I mean, I can't imagine anyone still checks this thing, but just in case:
I'm going to be in Portland in a few days! And I will be giving a reading with Spare Room.
Sunday, 19 June, 7:30pm
Chris Piuma & Jennifer Bartlett
Open Space Cafe, 2815 Southeast Holgate Boulevard, Portland.
It will be a release party for my new chapbook, Bell-lloc, which is being put out by airfoil. The cover is still being designed, but I should have a picture of it for you soonish.
I'll also be participating in this madness:
Photographs by Anna Daedalus
5424 NE 30th Avenue
(Also I will be playing a few songs at a house party; email me if you want details.)
There might be more to report soon. If you're putting on a thing in Portland in June and would like me to participate in it, get in touch with me and we'll see if we can make it happen.
See you there!
So, first: Tomorrow, Sunday, is the 8th annual Richard Foreman Fest, in which artists of various genres are given a text and a set of rules from Richard Foreman's copious notebooks in order to create a short piece. They have ten days to do this. The result is a benefit for Performance Works NW, a terrific rehearsal/performance space in Portland. It's one of my favorite events in Portland, and this year I was asked to set the rules. They are a bit different than the previous seven sets of rules, so I'm curious how it will turn out. Sunday, 5 and 7pm (different line ups!), Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th.
Second: I forgot to mention this! Spare Room hosted a Portland Polyvocal Poetry event a few weeks ago, and I contributed a piece. You can see videos of the event on YouTube. My piece was fairly different from the rest of the poems; instead of the vocal acrobatics typical of polyvocal poetry, I took a social angle. My piece, "Everyone Gets a Poem", consisted of everyone getting a piece of paper with a poem on it. They were to read the poem, and then either keep it (if they were satisfied with it) or give it to someone they thought might be more satisfied with it, perhaps editing it along the way. The audio isn't, perhaps, much to listen to (although the directions to the poem are read aloud, in case you want to try this at home), but it does capture the "sound" I was hoping for: That of the mix of creativity, conviviality, negotiation, and inquiry that I think of when I think of Portland's poetry scene. (And I'm pretty pleased that the poem seems to have resolved/finished by an edit of the instructions themselves.)
It's a scene that, even though I've been gone for two years, still seems to be the site where my creativity functions. I probably won't be there, physically, in 2010, but almost all of my creative output has occurred there. Hm, hm.
I was debating whether to file a report here on what I saw of the Rethinking Poetics conference, which was only a success inasmuch as it was a complete failure, and will hopefully force those who thought they were going to rethink poetics to rethink their process of rethinking poetics. (Hint: If you really want to rethink something, don't ask a few of your friends to invite a few of their friends. That is not a good strategy for rethinking.)
Personally, I met a few interesting people and heard a few interesting talks (Ben Friedlander, Kasey Mohammad, Monica de la Torre, Mark Nowak, Joan Retallack, to name a few highlights) but I left halfway through the second day out of frustration and despair (though I especially regret not hearing the panel of Canadians later that day).
But -- well, surely anyone reading this has read Stephanie Young's report by now, but if not, it will give you the flavor of the event. And the fact that much of the discussion around the event has happened in Facebook suggests that Facebook is enabling the sort of closed-door power brokering (well, "power") of poetics that allows Marjorie Perloffs to roam the world clearcutting the landscape to exploit its resources. If I haven't jammed together too many metaphors there. The Facebookification of poetics conversation is enough to drive one to blog. Or at least tweet.
Anyway, I rambled on about this at Rodney Koerneke's blog, so you can read that if you want.
UPDATE: Go read Michael Kelleher on all this. He says a lot of things I would say if I weren't so lazy.
Gary Barwin sent a bunch of people a draft of a response to a translation of a poem by Heinrich Heine and asked that they finish it up as they saw fit. My spit-shine job is available here, but do go check out all the responses and how or if they play against each other.
