Friday, September 30, 2005

Went to the Art Institute last night for a lecture about Loie Fuller and a reconstructed performance of her Fire Dance. The auditorium was packed with what looked like the symphony crowd on an all-Mozart night and, wierder, the "lecture" was a few anecdotes told by a woman sitting at a Frenchish table whose presence made me feel more like a child at storytime in the library. (Milk and cookies afterwards involved my ordering an entire coconut with a straw sticking out of one end at a Vietnamese restaurant down the street, but that's ahead of things..) Clearly this was intended as something for those who love to be delighted. I guess I was surprised only because the Tokihiro Sato lecture I attended in the same space a few months ago was somewhat more probative, albeit not in English. The performance was pretty stunning and quite a workout it looked like as the dancer, though essentially standing in one place, had to feverishly swoop 52 yards of heavy silk over her head and around her body for ten minutes or so. No wonder La Loie was fond of being carried off stage and to her apartment. Thinking of how the changing combinations of colored light looked when the dancer lifted her arms over her head thus abstracting the human form altogether and becoming a swirl of pure form- it's spectacular now in the most rudimentary way, but to an audience 110 years ago for whom electricity was still a new wonder, it must have been absolutely wowsers.

Walking home after coconuts- can I have this in a doggy bag?-talking about two things that really interest me of which La Loie is a part: first, the evolution of the laws regarding artistic copyright and property. She spent much of her life filing lawsuits and patents to try to stop impostors, of which there were many, from profiting from her concept. Nearly all of the time judges rejected these requests, saying bizarre things about her dances not showing sufficient originality of composition to be wholely identifiable things suitable for rights of ownership. -I've got to find the specific language, it knocks me out of my chair every time. Echoes the court proceedings I read pertaining to the trial of Brancusi whose sculptures for the Armory show had been impounded by US customs because he refused to pay the duty on them that was required of artisianal objects for sale when original artwork was exempt from such taxes. So the trial involved proving to a judge that the pieces, though abstract, had artistic merit. Oh, this specifically concerned his famous piece of the bird in flight. So you have what seems today like farcical proceedings with art critics defending the work against interrogation like this: "how do you know it's a bird? If you saw it in a forest would you shoot it?"

And the other thing that interests me is the whole spirit of the age at the end of the 19th century.. having read of the general climate of exuberance around such new inventions as the subway, the Ferris wheel, electricity, and the Columbian Exposition. This optimism versus the parallel fin de siecle of ours marked by paranoia around Y2K, 9/11, the crappy economy and erosion of civil liberties that has been the Bush years, the "culture wars," the anointing of corporations as borderless superpowers, etc. which reminds me... I've been spending some time with middle-high school textbooks lately and am appalled at how recent history is being transmitted. Contrary to my experience, apparently the 70's were a doldrums of doubt brought about by an incompetent and bungling leader called Jimmy Carter. Sure, the oil crisis, but C is like the only statesman in office I've seen in my lifetime- with maybe Clinton coming in second. And the 80's- that cultural soma at the root of many present day political aches, if you were like 2 years old, or negative two years old when it happened, you'd think that you had missed the Second Coming according to this version of history vis a vis the lionized depiction of Reagan.

Grr. The only glimmer of hope is that I saw Howard Dean on Nightline the other night showing a little muscle. Finally, someone on network TV, a dem no less, openly connecting the Abramoff, Delay, Bush dots.. and the Iraq, Katrina dots calling the whole admin corrupt, incompetent liars who hate the poor. Maybe this means the dems are finally getting some wind back in their sails. They've been complacent far too long. They'll be called partisan no matter what they rightfully oppose, so I want to see a big stink when Bush tries to fill O'Connor's spot with some Scalia brand of freak no matter what underrepresented demographic he finds to pluck her from.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

the violence to language that is the acronym acronym abbreviation acronym of corp. communication had me simmering over yesterday as each project am given, each bug to replicate first requires much consultation to decode. am less simmery today- office goes at 2 for free summer eats and movie tix- to keep us all from...trails off the colleague. i'm still a verdant shade of new but have joined a work-folk book club in which i will read plotty, charactery fiction like not in so long...

