In 1976, in the storied tradition of erasure poetics, Ronald Johnson pulled an 1892 edition of Paradise Lost off the shelf at a Seattle bookstore and began removing. In the introduction he writes “It is the book Blake gave me.” Were I so motivated I’d have also dug out some Milton to compare to Radi os, but I’m not, and in truth I’m not certain that it matters. Radi os is the Paradise Lost that the 20th century deserved. It is the Paradise Lost I’d have rather read in that first year English survey course, it is elegant and elegaic.
Erasure is an appropriate topic and method for the city of Vancouver, as others have explored. It’s a city that has been constantly/consistently under erasure: from the removal of First Peoples from their lands and the attempted erasure of their culture to the internment camps to the real estate speculation that has driven this town since the beginning.
Also at the Candahar, on February 22, Gregory Betts read from his latest Pedlar Press book, The Others Raisd in Me: 150 Readings of Sonnet 150. A project of erasure and translation and rewriting, The Others Raisd in Me misreads each of the 14 lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet 150. The work examines ideas of selfhood from the 17th century into the present, flirting with a cyborgian future; Shakespeare filtered through Haraway.
I like erasure as a project for our time. What with social media and smart phone technology, everyone has become a producer, a writer, and artist. We are overrun with text. Maybe the best poetic response right now is to delete.
(Thanks Alex Leslie for the image above)
Nikki Reimer wants to perform erasure on her biography.
(Photo: Rory Zerbe)