Edited sound collage from Spoke release event

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Emcee Amanda Maule, readers E.J. Iannelli, Cara Lorello, Tyson West, Sumiko Chadwell, Rebecca Chadwell (for J.P. Vallieres), and J.W. Trull.

        Can you smell the forest after a rain? In this moment, can you visualize the shade of your lover’s eyes? What does downtown sound like? Close your eyes and remember . . . who shares these memories? We do. Not as if as a society we could collectively imagine the shade of your lover’s eyes (creepy) . . . but more like we find common meaning in the word “lover,” as distinct from the words “tree” or “guitar.” This may seem like an inane declaration, but when time is added to the concept we can ask: when do we share memories? Identity through recollection happens each time a place is brought up without actually being there, every time a person’s name is mentioned without their presence. One may have never been to a specific place, but that place is still remembered in a certain way from one’s experience of it through stories and images. Many places command a heavily weighted popular identity askew from the actual numbers of people present. Antarctica, for example, is cold and covered in snow. You and thousands of others would most likely agree, but how many of us have been there?

“Places are held in sites  . . . over time, as memory. As remembered, places are thus conserved  . . . our commonly held places become communities.” *


     Memory is where the meaning of place lies. What makes Spokane, here, and not Portland or Seattle? We remember them differently. Shared experience, and the following memory of that experience,  is fundamental in shaping a community resistant to the natural entropy of economic, physical, and social deterioration. The members of a community are responsible for maintaining the distinctive qualities of  their shared vision of space.

     On February 18th, Spoke contributors and friends gathered to recollect Spokane as an art community and celebrate the release of No. 1: Place / DisplacedThe Spoke release event, hosted by Jim Kolva and Pat Sullivan, brought together a diverse group of artists and community members for food, conversation, and collaboration. Guests gathered for a night featuring readings from contributors and the privately curated art and ceramics collection gracing the atmosphere of the downtown loft. The event was made possible through the combined efforts of emcee Amanda Maule of Eastern Washington’s MFA program, musician Stanton Cobbs of Summit Sound Studios, catering by Lisa Pearl of Shameless Fun Enterprises, and desserts by Robert and Ashley Hansen of Sugar and Spice Treats. Anna Cutler from Cutler Law Offices played guest attorney-turned-wine-pourer for the evening, and local companies, Chairs, Atticus, and Natural Start Cafe, supplied coffee.

         At last check, possible collaborations are forming between a metal sculptor and a poet, a filmaker and an event planner, and a spoken-word artist with a more traditional writer. We make. We make memories. We make memories that shape the future, together.

Order, order--order of events for the evening.

     If you’re interested in helping shape the identity of  the Spokane art community by participating in the release of Spoke No. 2: Signal / Noise this June, please contact Spoke.

“Self-expression is a critical ingredient of democracy . . . many social, civic, and cultural functions have been ‘professionalized’ in ways that exclude participation of ordinary citizens . . . this trend has severed the practice and experience of the art from day-to-day life . . . arts practitioners bring members of a community together to solve, problems, bud relationships, and get involved in ways that rebuild social capital.”

- Tom Borrup, The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook

“Every human being seeks to have his or her dignity recognized (i.e. evaluated at its proper worth) by other human beings . . . this drive is so deep and fundamental that it is one of the chief motors of the entire human historical process.”

- Francis Fukuyama, Trust

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Cooking books the right way with Spoke. The making of No. 1: Place / Displaced.

Beginning again and again and again explaining composition and time is a natural thing.
- Gertrude Stein, “Composition as Explanation” (1926).

Photo by Adam Krause.


     Jennifer Egan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, visited Spokane’s Gonzaga University last month as part of the school’s 2011-2012 Visiting Writers Series. Egan read the short story, ”Found Objects” as an excerpt from her novel; however, the work originally appeared in The New Yorker as a short story detailing a confession surrounding the kitchen bathtub of a kleptomaniacal woman after a shag on the carpet. A May 2011 Paste Magazine book review of Goon Squad by writer Elissa Elliot reads, “She made the remarkable transition from a good novelist to an ‘unclassifiable novelist,’ executing what seemed to be a literary experiment (and accomplishment).” So, what’s all the fuss about, exactly?

     A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about time, consecutive chapters appear out of succession, the chronology is discontinuous, and the plot extends in circles. Goon Squad progresses from Marcel Proust’s protracted span through duration, a noted influence on Egan’s work, to an unanchored dwelling in the continuous present. This unanchored dwelling is reflective of a contemporary relationship with time. This relationship has emerged, and is emerging, from the saturation of our daily lives with technology–characterized by virally proliferated images, always accessible digital archives, and disembodied communication. Egan’s novel asks, has modern, digital society become unhinged from serial time? Through the kinetics of sensational media, decomposed and decoupaged  history, and slippery inter-net identities, the answer seems to be: yes.

       If our relationship with time has changed, how has it changed our relationship with place? In a Q&A proceeding her reading, Egan described where her fiction begins: “The real doorway for me into fiction is a time and a place, an atmosphere of time and place, [. . .] conjuring actively from a place.” Place is the origin of Egan’s creative process. In his book exploring the place-world, Getting Back Into PlaceEdward S. Casey, argues for an intrinsic linkage between time and place: “We say that things last in time, yet so do places” (Casey, 33). Time cannot be separated from place. Time must be measured from a site where duration occurs–this is place. The discontinuity and circularity of the postmodern experience of time has made, is making, the experience of place fragmented and incidental.

