POETRY HOTEL PRESS: multiplicity as a fact of consciousness

Longtime friend to California poets and poetry and inspiration Jack Foley, who runs the weekly Cover to Cover show on KPFA, has just joined forces with poet Clara Hsu to start a new publishing house called Poetry Hotel Press. You can read a profile I wrote of Foley for the SF Chronicle here.

The following is a statement Foley makes before each reading:

Poetry Hotel Press is a new press trying to do an old thing: to make the world better by addressing the emotions that lie at the base of all our actions. We are asking for your support in this activity. Poetry is politics in another form—politics finding its way into the deepest areas of that mind/body amalgamation that we call “life.”

Before we move into the readings, I want to talk to you about something I have been calling a New Spirit in poetry.

When Ron Silliman handed me the first copies of THIS magazine, he said, “I can guarantee that these will be famous.” I believe I can say the same thing about the books being published by Poetry Hotel Press. We believe that they are the expression of a new spirit in poetry—a new spirit in the culture.

What is this New Spirit? We have heard much about “multiplicity” as a social and political fact, and it is as a social and political fact that “multiplicity” is primarily understood. But it is necessary to go further than that: it is necessary to understand multiplicity as a fact of consciousness—to understand that the same multiplicity/diversity we perceive in the world is perceived because it is a reflection of the nature of our own minds. The only way we can understand multiplicity at a deep level is to understand that itflows from ourselves. The term “individual” comes from the Latin, individuus. It means “not divided,” “incapable of further division”—in dividuus. If I am thinking in political terms, the word “individual” is admirable: the “rights of the individual” are everywhere to be defended. But if I am thinking in terms of consciousness, the word fails entirely: in terms of consciousness, I am deeply divided. It is in fact the very nature of consciousness to be divided, to be multiple—to see many points of view. Insofar as that is true, I am not an “individual.” I am something else.

What am I? A multiplicity—a web of constantly changing perceptions, feelings, opinions, an awareness that is simultaneously open and closed. Poetry expresses the very nature of the mind. If in the past poetry had to express, with qualifications, what Jack Kerouac called “the unspeakable visions of the individual,” current poetry, rooted in a new awareness, can move beyond the I, the ego, the individual. It is this new awareness—this new spirit—that Clara Hsu and I wish Poetry Hotel Press to embody. We are trying to create a press which is less about what poetry was than it is about what poetry might be.

Poetry Hotel Press is multicultural: Clara Hsu is deeply aware of her Chinese roots; Ivan Argüelles constantly goes back to his Mexican/Spanish heritage; I am aware of the Irish and the Italians in my ancestry. But beyond these awarenesses are other awarenesses.

The press has put out four books already, for which there are a few upcoming events:

Joan Gelfand, Jack + Adelle Foley, Clara Hsu
Thursday, March 27, 7 PM @ Bookshop West Portal
Gelfand, author of A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams and Seeking Center, will read from her new collection, The Long Blue Room. The Foleys will read from Jack’s collection, Eyes, and Hsu will read from her collection of prose and poetry, Babouche Impromptu.

Ars Poetica by Ivan ArgüellesIvan Argüelles, Jack + Adelle Foley, Clara Hsu
Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 – 9:00 PM @ Books Inc. Alameda

Poetry Hotel Press Authors Reading
Saturday, September 13 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
1601 Paru Street, Alameda, CA 94501

You can also catch Jack and Adelle performing chorally as part of the second annual SFJAZZ Poetry Festival on Thursday, April 3 at 8:30pm.

For more information about Poetry Hotel Press, visit their website.