Word Spaces (9): ‘Details’ by Alexandra Chasin

Posted by @ 1:22 pm on March 29th, 2009

I’m happy to share the ninth post in our Word Spaces feature: ‘Details’ by Alexandra Chasin. Alexandra Chasin is the author of Kissed By (FC2 2007), a beautiful collection of unique texts, as she likes to call them, well worth your time. Her writing has appeared in Denver Quarterly, sleepingfish, West Branch, Phoebe, and online at DIAGRAM, Exquisite Corpse, and elimae. She currently teaches at The New School. For more about her, please see her bio at the FC2 site.

A few notes before the feature: ‘Details’ is Alexandra Chasin’s response to our standard prompt: take a picture of your writing area and write a couple paragraphs about it. In her email to me, Alexandra had said she wanted to try something a bit different. Great, I said.

Then I received the twenty-five photos and the accompanying text a few weeks later. As I clicked through the emails, looked at the photos, read the text, I could not help but think about Kissed By. The book made more ‘sense’ to me, at least my reading experience of it. Looking at ‘Details,’ I feel as though I know Alexandra Chasin a little more, which is a nice feeling, I think.

So I hope you enjoy the post as well and give some serious thought to picking up Kissed By. Reviews can be read at The Quarterly Conversation (my review), and here at The Short Review. You may also watch a video of Alexandra Chasin from the 2008 &NOW Festival of Innovative Literature and Art here.







Therefore, art comes to be considered something to be overthrown. A new element enters the individual artwork and becomes constitutive of it: the appeal (tacit or overt) for its own abolition — and, ultimately, for the abolition of art itself.




The scene changes to an empty room.2



2. Page from my calendar.  Because my writing space is first and foremost: the spidery space of late capitalism; the space of going to hell in a handbasket at about the same rate that the fish are being fished out of the oceans and seas into which the snow-capped mountains now, and inexorably, are tumbling; the table laid with bowls filled with the fruits of violence and injustice, where I break bread with the other GMOs; the floor of Ecstasy Lab Hall, where anxiety and ennui could have danced all night, and did, until they collapsed dehydrated but without the desire for water.  The space-time in which even the lowest-grade metal detector finds something to love in all of us.  But I have no weapons of mass destruction here – just some hand tools, some middle years, and a sunny outlook.



3. “PAGE” from Red Mountain (a detail), by the gifted painter Josh Dorman.  Something to be overthrown?


4. The warm colors.




5. You’ve heard of bitter howling; here are howling bitters.

6. From Allen Ginsberg to Walt Whitman, his literary forebear, writ small there…

7. …to Flaubert, mon faux-père, wearing, here, the baby’s hair.

8. Baby’s tongue.




A tendril of colonializing ivy is reaching out toward the top of my head as I’m writing this.  Threadshoots of tradition surge in the spring.






9. Art books.




Music.  Appealing for its own abolition?








10. Workbook.

11. My MFA thesis.

12. Buddha typing, “Aucun oiseau n’a le coeur de chanter dans un buisson de questions,”3 in the shade of the typewriter.






13. “Lacunae.”

14. “Writing” desk.

15. Jeu Alphabétique.

16. The Catalan alphabet.4




17. White books.

18. Black books.



I have a dream that one day on the shelves right here in my office and in the most Alexandrine of libraries, little white books and little black books will mix it up, and play together, and the brainchildren of the various genres and disciplines and even media will live in an intellectual and creative landscape where they will not be judged by their covers, but by their contents and their characters.










19. The pull cord of questions.  For the abolition of art itself?

20. One-twelfth of my rug.

21. Curtain.

22. The leg, the foot, or two of the four feet of my desk.




Silence.  Offspring singing along.






.22 A yolky yellow is the subplot.



23. Bells.  Ringing and unringing the song.

24. Thread.  What it’s all about.


25. Baby’s arm: bye-bye.






1. Thanks to Ira Livingston for the photography.

2. Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” in Styles of Radical Will (NY: Farrar Straus & Giroux,1969).

3. René Char, I think.

4. A detail from a poster by Antonio Tàpies announcing the XXIII FIRA DEL LLIBRE D’OCASIÓ ANTIC I MODERN, 1974.