Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Poetry 2004

Carla Harryman

A close-up side portrait of Carla Harryman against a fruit tree background. She smiles and looks at a 45-degree angle.
  • 2004 Grants to Artists
  • Poetry
  • Poet, New Genre and Performance Writer
  • Born Orange, CA, 1952
  • Lives in Bloomfield Township, MI
  • Additional Information

Because of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant, I was able to receive support for a leave from my academic department to lecture, read, perform, and write in Germany during the fall of 2005... The experiments in performance I have been able to conduct have helped me develop the performance writing in new ways using sound, improvised music, speaking voices, and now multi-lingual performance, and to work with performers whose idioms are diverse: this is an important intention of the 'polyvocal' text.

- Carla Harryman, February 20, 2006

Artist Statement

My writings are staged between creative genres and theory, the domestic and history, abstractions and androgyny, the rational and the non-rational, the creator and her artifact. They are organized against normative ideas while using whatever tools of poetry, performance, philosophic, or autobiographical discourses present themselves to advance their tellings. Concepts such as narrative, character, and binary thinking are manipulated and scrutinized but not adhered to methodically. The writing is also a response to literature and the things of the world: it does not separate one off from the other. In the world of the writing, words themselves may become characters and instincts are regarded as if they were books.

- 2005


Carla Harryman works in interdisciplinary performance, poetry, and prose. Her critical writings focus on the poetics of performance writing and innovative writing by women.

Harryman has authored seventeen books including Animal Instincts: Prose, Plays, Essays (1989) and Gardener of Stars (2001). Her 2004 Grants to Artists award supported performance workshops of Mirror Play (2004-2005), a polyvocal work for speaking voice and jaws harps. A version of Mirror Play was performed as a dialogue in Czech and English at Prague Micro-festival in 2011.

Since receiving her 2004 FCA grant, Harryman has released the books Open Box (2007), Adorno's Noise (2008), and W— /M— (2013). Her interdisciplinary and bilingual performances have been presented internationally, at venues including the Hölderlinturm in Tübigen, Germany and Wels Music Festival in Austria; and in San Francisco at Outsound Festival (2012) and The Center for New Music (2013). In 2012, her "Occupying Theodore W. Adorno's 'Music and New Music,'" a keynote lecture-performance (with pianist Magda Mayas) was presented at dOCUMENTA (13). Her collaborations include the multi-authored work The Grand Piano, an Experiment in Collective Autobiography: San Francisco, 1975-1980 (2006-08), The Wide Road (2011), a multi-genre picaresque; and Open Box (2012), a CD of music and text performances with Jon Raskin.

Her works are represented in over thirty national and international anthologies, including In the American Tree (1986, 2012), Great American Prose Poems (2003), The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater (2010), Eleven More American Women Poets of the 21st Century (2012), and Postmodern American Poetry (2013). Her writings have also appeared in international publications in Czech, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish. She has edited the volumes Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (2006), with Avital Ronell and Amy Sholder, and Non/Narrative (2011), a special issue of the Journal of Narrative Theory.

Prior to her 2004 Grants to Artists award, Harryman had received grants and awards from The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation (1993) and the Fund for Poetry (1992, 1994, 1999), among others. She received an Opera America Next Stage Grant (1996-2000), with composer Erling Wold, for the staging of a chamber opera based on A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, a collage novel by Max Ernst.

Harryman graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1975 and received an M.A. from San Francisco State University in 1977. She has taught at Bard College and Wayne State University. She serves on the faculty of Eastern Michigan University, where she teaches in an interdisciplinary creative writing program.

One person standing in the center looks down at the music stand while a few others are on a white floor in various positions. Behind them, a large relief sculpture is hung on a white wall.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
Three people sit cross-legged on a white floor while looking down at their individual stack of paper.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
Multiple pairs of brown leather laced shows are randomly scattered on a white floor.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
One person kneels down on a white floor and pounds the floor with their hands while looking at a stack of paper.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
Two people are on top of a folded white fabric, one in a reclining position and the other one lying on their back. Behind them are pairs of brown leather laced shoes and a cardboard box.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
One person stands on top of a ladder while talking to a group of people sitting on the floor. In the background, there are multiple relief sculptures hanging on a white wall.
Performance workshop of FCPA-supported Mirror Play, 2004.
Two people looks down at a music stand together while standing in front of a white wall with a large relief sculpture.
Harryman at an FCPA-supported performance workshop of Mirror Play, 2004.