Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one. When the rim is bent it will press against the works and impede the proper action of the currents.
Blanc Press is the print-on-demand wing of Insert Press. Founded in 2005 in Los Angeles, Blanc Press publishes through print-on-demand in order to make works available that would otherwise be cost prohibitive to produce. This was its website. The content below was taken from the site’s 2011 archived content.
I applaud the mission of the Blanc Press. However, when I tried to read and comprehend the work of the Vanessa Place I was way in over my head. Although am part of team that creates custom software solutions for RTSlabs.com for a number of clients in such diverse industries such as finance, real estate, healthcare, education, and e-commerce, this woman's work is simply over my head. Custom software development is difficult, and super technical. Dummies do not code software at the level at which we work. It blows my mind that we solve complicated security issues, create innovative apps, and coordinate the multiple moving parts of both large and small companies every day, but I couldn't make it through Vanessa Place's Statement of Facts, let alone Tragodía 2: Statement of the Case. Well, you may do better. Go to Amazon where you can buy both hard cover and paper back versions of the books. Good luck. I'm going bck to my coding and solving software issues where I know what I am doing.
Vanessa Place killed poetry. – anon. via Twitter
Vanessa Place writes poetry, prose and art criticism; she is also a criminal lawyer and co-director of Les Figues Press.
Her most recent work is available in French as Exposé des Faits, and in English as Statement of Facts.
Of Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s Notes on Conceptualisms, Mary Kelly said, “I learned more about the impact
of conceptualism on artists and writers than I had from reading so-called canonical works on the subject.”
Kenneth Goldsmith has called Vanessa Place’s work “arguably the most challenging, complex and controversial
literature being written today.”
Vanessa Place n’est pas une femme banale. Avocate à Los Angeles, critique d’art, écrivain…les photographies la
montrent les bras tatoués, toute de noir vêtue comme une rockeuse. Son premier opus traduit en français (et son
sixième ouvrage) : Exposé des faits ressemble à son auteur : il est étrange et fort. Parfois la littérature
expérimentale est purifiante. – Stephanie Hochet
Vanessa Place's performances, whose rigour, control and deep invention showed her near perfect mastery of / slavery
to deliberate and conscious poetic performance/utterance, a frighteningly terminal position. – Peter Philpott
Vanessa Place is writing terminal poetry. – Rae Armantrout
Los Angeles, 06.15.11—Blanc Press is pleased to announce the release of Tragodía 2: Statement of the Case by Vanessa Place, the second volume of Place’s three-volume series, Tragodía. To celebrate, Blanc Press is offering a 15% discount on Tragodía 1: Statement of Facts, the first hardcover edition of the three-volume series. For further celebration, Blanc Press is thrilled to announce the release of Tragodía 1: Statement of Facts in paperback! So many things to be excited about.
A statement of facts is a legal document which sets forward factual information without argument. These documents are used in a variety of legal settings, ranging from appeals to filing vehicle registration paperwork. The goal of a statement of facts is not to put forward an argument, but rather to present factual information in a clear, easy to understand way. That said, many lawyers may make implicit arguments in a statement of facts, using a variety of tricks to sway the reader to one point of view or another. Typically these arguments are designed to paint someone in a favorable light, or to dismiss the reliability of someone else.
Tragodía is composed of the three parts of an appellate brief: Statement of Facts, which sets forth, in narrative form, the evidence of the crime as presented at trial; Statement of the Case, which sets forth the procedural history of the case; and Argument, which are the claims of error and (for the defense) the arguments for reversing the judgment. Place’s Statement of Facts project involves reproducing Statements of Facts from some of her appellate briefs and representing them as poetry.
