Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“My Beloved Momentum”

Saturday’s group reading of The Crystal Text brought a shifting but steady 15 to the Waypost over the time I was there, many of them on-deck or just finished readers, but some not, distinctions like that disappearing fast anyway in the afternoon gloom. The only sign of sun was in the orange-and-yellow latch hook Western landscape hung up above the piano behind the readers, which kept drawing my attention, like the crystal does Clark’s in the text, for its kitschy appeal but also for its connection with the ‘70s and ‘80s “craft” moment both artifacts came out of. Latch hook, decoupage, macrame, and batik vanished with a particular counter-cultural notion of leisure; so, too, did 150-page poems tracking the movement of the poet’s mind as it encounters the clutter on its desktop (real, not virtual) over a generous stretch of days.

Read aloud, the moments where the text mirrors back the conditions of its own creation—wondering who’ll read it, how to proceed, if it all adds up, or whether the work’s worth writing at all, with so much destined to slip away—read as funnier than they probably would on the page, since the listeners are so obviously on the other end of the poet’s questions, answering them implicitly with their attention. Postmodern doubts about mimesis, meaning, and form come up in various ways in The Crystal Text, but they seem less theoretical, more vivid and immediate, in the course of a real-time performance. How to shape that much material over four or five hours of continuous reading turns form into more of a pragmatic tool than a philosophical puzzler, closer in spirit to finding music stands for all the players than it is to overturning the twelve-tone scale. The poem has plenty of Coolidge’s trademark fizz and hum, but a long reading also pushed to the front rhetorical figures and syntax common to any long English poem—say, Wordsworth’s Prelude or Browning’s The Ring and the Book—not that Coolidge’s poem sounds like either of these exactly, but that English run through that much time settles into its home structures in insistent and revealing ways: “Is the heart of poetry a stillness, and my beloved/momentum something else, additional, mongrel?”

Bryan Coffelt and Sam Lohmann mentioned how difficult it is to find reading copies of The Crystal Text, which is out of print, so the event had an unexpected practical side as well, as a cheap and easy delivery system for a work that’s hard to come by. Like a Western sunset latch hook kit. Viva la leisure to write, listen & latch.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Poetics from the Oracle at Delphi

“Those rockets are sky-writing a message in English!”

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Crystal Text in Portland

Spare Room thinks big. On the heels of their marathon “100 poems from the last 100 years” event in January, and 2008’s start-to-finish group reading of H.D.’s Helen in Egypt, comes this Saturday’s public reading of Clark Coolidge’s The Crystal Text. Teams of two readers will tackle 20 pages each from Clark’s mid-80’s opus from noon to five-ish at The Waypost, which is Portland concentrated and shrunk down, Bottle City of Kandor-style, to convenient coffeehouse size.

Hearing longer modern works read aloud opens up dimensions of the text you don’t catch from the printed page alone. You miss some local detail as the lines shoot past in time, but larger, looser structures of sound, meter, and thought association come into sharper focus over a long arc of listening. The audience, too, transmutes into something more active and primal than it does at a standard two-poets-twenty-minutes-each reading; there’s a sense of the text as an occasion for collective presence that’s hard to describe but difficult to miss if you’re there. Will the unsuspecting Waypost regulars feel the same? Come and see.
Spare Room presents
Marathon Reading: Clark Coolidge’s The Crystal Text
12 PM to finish (5:00ish)
The Waypost, 3120 N. Williams, Portland, OR

The work of heaven or hell: to somehow
become aware of a howling in the motors.
-- (Clark Coolidge, The Crystal Text, 54)

As the solstice approaches, come in out of the wind and join us to listen to Clark Coolidge’s compelling booklength poem The Crystal Text, read aloud by a dozen local writers.

Readers will include James Yeary, Jesse Morse, Sam Lohmann, Maryrose Larkin, Rodney Koeneke, Patrick Hartigan, Jen Coleman, Allison Cobb, Joseph Bradshaw, Meredith Blankinship, & David Abel.

“A colorless quartz crystal sits upon the writer’s desk, still and irreducible as a death’s head in St. Jerome’s study or Cezanne’s studio. But what would the crystal reveal, if it could speak? How might the issue of its presence be brought into language? The poet of The Crystal Text, by means of a rare stamina of attention and listening vulnerability, seeks to become the medium of the crystal's transmissions.”

I began to rise but I could not leave.
Beginning to see, one leaves the world. Taking it
up again and again until the sheets are dark.
An inlet of the sea sharded with sails. The sun
coming up over a blinking multitude, specialty humans
provided for this purpose alone. I am the one who
stays up to see that they do not leave.
Cardboard hinterlands of the drained liquid trace.
Grey distances of chimney and low neighborhood.
Wet snap. (85)

As luck would have it the sun was charring
the fiberglass tufts in the yard even from such a great distance.
A granite shithouse exploded in a cloud of bee odor.
The very earth was tacked to my wall, a ball of
limpid snails. Glass, blown firm, and then the
waterfall in the photograph it reminds me of.
Prose does not care about sharps and flats. It
continues to accumulate in the straightest of language
keys. I put back on my cap, it says. I lost my things
in the race for the car, it says. I am
not interested in the language of my past (my trail),
it says. It says these things and then loses
my interest. Two blanks, curling in the same sun. (87)

Awakened by a bang
or sudden rent of room
a collision of the thinking with
where the thought is not
or negative moon spot
or release of the chimney from
behind the pie tin, night
and left partial, face erased
prepositions for furniture (115)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Double Narrative

Could someone explain to me “the New Narrative branch of the New Formalism”? Me and Wikipedia must keep in different hemispheres.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mirror World

“Such considerations have meant that while it is usually not difficult for Arab authors to be published—quite a few publish their books themselves—it is much more difficult to gain a public profile or readership, and it is almost impossible to make a living from writing books. As a result, Arab authors almost always have full-time jobs, often in the large bureaucracies that are a feature of Arab countries, reserving their writing for their spare time. It is well known, for example, that Mafouz kept a steady job almost up to the end of his life, first as a bureaucrat and then as a newspaper commentator, and many memoirs by Arab writers complain about both the need to earn a living and the absence of public interest in their literary work. The temptation is always strong to take some bureaucratic job, which can have disastrous effects on an author’s writing.”

David Tresilian A Brief Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature (Saqi: 2008)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009