Saturday, November 13, 2004
back from Bee/Bernstein thing. the event was at MIT, which I understand is a famous college or something. it's not in a part of Cambridge that I know well. I got directions to the reading from whatever online map function. these directions invented at least 2 roads that could not be found. you have to admire the spirit of enterprise to do such a thing, but it made Beth and me cranky. of course we consulted passersby, who mostly hadn't heard of MIT. we arrived a bit late but luckily the event started fashionably late. we missed nothing. Susan Bee began by showing slides of some of her work and discussing it. I appreciated her low key sense of artist, at least as presented. she repeatedly spoke of her pleasure in weird images and garish colours. I think it gets down to that simplicity. that the larger statements that artists make about their work--transformative, disintegrative, whatever those words are--are secondary to teh pleasure of colour and sound and shape. even Barett Watten ha a core of monosyllabic responses. Bee's work, which tends toward assemblage and collage, is funny, pleasing, strange and amiably disturbing. I tried to take notes but that's a matter of choosing to hear everything or write down some. she showed collaboartions with Bernstein, Susan Howe, Johanna Drucker and, not yet published, Jerome Rothenberg. her work with Howe challenged her for she and Howe differed on how to do things. no disagreeably so, but Howe, working in a largely historical mode or reference, had a specificity that Bee didn't quite grok. understood but wasn't ruled by. which was an interesting point to consider. I enjoyed her work and its possibilities. I like narrative art, which hers is. she uses a grid to separate elements, much like a comic strip. Bernstein read a bit of his words in their collaborations, then we took a break. bathroom sequences were set in motion. 2 doors set side by side, that didn't look bathroomesque. only close up could one see the words men and women. if that is indicative of MIT thinking, the school may need a semiotic overhaul. Bernstein's set included slides of f his work with the artist Richard Tuttle, including a translations into 3-d of a Bernstein poem. he read several poems while sildes of Bee's works were displayed. this worked quite well. Bernstein sat in back (where the light was better), so we weren't distracted by him and could enter the visual/verbal experience more wholly. he read a considerable portion of the libretto from one of his operas, I think the one about Walter Benjamin. it was a good performance. he's exceptionally funny, which is never bad, but also professorial. it's a heady combo of qualities. his reading is well-rehearsed and articulated. a refrain in the libretto sounded like either made up words or foreign at the least. he enunciated carefully and rhythmically. I'll have to write more later, as I am sleepy, but I found myself wanting to do different work after seeing these two. it was a nice event. the audience was weighted young. why aren't more older people attending? this may have something to do with Boston's poetry scene. parochial attitudes abound here. the reading lasted 2 hours, which is generous. in 2 weeks David Shapiro and Peter Gizzi swing in. that should be a whizbang. if we can get there, we will. I'll try to write better tomorrow.
making a concerted effort to see Susan Bee/Charles Bernstein tonight as part of Tim Peterson's Analogous Series. I saw Bernstein read a couple years ago. the main thing he read was a piece that explained why it wasn't a poem. he's an entertaining reader. I don't require entertainment, I'm just describing what I saw. I actually rather dislike Edwin Torres for his entertainment quality. his poetry isn't particularly memorable (not for me, at least), yet he's got all this charismatic power pushing it across. too slick. my world view has no place for slick, sorry. Bernstein read comfortably when I saw him, and it happened to be a funny piece.
this slice pretty much defines my working sense of poetry. I have contended always with poetry. that sounds like one of those statements to give interviewers, fine sounding but kind of full of emptiness. I think poetry should be at least as i9nteresting as Sir Denis Nayland-Smith tracking Dr Fu Manchu to the evil doctor's latest hide out, typically in a dank basement near the Thames. some readers are problem solvers, some read comprehensively. I am neither type of reader, and my writing resumes from that. I don't like noticing cunning, I don't like noticing the working. I believe this is a matter of taste, not a weakness on my part, nor an indictment against those who read that way. I write hopefully, that 'something' will show up. I read that way too. my interest in philosophy seems to be that the Philosophic Quest is so impractical and impossible that the words are found to be cut loose from 'normal' meaning, or maybe any meaning at all. so I read hopefully, to find the island of sense. and poetry is like that. confounding yet inviting. who said, he wants to say something, but is saying it anyhow? that phrase attaches in my mind to either Creeley or Williams. I like it for it underscores poetry's survival despite our attempts to make it. think of super-conscious writers like Ginsberg and Whitman, whose best poetry derives from when they are least clear on their intentions.
