In an afternote to the poems of Open Clothes Steve Benson explains, "The words in the texts in this book are, with extremely rare exceptions, just the same words as were written or spoken in the acts of composition described below." What follows are descriptions of his processes of composition and the contexts in which he composed: dictations to a microphone while driving cross country, lines written in quadrants of folded photocopy paper carried in a back pocket over 13 months, questions imagined on different occasions in a zendo, the transcription of a fully improvised performance. Benson's statement hints at the conceptual nuance in these works; they both are and are not "just" the words of his original contexts. In other words, Open Clothes presents innovative work marked by the not unfamiliar characteristics of site-specific art: in its composition it is open to the possibilities of a concrete local production. The complexity of Benson's work hinges on this understated "just"—these experimental texts work out the possibilities of an elegantly spare but open form, posing questions to us, to you, to him or her, to them, to himself. Leaving the work maximally vulnerable while generating situations that are maximally challenging, Steve Benson has created a work that is tenderly intimate and vehemently curious.
Steve Benson been associated with other poets often referred to as language writers, particularly during his period of residence in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1976 and 1992. He spent most of 1984 and 1985 in Spain. He grew up in New Jersey. But since 1996 he lives in Downeast Maine, where his practices include parenting and clinical psychology. He serves on the local Co-op board, participates in community groups supporting healthy ecosystems, peace and social justice, and sits at the zendo when he finds opportunity.
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