What if we read poetry as a statement of time. Or a statement of money. It is clear that writing poetry does not necessarily require a significant time investment. It is even more clear that writing poetry does not require a significant financial investment. It can be jotted onto a slip of paper, or thought up in passing, or burbled as you walk or ride the escalator. But we can choose to take time writing poetry. We can choose to spend money writing poetry. Some poems, you read them, and clearly a lot of time went into them. They are hard-edged, polished, crenelated, long, arduous, learned, thoughtful, constrained. None of these things are definitional to poetry, though. Some poems, you read them, and clearly a lot of money went into them. In some form or another. Perhaps they are carved in stone, perhaps they are inscribed into the genome of a bacterium, perhaps they simply took such a massively long time to write that it required not partaking in other financial remunerative options. We could read these poems as saying: This is how much time I had to spend on this poem. This is how much money I could spend on this poem. We don't have to say: Because you invested so much time and money into this poem, we will value it more. That is not how value works. But we could consider it something worth reading in the poem, part of its meaning-forming syntax. But, we could also decide to ignore it, or not read too much into it. We have options. We could remember, however, that these were choices the poet made, as to how much time and how much money to invest in the poem, that they did not try to solve the problem of how to make poetry without spending that much time and money, but rather "threw money at the problem", threw time at the problem. Although we needn't be so dismissive. There might be reasons to appreciate slowing down the production of poetry. This works for the reader as well. The poet asks the reader to spend a certain amount on the book of poems, perhaps, rather than whatever else the reader might spend money on. The poet asks the reader to spend a certain amount of time (of attention) reading the poem. Reading this poem, and not other poems. A poem might require more attention, or less. Can a poem require more attention? It could certainly cry out for it. Pound's Cantos seems to ask for more of your time, if you are going to read it, than an Ogden Nash couplet does. The reader might ultimately be in control, and might choose to spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about the Nash couplet, but even drawing your eyes across every word of the Cantos takes time, much less making the sort of sense it seems to call out for. But that is only one form of reading, and we as readers don't have to privilege it. And yet. We can read it as a statement, as part of the meaning-forming syntax. The Cantos ask you to spend more time reading them (and not other poetry) than the Nash couplet does. Of course, Nash didn't only write one couplet. We are ignoring this, for the moment. There is so much poetry out there, and time is so short. We can question the ethics of adding to the pile. But we don't have to. We can be grateful for the plenitude of options, and the ability to drown ourselves in abundance from this particular author, or that one, or any of thousands more. But what is required, in this situation of superabundance? It does not require us to strain our time or money much. There is poetry enough. There is poetry everyday. There cannot help but be. We can ask for more, even if we have long ago past the point of diminishing returns, even if poetry is left rotting on the vine. Or, fermenting. We don't have to decide. We don't have to worry about any of this.
Still reading Prismatic Publics. The book is set up with long, in-depth, in-person interviews, followed by short selections of poems by the author. Actually, the selections of poems are about as long, pages-wise, as the interviews are, but poems just have fewer words per page.
During M. NourbeSe Philip's interview, she mentions a reading she gave at the Scream -- a reading that I was at. How is it possible that I was at a reading in Toronto that is now being talked about in a, you know, proper, published book? Have I been here that long?
The interview, by the way, is terrific, and her takes on constraint writing, "freedom", the erotics of grammar/language, and the foreignness of language are all very compelling and not yet part of the mainstream discussion of these issues. Go read it.
To follow up on the last post: I swung by the offices of Coach House Books today, to exchange a misprinted copy of Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women's Poetry and Poetics (it happens!). Outside the office there is a poem by bpNichol engraved into the cement. Except it has gotten warmer recently, and the snow has melted, so all the letters were filled in. It was lovely. It had become one of mARK oWEns's puddle poems, but inside-out. (And sorry I was I did not have a camera.)
This is the introduction I wrote for mARK oWEns's reading on 21 May 2006 as part of the Spare Room reading series. mARK really doesn't have a web presence per se, alas. He is not even on the Facebook. I do not get to interact with him nearly enough these days.
We ask that you turn on your cell phones
We ask that you place your cell phones in your mouths and swallow them
We ask that when loved ones call you,
you raise your heads and you open your mouths
like hungry baby birds waiting to be fed
I watched the sun rise this morning
until it was a glowing letter O on the horizon.
[asemic mouth gesticulations]
It only took us four years to get him to read.
The intriguing graffito between our homes
that resembles schematics with letters: a poem
I meant to mention it for many months
until we walked by and you told me you wrote it.
It’s the most remarkable word I’ve ever seen
What is that smell? Has mARK been writing again?
