IMPROMPTU #15: Joel Katelnikoff

15 - napomo - 16 - katelnikoff - site

Love What You Hate

Joel KatelnikoffIn this technological era of direct textual manipulation, we must always acknowledge our own agency as readers. If we hate a text, we may no longer blame the text. Instead, evaluate the text with a particular eye for discovering, within it, that which you can love. Because the thing has not failed you. Rather, you have failed.


  1. Reread the last book that you’ve hated, committing yourself to love it.
  2. Do not expect to experience this love in a linear and continuous manner.
  3. Read quickly, ignoring every element of the text that you might detest.
  4. Flag every element of the text that you are capable of appreciating.
  5. Transcribe all flagged materials.

This happened to me in 2013, when reading Capital of Pain by Paul Éluard. I had just been reading André Breton, and I’d hoped to encounter the same style of image and syntax throughout Éluard’s work. Failing to succeed via these criteria, I quickly gave up.

A few months later I returned to the text, this time with new terms of engagement. I read through the 279 pages in a few hours, flagging fifty individual lines that stood out to me. Four of these lines, drawn from pages 9, 11, 21, and 73, are as follows:

the car of summer: immobile glorious and forever
opening her eyes at the last instant
with the moon in one eye and the sun in the other
her legs skim past her shadow

The exercise requires us to see and to seek what we love, wherever we read. The goal here is not simply to develop new textual products, but to open up new possibilities for conceiving of one’s own creative process. The project is to shift our own perceptual framework, and what project requires more creativity than the production of ourselves?

 Joel Katelnikoff is currently working on Inhabitations: A Recombinant Theory Project. The project adapts techniques conventionally associated with plagiarism and copyright violation in order to build a collaborative model of critical and poetic writing. Each Inhabitation investigates one writer’s textual corpus via a technique of cut-up / remix / montage. The result is a poetic essay that is capable of simultaneously: 1) refracting the writer’s critical concepts; 2) extending the writer’s own language and syntax; and 3) producing a metanarrative description of the cut-up / remix / montage process that guides the project itself. So far, the project has produced collaborations with Christian Bök, Erín Moure, Fred Wah, Vanessa Place, and Johanna Drucker, and it will soon include collaborations with Steve McCaffery, NourbeSe Philip, Lyn Hejinian, and Craig Santos Perez, as well as some twentieth-century influences, including Wittgenstein and Borges. Further details on the project, and work-in-progress, can be found at