SUCH a great reading yesterday from Franklin Bruno and Chris Nealon. Ten people in the audience. I guess it was poetry vs. sunshine, and the sunshine won. Get your priorities straight, people!
Our intros follow.
Franklin Bruno has done in half a lifetime what most of us will not achieve even if reincarnation turns out to be for real and we come back not as a butterfly or member of British parliament, but as ourselves. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he’s the country’s only philosophy professor slash singer-songwriter slash rock critic slash essayist slash poet. Certainly he’s the only one I can think of who wrote a catchy theme song for a live poetry talk show.
In addition to more than a dozen cassettes, LPs, EPs, and CDs, Franklin has published a really terrific book on Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces for Continuum Books’ 33-1/3 series as well as two poetry chapbooks: MF/MA and Policy Instrument, the latter of which was published by Gina Myers’ Lame House.
“Political philosophy,” Franklin wrote last September on his blog, Nervous Unto Thirst, “is the theory of how to balance competing interests”—a statement that one could just as easily make about poetry. For, like Franklin Bruno, poetry has largely been informed by the competing interests of philosophy and music.
In the liner notes to Franklin’s recent CD “Local Currency,” which collects solo material he’d recorded from 1992-98, he blames his quote “disinclination to distinguish between ‘pop’ and ‘experimental,’” unquote for what he characterizes as “releases no one could enjoy straight through.” Now, I’m about as qualified to speak about contemporary American pop music as Yosemite Sam is to opine on the pleasures of three-dimensionality, but I will say this: Franklin’s disinclination to distinguish between the philosophical and the musical has resulted in some of the most kick-assedly heady, poppy lyricism of recent memory:
I’ll have whatever
the signifier’s floating
on is you is
as causality does
or testing, testing
the i of the mic
like A/B-ing Late
Registration with Rigour
(bIG flame, Drag
’96) and shouting
into the lipstick
pickups by any
Please help me welcome the brilliant and mellifluous Franklin Bruno …
I’ve been thinking a lot (insofar as “thinking a lot” is even possible under such exquisite weather conditions) recently about crowdsourcing. Is everyone familiar with the term?
“Crowdsourcing is a neologistic compound of Crowd and Outsourcing for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an “open call” to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.”
On FB recently, Sawako Nakayasu crowdsourced a book. Others helped her to write it while she nursed her new baby, Marina. She provided the prompts. Some form of crowdsourcing, often tacit, has been a major part of artistic and poetic practice for at least a century. Most flarf writing, for example, is crowdsourced without consent, as is any poetry that does the police, and anyone else, in different voices. I mean, when you think about it, language itself is crowdsourced, isn’t it?
So, since the weather has been so beautiful recently, and I’ve got major spring fever, it’s been a little hard to concentrate, and I keep going outside to sit in the sun… with Chris Nealon’s poetry books in hand… they have made perfect reading on these unseasonably warm spring days… and I thought to myself, you know what, I’m going to at least partially crowdsource his introduction, thinking that, you know, how much nicer it is to have lots of people kvelling over you instead of just one. So I asked my facebook friends what they would like to say about the poetry of Chris Nealon, and here’s what they said:
Brian Ang said, “finds nature boring, gets its kicks in glitch and remix–to dance to”
Tony Dohr wrote, “chris nealon is cool & so is his poetry–you will have had been glad that you came to this reading in the future…”
Jeremy Czerw typed “Chris Nealon’s freedom is keeping me pretty”
James Eustace Beaupierre opined,
“Nealon creates an uncanny sense of time, somewhere & everywhere between augury and the post-catastrophic.”
“We don’t have to fall down on the scale of conformity or abject suffering. If Nealon is from the future, there is a very different history to exclaim.”
Joshua Clover stated, “Chris Nealon runs this town like Rihanna.”
K. Lorraine Graham confided,
“Well Chris Nealon’s person and self and poems are fabulous, which I know isn’t descriptive, but it’s true. I have happy memories of discussing debating all sorts of things with him in very useful ways. Thank goodness Chris was there to talk with me about Feminist guilt in contemporary a-g poetry when I was 24!”
Roxi Power Hamilton observes:
“In the perpetual war between the poetry of irony and that of sincerity, Chris’s poetry is like a love-sick boy turning Swiftean sonnets while channeling Wilde.
Chris’s poems are perfect little engines of wit–like nothing we’ve seen since the 18th c. Unless of course, Ashbery & O’Hara came back as a mash-up named Chris: “I do this (elliptical… See More irony); I do that (likable anomie).” Better not drink too much before this reading; you’ll need your thinking cap on to catch this sly boy’s moves.”
Elisa Gabbert said (on her blog, not on FB) of his book Plummet
“Reading Chris Nealon is like walking the city with an almost-friend whose passing comments are endlessly fascinating–a bit droll, a bit brilliant, a bit tragically hip. Each line is somewhere between a throwaway and a mini-essay that attempts to describe the state of affairs: the scene, the soundtrack, the feeling. It’s very zeitgeisty. I don’t know why he isn’t more famous.”
Tony Green, who lives in London, wrote,
so, just so you’re clear on the bio:
Chris Nealon is the author of two books of poems, The Joyous Age (Black Square Editions, 2004), and Plummet (Edge Books, 2009), as well as two books of literary criticism: Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall (2001), and The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in The American Century (forthcoming 2011).
So, just to add my two cents to the other 88 that others have contributed here, I just want to add that I adore Chris’ poetry. The turns and tones of the lines are just right. There’s no unnecessary binarization of the political and personal here: the self is social, and vice versa. By the same token, he embraces langue & parole in equal measure. He has an amazing ear for speech inflections and idioms, and his cadences are flawless. It is terrifically “located” writing: in person, in place, in things. There’s no better poetry for sitting and reading in the sun. So… on this beautiful equinox day, let us welcome the brilliance of Chris Nealon…..!