Saturday, May 13, 2006

Death by Flarf

... oh not really, just opening grandly. I got Mainstream by Michael Magee (BlazeVOX 2006), so I must regale the 1st impression. so okay, that's James Dean getting oiled on the front cover. I've only just begun the ride with the book, but want to note the starting point. I like jumping in like this, yipping about what I see, right from the beginning. Magee supplies a useful afterword, a divagation on and about flarf. it sometimes seems as if artists should hear the Miranda Act before they bespeak their work. there's all this, oh but Gary said this, Kasey said this resistanceinstead of criticism of THE THING ITSELF. I speak generally; flarf is just a recent group that must bear up to this lazy ass critcism. I take writers' pronouncements on their work not as definitive, but as processual steps. any interesting artist is just guessing as to how to get along. artist statements are often useful and illuminating but really, read the poems then say something. Magee is thoughtful about his work and what it 'means' in that vaunted larger sense. he's not saving baby harp seals but neither is he poking holes in the ozone layer. he's writing, one piece at a time. I don't even really want to talk about flarf qua flarf, nor do I want to place an equal sign between Sullivan and Mohammad, Gardner and Degentesh, or whoever and the other one. what I know of Magee's work from reading it is a rupturing hilarity, 1st of all. that comedic spot on the flarf oeuvre is one of its easiest markings. a disjuptive interjection comes thru often, I see, in Magee's work. I just wrote disjuptive, that's portmanteau-speak for disjunctive and disruptive. what I would say is common among the flarf writers that I've witnessed: the voices, or tonal shift. it's not just a matter of disparate sources. it's just lame to worry that part overmuch. why so? because we all shift tone all the time. those sources are in our ear. we speak ironically, sarcastically, imitatively all the time. it's no biggie to write that way. disparate tones also appear in flarf. you've caught You Tube examples, right? kinda theatrical in the sense of shifting vocal appeal. do listen to flarf poets before handing them your cruel walking papers. I'm finding with Mainstream that I had ought to read aloud. reading to myself I convert the tones to one tone, a devilish flattening. this is not just a flarfian problem, but I entreat you to be wary particularly with flarf production because it works with the protean. and I will add that you might want to avoid the critical warfare concerning flarf because that's proving to be sleight of hand. screw the categories, read the poems.

Friday, May 12, 2006

another painting class at the adult daycare. usually we've had 4-8 people in the class, this time at least 15. it was a very energetic time. perhaps 1/3 are really anxious to paint, another third is mildly interested (or bored with other activities) and the rest are pretty much pushed to join us. man, you just want to see them get interested. my father reached a point where he was interested in very little, or couldn't sustain interest. getting stuff from the supply room, I found a man sitting there alone. sometimes people choose to go in there to work on arts and crafts by themselves but he was just sitting there. a tape of The Honeymooners was put on in the big room, so I engaged himn a little about that, memories of watching the show on saturday nights when I was very little. he brightened up, agreed, but didn't go into the other room. two women have been in all our clases. they used to be close, but one is growing generally distant and depressed. the other is a lively woman, very enthusiastic and supportive. she used to have a lot of trouble starting anything, would feel incapable of doing anything. she now starts in pretty quickly. her husband has goten her paints, and frames her work. obviously he realizes the value of the engagement. the other regular has grown distant, as I've said. still taken by painting, at which she's quite adept. she did a gloomy black smudge for her 1st painting, then several nice flower pictures. then she starts worrying about going home. an incredibly gleeful woman with Down's syndrome had a ball painting. she did a couple of scenes with house and dog and trees, her own world. she's deaf, and hard to understand but it was lovely to see her so happy and involved. at the same table was a crabby woman who had nothing nice to say about anyone. she thought she'd seen me around town, and seemed disparaging when I said I lived up north. also at that table was a depressed woman who couldn't get into gear. she showed me her ring, which she said was her mother's. then she said that her mother died last night, and so did her father. which I doubt, but the deaths clearly were close by. the other one at that table did an absolutely lovely scene of a tree. the tree was black with green foliage, the sky blue, the ground green. she had the good taste to leave a white horizontal band: she didn't overpaint it. I would frame the picture, it had that much presence, the sensation of somewhere that she knew. one other woman painted an apple tree with fruit on the ground, then what at 1st seemed a separate picture, a garden of what I took to be tulips. I thought she had a diptich going, but she brought the two images together with a green field. she said she woke with that image. previously she did a picture of 2 people on a bench looking out at a lake and beyond that a mountain. she dreamed that image. others were less successful. I tell them to choose the colour they like best. and they do, but need to be pushed, and even so will give up. one fellow, a regular, routinely and happily does horizonal lines. this time he did black swirling lines and then he did boxes and other shapes. another man does these small designs with dots, fastidious. he continually says he doesn't know what to do but he keeps at it. others didn't engage a whole lot. one woman was doubtful of her ability but willing to try. a sudden sea change, tho, and she not only struggled to put paint on paper, she announced that it was all bullshit. as we were leaving I found her rummaging the closet for her coat. which, she said, had been stolen. I told a person that the woman needed her coat. the person replied, no she doesn't, it's not time to go. but the woman was anxious and distressed and wanted to go home. I saw that enough with my father, which was especially bad since he was home, and where he wanted to go was 60 years ago. I took up painting 4 years ago what image to I do most? trees. a lot of these people do trees. something to connect with. even the crabby woman, and other distraught ones, thank us when we leave.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