must return to post about great bulgarian night of poetry on tuesday...

haven't had a poetry spree in too long.. and have walked into a borders because i can walk into one on a lunch hour and not spd several times in the last few weeks with a gift certificate burning for a purchase and unable to buy anything while my list of desireds is not measly. this tells me a trip to wisc. is long overdue where i can visit the poetry books that are otherwise only a gif.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

where do you touch a stranger to alert him to migration routes, how long kingdoms were left alone before the assertion of certain large flowers, their native tongues? We need a new lamp, to go to Mexico, so many things, and can't get all the windows closed in the dream and anyway people continue walking through the house.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm all for poetry community but is it wrong to not give a rip about writer's colonies, residencies, prizes, teaching positions, the boobies on the cover of Fence magazine, the goings on in NY or SF? All seem too attached to isms and isms in general strike me as a backwards way to pet a cat. An interview question put to me recently: Should poetry be non-commercial? Of course, what shouldn't be? Oh, my Marxist deep end.

PBS has been running some excellent documentaries all week for this, Hispanic heritage month, on Frida Kahlo, the history of Cuba and its relations with the US, and other topics not caught in their entirety, but Latino nevertheless. That, and QA'ing (a gorgeous new verb courtesy of new employer) Spanish texts all week, so when J came home from another 16 hour day this week and said let's go to Mexico, I said you betcha. Looking at a little beach, fishing village, Mayan ruins holiday in and around Merida and Celestun. To the spider monkeys I say, bring it on.
A busy week and now laid up all weekend with a bum neck reading Frank O'Hara. It's been years in the making to finally be able to sit down with his collected--when I bought it last year at Myopic just before one of the Sunday night readings I remember being asked if I liked FOH and I said, no, not really. Felt like I got the gist of him in undergrad and smarmy, pedestrian this and that has never been high on my list of things to read to feed my poetry tree. But I knew one day I'd be in the mood for nothing else and this is it--hopped up on muscle relaxers on a rainy weekend in bed after hitting the mother of all sales on German bubbly (water).

Also this weekend a professor friend of J's staying with us to make music who is adamant about a morning and afternoon "constitutional." Feeling a break in the medihaze, I decide to take a walk too, even though I'm moving like the tinman. More oil! (Speaking of more oil, was surprised that the protests yesterday weren't headline making. Even the NY Times had a pretty blase tone in their article. Tell me people aren't enraged?!) Bears game this afternoon so the neighborhood is crawling with people decked in garbage-bag looking rain ponchos munching brats and discreetly cupped beer. The parking structures are billowing BBQ smoke and every vacant lot between new lux highrises has been transformed into a tailgating party. I took a few snaps--of things through something tinny, not bears.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

How Soon is Now?


Yay, Chuck!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Here I am looking swoony over the final Discrete reading to take place at 3030- and I'm apparently joined at the hip with the fine little bottle of cognac 3030 member Dan offered up t our readers to ceremoniously imbibe throughout the evening. All of the readers featured this evening have been die-hard Discrete boosters and all contribute mightily themselves to Chicago's literary fabric. Thanks to all who have made these past two and a half years so memorable. We'll be back- in a yet-to-be-determined venue that will hopefully be in better graces with its neighbors!
Mark Tardi's excerpt from Airport Music will forever be a mantra to the mathematically able and impaired alike: "5 out of 4 people have problems with fractions."

Danny's co-host Joel Craig reads from the dreamy "Volunteer" with the echo "I was handed a rose and asked if I could hurt it."
Michael Robins reads from his own fine battery of poems as well as a Tate piece that makes everyone hungry.

Amina Cain reads from a new piece of haunting fiction.
John Tipton reads from his translations of Ajax and his own work "Medea."

