Philosophy of . . . a box Crane had made as a literal vessel for poetry. It was so cool to have a tactile piece of work -- something that connects reading to seeing to experiencing. Have ya’ll read Anne Carson’s Nox? Dan brought it home from a class last year. That is a beautiful box of words and collage. It’s cumbersome and it’s not easily digestible and you have to work at it. It’s extraordinary.

Delete Press’s limited edition chapbooks do that, too. The founders of Delete Press (Crane, Jared, and Brad Vogler) are concerned with making beautiful books. Otherwise, they’d print out more than 90 or 70 or 17 copies of a work. There’s just something so fascinating to me about a press that is willing to put that kind of effort into every single book (and not charge an arm and a leg for that kind of exclusivity, either).

As someone who works online, professionally (basically a professional internet user), I find myself increasingly interested in the limited, the tacticle, the things that take time and patience. Letter writing. Photocopying ‘Zines. Collaging with scissors instead of photoshop. It lets my eyeballs do less work when my other senses are busy working, too.  So while I’m the first to admit that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up a pee powder burn book (literally, you guys), I’m glad that I know the founders and am thus forced to pick up their books. These guys are talented, and they work with incredibly smart writers. They inspire me to keep creating, and they prove that poetry can be experienced beyond words.

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2 Comments

  1. Jordan Blum said on 02/19/12 at 12:07 pm Reply

    Great shout out and recommendation. That packaging reminds me of the packaging I got when Dan Britton (a keyboardist) sent me several CDs of bands he’s been in (mostly Deluge Grander). It’s always nice to see the extra effort being put into package. And I must admit that the gunpowder/urine idea is wonderfully poetic and unique. It’s kind of like “ewwwww…that’s awesome.”

    Reply

  2. shaun gannon said on 02/19/12 at 5:16 pm Reply

    hot damn, that box is beautiful.

    Reply

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