Edited by Joan Retallack, with contributions from Sandi Hilal, Adam Pendleton, Fred Moten, Peter Krapp, Anne Carson, Allie Biswas, Beverly Semmes, Ingrid Schaffner, Evelyn Reilly, John Keene, Alan Devenish, Lauren Bakst, Nova Benway, Alhena Katsof, Mónica de la Torre, James Sherry, and erica kaufman
Joan Retallack is a poet and essayist with a background in philosophy and visual arts. Poetry volumes include Errata 5uite (Edge Books) chosen by Robert Creeley for a Columbia Book Award; AFTERRIMAGES (Wesleyan); How To Do Things With Words (Sun & Moon Classics); Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d (Roof Books)—an Artforum Best Book of 2010. She has received a Lannan Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and two Gertrude Stein Awards. Her friendship with John Cage led to MUSICAGE (Wesleyan), a volume of their conversations on Cage's compositional poetics. Retallack's The Poethical Wager (California) is a widely influential sequence of experimental essays on ethics and poetics, as well as the form of the essay itself. In 2018, Litmus Press published The Supposium: Thought Experiments and Poethical Play in Difficult Times, edited by Retallack as documentation and continuation of a MoMA event she organized in collaboration with Black Dada artist Adam Pendleton. BOSCH'D—Fables, Moral Tales & Other Awkward Constructions rejiggers ancient and contemporary wagers on textual forms of "poethical courage." With gravitas and humor, Retallack considers our species' best and worst proclivities in medias res of the Anthropocene.
Imagine you could suppose or perhaps better to say suppose you could imagine. The ever-swerving Joan Retallack teams up with the vibrantly inventive Adam Pendleton to explore not just the possibilities for poethics, but the possibilities of possibility.
Joan Retallack is a master teacher of the thought-experiment. With magically generative aplomb (it is not magic -- it is thoughtful attunement to the method of questioning and long experience in it), her prompts nestle in the mind and things flow out. In this loose, beautiful and unlikely collection of writings, conversations and exuberances, we find more evidence of how much more work there is to do on the question Adam Pendleton asks: "How can we have productive public conversations and exchanges?" So simple. Impossible? The Supposium is, therefore, an optimistic accumulation of successes at the one-second-of-attention-at-a-time level. I think this is the level at which the true future can be glimpsed and made.
This is the thrilling choir of those who chose to support, and its constant call and response between multiple modes of expression-- critical, poetic, musical, philosophical… What takes shape as you read this book is a “collective act of questioning” that tracks the unpredictable cadences and contradictions of our present. What can art do in the face of today’s anthroposcenities? What does it mean to “look at the world from the point of view of the refugee”? To swerve away from default geometrics of attention? Difficult times command us to forgo arrogance and to take a chance on the fertile textures of incompleteness. That is the wager of this work, with its “rich braid of indirections”, its carefully crafted ways of suspending conclusion. Everything here is forcefully conditional, and all the more “thick and interesting” for it. If the supposium itself was a procedural collaboration of speakers and audience inside a closed room, The Supposium draws the rest of the world in, expands the we that the event built while pursuing its moving attempt at holding together gravitas and playfulness.