Friday, October 31, 2003
for the face
I had Before
--William Butler Yeats
the above quote greets you at the front door of Angelica's Kitchen, where Hassen and i celebrated her birthday before the reading. wanted to share it with you.
not sure how that quote fits into the feeling for the rest of the evening, but it feels right in that way that's hard to put into words.
the Poetry Project--at least in any memories i have--has never been so exciting! here's to the exceptional start to a new era of new poetry!
why the HELL haven't i heard Tracy K. Smith read before? where have i been? she started off with a couple of poems to calm herself in a "different" (?) voice, she said. one was a very cool tribute to the film "Betty Blue"
her "Fire Escape Fantasty" poem was one of my favorites. in "Night" she asks, "are all dreams silent? & i had to stop thinking of my answer in order to focus on the rest of her reading, but now... no, they're not.
Tracy's husband is a visual artist and she said she's jealous of images he creates, but i'm thinking she needs to get over it, because she's creating plenty of images with her poems. ah, god-DAMN, did i just say that!? i sound like a therapist for poets!
Frank Sherlock always reads like his poems are all he needs to build with, doesn't seem he's wishing for other mediums. at least, if he DOES wish for another medium, he never says so. that said, he DID HOWEVER make one disclaimer today, and that was at the top of reading his "Apocraphyl Personals," to say that the reader/writer was not personally serious about actualizing the content. but this had no way weakened the impact of the pieces, which are as funny as they are disturbing, as the best deviance will have us see things, challenging our sense of safety and pleasure at once.
his tiny poems for Jenn & Chris McCreary's newborn twins caused Hassen to lean over with a smile and whisper "Nice!" in my ear. they were titled (i think i'm right about this), "Baby Baby" and "Ouch Ouch" the 2nd for when they're older. these two were part of a series of much shorter poems he's working on, not necessarily haiku in form, but in witness to detail.
i've heard Frank read many times before, but his night at the Project delivered a crispness well above most of any of the other readings he's given. although it takes some getting used to, seeing him read, rather than recite. it doesn't take away from the work, but it is a different experience however.
something we ALL need to put our heads together over is WHAT is going on with his reading of the poem "Elementals With A Suggestion" ? this is the THIRD time now that he's read it before an audience that i've seen, where he is somehow interrupted JUST before the line, "some days Yellow really does change the world" THE THIRD TIME! the first was by hecklers at La Tazza, the second by an elongated pause at the ICA, now, this third time by someone thrusting open the doors in the Poetry Project from the connecting doors to the cavernous room next door. the first time was in a smallish, or medium-sized bar. the second time was in a space roughly three times larger. the third time was in a space comparable to the second, BUT the interruption COMING FROM an enormous connecting space. or maybe it's not the size of the space we need to look at, but the dates on which they occurred or maybe not the dates for the numerology, but for the phases of the moon. or maybe it just needed to happen three times and the poem is ready for home plate? did i just make a baseball reference? what's the matter with me? anyway, or maybe it's to do with the explosive psychic build up of the poem itself yeah yeah it's maybe in the poem itself. it's THAT LINE, or rather, JUST BEFORE that line where the interruption has taken place, each time. right there, with Yellow, the color Yellow, all Yellow has going for it, going into the space of time JUST before the line.
it was a great reading. the kind of which fortifies my earlier statements that the Poetry Project has a newness which has sharp, fine blades. John Fisk seems to agree, and he's been there the longest, over twenty years.
this was also a great trip. Matt and Nicole and Heather also came up from Philly. we all hung out after, over at The Grassroots Tavern with Carol Mirakove, Cori Copp, Anselm, Eddie, and a whole bunch of others from the reading.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
intently (and overall, I was, except for a point when my wine just dropped
straight out of my grip and I had to hide behind the garbage can for a
moment to wipe away the drink from the floorboards) and you suddenly realize
that something is coming to fruition--i.e. That transcendent moment (poetry
is truth and truth is technically refined writing which weathers the mundane
and subverts the pointedness of subversion [No Courtney Love, No!], or in
Culley's case, is "waves of pink carpet" blowing your hair back, i.e. Yo, is
there a window open?), etc. Have you read Stanley's A Tall, Serious Girl? He
sneaks up on you. Culley is fragile but wants to fight. And then we all got
raucously drunk. What a better way to spend a Wednesday? As if we had all
our narrow holes plugged and reopened. Damn, that cork's porous in that thar
bottle. Receptive audiences, there's nothing like 'em. Nothing like creating
'em through your own verse, I bet.
thanks for letting me post this Cori,
i'm reading Peter Culley's HAMMERTOWN poems right now. it's great!
but today they had a giant photograph of John Ashcroft with a caption stating that a vote for Street is a vote against Ashcroft. hmmm. of course i wanted to know more! i was handed this statement from La Rouche himself:
"Let us make sure that in Philadelphia, we do not have a repeat of those shameful performances by my fellow Democrats, which allowed Ashcroft to become Attorney General in January 2001, and allowed Arnie 'Beast-man' Schwarzenegger to take over California earlier this month. Let us deliver a devastating blow to Ashcroft's gestapo methods, by a massive turnout to re-elect Mayor John Street. This election has taken on national and worldwide significance, as the result of John Ashcroft's filthy effort to steal an election through his all-too-familiar methods of terror, deceit, and brutal abuse of governmental power."
hmmm. and just when i was pondering this statement i opened my POBox to find a form-letter from Barney Frank. for those of you NOT on Philadelphia gay or lesbian mailing lists probably wouldn't receive the letter. let me share it with you now:
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM BARNEY FRANK IN SUPPORT OF MAYOR JOHN F. STREET
October 28th, 2003
You are getting a year's start on the rest of the country. The Philadelphia mayoral election to be held on Tuesday, November 4 will be the first major battle of the 2004 presidential contest. The Republicans now understand that President Bush's reelection is in doubt, because of the public dissatisfaction with the administration's policies in both the international and domestic areas. And they are in full battle mode.
The most important next step in their plan is to elect a Republican Mayor of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania will be critical in deciding who wins the next presidential election, and they understandably believe that electing a Republican Mayor will greatly enhance President Bush's chances of carrying the state.
A Bush reelection will have disastrous consequences for the effort to promote fair treatment for the LGBY community. President Bush has made it clear that the Supreme Court Justice who will be the model for any appointments he gets to make is Antonin Scalia, who is of course the author of an opinion which not only vigorously disagreed with the notion that we should be free from police intrusion into our bedrooms, but constituted a virulent anti-LGBT rant. The president elected in 2004 is very likely to appoint as many as three or four Supreme Court Justices, and if that president is George Bush, the recent decision overturning sodomy laws will be overturned.
The President has made clear his opposition to any effort to recognize our rights to legal relationships, in contrast to all of the Democrats who are opposing him.
In an earlier time in American history, this might not be relevant to the Philadelphia mayoral election. When I first entered politics, national party alignments were not so strong, and the Republicans and the Democratic Party were both loose coalitions of people who had different views on a wide range of subjects.
That is no longer true. The Republican Party in particular has become a desciplined cohesive right-wing organization, and even those Republicans who hold office and claim to be moderates become in fact part of this right-wing machine. In return for the support they receive from the Republican Party in winning office, they become active campaigners for their fellow Republicans who are, in almost every case, extreme conservatives vehemently opposed to LGBT rights and all other efforts to improve fairness in our society.
I recognize that when John Street ran for Mayor four years ago, there was concern about his commitment to public policies that recognize the rights of members of the LGBT community to be treated fairly. Thanks in part to the efforts of the leaders of the LGBT community in Philadelphia, and Mayor Street's willingness to learn from and work with them, his record on issues affecting anti-LGBT bias is an excellent one. As Mayor, John Street has signed landmarke legislation that added gender identity to the City's Fair Practices Ordinance, defended domestic partnership legislation, and created an LGBT Advisory Board and the City's first ever LGBT Community Liaison.
If a Republican is elected Mayor of Philadelphia this year, it will be a very welcome chance for the Bush administration to argue that recent reports of public dissatisfaction with right-wing rule are overblown, and you will read and hear a great deal of spin suggesting that this argues well for his reelection.
Both because of the record he has compiled on LGBT issues in Philadelphia, and as the very important first step toward preventing Geroge Bush from giving us more Scalias on the Supreme Court, I urge you to vote for John Street on November 4.
Fourth Congressional District of Massachusetts
posted by CAConrad
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
I tried to add your entries to the rest of the list (below),
but the blog simply wouldn't allow me because the post is too large.
Thanks to you both, and thanks again to all the other poets
who sent in their reading material.
