Aaron Kunin and Sara Roberts

Saturday May 17th

Please join us for the latest in our semi-regular series of poets paired with sound artists. This installment features poet, critic and novelist Aaron Kunin with artist Sara Roberts. Sara Roberts (and you!) will be presenting/performing/experiencing audience-based sound experiments with earbees. Aaron will be reading from his new novel The Mandarin.

What’s an earbee? It’s a simple hand-held sound recorder and playback unit. Earbees come in a set of thirteen. They record and playback up to a minute of looped, reasonably high-quality sound, and anyone, kid or adult, can figure out how to use them in a matter of minutes.

What do people do with them? They think of things to do with them. The earbees were invented as devices for playing sound and word games, and they’ve been used in sound compositions, plays, dances, installations, and more. They’re really good with a group of people. After a few warm-up exercises to make everyone aware of the pleasures of a loop, the sound, word, phrasing, and rhythmic possibilies inherent in thirteen different sound sources … there are sure to be some ideas.

What’s an Aaron Kunin? Aaron Kunin is a poet, critic, and novelist. He is the author of acollection of small poems about shame, Folding Ruler Star (Fence Books, 2005); a chapbook, Secret Architecture (Braincase, 2006); and a novel, The Mandarin (Fence, 2008). He lives in California and is assistant professor of negative anthropology at Pomona College. He has a slogan. Here is his slogan:


Here’s a short excerpt from The Mandarin:

“Look at this book,” said Mercy. “Someone has underlined in it with a thick black line. Rather messily too. It seems that the purpose of the line is to obliterate the words and not to emphasize them.”

“Look at this book,” I said. “It doesn’t open. Someone has driven a nail through it and nailed it to another book–what other book I can’t say, because its cover is entirely obscured by the first one.”

“Look at this book,” said Mercy. “It’s glowing. The words are on fire, but not the paper.”

“I can’t look at this book,” said Hallamore. “It glares at me. It’s terrifying.”

“This book burned my hand when I picked it up,” I said. “I dropped it, and the sound it made hitting the floor gave me a sharp pain behind my eyes and in my forehead. It was like a new understanding of how the head is put together, and how much wasted space there is in there, because there were quite large pockets of emptiness where the pain seemed to end.”

“Don’t look at this book,” said Mercy. “I’ve hardly glanced at it, and my eyes are on fire–even now, they are brimming with these useless tears.”