Jessica Bebenek

“Rag Bag” Durational Performance Art

I would like to propose a durational performance art piece, which would serve as an extension of my ongoing series of knitted poems entitled k2tog. Over the course of the conference, I will knit as many poems as possible from Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. Though often lauded as the greatest poems of the twentieth century, the cantos are appropriative and intentionally exclusive to all but the most “well versed” reader. My intention is to knit these poems from twine while attending all of the events of the conference, so that the performance takes place over the entire two days. As I finish each poem, I will add it to a laundry bag I carry with me, which conference- goers are welcome to dig through—the name “Rag Bag” referencing Pound’s own dismissive term for these now-canonized poems. I create the knitted poems by ‘scanning’ the original poems to find the stressed and unstressed beats, which I then translate into knit and purl stitches to create a knitting pattern to follow. By transforming the poems into the traditionally gendered ‘language’ and artistic context of knitting, I intend to highlight and challenge the exclusivity of The Cantos and the English canon. This performance seeks to bridge the gap between writing and visual arts, while joining a tradition of female artists who have worked to destroy the divide between ‘craft’ and ‘fine art’.

Jessica Bebenek is a professional poet and essayist from Toronto, currently completing her MA in English and Creative Writing at Concordia University. She works as a Teaching Assistant and as a Coordinator at the Centre for Expanded Poetics, where she founded the Contemporary Poetry Reading Group and organized the international Occult Poetics Symposium. Her poetry, short stories, and non-fiction can be found in PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, and Vallum Contemporary Poetry, among other places. She is releasing her fourth chapbook with Desert Pets Press (Toronto) this Spring.

Jessica continues to work on k2tog (named for the code in knitting patterns meaning “knit two together”), her series of knitted poems. The series has been featured in The Volta, along with an essay on process and intention. Selections have been shown at the ‘One Line’ and ‘Regenerate’ gallery shows, the Four Poets magazine launch, and are on permanent display in the Centre for Expanded Poetics. Jessica is currently at work with editors at Broken Dimanche Press (Berlin) to publish an art book of knitting patterns to accompany the k2tog series.