I first picked up Adeena Karasick’s book of poetry (one of her nine books), Dysemia Sleaze, back in 2006. I picked it without even knowing what the book was about or who it was written by.

I liked the title, though. I knew I was reading something next level. It was like mathematics in words and symbols. It all made some intuitive sense before I could actually make sense of it.

Almost a decade later, in the quest for knowledge of self and existential liberation from Babylon, while working on a farm in BC, I sought the opportunity to build with the Kabbalist, mystic, scholar, international poet and multi-media artist.

I had just read her her latest book titled This Poem. I wanted to learn some science from her about language, technology and the Kabbala. As I anticipated, Karasick dropped that knowledge.

Jesse Chase: You’re a feminist poet so I want to ask: does language have the ability to combat patriarchy? And would you make a distinction between feminism and a radical feminism?

Adeena Karasick: This Poem (Talonbooks, 2012) is a deeply ironic, self reflexive mash up re-inscribing subjectivity as a kind of contemporary archive of cultural fragments: updates, analysis, aggregates, contradictory trends, threads, webbed networks of information, the language of the ‘ordinary” and the otherness of daily carnage.

The self becomes a kind of euphoric recycling of information (shards, sparks) and thus speaks to how we are continually reinvented through recontextualization, collision, juxtapositions of defamiliarity as we process and re-process information.

Is this radically feminist? Perhaps in the way radical poetics is, in the tradition of the avant-garde foregrounding fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as other or outsider, a distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers — As per “radical” i think its useful to think about it as a radical number, which is both rational and irrational, relational. And if radical comes from the Latin radicalis “of roots” I am committed to a writing where roots are re-routed, detour and “dangle”…

I’m particularly interested in ways language can both express and alter meaning; how we use language, masage its affect, shapes the way we think, breathe, behave. Thus, most of my project engages language in a way that undermines, questions or problematizes any kind of patriarchal premise – that there is a message, that can be clearly communicated, transmitted, that there is some truth outside of language, structures of logic, borders, orders, laws, flaws, codes— rather my work opens up a space that celebrates slippage, ellipses; all that is unsaid through veiling and unveiling, a multiplicitous heterogeny of ever-increasing otherness.

So yes, a highly feminist act – of intervention, disruption dissent where the discourse is all rapturously fractured and fraught with fission, elision. Not marked by censoring but by sensors, a re-sensed sensorium of incendiary sonorities.

What you say in ‘memewars’ of “read backwards or forwards, it re-interprets itself in an infinite process of self-replicating metastability through a virally multiplicitous linguistic praxis…Mem…signifies a hermeneutic process through its name.” Can we abstractly play ‘deconstruct the name’ as a sort of activity? Infinitely re-interpreting itself ‘through its name’. Do you care to riff off this? Is it a thought provoking device or activity? Like the Kabbala?

Whether you call it Kabbalistically-infused semiotic analyses or deconstructive investigations, meaning is always hiding in the words themselves. So, I don’t know if it’s a device per se, a methodology, a hermeneutic practice, but I can say that I spend an inordinate amount of my life recombining the alphabet, wearing it as a series of labyrinthian veils, inhabiting it as an ideological emporium of self replicating metastability that houses all potential meaning.

As evidenced per se with the 231 cycles of meaning in the Sefer Yetzirah:


Everything is connectable, dissectible, detectable. So, yes through the work, there is nothing I love better than the explosive jouissance of simultaneous reference whether it be cycling through dictionary definitions of words etymologies, phonetics, graphic resonances, social, political and cultural traces cycling through webs of knowledge structures, naming and renaming through synonymy, ignonymy homonymy, hymnonomy, anonymy…

Take my 1994 title Meme wars. Mem (or mayim, (water), referencing all that flows, is the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, appears in the middle. Kabbalistically read, (joined with the first and last letters of the alphabet), Alef Mem Tav, spells out truth:

Adeena Karasick 2

Mem shows how truth is always constructed in process. And moreover as the center of the alphabet, it highlights how it’s always found in the middle of language; en medias. And if the medium is the message, Mem stands in for the Law of the excluded middle, that center is always a myth, is a process of dissent, and speaks to ever-shifting perspectives.