Diva Jennifer Karmin caps off the evening with a poem promising good travels.
The incomparable Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop reading at the SpareRoom, homeless Discrete's host Friday night.
pics and bits to come re: this poetry-full weekend with Discrete events Friday and Saturday, but J and I had been having a laugh a few weeks ago reflecting on the series, what it's accomplished all by word of mouth, etc. and I had said, just watch, now that the 3030 space is being shut down the Reader will finally write an article about it. And then we realized that nearly ALL Reader articles are basically maudlin eulogies for local arts and other organizations that were dying (could have been saved?) for some press while they were vibrant. Do other city arts newspapers have this same pathology? Is this local journalists' way of preserving the old no-one-knows-about-this-but-me version of hip? Talking to one of the 3030 members Saturday night then I was not surprised to hear him say, "We've never gotten more press than in the last few weeks," and he mentioned a Reader article titled "RIP 3030."

Friday, September 16, 2005

woke up at 3 a.m. to a commerical for the scooter store (tv, aka sleeping pill, oops, left on) which explains why i had been dreaming of standing around talking to a succession of pals when, one by one, they would suddenly grab a knee in withering pain, and i'd say, are you living with decreased mobility?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Harpo Marx Rides the Red Line

I'm so glad stuff like this still happens..
I changed trains today at Fullerton and boarded a red line car more or less full of people, all wearing pointy newspaper hats. A wordless fellow near me had a copy of RedEye stretched across his lap that he was furiously turning into hats to ensure that every new passenger was outfitted. His demeanor inspired no debate... even a tough, bouncer-looking guy near me smiled and donned a page of movie reviews. Hatmaker even resembled Harpo, albiet with dark hair, and it was clear that unlike every other Red line spectacle, there was no donation being solicited. The young woman sitting across from me looked positively smitten with him.. and as he packed up his things and waved goodbye to everyone on the train as the Grand stop neared she rummaged through her bag and presented him with an apparently empty change purse, of the colorful, plastic whimsy variety. He looked perplexed. She pointed to the writing on it: "Mr. Friendly." He smiled and agreeably took the purse and then scrambled for a notebook from which he ripped a page of something to give to her. He exited. She looked pleased. Gradually the hats left the car, becoming absorbed into the crowds at each station. By the time we reached my stop I was one of 3 hats left. I walked home thinking it is time to revisit Guy Debord and rent some Marx brothers movies.

a footnote: the prominent text (from the hazard of folding and advertisement) on Mr. Friendly woman's hat read "Trust Him."
speaking of you the first time since i've had holes in these shoes that it's rained

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Under Mayer's Midwinter

the stairs are like a rumination, sometimes I think the stairs are a hill with the biographic head of a woman in attending color to be seen in the hospital light above disorders

Stories, Not Paris, or, the Negation of a Hunt

It did not finally get warm in Chicago. Of that there was much debate. It got moist and tepid and live rabbits that paused from noise beside the stadium were matte in the dusk from the light behind the skyline that fell and rose in different points everyday by 4 o'clock. Everything in addition to the rabbits was happening in Chicago that spring because the news was still and the influx of locals on the el and two old men two warm March mornings exited an elevator to speak adoringly.
What? said the conductor.
It's perfectly logical, said the old men.
What? said the conductor, who was pressing a button where his voice had said stop over and over his fingerprints gathered into a populace standing in a fraction of the front car listening to the passengers to whom he wanted to say "Clybourn" and "Belmont" saying their own Clybourns and Belmonts, leaving their own fingerprints on buttons outside in restricted places outside restricted areas.

Monday, September 12, 2005

after/for Elizabeth Robinson
there is a 'you' in the lake, its making
and you are given, exactly, a limit
by which to figure the faces onto things


The System: A Logic


Jamaica Gates did the trick to shake my lunch malaise, ordered ambiguous "vegetarian dish" and awaited jerked Boca goat but no. Instead a heaven of red beans and rice, grilled plantain, and a sweet, soft, mellow curry stew of carrots, peas, corn and greens. (On Church St. for Evanston visitor in yous..)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sincerity continued