BURY ME STANDING: THE GYPSIES AND THEIR JOURNEY,
by Isabel Fonseca
Mytili Jagannathan: A smart 1990s journalistic portrait
of the Roma people of Eastern Europe: centuries of their
persecution resulting from policies ranging from enforced
othering to forced assimilation; the self-protection and
self-invention of a wandering people whose origins cannot
be definitively placed; the arguments for and against their
Indian origin (strong linguistic correlations between their
language, Romani, and Hindi and Sanskrit); the fascinating
(& problematic) celebratory claiming of Indian origins & Hindu
symbols (including Ganesha!) by some contemporary Roma activists
in search of a positive cultural identity; the strategic dilemmas
they face as they take on modern forms of political
ENJOY YOUR SYMPTOM!, by SLAVOJ ZIZEK
ADEENA KARASICK: An antiutilitarian symbolic fiction
paradigmatically standing in for a "calculus of pleasures"
I often wonder what other poets are reading, especially since so many
good books I've read have been suggestions made by others.
So I decided to e-mail some poets, ask them what they are currently
reading, and to give us one-sentence reviews.
Below is the collected list, hope it inspires your reading.
Many thanks to the 90+ poets who responded,
READING THE ILLEGIBLE, by CRAIG DWORKIN
(Northwestern University Press, 2003)
BRUCE ANDREWS: How to Read --- as 'how to read noise': a triumph!
The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Writings. Ralph Waldo Emerson,
edited by David M. Robinson.
Jeffery Beam: How sad that the America of possibility
didn't grab hold of Emerson's spiritual and philsophical
visions as tightly as it did to the greedy capitalist
vision of the robber barons.
TALES FROM OVID, by TED HUGHES
Michele A. Belluomini: Rendered in muscular free verse,
Ovid's pitilessness is astonishing and very modern.
VAS: An Opera in Flatland, by Steve Tomasula (with StephenFarrell)
Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 2003
Charles Bernstein: Vas is an encyclopedic quest for
three-dimensional thinking in a two-dimensional quaquaverse
of clonedgeneticists replicating racialist double blinds; with
striking visualaplomb, Vas casts the factoids off the steps
of the Temples of the Predetermined into the yet-to-written
name of errant possibility.
A Tall, Serious Girl, by George Stanley
Anselm Berrigan: It is a beautifully made selected, and
it is really great. He has this intensity of feeling that
does not require emotional declarations to be felt, and he
is funny as shit. The poems are also technically brilliant,
and inspiring that way.
AL QAEDA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE MODERN, by John Gray
Edmund Berrigan: Essential book for understanding recent
events on historical, global, and economic scales.
European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, by E.R. Curtius.
Daniel Bouchard: a compelling book on medieval rhetoric!
The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slave Passes to
the War on Terror, by Christian Parenti
JULES BOYKOFF: In this book Parenti unleashes a
powerful theoretical/empirical concoction that
explores the evolution of surveillance in U.S.
society and how technology has bolstered this
evolution, in the process dipping into a variety
of historical troughs, from the use of slave passes
to the early use of photography to the recently
de-funded Total Information Awareness (TIA), and,
if I may make this an egregious run-on sentence,
Parenti deserves extra credit for giving
poet/theorist/writer/teacher Jeff Derksen
a shout-out in his acknowledgement section.
Brief Capital of Disturbances, by George Albon (Omnidawn Books)
Brandon Brown: through deceptively journalistic
attentions, the book takes the form of a city or
a body suddenly made aware of its own musical strangeness
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Lee Ann Brown & Tony Torn: When pictures of personal
history mixed with the history of a city, an ethnicity,
ect ect can seem almost cartoonish yet so fucking real,
I read it every night and watch the genes splice in
Love Like Pronouns, by Rosmarie Waldrop
Laynie Browne: Visceral thought composed with a
voice I look to for advice of all kinds.
Head Massage: Soothing Massage For Stress, Headaches and
Low Energy, by Rosalind Widdowson
Regie Cabico: One cute guy who massages all the women...
wishing there was male frontal nudity.
The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls, by Eleni Sikelianos
Allison Cobb: A long unwinding world that startles at
every turn, amazing.
Magic Mushrooms: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy,
edited by Paul Krassner
Andrei Codrescu: A delightful collection of first-person
essays about experiences of being high on various psychedelics.
This is the third anthology in a series: the first one was on
pot, the second on LSD.
Bottom: On Shakespeare, by Louis Zukofsky
Barbara Cole: Big, bold and beautiful; encyclopedic
and entropic; a critical blow to critics before and
after; a tour-de-force; a force to be reckoned with;
this: my humble and heart-felt recommendation.
Trilogy, by Pentti Saarikoski (translated by Anselm Hollo)
John Coletti: should knock knit socks off sensitive,
brash, complete environments sheeped off in some other
The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, by Audre Lorde
Ebony M. Collier: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde is
interesting because the editors published multiple editions
of the same poems that she had published in her different books.
sKincerity (KRUPSKAYA press), by Laura Elrick
CAConrad: beautiful poems that don't take any shit!
"I am an employee so adjacent to the other parts---Young women
set out with hard-set jaws against their
*Stars In My Eyes*, by Edward Field
Jeffery Conway: A cool book of movie poems from 1978;
"The Life of Joan Crawford" is my favorite--I'd like
to see Faye Dunaway recast as Joan and bring the poem
to everlasting life on the big screen.
Vinegar Tom (a play), by Caryl Churchill
Cori Copp: You know what they say--"cat symbolism" and all
The Complete Claudine, by Colette
Jim Cory: I had foolishly imagined that Colette's first
four novels, gathered here in an omnibus edition, would
be something close to juvenalia & have discovered instead
that they are as brilliant, vivacious, & insightful as any
of her later productions.
Tinder, by Lynn Behrendt (situations press)
Brenda Coultas: Tinder is a slim gift of elegy and
beauty along with innovative forms.
Some Values of Landscape and Weather, by Peter Gizzi
Robert Creeley: This is a breakthrough book in every
way -- for reader, for writer, and for the art.
Creating True Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Maria Damon: Hardly time to read poetry right now beyond
what i've assigned for my classes; i find this book soothing
amidst pressing professional obligations: reading conference
papers i've agreed to comment on, reading for my classes
(Brathwaite, Jabes, Boyarin, Gilroy, Cesaire) and reading
students' response to those readings, reading memoes from
univ bureaucrats about the pending AFSCME strike (and
whether we are or are not obligated to cross the picket
lines) ...shoutout to beleaguered fall semesterers everywhere!
FROM MY LIFE: Poetry and Truth (Parts One to Three),
Vol 4 in the Princeton Collected Works, by Goethe
Jordan Davis: which has been sitting on my shelf
for years, and which I understand is one of the original
art autobiographies; apparently he intended to sketch out
the endings of works he feared were unfinishable, such as
Faust Part Two, and to justify his many self-transformations
to his astonished (exhausted?) friends -- or so
the introduction tells me.
ENDOCRINOLOG, by MEI-MEI BERSSENBRUGGE & KIKI SMITH
TOM DEVANEY: People do not use sentences anymore; so
there's no sentence for the coincident of focus, which
is the dense spirit of this book.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, by Andy Warhol
Buck Downs: I don't know whether I should hope that Conrad
has or hasn't read The Philosophy; I hope he hasn't but mostly
for greedy reasons, in that turning a friend onto some wack
that s/he hasn't had before is one of the great joys in what
passes for the life of the mind that I lead.
BAD JUDGEMENT, by CATHLEEN CALBERT
Denise Duhamel: Cathleen Calbert's smart bad girl sass is
irresistible--BAD JUDGMENT is the book you'll want to reach
for after the hairdresser cuts your bangs too short, after your
boyfriend tells you about his wife, after you ate that second
piece of cake.
Gasoil, by Jean-Michel Espitallier
Marcella Durand: Lots of Machines and Monsieurs--ixometres,
cerviometres, elaio-pachometres and "explosifs chlorates"!
The Language of Inquiry, by Lyn Hejinian
kari edwards: a wonderful introduction to the
brilliance of Lyn Hejinian
The Prelude-The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850), by William Wordsworth
Laura Elrick: At first a verdant summer pleasure and antidote to
knee-jerk disjunctionitis, which next ripened lustily into historical
curio (i.e. how the hell did industrial urbanism and an incomplete
(bourgeois) revolution spawn him?), then 'matured' into an autumnally
over-ripe object-lesson on (how not to) right-ward drift during reactionary
times (ahem)...with cool parallel texts to boot.
False Prophet, by Stan Rice
Elaine Equi: This is a book of spooky, disjointed psalms
that walk a tightrope between faith and doubt -- I found
them oddly comforting, fitting reflections of our dark times.
THE BRIAR PATCH, by MURRAY KEMPTON
Brett Evans: About the agitations and arrest of 19 Black Panther
members in NYC and their subsequent legal travails, what's really
fantastic here is the author's smart brushwork on the micro-intrigues
of the events in question which also tell the fine bristles of human
personality, and his elaborate, almost impossibly-holding-together
sentences which would make Yeats proud of their elegant rigor.
