I haven’t had really a day or a minute free, Ululations I know is languishing, and that troubles me, because I notice that if I don’t document what’s going on, no one does, really. Does no one else have the same relentless urge to report as I do? Is no one else afraid that fleetingness and contingency will swallow all of our brave cultural explorations, that it all will just slither down the U-pipe of rushing time? Ah well. Talking last night with dear old friend Andrea Hollowell,
photo by Ben Friedlander, in 1991, with Andrew Levy
who despite living in the center of Manhattan has more or less opted not to participate in the literary world, caught up in raising her two extraordinary daughters, so I don’t see her very often… but we talked about this drive towards intersubjectivity, how compelling it is, in art and language and love. She put forth the idea that mathematics is intersubjective, too, because it’s a language, but I said, no, I don’t think so, I think it’s trans-subjective… it looks for proofs and universals. Intersubjectivity came up as a topic because I was telling Andrea about an amazing two-hour interview Liz Knauer did with me on the motivations behind my pedagogy… two hours, so can hardly summarize, but it went something along the lines of “Human beings are capable of extraordinary ecstasies, but so many of the routes towards those ecstasies are destructive, to self or body or society: language, thought, culture, and interaction are the most, if not benign (at all..thank goddesses), potentially constructive rather than the inverse… and so, in my teaching practice, my aim is to help people find ways to tear little holes in the misery of daily life…” and this of course is the sister of what my artistic practice aims for as well… ironically, I was carrying with me a book on the sublime… the sublime in the contemporary context…so this desire to move up or out and burst through to something awesomely (in the antique rather than the surfy-vernacular form of the word) inexpressible is completely on my mind right now…
and I can well imagine some cynic out there asking, well then, how does Flarf fit into that desire? To me I mean I suppose it is obvious: the transformative process of taking what is most banal and forcing it into negative capability at the very least teeters on the edge of the sublime, and you needn’t agree with me, but anyway, that is how I feel. Did you all see that Charles B. is featured today in the NY Times Book Review (with a photo of him looking amazingly like Charles Bernstein, the posture, the set of the mouth)? Well, this fills me with joy and gratitude. The lead of the article: at a reading several years ago he read the periodic table off a wall poster that happened to be posted in the reading space… utter spontaneous performative brilliance. The periodic table, of course, is, already was, poetry, but it took Charles to perform that. I think someone else, Jena Osman, perhaps, has a piece based on it. The elements. They look like “facts,” but upon deeper reflection: Sublime. So much, so much, has transpired. Last weekend Ben Friedlander stayed with us.
Ben’s like my brother, really. We had so many entertaining pedantic arguments, mainly (this was interesting) about word usage. I noted that I tend to have a more elastic definition of terms that he would define very narrowly. I’m not sure what that implies about us as people, but I’m interested in how those approaches to language play themselves out in our poetries. His absolutely great reading (so well attended, my goodness, with Charles B, and Anne Waldman, James Sherry, Bob Perelman & Francie Shaw, Mark Weiss, Alli Warren & Brandon Brown & Dana Ward and and and…), which was surely the most entertaining and moving meditation on old age, illness, and death that could possibly be imagined (“advanced age management techniques” “my father was there/ but he can’t tell you anything/ because he’s lost the power of speech” I’m making up these linebreaks BTW), was followed by Fanny Howe’s absolutely great reading. I say that with some reluctance, given that institutionalized worship of any sort (Fanny H. is a Catholic) is to me deeply suspect, and Fanny’s work does reflect her beliefs. I also resist a little bit the pitch-perfect prosody of her writing, because, I think you all know this about me, I like things to be sort of fucked up, but I can’t deny it, she’s a wonderful writer, and I loved her Rasputin poem especially. I think everyone did. (“They pickled his lingam – it was so long” “a saint in ballet tights” “Rasputin’s face makes me wish I could meet him and vomit”) Gary and I wondered if she was writing about the same weird Rasputin film that we had seen… I remember in that film some of his female disciples taking on his persona and affecting moustaches, etc…. OK so as if that weren’t enough, that great reading, after that there was a little party to celebrate Katie’s birthday,
and then onto deepest Ridgewood to Space Space to hear Alli Warren, Brandon Brown, and Dana Ward read their luminous witty and penetrating poetries. My goodness. I’ve written much about Brandon B. here in this space, but you know, this was the first time I heard him read, and it in no way disappointed: “Brad’s rococo/ Angie’s a femur, fucking and scratching and acting” “constellations made of salt flex in your locks” “I think I just burped egg taint.” and did I imagine that he said “phallo-earth” or was it just fallow?
