Foreman Fest

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!

More and more

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.


Template based on one by GeckoandFly which was modified and converted to Blogger Beta by Blogcrowds.