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The Place of Shape

February 6, 2012

All bodies exist in space, this is central to our being in places. We are where we have come from, compositions of perceptions collected to form spaces coincident with time. The house, we live in a house, is our own body; our body is not ours only—it is the shape of what landscape.
Every body has

to find his     or her
place; you find    a place
and you   operate
from that place. Once
you   find that place,
that place   becomes
the center of the whole

he who walks with his house     on his
he who walks with his house  on    his head   is heaven
he    who walks with his house   on his head    is heaven
he who walks    with his house on his head

the path     he travels   on is
the path he travels on    is worn   in stone
the   path he travels    on is worn in      stone
the path he travels   on is worn

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Inhabiting Edges

February 1, 2012

     Tod Marshall is a professor of English at Gonzaga University. He earned his MFA from Eastern Washington University and his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. He has published collections of poetry (The Tangled Line, 2009; Dare Say, 2002), interviews (Range of the Possible, 2002), and a collected anthology of poetry (Range of Voices, 2005). He has received awards from the Washington Artist Trust and was the 2002 winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series.

      The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, in alliance with Terrain, hosted a literary event last November. The collaborative event was aptly titled: Spokane Words. Poets, waiting to grace the stage, milled around with the rest of the attendees. Electronic music duo Oread and DJ Benjamin Jorgens provided opening ambiance. Modern art installations inhabited every corner.

      The first poet on stage was the emcee of the evening, Tod Marshall. Listening to his introductions, Virgins of Tod’s Poetry were probably thinking, wow, this guy must know what he’s doing, whereas those more familiar with his poetry already knew, this guy not only knows what he’s doing, he’s going to do it again. Tod made it clear his introductions were meant “not to receive individual poets and artists,” stating, “We are here to recognize poetry and art.” His preludes became poems themselves, objects inviting impressions . . . Read the rest of this entry »

     Some artists contend that it’s not about the artist; it’s about the art. Some writers defend a similar position: it’s about the poem, not the poet. Placing the priority of the made over the maker is often a reaction to the popular reception of art, to a culture of celebrity and sensationalism. But what about academics? Inspired academics employ many of the same techniques as painters and authors—including inquiry, hypothesis, composition, and translation—yet academics and their research aren’t often the subject to the same degree of spectacle.

     Is research an art? In an essay entitled, “Connective Aesthetics: Art After Individualism,” art critic Suzi Gablik argues that the “distinctio[n] between who is and who is not an artist . . . is more than just a matter of personal taste; it represents . . . a new art that is more in tune with the many interactive and ecological models emerging in our culture.” Globalization has created, and continues to create, transnational social and ecological challenges, such as the protection of the environment, the preservation of economic justice, and the safe-guard of indigenous cultures, that require collective action. The globalization of industry and culture demands an examination of the similarities between the labels: author, artist, activist, and academic. The media used in expressing conceptual visions may differ, whether words, instruments, or paintbrushes, but “focusing on aspects of interaction and relationship rather than on art objects” demonstrates the need for a radical rearrangement of our aesthetics, of what’s considered art, of what an artist does. To face these global challenges, it is not enough to produce art as an individualized exploration because “we are living in a state of emergency… more than ever we must step outside of the strictly art arena.” According to this view, art-for-arts-sake has expired.

     If the traditional role of “artist” has expired, then what is left in its place? Dr. Michael Zukosky, professor of anthropology at Eastern Washington University, conducts research concerning the environment and how people speak about ecology across boundaries of language and geography. Can this ecological research be considered art? Guillermo Gómez-Peña, an interdisciplinary artist, activist and educator, suggests that artists are “media pirates, border crossers, cultural negotiators, and community healers.” To Gómez-Peña, what qualifies art is not its maker or its medium, but its willingness to participate in and address the collective needs of modern society in an engaging and accessible way.

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Hear, Here, Naked Lunch

January 21, 2012

Naked Lunch NY, NY

     We can’t all love Spokane, but we can’t all hate it either, not when two different local events let us ask: What do naked lunches and broken mics have in common? Don’t tense your shoulders waiting for the answer; at first glance, unless you’re already inclined toward literary events, the answer is a little, uh, dry: poetry readings.

     Let me guide your imagination, not by informing you of what a poetry reading is, but by what it is not. A poetry reading is not: A) a grandma with her spectacles at the end of her nose flipping through a past issue Reader’s Digest while Jeopardy re-runs in the background B) a suspicious $5 palm reading tent where an exotic looking woman of Romanian decent tells you your future in verses and stanzas C) a person reading their poems to an audience.

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Naked Lunch w/ Jess Walter

Hear recorded selections from Naked Lunch composed from voices speaking at the event on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 in Spokane, WA: Jonathan Potter (emcee), Casey Patrick, Tim Johnson, Mark Anderson, and Rob Lyman.

     The key word in understanding what a poetry reading is lies not in the term itself, but in its reception, the group experience of the event. It’s community participation, an aural field-trip into the unknown, a way of experiencing yourself and others that questions the nature of the word “other.” Read the rest of this entry »