Chris Campanioni

These are excerpts from my notebook project; each of them were written during this time last year (as evidenced by the dates) & as I revisit them almost twelve months later, I am struck by the challenge (& reward) of any endeavor that aims to disclose everything. The push & pull between disclosure & suppression (or repression) in any autoethnographic project is something I’ve been interested in tracking, & I think the closing lines of “Cyber Monday” speak to this complication: “& how much could I/give back or redeem/& how much I would/have to/leave behind/what’s ugly is what’s missing” … something that gets picked up a week later, when I wonder “what if I was to/tell you everything I hate about myself or the things I’ve done that would make you hate me?”

So much of our culture is airbrushed & re-filtered. Re-reading these hybrid, uncategorizable entries today, I am reminded by that constant negotiation between self-love & self-disgust that every artist must feel on the everyday level, a certain shame or guilt that comes during & after every moment of creation. & like our identities, it’s something that has to be constantly grappled with, constantly enacted, constantly performed. One begins to think that one is only masquerading. But isn’t that exactly the point? 
                                                                                               —Chris Campanioni

November 24-November 30, 2016

Cyber Monday & what better
(Way to save it?)

reading some erotica over     the shoulder of a stranger     sitting on the up    town 2 his cool
icy caress     his fingers touching     my lips lightly     there are other ways to feel     hunger
which I might have     misread on the glance     between paper & pauses     something I’ve so
often felt     while entering from the other side     to stand before a porous gate     expecting it to
slide as shoppers     look at me & look     on, me: separated     by an instinctive screen or thin
divide even the wild mountain stream     must someday join the big river     pixelated native
princess     a talking bird a talking     sage & wizened tree the root or stump     of memory a child’s
smile that feeling     when you’re doing air     squats & you realize you aren’t     wearing anything
under your shorts     evidenced in the eyes     of the face behind you     the lips & cheeks
the soft surprise my coming     back I said I wonder who     charges my batteries     when
you’re not around? & really meant it     must be so hard     to have to say no now & then
years ago when I was only     beginning to know     my body I used     to jerk off just
to sounds the static     & several parts or shapes     made out in silver     metallic waves when I
held     the antennae steady     & steadied myself     to ride it as far as I could think     to go  
the rain     licking my face & so     many empty pizza boxes     piled on the corner’s edge     I
like to guess my neighbor’s     taste by the smell     they leave behind     last week
I catered a party     I catered three dozen parties     in east hampton one     of which was paid
for     by a couple who named     their children after     typesettings there’s verdana     &
helvetica, there’s calibri     & candara over there, you turn     to me to say     you must be really
out of it     out of what? I think some time     later: the D goes     local on late nights
seem to be     having more & more the more     I stay     out to think about it     a person I’ve
never actually seen     before in person     went live on facebook     for 3 minutes & 23 seconds
two hours ago     announced to those who happened     to be scrolling

// // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // // //

after an earlier incident     because of an ongoing investigation     due to a signal failure
everything stops & I swear     I can feel     the train’s shudder     in my throat     poet who shall not
be named says     you know your poems     are a lot     like frank o’hara’s not     the type to notice  
his reflection in windows     walking by I     say or so I heard     differently poet who
shall not be     named objects highlights     my piece & hits open     walking by the same street
performer at herald square     every evening around     the same time thinking who isn’t
a street performer     a new ad or ad     I hadn’t seen before displays     operation track sweep
imploring passengers to start     using trash cans or taking    your trash     with you will you
help?     a fresh start for all of us     I can sometimes picture     my own face     in magazines on television     sometimes I try to picture my own face looking     back at others sometimes     I try to picture their faces     looking back at mine when I’m alone     the severed parts     or shapes
the horror of clicking     comic sans instead of garamond     before hitting send     on company
e-mails speaking with ease     so as to soothe myself later    in a voice I don’t know or never
used before     but think, why don’t you     of the children     & how much could I     give back or redeem & how much I would     have to     leave behind     what’s ugly is what’s missing


December 1-December 7, 2016

Listening to CRIM3S “Stay Ugly” on repeat all day so I can picture it

Before a mirror
After a mirror nothing
Or at least I find it
Difficult discerning the mirror
Of others each
Mannerism or lack
Of language let
Eyes lower & look away

In all the photos I’m in from 1993 to 1997 I’m chewing on Juicy Fruit. Maybe you can’t tell, but it’s there. Inside my lips I chewed & chewed & chewed on it, expecting the taste to move me, like the slogan on the yellow wrapper. The gum with the fascinating artificial flavor.

