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Fred Moten

1962–

Fred Moten, born August 18, 1962, was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, and lived briefly in Pennsylvania and Arkansas before enrolling at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. After one year at Harvard, he took a hiatus and went back to Las Vegas, where he worked as a janitor at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, read Dante, and wrote poems. One year later, he returned to Harvard and received his AB, before earning his PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

A scholar whose work explores black studies, performance studies, poetry, and critical theory, Moten has taught at several colleges and universities, including the University of Iowa, New York University, Duke University, the Naropa Institute, and Brown University, among others.

His poetry collections include The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2014), The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), B Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010), and Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2008). His scholarly texts include The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Minor Compositions, 2013), coauthored with Stefano Harney, and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota, 2003).

In 2009, Moten was recognized as one of ten “New American Poets” by the Poetry Society of America. Poet and nonfiction author Maggie Nelson writes of Moten’s work, “With insistence, music, and a measured softness, Fred Moten’s poems construct idiosyncratic, critical canons that invite our research and repay our close attention. … It is hard to make poetry that shimmers on such an edge. Moten does so, and then some.”

Moten was a member of the Board of Managing Editors of American Quarterly from 2004 to 2007 and has been a member of the editorial collectives of Social Text and Callaloo, and of the editorial board of South Atlantic Quarterly. He is also cofounder and copublisher of the small literary press Three Count Pour.

Moten teaches in the department of performance studies at New York University and lives in New York City. 
 

Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016)
The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2014)
The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014)
B Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010)
Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2008)
I ran from it but was still in it (Cusp Books, 2007)
Poems, with Jim Behrle (Pressed Wafer, 2002)
Arkansas (Pressed Wafer, 2000)

Nonfiction

The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, with Stefano Harney (Minor Compositions, 2013)
In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota, 2003)

Fred Moten
Photo credit: LaMont Hamilton

By This Poet

1

revision, impromptu

with David Rothenberg, Nicola Hein, George Lewis, Dafna Naphtali, Andrew Drury, Tanya Kalmanovich, Hans Tammen, Sarah Weaver, David Grubbs, and Ally-Jane Grossan
 
Logistics sounds like a work song. The bottom anticipates and tills and then it’s time to turn over. This limbned, uncoordinated independence is anagnostic. Flesh touches. I am because we are is some bullshit. I ain’t because we share air lore, more notes on Auto da Fé’s blacking of the presence of an absence. The abyss between frames, that dehiscence, indicates this refusal either to fuse or choose between tearing and binding, a careful preservation of wounding. The whole fade in a shuffle it projects and prepares, a soufflé of angles, a palimpsest of snares and rides, some continually hidden h, a heft of air, a thievish shift carnival, a tufted shear, a shhhh of whirr and bookfan. We wear a fan of books, page over other kissing inside lip to disappear into another outside in coming into view. We all come from nothing to hard tone row and that cool move, chafing against the new phasis of the history of displacement, sound like it got a three on it to me. Blackness is the revelation of that which makes a people uncertain, unclear and awry in its action and knowledge. I think I been thinking ‘bout that for ‘bout thirty years, Krupa become Krupskaya having lost their aura, but when I get a chance I ask Scott La Rock why I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink, like I was a Chinese painter in the hold of the beholding. The zero degree is what he says; she says nothing in reply, a festival, irreparable. The age of quantum mechanical reproduction is giving tune away to rise. Collaborate elaboration, William. Infinite consanguinity, Dumbo. Fleeta Drum came with us, brought something with him, brought a swing with her to fold the document. Can improvisation be documented? Has it ever been? Lemme ask Scott when I see him—see if improvisation can be revised. Scott, can improvisation be revised? That’s an arctic jazz question, regarding whales and, further inland, elephants, and saxophone kids, non-expert users, autodidactic squirrels in task decomposition. Is there an analogy between improvisation and optimization, affirmation and ingardenation on improvisational gardening? What’s the Greek word for “reading”?
 
 
Which is the point of all this rub and cyclone, when the eye falls into plenitude in a series of caressive abuse and kisses, oikopolitics and storms, good and bad time weather in a tore up propagation of clicks, which is when I realized you’d prepared the back of our throat for a speech about the tragic ship, the interminable line to it and the endless line from it, woodskin, wind’s skin, wound and drumbone, bowed, time to stay, string, till poise come back for poise, for our unsupported method and post-sculptural stuttering and non-purposive black massive hymn and sold, celebratory subcanadian scotchplain, plummets of bird patterning, the scotchirish hazarding of north ideas, habitually prenational birds, field recordings of syncrudescent birds flew down to tailing in the good and bad time weather, bird in the collective head of mama’nem at the blues university, Clyde’n’mama’nem and her and ask and think a digital conference of the birds, viola, ‘cause music is the fruit of love and earth and nobody gon’ buy it anyway, for there is nothing lost, that may be found in these findings, by these foundlings, driving ‘round vising and revisiting in the inescapable history of not being you. Our name is unnameable in this regard and miles ahead, feeling what you can’t see all incompletely. The half-fullness of your glasses makes you wanna make the word go away but you do have a capacity for massage that gives me hope. In the delicate evening software, I can understand Russell Westbrook. It’s ulmeric, oliveirian, in its unfirewalled all over the placelessness. We gig everywhere and it just makes me wanna giggle, or holler at you from way over here, party over there, if you can wait, we being behind the beat a little bit but right at the beguining, gynomonastically basic and maternal earth tones all out from the tone world, deep in the bass loom, twilight weaving morning in La Jolla/moonlight in Vermont someplace, some folks parking, some just getting dressed, everybody waiting with everybody for right now in right there, party over here.
 
 
Well moled, old Grubbs! We all here in the ruins but we got something in our hands—an experimental bandcamp for news and flowers. And I appreciate y’all letting me sit in, being so far from virtuosity. I wanna be communicable from way back. I wanna be in your base community, grace abounding to the chief of sinners. Remember that song by the Spinners called “Sadie”? The one on Spinners Live! where he reverted—that contrapulsive, not just knee-deep conversioning he got caught up in? Soul Wynne was sewing that night. It was like he had a drum in his chest, just to let you know that nothing lasts forever. The improvisation of forgetting is redactive flow everyday with all these voices in our head. These are always revising herself. One said they told us to be Germanic so, with great surprise, we took a picture of your tech with yourself, our constraint, and it was undecidable between us but plantational, since we the police of different voices, to be your instrument in this sovereign fade. Go back and look at it again when we fade a little bit, when invention won’t let us come up on it from behind. I don’t know my own stuff well enough to mix it right now, but we been remixing it all along past the everyday fade. Mama’nem are the different voices in your head. Are you gon’ play me now? I wan be played with you. I wanna be down with you. My code voice is Stanley Clarke, rajautomatic mixive for the people’s quartet, no way to control it, can’t caul it, won’t be covered, some uncoverable cuvée, girl, some prekripkean cupcake, causally unnameable as that Krupa keep coming back, tense but casually anafrican. Scott says the Greek word for reading is writing. It could be, I don’t know. I’m undecidable between us but you can ring my bell. The night is young and full of possibilities, the only trace of which, when I go back, is how I sound for you from one diffusion to another, as if the room were our hijab, as if we were a roomful of people writing about Cecil Taylor, as if writing about Cecil were reading James Cone, as if I were Sharon Cone’s escort to Cecil’s going home, as if we were the temporary contemporary—air above mountains, buildings in our hands.

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