In 2013, Garrick Imatani and I began a collaborative artist residency with the City of Portland Archives and Records Center, a Percent for Art project commissioned by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Our collaboration has resulted in The Watcher Files Project, an engagement with surveillance documents collected by the Portland Police Bureau on civic and activist groups in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In collaboration with some people surveilled in the files, as well as other artists, we created a series of artistic and poetic interventions as a way to annotate some of what is missing within the institutional record, as well as investigate and transform what is there.
We have exbibited the Watcher Files Project in a number of settings, including the Blaffer Art Museum at University of Houston as part of the Antena exhibit; UCSanta Barbara, Portland City Archives, and currently, the North Portland Branch of Multnomah Public Library. We have also given a number of talks and performances. (more).
So He Raised His Hand
So He Raised His Hand emerged emerged from conversations with Lloyd Marbet from July to October 2013. The poems tell stories of dogged activism that helped free Oregon from nuclear power plants, both through the demolition of Trojan nuclear plant and the prevention of additional plants such as the Pebble Springs nuclear plant. After reading police surveillance reports on Lloyd’s activism, Garrick Imatani & I traveled to the land Lloyd caretakes north of Estacada, Oregon, to learn some of his stories. I then arranged seven of these stories onto the page, adding verses based on his images and rhythms. Lloyd next edited the text, and I wrote opening & closing poems casting Lloyd as “the Caretaker.” Inge Bruggeman letterpress printed the poem from hand-set metal type and photopolymer plates on a Vandercook proof press. The entire poem is available here.
She Had Her Own Reason
As I culled through files, I noticed that a number of the surveilled groups were fighting for the rights of women. If the editorial logic of these investigators was one of fear—a sense that people posed a danger, meriting surveillance—then what did they fear about women and people organizing for the rights of women? I began to gather sentences in the files that began with “She.” The language comes from the files on the Alliance for Social Change, American Indian Movement, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Friends of the Sisters of the Streets, George Jackson Brigade, Mom’s Garage, National Organization for Women, Patriot Party, Rape Relief Hotline, Trojan, Tudeh Party, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, Women of All Red Nations, Women Strike for Peace, Women’s Night Watch, and Women’s Rights Coalition. This poem forms a small populace of women—women who organized dissent; women who labored; women who suffered violence and imprisonment; women engaged in struggles during my girlhood years when I learned to be proud of a legacy of feminism, unaware of just how threatening those with power found feminism.
In the first iteration of the poem, I sledgehammered copper index cards, a poetic alternative to the meticulous index cards the police investigators kept on activists, the cards comprise a drawer of copper cards Garrick Imatani built into a plinth. Many of these same struggles continue, and it was with this in mind that Daniela Molnar and I walked the route of that original Flashlight March, and she created the signs to shift this language into a contemporary space. Molnar and I collaborated on an accordion-fold book sandwiched between copper covers.
The Bright Threat of Attention
Imatani & I posed a question to each other: “where is anonymity within a public document.” My response was to embroidered cursive lines of poetry, black thread on black cloth, like an underexposed print. We then recast the poem, my handwriting laser cut into the panels of a cabinet Imatani built to be read like a book, with drawers of artwork.
Remember to Wave is an inexpert investigation, a pedestrian inquiry. I mapped & remapped a walk near the Expo Center in North Portland as both composition and participatory performance, leading walks of up to 40 people between 2008 and 2010. I was interested in reading this space through this exercise & sustained attention, research & conversation, opening up inquiry. What I immediately noticed became a part of the work, from the Expo Center trade shows to the Roller Derby matches that drew me to the space in the first place.
But the project was also about being attuned to aspects of the geography more difficult to read, what I came to call the the elsewhere & erstwhile, emphasizing the connective thinking of poetry. Reading that space for the erstwhile meant reading it for the history of incarceration of Japanese Americans that happened in World War II. In May 1942 over 3000 people were imprisoned in the Expo Center, what was called the Portland Assembly Center, living in spaces built over animal stalls in this building.