Anyway. Sharp, charming, quick, of-the-moment, I could go on with my raves. Dana I’ve raved about plenty, too, but this time, what I noticed even beyond the poetry, and why did I never remark on this before, was his reading voice. His voice is VOLUPTUOUS. I mean, right? I only wrote down two of his lines: “We know how to worry but how much is that like thinking?” and “”lust as a projection of doubt” Dana and I share many things, and I’ve blogged on that, too, but one of them, I think, is the absolute willingness to take on the performative mantle of Poet.
I mean, why the fuck not? We have so little, we might as well have Aura. These metaphorical velvet capes (the real one I suppose the only thing I actually like about Duncan, except the Stein imitations, you know?). Well, just completely compelling. And the work like haibun: contracting and expanding. This was the first time I’d ever heard Alli read, and I was bowled over by the multivalences that sprung forth… by this time I was so taken with the atmosphere of the reading, which I will get to in a moment, that I wasn’t writing anything down… her voice a little wry, a little, no, a lot, mischievous, and if she is a little more “inside herself” as a reader than the other two, well, the language was therefore able to step forward out of her as brilliantly recombined matter… where was my pen… well, she was funny and captivating, and her mind filled the room…
Space Space is pretty much a perfect place to hear poetry. No, not hear: experience. I wrote to Brandon Brown that it put me in mind of an early SF punk venue where I spent much time: The Farm… you know, rough, intimate, and full of energy and love. I am so thrilled by the infusion of much youth and inventiveness into the writing scene recently here, and the mood at Space Space was vibrant and hormonal and a little Bacchanalian, and that’s just how I like it. Ben and I hung out there until rather late and didn’t get back to Ocean Parkway until the wee hours, and we’re really too old for that. But was the weekend over? Heavens no. The next day was a birthday party for the eminent Charles B. at Mimi Gross’ amazing Chinatown loft full of her exuberant artworks and art and poetry luminaries… and Felix and I decided to present the cake in what I realized I was calling a rhumba line but should have been a conga line.
Wonderfully witty conversations filled the air, including Tony Torn’s idea of creating the I-Albatross, an electronic device to hang about one’s neck, and a lengthy discussion of the regrettably normalizing tendencies of the television show “What Not to Wear” (a subject of a blog post here some months back). Everyone was dressed up, especially Kenny Goldsmith, in a black and white paisley suit, aww yeah)
and I can’t help but note that both Cheryl Donegan and I showed up in rather sophisticated indigo frocks…
You would think that after all this I would need to rest. But “resting” wasn’t on the agenda. Monday night the cast of my play Distraction (which I wrote in the early 80s!) came over to my place to rehearse our performance that took place on Wednesday, to which I’ll get presently. Well, that was great fun. I wish I could spend more time rehearsing plays in my apartment. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? Gary as Bystander, Sara Wintz as Soprano, Cori Copp as Alto, and Marianne Shaneen as (barely disguised autobiographical character) Romantic Phase. This play, which Kevin Killian and David Brazil so kindly included in the Kenning anthology, really experienced a pheonix rising; I never thought it would ever be animated by human beings again since (as I said in my intro to it on Wednesday) it had been slated for performance at the old Intersection for the Arts when it was on Valencia St. in SF but I had an absolutely “bone-crushing” crush on one of the actors, Jules Beckman,
who is now a celebrated circus performer and contact improv dancer in the south of France, and this led to trouble, and the cast mutinied, and the production fell apart, and I couldn’t see it cast otherwise (I have this horrible muscular memory of saying, to the guy who booked events at Intersection, “It was perfectly casted,” and he said, snottily, “It was perfectly cast,” a taste of my own grammatical pedantry, I guess). But, oh, I loved what all of this cast brought to the roles! Sara and Cori as these wicked faux-rational kuroko, and Gary doing the role as Jimmy Stewart, and Marianne totally hamming it up as a kind of combination of P.B. Shelley and Shirley Temple. Tuesday I suppose that I rested a little, for once, and then Wednesday was the Poetry Project event. Maybe I’ll report on that later, but it might be inappropriate for me to do so, since I had a hand in two of the plays, and I would actually like to end this post by eliciting in the comments section someone else’s impressions of the event, which I thought was pretty glorious, if I do say so myself. But I mean it’s the first Saturday in nine weeks that I don’t actually have to go to Segue, and the weather’s not so nice that I am obliged to go outside, and Gary’s off at MOCCA, so I can actually stay home and work on a movie project I’ve been meaning to get to, and I can maybe finally put that side zipper in the rose-print frock I’m working on, at least, if I stop this blog entry now and refocus my attention…