John Bloomberg-Rissman

John Bloomberg-Rissman is the author/DJ of No Sounds of My Own Making, World0, A Spectrum of Other Instances, among other titles. He is also the editor of 1000 Views of ‘Girl Singing’. His work has appeared in numerous journals and in several anthologies. He has just completed Flux, Clot & Froth, for which he has found a publisher. He is 1/3 of the team at Leafe Press. His ongoing efforts can be seen at Zeitgeist Spam. His next project is called SPANSE. His day job is managing a number of the library collections for the University of California, Riverside.

What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?

The anthology 1000 Views of ‘Girl Singing’ has been my favorite editing project to date. Here’s why:

Tom Beckett asked me in an interview, “Where did/does poetry begin for you?” I replied, “[These days}, it begins for me in a constraint-based making of new texts out of a chorus of other voices/writings, other others, other sames, in a voyage of discovery.

Why is this what I do? A little later in the interview, I say:
Allow me to channel Badiou a minute and quote Mao: Let a thousand flowers bloom. To lift from a convenient source on the web (Phrase Finder)
Let a thousand flowers bloom is a common misquotation of Chairman Mao Zedong’s “Let a hundred flowers blossom”. This slogan was used during the period of approximately six weeks in the summer of 1957 when the Chinese intelligentsia were invited to criticize the political system then obtaining in Communist China.

The full quotation, taken from a speech of Mao's in Peking in February 1957, is:

“Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”
Though I don’t put those flowers into contention (I mean, there’s no real power struggle in my poems, all samples are created and remain equal, no matter how much I mess with them), I do believe that making space for a cacophonic chorus that never quite blends into one voice, each voice at equal volume with all others, each endowed with “equal rights”, is indeed a precondition for letting a just culture flourish, though I’d probably opt for some sort of anarcho-socialism rather than a univocal Maoist version.

Of course, I know that what I’m creating is something just slightly more than the illusion of such a chorus. There’s a little man behind the Oz-curtain … But what more can I do? The totally aleatory doesn’t work for me. Not all the time, at least. I almost hate to say it, but some days I love Jackson Mac Low’s procedure notes more than his poems. Besides, 4’33” is always-already on the box, isn’t it?

I haven’t figured out an answer yet, besides actual collaboration, which I engage in as often as I can.
1000 Views began as one such constraint-based choral project. But then it turned into something else. Something that was not “slightly more than the illusion of such a chorus.” And yet. As Jared Schickling wrote me after it was published, “Seeing it from a distance, and having familiarity with what you've said about your own work and using others' voices, this anthology seems another step in "going all the way" or something like that. It's collaborative in ways that your other work is collaborative, but in novel ways too. At any rate I see this anthology as a natural or unnatural as the case may be extension of *your* poetic work, I don't see it as a side project.” 1000 Views is something I’ve been trying to do all along.

It all happened fast. Let me reprise the preface:

1 July 2008

Hi Eileen--

I have a new project in mind, which is to employ the several dozen "translation" methods bpNichol came up with in his Translating Translating Apollinaire and the 13 David Cameron used to make his Flowers of Bad and perhaps a few of my own. What I need is a source text. I was wondering whether you might have a poem floating around (something around a page) you might be willing to let me "translate" 50 times or so ...

I should note that some other "translators" will be involved, don't know who yet, because one of Nichols' methods involve "memory translation" in which a person is shown the poem once, allowed to read it, then it's taken away and the reader is asked to write it down, however s/he remembers it. (That's the complete set of instructions)

If this doesn't appeal to you, no worries. But given our conversation of the last few weeks, you will understand why I thought you might be willing to play.

Thanks for even thinking a minute about this.




2 July 2008


I have a new project. I’m going to take a poem by Eileen Tabios (I have her blessings) that is “after” a poem by Jose Garcia Villa and run about 100,000,000 (plus or minus) changes on it, using methods developed by bpNichol, Steve McCaffery, David Cameron, Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, Christian Bok, Oulipo, etc.

Some transformations/translations will require others to join in the project for a collaboration or two, e.g. one of Nichols’ transformations requires getting people more or less unfamiliar with the poem to read it once and then try to write it. I’m thinking of asking (no, I'm asking) you if you’d be willing to play. I’ll also be asking for actual translations (literal or otherwise, translator’s choice) by those who are capable. Into the language(s) of their choice, earthly, invented or otherwise. Can you think of anyone else that might have fun with this? Can you think of any other artists etc who have developed procedures for manipulating / generating / messing with texts?

Everyone who does play will be fully credited AND will be guaranteed a significant share of the undoubtedly considerable profits (which probably means a free copy when this thing is in the can). And their contributions will be put up at Zeitgeist Spam.