Rule 8.204(a )(2)(A) of the California Rules of Court requires the appellate brief to “state the nature of the action, relief sought in the trial court, and the judgment or order appealed from.” The purpose of this rule is to give the Court of Appeal a concise overview of the relevant trial court proceedings. Usually this would include, in chronological order: the charges, relevant motions and rulings, the type of proceeding, the verdict or other result, the judgment and sentence, and the date the notice of appeal was filed. The statement should include only information relevant to the issues or necessary to give the appeal an intelligible setting. It should not quote or paraphrase pleadings or other documents extensively or offer excessive detail about dates and procedures not material to the issues. One page or less often suffices. The key is to offer the court procedural context and focus.
Praise for Tragodía 1: Statement of Facts:
“No poetry book this year will be more disturbing – upsetting, unsettling – to read than Tragodía 1: Statement of Facts, by Vanessa Place.”—Steven Fama, the glade of theoric ornithic hermetica
“… extremely disturbing on multiple levels …”—Sina Queyras, Lemon Hound
What is a fact? “On February 28, 2005, seventeen-year-old Amanda was living with her mother and her twelve-year-old sister in Lennox.” Yes, that seems like a perfectly neutral factual statement made by Amanda in her police testimony.
But next we read, “When Amanda came home about 8:00 p.m., the lights were off and the doors were unlocked.” Are these facts? Not necessarily: Amanda might be inventing the scenario, although these facts can be checked against the testimony of her mother Sandy, who was out at the laundromat when the incident occurred. But by the time we get to “Once inside, Amanda made something to eat, then went to the bedroom, and laid on her mother’s bed to watch a movie,” we’re in the realm of interpretation so that the surreal account of the sexual assault scene that follows is less than factual.
“Vanessa Place, herself an appellate criminal defense attorney who specializes in sex offenders and sexually violent predators, has assembled a remarkable sequence of narratives, taken almost verbatim from court testimonies she herself reviewed: her cases are entirely “real.” But what is the “real” anyway? What is the difference between fact and the interpretation of fact? Between fact and truth? And what do these “true” stories tell us about the society we live in, and the way we apportion innocence and guilt? Telling it straight turns out to be the most mysterious—and poetic—way of telling it there is. No novelist could invent horror stories as compelling—and puzzling—as these actual case studies. Statement of Facts is a superb piece of conceptual writing.”—Marjorie Perloff
“Just the facts, Ma’am. The only way to be more clever than Kathy Acker, it turns out, is to be less clever. Charles Reznikoff sampled the National Reporter System of appellate decisions for his verse in Testimony; Acker incorporated legal documents from In re van Geldern as part of her modified plagiarism; but Place recognizes that such documents are far more powerful left unedited. And they read, frequently, like the reticent syllogistic prose of Hemingway short stories. Reframed from the public record as literature, the results are emotionally unbearable.”—Craig Dworkin
“Vanessa Place is a lawyer and, like Bartelby, much of her work involves scribing appellate briefs, that task of copying and editing, rendering complex lives and dirty deeds into “neutral” language to be presented before a court. That is her day job. Her poetry is an appropriation of the documents she writes during her day job, flipping her briefs after hours into literature. And like most literature, they’re chock full of high drama, pathos, horror and humanity. But unlike most literature, she hasn’t written a word of it. Or has she? Here’s where it gets interesting. She both has written them and, at the same time, she’s wholly appropriated them—rescuing them from the dreary world of court filings and bureaucracy—and, by mere reframing, turns them into what is arguably the most challenging, complex and controversial literature being written today.”—Kenneth Goldsmith
“Statement of Facts is a powerful poem which forces us to question our own response to ‘documentary’ material and the nature and reliability of evidence. There’s also for me the way that language functions (and often lies) in response to our attempts to make sense of things and I’m grateful to Place for bringing this to my attention.”—John Armstrong, Arduity