And an erstwhile reading of the space also coaxes up the history of Vanport City, which was built in the floodplain land surrounding the Expo Center when people were imprisoned there, and which housed over 40,000 people who built the ships to fight the war.
“Poet Walks Back into History” by B.T. Shaw, Oregonian
“Poet Kaia Sand helps keep Portland’s troubled history from fading into invisibility” by Carmel Bentley, Street Roots
“Poet Kaia Sand brings history to the present through explorations of space” by Lucy Burningham, Oregon Humanities”
This community arts project emerged from Remember to Wave.
And after the war, Vanport housed people who returned from that war–GIs, but also, significantly, some of the people who were first imprisoned in the Portland Assembly Center and then imprisoned inland, and upon release, ended up living in that same area where they were forcibly held, but that land continued to prove repellent, because the city was destroyed in 1948 by a flood.
In this project, context becomes textual, creating constraints and possibilities. Existing signs, such as ones that announce the toxicity of the slough water, become a part of the poetry. Traffic drowns out conversation on a stretch of the walk along Marine Drive, so this led me bring the book back into that space, laying down haiku written in the Tule Lake internment camp, one of the internment camps people were sent from the Portland Assembly Center. Portable Demand Storage Units create situational rhymes.
They are monuments to possessions in a context where Japanese Americans were ordered to only bring what possessions they could carry, and they were stripped of that possibility of storage. And, in a context where people were forced off the land by flooding, the fact that PODS have been turned into makeshift disaster shelters creates another situational rhyme.
Participation mattered in many ways, from the conversations I had with people as we walked to a the more structured participation of the mud slough ode. At the beginning of the walk I distribute a pamphlet with a section for walkers to write down observations (this is now part of the book by Tinfish Press. This culminated in the Mud Slough Ode, on an outcropping of a rock amphitheater along the mud slough off the Columbia River. I choreograph this impromptu poem by gesturing to people to say words and phrases.
Some of us take up so much space for our shelter. Some, so little. We dwell in a landscape of foreclosed houses, those shells of shelter, and also, shelter-less people.
My investigation zeroed on the financial speculation that puffed around the housing foreclosures. Its complexity and obscurity are its power. Thus, I doggedly read, focusing less on the over-aspiring homeowner or even the real estate flipper, and more on the leveraging that was so extreme, it could collapse the economy.
Seems like a good subject for poetry. I am interested in a poetic practice that insists on inexpert inquiry, gathering ideas and ways of knowing to open a space for more collaborative inquiry. While I read, I embroidered a poem, line by line, on an 8-foot-dropcloth. I also wrote a magic show, A Tale of Money that Lost its Puff, in collaboration with magician and whistler Mitch Hider, and Jules Boykoff.
During autumn 2010, I held two Econ Salon. The first, in a studio in the Goldsmith Building in Portland’s Old Town, featured poetry readings by Jules Boykoff, Allison Cobb, and me; music by Cynthia Nelson, an economics talk by Robin Hahnel.
I hosted the second and larger Econ Salon in the Field Work art space in SW Portland. This Econ Salon featured A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff; as well as the video installation collaboration between Jen Coleman, Andrea Murray, Kristen Sheeran and me titled It’s a Wonderful Time to Buy; a talk by Ibrahim Mubarak on organizing houseless and formerly houseless people through Right2Survive; and a talk by Angela Martin on organizing people around debt. Art Installations included a Dollhouse Squat created by Right2Survive; Matta-Clark Park Series by David Buuck, and “Sheltered” by Jennifer Hardacker. I created several poetry objects, including the dropcloth poem, “Beware the Fury of the Financier,” and a small poem-structure, “A Shelter for Some Poems.”
Some aspects of the Happy Valley Project exceeded the Econ Salons. I routinely set out a sandwich poem in Old Town, pen hanging, and passersby added lines. I also created a chapbook, the roof of locked shields, as well as a broadside of the dropcloth poem, for the dusie kollektiv and a newspaper article for Street Roots on the class-action lawsuits against the Bear Stearns/JP Morgan Chase.
