The Social Mark

A series of readings, conversations, and exhibitions exploring "the social" in contemporary poetry


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Pedagogy
  • Performance
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Louis Cabri


Facilities and Real Estate Services, the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

United Bank
3945 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "The Social Mark," a two-day workshop celebrating and interrogating the relationship of "the social" to contemporary poetry . Part 1, taking place on Friday, February 28th, 2003 will feature poetry readings by Rodrigo Toscano, Jeff Derksen, Louis Cabri, David Buuck, Mark Nowak, Alan Gilbert, Kristin Prevallet, Laura Elrick, Joshua Schuster, Carol Mirakove, Jules Boykoff, and Kaia Sand. Part 2, on Saturday, March 1st, 2003 will feature poetry talks and discussion.

In conjunction with "The Social Mark," Slought presents "United Bank," a storefront exhibition series from October-December, 2002 at 3945 Chestnut Street. The exhibition features the poetry of Rodrigo Toscano (October 4-18), Jeff Derksen (October 19-November 2), Rita Wong (November 3-17), Louis Cabri (November 18-December 2).

Selected Quotations

"[T]here cannot be a situation where the writer creates something that does not carry its social mark."
--Osip Brik

"What secrets of future times are hidden in this little word ["social"] [...].
--Karl Grun (mid-1900s)

"Society" is not a valid object of discourse. There is no single underlying principle fixing – and hence constituting – the whole field of differences.
--Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony & Socialist Strategy (1985)

"Just as society doesn't exist, we should formulate the basic materialist thesis that "the world doesn't exist" [...]."
--Slavoj Zizek, Revolution at the Gates (2002)

"They're casting their problems on society. And you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. [...] There is no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation."
--Margaret Thatcher (1980s)

In this life / to die / has never been hard. / To make new life / 's more difficult / by far.
--Vladimir Mayakovsky, To Sergey Esenin (1926)

"We understood his [Mayakovsky's] lines about unmarked, "easy" death, and about the fact that "to make a life is markedly more difficult," and we realized that, according to this upside-down view of the world, not death but life "required motivation." [...] [F]or Mayakovsky, life was a marked category and could be realized only when there was a motivation for it [...]."
--Roman Jakobson, The Concept of Mark (1930s, 1980s)

Ch. What news?
Cl. Strange ones, and fit for a novation.
--Chapman, Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois (1613)

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Jules Boykoff lives in the Washington, DC area where he co-edits THE TANGENT, a zine of politics and the arts, co-curates the "In Your Ear" poetry reading series at the DC Arts Center, and co-hosts the weekly DC radio program "Roots & Culture." Poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in ANTENNAE, COMBO, KENNING, LIPSTICK ELEVEN, & POM2.

David Buuck lives in Oakland, where he co-edits Tripwire, a journal of poetics, with Yedda Morrison.

Louis Cabri is author of The Mood Embosser (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2001), a selection of poems written during the 'nineties. He curated the poets' dialogue series PhillyTalks (http://phillytalks.org) and recently co-edited two special issues of Open Letter magazine of letters to/from poets. He currently teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design, and is completing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jeff Derksen is author of the forthcoming Transnational Muscle Cars and of But Could I Make a Living From It (hole, 2000). He is the author of Dwell (Talonbooks, 1993) and Down Time (Talonbooks, 1990), a past editor of Writing magazine, and a founding member of the Kootenay School of Writing. He is currently a Fulbright scholar living in Brooklyn.

Laura Elrick's poetry and essays have appeared in numerous places, including Tripwire, Combo, The Tangent, Crayon, Torquere (Canada), and Quid (UK). She lives in New York City where she is a co-curator for the "Segue on the Bowery" reading series. Her first book sKincerity is forthcoming from Krupskaya in June 2003.

Alan Gilbert's writings on poetry, art, and politics have appeared in a number of publications, including Afterimage, Boston Review, and Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics. Recent poems have appeared in The Baffler, The Germ, and First Intensity. He lives in New York City, where he edits FYI, a quarterly arts magazine published by the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Carol Mirakove is the author of temporary tattoos (BabySelf Press, 2002) and WALL (ixnay press, 1999). She is a founding member of the subpress collective, with whom she published Fractured Humorous by Edwin Torres. Poems from her series Fuck the Polis (Los Angeles, California: 1999-2001) are forthcoming in xconnect and Tool: A Magazine. She works in technology and lives in Brooklyn.

Mark Nowak is author of "revenants" (coffee house press) and editor of "XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics." Recent poetry appears in hambone, tripwire, & west coast line. His essay, "'to commit suicide in buffalo is redundant': music and death in zero city, 1982-82," is forthcoming in "Goth: undead subculture" (Duke UP).

Kristin Prevallet is the author of Scratch Sides: Poetry, Documentation, and Image-Text Projects (Skanky Possum, 2002). She is also the author of The Parasite Poems (Barque Press Chapbook, 1999) and Perturbation, My Sister (First Intensity Press, 1997). She is working on several writing projects with visual artists, most recently with Annemie Maes's People's Database. Her essays and poetry have appeared in several magazines including Jacket, Chain, Poetry New York, and The Chicago Review. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Kaia Sand co-edits the Tangent, a zine of politics and the arts; co-curates the "In Your Ear" poetry series in Washington DC; and teaches at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Most recently, poems appear in Bivouac, Kenning, Lipstick 11, Antennae, and Anomaly. A book of poems "Interval" is forthcoming with Edge Books.

Joshua Schuster is currently a graduate student in English at University of Pennsylvania. He recently contributed "the word 'you'," addressed to Benjamin Hollander, for Open Letter (Eleventh Series, No. 3, Fall 2001).

Rodrigo Toscano's three books include: The Disparities (Green Integer), Partisans (O Books) and Platform (Atelos). Recent poetry can be found in Open Letter, Cross Cultural Poetics, the upcoming Anthology of Brazilian and American Poetry, Cities of Chance (Rattapallax), and an Audio CD compilation by Kenning Audio Editions. His work has been translated into German, Portuguese and Spanish. Toscano is originally from California (San Diego & San Francisco). He has been living in NYC for four years where he works at the Labor Institute.

Rita Wong is the author of a book of poetry, monkeypuzzle (vancouver, bc, canada: press gang publishers, 1998) and recently completed a dissertation entitled "provisional mobilities: rethinking labour through asian racialization in literature." She is a founding member of DAARE, direct action against refugee exploitation, formed in solidarity with Fujianese women migrants in Canada.