Another linguistic echo comes through the French word, mêm(e). Meme is the self same. The same and the same is always other. This referencing a meme as a unit of culture energy virally replicating itself in and through language.

Though I must say, in 1994, when I wrote Meme wars, in no way did we know what the explosion of the internet meme as we now know it would be. All to say, that even the word itself (in whatever language) inscribes how we can never fully replicate anything but infinitely interpretive and re-generative. Re-invented. Made new. In a complex of simulacric echolalia.

Do you think the Kabbalistic logic of ‘creative misreading’ effectively challenges the ‘frame’ in a way that can be applied to a “new art” — a(e)s(th)et(ic)?

Well, like in Derridean deconstruction, which is not so much an anarchic free play of signification but questions the foundations of thinking praxis, reading from specific lenses, perspectives, codes, acknowledging we are never separate from them, Kabbalistic hermeneutics isn’t exactly “creative misreading”, as there is a system of reading called PARDES (paradise) where one spirals through the literal, metaphorical, analogic and secret/hidden layers of interpretation. Cycles through syntactic axis, gates of entry and resistance.

Does it offer a frame that can be applied to art? Absolutely. Endless analysis, interpretation begets further interpretation, re-visitation provokes different readings, spurring new understandings of the wor(l)d. For Kabbalists, Creation was enacted through the letters. The Midrash describes God “looking into the Torah to Create the World,”  and with every reading, we re-enact this process of creation or re-framation as the case may be.

And as such, it becomes a highly political act as it combats any reductive settling into an overarching unsubstantiated mode of reading, and instead points to ways we may enter into a fluid space of ever-generative explosive meaning, acknowledging the ideological codes and lenses from which we are actively interpreting from, however slippery and elusive and shifting they may be. And perhaps this is where aesthetics / ethics elide —

Would you have any suggestions as to how we could redefine what’s generally not considered technological, i.e. logic and language, and invent an activity that would itself be the redefining exercise, like the Kabbalah for example. Something that techno-poetically redistributes aesthetic values and disrupts technopoly. In other words, do you think we can use the seemingly negative attributes of a ‘technopoly’ to our advantage? And if so, how?

For me, language is a technology and at bottom is a prime mover in the re-distributes of aesthetic values. But, with that said, digital media allows me certain other freedoms and axis of entry. Unbound, it foregrounds the materiality of language in a virtual arena of eroticism, a freedom of acoustic and image and visual fragmentation bifurcation foregrounding the slipperiness of meaning.

Increasingly I am playing within this field — whether it’s the construction of videopoems (lingual Ladies, I got a Crush on Osama or incorporating filmic projections in my recent Salome project (where in collaboration with Abigail Child, mashed up the 1921 Charles Bryant film with my text overlaid), or my recent obsession, pechakuchas:

Also check out: Ceçi n’est pas un Telephone or hooked on Telephonic and BACK IN THE O.S.V.R.: THE GHOST IS THE MACHINE

Incorporating voice and text and image and animation, gifs and sound poetry, is an analytical meditation on the relationship between technology and spirituality in contemporary media; highlighting how the mystical and the machine are not oppositional, but that “all media are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes and transform our environment” (McLuhan) and opens not a physical vs. metaphysical, but ‘pataphysical space reminding us how language and thereby all knowledge is spectral, virtual, simulacric. Technopolis. A virtual city to live in.

2014 was a year of big ups and big downs, each one meriting discussion, but that’s not what’s going to happen here. Instead, I’m going to focus on the little things.

By little, I mean petty annoyances that don’t even qualify as first world problems. They’re the sort of things that bug me at the time (or perhaps multiple times), but not to the point where I would even consider firing off a tweet.

So before we get to the one small victory, here are four things that mildly annoyed me in 2014:

CIBC Bank Machines Not Displaying the Balance as an Option

When I withdraw money from a machine owned by the bank I do business with, the CIBC, it gives me three choices. I can either continue banking, which I generally don’t want to do, exit with no receipt, which means it doesn’t tell me my balance or exit with receipt, which means I’m helping to kill a tree for almost nothing.