In mARK’s neighborhood,
the chance of precipitation
is directly connected
to the chance of poetics.
A poem that you can feed to your family.
A poem that will keep you warm in the winter.
A poem that you can bounce off your friends’ heads.
Why are we all in the same room right now?
Why are we all walking down the same street this weekend?
Why are we all riding the same bus?
Why are we all able to perform these simple actions?
Why are we both on opposite sides of the window?
Why are we both in fact facing a window?
Love is the force that unites.
Nothing I have said and nothing I could say
could clarify or obscure or change this poetry.
I am wildly disinterested in writing about poetry on a blog these days.
I am mostly disinterested in reading about poetry on blogs these days. But old habits die hard.
I am mildly interested that many of the blogs about poetry that I used to read avidly have mostly stopped writing about poetry and started posting, oh, youtube clips, or hermetic phrases, or pictures of cats. Cats are cute, though. We have said what we were going to say, and we are tired of this conversation; we are poets, and are tired of this form, but haven't yet worked up a new one.
I am rather interested in reconsidering this space, this conblogoration, and whether it can once again be used as an impetus for social connections, or whether it is best as an archive of ideas and thoughts, and an occasional notice about events and happenings. But a new project recommends a new space. The blog as e-book, rather than the blog as diary or as notes towards an article. National Finite Blogging Month.
I am extremely interested in someone creating a time and a space where I live in which I can get drunk on words again, as I had where I used to live, but I admit, I do not feel like setting it up myself. But perhaps one needs to prioritize these things.
Geof Huth has been saying some nice things about my recent reading in upstate New York.
That last link contains video.
What I read: The Fahrenheit 451 poem. The vegetable etymology bit. A series of dictionary-based collaborations that I wrote with Ron Henry. Some of the redundant poems. My thirty-one-word pieces.
I met some nice people and met again some old friends and was showered with books: This reading thing, it is fun, and I recommend it.
This I have been neglecting lately: This blog!
Things you can do to rectify this: Come to my reading tomorrow (Saturday) and flatter me. It's in Kingston, NY, (halfway between Albany and NYC) as part of the Cadmium Text series. It's at 2pm. I'm looking forward to it, perhaps you should be too!
Those of you in Portland are, I trust, going to the Richard Foreman Fest to benefit Performance Works NW tonight. I've performed in some capacity in all but one of the seven such annual fests, and they are a great time. This is the first time that I am performing as a poet, or, you might say, as a poet as a poet -- although in absentia. I'm not sure how much I'm going to go into what I wrote here -- I'm not sure how well it will work out of context, without the various lines repeated in the various performances throughout the night -- but I'm totally intrigued by the form that I've worked up for the event, and I might be so moved as to find (an)other source text(s) to make something a bit longer out of it with. Rah rah rah!
The Scream has continued, with and without me.
Since my last update, my friends Anthony and Sundar performed Christian Marclay's Shuffle, a conceptual piece that wasn't really designed to be performed -- or, at least, had its concept (photos of musical notation on signage and objects, to be played) well ahead of its execution (including some notation that cannot, on its own, just be played).
Then there was a perfectly pleasant library-based reading which situated various events in various sections of the library -- everyone shuffled over to drama for a drama-based thing, and then over to fiction for some ficiton, etc., etc. Simple and pleasant enough. Having a little exercise (of moving from one section to another) between events was a nice feature.
Then there was an interesting event that I utterly failed to go to. Running with an idea from Fahrenheit 451, Maggie Helwig asked the audience to do their best to remember a text -- one that was not announced beforehand -- as if trying to salvage it from oblivion. The text she chose was Hamlet. The unexpected outcome: Apparently two friends of mine who were at the event remembered rather a lot of Hamlet, and the event went on for something like two hours as they reconstructed various scenes. A shame I missed that one.
Then there was the main panel event, in which six manifestos were given on the topic of "the book is dead". All the panelists were quite thoughtful, and you can read their various manifesti at the link (or, I guess, watch the panel -- yay the Internet!). Particular kudos goes to Bill Kennedy for coming closest to representing my own take on the various topics that came up, but even the people I disagreed with had interesting things to say. (This is not a very content-filled paragraph. I'm sorry. I did not take the detailed notes that I took last year. I am not even giving you an example of anything anyone said, or my reaction to it. This is useless. Your eyes should have flitted down to the next paragraph, or the next blog, or the next life experience by now.)
