handholding: 5 kinds by Tracie Morris


$24.95, 7x10", 128 pages, Perfect bound with audio
ISBN 978-1-888-55391-8
Purchases for the trade are handled by SPD.

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Handholding: 5 kinds is a collection of experimental poetry as a creative response to 5 artistic works by innovative American, African diaspora and European–based artists’ work: Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate (recited by his son, Ernst), Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, John Akomfrah’s 7 Songs for Malcolm X, John Cage’s  4’33  and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Each of these pieces strongly contextualizes Morris’ own work and practice, dealing with the undertones and overtones of race, sexuality, class, gender, ethnicity, power and art-making. Each section is introduced as a reflection of what each piece means to the author and how they came about. The collection contains experimental text as well as 6 audio files (17 digital tracks).*  One is a “real time” response to the Kubrick film, the other is a collection of sound pieces inspired by the other artists, often recitations of the page-based texts. This is the first text and sound collection of Tracie Morris’ that is comprised of exclusively experimental work inspired by other innovative artists.


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Purchases for the trade are handled by SPD.

Praise for handholding: 5 kinds

Good thing she’s there to hold your hand because, from Stanley Kubrick to John Cage, it’s a wild ride Tracie Morris will take you on. Artists make each other, she says, and in the service of póësis, this woman’s voice is one powerful instrument. Her stunning responses, in kind, to the works that call her range as widely as their counterparts, yet they all share—and recharge—the primordial language that is poetry.—Jody Gladding

Tracie Morris’ “handholdings” are distinct experiments in text, sub-text, sound and image.Written as collaborations with iconic works by Stanley Kubrick, John Akomfrah, Gertrude Stein, Kurt Schwitters and John Cage, Morris stages her original, performative re-readings underlined and in the foreground. The resulting “hand-holdings” are neo-benshi/not-neo-benshi: talk backs (and back talk), revealing the semantic slides and syntactic craters in film and non-film texts. These “hand holdings” tell the withheld and re-tell the told, fold in the missing pieces of the social body—Black, woman, queer and gender ambiguous—to redefine reception, audience and intention. Reading this work while watching the films or texts reveals Morris’s achievement—a brilliant choreography that seduces the reader into pinwheeling delight.—Erica Hunt

Tracie Morris is a magician. Her soundings are brilliant alchemy and when she plays on Schwitters, on Stein, on Cage, on Akomfah, on Kubrick with post-post mod forms like neo-benshi, she is total radicalized body and voice. The work is deeply transcultural and re-animates new knowledge to poetry, how we can invigorate our bodies in transcendent vocalized forms, in so many directions at once with reference to a written literary and social continuum. I have been transformed by her performances, and now this beautiful exegesis enhances the mix with the subtle, witty, and profound originality that she embodies, and rises to, always. I am lifted. Read this and listen.—Anne Waldman

As anyone who’s gone to the movies or a poetry reading or church in Black neighborhood or an Indian neighborhood knows we *talk back*. We have to in order to make our own space in the performance, our own space in the world. Morris is mighty in time and sound and this book is a score but also an instructional manual for the creation of similar art. Stein, Kubrick, Cage, Schwitters and Alomfrah may be her starting points–Mullen, Bernstein and the art of benshi her muses on the journey–but the power of Morris’ mind and poetry happen in the *moment* and it is entirely her own.— Kazim Ali

Excerpt from handholding: 5 kinds

From ‘eyes wide shut: a not-neo benshi read’

Wardens, close in, capture. Brothers put things where they belong.

The scariest people in the world are not Black
The scariest people in the world are not Black
The scariest people in the world are not Black
The scariest people in the world are not Black
The scariest people in the world are not Black

She slips on Black sometimes, then slips it off.

In high relief, Black is the background
In high relief, Black is the background

White is at the forefront, couple letters, couple notes
White is at the forefront, couple letters, couple notes
White is at the forefront, couple letters, couple notes

Honey, get it together lets go: where’s the money?

“Isn’t it on the bedside table?”

“Now lissen.” Glissen lissen glissen lissen. “I know”

I don’t wash my hands first. Let’s be a little dirty
I don’t wash my hands first. Let’s be a little dirty.

You look like a swan Leda, your hands aren’t clean.
Afterthought splashing: Zeus detritus, Odin’s seed.

(Dry on blue. The driest blue.) “All right, all right”
I’m ready.

A small man with money gets a tall woman
A small man with money gets a tall woman

He stacks up and she lies down

What’s the name of the baby sitter baby? Where’s the baby?
What’s the name of the baby sitter baby? Who’s the baby?

We’re rich enough to have a White one
Rich enough to have a White one.
Enough to have a White one.

You even know her “The Nutcracker”
Know her, name her. No ‘er name ‘er noer
namer noer namer noer namer noer namer
A little late for that.

Wriggling fingers, a hand signal, a little girl. I see ya.

Walk down the runway. We’re the winners.
Walk down the runway, we’re the winners.

Star celebrate: the holidays.
What kind of star? What day is today?

Victor, victor. Trophy, trophy. Victor, victor trophy trophy.
Yes he does. Red wearing wife knows what he loves.

I make a fist, I touch you.

(“I touch you”)

We’re close but not that close. Close but not that close.
Closer, clothes. Closer clothes. The closers. White star trellis, electric flowers.

White star trellis, electric flowers.


This is an excerpt from a much larger piece—a poetic talk-back score, of sorts, to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. It can be read and heard (cue the audio up to the DVD) simultaneously while watching the film (with the closed caption feature turned on).

Tracie Morris

Tracie Morris, Kore Press Author

Tracie Morris is a poet, singer, critic, scholar, bandleader and actor. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Hunter College, has studied classical British acting technique at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, American acting technique at Michael Howard Studios, is an alum of Cave Canem’s prestigious summer residency as well as residencies at MacDowell, Millay and Yaddo. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University. Her work has been presented at the Whitney Biennial, Ron Feldman Gallery, The New Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Dia:Chelsea and dozens of musical recording projects. Her books include Intermission, Rhyme Scheme and handholding: 5 kinds, and is co-editor of Best American Experimental Writing (2016) with Charles Bernstein. Tracie is Professor and Coordinator of the MFA program in Performance + Performance Studies at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York.

Readings & Events

Friday, April 7, 2017
An Evening with Tracie Morris
Talking Back with Kubrich’s “Eyes Wide Shut”
Scottish Rites Cathedral, Scott Ave, Tucson, 6pm
presented by Kore Press

Read more »