poem index

About this poet

Born on May 10, 1961 and raised in the U.S. Army, Vanessa Place received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an M.F.A. from Antioch University, and a J.D. from Boston University.

Her books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse; La Medusa (2008); and Statement of Facts (2010), the first volume of her trilogy Tragodía which repurposes legal prosecution and defense documents verbatim; among others.

With Robert Fitterman, she co-wrote Notes on Conceptualisms (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), an exploration of contemporary conceptual writers and their work. She is also the author of The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law (Other Press, 2010), an analysis of the prosecution of sexual offenders.

About her texts, she says: "Authorship doesn't matter. Content doesn't matter. Form doesn't matter. Meter doesn't matter. All that matters is the trace of poetry. Put another way, I am a mouthpiece." Susan McCabe describes her poetry as "both humbling and beyond paraphrase, both mythic and contemporary."

In addition to her work as an appellate criminal defense attorney, she serves as co-director of Les Figues Press. Place currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Archeology, p. 28

Vanessa Place, 1968
We must ask ourselves                         what purpose is
ultimately served by this                                 suspension of
all the accepted                                              unities
if, in the end, we return to                               the unities
that we pretended to question                at the outset.
        In fact,
the systemic erasure of                         all given unities
enables us first of all                                       to restore to
the statement                                                 the specificity
of its occurrence,                                  and to show
        that                                                       discontinuity
is one of those great                                       accidents
        that                                             create cracks

not only in the geology                          of history,
but also in the simple                                      fact
of the statement;

it emerges in its historical     irruption;
what we try to examine is     the incision

that it
makes, that
          irreducible—                                  and very often tiny
                                                      —emergence.
However banal it may be,
however unimportant its consequences may appear to be,
however quickly it may be forgotten after its appearance,
however little heard or however badly deciphered
                                                 we may suppose it to be,

a statement is always an event

that neither the language (langue) nor the meaning
                                                    can quite exhaust.
It is certainly a strange event:
first, because on the one hand
                                           it is linked to the gesture of
                                           writing or to the articulation of

speech,
            and also on the other hand
it opens up to itself a residual                                      existence
in the field of a memory, or in the materiality of            manuscripts,
books, or any other form of recording;
secondly, because, like every
event,

                        it is unique, yet subject to repetition, transformation, and reactivation;
thirdly, because it is linked not only to the situations that provoke it, and to the consequences
that it gives rise to, but at the same time, and in accordance with a quite different modality, to 
the statements that precede and
                                                                                      follow it.

Copyright © 2011 by Vanessa Place. Used with permission of the author.

Vanessa Place

Vanessa Place

Her books of poetry and conceptual writing include Dies: A Sentence (Les Figues, 2006), a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse

by this poet

poem
Miss Scarlett, effen we kain git de doctah
w'en Miss Melly's time come, doan you bodder
Ah kin manage. Ah knows all 'bout birthin.
Ain' mah ma a midwife? Ain' she raise me
ter be a midwife, too? Jes' you leave it
ter me. She warn't dar. Well'm, Dey Cookie say
Miss Meade done got wud early dis mawnin'
dat young
poem

Argument

(S) Being a good people, if we were wrong, we would change.

(S) We would not change.


Proverbs

Without passion, no reason.

Without mind, no body.

Without body, your soul.

Without point, our

poem

The maw that rends without tearing, the maggoty claw that serves you, what, my baby buttercup, prunes stewed softly in their own juices or a good slap in the face, there's no accounting for history in any event, even such a one as this one, O, we're knee-deep in this one, you and me, we're practically puppets,