Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Adeena Karasick

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews:

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Adeena Karasick

Adeena Karasick is a New York based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of ten books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) “a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick’s signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “one long dithyramb of desire, a seven-veiled dance of seduction that celebrates the tangles, convolutions, and ecstacies of unbridled sexuality… demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Most recently is Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera co-created with Grammy award winning composer, Sir Frank London. She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” is established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University.
Website: www. adeenakarasick.com
Checking In VISPO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-syLYJ4Ma8
Salome Promo vid:   Salome.mp4
Videopoem Compilation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWid5HMhd9E

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I have always been obsessed with the orthogorphy of letters / their shapes, pericopes, the way they move effortlessly on a page and brush up against each other to create soaring sonic and hyper-referential graphematic and syntactic meaning; inextricably connected to how we breathe, communicate act, are.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My first real teacher was American visionary, poet seer, founder of Tish and editor of New American Poetry (with Donald Allen), Warren Tallman. In the late 80’s / 90’s he introduced me to Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov in San Francisco, Robin Blaser, Robert Creeley, bill bisett, bp nichol, Charles Bernstein, Allen Ginsberg. It was crucial as a young poet at that time to be able to meet, talk with, hear their work; learn there were passionately oracular writers in the world dedicated to recreating reality through a patterning of words.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

Not so much a routine but a routing. i write whenever / wherever i am; walking through the East Village, on trains, busses, benches in bars or beachside; hunting and gathering; sculpting mashing up conversation, philosophic and Kabbalistic discourse, political analysis, advertisements and pop songs, re-examining the world through its fissions, scission, elisions, fragmentation, brokenness, extasis, to see the world in new ways  — effecting socio-political n aesthetic transformation and change.

4.  What motivates you to write?

Sociopolitical unrest, passionate obsessions, and sonic or graphematic clusters that roll around in my mouth

5.. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Too many to name, but a list would include Abraham Abulafia, Bruce Andrews, Walter Benjamin, bill bissett, bp Nichol, Charles Bernstein, Hélène Cixous, Paul Celan, Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès, Emmanuel Levinas, Gertrude Stein, Michael Wex, Elliot Wolfson, Slavov Zizek, Louis Zukofsky. Each of them teaching me ways of how to sculpt with language and sound and focus on language as an auratic system of fiery letters, spilling their secrets.

6.. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

All my language-focused colleagues, mentors, teachers, heroes, friends, warriors, who are challenging borders, power structures in the face of enormous cultural political and aesthetic adversity, controversy, outrage; and with commitment to transgression and at times anarchic intervention, continue to fight through their language.

7. Why do you write?

To expose language as – (in the words of Dr. Scott from Rocky Horror) ”some kind of audio-vibratory, physiomolecular transport device”.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Read everything you can, write as much as you can, go to readings, attend openings, perform at open mics, submit to magazines, start a journal, belong to a community of writers who you can bounce your drafts off of. And when no one’s looking, crawl into the materiality of the letters; smell them, taste them feel them, dwell with them and listen closely as they guide you toward new lexical galaxies, new landscapes to live in.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Two books have just come out and i’ve been touring extensively with them  –Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) which is a kinda ironic investigation of the way we gather truth, construct reality, and how time itself is contemporaneous. The past is at our fingertips, and the future is always-already arriving. And though we are inundated with information, we have little access to a stable, definable Truth. So it kinda highlights how our past is re-passed in an ever-evolving resonant present; how time and subjectivity and knowledge and reference are so fluid; and how through ironic punning and radical juxtapositions of temporality and spatiality, we are forced to see the world anew.

Salomé: Woman of Valor is both a book and a Spoken Word opera which i created with Grammy Award winning, recently knighted, composer and trumpeter Frank London, and revisits the apocryphal story of Salomé through a Jewish Feminist perspective; and has been touring internationally at Festivals with dancers, live musicians and screen projections. It really has been one of the most intense and all-consuming writing adventures of my life.