Friday, November 12, 2004
yesterday we again taught painting at an adult daycare. 2 of the 4 participants were regulars. the other 2 were Russians, recently arrived or what, and their interpreter. the activities director goofed and scheduled us on Veterans Day, when a celebration was planned. we'd've gotten more participants otherwise. I dunno what up with the Russians. the interpreter led the Russians, holding their hands to assist the strokes. I was reluctant to interfere with this because of the confusion with language but that's not what Beth or I want to do, lead people like that. our 2 regulars were Judy, who is motivated and prolific, and Julia, who can't get started but is tremendously enthusiastic. both were encouraging to the Russians. I did a lollipop tree and that inspired the woman, Galina, to do some lollipop trees, and a forest scene. the scene included Russian mushrooms, the interpreter explained to me. Beth did lollipop trees herself, really lollipops in a nifty design. Jakov did a scene with himself, including his cane, his house, his daughter, his daughter's car, and the interpreter. Galina did a 2nd that was a lake in Russia. I asked where the Russians came from. the interpreter said Russia. what part of Russia? yes, Russia. the cold part? yes, Russia. are the winters long? Jakov said hah! winter! then muttered something that the interpreter translated as winters are 6 months long. the interpreter guided Julia, and frankly that was good. Julia's so self-deprecating. it's sad, because it is because of loss of function. her memory is slipping, and the realization hurts. I haven't met her husband but know that he has been busily supportive of her painting, getting her supplies and framing her work and such. she showed me something she was working on at home, a sketch of a vase and flowers which she was carefully adding colour to. quite nice, and I wanted Beth to see. but when Beth was free to look, the painting was gone. Julia had no idea where it went. Jakov worked busily, then when he was done, he sat back and read a Russian newspaper. Galina reached a surfeit of painting and politely excused herself. Judy only did 2 paintings then joined the Veterans Day festivities. those festivities began with Sousa music. I heard some of the men explain where they served during WW2. Beth heard a guy give a speech about blowing the Iraqis to hell. a man who hasn't been in our class told me about the art he's done, proud in a fascinated way. he wanted us to see something he'd just finished and given to one of the helpers there. turns out he gave it to another helper, who had already left. a number of people said goodbye when we left. my father gets a van ride to and from the center (not the same one) when he goes. I doubt my father is particularly social on the ride (he used to be gregarious) but a woman who sounds like Marge Simpson's mother typically bellows as my father makes his way from the van, nice and easy Otis, take your time. the day before I did a little painting with 2 girls at the homeschool cooperative. Beth had arranged to tutor the girls in watercolour but was busy wednesday so I sat with the girls and we messed around. they are sisters, 7 and 6. they'd been in our collage class last spring. bright kids. the older one earned summa cum laude in national Latin tests. their parents are a bit in overdrive (and surprise, the father recently suffered a massive heart attack) so the girls are really pressed to do work. they take piano lessons, step dancing lessons, latin, german. Beth has been adamant to instill in them that painting at least is just for fun. we used some fake fruit as subjects. once I'd messed up my attempt I started doodling with colours. this fascinated the younger girl, and she proceeded to experiment a-plenty, including dunking the painted paper in water. I really like teaching if this sort of thing is teaching. this cooperative we're part of is becoming a formal school. those Russians didn't need someone pushing their hands, and homeschoolers don't need that thrust to success.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Beth and I spent some money at Barnes and Noble yestreen. I don't even look at poetry there. I've got the kind f classics they are loaded with, and am not interested in the popular contemporary stuff offered. I'll bet the last poetry book I got there was Melvin Tolson. Beth likes to look at everything. I don't want to be distracted by biographies and history, which I'll read from the library. the funny thing, then, is that the only section I really look at is philosophy. how did that occur? I've been looking to read Peirce and Husserl but neither of them were available at B&N. I almost got Aristotle's Politics, but that wasn't special enough: I could fetch it online. or I could read the Metaphysics, which I own. I was pleased to see Baudrillard, who I've never read. both Beth and I got interested, so we got a couple of his works, and that's what I'm reading. I also got Locke's Essay on Human Understanding (B&N offers a cheap edition of their own). I plan just to read and sleep for the week we are at Beth's mother's for Thanksgiving.philosophy is so WEIRD. bigod, I don't get it hardly, and would never argue it with anyone. it is language in a funny place, self-referential yet floating off somewhere. that's poetry, so far as my poor machine can make it. I'm a shallow person, as my millions of fans realize, so philosophy is by no means arcana that I swim in while explaining god to my toes. philosophy is words sripped of lots of the in the way stuff, so that other barriers can form. what??? Tim Peterson asaked about people's guilty reading pleasures. I read (not recently actually) Fu Manchu novels and don't feel guilty. what the hell, they are loaded with wound up energy. racist, yes, and that's the tinge of guilt. but I don't feel guilty at the spectacle, plus remembering Berrigan's reading voracity, which I admire. really, my guilty pleasure would be philosophy, for its pretense of serious explication.
anotehr Lanny Quarles visual. it doesn't fit my computer screen, alas, but I like the Jones Very severe old dude to the right, the smeary area to the left and the whole as it lives. I recollect a cartoon in which a plump matron of the arts declares to a starving artist: I wish I had time to dabble in the arts. I wish I was working more visually, it grides my heart that I don't, and yet Lanny does, while producing lots of writing as well. don't even bring up Jim Leftwich, who overflows. I'm not serious enough.