A week after the 2016 election, numerous reports emerged about the profusion of fake news circulating on the web. One report cited that the top twenty news stories about the two major candidates over the last six months were all fake. Overall, the report cited, fake news outperformed real news by about a margin of three to one. People couldn’t get enough, or they didn’t know what they were getting to begin with. This article was probably itself a fake. Another report cited that students, especially, had trouble distinguishing between real news & fake news, real reports & those contrived by false sources, click bait & live bait. But even bait is a substitute for the real thing.

Sophie says when she brought me home, when I was allowed to be brought home, I grunted in my sleep, every night. Every night spent grunting until June 20, the day I was supposed to be born. All of a sudden, the grunting stopped. I stopped grunting, knowing now that I was meant to be here, that I had a place & a name & a home, that I was allowed to stay. 

Endurance is a kind of permission to exist. To endure life or your life’s circumstances is to deal with or accept, to experience or continue to persist in the same state or condition. Exile or exodus. Forced occupancy. You’ve become the body you’ve become & wanted, I think at this moment, staring at my body in its many-mirrored gaze (standing on the small step in the department store dressing room; trying clothes on, picturing myself naked even as I’m wearing layers, even as I am folding my body under all these clothes, standing on the small step in the department store dressing room, a stranger’s hand finding my waist & then to say It fits. Everything seems to fit. & then, Are you

                                                                                                                           Going home with this?) When I moved out of my apartment, at 320 Atlantic, where I had done so much writing, where I had done so much reading & feeling, I wanted so badly to keep my spare set of keys. Say they were lost or misplaced; say I never had a spare set to begin with. It was as if I had left a part of myself in unit 4, & I would have liked to retrieve it at a later date. I would have liked to retrieve myself. 

Checking the dangerous
Professor Watchlist disappointed
When I don’t see my name
Whenever I see my name
In print I try to
Read it as if
I’m anybody else
Coming across it & thinking
More closely
About alliteration
The swooping capital
Cs (hoping they’ve used
An elegant Serif) knowing
What they say more
Strokes the better knowing
I am being imagined
As someone I’m probably not close to
Coming close to

A glossy memory
Something I saw once
In a magazine or coffee
Table book left
Open for visitors or the person
Paid to clean
The living: you
Smoking a cigarette
In plain view where I am relating
This & me wanting to be
The smoke

Thinking I look disgusting
Then catching myself
In the window of a shop
I’ve never walked in
Before to be happily
Surprised no style
But not sinking
Remarking how often
Bad poetry might also be read
As poetry from the sixteenth century
Oh western wind, the calm
Crackling branches of my youth
                                                  Back in 2013 when all of NYC was engulfed in a cupcake frenzy & Sandy was approaching on every screen I was walking around the same Carroll Gardens of Stacy Szymaszek’s Journal of Ugly Sites wondering now as I read her notes if she had come across me on Smith or Baltic, wondering where I am in the text, walking Cass her beagle which seems so much to be my beagle because what else is reading if not the fantasy of assimilation with the people & things on the page? & if I’m not Stacy then neither is Stacy, never or not longer the Stacy of 2013 when she goes to read her journal, in public or in private, stumbling over her own words like she’s reading them for the first time on a rush
                                                  Hour subway, a man stretches out his legs to rest his broadside which I am perusing, what if I was to
                                                          Tell you everything I hate about myself or the things I’ve done that would make you hate me? For instance, I used to take different women out to the same film to see what they thought & how to gauge the level of perception or attraction people