During the fall of 2008–when the heft of the financial, and thus, economic crisis sank in–I wanted to better understand what was going on, and I wondered if cultural forms might contribute to this understanding. So I launched the first econ salon with Alicia Cohen at the Clinton Corner Café, interested in how the conventional poetic reading venue of the candle-lit bistro might reframe economics lectures & q&as, which were, in this case, led by economists Kristen Sheeran & Robin Hahnel. Later that fall, I hosted a subsequent econ salons at an Alliance for Democracy meeting. I also wanted to see how poems and other cultural projects might add to the conversation, so Jules read his poem “Das Greenspan” at this and several subsequent Econ Salons.
Language is social; we make it together. I’m interested in how I might recast language from one social context to another. From a dystopic document to a lyric poem.
Limited to the text from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the NAFTA project is ongoing. In July, 2008, I collaborated with Kristin Prevallet to make paper from bits of the NAFTA. We worked in Sr. Jeanne Deuber’s studio at the Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky, with assistance from our daughters, Sophie Prevallet and Jessi Wahnetah. I also began my collage of the NAFTA document into a lyric poem in Kentucky that summer, working a commission by the Kootenay School of Writing for the 2008 Positions Colloquium in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Tiny arctic ice is an experiment in recasting. Rather than drafting this poem toward a final draft, I write as an act of recasting, again and again, to slow down my attention and consider how context itself might matter to the poem.
I wrote the first version of the poem in 2007 when I built a book out of a teabag for the Dusie Kollektiv (at that time, the world’s population was 6.6 billion; I update this number as I recast the poem). I recast it through performance in 2009 at Caberet Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland, curated by Susana Gardener, when Swiss poet Katherin Schaeppi helped me translate lines into Swiss and jot them onto paper airplanes. Jessi Wahnetah and Stella Gockenbach launched the planes into audience, who then read the lines aloud.
“As a daunted human creature of this world, I write down its details. The final sum is elusive, is abundant, spills over the form. [more]”
In a similar action, I wrapped lines around flowers from the adjacent farmer’s market, and handed these to audience members who then read lines, when I performed at St. Johns Bookseller’s Market Day series in 2009. Other recast versions have appeared as a broadside created by Mel Nichols for the Ruthless Grip series, in the journal Capitalism, Nature Socialism, and in the Pacific Poetry Project anthology. Jim Dine recast the text for one of his books in his Hot Dreams series.
By staying with this poem and accruing details about contemporary conditions, from global warming to labor to global trade, I hope to learn something. Meaning through accretion.
2007 teabag poem created for Dusie Kollektiv
2008 Jacket Magazine
2009 paper airplane performance at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich for DA du DA sie
2009 flower giveaway performance at Market Day Poetry Series, St. Johns Book Store, Portland, Oregon
2010 Capitalism, Nature, Socialism
2012 Financial Times newspaper accordion performance, Hi Zero poetry reading in Brighton, UK
2013 E-Waste performance at Ecopoetics Conferences at Berkeley
2013 Alive at the Center: Contemporary Poems from the Pacific Northwest (anthology by Ooligan Press)
2015 A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff (poetry collection forthcoming with Tinfish Press 2015)”
Read the story of how Leo Rhodes and Lawson Inada connected through this project in this Street Roots article.
I collaborated with Lynn Grannan on a project leading discussions and writing projects about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Through a collaboration between Oregon Nikkei Endowment, Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and Transition Projects, Inc, we worked with students, as well as poets who are homeless, and who voiced connections to the themes of displacement, marginalization and discrimination. Because most of the participants had not experienced the persecution of internment first-hand, we grappled with the question Ariel Dorfmann raises in his poem, “Vocabulary”:
But how can I tell their story if I was not there?
During our writing workshops, Lynn Grannan discussed Nikkei history, including World War II incarceration. I led the students in reflective writing. Sometimes poems emerged in the workshop, such as Leo Rhodes’ poem in conversation with Lawson’s Inada’s “Remembering Gila.”