Perhaps my use of "irony" and "sincerity" could be defined further, especially as they relate to the arts. Irony seems predicated upon embracing a conceit of superficiality, that is, that there is a degree of artifice present and acknowledged by the work. The most extremely awful and sincere art I've ever beheld has lacked all dimension but the plug 'n play "real," not a whisper of even potentially acknowledging that it is made within a medium that is already one potential layer of artifice having an influence on the work. Which leads me to this question: does irony need to be intended for it to be truly ironic? A lot of rock bands who believe in what they're doing and do it well and with charisma also seem able to do so with an open sense of irony or enactment of the artifice: David Bowie, Ween, The Smiths, Kraftwerk... The Darkness I originally thought was the most ironic band EVER until I realized that they seemed to be taking themselves quite seriously. So does that make them any less ironic? (A sidethought a few days ago at seeing the Rolling Stones perform on some late night show: sincerity+rock and roll+middle age=absurd. Another case in point: the Metallica documentary.)

So WWOD (what would Oppen do? or in this case, say)? While his poetry employed some abstraction he eschewed all other forms of ornament (persona, metaphor, etc.) in his belief that
..,the function of poetry was a test of truth; he may have been the last writer in the West to use the word 'truth' without irony. For him, 'so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow' was a moral statement, with 'wheelbarrow' both a thing and word. The poet's task was to restore meaning to words- particularly in a time of official lies--and this was only possible through direct experience with the words themselves...He insisted on writing only about what he himself had seen, and the act of seeing them...
(from Eliot Weinberger's preface to the New Directions Oppen Collected.) But then came postmodernism that peed in everyone's soup. Is a poetics like this even possible today as anything except a reaction against the gorilla in the room that is the slippery, untrustable signifier/signified relationship? As an undergrad, a certain instructor kept putting LANGPO texts in my way and I vehemently rejected them for their cool superficiality. Then I wrote a parody, or really more like a poem in response, to one by Charly B. and like a conversion I at once understood the LP's poetics in a new light, their own light. And I remember thinking at the time that LP was actually THE MOST SINCERE/authentic/genuine/honest aesthetic for first and foremost acknowledging its own artifice. From there one could appreciate the humanity its effort without trusting some fetishized notion of the author only to be hoodwinked and let down at some point (case in point, first poetry reading I ever went to- Gary Soto- read his work in a flip, hammy way that left me feeling betrayed for having invested so much appreciation in its touching, personal tone.).

My sense of Oppen (and Neidecker for that matter) is that they only use what's necessary. Like a Midwesterner who sees someone at a casual house party in body glitter and a feather boa and thinks, "that's not necessary."

On Sincerity

E mentioned the other day that she initiated a discussion with her graduate writing students about the issue of sincerity and what role, if any, they saw it playing in their own work as well as the way they experience other literature. The question apparently hit such a nerve that one student objected to the question and sabotaged the dialogue from there. I asked her if she made that student write The New Sincerity manifesto 100 times as punishment. But I can appreciate how icky the question can be. Living outside the Midwest and then returning to the Midwest made me aware how valued sincerity, the genuine and authenticity are here. In word and deed. L noted it too during her semester layover in Chicago. There's a certain regional disdain for pretention that I think is a result of being surrounded by hundreds of miles of corn that makes me a little sheepish about my penchants for goat cheese and sparkling water. A major part of my own Midwestern-ness is, I think, an inherent appreciation for the what-you-see-is-what-you-get-ness, but the truly dark side of authenticity is what I've seen it do to the arts-- that in spite of an interest in prose forms, I knew not to take a fiction class at my alma mater because urban realism was the only acceptable style and all critique subordinated formal concerns to the overwhelming primary concern for the "realism" of the content. The m.o. of much art being taught and made throughout the city, and this is apparent in dance, performance art, theater, etc., is that it must come from the darkest, most vulnerable place of the author's "soul" and that this, I don't want to say human but, ego-origin must be easily identifiable so that the audience can "relate" to it. While I've felt a rash coming on when in the midst of either extreme (ironic/genuine), every idea must originate in a state of something genuine if the desire to express, understand, even manipulate are, fundamentally, an authentic part of the human ego. Even if dressed in many petticoats of smarts, humor, obfuscation, nothing can be a total joke. All gesture- even the gesture to de-subjectize the presence of the author- is rooted in some desire to express something, and the desire to veil that gesture in some form of abstraction or irony offers a richer, more textured experience of what it means to be human: contradictory, absurd, defensive, uncertain. I haven't spent much time trying to figure out what the New Sincerity movement, if there is such a thing, in poetry is all about... it strikes me, ironically enough, to be an ironic battle cry against the overabundance of irony that 4th, 5th generation NY School wed to a post-Language imperative can sometimes engender. And yet, I see a lot of the writers associated with TNC writing out of a patently Objectivist lineage, so could they more accurately be termed New Objectivists? (I use all of these school names with a huge degree of ambivalence, fully aware of how reductive and problematic it is to class a range of creative work so generally.) What does Oppen have to say on the issue of the genuine? Is there a readymade irony when animals are your subject matter?