THE FIFTH BOOK OF PEACE, BY MAXINE HONG KINGSTON
MARIA FAMA: I am both dazzled and inspired by
Maxine Hong Kingston's luminous writing and her
personal courage and commitment to peace.
Compelled to Crime the gender entrapment of battered black women,
by Beth E. Richie
Mariana Ruiz Firmat: A book that demystifies our ideas that
all women who are oppressed suffer equal forms of oppression
in a racist, capitalist, homophobic, prison obsessed country.
SAMSON AGONISTES, by JOHN MILTON
DAISY FRIED: Never having done a Milton class in school,
I've been reading Milton on and off for the past few years
for the fun of it; I loved Paradise Lost, loved Comus, loved
Lycidas; am loving Samson: Milton is magisterial and humane
and exciting to read; that old iambic pentameter spine wrapped
in all these supple lyric-narrative muscles (is that a horrible
torturing of a disgusting metaphor?) that feel like they can do
and say almost anything; also I'm interested in speech--in
characters saying things out loud--in poetry old and new and
the dramatic-poem format in Samson Agonistes has formal
constraints and human utterance pulling interestingly
against each other.
Weep Not, My Wanton, by Maggie Dubris
Greg Fuchs: The first story was disturbing, sad, and
grotesque; the last one I read in the North Brooklyn
Health Clinic, the perfect setting.
SPRING COMES TO CHICAGO, by Campbell McGrath
Joanna Fuhrman: I like this book because it combines a
Whitman-like drive toward excess with ironic pop culture
haikus and meta-commentary.
SOME VALUES OF LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER, by PETER GIZZI
ALAN GILBERT: Gizzi keenly renders our current--or is it
permanent?--state of exile from our better selves.
Rouge State, by Rodney Koenecke
Nada Gordon: K.S. Mohammad rightly dubs this book "a sordid
bordello" zingy ironic orientalism to the max--just my thing
"Dare Say" by Tod Marshall
Marj Hahne: Musicmusicmusic & original sensibility.
Nightswimmer, by Joseph Olshan
Jeremy Halinen: A novel about permanent loss, separation and
resulting obsession--it's made me FEEL.
Good Foot Issue 4
Shafer Hall: Good Foot is consistently inspirational.
The Lies of Goerge Bush, by David Corn
Sam Hamill: The truth will out, but can we save our
country from a fascist government?
Roloff Beny Interprets in Photographs Pleasure of Ruins,
by Rose Macaulay
hassen: The coffee table book that puts almost everything
Mortals, by Norman Rush
Bob Holman: Leaps into prominence -- writing detailed,
exhilirating, obsessive -- there's Joyce plus in here,
folks (one of the greatest fuck scenes in lit)
-- "difficult," ha! -- and it doesn't hurt that it's
Poetry, Language, Thought; by Martin Heidegger
Candace Kaucher: I've begun to feel the presence of
poetry as life again.
SOME VALUES OF LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER, by PETER GIZZI
Kevin Killian: Peter Gizzi's best book to date is a
shifting, oppositional panoply of colors, scents, tones
and fragrances that, like a kaleidoscope, opens up to a
different presentation of diamonds each time I open it
to my eye.
Poems of Paul Celan, translated by Michael Hamburger
Dan Maguire: Not knowing Celan's history, the poems are
powerful; knowing his history, they are almost overwhelming.
Book of Lies/The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult,
edited by Richard Metzger
Shelley F. Marlow: I was pleased with feelings being
articulated in the words, "force the hand of chance in
favor of self-creation rather than submissive reaction."
-Genesis P. Orridge.
Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth, Benedict and Their Circle,
by Lois Banner
Janet Mason: I like this book, I mean it's more than the fact
that Margaret was a dyke or at least a half-ass one in a bisexual
way, but it's the way that it fueled her work, this lesbian fusion,
like going off to so-called primitive cultures to find out that
heterosexuality, etc. wasn't the only game in town, go Margaret!
COROMANDEL (Skanky Possum, 2003), by Thomas Meyer
Joseph Massey: Meyer breathes new life into the new
sentence -- "In language's imaginary garden / the
forked tongue lisps."
MEMOIRS, by WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN
C.M. Mayo: A cannon blast of blood, gore & grit from the past.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER, by JAMAICA KINCAID
CHRIS MCCREARY: I've been rereading this in preparation for
teaching it a second time - a wonderfully lush, imagistic
collection of stories that approach coming-of-age issues
from many unique, challenging directions.
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Dierdre McKee: This book is like a nightmare you don't
want to wake up from, and when you do, you realize that
the same nightmare is happening in the "awake" world.
THE SECRETS OF THE VAULTED SKY, by DAVID BERLINSKI
THOMAS MEYER: A science maven takes a serious look at a once
credible body of knowledge, astrology, in an attempt to explain
why it fell from intellectual grace.
TRANSNATIONAL MUSCLE CARS, by JEFF DERKSEN
CAROL MIRAKOVE: Jeff's new book offers downright
elegant -- and funny! -- arguments against empire /
emperors (remember "consumption" as disease?),
fighting the language-forms that erode our intelligence
(the slogan, the soundbyte) with those very same language
forms, in a range of poetic configurations as the body
intercepts / intersects, i'm taken, the visceral.
Pegasus Descending: A Book of the Best Bad Verse,
edited by James Camp, X.J. Kennedy, and Keith Waldrop
Ange Mlinko: I'll bet you didn't know Emily Dickinson wrote
the line "His Mighty Balls--in death were thick--"
(from "A Dying Tiger--Moaned for Drink").
RUMI, Past and Present, East and West (The life, Teachings
and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi), by Franklin D. Lewis
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore: It's a huge book, scholarly,
authoritative and exhaustive in its many facets, written
in a swift and personal style, and the author even says
of Robert Duncan's(!)Rumi-inspired poem for Jess,
"Circulations of the Song," "To my taste, this is the
closest and most satisfying approximation in the English
language of the experience of reading Rumi's
ghazals in the original Persian."
The Aeneid, by Virgil
Eileen Myles: I was reading it in Ireland and Italy, and
slowed down when I got home (and it's slow, so slowing down
is really stopping) but I mean to pick up again--it's brilliant
--for one, because you finally know what the judgement of
Paris means-- I thought it was some art term, and I'm sure it's
the title of one or many famous paintings, but really it just
means that Paris got to choose who the most beautiful woman was
and he picked Helen, not Dido and Athena--something like that--
and of course the women were in a rage about not getting picked
number one--same old story--but I never knew what it meant--it's
an inspiring book despite the fact that Virgil was a misogynist
--one chapter is just the description of someone (maybe Aeneas')
shield--and it's covered in story, so the chapter is an allegory
--it's great, an idea machine, this book.
GONE, BABY, GONE, by Dennis Lehane
Alice Notley: I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who wasn't
being treated for Hepatitis C or an equivalent disease.
Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises 1923-1934, by Ulla E. Dydo
Tom Orange: Almost thirty years in the making, this book shows
the fruits of the long hard hours Dydo has spent with Stein's
papers at Yale, her goal a dauting one, namely to find out "how
Stein wrote what she did" -- not only offering exemplary evidence
of/in the writing (and especially interesting to me personally
since I am better acquainted with the Stein of the preceding
decade, Tender Buttons and Geography and Plays and the like)
but perhaps ultimately raising an even more important point,
namely that we are still only beginning to learn how to read
Stein, and will continue to be beginners until, for example,
we can get the 8 volume Yale Gertrude Stein back into print
let alone reliable texts for her complete works -- how long
will this take?? -- and then maybe one day, as has been long
available for Joyce, facsimile editions of her cahiers and carnets.
CALLIGRAMMES, by GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE
RON PADGETT: This book is different than it used to be.
Love: New Visions, by bell hooks
Wanda Phipps: This is a volume that's opening my heart with
its strong, simple, elegant prose redefining love as not simply
a feeling but a transformative force that can motivate profound
spiritual growth, political action and lasting social change.
Plasticville, by David Trinidad
T. Cole Rachel: David manages to take every seemingly
useless bit of pop-culture fluff from the last fifty years
and turn it into a book of sweet, funny and smart poetry.
Kenneth Koch/Selected Poems : 1950-1982
Ethel Rackin: It includes "The Circus" from Thank You
as well as "The Circus" from The Art of Love where
Koch revisits the poem and decides that the second
version isn't as good (which it is!)
The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels
India Radfar: Do you know the Romans called early Christians
atheists? that puts things in perspective...and martyr simply
_Haiku: This Other World_, by Richard Wright
Don Riggs: These haiku, written in the last 18 months of
Richard Wright's life, are universes of experience packed
into tiny 17-syllable nuggets.
