Saturday, April 14, 2007

in describing the reading last night, I didn't mean to shortchange the readers. I felt like I should wear a smoking jacket and drink brandy from a snifter in that room. except for some sonic interference by vacuum cleaners, tho, the room was a good place to hear poetry read; acoustics were good. it is rather depressing how little of British, as well as Canadian, poetry that I know. maybe I didn't make it clear that the Chicago Review presented British poetry as a special focus, hence this reading. included in the journal was a diagram of the various groups that make up British poetry, according to Andrew Duncan. the poets themselves lambasted this preposterous sorting of names into "logical" aesthetic groupings. various logics, like the Cambridge School (being, I assume, poets associated with that institution), neo-objectivist, feminist. it's all pretty loopy and way too simplified. where would you situate a neo-objectivist feminist from Cambridge, and what have you got when you do? the 3 poets who read were diverse enough aesthetically. I would say all three are literary in approach, if that means anything. I think I mean a reliance on literary context, which may be a way of saying that they all three have read widely and include that reading at some level, consciously even, in their work. and I think that means an injection of formal scholarship in their education. thus the dense discussion that arose after the reading. the venue provided a weird quality to the event. the poets agitating language into new vibrations seemed at odds with the sanctified sprawling comfort of that fortress of fast learning.
bravely broached the environs of Harvard Yard, specifically just outside those defensible walls, for a reading by Keston Sutherland, Andrea Brady and Peter Manson. met friend Michael outside. inside, we met tone. the room was rawther spectacular. by rough estimate the ceilings were 907' high, daringly broaching the empyrean where crimson is forever. the walls were wood-paneled with carvings and omigawd. not forgetting mongo paintings of Teddy Roosevelt, a couple of former deans and a woman depicted with a book open on her lap and her hands flat on the pages that I have officially assumed without benefit of justification is Helen Keller. scattered about this room were comfy chairs and sofas. the lectern stood in front of a 7' tall fireplace, you could get a goodly number of witches into that thing. and there was off to a side a spread of beer, wine, cheese and brownies. gee, I want to go to more poetry readings, they're great. oh that reminds me, there were poets at the reading. the occasion was the latest issue of the Chicago Review, which featured the 3 poets along with another one who didn't make the trip. the 3 poets plus the 2 editors (Sam Ladkin and Robin Purves) of CR were at the 6th and last leg of their whirled tour. Ladkin, I think, led off with some introductory remarks then Manson stood up to read a lengthy poem by the missing Brit. rather than avail himself of the lectern he stood in front of it and paced back and forth as he read. he read in a punchy, wound up manner. I'll admit that I had a little trouble with his Glaswegian accent but at least he allowed me the chance to use the word Glaswegian. I'm hoping Glaswegian means of Glasgow. next was Keston Sutherland. he read a 12 page piece from the CR in its entirety, a 30 minute tour-de-force. I scribbled some notes but am not consulting them right now. the piece consisted of 3 parts, a rollicking poem, a story of sorts and a play. it was cunningly disjunctive, especially the first part. all 3 readers were uncommonly practiced. Sutherland sped up and slowed down according to the score. many threads twisted together. I think it would have been best had I read it beforehand, or read along with him. the writing situates in popular culture, specifically our friend Fox News. there were, he announced beforehand, 2 love stories, one being a former lover and the other an imagined relationship with someone he chose (he didn't specify how) randomly, an Arthur Cheng from somewhere in China. I think you could say he inhabited Cheng, or some weird possibility. Sutherland is highly literate, which I think is synonymous with British. well wait a sec, he went to Harvard, 10 years agone. early on he said he has a recurring dream of walking around Harvard lost but unspeakably happy. he never looked at the audience but either kept his eyes on the text or looked at the walls above us. kind of an eccentric prof. he is a prof but I won't assume how eccentric. after he finished we were again given visitation rights to the spread, which included an array of books published by Bark Books. I forget which of the readers are involved with that press, Sutherland and Brady I think. next was Andrea Brady, preceded by the other editor's remarks. I have an old chap by her but I don't know her work well. I had the idea that she was British but in fact she was born in Philadelphia and attended Columbia, but then she went all limey and now teaches over there, maybe at Cambridge (the other one). she read less dramatically. I might describe Sutherland's work as high-toned literary antics. humourous and thoughtfully disjointed. in terms of dynamics, Brady provided a quieter beat. I found her work less pressed than Sutherland's, and the better for it. as I say, I needed to read Sutherland's to get the best of it. Brady's last piece centered on the events of Abu Ghraib. from all 3 poets you get some sense of being stuck with this shit that the US has left with the world. not to say the British government hasn't its hand in the pot, but the smelly winds bring the US to mind. Ivy-league bedtime is a bit early, I wot, because during her reading and Manson's, the sounds of industrial vacuum cleaners (or I should say, hoovers, pip pip) rang against the wood paneling, plush carpeting and, I'm sure, alabaster what not of the Barker Building. I didn't mention the audience, which consisted largely of grad students and people with British accents. Daniel Bouchard and Michael Carr were there, and about 25 others. and I should mench the fellow who entered noisily, carrying a bag. his pants seemed to have pictures on them. he lasted 5 or 10 minutes then noisily left. he was there long enough, that is, to enter my report. Manson finished the reading with more tightly wound snappy short pieces. he never looked up as he paced. Brady, I neglected to say, addressed the audience. I'm sure I missed felicities because of his accent, but I liked his intensity and rhythm. all 3 had humour in their work, which probably didn't play as well to American ears. Sutherland did get a guffaw with a line about someone who would wear black lipstick to a Joan Retallack reading. can't get enough Retallack jokes. after Manson there was some discussion. everyone spoke in paragraphs. these essays were a little hard to listen to, I'd rather read that sort of text blockade. which is not to say the discussion wasn't interesting, albeit, grad-studenty, just that it wasn't readily graspable in the context. the 9' sentences aren't made for my ears. an exodus toward a nearby bar ensued. even 30 somethings had to show legal IDs. sans such, Keston had to talk a good deal to convince the guard that he was born in 76. for some reason, I didn't need to prove I was born in 52. Michael and I got to talking with someone in the audience. he came with his sister because he went to high school with Brady. not a full time poetry aficionado but he was very enthusiastic and fun to talk to, and supportive enough to buy a bunch of books. we ended up standing in a crowd near the bar, awaiting a table. by the time we finally got our Guinness a table freed up. Michael and I had a full 5 minutes before public transportation's inviolable schedule sent us on our way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