Then I was feeling full and headed home, so I missed the magazine launch reading, and I missed the next night's fun, but I'll be going tonight to the event that involves comics. Comics! And poetry! And Kate Beaton! Rah rah rah.
The Scream continues. I woke up too late to go to the walking tour of where the bookstores used to be in Toronto, but I did make it to the round table about editing. Three editors had been given a poem and a short story by anonymous (until they were revealed at the event!) writers and had edited them. The writers read aloud the original pieces (or, well, a page from the short story), and then the editors discussed their edits, and then the writers discussed their revisions, and then the audience asked questions.
It was mostly a missed opportunity, but perhaps in a productive way. The editors were all frustrated that they hadn't been able to have conversations with the writers while they were editing them. The conversation between editor and writer was thus highlighted* as the central activity of the editing process. An editor is someone who has a meaningful, knowing conversation with a writer, someone who plays the role of a writer's BFF when the writer needs advice or perhaps has to change their life around. And since the conceit behind the event removed this conversation, the audience didn't get a chance to see real editing. There was a moment when one audience member asked why a particular line that she liked had gotten edited: It would have been nice to see more of that. More of the conversation, more of what sorts of negotiations happen in editing, and how various questions are raised and what sorts of things these writers and editors were thinking about when they engaged with the texts.
Afterwards was the screening of Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451. This is perhaps not a very good movie. There is some really fun mid-sixties interior design. And some great shots of mid-sixties books -- all those Penguins and Editions Gallimard that burn! But it is kind of a stupid movie, pro-book and anti-television (and, for that matter, anti-comics!) in the most dumb and reactionary way.
But before the movie, six people read a poem each relating to the movie. Including me. The poems were of various sorts -- from Stephen Cain interrogating a book, torturing it and rubbing his face against it, to Katherine Parrish reciting the walkthrough of an interactive fiction version of Fahrenheit 451.
I did what seemed obvious: I used David Abel's eclipse method of adapting a text (I recently linked to his description of the process and my favorite of his eclipse poems) upon the first few sentences of the novel. I found a length that produced all sorts of neat effects in the grammar, and read it quickly to bring out the rhythm and Bradbury's sputtering cadences and alliterations (where David usually reads slowly, using the method to create a meditative reading, like rolling the words around with your tongue). Perhaps I'll make a sound file and post it later.
* * *
Tomorrow my friends Anthony Easton and Sundar Subramanian are performing a Christian Marclay piece that involves playing music from photographs of sheet music taken in urban settings (on signage, for instance), if you see what I mean. I'm not sure how it fits in with the festival, but it's all good. I'll be there.
* Why is this not "highlit"?
The Scream has begun. I missed the first night's event, but last night there was an opening for a visual poem art show and an event celebrating the catalogue poem. You can check out the visual poetry over at Type on Queen for the duration of the festival. But the catalogue event is now over, lost to time.
As soon as I saw that there was a catalogue poem event, I wondered why I hadn't been invited to participate, but soon enough I was -- Bill Kennedy, who organized the event (and is the artistic director of the Scream in general), invited me in. The event was a choir of list-readers wandering throughout the bookstore, starting with a single voice, building up to a raucous cacophony of enumeration before settling back down to that same voice -- my voice, as it turns out, reading sections from the oldest list in Western Lit, the catalogue of ships from Book 2 of the Iliad.
I also read sections from Georges Perec's catalogue of all the foods he ate in 1974, Rabelais's list of types of fools from Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Valerie Solanas's list of acceptable and unacceptable men from the SCUM Manifesto. I didn't manage to sneak in Roussel's list of 200-odd things which are similar to each other but of quite different sizes (from New Impressions of Africa) or Cole Porter's list of topmost things (from "You're The Top") or Craig Conley's list of meanings of the word "x" or any of a great number of other excellent lists I brought along. Ah well, next time! Meanwhile other people read from Chistopher Dewdney, Kenneth Goldsmith, The Joy of Cooking, the phone book, and too many other things for me to remember or list here... It was a big chaotic listy mess, and a nice way to start the Scream.
