Palace of Rubble

Kyra Simone

Edited by Dominic Jaeckle
Tenement #6 / ISBN: 978-1-8380200-7-1
170pp / 140 x 216mm
Designed and typeset by Traven T. Croves
Published 4th October 2022


 A collection of stories 
 with accompanying photographs 
 by John Divola 

Majestic flights of fancy spun around ravaged landscapes
and savage realities, these are remarkable prose poems for the 21st century.

Chloe Aridjis 

Reading Kyra Simone’s work is reminiscent of an archaeological excavation. We dig down, down, down until we have emerged on the other side of the earth, viewing a world turned upside down, both alien and familiar. We have just enough time to contemplate the madness and achievement of our endeavour before we are giddy with the blood rushing to our heads. The writing has dug to the past and emerged in the future, passing on its way those civilisations, kingdoms and palaces long since blown away or buried, it is covered in their dust. And I think about that palace—the human body and spirit—emerging from the rubble, broken, neglected, dusty, ripe for rebirth, glowing in the light of the fragile splendour of Divola’s images that seem to be exposed ‘to a patch of sky’ as Simone writes. And the palace then contains the sky. I can’t help but think, isn’t this madness? Isn’t life beautiful.

Vanessa Onwuemezi

Epics are generally in sections or cantos, but there’s also a narrative coherency that supersedes the modular nature of the individual poems. Palace of Rubble is that way, too; there's no single dominant narrative that asserts itself across every story, but there are narrative currents and recurring characters and preoccupations. The sections flow into each other in a way that also feels reminiscent of a certain kind of deconstructed epic. If the linebreak is a technology that creates “units” or slows the pace of the reader’s eye on the page, I would argue that part of the power of the prose in Palace of Rubble has to do with the lack of separation, the lack of breath or space between ideas, and how that density operates on our attention. Each chunk of prose becomes its own edifice.

Maggie Millner
from a conversation with Simone,
published in BOMB magazine; see here ...

Like traditional methods of salting, pickling, drying, and smoking, Palace of Rubble saves transitory substance from expiration. From the stuff we unfold in the morning and throw in the recycling bin at night, Simone coaxes the rhythms of cyclical life, the patterns and variations on patterns that define the sphere of the daily, that baseline on which extraordinary events and crises exert their pressure.  The world she constructs is recognizable, textured, gently humorous—but also luminously, piercingly exact, possessed of the strangeness of seeing something for the first or the last time—a lamp store in Chinatown is “a gallery of lights all blinking in dissonant rays of color,” the disassembling of a famous church that will be put together a few miles up the road is rendered via “the villagers holding pieces of it in their hands as they head over the hill in a great procession into the distance.”  As the author herself puts it, these texts retain “a distant ember of the world from which they were first generated,” an effect that can feel for the reader like peering into a place that is both familiar and unknown, gazing at this place through the blur and distance implied by the passage of large swathes of time, physical displacement or shifts in ontological perspective.

Alexandra Kleeman

Kyra Simone’s Palace of Rubble is a collection of storie composed primarily of single words culled each day from the New York Times, among other news sources. Written under constraint in the tradition of Oulipo, these hybrid works of prose are reconstructions that no longer resemble the original texts, yet draw from the same reservoir of vocabulary, conveying new images and ideas, while preserving some distant ember of the universe from which they were first generated.

Simone, reading four (of the forty-nine) ‘palaces’ collated in this edition; McNally Jackson Books (New York), 28/09/22.

Initially inspired by a photograph of one of Saddam Hussein’s demolished palaces printed on the cover of a newspaper Simone found discarded on a café table during the fall of Baghdad in 2003, Palace of Rubble has since evolved into an accumulation of texts invoked by a historical moment spanning the eras of Bush, Obama, Trump, and into the present day. Offering surreal glimpses of what might be identified as echoes of a post-Republic America, an imagined Middle East, and some other unnamed and unreachable world, it chronicles a vivid landscape of crumbling towers and heart-broken animals, eclipses, comets, and lovers in abandoned rooms, still searching for beauty amidst the ruins of the catastrophe bequeathed to them.


I was hooked by the very first sentence of Kyra Simone’s Palace of Rubble: “A breaking wave collapses on the bank before two half-naked women on white Arabian horses.” The sentence is so precise, down to the use of the erotic “collapses.” Plunged into this direct, clear, and mysterious arrangement of words, I was always left wondering what will happen next. Where will the next sentence take me?  I was never disappointed. Simone is able to maintain and shift that propulsive curiosity throughout the book. While dancing with us, each sentence is a journey. Each story is a multi-faceted gem—a “beguiling dream of eternal cinema.”

John Yau

Kyra Simone’s prose is a blowtorch of liberation.

Filip Marinovich


24/06    Temporary Palaces 
             ‘The Stranger’ (III/III)
              Resonance Extra

27/05    Temporary Palaces              
             ‘The Wild One’ (II/III)
              Resonance Extra

29/04    Kyra Simone & Lucy Ives
              Familiar Trees 
              Great Barrington, MA

29/04    Temporary Palaces             
             ‘Tarzan the Apeman’ (I/III)
              Resonance Extra

17/09     BOOG City Arts Festival
              Prospect Heights
              New York City, NY

28/09    Kyra Simone & Emmalea Russo
              (with Daniel Poppick)
              McNally Jackson, Seaport
              New York City, NY

29/11      Kyra Simone & Anna Moschovakis
              Stories Bookstore, Echo Park,
              Los Angeles, CA

 See here for
 a triad of works for the radio ... 


Kyra Simone is a troubadour of her generation. A real one. Commentators speak of the Millennials so glibly, but this book is a record of the inner landscape we’ve left for those called Millennials—and it is we, my generation, who’ve left it for them. Palace of Rubble
is a historical document. It’s what they see when they look out the window and what they see when they look in the mirror, at the same time, on the same page. Simone teaches us not to expect a destination or a helping hand. Her poetry is a precise description. She sees beauty everywhere, but that doesn’t make anything alright. She’s shown us what’s going on and makes us see it through a verbal force and enchantment that compels us to read further, with texts that wield the power to conjure a different but coherent universe, and in very few words. The closest I’ve seen to these “palaces” is Rimbaud, except Rimbaud never had a body and these are written from the body. There’s a strength here, the strength of an artist claiming her ground. No matter what. It’s the “no matter what” that is better than hope or promises. I find this work extraordinary.

Michael Ventura

Kyra Simone is a Tunisian-American writer from Los Angeles, now based in Brooklyn. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Conjunctions, The Brooklyn Rail, BOMB, Entropy, The Anthology of Best American Experimental Writing, and elsewhere. Simone is a member of the publishing collective Ugly Duckling Presse, and part of a two-woman team running the editorial office of Zone Books. 

John Divola works primarily with photography and digital imaging. While he has approached a broad range of subjects he is currently moving through the landscape looking for the oscillating edge between the abstract and the specific. Since 1975, Divola has taught photography and art at numerous institutions including California Institute of the Arts (1978-1988), and (since 1988) he has been a Professor of Art at the University of California, Riverside. Divola's work has been featured in more than seventy solo exhibitions in the United States, Japan, Europe, Mexico, and Australia, and in more than two hundred group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

See kyra-simone.com

See divola.net


‘Zuma #8,’
© John Divola, 1977
Mid-Left & Bottom,
© John Divola, 1974