I’ve been working on it for 5 years and not only has it been published as a book, but  is an “opera” which debuted in New York and Vancouver in March 2018, Toronto in Sept. 2018 and will be at the Oberon Theater, March 12-13, 2019 in Boston. The book has gotten tremendous international recognition (it’s been translated into Italian (by Pina Piccolo and Serena Piccolo), published in Italy by University of Padova Press and also an English-only Limited edition Artist Book has just come out with Gap Riot Press in Toronto; and sections have been translated in to Bengali, German, Arabic and Yiddish; (the Bengali translations are due to be launched at the Kolkata Book Fair this February in a collection entitled, Bridgeable Lines: An Anthology of Borderless World Poetry in Bengali. Part of its intrigue i think is that we are living in a climate where we acknowledge that history is complicated and multiperspectival.

After years of research, and realizing that Salomé has been serially mis-represented i became obsessed with re-inserting her back into her rightful place in history. Re-translating the misogynist and anti-semitic myth to one of female empowerment, where she is not a victim but a revolutionary and all swirls in a world of conflictual socio-political, erotic and aesthetic transgression.

Also, in terms of its form – incorporating contemporary sound poetry, Midrash,13th C. Kabbalistic references, pop culture and homophonic translations (paying homage to the Oscar Wilde text), i wanted to investigate how a jouissey interrogation of form and content could lead to new ways of seeing; reminding us how there is never one story or perspective to be told– and allowing the unvoiced be celebrated and heard.

Though in tone, the Salomé project is quite different than Checking In, they both highlight how history is not something static but how myths, stories, legends are multiperspectively received and continually reshaped – ironically exposing how both “fact” and “fiction” come from the Latin, “to make” and “to shape.” And i think particularly in this present political climate this is something we are all negotiating.


Sat. Oct. 27
“Bandage Bondage, Strippers and Slippage: The Language and Meaning of Salomé in the 21st Century”
for the 66th Annual Alfred Korzybski Symposium:
Language and Meaning in the 21st Century”
Institute of General Semantics
New York, NY
5:30 pm

Sat. Nov. 3
“Otiot” and “This Poem” exhibited at Concrete Is Porous; Act I: Visual
The Secret Handshake Gallery
170a Baldwin
Toronto, ON
2:30 (Opening Reception)

Sat. Dec. 15 (possibly Jan. 12 or Nov. 17)
Salomé: Words and Music (with Frank London)
Women Between Arts
The New School Glass Box Theater
55 W 13th St.
New York, NY
4:00 pm

Mon. Dec. 17
Fabricadabra (with Maria Damon)
for the 50th Anniversary Association for Jewish Studies Conference:
Writing the ‘Self’ Back into Jewish Studies.”
Sheraton Boston
39 Dalton St
Boston, MA

Thurs. Feb. 7
Launch of Bridgeable Lines: An Anthology of Borderless World Poetry in Bengali, (featuring Salomé translation into Bengali)
Press Corner, Kolkata International Bookfair, Central Park Mela Ground, SaltLake, Kolkata
6:00 pm

Fri. Feb. 8
Salomé a capella at Kolkata Book Fair
Kolkata International Bookfair,
Central Park Mela Ground, SaltLake, Kolkata
6:00 pm

Sun. Feb. 17
Great Weather for New Media
Parkside Lounge
317 E. Houston
4:00 pm

Tues. March 12
Salomé: Woman of Valor
Oberon: American Repertory Theater
2 Arrow St.
Cambridge, MA
8:00 pm

Wed, March 13
Salomé: Woman of Valor
Oberon: American Repertory Theater
2 Arrow St.
Cambridge, MA
8:00 pm

Fri. April 26
Scenes Screams Screens and Semes: The Salomaic Elasticity of the Page and the Stage for TEXT/SOUND/PERFORMANCE: Making in Canadian Space University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland

June 27-30
The 20th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association: MEDIAETHICS Human Ecology in a Connected World
University of Toronto
St. Michael’s College,

Adeena Karasick

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.