thanks to Eileen Tabios for taking my critique of critique seriously. I sound a bit as if I want to remove aesthetics from the enjoyment of poetry, but I'm not so foolish as to make such a claim (not yet at least, but there's always tomorrow). Joan Houlihan, for instance, strikes me as mischief in the critical world because her criticisms are just exercises in ascerbic style. The game's rigged, she's looking to make merrie on those swarthy betes noires that she has discovered in the park where she plays with poetry. That sort of criticism is absolutely discountable, it can only be judged by jab count. Win the battle, lose the war. Perhaps I overvalue my enthusiasm, but I'd rather jump up and down about recent books by Spahr and Fitterman than bitch about those that snuff the candle. My stance has something to do with the feeling that as a critic, I'm a pancake short of a picnic. I don't aim for comprehensiveness in my reading, I just want to pop a wheelie. I can't save poetry, but I can share my pleasures in it. That seems like the best pro bono I can manage.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

negative criticism doesn't work except to define boundaries, limits, points of challenge. failed challenge, that is, in which the critic admits that he/she can't cross the bridge. and negative as in leaning on the perceived awry. you don't define by the negative, right? it says more of the critic than the work, showing how far the critic's light goes (or doesn't). the arts can't be protected, in the sense that bad art will be made however one might howl. the legislature can't touch that one. the only answer is the work itself. WCW speaks of his dismay when he saw that Eliot was being taken seriously. WCW thought Eliot's work was antipodal to his own. and there's something there, but no legislation exists to call forth here. one can promote the validity of a certain work but pointing out the invalidity just bespeaks a boat you may've missed. people I respect like Eliot but I can't take the trip. nothing righteous there, tho it is always made so. and the negative reactions often consist of personality conflict, low grade duality crap. those negative reactions often partake of a momentum to continue in the ascerbic vein, so that it ends up a masquerade. totally nominal critque, and goodbye.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mark Scroggins ruminates on his study of Zukofsky. I don't have strong scholarship muscles, tend to wander rather than focus (which I think is valid as well), but I do have an Olson shelf which has been much confronted. that sense of familiarity with a writer is a pleasure. I've been dipping into Berrigan right along since I got his collected. with TB, I'm not even at the pretend level of scholarship that I have with Olson. I'm taken with his variety, and his ability to push an idea somewhere. TB inspires me, which sounds flabby, but I only mean that his excitement to produce poetry is contagious. and you do feel the intensity of necessity, of life in the poetic realm. in depth study is a taste of that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

the Demolicious poetry series has Peter Ganick on tap today in Cambridge. we can't attend but we enjoyed our previous experience. the crowd's interested, knowledgeable and varied, what more to ask? I saw Peter read 3 years ago at the Bowery Club, part of the release reading for Faux Press. Faux released cds by Peter, Wanda Phipps and Edwin Torres and all 3 read. a reading of unusual dynamics. Wanda, on 1st, had her band with her. Peter read next, in a dry, understated way. Edwin finished with a theatrical, lively presentation. it was like the Red Sox's pitching staff, a knuckleballer between 2 flamethrowers. it worked quite well. next month Jack Kimball and Christina Strong will read.