I woke up too late for me to catch today's walking tour of dead Toronto bookstores, which is probably for the best as it would only leave me heartbroken. But tonight there will be some live poetry editing and then a few people (including me) will be reading a poem each before a screening of Fahrenheit 451. Perhaps I'll see you there!
Happy Canada Day!
The Scream is right around the corner -- as in, it starts tomorrow -- and you can go check out the schedule of events -- you don't need me to tell you what to see. I'll be at many of the events, and so say hi when you see me.
But! There will be two events in particular that I'll be out, because I'll be doing something in them. I'll be part of Bill Kennedy's choir of list-reciters on Friday, and I'll be reading a poem before a screening of Fahrenheit 451 on Saturday.
You can try to guess which events I am most excited about seeing. Perhaps that would be a fun game for you. Or you can try to guess which events you are most excited about seeing. That might be even funner. Or, use chance operations to come up with a list of events, and live your life as if those are the most exciting ones to see. You have so many options.
So last Saturday I participated in this event, which, in theory, was making some connections between the life and work of Raymond Roussel (and in particular his novel Locus Solus) and the Watermill Center, Robert Wilson's monumental mansion-cum-gallery-cum-residency in Southampton.
The novel features a group of people coming to the estate of the learned scientist Martial Canterel. Canterel takes them on a tour of the assorted ineffably strange oddities and marvels he's collected or invented, after which he tells them the narrative of their provenence, which often involves several parenthetically inserted subnarratives. At the end, the guests all sit down for a meal.
Watermill, which is filled Balinese statues and tortured modernist chairs and an endless supply of urns and vases, seemed like an obvious place to recreate a suitably Rousselian tour around the marvels of Watermill and the various performances, activities, and tableaux that the other collaborators were going to create. At first, I was going to be writing the narratives behind the various experiences our tour, using Roussel's story-generating method. (Roussel would create two nearly-homonymic phrases and then write a story that would get from one phrase to another; "la règle de l'art", the rule for making art, becoming "la règle de lard", the ruler for measuring things made out of bacon.)
Well, for various reasons, this idea got nixed.
The tour ended up being self-guided, with guests invited to go from one room of Watermill to the next, where they would be able to do, see, or hear a variety of things related to Roussel or Watermill or, perhaps, neither. And I wound up mostly reading a few sections from Locus Solus (in the English translation), while other collaborators performed music or showed videos or invited guests to draw on transparencies. It all ended with a twelve course tasting meal.
So, for about two hours on Saturday, I read sections of Locus Solus. One guest actually stopped to listen to me read for a good twenty minutes, hearing almost the entire story of the giant diamond filled with the heavily oxygenated aqua-micans, the long-haired dancer swimming in the water, and the shaved Siamese cat who would put its head in a funnel which then touched the brain of the skinless and boneless head of the French Revolutionary orator Danton and brought him somewhat back to life to move his eyes and lips vigorously, as if trying to recreate his famous speeches.
Locus Solus: It is an odd book.
I feel as though I should say a bit more about Roussel and his methods and his life, but I'm not sure I have anything to say which his various commentators -- most notably Foucault, in his book on Roussel, Death and the Labyrinth -- haven't already said. But, maybe.
I do recommend picking a few sections of Locus Solus out and reading them aloud a dozen times, as it will make all sorts of interesting details in the work much clearer.
Good heavens, if Ron Silliman is going to link to the recent profiles (with video!) of my old Spare Room collaborators Maryrose Larkin and David Abel, it's ridiculous that I haven't. (Actually, I hadn't heard about David's, somehow!) Oh, and Robert Mittenthal and Jeanne Heuving! Well, well, check it all out, eh? Who will they feature next?
There is a new pdf zine thingy thing thing called würm and I was asked to submit a poem for it and so there it is. It's one I read at my last reading in Portland. Nico Vassilakis has one in there too. Karri Kokko has one that looks similar to mine but it is also quite different. Lots of visual poetry, but not just. Lots of other people in it too. Why not download it, print it out, read it, draw on it, détourne it, whatever the kids are doing these days.
Meanwhile I am participating in a project to bring Raymond Roussel to Robert Wilson's Watermill. He should arrive June 20th. So if you're in the Hamptons, you might want to come see what that could mean. Perhaps I will talk more about Raymond Roussel here soon. He is quite the fellow.