Thanks for even considering,




6 July 2008

Becky, Sam--

I hope you don't mind being addressed together, tho this invitation is for each of you individually (or collectively, if you prefer a collective response).

I have a new project I'd like to invite you to contribute to, in any medium. Feel free to Just Say No (or, as Tim Leary amended it, No, Thanks).

Here's the deal:

I've taken poem by Eileen Tabios (I have her blessings) that is “after” a poem by Jose Garcia Villa and run the first few of about 100,000,000 (plus or minus) changes on it, using methods developed by bpNichol, Steve McCaffery, David Cameron, Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, Christian Bok, Oulipo, etc.

Some transformations/translations will require others to join in the project for a collaboration or two, e.g. one of Nichols’ transformations requires getting people more or less unfamiliar with the poem to read it once and then try to write it.

Please let me know if you are interested. You can see what a few others have done by checking out Zeitgeist Spam. More contributions have been promised.

Here are the instructions, as copied from bp Nichol’s Translating Translating Apollinaire: A Preliminary Report:

1. memory translation: reader retention (each reader is shown the poem without prior warning or instruction [we’ll have to ignore that bit] and asked to read thru it once. The poem is then taken away and the reader asked to write down what he or she remembers. No other instructions are given)

2. homolinguistic translation. [note: no explanation is given of what a homolinguistic translation might be. So I will use Charles Bernstein’s: “Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else's, then your own) and translate it "English to English" by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or "free" translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several different types of homolinguistic transation of a single source poem.” Bernstein adds “Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for "translation" from person to another until you get back to the first author.” Feel free to chain w/anyone of your choice – in any fashion - or not, it’s all up to you]

And here are my own instructions: please do anything else you fancy doing to/with it, and please include some sort of explanation of the “procedure” employed [Note: anything you want to count as a procedure counts as a procedure]. I’m also asking for translations into any and all languages (construe language as you wish).

I’ve attached the poem, which I chose because it was already an “after” an original.

Again, thanks very much for even considering this.




14 July 2008

Oh Ernesto--

You haven't ruined anything. Quite the contrary. You've made it sublime. In fact, everyone who has contributed has made it sublime. It's become an anthology rather than a JBR project (yes, I too have thought of the Queneau, but this quickly became something other than one person's “versions”, it morphed within days into, rather, a “community's” “versions”).

Please keep on w/any and everything you can think of, it's all too great.

And invite in anyone you can think of. Or send their contact info my way.

(I checked out Matt’s work ... Most excellent ... I'd love it if he'd be willing to contribute something ...)

Did you get my email about Leafe being willing to publish?

In any case: What are “rules” for? We're down the rabbit hole now, they are there for us, not us for them! I learned this after years as a library monographs cataloger, and I sang revolutionary songs the day I learned it.




13 September 2008


[snip] forwarded the invitation to me. What exactly is the “1000 Views project”?



13 September 2008

Hi Mike

Good question. Flip (perhaps serious) answer to your specific question: wish I knew.

But here’s the story: I had come to #200 in a project called Autopoiesis and thought: time for a break, a new direction for a while. What to do, what to do? I’d been thinking about bpNichol’s Translating Translating Apollinaire project, and about Oulipo, especially Queneau’s Exercises in Style. And I’d been reading (with great pleasure) David Cameron’s Flowers of Bad. So I thought I’d take a poem, and translate it (so to speak) using every algorithm I could find. Next step: find a poem. I was reading Eileen Tabios, and came across her “The Secret Life of an Angel”; this appealed to me vis-à-vis my project, because it is already one step removed from a Jose Garcia Villa poem, “Girl Singing”, to which it is a response. So I had the poem, and the title, which, to please myself, was 1000 Views of ‘Girl Singing’, the Garcia Villa poem from which I would not work, but which was waving from the distance ...

So far, so good. Now, here’s where it gets interesting – to me, at least. I thought I’d do most of the work, while calling for a bit of input from others, a la a couple of Nichol’s “algorithms”. Well, it turned out that responses to my call for the memory translation and the homolinguistic translation were WAY more interesting than I had imagined, and WAY more plentiful. Some were text, others were more visual, others were audio, and one was a video. So I said hmmmm, I’m now editing an anthology. And my principle for compiling it will be: every time I encounter a “likely suspect” (and I wanted some who were not “professional” artistes) I’ll ask her/him/whatever if they’d like to play. I’d do this til 2008 runs out.

It is to be published by Leafe Press, Nottingham England. [snip]

Here’s the list of people who have contributed so far, in the order in which they contributed. Some (a surprising number) have contributed multiple times (I think the record to date is 24; it’s held by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen). Others have promised, but ... Well they may come through, they may not.

