Segue intros: Gottlieb & Bellamy

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Greetings from Paris, Segue crowd. 
Michael Gottlieb has published fourteen books of poetry including The Likes of Us, Lost and Found, Gorgeous Plunge, The River Road, New York, and Ninety-Six Tears. His new book of prose, Memoir And Essay, was just published to wide acclaim by Faux/Other.
This introduction, ventriloquized through the mouth of Zultanski, will be the third one I have written for Michael since I came to New York twelve years ago.  In my previous introductions, I focused on what I think are some of the salient characteristics of Michael’s work:  gemlike two-word collocations, rueful disillusionment, and arbitrary precision. I have described his poetry as objectivism infused with mystery, a bouquet of objective correlatives which, if they really do correlate to anything, it is a whole host of looming unnameables.  The work, I noted, is moody: it indicts, it evokes, it mourns, it fears, it mocks, in flashes of pensive, super-auto-awareness.  I called the writing “a parade of melancholic and slippery mot justes.”  I stand by all these characterizations and believe them uncannily apt. 🙂
Yet I still felt there was more to say, so last week, I sat down with Michael over a delicious Indian meal, and asked him what he felt had not yet been said, or not yet been really emphasized, and he mentioned four things: 1) an exploration of the crucial question, explored most recently and explicitly in the essay section of his book Memoir/Essay, “What are our roles and responsibilities as poets?” 2) Humor, particularly in the newer poems, which he described perhaps too modestly as “just jokes,” 3) a movement, in recent works, away from obscure word choices, and 4) an interest in appropriation that was present in his writing from the very beginning.
Thinking more on this last point, it occurred to me that “appropriation” is an unfortunate word for  what is really a high order of listening or reading.  I prefer the term “repurposing,” but in fact, isn’t it more like “reconceiving?” Reconceived material can achieve a kind of soulful and/or ironic transmigration in and as poems, with pieces of its origins hanging onto it like plaster or vernix or shrapnel.  In Michael’s poems, there is, poignantly, both the soul of irony and the irony of soul.  Please welcome, friends, the wry, tremulous, hilarious poetry of Michael Gottlieb.
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As long as I can remember, Dodie Bellamy has been a queenpin of writing in the Bay Area.  She has fiercely maintained her commitment to unrepressed expressivity, proving again and again that it is not antithetical to invention, and that “confession” can (and perhaps should) be approached complexly, almost cubistically. Her chapbook Barf Manifesto was named best book of 2009 under 30 pages by Time Out New York. Other books include Academonia, Pink Steam, The Letters of Mina Harker, and Cunt-Ups. She’s currently collaborating with artist Colter Jacobsen and publishing a book, the buddhist, based on her blog, Belladodie, which you really must go home and explore, if you haven’t already, both for her insights on her own always-fascinating internality, and for her passionate writings on visual art and other matters.
This is going to sound pretentious, but it’s true. Just the day before yesterday I was walking along the banks of the Seine, thinking about narrativity and language.  I was thinking about how “raconter” is connected to counting, chronicling, making marks in and out of time, and about how “histoire” in our language is history, and how indeed any story intertwines with or is made out of history almost like wisteria climbing along the trellis of events and perceptions, which occur in time but sort of like sheet music we somehow need to make into shareable artifacts, flowers of culture that hang down in poignant clusters, testament to the unique compulsion of our species to record, to get it down, to pass it on. 
For some people, like Dodie, this compulsion is the ruling force of life, and with that puissance she has honed her works to a point of extraordinary precision and honesty.  There are few writers more honest:  the bride strips herself bare with or without the bachelors. She might recombine and repurpose words from different sources (as in Cunt-ups, her homage to Burroughs and Acker), or stretch them into introspections, inventions, invectives, or ride along them (as in The Letters of Mina Harker), but she never ever minces them. 
Thinking on her irrepressible uncensored honesty reminded me of an incident in my own childhood about which I have never stopped feeling guilty.  My friend Amy, who like me was about eight at the time, asked me one day, “you know when you get a bubble in your cunt?”  I pretended to be disgusted, and said, “ewww, no…” but the fact was, I knew perfectly well what she was talking about.  I have never forgiven myself for not telling her so: I was a coward. Dodie is never a coward.  She shies from nothing in her writing, not the bubbles in cunts, the abjection of desire, the most daily minutiae or the most soaring intellective explorations. 
Please welcome to our city and to Segue une de la plus grandes femmes de lettres, Dodie Bellamy.

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