Scratch Sides: Poetry, Documentation and Image-Text Projects

Published by Dale Smith and Hoa Nguyen’s Skanky Possum, Scratch Sides is a series of formal inventions and conceptual projects designed to test the limits of lyric. Includes graphs, charts, and documentary photographs.

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Harry Thorne (How2)
Steve Halle (Jacket)
Steven Ellis (Big Bridge)
Ron Silliman


Blog Nods

November 25, 2002; Publisher’s Weekly FORECASTS
With Perturbation, My Sister (1997), Prevallet wrote through Max Ernst’s collage work La femme 100 tetes, sharply turning the tables on gendered Surrealist abjection with nine sections of prose fiction “gently laughing as fires burn through brick, and rioters collapse in exclamatory fits.” This follow-up presents nine fresh sets of appropriation, visual collage and startling writing. Kicking off with “Lead, Glass, and Poppy,” Prevallet constructs energetic, split-page juxtaposition of comet halos, disc-like
patterns of charred remains on earth, disappearing cultures, and a scene of writing where “the liberties taken are/ someone’s surface,/ a story not meant to be torn apart.”
The ingenious “Reading Index (texte indice)” plots its points on
split-page graph paper: the lower part contains parabolas of text; the upper page putatively graphs one’s reading experience of it, with the X axis representing time, and the Y axis ascending via terms like “Abstraction,” “Code,” “Association,” “Fear” and “Anger.” It’s a wholly unique piece that gently sends up self-reflection and science.
Selections from “The People Database” is part of a project conceived by Brussels-based artist Annemie Maes, who has
posted found passport photos (often in bad shape) and invited poets to respond to them. Prevallet’s prose pieces are a kind of globalist outreach, groping for ways in which “my features can be sculpted into your features and your features into mine.” The remaining projects are just as canny, engaged and empathetic; this book marks a real advance in image-text-based cultural poetics, and the emergence of a poet to watch.

From Jack Kimball’s

Kristin Prevallet is on a mission. Several missions. Scratch Sides, subtitled “Poetry, Documentation, and Image-Text Projects,” collects a pile of found items and reworks them into sincere falsehood. The first two sections of projects run on juxtaposed sentences or sentence fragments lifted from newspapers, e-mail, web searches, and the like. Middle sections document Prevallet’s interest in fantasy narrative to accompany random-focus snapshots, for example, in “The Catalogue of Lost Glimpses,” a “faux-ethnographic text,” as Prevallet self-knowingly describes it in her ample end notes. Closing sections of Scratch Sides are the best reads, perhaps because they are in part tributes to other writers, borrowing inspiration from Robert Creeley, Dodie Bellamy and Brenda Coultas, among others. The visuals throughout have a catch-as catch-can feel — hand-drawn loops on graph paper, sidewalk video stills, web-based passport shots downloaded and reprinted as-is. In the “Key Food” project, however, Prevallet messes with lurid fonts, rewriting supermarket coupons in fat, sloppy letters. A tomato sauce offer reads, “Crash & Burn Playdough F#!k Lego.” Prevallet’s principal aim is to amuse, but some of the juxtaposed texts go on too earnestly or too long without a sustained ironic pitch. In “Synthesis B” she lists 17 items from “A Glossary of Terms” for shopping The Gap online and defines them by resourcing a UFO piece from Fortean Times. Funny idea, mixed results. Pleat is defined as “an infant-like state generally pressed flat”; tint is “black helicopters and stealth aircraft, usually pale or delicate.” In “After It” Prevallet shows her gift for unearnest mimicry, sending up Creeley’s bent for taut, sweeping observation:

Lost in an embryonic lull

where color and speech

are the string around

a finger forgetful

of emergence as such.

That “as such” replicates Creeley’s off-handedness, but it is also genuine stooping to a level of insincerity and dumbness that Prevallet could gamble more with, were she unearnestly to let go.

posted by Jack, June 24, 2004 10:15 AM

From Jordan Davis’
Looked at Kristin Prevallet’s Scratch Sides last night (stymied by McGuckian again). I still love Key Food best of her sequences — photoshopped grocery store circulars with running Spicerian commentary underneath. Liked the Three Poems section too; sounded to me like Bernadette’s Lenox period taken as far as possible along the bad-ass end of the spectrum. Geoff Young once commented to me that it’s so difficult to know with new writers who’s got the goods; I took it at the time as a loaded coded remark meaning “NO UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS”, but now that I’m not that new a writer anymore I match it up with something Anselm related, that his mother said (back in 97?) that in ten years, at least half the people going gung ho now will have stopped writing. I don’t see Kristin stopping. She’ll be saying (writing) whatever the hell comes into her head for the duration and it will always turn out to be there for an interesting reason. Is that having the goods? Didn’t bring it to work (no computer at home, and by the way I’m going to have to knock off the blogging during the day, sigh, see how long that resolution stands) so I can’t quote. I am less clear what she’s doing when she plays earnest or Splicer. But when she’s fun she’s closer to punk than I knew I could handle.

Tuesday Jan. 21, 2003

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