a meme, a meme, a meme! and have you noticed that the observation of memes is itself a meme? anyway, a largely flarfist faction has been ordering Mike around. I love it. I think I've slipped the meme a bit but here anyway is some. I will keep going.

Mike, exercise the immediate onion.
Stop with the piano flap, Mike.
with your jelly simplified, be prepared, Mike, for more notebook clanking.
Don't be so sure of ontology when you're relaxed out of eggs, Mike.
Stick with the ham chore rhubarb step dance, Mike, if you can.
Mike, define kite with wax.
Mike, I really mean don't ever define kite with wax.
Mike, stress copter from along the river dumpster means damage bandy.
Mike, you should squawk curtains with those rich debs.

This prudish truck needs more wiring, Mike.
You take the table from the wrench and turn those little leftist green Hapsburgs, Mike.
Mike, you place the top slog on the lower embouchure, then flick the stew.
Mike, those almonds go in the nettle gust with the phone bank women.
Stuff sediment, Mike, in the tail gunner loam.

Place made acrimony under your seed pond with doofus, Mike.
Stop freaking bonkers next to marginal membrane players, Mike.
Mike, let go of that austere clutter in your nose hair favourite.
Ladle ink past the dojo, Mike, the squeamish need westerly.
Lick some bastion fluff in the meantime, Mike.
Make up your mime, Mike, those planets are charged.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

a lovely web art piece by Joel Weishaus. largely textual but compelling visually. I like the fonts he uses, the use of graphics, and how hovering the cursor over certain words and phrases reveals more. this goes to the discussion of translating online work to print. a piece like this definitively utilizes the capabilities and possibilities of the net, despite its textual nature. reminds me that a poem isn't so easily defined, and that the limits we place are the limits we suffer. I'm not sure how they relate but Jack Kimball's divagations on Robert Kelley and blogging and such (here and here )come to my mind. something about unfreezing oneself artistically, something about confronting limits. Jack's unfinished in his thoughts, so I'm allowed likewise.
Bootstrap Productions is publishing a journal written by John Wieners. Michael Carr is editor of it. He had a copy of it, which he gave to Alan Davies after the reading. I didn't get to look at it or talk to him about it, but it sounds like an event. check out the poem 2007.

