Saturday, October 13, 2007

I've been pokily reading the wild piece by Ted Berrigan and Harris Schiff, a transcription of the 2 of them at a Yankees/Red Sox game, 1977. it's a hilarious performance, tho gruesome to think of these guys hyped on pills, which they pop thru out the game. I like it as a historical document, with names like Reggie Jackson, Yaz, Bernie Carbo, Billy Martin. I also have a similar piece done by Bernadette Mayer and Anne Waldman, a basketball game. in each, that New Yorkish sense of now, that must be transcribed. of course there is nothing more self-conscious than such performances, just like reality tv, so they must be read in that light. the drug use brings to mind some issues. we know the physical harm of that, but that's outside my concern. disordering the senses: there is a truth to that, I mean a functional one. one may discover, however, that that disordering becomes an attempt to repeat earlier experiences. that is, I think the trick works only for a while. at least, I think one should be wary of a mechanical method, in any sense, in the creation of work. there have been several times in my life when the very last thing I would do before sleep was to write. the idea being that my defenses might be down. one can seek out distractions, whether it be drugs or alcohol, or writing in busy circs, like on a bus. et cetera. whatever one does, one needs enough self-awareness to acknowledge the workings of the methodology. if you use writing procedures, you have to observe if they become rote. Whitman so often pronounced grandly, but sometimes it was just imitation of earlier work. when people rail against NY poetry or LANGUAGE, they probably (when the critic is being fair) detect a rote quality, that the writer isn't being surprised by the work. the Berrigan/Schiff thing consists of them in babbling improv, boozy shenanigans. The Sonnets sticks out in Berrigan's work, his only extended use of cut ups (so far as I know). I know he lifts from here and transposes there elsewhere, but only in The Sonnets did he take that as the route itself. which is a wisdom. the life and liveliness of his work depends, I think, on his own sense of surprise. Jonathan Mayhew speaks of "O'Hara's negotations [sic] between gregariousness and introspection", a nifty encapsulation. it's that negotiation (sic does not mean 'wake up, stupid', no matter how full of oneself the user of the term may feel) that keeps the poetry (and the poet) interested. O'Hara caught between sharing and self-revelation. which is where the low wattage NY stuff trails off, where the imbalance between gregariousness and introspection produces a stiff, self-conscious construct of 'ideas'. so, in sum, let's get rid of crappy NY School poetry, tip our hats to those who lift the surprise, and let's move on.
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