Say I’m hard
On people I want
The best for you the best
For me but no one
                              Should settle for anything less than a combination of sex, compassion, & intelligent understanding, & I want to feel with another person’s fingertips. To see with their own eyes. I want to be you. My partner thinks I’m not
                                                                                    A man’s man. She says it as if in prayer. I wish you were more manly. Some friends who aren’t friends joke about my being not Latino enough or not a real Latino or that I look like nothing they ever saw on TV, which is the point, I tell them, to which they say, I don’t know what you mean, still the sinking feeling I’m masquerading as a half-breed not ever white enough for the whites & not enough brown not exactly anything you can put your finger on I watch a woman playing Tetris beside me on the B wondering what space I would fit into. A mentor asks why I’ve decided to change my research focus from Latino dislocation & exile literature to postinternet studies a study no one has heard of yet because it’s mine & I answer, Because I’m over it. But the real answer is I’ll never be over it because it is my life I’d rather ask new questions or try to become something greater than what I see before my image looking back in silence. Sometimes I wish I were still born

So I could feel it again & feel it
For later
Flashing back to climbing Corcovado
Because I was too cheap to pay 3 real for the trolley
Ascending till I could better see
Christ’s outstretched arms have I ever come so close
To death since being born?

Truth or dare: Chipotle
Puts laxatives in their burritos
Wake up to the news
Which is every day & for everyone
ISIS truck bomb kills dozens
Iran train crash death toll rising
Trump taps
Deputy Nat. Security adviser
#BlackFridaySale trending
The holiday gift guide for the loved one
Who has everything
Castro finally dead no more
Family jokes about vampires
Immortality a deal
With the devil voodoo zombie
Or the like comedy
A veil for the ugly
Sadness of our youth
My father can finally
Go home & I can
Come to know my cousins
Kind of late but never too late
How first gen Americans imagine
A place of origin we’ve never been to
Still a feeling like
Mario the princess is in another
Castle which I’ve never watched
Never had any interest to watch
I’d rather watch
The birds, a grackle
Wishing it would alight on me
Until it does & then as most
Things I’m over it even
As I’m in it & I’m in it
For real now having fantasies
About tugging
Emergency break dangling
On the Q train car
5116 “just what I need
A bicycle” foul
Mood conductor pouring
Since 6 or 7 no umbrella
Etiquette for days
Smacked & slashed almost
Violently every turn
On every corner
Might be my last thinking first
Day of December will it ever
Snow or dip below 50
Ever again? The heat is on
My back my chapped
Lips my forehead a dab
Of sweat between
Lash & eyes can you
Feel it?

Having social anxiety at a party is hard. Joyable makes it easier. Joyable’s clinically validated, coach-supported program provides tools for overcoming social anxiety. Flashing back to

The sign for a talk
On Imposter Syndrome
“A very common phenomenon
In graduate school”
Do you have it? Do I?
Wondering what I’m missing if I am missing
All of these things
Self-doubt, intellectual fraud
Inadequacy, feelings of being
Unsuccessful & phony
So much has changed
Man wearing eye patch
Crossing 29th  & Park
I wanted so badly
To bear
As a child now I am
Terrified of bearing
Any mark made to make me
Feel more different than
I already feel crossing

Midtown Empire State
Building tourists
Holding on
The iPhone’s trigger
Like a machine gun
Click click click click
Flashing back to plastic
Kodak disposables
Turning the lever so I can take another &
Wondering how many left
Until the click
Without consummation delivery
Man wearing rain
Boots high
Of 70 & sunny all day
Thinking of a status update then deciding
It’s too good
For a status update

Facebook Live & all other streaming
Services on the rise as a response
To content increasingly
Seen as fake, inauthentic, phony
Photoshopped & heavily
Edited yet being live is still a performative
Gesture toward another
Allurement, see again
Bait: to attract, tempt, or captivate
To entice by deception so as to entrap or destroy
What does it mean to “go live” in our
Generation of the dead & dying inert