A major strategy I used was to form group poems through repetition. Fourth grade students from Riverdale Elementary wrote various statements to the prompts “I now know” and “I hope.” I then collaged these lines into a long poem. Students from Forest Grove Community School, Japanese American Citizens League Unite People youth group and Pacific University wrote poems as well. Some of the students wrote about their ancestors’ experiences of World War II incarceration.
We turned the poems from all the participants into banners designed by Malia Acohido. The banners were displayed on the Portland waterfront during the rededication of the Japanese American Historical Plaza during the summer of 2011. The banners now hang inside the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.
“In this profound and threaded mapping, Sand composes “an ode of accretion”—a song of our ruins made visible.”–Craig Santos Perez
“This work is a love of possibility and the humanity that goes there, with the collectively-driven conviction “it is now we must begin / to gather.”–Heather Fuller
“Whether readers approach this book for its vibrant language, its formal variety, or its political content, they will come away admiring interval for the wit and care that shaped each phrase.” — Dan Pinkerton, “Smartish Pace”
“Poetry and Public Space” by Dale Smith
“In an age in which alienation is among our most prevalent health hazards, Landscapes of Dissent demonstrates that poetry may be newly, again, good for you. This book is a gift. Take the power.” —Carol Mirakove
“Landscapes of Dissent is expansive & sharp–an important book of political-aesthetic scholarship.”–Jeff Derksen
A celebration of Lucille Clifton
“It was the beginning of September. The stars had aligned enough for me to secure a teaching job in a little city on the St. Mary’s River, which cut through a peninsula formed by the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. I barely arrived … [more]”
Teaching is an important part of my poetic practice, combining careful design with the social collaboration of the classroom. I have taught university poetry and writing courses since 1999 at George Mason University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Willamette University, Pacific University. I am currently the resident poet in the Portland State University Honors Program. Courses include poetry & politics, ecopoetry, avant garde poetry, poetry in the archives, and the open notebook (an experimental writing course). I have also directed writing centers at St. Mary’s College and Willamette.
I also value teaching community courses, whether through leading writing excursions through the Multnomah Arts Center or leading workshops abroad. I team-taught with Michael Glaser a poetry course based in Oxford and Grasmere, England, for three summer terms—2005, 2007, and 2009. Last summer, I led a writing workshop with Meg Eberle in Ireland. We are planning a second workshop in Ireland June 2016.
Michael McFadden writes about Blaffer Art Gallery workshop
“The group, which had grown since the first day, sat on the floor as Kaia Sand began to explain her workshop, a sledgehammer and case of steel-type letters lying at her feet… ”” [more]”
Some of my projects combine aspects of my teaching with my poetic practice, whether through audience participation in Remember to Wave and my econ salons, or more explicitly, the writing workshops that comprised the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Project.
I also visit colleges and universities to give talks and readings and work with students through seminars and workshops. Recent campus visits include the the University of Alabama MFA program in poetry and book arts, Washington State University, Cal Arts, Cal State San Marcos, and University of Washington MFA Program (Bothel Campus). Please contact me at sand (at) kaiasand (dot) net to work out the details.
Anthologies include Kindergarde: Avant-Garde Poems, Plays, & Stories for Children, (Black Radish Press, ed Dana Teen Lomax, forthcoming), The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets, (ed. Dominic Luxford, 2007) , These Pages are Marked by Women, Anthology of the Contemporary Experimental Women’s Poetry Festival), 100 Days (Ed. Andrea Brady and Keston Sutherland, Barque Press).
“3 Poems: Begining With Lines By Allen Ginsberg.” Summer Stock
“at least four gallons per second,” a poem-ledger of oil contamination from the Deep Water horizon explosion, Poets for Living Waters.
Remember to Wave” poetry map, Wheelhouse Magazine (downloadable as pdf), Evergreen State College
lotto. Tool: A Magazine
Excerpt from Progeny, Sort of Like Santa Monica, wedding lyric, the amphitheater, Self Portrait in the Reflection of a Watch Face, obsolescence, feedback, appellation, forecast, and prologue, all archived in DC Poetry.