THE VERY QUIET CRICKET, by ERIC CARLE
MATTHEW ROHRER: This book, like most children's books,
is nauseatingly repetitive, but very near the end Carle drops
his form and brings in a luna moth, and the effect on the
reader or the baby is astounding: it reminds one of the power
of repetition and of the power of confounding the reader's
expectations as well.
STAND-UP TRADEGIAN, by CHAIM BERTMAN
MATTHUE ROTH: A swift, flowing meditative novel
about writing a novel, which could have been terribly
self-referential if it wasn't so sparse, sharp, and
focused, at times funny and at others, quietly beautiful,
the kind of book that makes you realize how weird and
sudden the act of writing is.
Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the
Construction of the Underworld, by Clayton Eshleman
Jerome Rothenberg: For years I've followed Eshleman's
travels into caveworlds & labyrinths, with resultant
poems, essays, and musings, and this book brings them
together as the kind of ongoling project that makes a
life of poetry worth living.
The Collected Poems Of W.B. Yeats,
edited by Richard J. Finneran
John Sakkis: "I was talking with Stacy Doris a couple
weeks ago, I mentioned I was reading Yeats, specifically
"The Tower," she responded "did you know Yeats had his
wife surgically implant a monkey organ into him in old age
to increase virility, i responded, "i didn't know that."
DOVECOTE, by Heather Fuller
Leslie Scalapino: I've been rereading Heather Fuller's
DOVECOTE, a wonderful invention, poems being the outside
and inside of others at once.
Thank You For Not Reading, by Dubravka Ugresic
(trans. from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth)
Elizabeth Scanlon: This is a nonfiction/fiction/critical/satirical
collection of essays about the "industry" of publishing, which
I find esp. interesting and funny given her Eastern European
point-of-view on how fascist regimes everywhere attempt to
manipulate what is promoted as "good art."
Nine Alexandrias, by Semezdin Mehmedinovic (trans. Ammiel Alcalay)
Frank Sherlock: The Bosnian poet's American experience is
informed while reading Rumi on a 9/12 cross-country train.
the story of junk, by linda yablonsky
jeffrey sidelsky: amazingly clear eyed account of
a life lead as a dealer and addict in downtown NYC.
HERSELF DEFINED, by BARBARA GUEST
RON SILLIMAN: This is not an argument for canonization, but
rather a chilling examination of a major modernist who was every
bit as crazed & manipulative as her old boyfriend, Ezra Pound.
POETRIA NOVA, by Geoffrey of Vinsauf
Laura Smith: I am loving this weird little medieval
poetics/rhetoric manual, which conveys poetic values
from a time when "poetics" is a major school (and public)
discipline, all tied up with Latin grammar and rhetoric
studies, public talkers and language that stays.
The Shroud of Turin: the Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ?, by Ian Wilson
Sparrow: The Knights Templar passages are hirsute,
suspicious and ecstatic.
Dispositions, by McKenzie Wark
Brian Kim Stefans: Rare and brilliant voyage through the
interzone of the journal, poem and cybercultural theory--
easily one of the best books of poetry I've read in a few years.
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
Chris Stroffolino: Beckett seems right now to be the
most HONEST writer I've ever read; I don't even read
him much; I read two pages very slowly and it forces
me to write; the writing a world that seems larger
than the "sum of its parts"
PERSEPOLIS, by MARJANE SATRAPI
GARY SULLIVAN: A riveting, beautifully illustrated memoir in
graphic novel form of the author's early life growing up in
Iran during the revolution and subsequent war with Iraq.
Indiana, Indiana, by Laird Hunt
Erik Sweet: it was amazing!
Girl Walks Into A Bar: A Memoir, by Strawberry Saroyan
ron P. swegman: "What makes this book significant is
the fact that the author is the grandaughter of a
legitimate, do-something celebrity -- author William
Saroyan -- and she herself worked as a staff writer
for some of the most high-profile print media in New
York and California."
Rimbaud, by Graham Robb
Cole Swensen: This relatively new biography is even-handed,
makes good connections to the poetry, and covers the later
years well---very funny too, in places.
SOMEPLACE LIKE THIS, by RENEE ASHLEY
J. C. TODD: If this were written in the Anglo-Saxon longline
instead of as a novel, it would be a neo-epic of loss and
reparation; the language has the fragmentary, human accuracy
of poetry, the sea is ever-present, and the voice of the
narrator is suffused with sorrow transforming into compassion.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night
Chris Toll: This book was published in 1961 - it was a
different world then - the stories weren't really scary,
they were just creepy and disturbing and droll.
THE NOSE, by NIKOLAI GOGOL
Mike Topp: According to a recent survey,
there are more than eight billion noses.
AMERICAN SONNETS, by GERALD STERN
EDWIN TORRES: I love where the details take me, how the
craft, directness and simplicity of the poems catch that
elusive insect of poetry which is to reflect while illuminating.
Maxine Kumin, by The Long Marriage.
David Trinidad: Such a joy when a poet gets better over time.
The Kurt Wallander mysteries, by Henning Mankell
Jonathan Williams: The Kurt Wallander mysteries are dour,
strange, and impossible to put down. I am reading the latest
to be translated from the Swedish: FIREWALL. Terrific.
Persepolis; the Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
Eleanor Wilner: Using comic strip form, this brilliant,
heart-scalding, at times hilarious book tells the story
from a child's vantage of growing up in Iran during the
Islamic revolution and the war with Iraq--a sharp vantage
on colonialism, fundamentalism, the Middle East and,
more generally, human folly, cruelty and resilience.
JACK THE MODERNIST, by Robert Gluck
Magdalena Zurawski: Existential Sex breaking into Gilgamesh.���r
And then there's also the thrill of knowing that other museumgoers are watching you peeping. You're in the know, and you know you're in the know. Double voyeurism, or triple. Museum and gallery spaces are great for that. People don't just go to see, they go to be seen seeing, if you follow me.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Saturday, October 25, 2003
let's try Buck's poem again, the way he intended it!
"someone hung a dead pigeon
outside the mayor's window"
--City Desk, 4 June 99
of unintended consequence
emanates from One Judiciary Sq.
a pigeon has been stupidly
fighting with a string and knots
itself to a drain
collapses and falls off the bldg.
men have been added
to the mayor's detail
Friday, October 24, 2003
This Duplicate Check Used For Ordering Only
at the bottom it has the tax line, but then it says something really strange, "Do Not Pay This Check" okay, no problem.
but here's the fine little poem on the back, which makes me think about all the insanity going on in Philadelphia right now:
"someone hung a dead pigeon
outside the mayor's window"
--City Desk, 4 June 99
of unintended consequence
emanates from One Judiciary Sq.
a pigeon has been stupidly
fighting with a string and knots
itself to a drain
collapses and falls off the bldg.
men have been added
to the mayor's detail
Buck my apologies for not understanding HOW to keep your indents/tabs in place. does anyone know how?
thanks so much for sending,
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
thanks for the engagement with this topic & your responses.
Elizabeth ~ it is interesting what you say but i think that MD intended to manipulate as much as he could the perspective of the audience with this piece in particular. interpretation is not perspective, of course, but a narrowed perspective increases the chance of similar responses. most everyone i've talked to about *Given* has interpreted a violent vibe, although there is no obvious 'retinal' violence. it is largely MD's manipulation of perspective, which is quite contrary to his previous work, that points toward a certain intention, an inference of violation. though you're right, it's really keen how each person is forced to consider what s/he sees before communicating and/or immediately compromising their interpretation. what's maybe more interesting, certainly more creepy & hysterical, is how the act of peeping through those holes, makes us acutely aware of our own violation. we are being made predators at precisely the same time we find ourselves judged (by ourselves) for our unwitting action.
Tom ~ well, the statement that nothing is obvious about *Given* is both true and wide. it is pretty well known, anyway, that the model was sculptor Maria Martins, who, so far as i can tell, was a woman. she was likely not only the model but an inspiration for the piece as MD inscribed the first known sketch to her, “Etant donnes: Maria, la chute d'eau et la gaz d'elclairage.” that MD was consciously addressing a castrated or otherwise transformed male figure is unlikely for several reasons but mostly because his statements, behavior & works pointed emphatically away from contemplation of internal or 'spiritual' transformation into the/a feminine (whatever that represented for him) and toward the defacement/mutilation of the figure, if you've been following me. though both of which, by extension & psycho/philosophical play, might be attempts at the same ultimate goal.
MD was consistently intensely interested in the 'bride' [&] as object-to-possess. in the *White Box* his one note read (also relating to my comment above):
“When undergoing the interrogation by shop windows, you also pronounce your own judgment Condemnation. In fact, the choice is a round trip. From the demands of shop windows, from the inevitable response to shop windows, the conclusion is the making of a choice. No obstinacy, ad absurdum, : in hiding this coition through a sheet of glass with one or more of the objects in the shop window .The penalty consists in cutting the glass and in kicking yourself as soon as possession is consummated.”
let me mention here his window display for Breton's 1945 *Se Surrelisme et la Peinture* addressed the same theme(s) as *Given.*
anyway, i don’t care so much anymore whether Duchamp was a misogynist or not. i am more interested in what he was doing with *Given, * which has to do with the compulsion to dis/empower the object of desire.