During routine screening
For STIs think of every sexual partner
I’ve ever had or who’s had me
People always say where
Do you find the time
To write I tell them
I walk a lot
I always use the stairs
I like to keep
Moving refresh another
Casting seems almost pain-
Stakingly written for my type
On hold to hear “how to tell
A real Con Edison employee
From a fake one?”
Wondering if people who write
Chalkboard signs are aware
Of line breaks &
What it signifies
Students who are smiling
With their heads down
Nine times
Out of ten they are looking
At their phones the other
Time looking
At their crotch

“We’re looking for someone who can weep
In a friendly, engaging manner”

Higher education bearing the blame
                                                         For systematic & absolute failure of capitalism, teachers fired & whole departments shelved for “not producing jobs” for students. Education having to answer for economic principles. Humanism being replaced by company holdings “because … we can sell that to the public.” Derrida’s thoughts on the academy as an economy of waste* means more than he might have been suggesting. Feeling momentary hurt

That other artists educators activist humanitarians
In tears or the equivalent
Of tears—tear-faced
Emoji, the metamorphosis
Of like into assertive sob—after
Fidel’s death not accounting for or not
Knowing or not noticing
The methodical annihilation of the LGBTQ & arts community
At his hand for fifty-seven years
Feeling the hurt of three consecutive generations
In a moment
Or at the same time
Flashing back to
The first thing God thought
Of when he created the world
Was modeling
I would like to be faithful
To my own time
Which seems to me
Like my own skin
The sack into
Which I was born
& so I am still listening
How many days
Would I be sitting on this bench
Before I see a familiar face?

* Derrida never said this.

Interview by Jennifer Martiza-McCauley



Would you tell us a bit about your notebook project, how it came about, and how you see these entries fitting into the larger scope of the work?


I had not thought seriously about notebooks until I took a class called “Notebooks & Other Irregular Accountings” at CUNY’s Graduate Center. Under Wayne Koestenbaum’s instruction, I began to consider the political & social agency of the personal, irregular text, particularly for marginalized communities, & tracing its trajectory from diaries & notebooks to how we use social media today. This is a field I call Post Internet Studies—reflecting both the implications for the future, & also the currency of self-publication—a term not many people inside or outside academia are familiar with, because I’ve made it up. These entries are derived from a notebook I carried from August 24, 2016-January 8, 2017. I’ve recently began transcribing notes from this August through present-day. I don’t know when I’ll stop or if I’ll stop. But I plan to collect these first two years as two volumes & find a publisher to print them, perhaps in a form with a nod to their notebook origin.

But since Wayne’s class last September & my own notebook practice, I’ve thought about a more specific project that marries this investigation of personal, hybrid texts with my cultural background & actual migration—I call these works “migratory texts”; texts that are about migration & situated during a migratory passage or passages but also texts that actually move, that gyrate, that are elliptical & necessarily fractured & fragmentary. In tracking these poetics, the notebooks I am using as a self-archival allow me to also perform the theoretical frameworks I’m interested in, in a very personal way. I recently performed a prospective chapter from my dissertation, titled “A & B & Also Nothing,” at Johns Hopkins’ “Anti-Conference Conference” & audience members were excited to talk about my ability to subvert academic constraints & systems of privilege through the performance of a series of what was originally 250 items re-writing “The American” & “Americans” (James & Stein, respectively), combined with a film I’d produced & which was playing behind me, reflecting or refracting the spoken words in different ways, depending on the timing of my delivery—all of which didn’t seem at all extraordinary to me. In my life & my work I’ve only ever thought that these juxtapositions & interruptions & diversions felt natural to me, as a way of conduct but also a mode & method of inquiry & being. I am often introduced as a poet or a writer or an editor or an instructor but today I think about myself as a performative researcher.