[list of names]

Not bad for a project started in July ...


Is this an answer, Mike? Perhaps another (3rd) answer might have been: my idea of fun. And hopefully yours, too.

If this is NOT an answer, please ask again, and I’ll try to oblige.




13 September 2008

So ideally you’ll be wanting a textual poem?



13 September 2008

Mike, no, ideally what I’d like would be your view or views, in whatever “medium”. I’m really happy that “translation” and “view” have been construed in a very wide sense. Of course, I’m a textual guy, so it’s not as if I’d turn up my nose at text or anything. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, who, as I mentioned, sent me 24 responses, sent 16 “traditional” texts and 8 “vispo” things. Ernesto has sent text, sound, video and visuals. Rebeka sent me a straight translation into Italian, Kuei provided one in Chinese and one in Modern Greek. All I have from Ed are drawings. I was/am/continue to be happy with all of them.

So, it’s up to you.




When published (Leafe Press, Nottingham, England, 2009), it consisted of all the views I’d posted plus one – Eileen’s “special bonus” postscript/rewrite – all the views that the codex page can accommodate, that is. They are in the order originally posted at Zeitgeist Spam, which bears some pretty accurate relation to the order received. I have left them in that order because at least one view was constructed out of those already found there, in the order they were found. And it was in the already-present that others found their inspiration.

The views that can’t be bound into a book can be found at http://www.girlsinging.com, as can the views that have rolled in since publication – the anthology has been adopted as a teaching tool in Creative Writing classes at the University of Southampton, and I’ve posted student contributions as I’ve received them. If anyone reading this feels “called”, I’ll post your view, too, that’s a promise.

It makes me very happy to be part of a collective something wonderful that just happened.

FCF 90

’s a clear

of ontic
antics tending towards

raining down
on the sea.

You can hear whole days sinking, strange sunny mornings, unfinished loves,
                goodbyes cut short that sink into the sea.

of the
city’s church bells

ringing madly,
and the people

in the
streets. And the

are under
the sea. And

sea is
under the sea.

the sea
under the sea

sinking one      more        time
into the sea.

Tell them something you can live with.

There must be one [more] thing that makes you shiver –

The world is a hyperbole of grief.

if they
prove that our

are mathematically
impossible, we will

to the
last flame in

equation.” And
you, above this

and flux
and ruin, does

fetch the let-

x, for
instance, which is

variable, in
a place somewhere

on the
last or next

collapsed under
the effort …? “You”

a gentle
and good in

but sadly
unreliable. “I” could

in a
trough and follow

wire of
the pylons away

a town
to some graveyard

the headstones
look like pummeled

Little Viva
lifts up the

X is
idealised as an

or an
objectile slipped through

vowel, abbatoir-
warm, cuddly as

prose. “I”
uses scare quotes

I izzam terrified.
I izzam cuz

this office
there is little

save except
the disintegration that

all species.
(They read Artaud

Braille and
rub their genitalia …)

is it
a language? Synapse

its own
luggage. Nothing gathers

walls around
you. Come, Kazemir

saying “let
the familiar recede,

all by
which we’ve lived

lost to
sight.” It is

that a
foolhardy sort met

demise on
the bridge of

but that
is the only

fatality. I
anoint him totally

a dumfounded
febrile imponderable viscosity.

I have twenty fingers.

Every time there is a ditch
I fall in
because I’m neither cautious
nor wary.

I have nineteen fingers.

I’m inspired to listen for the stealth
with which space and sounds like laughter and shouting
stick fast to one another, taking hold of a body.

I have twelve.

On the verge of becoming impossible certain fictions claim free–floating functioning, intercalation yields “O!”, now the appointment book lies on top of Milarepa (biography).

                              This is in a basket marked ‘recent moves.’

I’m down to eight.

7-6-5-4-3-2-1 this house … has been collapsing for centuries.

I am blind without my fingers:

look like
I am thinking.

I am
silent for a

. “I
no longer care

hide in
my pocket.” When

slip my
across the

of the
letter, I feel

outline of
the key
. How

bones of
my skull grow,

toward the
crown, but without

deftly executing
a pentatonic scale.

verb lights
a fire, the subject

over to
get warm. It’s

big there.
Like when a

tells a
different story. To

the hollow
then – to

oneself into
the hole. There’s

red. I
am not allowed

understand (recursion
or something). I

for it
being so cold.

even cut
off my finger.

will grow
back like a

Or it
won’t. In that

we’ve yet
to visit a

we forgot
to shut stays

hold up
the bone shank,

femur shard
that makes it

In the
universe of heated

the peacock’s
(Spinoza dixit).

peace (at
last), he climbed

stairs and
saw himself stretched

in some
kind of cheap


[Note: Sources: the 3rd in a series utilizing The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (Edited by Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon-Grosman), Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today’s Latino Renaissance (ed. Ray González) (again I work both from the end back), and the eternal and, of course. Thanks again to Ron Silliman, for leading me to a link I play with, John Gallaher’s list of “Salt Summer Sizzler” recommendations, at Nothing To Say & Saying It. All “Salt” samples are from the Salt website. For Robert Archambeau.

