The Supposium

Edited by Joan Retallack


Litmus Press
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover art by Joan Retallack, Design by HR Hegnauer
Anthology, Art, Hybrid Forms, Poetics, Poetry
Edition, Year
First Edition, 2018
In Print

Poetry. Literary Nonfiction. Poetics. Essay. Art. Collaboration. Think of it as a multi-genre catalog of seriously humorous and grave responses to the crises of attention and value our human plurality of “we”s is so spectacularly prone to. Urgent in the moment, always intricately linked to present pasts and futures seen as the arcs or flatlines of history, the first challenge is sustaining enough vitality of intellect and imagination to engage in procedural optimism — thought experiments and other forms of creative play that express at minimum the willingness to be pleasantly surprised. The Supposium is, in that spirit, a collaboration that began as x-centric event at MoMA and, in this final stage, has become a strangely joyous book. The gamut of intellectual and imaginative; performative, visual, and poetic experiments and interventions in this volume enact poethical responses as seemingly divergent as decolonizing architecture in a Palestinian refugee camp while rethinking the socio-political geometry of the global refugee crisis (why is the refugee never in the center?); Black Dada vis-à-vis Black Lives Matter; misogyny as Feminist Responsibility Project; the art of If; Miles Davis’s and other’s s’posin; and of course Fall Guys. With all that, The Supposium is a polyvocal attempt to edge beyond default geometries of attention. Its implicitly conversational sequence is homage and play on Plato’s Symposium — Socratic dialogue on the nature of love (erōs) with its humor, gravitas, and improbable feminine swerve out of a prototypic masculine culture.

Contributors include Lauren Bakst, Lynne Beckenstein, Nova Benway, Allie Biswas, Anne Carson, Alan Devenish, Sandi Hilal, Alhena Katsof, erica kaufman, John Keene, Peter Krapp, Fred Moten, Adam Pendleton, Evelyn Reilly, Danica Savonick, Ingrid Schaffner, Beverly Semmes, James Sherry, and Mónica de la Torre

Joan Retallack
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 ... Read More

Praise for The Supposium

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. 

— Charles Bernstein

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.  

— Simone White

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.

— Omar Berrada

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