You say, in this project, you aimed to “disclose everything,” a brave challenge for yourself as a writer and artist, and a defiance to those who say you must manage, minimize, rewrite, or hide who you are. Looking back on this project now, as you are much further along, what are some of the challenges or advantages to writing with the aim to “disclose everything”? 


I think that any good critical (or creative text) includes within it instructions for use, which means instructions for re-writing it. The point of reading, then, is actually translation, but not the kind of translation we often think about. So one obvious advantage to these kinds of works, & an emphasis on “full disclosure” is to privilege the processual aspects of a text which are, as you indicate, usually obscured or completely hidden, removed, scrubbed off the finished, finite “product.” Process, though, as we know is continuous. It resists completion. In the same sense, perhaps parts of these notebooks do too.

One obvious challenge to this kind of work is memory, the failure of memory. I had a professor who often said, whenever he was thinking about something he couldn’t quite retrieve, “memory, which is death.” Maybe he meant to say this repeatedly, maybe he forgot he ever said it. But I think the inherent fracture of memory is integral, as much as it is unavoidable. We see this in the lone footnote in this work: Derrida never said this.

Perhaps all our citations are actually our own.


Love that! Your novel, Drift, is forthcoming from King Shot Press and The Internet is For Real will be released with C&R Press this September. Do you see any thematic through-lines with this notebook project and your soon-to-be-released books? 


the Internet is for real, as the name suggests, reflects a lot of the “Post Internet” possibilities of the field I’ve created for my work, & includes a few of the list-like, hybrid work that I am writing regularly today. It also culminates with a theoretical & creative investigation into my father’s specific passage from Cuba, in 1959, a time in his life that he has never spoken about. The self-silencing of exiles is not uncommon. Re-appropriating Euro-centric psychoanalytical techniques, I was able, at least, to discuss his dreams of Cuba. Once translated & read back, he eventually began to speak about his life in Cuba, his childhood & his exile. This was a moment where the unconscious became re-materialized as consciousness, which is not so different than what happens whenever a work of art becomes reified through our contact with it in everyday life; how fantasy can become more than wish fulfillment, but really real.

Coincidentally, Drift was written during 2005-2013; the polyvocal, bilingual novel moves between seasons of a year & several characters at different points of their lives, aging as I aged outside the text. In an organic way, I think, this becomes an experiment or experience of duration—the effects of time. Characters that I invented in 2005 changed in ways that perhaps mimicked or intersected with my own changes during those eight years. So I think it is a great coincidence that this novel is arriving in bookstores only now (this New Year’s actually; the start of a new year, which also seems fortuitous for a book that climaxes at an “End of the World” party during New Year’s Eve), considering my creative & critical explorations of notebooks, self-archival, & personal texts.

The title, too, Drift … signifies movement, especially an unproductive, unremunerative movement or action. & the cultivation of boredom, distraction, & concentration (all at once) is something important to me. 


In “Listening to CRIM3S “Stay Ugly” on repeat all day so I can picture it” you write “How first gen Americans imagine/A place of origin we’ve never been to/Still a feeling like/Sorry…” As a descendant of Polish and Cuban immigrants, how do you negotiate, in your writing and life, what to carry with you from your cultural origins?  


I feel as though I carry everything … whether it is explicit in the text (as it often is) or whether the text (& its author) is totally indebted to our origins; not just how I was raised & by whom, but what I’ve inherited from the people I hardly know, or whom I will never know.

I am talking about our mothers & fathers & mothers & fathers & mothers & fathers of our mothers & fathers. Everything is relational. I suppose that is also evident in the line you mention, & the aspect of “imagine” … imagination as central to any exile & child of exile.

Chris Campanioni is a first-generation Cuban- and Polish-American and the author of Death of Art (C&R Press). His recent work appears in Ambit, Hotel, Paris Lit Up, Whitehot, and RHINO, and his poem, “This body’s long & I’m still loading” was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival. He is a Provost Fellow and MAGNET Mentor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is re-drafting accounts of exile. He edits PANK, At Large, and Tupelo Quarterly and teaches literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College.

Posted on December 20, 2017 .