Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sympathy for the Garfunkel

Somehow I missed the magic week at the SFMOMA blog that opened with Dana Ward on Corey Arcangel’s editing down of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1984 Central Park concert to only the footage where Art’s got his hands in his pockets, and closed with Brandon Brown’s answering piece on the satanics of Kanye West. Brown pulls a thread through two centuries of “poetry which portends towards devotion to the Satanic,” his own days “entrenched in wizardry” in the 1980s, and the “audacious impiety” of Kanye’s Twitter pronouncements about his upcoming My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, while Ward reads angelic Art’s “increasingly enigmatic gesture”—boredom? regret? interpersonal friction?—as “a prosody to that which one never knew one desired to know.” Art’s remarkable “junction of poise and unease” through the concert, as Ward sees it, “speaks to the fragile happiness engendered by every false armistice.” I liked this, too:
“[Arcangel’s work] reminds me that reverie is the scholarship of unproductive time, and that inquiry undertaken there is hard won and precious and just what the world of work seeks to undo.” 
See what can happen when you let poets out of their usual malbolge?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Parking Lot of Terror

The 1977 Gay Sunshine interview included in John Wieners’s Selected is an Alp of spontaneous bop prosody, but this weekend at the Brandon Downing reading Sam Lohmann reminded me that Wieners’s interlocutor, Charley Shively, gets his licks in too. If you find a better 'poetry of place' question than “How important is geography or the turning of locations into a parking lot of terror?” shout out and let me know.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brandon Downing in Portland Tomorrow, 8 PM

 Poet, filmmaker, and lacustrine antiquarian Brandon Downing lands in Portland tomorrow to read for Bad Blood.  His videos are here; an eloquent review by Lucy Ives, with lots of illustrations from Lake Antiquity, is here; and a great interview with Ben Mirov in BOMB is here. Pop quiz at 7 PM; reading, with a few warm-up poems from me, at 8. Worksound Gallery, 820 SE Alder

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lewis Warsh's The Origin of the World

A seasonal time/energy deficit choked off the posts I meant to write on the strong run of readings in Portland lately: David Wolach with a laptop, Rachel Zolf with a Boykoff, Joshua Marie Wilkinson with a banjo, Katie Degentesh with unexpected sunshine, Mathias Svalina with surprise high school buds, K. Lorraine Graham with spangles, Anselm Berrigan with Sebaldliche syntax, Karen Weiser with Swedenborg, Alicia Cohen with autumn leaves, Kevin Sampsell with an SPD tee, Paul Maziar with a Catholic childhood, Standard Schaefer with false purgatories, Mark Wallace with lines for each audience member, Joseph Mains with skillfully held-back feedback, Les Fig with a pet caravan, etc. 

Those reports wont ever get written, at least not by me. But I did manage to write something about the Lewis Warsh books I got in advance of his reading, which I liked a lot. Soft rock and cowbell’s bound to sound like a diss out of context; I hope you can hear that its not. 
Lately, I hear ‘70s “soft” rock on the radio and wonder at the craftsmanship. It takes a lot of chops to sound that easy-like-Sunday-morning smooth, and measured against the digital wizardry that’s come since, the production seems warm and honest, not MOR-slick. Once in a while a sharp bass lick or drum figure bubbles up through the flow, and I picture the studio musicians who gave everything they had to hits that got plenty of airplay, but little critical respect.

Warsh’s poems from the ‘90s work sort of like that lick. You move along absently tapping your toes across the registers—“She drove up to Boston & bought a handbag on sale at Filene’s”; “Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by telling me/you hate me”—then suddenly, a sentence that pulls you up with its subtle vernacular majesty:

“Mansions where executives once lived with their families will
be split into apartments for the families of the workers”


“I plant the symbol of order, Neptune’s trident, on the opposite
side of the achipelago & set forth under warm skies to a
new terrain, spellbound by the possibilities of the future
& the shadows of the strange birds hanging motionless
on the horizon, but I don’t know the name of the boat
I’m aboard—it’s like a shadow of some other boat
that went down in the storm of the Isle of Good Hope,
where promises of love were made only to be broken
the next day, where marriage vows were spoken
in the shadows of an empty cathedral, where friends
& relatives gathered to wish you well—could
anyone of them, or you, predict
this spell of cold weather
we’ve been having recently?”

That last one’s from someone who owns a few Ashbery albums, but within the context of the assured, direct, observational comedy-like zingers that surround it, it leaps out with an intensity that’s all Warsh’s. If second generation New York School is Zappa, and Language poetry’s The Clash, and theory is techno, the poems here remind me that sometimes a reader just needs more cowbell.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Current Mood for the Oracle at Delphi

“The session’s gorilla on vox humana.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Poetry Month in Portland

November brings a perfect storm of poetry activity to Portland, including ... well, too many to name and they’re listed in the sidebar at the right. Fun starts this Saturday, when San Diego scops K. Lorraine Graham and Mark Wallace blow through town to read with Common Pornographer Kevin Sampsell. (Check out the glasses on those three.)  Sunday matches up New York’s legendary “Angel Hair” Lewis Warsh with 2009 Oregon Book Award finalist Alicia Debts and Obligations Cohen. Details for each at the Tangent and Spare Room websites: both series are under new roofs.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Haunting

I’ll cop to having never heard of Hauntology, the music or the French theory, until six hours ago when Michael Cross posted David Brazil’s extraordinary talk on the subject at the Berkeley Art Museum this weekend. “Because we’re creatures who love and remember we are haunted” vaults into the instant Top 10 Apothegms of 2010 list I just made up upon reading it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hannah Weiner Revelations

A procrastinating weekend webcrawl brought up Robbie Dewhurst’s enlightening paper on Hannah Weiner’s Country Girl (which, thanks to Patrick Durgin, you can read in typescript here) and the news-to-me that Weiner’s newly discovered last manuscript, The Book of Revelations, is now up on her home page at the Electronic Poetry Center. It’s tough reading online, scanned from notebooks written in pencil and crossed into overlapping strips, but if you’ve got more than a weekend surf session to burn, there it is for the electronic ages. “speak so as no one will listen” says page 6, not knowing so many no ones would. 

Robbie’s post also got me wanting to spend time with Page, which he describes as Weiner’s Behind the State Capitol. Would like to read that too, if I could find it cheap and complete; the sections from it in Wieners’s Selected are the Tibetan LSD of postmodern American poetry. More weekends, please.