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Vanessa Place

1968–

Born on May 10, 1968, and raised in the U.S. Army, Vanessa Place received a BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MFA from Antioch University, and a JD from Boston University.

Her books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse; La Medusa (Fiction Collective 2, 2008); and Statement of Facts (Insert Blanc Press, 2010), the first volume of her trilogy Tragodía, which repurposes legal prosecution and defense documents verbatim; among others.

With Robert Fitterman, she cowrote Notes on Conceptualisms (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), an exploration of contemporary conceptual writers and their work. She is also the author of The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law (Other Press, 2010), an analysis of the prosecution of sexual offenders.

About her texts, she says: "Authorship doesn't matter. Content doesn't matter. Form doesn't matter. Meter doesn't matter. All that matters is the trace of poetry. Put another way, I am a mouthpiece." Susan McCabe describes her poetry as "both humbling and beyond paraphrase, both mythic and contemporary."

In addition to her work as an appellate criminal defense attorney, she serves as codirector of Les Figues Press. Place currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Vanessa Place
Photo credti: Alex Foreman

By This Poet

3

Psalm

Argument

(S) Being a good people, if we were wrong, we would change.

(S) We would not change.


Proverbs

Without passion, no reason.

Without mind, no body.

Without body, your soul.

Without point, our purpose.

There must be an extraordinary.

There are contradictions.

A dog's skull is slightly thicker than our own.

We will have coffee, and, after breakfast, a short walk.

We will wear shaggy coats and carry sidearms. There will be a game of chance. We will lose. We will win. We will ascend to the throne and make apple fritters drenched in warm syrup.


Arise criminals!

We will find pockets of peat and hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, marry your sons.

Oh, what lidless day, when they took my baby away.


Psalm

I do not intend to hurt anyone.

I did not intend to hurt anyone.

O Jerusalem, we gutless few delighting

sobre tierra de libres

In perspicacity

what you would see if you were not

drown'd in sound and sight

wooly-headed as a chrysanthemum

literal as the lamb.

What we could do as one in two,

our prayers made hand-in-hand

you are my voodoo chile


my voodoo chile

Were pity pure birthright

and charity simplicity;

Were babies born not guilty

and ladies told the truth

were human nature natural

and

catastrophes unmanned,

were people made of popsicles,

accliving the summer sun

were lidless pearls more decorous,

and all our battles won

were these the these which would us please

there'd be no need for Americans

for heart would will what it would want

and all of art be

damn'd.

Archeology, p. 28

We must ask ourselves                         what purpose is
ultimately served by this                                 suspension of
all the accepted                                              unities
if, in the end, we return to                               the unities
that we pretended to question                at the outset.
        In fact,
the systemic erasure of                         all given unities
enables us first of all                                       to restore to
the statement                                                 the specificity
of its occurrence,                                  and to show
        that                                                       discontinuity
is one of those great                                       accidents
        that                                             create cracks

not only in the geology                          of history,
but also in the simple                                      fact
of the statement;

it emerges in its historical     irruption;
what we try to examine is     the incision

that it
makes, that
          irreducible—                                  and very often tiny
                                                      —emergence.
However banal it may be,
however unimportant its consequences may appear to be,
however quickly it may be forgotten after its appearance,
however little heard or however badly deciphered
                                                 we may suppose it to be,

a statement is always an event

that neither the language (langue) nor the meaning
                                                    can quite exhaust.
It is certainly a strange event:
first, because on the one hand
                                           it is linked to the gesture of
                                           writing or to the articulation of

speech,
            and also on the other hand
it opens up to itself a residual                                      existence
in the field of a memory, or in the materiality of            manuscripts,
books, or any other form of recording;
secondly, because, like every
event,

                        it is unique, yet subject to repetition, transformation, and reactivation;
thirdly, because it is linked not only to the situations that provoke it, and to the consequences
that it gives rise to, but at the same time, and in accordance with a quite different modality, to 
the statements that precede and
                                                                                      follow it.

from Dies: A Sentence

The maw that rends without tearing, the maggoty claw that serves you, what, my baby buttercup, prunes stewed softly in their own juices or a good slap in the face, there's no accounting for history in any event, even such a one as this one, O, we're knee-deep in this one, you and me, we're practically puppets, making all sorts of fingers dance above us, what do you say, shall we give it another whirl, we can go naked, I suppose, there's nothing to stop us and everything points in that direction, do you think there will be much music later and of what variety, we've that, at least, now that there's plenty of pieces to be gathered by the wool-coated orphans and their musty mums, they'll put us in warm wicker baskets, cover us with a cozy blanket of snow, and carry us home, walking carefully through the rubble and around the landmines, or visa versa, poor little laddy's lost his daddy, pauvre unminted lamb, you'd give him a chuck on the chin if you still had arms, sure as I'd pitch myself into a highland fling for the sake of the neighbors, but they say or at least said once and if we're very quiet we might hear them again, that all of us will reune with all of us when the time comes, our bits and pieces will cling-a-ling to our cores like fillings rag a magnet, think how big we'll be then, we'll spread from sea to see, sky's the limit for philomel and firmament, and there will be Indians and buffalo and a hero's welcome, I've always wanted a hero's welcome, it's due, said the capitulate archduke, doubtless they'll put us in long black cars and someone's sure to have a picnic, that's the beauty of it, someone's always sure to have a picnic, and we'll laugh when they salt and pepper their hard eggs and be glad to lend our long bones for rude goalposts, what's that, that sound, nothing, you say, right again, nothing walks heavily, nothing stomps about, the big turd, carding its beard with a baleen comb, and lovingly licking the mirror in the eggcup, it fixes red-hot ingots to its ears and pirouettes in a pineneedle shawl, showing itself off to one and all, it's a braggart and a pimp, this nothing, ups the short hairs nonetheless, doesn't it, but that's all right, continue making your stew, sun's swallowed and we've plenty of hours to morn, assuming there's to be another dawn, I'm keeping the faith on that one, my friend, my comrade, my comparison, why I'd light a candle and pray, if I weren't afraid of snipers, still, a campfire seems safe enough, at least for cooking, no one'd be so mean as to shoot a man before his supper, what's the sport in that, better to let a body leisure and sup, knowing there's no time to digest, for it's utter contempt you're after, that and the absolute beauty of wasted sweet butter, it was important that the last bite taste better, though saltless, we've St. Maladroit to clap for that, the silvertongued one, he who proved birds traitors for singing what must be sung, thoughtless, dolce, thoughtless, still, perhaps the next one will use a beer batter, make a nice soda bread, slather it with the whitest spread, that's good shooting, my darling, right between hiccoughs, speaking of which, how's your arm, you complained earlier, though quietly, you didn't want to disturb my concentration, I was squeezing oranges into cans and setting up camp, there's so much to do before a battle, don't you agree, put shoes into trees and try our hair in different styles, I thoughtfully chalked some names and addresses on our backs to facilitate false identification of our remains, unfortunately it makes us better targets...

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