The Lab

The Lab is a nonprofit experimental art and performance space located in the Mission District of San Francisco.

False Starts: Robert Glück and Rob Halpern

$8 entry (no one turned away for lack of funds), free for members

Robert Glück is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction, including two novels, Margery Kempe and Jack the Modernist, and a book of stories, Denny Smith.  Glück was Co-Director of Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center, Director of The Poetry Center at San Francisco State, and Associate Editor at Lapis Press.  Ithuriel's Spear republished his first book of stories, Elements, in 2014, and Semiotext(e) will publish his collected essays, The Greatness of Kathy Acker and Other Essays, in 2016. Glück is Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.  At present, he lives in Sweden.

Rob Halpern lives between San Francisco and Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he teaches at Eastern Michigan University and Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility. Common Place is his most recent volume of poetry (Ugly Duckling 2015). Other volumes include Music for Porn, Disaster Suites, and Rumored Place. Together with Taylor Brady, he also co-authored Snow Sensitive Skin. [ ——— ] Placeholder, a book-length selection of his poetry and prose drawn from across all of these books, was just published in the UK (Enitharmon 2015). Among other projects, Halpern is currently translating Georges Perec’s early essays on aesthetics and politics, and also co-editing a volume of essays on New Narrative, together with Robin Tremblay-McGaw. His critical essays appear in Mediations, Journal of Narrative Theory, Modernist Cultures, The Claudius App, and Chicago Review.

Robert Glück
from About Ed

I am afraid of falling into the past, and my parents offered an emptiness to justify my vertigo.  Even when I was a boy I resented the way childhood shaped expectations.  A hellish inner force drove other boys around playgrounds and parks, and this was supposed to prepare them.  I never subscribed to that playground faith.  To pursue the ball and believe the game.  I could not imagine an adulthood I wanted, except that adults could sit around and talk.  Thinking about it, it's a false relief (like so much that comes from psychology) that my behavior has an antecedent, a structure that shapes the all-there-is of present being.  Psychology charges in like unwanted cavalry to save a day that would be better lost.  I’m surprised this affects me.  I still care what happened sixty years ago to a child I barely recognize in the few blurry photos, docile and serious.  I want my life and death to be inconsequential.  When I die nothing will be lost because nothing will have existed.  I want to be a morbidly good girl in the void, cleaning it of my presence.

Rob Halpern
from Common Place

By the time these events find their representation in my poems, my detainee has become a recessed shadow, a vague thread of residual light thrown upon a bell curve, sublimate of breath, a moist decay consumed by molecule and dust. His body remains the source of rumor where the real burden of labor has fallen away from the tendency of profit to rise and fall, the skin, all glassy surface and smooth economy. Clad in orange jumpsuit, iconic issue of the camp, no personal effects are noted on a would-be person whose clothing has been photographed and collected during autopsy. His limp prick, an appendage whose metallic lisp lies still on the table, bends, a tiny scar along my side, small enough to go unnoticed and thru which my body collects events the mind should remember but does not. He keeps me open to auto-affection. If only I could feel his hand caressing my thigh, grazing my cock, which begins to harden even now as it chafes against my denim, requiring ointments and powders, rerouting the offense to other sectors where it manifests as outbreak and mercurial stain. His noisome wound becomes my face, the skin an endless surface of pricing and shame. It’s only the feel of his beating heart I want as he backs me into a corner and takes me from behind. I open to him without condition and imagine his hand up my ass, gentle at the fundament, forearm engulfed by cavity, approaching the source of rhythm which, as Bob notes, is just past ‘the trap’ in the intestines, where nothing but a filmy tissue separates one’s hand from the beloved’s heart. During the whole of this episode, I can’t stop thinking about the canal full of cows, a whole generation of dying beef. But if this offers an accurate world view and we can only know things insofar as we know their names which subsume the things they make, negating each particular whatever makes me come then the meaning of this is nothing more than what I’ve said, a structure of feeling bearing some resemblance to the current economy of bodies and pleasures. This linguistic distraction creates only the appearance of a body, a constellation of bromides and documents wherein enteral-feeding goes unremarked, the link between knowledge and pain being no more than this fantasy, an idea of language as bad infinity, characteristic of liberal thinking whose colliding forces flesh & rule, use & exchange sink beneath my poem’s shiny surface and percolate, these bubbles that rise in my mouth as I read, all valorized gas, his body, my perjured commons.


False starts is curated by Steven Seidenberg (falsestartsreadingseries@gmail.com)