Small Press Traffic Reading Report: Susan Gevirtz and Eileen Tabios at SPT. By Jai Arun Ravine

Gevirtz and Tabios on communities and empires at Small pPess Traffic.

By KSP Guest Blogger Jai Arun Ravine

On May 7, 2010 a large white tent ballooned in front of the main entrance to the CCA building. Susan Gevirtz and Eileen Tabios were not reading inside this tent. Cloaked in a lecture hall tucked away in the back, every seat enabled with retractable desk tops and ethernet jacks, approaching the architecture of “empires” and “community” began for me with Susan’s hair.

Its shape fascinated me. Nudged against a partially obscured EXIT sign [“exit up, naked eye”], her hair was pinned into/around/as space much like fabric was pinned into/around/as a mannequin in the gallery and post office tray plastic was sculpted into/around/as the nearby stairwell. ———————————————————————————————— Here I drew a line to Eileen’s son’s fascination with viewing the night sky through a telescope. ———————– As a child I was also enthralled by stars and planets and volunteered in my hometown’s art and science museum, where I spent much time in the planetarium.

Leaning back in its slightly slanted seats, we focused intently on the space above our heads. The dome pulsed with a glowing ring of city lights, slowly fading into a deep black sky—and in it, all the stars there could be. In that dream-like night the many things I desired to learn and know, so vast as to be unknowable.

In witnessing Susan and Eileen’s performances adjacent to each other, I began to map the distances between “empire” and “community”—a sky/space traversed by matters of “control” — “translation” — “manipulation” — “attachment” — “transnational” — “adoption” — “adaptation” — “inertia” — “airplanes” — “transport” — “tornadoes” — “fury.”

Susan, in reading excerpts from AERODROME ORION & Starry Messenger, charts the practices and trajectories of control and transport in air traffic, translating the sky into a place one can travel across and through, attaching fragments of sound to the landscape of the space above, the page becoming a tightrope of arrivals [“ arm...seaweed...sun lag...”].

The practice of charting, naming and controlling the very air above you seems absurd, as does the idea of “owning” airspace above any given country [“no grammars find me”]. Here empires tower up into the sky, boundaries of breath are rigorously policed, as impossible as naming the stars. I found that some of the text of her latest book was performed as a sound and visual piece, words coming together within the temperature of music, the climate of sound [“not betwixt”], being enveloped by language like a sky.

Eileen, in reading a series of haybun from The Thorn Rosary, charts the practices and trajectories of adoption and adaptation in transnational translations enacted on the bodies of mother and child [“...froze back into another fist / mountain / smoke...”]. In sharing both successful and failed processes of adoption, Eileen opens up the space between government agencies and malnourishment, in which the inertia between a potential mother and child is interrupted by tornadoes and fury, catalogued disorders and inabilities of connection, —lines broken— [“shatter my once drawn heart”].

The orphanage becomes a constellation of disposable friendliness and second-hand toys, of surface presentations and meaningless gestures, where only a certain few have the power to connect the dots [“Dear Government Agency In Charge Of Children...”]. The form of Eileen’s “haybun,” a pairing of prose poem with hay(na)ku, becomes a vehicle that transports emotion and compresses it into compact fists [“...wind smolders sunders wind...”].

Under an umbrella-ed sky/space I began to think about the ways we are dictated and transformed by practices and movements we can’t fully understand—a bureaucratic system in another country or swimming in the Aegean Sea—large impermeable regimes or the air that continues to envelope us.

[“Sometimes the world cannot be fitted into the poem,”] says Eileen, but can we fit the world into the sky? The sky into a poem? We can agree to another attempt to engage, to attach in the action of our poetics. Maybe then hope will once again live, and we can lift a lip of space to reveal—————————————————————

Jai Arun Ravine is the author of the chapbook IS THIS JANUARY (Corollary Press, 2010) and a Kundiman fellow. Jai’s work appears most recently in Galatea Resurrects #14 and the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, and is forthcoming in Drunken Boat and Lantern Review. For more information, visit

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