**JES ~ i really want to respond to your post at greater length later because i think you hit on a couple interesting & important points in this discussion...
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Where am I?
The cardinal points are lost in a heap, like four
aces shuffled in a pack of cards."
last night i sat in the basement of the Philadelphia Quaker Friends School to hear Gloria Pacis, mother of the openly gay marine Stephen Eagle Funk, now in prison for being a conscientious objector to America's aggression against Iraq. one of the first things i noticed was the absence of the gay press, probably busy making rainbow posters to support Philadelphia Republican candidate for mayor Sam Katz, who is using what Betsy Piette called "the FBI's racist witch hunt" against Democrat mayor John Street, in order to gain control of the city government. but that's another story, another very ugly story.
before hearing Gloria read her son's letters from prison, and read her speech she'll be reading this saturday at the march in DC, i wasn't sure how i felt about the stand Funk has taken. the issue of gays in the military in particular has bothered me in the past, or rather the steady focus both Clinton and the press had given it in recent years. as far as i was concerned, there were far more pressing issues that the gay community needed to challenge.
but i started to hear the story of how Stephen's sister Katie (a political activist) had helped him come out of the closet. this is no small thing for a marine to do. in fact it's quite dangerous, even needing to be held in protective custody while in military prison.
in the beginning Stephen would write speeches for his sister to read for him at political rallies. but when he gained the courage to take the microphone and tell his own story, he also started talking to the chaplain on his military base. but he wasn't just talking to the chaplain about being a gay marine, he was also starting to talk about his feelings for a war we were about to begin that he felt was wrong, and immoral. the fact that the pope was very openly against the invasion of Iraq would allow any Catholic chaplain the right to also firmly declare this war immoral.
for years i've well understood poor and working class kids joining the armed services with visions of bettering themselves, getting out of poverty, seeing the world, maybe being able to go to school after they've served their time. but along with that also came a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility to defend America's shores and people. this is something that every member of my family who has served has believed themselves a part of, this sense of protection of freedom, and justice.
when i was sitting there listening to Gloria Pacis read her son's letters from prison, it became very clear that this was a young man who had once believed in the very same things my own family has believed or continues to believe. Stephen Eagle Funk is part Filipino and part Native American. to be exact, his mother said he is part Crow. and upon hearing this it further solidified my understanding of Stephen's belief in defending America. the Crow Indians were the tribe, in fact the only tribe of the west and pacific north west to aid the white settlers in the war against the tribes. when i lived for a brief time in New Mexico i heard plenty of racial slurs against the Crow from other Native Americans, as well as from the strange white New Age community, accusing them of destroying the country by turning it over to the white devils. and really, who can blame them for their anger? but when i started to read the books of Frank B. Linderman, which were interviews he conducted with the Crow Chief Plenty Coups, and their medicine woman Pretty Shield, it became clear that the Crow believed the white men to merely be another tribe who had come to aid them in their own hour of need. the Lakota in particular, according to Chief Plenty Coups, wanted to wipe the Crow off the face of the earth. genocide, in other words. the Crow fought alongside the mainly white cavalry, and provided expertise in tracking and hunting, and other forms of survival. so once the Indian wars were over and it came time to divide up the small portions set aside for reservations, the Crow of course got to pick the best locations. and for whatever judgments others may have, the Crow believed it was their duty to defend the country, even under the occupation of the white rulers.
but what's a marine to do when he hears the outcry of nearly every nation on earth that the aggression against Iraq his country was about to undertake is racist, is wrong? after all, we do now have gibbering, stammering military leaders declaring this a war against Satan, aligning with the ideas of some religious leaders in the middle east who believe that this is a Holy War. what's a marine to do? especially if he believed in his heart that his duty was to defend his country, not ruthlessly invade and occupy another.
there were several Vietnam vets in the audience who believed that the harsh punishment handed down to Stephen was a result of his speaking out at rallies, and trying to persuade other soldiers to refuse to fight this war. the truth is that the international plea for Funk's case actually awarded him a lighter sentence than was originally intended, but the military court is still wanting to shut him up and make an example of him.
he has a strong mother. Gloria Pacis is an amazing woman, speaking all over the country right now, trying to make alliances with other mothers of other service men and women who are also outraged at the war in Iraq. and with the rising toll in American casualties, Gloria's pace is picking up, and her message is being heard more than ever. she'll be speaking on stage this saturday in DC with others who want to end this war and make reparations to the people of Iraq.
the lack of any press, including the gay press, last night, didn't phase a crowd from filling the room to hear the panel who spoke with Gloria Pacis. here's to the best for another march in DC against the American occupation of Iraq, and hoping that peace will soon come for the Iraqi people.
i now want to share with you a letter we were handed:
ONE REFUSER TO ANOTHER: ISRAELI REFUSENIK TO US CONSCIOUS OBJECTOR
A letter from refuser Matan Kaminer, on trial - Israeli military court, to Stephen Funk Us Marines
Is this what they call "globalization"?
We live half a world from each other, we have led quite different lives, and yet we are both in the same situation: conscientious objectors to imperial war and occupation, we are both standing military trial this summer. Reading your statement I couldn't help but smile at the basic sameness of military logic around the world - including its inability to understand how anybody could be enough against a war to resist going to kill and die in it.
But I've been presuming you're familiar with my situation. In case you aren't, let me fill you in briefly. I was slated for induction into the Israeli army in December 2002. After a year of volunteer work in a Jewish-Arab youth movement, I had made up my mind to refuse to enlist. Together with other young people in my situation, I signed the High School Seniors' Letter to PM Sharon, and to make myself absolutely clear I sent a personal letter to the military authorities notifying them that I was going to refuse.
They let me know they weren't about to let me go: the army only exempts pacifists (at least that's what it claims) and I didn't meet their definition of a pacifist. So beginning in December I was sentenced by 'disciplinary proceedings' (do they have this ridiculous institution in the Marines too?) to 28 days in military prison - three consecutive times. After my third time in jail, I asked to join my friend Haggai Matar, who was being court-martialed, and within a few weeks three of our friends - Noam, Shimri and Adam - joined us.
Now we are on trial and stand to get up to three years in prison for refusing the order to enlist.
Sounds familiar, huh? But it's not just what they're doing to us that's similar, it's what they're doing to others: occupying a foreign land and oppressing another people in the name of preventing terror. People like you and me know that's just an excuse for furthering economic and political interests of the ruling elite. But it's not the elite that pays the price.
The people who pay the price are in Jenin and Fallujah, in Ramallah and Baghdad, in Tikrit and in Hebron. They are the Iraqi and Palestinian children, hog-tied face-down on the floor or shot at on the way to school. But they are also the Israeli and American soldiers, treated as cannon fodder by generals in air-conditioned offices, whose only way to deal with their situation is dehumanization - first of the strange-looking foreigners who want them dead, next of themselves. You can ask your Vietnam veterans or our own.
Stephen, people our age should be out learning, working and transforming the world. People our age should be going to parties and protests, meeting people, falling in love and arguing about what our world should look like. People our age should not be moving targets, denied their human and civil rights; they should not be military grunts, exposed to harm in mind and body, lugging around M-16's and guilty consciences; they should not be thrown behind bars for not wanting to kill and die.
Your trial is set to begin soon. Mine has already begun so maybe I can give you a few pointers.
Look the judges in the eyes. Use every opportunity you have to explain why you stand there. They are human just like you, but they try to deny it to themselves. Don't let them. War is shit and they know it. They should let you go and they know it.
It's likely that we'll both get thrown in prison when this all ends. There will be dark moments in prison, moments when it seems that the outside world has forgotten all about us, that what we did and refused to do was in vain. Well, I know what I'll do in those moments: I'll think of you Stephen, and I'll know that nothing we do for humanity's sake is ever in vain.
With greatest solidarity,
'Open Detention', Tel Hashomer Camp, Israel
August 12, 2003
this letter and other information was handed out by the Global Women's Strike, and also the group calling themselves Refusing To Kill.
in solidarity with Stephen Eagle Funk, Matan Kaminer, and all others wishing peace, and an end to the disgrace of our nation's aggression,
Monday, October 20, 2003
The most relevant and retainable story on the evening news for most people is the weather. It’s maybe the only story where there’s something they can do as a result of the information given. It’s a case in which the input can actually have an output. Popular lefties from Kalle Lasn (see Culture Jamming) to Michael Moore (see Bowling for Columbine) suggest this is no accident.
When discussing politics with friends & strangers alike, I sometimes find a reluctance to discuss issues that haven’t been "mediated" by media pundits. After the barrage of newsbytes, more often than not they’re left more bewildered than if they trusted their own thinking in the first place.