“Statement of Facts is a book about limits and boundaries: physical, psychological, legal, literary, and conceptual. It is about speech and its transcription, and the strange distortions of language that have evolved to serve the legal system. It is about actions that leave a mark on the body and the soul.”—Ken Gonzales-Day
“You might have supposed that the hallowed technique of cultural appropriation had exhausted itself in the wake of the Duchampian ready-made, the spend-thrift citations of Pop, Burrough’s lapidary cut-ups, or the critical twist given to all this by New York postmodernism in the 80s. But by re-presenting appellate briefs of sexual offense cases, attorney-cum-wordsmith, Vanessa Place has come up with another take on taking. Here the uncanny juggernaut of the Law collides with the excruciating strengths and fragilities of victims, voice is overwritten by context, and morality by salient indignation. In other circumstances we would take our hats off, but given her profession, she deserves a citation.”—John Welchman
“By repurposing legal prosecution and defense documents of violent sexual crimes verbatim, Statement of Facts takes on issues too messy to benefit from further elucidation which only grow more disturbing presented in their purest case material form. For some, what Statement of Facts brings into the public square is salacious, but Place is in effect saying: ‘I move the ball out of this arena and take it into this arena’ in order to pump up the socio political volume on this legal/moral battlefield. Her definition of injustice is sweeping. Statement of Facts does not care what the reader thinks about content and in essence, Place’s relationship to content is like Oprah Winfrey’s to money. It is straightforward, and you are free to project onto it whatever you need to. However you respond to this fierce book, it is indisputable that Statement of Facts has carved out a place for itself as a touchstone of poetic push back. As Pasadena Superior Court Judge Gilbert Alston famously quipped in his dismissal of a 1986 rape case because the victim was a prostitute: ‘A whore is a whore is a whore’—Statement of Facts counters by unflinchingly reminding us ‘a rape is a rape is a rape.’”—Kim Rosenfield
“Statement of Facts is poet/lawyer Vanessa Place’s masterful demonstration of day-for-night writing. Alternately nauseating, cold, gripping, philosophical, and relentless, this volume is an analytical portrait of a writer writing in double-time, simultaneously producing legal language caught in the trap of trying (and failing) to secure the self-evident meanings of the factual; and poetic language procedurally measuring the way facts are fundamentally also instruments of violence, building toward the legitimation of a legal edifice from which no one can escape. These descriptions of heinous sex crimes, detached from their original function as depositions, are a treatise on contingency; a discourse on the moral lenses of narrative; and an institutional critique of the aesthetics and ethics of juridical administration.”—Simon Leung
Vanessa Place is a writer, a criminal appellate defense attorney, and co-director of Les Figues Press.
Of Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s Notes on Conceptualisms, Mary Kelly said, “I learned more about the impact of conceptualism on artists and writers than I had from reading so-called canonical works on the subject.” Place is author of Dies: A Sentence, La Medusa, Notes on Conceptualisms (co-authored with Robert Fitterman), Exposé des Faits, and The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law. Other work includes the Factory Series of chapbooks and a sound collaboration with Stephanie Taylor, Murder Square Dance on the Spiral Jetty (both with oodpress).
TRAGODÍA 2: STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Hardcover, with dustjacket, 80 pages
Blanc Press, June 2011
Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.5 x 0.5 inches
$35.00 – available for purchase thru lulu.com
PRESS FOR SOFF
Too much work and still to be poets. a REPOPORT on the Re-Thinking Poetics Conference by Stephanie Young, including some commentary on Statment of Facts and a response from Marjorie Perloff, June 2010.
How to do silence: a conversation with Vanessa Place by Sina Queryas on Lemon Hound, Thursday, July 29, 2010.
“… extremely disturbing on multiple levels …”
Interversation with Vanessa Place by James Wagner at Esther Press, August 3, 2010
Poetry from the Law (part 5) a review of Vanessa Place’s Tragodía 1: Statement of Facts by Steven Fama on his blog, the glade of theoric ornithic hermetica, August 15, 2010.
“No poetry book this year will be more disturbing – upsetting, unsettling – to read than Tragodía – 1: Statement of Facts, by Vanessa Place.”
Vanessa Place Statement of Facts at Supernumerary, October 5, 2010.