New York (Bowery Poetry Club, Double Happiness, Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church); Philadelphia (Wooden Shoe, Temple University); Washington D.C. (In Your Ear; Ruthless Grip); Honolulu (MIA Series); Zurich (Dada Dusie at Cabaret Voltaire); Brighton, UK; Los Angeles (Beyond Baroque)
Antena Exhibition, The Blaffer Gallery, curated by Jen Hofer, JP Pluecker, & Amy Powell. Jan-May 2014.
City of Portland Archives and Records Center. October-May, 2014.
Object Poems, 23 Gallery, Portland, Curated by David Abel, Nov 4-26, 2011.
“Song from a Beached Music Box (for Jessi)” from Kindergarde (Black Radish 2013)
“Autograph Page” from Remember to Wave. Recorded by Adam Aitken at the Susan M. Schultz 10-10-10 Birthday Celebration, Honolulu, Hawaii, 10 October 2010
“Uptick” from Remember to Wave. Poetry Project. NY, NY. December 9, 2009
“the president probably talks.” Recorded as part of Wave Books “State of the Union” blog, 2008.
‘Best Regards,” ” ‘Lotto,” “introduction to ‘Family Album of Earthen Estrangement,” “Family Album of Earthen Estrangement” and “The President Probably Talks.” Contemporary Women’s Experimental Poetry Festival, organized by Emily Critchley. Cambridge, UK 6-8 October 2006
“Cognitive Dissonance” from interval (1:31:50 – 1:37:40); “Prologue” from interval (1:37:44 – 1:39:12); “suppose the future” from interval (1:39:13 – 1:39:49) The Social Mark Poetry Reading, Philadelphia, 28 February 2003.
“feedback,” “appellation,”Letter to Layla Al-Attar,” “forecast,” “obsolescence” all from from interval (Edge Books 2004). Philly Sound: New Poetry Weekend. Philadelphia. 9 August 2003.
“Beware the Fury of the Financier,” via Human Microphone. Portland waterfront rally for Shut Down the Banks as an extension of Occupy Portland, 17 November 2011
“Gates Close at Dusk” from Remember to Wave. Nye Beach Writers Series, Newport, Oregon. 19 September 2009
DA du DA sie reading at the historic Cabaret Voltaire, curated by Susana Gardner in Zürich, Switzerland, with Jules Boykoff, Maria Damon, Kathrin Schaeppi, Susana Gardner. 30 June 2009
Contemporary Women’s Experimental Poetry Festival, organized by Emily Critchley introduction by Susana Gardner; “Best Regards,” selections from “Lotto”as well as “Family Album of Earthen Estrangement” and “The President Probably Talks” Cambridge, UK. 6-8 October 2006
“As a Daunted Human Creature of This World, I Write Down Its Details.” Guest Commentary for Ooligan Press. March 28, 2013.
“Affording Entrance.” forthcoming as a book chapter in Placing Poetry. Ed Ian Davidson & Zoë Skoulding. Rodopi 2013.
Moxie Politik commentaries , exploring my ideas about inexpert investigation, creative activism, recasting poems, and accessibility as “affording entrance.” Jacket 2. 2011.
Pacific Poets Imagine the Future. Jacket 2. Fall 2010.
“poem/nonpoem” Nonsite Collective.
I have given many talks related to the Landscapes of Dissent book, many collaboratively with Jules Boykoff, addressing guerrilla poetry and public space, reading signs through a poetic frame, and activism and poetry.
other venues include
Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash, 2010.
Kootenay School of Writing, Vancouver, BC, 2010.
Whitman College, Walla, Walla, Wash, 2007
Association of American Geographers Conference, 2005
Chain re:Action: Activism and Poetry, Temple University, Philadelphia Oct. 28, 2004
as well as class visits on this topic (Skidmore College, Evergreen State College, Whitman College)
Artist talks on the Watcher Files with Garrick Imatani at Open Engagment (May 2013); City of Portland Archives and Records Center (October 2013); Project CityScope (April 21, 2014).