Sure, I could very easily continue banking to get the balance, use my memory of what’s in my account or click on the app on my smartphone, but why should I have to? Other banks offer “display balance” as an alternative to printing a receipt, why can’t mine? The programming can’t be that hard to do, and I bet thousands of people have a small piece of paper printed up that they throw away just because displaying the balance isn’t an option.

YouTube Removing the Rick Roll Star Wars Trailer

It looked something like this
It looked something like this

A day before the Star Wars Episode VII trailer was supposed to be released online, I saw in my Facebook feed that someone had already filmed it in the theatre and uploaded it, so naturally I clicked. It looked legit: shaky camera, movie screen, Disney and LucasFilm logos, then Mr. Rick Astley graced us with his presence singing Never Gonna Give You Up.

It was honestly one of the best Rick Rolls I had ever seen. Unfortunately, a few minutes after I had shared it, it was gone.

Why, YouTube, why? I get removing fake trailers pretending to be real, but this one clearly gave up the pretense with the first few bars of the song.

I know Disney’s lawyers aren’t known for their tolerance, but the company does understand satire and its newly acquired fanbase (they’re releasing an unaltered original trilogy on BluRay). This is clearly satire that plays to that fanbase. Removing it just makes no sense.

No Northbound Bus Stop on Girouard and Upper Lachine

First off, I am well aware that people in NDG have way more significant public tansit woes than I did for most of this year. Those could very easily make up a post on this site and have on many more established media outlets.

My issue pales in comparison to overcrowded 105 busses that don’t even stop to pick people up halfway through the route, but this post isn’t about the important stuff. I’m not going to go to Marvin Rotrand with this issue, but I will spill it here.

Why is there no northbound bus stop on Girouard, corner Upper Lachine? There is a southbound one. If I’m taking the 17 or 371 down, I can get off where I need to, but in reverse, say coming from a friend’s house in St-Henri, no dice (unless I play dumb and nice and ask the driver if he can please stop).

The busses pass that corner but don’t stop, instead they turn right towards Decarie, stop at Decarie and deMaisonneuve, then head up to Shebrooke, turn left and take…you guessed it…Girouard! Why do they do this? They’re NOT Vendome busses no matter how hard they try to be.

Maybe it’s difficult to continue up Girouard, you may say. Well, the 420 NDG Express does it. It passes right by the corner of Upper Lachine without stopping until it gets to Sherbrooke beyond Girouard Park.

This is no longer my issue as I now live downtown, but it was a repeated small annoyance for most of 2014.

Cats and Dogs Who Speak Human Languages…Poorly

I’m talking, of course, about certain memes. Animal memes where cats and dogs have miraculously acquired the ability to communicate in English (or another human language) yet have, for one reason or another, stopped before learning proper grammar.

This is akin to a human discovering they are able to fly without mechanical aid and then only using this skill to occasionally fly to the dep down the street. If a cat or dog was able to master human speech, it would be a miracle animal and wouldn’t stop at basic words, it would become more eloquent than you or I in no time flat.

Now, if these memes are meant to represent what the animal is trying to communicate translated into English rather than a world-shaking ability, fine, but the same still applies. Doge can be excused, he’s just mocking hipsters, so can any cat that uses the phrase “I sits” instead of “I am sitting” or “I will sit” as jargon. Grumpy cat’s grammar is fine and so is this cat’s:


But the rest? C’mon.

The Victory: That I Can Write This Post

I guess it’s a small victory that I am sitting here writing this post, venting about minutiae on the internet isn’t something I pioneered. But in a way, it’s a huge personal victory.

I’m sitting here, alive, in the warmth with a roof over my head, enjoying some leftover liquid cheer from Christmas and typing away about small stuff that annoyed me this year. People may even read this, in fact, some will. Maybe they’ll even identify with some of the points I made and like it on Facebook or re-tweet (if you haven’t done either of those things, please do both).

In that way, I’m lucky, and if you have the time to read and enjoy this, so are you.

Happy New Year!