Friday, September 09, 2005

misreading the translation of world into worlds
whose face lights up a hangar

Thursday, September 08, 2005

misreading: "Somedays I think about all of my writing at once." "I was joking then, but provoking now."

not misreading, but paraphrasing: "[Let poetry escape] the poems as we escape photographs, by never being caught to begin with..." J. Lowther
Written on a postcard to a poet's daughter's 3rd grade class:
Hi! Some of my favorite things about Chicago are: all of the people who live here who have come from other parts of the world, living next to a lake that I can't see the end of, how excited everyone gets on the first 50 degree day in spring after a long, cold winter, and pizza!
As I continue in this course of self-study re: alternative prose forms, I'm particularly intereseted in how a more multiply-jointed writing style/method effects the essay form, a form associated with "clarity," purpose, the business of information/ideas to be conveyed and the Aristotlean standard of logic and progression. A glimmer re: practices of "understanding" and/or "meaning (-making)": "Particulars compel, in their particularity, a negotiation with them that brings us into relation: that's getting to a knowledge." (sidenote: I like that it's "a" knowledge.)

This brings my reading habits of the last few months into clearer focus--

Imaginary Essays by Rick Snyder
31 Microlectures in Proximity of Performance by Matthew Goulish
Color and Its Antecedants by Brenda Iijima (which I mean to say more about soon)
assorted prose poems in assorted online publications by Michael Robins

What else? There were/are others. Will return to this question, but I think it underscores the latest fancy with parallels too.

Stranger Missives

I received an email from someone I've never met--but who I know via virtual poetry community-- asking if I would send a postcard of where I live to his daughter's 3rd grade class for a geography lesson. They hope to collect postcards from all over the states and beyond, and they ask that each postcard sender say a little something about him/herself. A lovely idea.. I'll be looking for a postcard of Chicago on my lunch hour today, if one is to be found in Evanston. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I sent a postcard from my hometown. Self: do that more often.
Then this morning I read this article in the Times about wandering journal projects and am determined to start a few of those too. Another item to get this afternoon. I'm interested in how the internet, the great force that was heralded to at once democratize and alienate global citizens, has brought about a return to more serendipitous notions of community, to the beauty of accidental communications, and a renewed interest in how people can communicate in the tangible world in new or arcane ways: meet-ups, flash mobs, stitch & bitches, etc. Shoot me an email if you'd like to participate in a wondering journal type of project. The idea is this:
Take this journal and add something to it. Stories, photographs, drawings, opinions. Anything goes. Visit the Web site and tell everyone where you found it. If possible, scan what you added and send it to us. If the journal is full, e-mail us, and we'll arrange for its return. Contents will be shared with the world.