“Seven notes on the Occupy Movements,” Poetry and Revolution Conference at Birkbeck, University of London, 2012
Artist talk (with Jules Boykoff). Portland State University MFA Monday Night Lecture Series, May 3, 2011.(Video)
“A Poem’s Populace,” Placing Poetry Colloquium, Bangor University, Wales, 2009
“Walking a Talk: Poetry as Landed Language,” The Advancing Feminist Poetics and Activism Gathering, hosted by Belladonna Collective & CUNY, New York City, 2009
“Ecopoetry,” Sustainability Project at Clackamas Community College, 2009
“Poem/NonPoem,” A talk on poetry & public space for the Nonsite Collective, 2009
“Quick Change Artistry: Social Networks and Small Press Culture Work,” Popular Culture Association/AmericanCulture Association PCA/ACA Conference, San Diego, 2005
Discussion of Landscapes of Dissent, investigative poetry, Remember to Wave project. (audio)
Discussion of poetry & politics. Includes a reading of “flaneur with a conscience” from Remember to Wave.. City of Newport library. Newport, Oregon. 14 September 14 2009 (audio)
Conversation about poetics with Leonard Schwartz on Cross Culture Poetics, Episode #132. Evergreen State College. March 4, 2007. (44:56) (audio)
Here Comes Everybody, 2005
Beginning in 2010, I helped Teresa Tamiyasu and hundreds of children at Grout Elementary construct a Language Garden tile mural, celebrating the languages spoken at home by Grout students— English, Spanish, Maay-Maay, Karen, Vietnamese, Russian, Somali, Cambodian, Nepali, Swahili, Burmese, Albanian, Oromo, Amharic, Cantonese, Japanese, Lao, Telugu, Thai, French, and Malayalam. The mural also includes lines of poetry written by Lisa Van Clock’s second and third grade students in 2010. We documented the project on this blog.
A poet and teacher based in Portland, Oregon, Kaia Sand is the author of four books—A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff (Tinfish Press forthcoming); Remember to Wave (Tinfish Press 2010); interval (Edge Books 2004), named Small Press Traffic Book of the Year; and co-author with Jules Boykoff of Landscapes of Dissent (Palm Press 2008). Her text comprises two books in Jim Dine’s Hot Dream series (Steidl Editions 2008). She is a member of PEN American Center and represented on the British Archive of the Now.
While primarily a poet, Sand works across genres and media, dislodging poetry from the book into more unconventional contexts, including the Remember to Wave poetry walks and the Happy Valley Project, an investigation of housing foreclosures and financial speculation that included a magic show, A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff. She received grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council for these projects.
Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1972, Sand grew up in Salem, Oregon. Her parents were journalists and exposure to their vocations—the interviews, the investigations, the urgency of language crawling over a newswire—marks her poetry. Sand earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Portland. While living in Portland in the 90s, she began a zine called the Tangent with Jules Boykoff, Neal Sand, and Max Boykoff; the zine evolved into a radio show, reading series, and small press.
She moved to Washington DC in 1998, where she earned an MFA in poetry at George Mason University (2001), worked as Carolyn Forché’s assistant, and became active in Washington DC poetry communities, curating the In Your Ear series in Adams Morgan with Tom Orange and Jules Boykoff. She then moved to Southern Maryland to teach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She helped Michael Glaser direct the St. Mary’s Poetry Festival in 2004, and team-taught poetry workshops with him in England in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In 2005, Sand and Jules Boykoff returned to the west coast, first to Walla Walla, Washington, and then, Portland, Oregon. Sand taught at Willamette University from 2005-2007, and at Pacific University from 2006-2013. She is currently the resident poet at Portland State University Honors Program.
In a collaboration with artist Garrick Imatani, she is artist-in-residence at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. With her mother, Meg Eberle, she also leads Vignettes & Verses, writing courses that most recently took place in Cork & Glengarriff, Ireland. Sand lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland with Jules Boykoff and their daughter, Jessi Wahnetah.
Contact Kaia Sand at sand(at)kaiasand(dot)net