There … sea: Raul Zurita, Inri: The Sea (tr. William Rowe); all … streets: Daisy Zamora, “Radio Sandino” (trs. Margaret Randall and Elinor Randall); Tell … with and There … shiver – and The world … grief and Even … equation: Dionisio D Martínez, “Cole Porter”, “The Death of Isadora Duncan”, “Standard Time: Novena for my Father” (in González); images created by inserting FCF 90’s preceding sentence into .::NAG::Net.Art.Generator; And you … prose: JBR, “Autopoiesis CLXIV”; In … species and They read … genitalia and hold … possible: Juan Felipe Herrera, “The Poetry of America”, “Atavistic: Traces After the Rain” (in González); History … language?: Néstor Perlongher, “Tuyú” (tr. Molly Weigel); Synapse … luggage and Nothing … you: Bruce Andrews, “Lives in Bed Hallway”, in Designated Heartbeat (Salt); Come … sight”: Robert Archambeau, “Victory Over the Sun”, in Home and Variations (Salt); It is true … fatality: Maxine Chernoff, “Evolution of the Bridge”, in Evolution of the Bridge (Salt); I … totally and dumfounded … viscosity: Wilson Bueno, Mar paraguayo; I … fingers and every … wary: Cecilia Vicuña, “Physical Portrait” (tr. Rose Alcalá); I’m inspired … body: Arturo Carrera, “It Wasn’t In Sicily, It wasn’t Here” (tr. G J Racz); On the verge … functioning and intercalation … “O!” and now the appointment … moves.’: Matthew Cooperman, “The Dictionary of Allusions”, “Apropos”, in Daze (Salt); this … centuries: María Mercedes Carranza, “Homeland” (tr. Michelle Gil-Montero); I look … scale and I’ll even … Starfish!: result of a google search on I am blind without my fingers; The verb … warm and It’s big … there and Like … story and I apologize … cold: Paolo Leminski, “Catatu”, “Metamorphosis” (tr. Odile Cisneros); To watch … hole and There’s … red: Soledad Farina, “Everything Calm, Immobile”, “Not Time Yet” (tr. Jen Hofer); I … understand: Gloria Gervitz, Migrations (tr. Mark Schafer); In that … open: Juan Luis Martínez, “Breathing House, Almost the (author’s Little House)” (tr. Robert Tejada); The universe … molecules: Maurice Kilwein Guevera, “The Miniaturist” (in González); the peacock’s codpiece and Spinoza dixit: Rodolfo Hinostrata, “Contra natura” (tr. William Rowe); At peace … stretched out and imitation: Jose Kozer, “Kafka Reborn”, “A Meeting at Cho-Fu-Sa” (tr. Mark Weiss)]

31 August 2009

Autopoiesis CXXXII (“Enuma elish …”)


Enuma elish … O Janus … now      and      then …


I know the roundness of my baby’s bo-

dy, and from it gather the contours of

the distant hills … as we go up them and

bat against their sides, they thin the air cool

and fresh ... from their tops we plunge our fists in-

to the oceans … lost lost lost lost lost … like

the bee that flies into the guitar and

hangs transfixed in the sound of sound til all

his wetness leaves him and he rides that high

wind … for a long time I see no other sky

than the ceiling of this room where, from

a chink of plaster, hangs the image of


                I can hardly move my head.

[Note: Sources: Enuma … then: Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal (Enuma Elish = the Babylonian Creation Myth, named after its opening words); I … fresh and the image of the fist plunging into the ocean: Madeline Gins, Helen Keller or Arakawa; the bee … wind: Lewis Hyde, “This Error is the Sign of Love”, in This Error is the Sign of Love (thanks, Shin Yu, for the Hyde tip!); for … head: Philip Lamantia, “Inside the Journey”, in Selected Poems 1943-1966; Omo Bob, Cloud Study (After Constable), 2008, as posted 19 March 2008 at OMO STUDIO, which has as today’s motto “I always feel that I’ve just been born into an endlessly new world” - Alberto Caeiro]

28 March 2008

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