This reminds me of walking along a beach at Agate Pass on Bainbridge Island last March with Drew and Amber and finding a message in a bottle. It was a thrill to come across it there, on a peopleless stretch of pebbled shore among lichens and seaweed left by the tide. A new twist on an old theme- it was in a Jones bottle, one of those gourmet sodas. We brought it home and waited for days to open it, until other friends were properly assembled, and after much speculation of what its contents would say and where it had been cast from. Finally Drew extracted the note, a brief scrawl that said something like "I guess you'll never notice me. I'm tired of trying. I can only imagine how it could have been for us. Guess I just need to drink a beer now. Yep. Probably." Then there was an elsive and unintelligable final word that no one among us could discern.
One other anonymous communicae in the last week and a half-- I was contacted by email by what I assume to be a teenage girl whose father bought all of our things that our storage space (unbeknownest to us) auctioned off. She has some photos and journals of mine, but she's trying to snooker me for $7 to get them back. After the initial upset of our possessions being sold and, at this point, irretrievable, I'm reluctant to engage in this transaction for ceremonial scraps any longer. It seems easier to chalk it all up to a loss in my mind rather than dwelling on the greater loss by focusing time and energy on the retrieval of these few remnants. It's already too similar to losing my hard drive this past February... on occassion I'll think of a particular photo and then realize it was from the time period that was wiped out without a printout or backup. It's a good exercise in detachment, I must say. And given what others have lost in the last week and a half in the south, it's all the more clear how insignificant STUFF is.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In the Sonosphere...

Stay by Astrud Gilberto... is she saying "stay and we'll make sex with music"?
Now my brain has a housekeeper..
Scope/Lifetime by Vert (from their record 9 Types of Ambiguity) in headphones sounds like somebody with a broom sweeping in various points between my ears.
Bill Laswell's Imaginary Cuba & Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities?
"The work is the death mask of its conception" and other inspiring adages by Benjamin here.
misreading: together in a red full of tone


NOT mishearing: "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality, and so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." (the first mother, Barbara Bush)

As if the initial lack of response wasn't appalling enough, the continued lack of resources and disorganization that define the Katrina aftermath CAN NOT/SHOULD NOT be effectively spun by Bush and his camp's flip "Everything's going to be A-OK!" Mama Bab's comments are, I think, more indicative of the attitudes that are responsible (pre, during and post actual hurricane) for the exponential humanitarian crisis in its wake. I hope Americans and citizens of other countries watching our actions take notice of the primary issue here: that however charitable and God-fearing a nation we claim to be, the result of our "I got mine" economy is an ever-widening disparity between rich and poor (US Census Bureau reported just a few days ago that the national poverty rate climbed for the 4th year in a row) justified by a prevailing morality that poor people deserve whatever they get (except for quality healthcare, daycare, housing, public transportation and education). I hope average Americans analyze the tragedy beyond the visceral images on the nightly news and see that tax-cutting conservatives have perpetuated and worsened the plight of the "underprivledged" by eroding what little funding existed for programs that are a lifeline to those for whom the "pick youself up by your bootstraps" axiom presents a grossly ignorant and insensitive view of the actual obstacles they face. How many more domestic tragedies do we need to hold up the mirror that shows our country that policies of aggression and exploitation at home and abroad are not democratic? That in the traditional sense, a democracy cares for its citizens, all of them, not just drug company moguls and oil execs. And as a government so focused on the bottom line (i.e. the emaciated public works funding that magnified the devastation of New Orleans with the neglected levee system, etc.) Americans should be asking which of these two models their country most closely resembles at this time: a corporation that feels no accountability to the public or a nation concerned with the well-being of its citizens.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

since Friday

comas, hospice, fleeting lucid hours, new speaking voices, rules for swallowing, sloughs full of white egrets, power outages, hallucinations of shared walls and men walking on roofs, nectar consistencies, email from a stranger: I have your photographs, journals and personal things, jaw pain, loss of hearing, return of hearing, "woman cured by hummus" joke, storage space auctioned off our things, up at 3 a.m. and every two hours, dividing jewelry, drinking last good bottle of wine, Sattui Zinfandel 1995, remembering what we did that year, dementia, manicures, skin breaking down, name your favorite animal, tremors, slight baseball attention, shaky penmanship, denial, morphine, name a person you know who reminds you of the color yellow, "gone from my sight" manual, throwing pillows, shifting, transfers, contant phones, mute chaplaincy, emptying drawers, forgetting, getting dog to stop barking, pureed turkey, keeping phones off and out of sight, forgetting rules about swallowing and standing.