But enough of the "I have a friend" talk. I’m really talking about myself. As James Sherry says, "It would be good to know our steps from here." I agree. I also readily admit I have no Get Out of Jail Free card. No overarching answer. No comprehensive solution.
I do have poetry within my reach. The poem can resist Empire’s information overload strategy, not by staking a permanent breakaway state- I’m not there yet. As a mostly co-opted American, I can (via poetry) establish, then dissolve states akin to Hakim Bey-style TAZs (Temporary Autonomous Zones).
The poet (and I use this term in the way Gramsci uses philosopher- meaning everyone) can counter the overwhelming assault on mental guerilla possibilities. Let them fight and/or play for awhile. This doesn’t take PVC pipe or affinity groups. At its best, the poem (read/written/spoken) is a Reclaim The Streets action of imagination, committed to shut down the engines of oppression within myself.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
I am friends with a French Art Historian and poet named Serge Fauchereau who told me he isn't so sure that the figure said to be a woman is a woman at all.
On hearing Serge's claim, (which I didn't first take as serious) I replied and protested, "But Serge, it's obviously the figure of a woman."
Serge paused, and in a reply that was as sober as it was serious, he said, "There is nothing obvious about Duchamp's Etant Donnes."
In a review of John Ashbery's Chinese Whispers on Jacket 21, I make an analogy between this Duchamp and some of Ashbery's poetry. The passage reads:
The experience of reading Ashbery also has similarities to experiencing Marcel Duchamp’s intriguing “Etant Donnes” (“Given”) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Duchamp piece is an old barn door with a dime-sized peephole through, one spectator at a time can experience the work on the other side: a reclining nude with a gas lantern in front of a waterfall (a description that depends largely upon whom you ask). Many pass “Given” by completely, thinking that the barn door is the piece itself, and that there is nothing more to see. Much of Ashbery’s most successful poetry operates in this one-on-one way, encouraging readers to have responses that are as highly personal as they are contradictory.
In an attempt to rebuild some bridges and mend the wounds of 2000, I have reached out to Democratic leaders in an attempt to forge a Democratic-Green alliance for 2004. The combined vote for Gore and Nader was over 51 percent, enough to win any election. I have suggested to Democrats that Greens may back a Democratic candidate for president who supports the essential elements of the Green agenda, and in turn Democrats should vote for Greens in districts where Democrats are not fielding a real candidate for Congress."
--Michael Moore, from his new book DUDE WHERE'S MY COUNTRY?
doesn't sound like such a bad idea.
what do you think?
in case you ARE interested, here's a few things for the upcoming election in Philadelphia. i feel it's important to take such bridges of voting on the local level and expand OUT.
the Philadelphia Green Party site has information on their candidate Tom Hutt who is running for 8th District City Counsil
there are a few articles on Hutt:
on the Montgomery County Green Party site
in The Daily Pennsylvainian
Hutt challenges his oppenent Donna Reed Miller to debate, but she doesn't return his phone calls.
a couple of other Philly Green related articles:
Ortiz asked to run for City Council by Philadelphia Greens
Green Party's encouragement for Green members of City Counsil
also, any other voter in Pennsylvania interested in Green Party candidates running in their area, go to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation site, type Green Party into the seach engine, and it will tell you where the candidates are running.
furthermore, ANYONE not in Pennsylvania wanting to know about Green Party candidates in their state, or their home town, ALL such information can be found on the national Green Party site.
Michael Moore's alliance sounds like a great idea, hope those who are interested are registered to vote, and show up. so many people don't bother with local elections, which are crucial in so many ways for so many people near where we live.
any additional information anyone else can add is most welcome,
THOSE WHO GIVE UP ESSENTIAL LIBERTY TO PURCHASE A LITTLE TEMPORARY SAFETY DESERVE NEITHER LIBERTY NOR SAFETY. --Benjamin Franklin
2. The Illuminating Gas, I just wanted to add that what I love most about
that piece is Duchamp's brilliance in making it only accessible via
peephole, thereby insuring that we can argue about it FOREVER and never see
the same thing, as only one pair of eyes can look at it at a time, and even
standing there side-by-side with a companion, as I have done, taking turns,
you can hardly see what that other person sees; you are left to describe
what it is you think you're seeing. You can't point and say, "that, there,
see what I mean?" I think the title nods to this aspect: what is listed as
"given" are peripheral factors in the tableau, whereas the viewer creates
the central figure in her mind's eye. My initial debate about this happened
one time at the museum when I mentioned to a friend that I thought there
was something satirical in Duchamp's intent, as the woman-figure was so
obviously fake & alien & wrong-looking that it didn't seem violent to me,
and my friend was shocked! Saying that it was clearly a disturbing image.
And around & around we go...
I hope you are well and that I'll see you around soon --
posted by CAConrad
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
You could take it back to Kant, and how much the old German valued detachment as the measure of aesthetic enjoyment -- appreciation without desire or sensuality, the sublimation of the individual, messy I WANT into something transcendent and universal, objective.
This quote really leapt out at me: "Social equilibrium is the equalization of the strong and the weak. So long as the strong and the weak are not equal, they are strangers, they cannot form an alliance, they are enemies..."
Should art (any kind of art, really, poetry, painting, music, take yr pick) strive for that kind of social equlibrium? Forming alliances?
I read, pretty recently, (although not recent enough to be able to include it in CA's "What Poets Are Reading" survey - wait till you see my contribution to THAT), Wendy Steiner's _Venus in Exile_, a book-length musing on how beauty (yes indeed, associated with The Feminine) has been devalued, nay vilified, in modern and postmodern art -- abstracted, uber-objectified, subjected to violence -- most often in the defacement or super-abstraction of the female form. (Compare Manet's "Olympe" to Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon.") But beauty (if you follow her argument, and probably Elaine Scarry's _On Beauty and Being Just_, although Steiner isn't exactly a fan of Scarry, she probably wouldn't be all that happy about me including them both in the same sentence, and don't take my word for it, look at both and make your own conclusion) is associated with desire, what connects people together, for better or for worse (conscious use of marriage-language, there!). The sociable-aesthetic category. What fuels intersubjective interactions -- the ability to form alliances, to (dare I say it) relate to others. Makes the other less other. Recognition rather than alienation. Scarry would say it makes us more just towards one another. But it's a little messier than objectification and the achievement of distance. "Aesthetic appreciation" didn't really solidify into that kind of meaning (distant, divorced from desire) till the late nineteenth century anyway. A means for artists to maintain their own distance from the bourgeoisie, I guess.
I don't know if this counts as a response to your post - more like a report on what it raised in my own mind. I'd like to see the Duchamps you're talking about (I'm an art nincompoop after 1900, mostly).
And many, many thanks for ferrying me around on Friday night -
after the 2002 elections for not being militant enough about supporting
Bush's war and Homeland Security clampdown. He asserted that Americans are
'scared' and seek the comfort of powerful leaders: 'They'd rather have someone
strong and wrong than weak and right.'
Thank you, Bill. Now go away. (Can't he get anyone to play golf with
--Jim Hightower, from his new book THIEVES IN HIGH PLACES
i've been somewhat worried about the NEW Republican scam to undermine the Democrats, this time being in Philadelphia, this time being with a rather mysterious FBI investigation, which of course the FBI wants everyone to know they're doing, but of course won't tell anyone what it's about. hmmm. even former mayor Ed Rendell, now PA's Governor spoke out against the FBI's bug in the mayor's office, "I think given this extraordinary situation with four weeks to go in the campaign, it is incumbent upon the FBI to say why they planted the device."
i've been somewhat worried since this story broke because i've been thinking that it's possible that those citizens of Philadelphia who have been unsure this time between Democrat John Street and Republican Sam Katz, might just opt for Katz because, hey, it's the FBI after all. sounds pretty damn offical, FBI, like someone's been officially up to no good. why not be worried? Abbey Hoffman got railroaded by his BEST friends because of an FBI investigation. the man had to live underground. what a disgrace.
but TWICE today i overheard conversations that lifted my spirits on the matter. i was in the Reading Terminal Market eating my vegan chick burger near the piano player who was whipping up a Gershwin storm, and a nearby table of about six African American women started talking about the whole affair with the mayor and the investigation. one of the women wasn't sure and sitting on the fence, but the other five were VERY sure! "c'mon GIRL! you know the FBI has been after black folks for years!" "yeah, they went after King!" lots of Mm Hmms with that one. "well i know who i'm voting for! FBI or NO FBI!" laughter, and agreements. this made me SO happy to hear!