couple things at Bemsha Swing. the Shapiro poem he mentions, "On Learning that your Favorite Poet is a Homosexual", sounds like a parody. there's a whole "On Blah Blah Blah" genre of poems, creakily going way back, and in fact intentionally hearkening so, and this poem would be the 'modern' entry. not that it is parodic, I'm sure, and I'm not ignoring the cruelty inherent. such a poem nowadays would be tantamount to someone like Ron Silliman saying some female poet's photo is flat out sexy, or something just as unlikely. I know zero about KS, maybe negative zero for I'm pretty sure I don't like him, but I haven't read him. I hardly read any of that crowd. my initial immersion in poetry was almost immediately into post-modern, just the way it happened. while I had culture shock with the PMs, whenever I read those Oscar William sor Louis Untermeyer anthology entries from the 40s and 50s, I wondered why they bothered writing their poems, and why anyone took notice. I don't know if Berryman is read much outside of Grand Fenwick but declare he ought to be. I don't especially enjoy him but do get off on his cage rattling. he's got style. Lowell's just too dusty for me, fretted over extrusions. tho hey, Grenier studied with Lowell, of all the. I've mentioned it before, going over Lowell's "Skunk Island" in class with Grenier, syllable by syllable as if it were a Zukofsky poem. we weren't reading it as Lowell's poem, but Grenier's translation of it, I guess. that whole area of poetry, tho, that whole crew, just never reached me, nor could I reach it. I guess I'm just riffing here.
I like this image at Lanny's, spread across my eyes, but if you need utility, use it to explain the current political situation in the USA. we're all in there: isn't that neat? but I don't mean to make crass use of Lanny's work. I see in his image the little boundaries committing to a larger response system, a mapping.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
I don't think the maps are helping the situation but here's mine (my perfect description will supply you with the entire picture: season of trees almost after the grey but ending into the sedge of river, you were there. temperate daze and until the water goes down, yet over there parched as month of useful something. under the impression that all is lost, it seems like any other day. more so the branches floating past, and more so people meet a number. while settled that poetry sinks, we get onto the merest boat, understandable if effortless. you wren't listening, I wasn't listening, the river hit the sea. patience doesn't answer anything in the end, but at the beginning.
recent colourful mapology, of which the Poetics list is certainly full, seems to avoid the sense of class struggle obtaining in the discussion of recent events. I've looked at the Poetics list as the 1st place where class discussions can go on between consenting intellectuals. yet here we have a class issue roaring, and people are a avoiding the implications. gosh darn! I think an awful lot of emotion is replacing intellect right now. I've seen this site linked to several times (thus it is my turn to do so). I almost like it for its expletives, but the rant is too much like the real thing, or maybe it really is the real thing. I'm suspicious of sure people. taking each other's moral pulse is a way to shit up the discussion. I believe it is true, as buddhists have it, that everyone wants to be happy, doesn't want to feel pain. often, the differences we notice are not moral ones, but practical ones: how to deal with the problems. I mean, personally, I don't know how to win a war, don't know how to avoid one, don't know how to run a government. I've got theories, I suppsoe, but no surety. maintaining my integrity in my own little life is hard enough. that integrity has little to do with the map or the colours on it. I believe in compassion. I believe in understanding. I don't believe that tolerance is something one can expect without offering it as well. Fuck the North too, let's look at the ball as a whole.
I'm enjoying Stephen Vincent's Sappho translations, or transgressions. I am interested in how the original's structure (or ghosts thereof) remains in these, in Stephen's Zukofsky translations, and in my mess up with Rilke. I am inspired to tangent. the English song "Greensleeves" is much recognizble. I find it funny that the lovely melody has a grand range of lyrics. aside from Vaugh Williams' Fantasia (I love Williams), there's the courtly love song (alas my love you do me wrong) and the Xmas song (What Child Is This). one version celebrates New Year's Day with, as I recall, pre-Christian overtones. one version, by Odetta, concerns a camp follower. there's even a scatological version that I think Robert Burns collected. memories of the Classic Anthology flavour these poems that translate something otehr than word for word 'meaning'. by the way, I enjoy the running threads of Stephen's blog. reminds me of Duncan's twinings. well, you get the same on my blog: Faville jokes, um, reworked African spam proposals, and I'm sure other stuff tho nothign coems to mind...
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
tv's way ahead of David Hess's suggestion. Paris and Nicole already sent to the hinters to see hicks 1st hand, and, what I saw last night, switching moms, in which an angry rich mom trades places with an angry poor mom, with all the merriment you can imagine. angry dad, angry kids, angry class structure, hahaha. well, watch out for me, I'm from a hi-IQ state, a blue state. if I ever tell it like it is, it'll have to hurt.
Monday, November 08, 2004
beyond that, I'm looking at Jukka's most recent blog, Terminate and Stay Resident (which see), as and implosion and filtering. all these daily words (and concepts) seem to be sent in, arrive, from the various everywheres that surround us, and create contexts and anti-contexts. feeling that way myself. it's quite nice.
I don't think my signposts mean anything but new x-stream publications now online. Jukka has yet another blog that I just discovered with the nifty title terminate and stay resident. that and Minor American are my 2 favourite blog names. there will be a quiz later on my blog name preferences, so try to remember what I told you.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
what a rhetorical fudge factor to consider in view of recent added up into spare parts and now this. chubby language drills want a little cubby hole inquest, fussing surely on the track. ordinary people talkiing onto the shelf again. it is the absolute last of everything again.