Monday, April 09, 2007

for some reason, I am on the Poetics list, so have been witnessing the bubbling conversation concerning the publication and immediate cancellation of the book derived from the Here Comes Everybody blog of Lance Phillips. I don't know if I would've opined on the matter except that Eileen Tabios thoughtfully does so. her compelling issue concerns the translation of an online publication into print. (it can go the other way, the online version of Grenier's Sentences (link to the right) being an example). personally I lost interest in the HCE blog after a while. the answers (to the same questions) began to blur. still, I thought of it as a resource, to consult when a poet's work or just name came along. one thing the print version obviously could not supply is links. and speaking practically, if the print version was to retain the photos used on the blog, I don't know if it did or not, the book would be more expensive. so I have my doubts about the success of the project. maybe, as Eileen suggests, there is some contextualization in the print version, but the interviews simply lack the meat that Tom Beckett's Exchangevalue interviews have, and Tom has added context, in the form of poems by the interviewees. my point isn't to dump on HCE; I am, like Eileen, interested in the translation from one medium to another. part of that translation is how to make the book happen in an economically viable way. the idea of a suit sounds ludicrous, but I have no idea what sort of communication went on between the disgruntled poets and the editors. lesson one should be that nothing good can ever happen in not getting permissions. the internet fosters a feeling of open source. for me, I kinda feel that if I put it online, it is open game: I recognize that boundaries online are viscous. I don't advocate or even condone the swiping but see it as ingrained. so a lack of editorial due diligence, matched with a rather excessive protection of rights by the disgruntled, combines to make an online brouhaha. boy, those are rare.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

, originally uploaded by allen_bramhall.

the last 2 nights we watched Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Erin having procured a set of 4 from the library. I love the show. the 2 main robots are wonderful, the way they exist as characters. I must say, tho, sometimes I would like to see the movies without the overlay. they seem so enticing in how they envision a world like our own, only twisted into a pathology. the way 'bad' movies can exist in their ineptitude is a very compelling artistic argument. one movie was a rip off of the Beach Blanket movies, with Tommy Kirk as Frankie Avalon, and no one really specified as Annette. the movie was called Catalina Caper. I assume it was made because someone had a place on Catalina and wanted to write it off, so why not make a movie. it's a recipe movie, with an involved plot, 'comic relief', bikinis and youth music all in roughly correct amounts. the titular caper is half-baked, okay, and the sub-plot half-hearted. Little Richard appears, singing one song, which being an imitation Little Richard song that himself co-wrote. part of the patchwork process included him vocalizing his trademark woo-oo, he hadn't forgotten that element in the 10 minutes it took him to write the song. however modest his effort, his appearance betokened a possibility, somewhere, of directed energy and purpose. the movie's view of teen mating rituals (granted, all the teens in the movie were at least 25) may give you a sense of the 60s. the dance sequences, of which there were many, came across as lustreless Bollywood. that lck of lustre was so monumental as to be beguiling in its misconception. how does one distort the life energy into such cosmic stasis, I ask you? the jungle rhythms of the Twist, the Swim and the Frug, or whatever the hell, are rather delicate perceptions. as the MST folks noted, it was as white a movie as could be imagined. the other movie we saw was called Creeping Terror. it enjoyed a bit more budget than Plan 9 from Outer Space but much less verve. a spaceship crashed on earth and a creature crawls out to terrorize the countryside. the monster resembled one of those Chinese dragons that dance around in parades. except extremely abstract in design, a gallimaufry of spare bits of stuff. thru out the movie the thing would creep along and attack people. everyone freezes in place, screams and awaits the inevitable trip into the maw. as noted by out MST heroes, the actors actually crawl into the mouth of the monster, being as the monster, as equipped, couldn't make that happen. that enervation is a disturbing denial of basic instincts but that's the reality of this movie. it's a shabbily practiced movie, but in that shabbiness resides a world. replace monster with Republican administration, or racism, or global warming, or you name it, and it makes more sense. it's another movie in which the jungle rhythms of the Twist threaten almost to impose energy in the flaccidity of the Real World. the movie ends with some malarkey about the alien race (that sent the monsters) someday coming to say hi. both of these movies are mildly crazy, only vaguely bear the illusion of realism, yet I would take that craziness over the clear-headed value of the usual Oscar winner.