MAYBE just MAYBE this time one of these Republican scams is going to actually BACKFIRE in their smarmy faces! yeah, i think so. even former mayor Ed Rendell made some VERY public remarks that the investigation being so close to the election was fishy. and don't you even THINK for one minute that folks in Philadelphia aren't onto it! despite the center of the city being plastered with RAINBOW gay pride Katz posters or those red white and blue Democrats for Katz posters. ah man, Democrats for Katz!? he should be made to move to New Jersey for that one! sorry Jersey, but someone's gotta take him. and i figured, since you didn't mind the Russian aristocrats retreating to your back door all those years ago, well, here's another fancy rich boy for you.
and WHAT ABOUT those rainbow pride Katz posters!? i'm going to make a T-shirt and wear it for the next three weeks until election that says, "I'M GAY BUT I'M NO REPUBLICAN! I SWEAR!" makes me CRAZY seeing those rainbow posters all over the place! gay people had FAR MORE sense when they had NO rights! and why the hell is that anyway?
either that, or one that says, "REPUBLICANS FOR STREET!" i really HATE the idea of people thinking i'm Republican, but, i'm so upset with this Democrats for Katz thing that i want this election to be OVER already so i don't have to keep holding my head in place when i'm walking on the street, for fear it will explode!
later in the day, i was leaving Eleanor Wilner's, after picking up her house key for a little house sitting i'm doing for her soon, and i'm walking up 12th Street, and these two women see the rainbow Katz posters and one says, "gay people are republicans?" MY BIGGEST NIGHTMARE COME TRUE! i said, "NO! i'm not. in fact, i HATE Sam Katz. hate everything he has to say about schools, in particular. he's out of his mind if he thinks he'll win anyway." and they nodded, a little out of their neighborhood, a little unsure of me. so i asked, "how do you feel?" one woman, who had an Atlantic City sweat shirt on, i forget which casino, she spoke right away, "oh yeah, we were just looking at the poster is all. it seemed funny. you know, gay republicans. just seemed funny." of course i nodded, "yeah, well, it's funny, but not funny like a joke." turns out they really wanted to talk about the posters, and gay republicans, but they both did say that they're voting for Street. the other one with the big bleached hair (i liked her a lot, seems like a fun person to kick back with) held her nose and said, with that nose-pinched voice, "yeah, this is how i'm voting for him." then she released her nose, and added, "no one in my family votes Republican. although we almost did when Rizzo became one. but, well, we know how that turned out." i really DID NOT want to talk to them about Rizzo, i mean, we were having such a nice chat after all, so i just acted like i didn't hear it. but it was another moment of encouragement. if she holds her nose to vote for Street, it's still a vote for Street.
i'm NOT the biggest Street-head. in fact, more than once i've written letters of outrage against him to the City Paper, once after his racist remarks at the NAACP conference, then again after his scandal with his brother's contract, etc. but Katz just doesn't make sense, especially when issues of the poor and issues of education are brought up. this isn't New York. in other words. sometimes i think he thinks it is New York, and that the population is mostly upper middle class who don't mind hearing about education being as divided by property taxes as it is these days. etc.
if i were mayor i'd be on the damn television once a week, talking about education, talking about the need for real, serious education, and everyone's RIGHT to it!
i'd increase the minimum wage in the city to $9 an hour PRONTO! and put in place a law which would make that wage increase with a standard based on both the standard of living increase and tax increase.
rent control NOW! RIGHT NOW! which includes a law protecting seniors. anyone collecting their social security should NOT have their rents increased by GREEDY center city land owners eager to cash in on the latest hip shift in college student living arrangements. i've heard enough stories about the elderly in center city losing their homes to make me want to become a vigilante for the aged.
i'd rip out ALL the parking meters. and in their place i'd put tollbooths at every single entrance into the city. those with single occupants would pay $3 to get in. those with two occupants pay $2. those with three or more occupants pay $1 to get in. my idea is to encourage car pooling thru the wallet, which would help the environment, and cut down on all the damn traffic. but also, the lack of meters would encourage folks to leave the safety of their shopping malls and Pizza Huts.
there are other ideas i have to turn this city into one big fat fair place to BE! maybe i should run for city council yikes.
if i do, and if i were to win, i'd start up the idea again of turning Chestnut Street into a canal connecting the Deleware River to the Schuylkill River.
yeah, i like that, downtown rowboats.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
The Philly Sound reading at the 2-1-5 Festival at La Tazza this past Saturday night highlighted many of the deep roots and shared associations the poets have with one another. In addition to reading their own work, each poet also read the work of a poet either not there, or not reading that evening.
Here is a brief overview of the reading and of some of those connections:
Frank Sherlock lead off the evening using every trick in the book to handle, contend, and counter a table of high-as-the-fucking-sky La Tazza patrons (not there for the reading) who were simply unable to stop giggling throughout his reading). Despite this, Frank was forthright (even though he himself succumbed to laugher twice) and he ended on a powerful note with a poem by Greg Fuch’s, which itself was homage to Ted Berrigan;
Jennifer Snead read a poem that I recently wrote called "Assorted Diligence." She was also joined by her lifelong friend Jane who stood-in as the voice (which I could only faintly hear) of T.S. Eliot, and dedicated her longer, edgy, and emotionally layered poem "South Street Bridge," to Fran Ryan;
CAConrad, who wore a black t-shirt with the names of the women who were murdered during the Salem Witch trails, read poems by Buck Downs and Mariana Ruiz Firmat as well as his some of his own poems, which were dedicated to Dodie Bellamy & Kevin Killian and had punchy, sexually frank, and outrageous textual interpolations from Maggie Zurawski;
Fran Ryan read his deliberate (something cutting) poems with lines and references from one of the silent partners of the Philly Sound Matt McGoldrick, and read an excellent poem by Patti McCarthy, who Fran related was the Philly Sound poet whose work he feels most sympathy with his own;
Jenn McCreary read a poem by Gil Ott from his Sun and Moon collection and from her own work, which continues to have its measured, intense, and quite magic;
hassen ended the evening by reading poems by Alicia Askenase and Don Riggs. She also read a poem for Don, which she said was an email she had never sent. In addition to that she also read poems from an on-going series of poems on the Salem Witch Trials, which felt like punk rock without the back-up band -- a total spell-breaker;
A side note: If you happened to walk into the La Tazza before the reading and wondered why Fran Ryan and Jenn McCreary were standing back to back, or why CAConrad and Jennifer Snead were standing shoulder to shoulder. Frank decided that the poets would read from tallest to smallest. There was a moment when it was not clear if high-heel shoes would count and I’m not sure that was ever cleared-up.
It’s good to stick around after a La Tazza reading. I had a Yuengling with Matt McGoldrick and also had a wonderful conversation with a friend of Fran’s named Emily who discussed plans (or maybe she was just riffing on the spot) for a Gingko Festival on charming Quince Street. Among other things, Emily explained the ancient gingko’s relation to the pine tree, which she said you are able see echoed in the gingko leaf itself. Later, hassen kindly drove me down to Geno’s with Jennifer and Conrad along for the ride so I could get a cheese steak (provolone with), for which I was grateful.
On the Passyunk Ave. side of Geno’s, Little Joey Merlino drank a root beer and sat with nearly ten associates. The women who were married (or the girlfriends) to the men wearing the $3,000 suits all sat and ate inside of Geno’s in the orange booths, which I realized I had never seen anyone else use before. Nicole, Matt, Frank, Conrad and hassen all went to Dobbies for a night cap and I went home to expire, coming off the heels working all day, and several other 2-1-5 fest nights out in a row, which included Patti Smith at the Free Library (Mytili was there and it was her 31st birthday!!) and a reading at Writers House the two nights before with readers from McSweeney's, Fence, Verse, and Open City which ended up late at the Tritone on South Street. All of which are 8,000 other stories.... and now it's 12:41 AM Monday night -- (I can't believe I'm still up). Good night.
(As I said, hassen drove me home so I left my bike across the street from La Tazza locked up to a street sign. At the time it made sense, but as far as my bike was concerned it wasn't the smartest thing to do given the thousands people walking the outdoor runway that is Chestnut Steet and trolling out in every shiny direction to all of the night clubs in Old City. I was unable to pick up my bike until the following night when I arrived back there around 9:30 PM, after the PBQ 2-1-5 reading, and low, yes, the bike was there -- quick release back tire and all!)