“The text doesn’t really present itself, does it?”
Interview: Vanessa Place, lawyer and performing poet. by Susan Mansfield at Living Scotsman, November 10, 2010.
“As a lawyer, Vanessa Place defends sex offenders, some of society’s most hated criminals. As a performing poet, she reads verbatim the harrowing experiences of her cases’ victims. It’s a combination that doesn’t always go well with her audiences.”
Arduity: Conceptualist verse. by John Armstrong.
Having attempted to draw a line between modernist and postmodern work, it would seem sensible to carve out a space for the conceptualists. As the name suggests, conceptualists are more interested in the idea behind a piece of work than the work itself. In this sense there does seem to be an affinity between this mode and the post-modern playfulness. I'm going to try and show how things may be a bit more complex than that and how some conceptual stuff can be very difficult indeed.
The charges levelled against conceptualism are many and various, the most common of which relate to its use of appropriated material- a sin that most other writers of poetry tend to find especially difficult as it offends their ideas of originality and authenticity. I want to look at individual works by two different conceptualists and consider the ways in which each can be said to be difficult. I also need an early disclaimer, I can't claim any kind of expertise in this area and my knowledge base is fairly limited so I'd be really keen to hear the views of others who have more knowledge and experience.
The difficult subjects of Vanessa Place.
'Statement of Facts' was published in 2008 and is an account of the crimes, arrest and trial of Mark Wayne Rathbun, better known as the "Belmont Shore Rapist". It consists of a series of statements relating to a number of the attacks for which Rathburn was convicted together with an account of his arrest and initial interviews, these are followed by a description of the expertise of expert witnesses and the nature of the arguments about DNA. The pdf of my copy is less than seventy pages, the language is clear and unambiguous, although following some of the logic of the arguments re DNA can be taxing, this shouldn't be a difficult read. I have found it impossible to get through the first twenty five pages which describe the attacks.
This isn't because of any sense of squeamishness on my part, like Place I've worked at the 'sharp end' of the criminal justice system so I'm not likely to be shocked or disturbed by accounts of man's inhumanity to man. These accounts of rape are 'difficult' more because they induce a greater degree of complicity in me, as a male reader, than accounts of other kinds of crime. There's also the flat and artless way that these accounts are compiled and then presented by Place as a poem that adds another disturbing dimension about voyeurism and appropriation. This also puts up more barriers to me being able to read all the accounts, on the first couple of occasions I was able to get through three or four of the accounts and then put the book down, on subsequent attempts I've managed to get through the first eight or nine pages and then (with a large sigh of relief) I've skipped through to the account of the arrest and police interviews.
Place describes herself as a conceptualist and her work as poetry, in the two or three interviews that I've read she comes across as combative and keenly aware of what she's about. She works as a defence lawyer in Los Angeles and has clearly plundered this experience to explore the nature and function of language in the public sphere. For what it's worth, I find some of her more 'mannered' pieces (those that have been manipulated with) much less effective- 'The marble flesh the gold peacock the elect chair the blue curl' published in issue 4 of the Cambridge Literary Review struck me as being really rather precious and needlessly contrived. 'Statement of Facts' escapes this charge because it refuses to mess around with the raw material and completely negates the authorial voice.
It could be argued that sex crimes are 'easy' because they are about the degradation of one human being by another and that the sexual dimension creates all kinds of challenges for most of us. To which the obvious response is that Place is flagging up that particularly disturbing aspect of rape and throwing it back at us in a way that challenges the reader (me, anyway) in quite fundamental ways. Of course, Place isn't the only writer to play on this queasiness, Roberto Bolano does more or less the same thing for over 100 pages in '2066' although the reader knows that these accounts are fictionalised.
A further concern in 'Statement of Facts' is the nature of evidence and the ways in which seemingly unimpeachible evidence can be called into question, there's also questions being asked about our faith in science and our need to see the bad guy punished - Rathburn was sentenced to over a thousand years in jail.