Thursday, August 05, 2004
--Henri-Frederic Amiel, October 31, 1852
The Amiel quote is from several years after Poe's death, but it feels right. And it was written on Halloween/Samhain, which feels double right, a Poe kind of right.
Real respect for aura of Place is how Tom Devaney got us to experience Poe. You arrived at the Poe House in Philadelphia, not really sure what to expect.
He made it clear at the beginning of the tour that Poe had written some of his best work in that house. And it was exactly what we needed to hear, to imagine, because for Poe to have been that inspired, then the house itself could hold our strongest connection to Poe outside of the work itself.
We were asked to rest on the floor and listen to a piano recording (Erik Satie, I believe), or to turn and face the cracks on a wall in silence. Follow the cracks together.
Tom planned it so we would be going into smaller and smaller rooms, testing our private space boundaries, as well as furthering the claustrophobic Poe sense. The smell of aged plaster, the dark, the music, or quiet, (except for the 24 pairs of lungs on the tour) all this tripped flash after flash of idea of what exactly this Poe house meant.
What the house, and Poe, meant, was personal, as well as universal, and Tom created space for that. As any good poet knows how to create space, Tom created this most beautifully.
Note to Tom inside this post:
Tom, it was remarkable, and I really do believe that a small film of the tour would be well received. Who doesn't have a special place for Poe?
Our senses can wrap place in memory, and it's where a lot of human work gets done, dark work often, but what needs to get done...
Alice Notley's Mysteries of Small Houses has that very work ringing throughout, as she revisits all her old homes/haunts, writing a poem for each, a poem written as it would have been written at that time in that home. That book is a good, steep, human set of steps to walk up, and it feels/smells/tastes just right at the top, and leaves you catching your breath.
But sometimes I believe there's not enough respect for Place. For instance, it boggles my mind that New Yorkers aren't more concerned about Gotham Bookmart, which is very soon to be relocated. To be completely HONEST, there are poets up there I've met who have never heard of it. Is that possible? REALLY!? Every time I go to New York, I go to Gotham Bookmart! And I don't just go to root around in the poetry, which I also do of course, but I really go there to BE there! For FUCK SAKES people! Dylan Thomas read there, Edith Sitwell, Auden, Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, on and on the list. You really can FEEL the great lumbering spirits in the air, especially up in the gallery on the second floor. Yeah, I love that place. I want to MOVE IN! I want to roll around, covered completely in masking tape, and pick up little skin fragments, skin flakes. I would LOVE to have Edith Sitwell's skin flakes on my taped-up body!
But it's shocking to me when I speak to poets about Gotham moving, and they just shrug, and say, yeah, I know. And part of me thinks maybe I'm being weird. Or maybe they just think they're so fucking cool?
Tom struck the core of Being in a Place in the Poe house. We were networking experience in some way other than speaking. Connection with everyone on the tour was strong, and felt.
The only other house where I also felt this way (other than ones I've lived in) was Graceland. I'll never forget the first time I entered Graceland. I wanted to have sex in there so badly, I really really WANTED to have sex in there! And maybe it sounds weird, but this desire was really more about connection with the spirit of Elvis, not just of Elvis, but with the spirit of Elvis which enters that house every single time someone walks in the door with their special love for Him. We enter with our hearts first, our minds wanting to take over later, to tell us that we're not really going to burst into tears, that we're going to be calm. But the heart wants us to cry, ball our heads off. Elvis will do this, His spirit which is in all His fans.
More than anything, I'd LOVE it if Lisa Marie would grant me JUST ONE NIGHT to sleep on the floor next to Elvis's bed in a body condom, so that I can pretend I'm one of Elvis's sperm, in the condom he just ripped off before rolling over to snore up the night. I'd stay awake all night long in my giant condom, looking at the moonlight out the window, imagining I'm Elvis's little baby sperm, in my little rubber suit. Lisa Marie might just let me, if I word the request properly. It's all in the wording, I'm convinced.
But we also enter the Poe House with our own special Poe vibe, and that's what Tom taps into when he gets us to relax together, to meditate together, to be sucked into the cracks of the walls together. This was a tremendous spiritual journey, and I am very glad I attended.
If he gives another of these doors, I'm going back for seconds!
Whoops, I just wrote "doors" when meaning to write "tours."
But it is a door, and I'll leave it that way.