Monday, October 13, 2003
i've been wanting to write about my own thoughts that Sunday but have been occupied with other stuff. it's been nagging at me, though, coming up here & there. excuse me for backtracking.
i think Duchamp wanted to be a woman. there. i said it.
he worked on *Etant Donnes (Given: 1.The Waterfall, 2.The Illuminating Gas)* for twenty years. there was *Nude Descending ...,* *L.H.O.O.Q.,* *Bride Stripped Bare...* etc. -- all with a constant: reversal/inversion - gender play. in *Bride Stripped Bare..* there are some allusions/missing elements listed in his diagram of the piece - Region of the Waterfall and Region of the Picture of Cast Shadows - both of which are found in *Etant Donnes* as The Waterfall and The Illuminating Gas (my translation, anyway – has to do with fourth dimension for D as sexual act, casting shadow as third dimension and so on but that's another tangent i'll let alone now). his vulva casts of *Fig Leaf,* *Not a Shoe,* *Wedge of Chastity,* & *Dart Object* (likely the negative space of the vaginal canal – though i thought it looked like the jawbone of a mule when i first saw it & remembered the Biblical story of Samson slaying a lion with it, oddly/appropriately enough), etc. of course the moustache & goatee (with the title pun “she's got a hot ass”) on poor little *Mona Lisa,* some believe a self-portrait of DaVinci in drag. & the most obvious – his use of alter ego Rrose Selavy & the lovely photograph of her by Man Ray.
but seriously. i've seen *Given..* lots of times before & been only slightly disturbed. i think this was the first time, though, it occurred to me that Duchamp, of all people, was actually misogynistic or was at least conflicted about the weaker sex (self). it's obvious the scene is weird. not only is the face not visible but the pudenda is not anatomically correct – or at least not normal. and hairless. the position of the left leg is really awkward. what's more is that you're forced to view it through two little peep holes of a thick wooden door in a dark room.
it's important for me to feel more O.K. with Duchamp's possible issue with women (though he was reportedly perfectly intellectually respectful) – or rather my issue with Duchamp's disfiguration of the figure in *Given...,* hence my play with amateur psychoanalysis & conjecture. though it's more curiosity. & i'm asking for any input at all on this stuff, trying to figure out the figure.
of course i wouldn't want to censor any creative work. in fact, i prefer this sort of thing so we can see what might be going on in there. what's most disturbing, dangerous, is the conflict of reverence & disdain. that kind of volatility that makes a girl sniff the air. hair stands up a little. that intense masc. polarity arising from the socialized chasm (for some) between genders. i recently read Hericourt's volley with Proudhon wherein he, in his belief, provides a perfect example of this perception,
“Social equilibrium is the equalization of the strong and the weak. So long as the strong and the weak are not equal, they are strangers, they cannot form an alliance, they are enemies... It is logical; but I claim that they should be made unequal in society and in marriage. Man should have the prepotence, because he is the stronger."
i really like the part about strangers. that's great. it's common yet interesting to read how his argument, after she kicked his ass on every point logically and scientifically, finally came down to “...because he is the stronger.” archaic, but telling. (obviously this discussion verges on power dynamic, sexuality in general, libertines/privilege, s/m, colonialism, politics, slavery, economics, et al but those themes/discussions abound elsewhere anyway.)
throughout his artistic life, Duchamp tended toward the mechanical & alluded to the erotic but didn't seem to reconcile the sensual and the mechanical (if that should even be a goal, i don’t know). *The Chocolate Grinder,* for example, or *Why Not Sneeze, Rrose Selavy?* (sneeze = orgasm, the sugar cubes in the cage sexual indulgence, etc.) the division is clear. after all, it's why, he claimed, he stopped painting, that it was not, what did he say...pure? because painting was too sensual. he wanted to get rid of aesthetic/sensual in art but not the idea of it. i don't recall reading *why* that was but i'm really curious. i can't help but wonder if sensuality in art, to him, somehow threatened – or corrupted – the intellect (rather than the other way around). it's kind of a pathological sexuality, of (help me with pyschobabble here, i'm getting tired) the inability to experience satiety because of intellectual disengagement from the sensual by dissociation/objectification & the ensuing violent 'sexual' impulse. in *The Bride Stripped Bare,* we have the best example of his dilemma - perpetual desire and frustration. the elusive object of desire (bride) on the other side of the invisible barriers – the Bride's Garment, Region of the Gilled Cooler (isolating plates), Horizon, etc. all hinged on the Juggler of Gravity.
*Given...* is his full circle, three dimensional, full scale solution. gas being sexual/creative desire, falls as his emission/creative act (fountain/urinal). full circle in the dimensionality of the medium/mode as well. not to mention the utter control he has over the audience, much more drastic than his other work. this goes beyond being provocative; it's manipulative and sinister and far more significant than my joke of him wanting to be a chick. Duchamp seems really interested in murder here or at least intent on pairing brutality and desire. and on maintaining the female's anonymity/objectification. maintaining a chasm, much like what her genitalia resembles, as i recall.
Though begun in 1946, *Given...* recalls the 1947 scene of slain Elizabeth Short (who happened not to have malformed pudenda but vagina) when they found her body on a grassy lot in L.A. – except that she had been cut in half at the waist (truly severing the intellect from the sex) & a few other gruesome differences.
Duchamp had problems with the Women's League when he collaborated on a window installation for Breton in NYC. he had an armless, headless female form with a faucet (falls, again) coming out of her thigh (titled *Lazy Hardware*). his earlier drawings/studies for *Given...* had the figure (model was Maria Martins - the opinion of whom i'd love to hear on this) likewise armless. i imagine he had in mind other similar figures from Courbet's *Origin of the World* or Rodin's drawings *Demain, si les..* or *Elle Ètait suspendue* for Mirbeau's novel *The Torture Garden.* there was also Cornell’s freaky doll (though fully clothed and full faced) with twigs in *Bebe Marie.* the female figure in these pieces is common with the psychopathic killer's objectified figure.
maybe Duchamp attempted to contemplate the provocative (&/or resulting) figure rather than the socialized chasm (to have or to be or to understand, whichever) leading to such intense objectification. he stressed the dilemma of the sexual object igniting/perpetuating a maddening creative force whose beginning might be an effort to attain the object but whose frustration & hence conclusion/solution is violent.
however, he could no more resolve it here, in its finally full sensual (oh yes, he used actual pig skin), 3-dimensional glory, than he could in *The Bride...,* by violence (or the inference of violence) – as the gas lamp is still unshaken and burning & the falls are a twinklin' in the background. defiling or mutilating the object of desire (bride) does not eradicate the desire itself. possibly one point of his (for surely he had more than one) is that no matter how shockingly violent or absolute the death of the object, desire and creation continue. even brutality is ultimately, as he likely would have said (but in French), not important.
at some point during the reading i was listening to Scalapino and wondered what books she had been reading when writing the poem.
then i wondered what Leslie Scalapino was reading that very morning. then when i looked around the room i was curious about what Jena Osman, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman and Rachel Blau de Plessis were reading.
i know what hassen and Frank read because they tell me.
but there they were, these other readers, and what they had been reading earlier that day was in their heads. the books somewhere in their homes. or maybe in the cases, purses, and bags they carried. it is very hard to explain what came over me. it was savage, oh, was it? yes, it was savage, to some degree, wanting to KNOW!
of course you just ask people, no need for savagery. poets love to tell you what they're reading, they always seem to anyway.
many many good book titles have come to me from poets. often, the kinds of books which create a brand new sluice for all forms of thought and feeling to run out of your heart, and you approach the world changed.
there's so many poets out there, and they're all reading, i hope. although i have ACTUALLY met dozens of poets over the years who ACTUALLY say that they don't read poetry so that it doesn't affect? infect? their own poems, or some other incredible nonsense.
i never want to have anything to do with a poet who says this, because more than anything i value generosity, especially in poets. and there is nothing more selfish in a poet than to say that their poems are far more important than lending an ear to others. little do they realize how much they could learn JUST by reading and absorbing the tools which have been building and expanding, ESPECIALLY in our recent years here in America.
the first, and last, poetry workshop i ever attended was when i was just 18 years old. Lamont Steptoe convinced me to go to the William Stafford poetry workshop at The Painted Bride Arts Center. i didn't have any more money then than i do now, so Lamont made it possible for me to attend for free, so long as i helped set up the chairs.
when i asked Stafford, in that circle of poets, what poets he reads, he said, "i don't read poetry, i only read novels and short stories." that was it, as though instant ear plugs sprouted in my head, i wanted to hear nothing more from this man. it's fine of course for him to read whatever he wants. and it's fine of course for poets to read novels and short stories, but for him to say that he DOESN'T read poetry and ONLY reads fiction... then why the HELL should we read HIM!?
but i really want to know what other poets are reading. and i DO ask poets on occassion, in e-mails, on the phone, in person, etc. but i started to think that there were probably plenty of others out there who also wanted to know this information.
then this idea of e-mailing a bunch of poets and asking them:
TITLE / AUTHOR
YOUR NAME: one sentence reaction to the book.
the deadline for entries to this list is October 21st, day of publication. when i say publication, i'm meaning putting the list on this blog, posting it to the various poetry listservs, and direct e-mail to poets.
i've already received about 45 to 50 entries, and am BESIDE myself with excitement, researching the different titles. it's wonderful that so many have been eager to respond. it makes me very happy, and i'm glad i FINALLY thought of the idea! what took me so long!?
now i'm wanting to do this maybe twice a year? try different seasons, for instance.
tune back in on the 21st to see the list.