Contributor Spotlight: Amaranth Borsuk

acb-portrait_highresAmaranth Borsuk’s video essay, “Abra: The Kinetic Page” is featured in Issue 73 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

My contribution to “The Kinetic Page” is a kind of poetics statement about my collaboration Abra, with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher. Our goal was to make a book that pushes away from and beyond the notion of the single author, while also investigating the mutation of the book through history. It is a project that has many elements: a limited edition artist’s book, a free iPad and iPhone app, and a beautiful illustrated paperback published by 1913 Press. All three versions look for ways to animate language and to invite the reader to think of both the page and screen as touchable interfaces for creating their own texts. In the app, which I used to create the animations in the video, language is alive, and readers can customize the text by mutating, erasing, pruning, grafting their own language into Abra and casting magical “cadabra” spells that transform the text.

I have been working on projects that place text in the reader’s hands for some time, generally using digital interventions that highlight the role of the reader in activating a text. Between Page and Screen (SpringGun Press, 2016), for instance, uses augmented reality to let readers peek in on an epistolary romance between “P” and “S” and see themselves, thanks to their webcam, as the bridge between reading platforms. And with  Whispering Galleries, my subsequent collaboration with Brad Bouse, the reader uses their hand to brush virtual, pixellated dust from a historic diary, revealing erasure poems within it. The video essay I created for Bellingham Review gave me a chance to think through the place of the hand in digital media, with significant inspiration from the artist Ann Hamilton, along with a number of poets and thinkers whose work is quoted in the piece (Danielle Vogel, Roland Barthes, Mark Hansen, Erkki Huhtamo, Lori Emerson, Aaron Cohick, and Dick Higgins).

Tell us about your writing life.

I’m obsessed with sound, and with packing poems full of resonance to try to generate associations. My book of poems that just came out, Pomegranate Eater (Kore, 2016), uses word play to get at aspects of myself I wouldn’t or couldn’t otherwise put into words (the book is very much about identity and how it is formed against and through language as well as with and against the identities imposed on us by the people around us). The poems are full of homophones and puns across English, Hebrew, and French, as well as false and true etymological cognates. Language is the thing that activates my work—whether it’s poetry, performance, installation, or a book object. That and community—a desire to be in conversation with other writers and artists.

Which non-writing aspect of your life most influences your writing?

I go to a lot of museums, so I would say my writing is heavily influenced by looking at art, especially contemporary art.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

“What can be done with the English language? Use it as material.” — John Cage “Empty Words”

What is your favorite book?

This is an impossible question to answer, but one book I read every year and see new things in each time is Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping With the Dictionary.

What are you reading right now?

Kazim Ali: Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Recommended by Julie Carr, a poet and person I admire deeply, this book would be easy to devour in one sitting, but I am savoring it). Tracie Morris: Handholding: 5 Kinds (I would say more “obsessing over” than reading, since it’s a book that encompasses text, sound performance, and video and audio by the artists Morris is “talking back” to. You can read through the text on the page, but the experience is deepened if you also read while listening to Morris’s recorded performances alongside the sources she is riffing off of. Watching Eyes Wide Shut with her poem as the soundtrack, for instance.)

What project are you working on now?

Something with whispers. I’m thinking about vulnerability, care, incantation, pleasure, breath. It, like me, is a work in progress.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

The fingertip videos included in my piece were shot with an endoscope—the kind used to inspect clogged drains. They are a direct homage to Ann Hamilton, whose work has traced the hand, and especially the index finger, as an extension of the mind and an interface with language. Here’s a great talk she gave at the Pacific NW College of Art—one of my favorite artist lectures—that beautifully unravels her relationship to the hand and to text: MFA VS Lecture: Ann Hamilton

Where can our readers connect with you online?

I’m on twitter at @amaranthborsuk, and I have a website, amaranthborsuk.com, where you can see a lot of documentation of my work.


AMARANTH BORSUK is a poet, scholar, and book artist whose work encompasses print and digital media, performance and installation. Her books of poetry include Pomegranate Eater (Kore Press, 2016); As We Know (Subito, 2014), an erasure collaboration with Andy Fitch; Handiwork (Slope Editions, 2012); and, with Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press, 2012), a book of augmented-reality poems. Her intermedia project Abra (trade edition 1913 Press, 2016), created with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher, received an NEA-sponsored Expanded Artists’ Books grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts and was issued in 2015 as a limited edition hand-made book and free iPad  / iPhone app. Her other digital collaborations include The Deletionist, an erasure bookmarklet created with Nick Montfort and Jesper Juul; and Whispering Galleries, a site-specific LeapMotion interactive textwork for the New Haven Free Public Library. Amaranth is currently an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell, where she also teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics.

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