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11.25.2003

Oh man, the snow hit. At least an inch by midnight. And what a nice evening for snow, as I was deep in the confines of Hallwall's listening to the Full Blown Trio. Holy cow! Dave Burrell on piano, William Parker on bass, and Andrew Cyrille on drums. It's not often one can spend a few hours with living legends in such an intimate space. Packed full, surprisingly, and interestingly, very, very white (which seems anti-intuitive as BFLO proper is 37% African American. The free jazz audience is morphing into a wholly academic populace, which might explain the discrepency...the same can be said for the Bay Area scene, I suppose).

The show opened with a twenty minute bass solo from Parker, which slowly morphed into a composition by Burrell glued together by a slightly discordant hook. Half and hour later, the trio vacillated within the field of the composition, seamlessly returning to the hook for a moment or two before returning to the field.

(Tangent: Poets need to study free jazz transitions. More often than not, I'm not aware that the players have returned to the hook until they are measures into it. This creates a feeling of malaise, as if the players were moving faster than one's cognition. One of my major concerns at the moment is making this sort of transition within serial work. There is something to be said for returning to an established melody as opposed to starting a new musical line with each new poem. The serial is fugal, granted, but it seems poets are interested in making each verse too autonomous, which forces the imposition of contingent structures to create the "illusion" of cohesion).

After a break, Cyrille opened with a drum solo: The best thing about Cyrille is the aura of comfort that surrounds his playing. He plays hard and fast, the audience goes crazy, and he sort of looks up as if he forgot people were in the room! Parker and Burrell joined in for a shorter set that ended with someone videotaping the last piece, and Burrell telling him that he should talk to his "manager" about using the footage!

Here's what Hallwalls says of Burrell:

Distinguished composer-pianist Dave Burrell is a performing artist of singular stature on the international contemporary music scene. His dynamic compositions, with blues and gospel roots recall the tradition of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington. After majoring in music at the University of Hawaii, he enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1961. After graduating with degrees in composition/arranging and performance in 1965, he moved to New York City, where he quickly established himself as one of the most innovative and original pianists collaborating with the emerging leaders in contemporary jazz.

During the last 30 years Dave Burrell has appeared on 106 recordings, 22 under his own name. Burrell is renowned for his many pivotal recordings with saxophonists such as Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown, and David Murray, to name a few.

More to come: The word on the street is Brotzman is on the way...


11.19.2003

--
Excited abt. the new Lisa Jarnot Black Dog Songs (Flood)


--
Did I mention you can get Involuntary Vision: after Akira Kurosawa's Dreams from me for a HUGE discount??

Send $7 (that's right!! Only $7) and it will be in the mail asap:

Michael Cross
434 Ashland Ave
Buffalo NY 14222

Send other things too (especially books!).

--
ON THE HORIZON:
CYNTHIA SAILER'S NEW CHAPBOOK ROSE LUNGS FROM MY NEW CHAPBOOK PRESS ATTICUS/FINCH!!

--
Soon: Notes on Rachel Blau Duplessis talk

11.16.2003

“For want of the image of a voice”

We have lost many senses.
—Henry Adams

Love is the mind’s desire and the eye’s achievement.
—David Melnick

Trees have been stripped to the root by a seer on her path across circumference of intellection. This is a tragic poem.
—Susan Howe

In the fifth installment of Matthew Barney’s film cycle Cremaster, the Queen of Chain and her lover, an incarnation of Harry Houdini, are separated by what at first is a series of temporal flashbacks. The separation becomes physical within the confines of the Hungarian State Opera House, where the majority of the film’s action takes place. Whereas Pyramus and Thisby, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are horizontally divided, the lovers in Cremaster 5 are separated vertically—the Queen overlooks the symphony and stage from the Royal Booth, as Barney, playing the Giant, stands waist deep in the Gellért Thermal Baths a floor below. She is the sole viewer/vocalist in an opera featuring an alter ego of Barney (the Diva) who climbs around the “fourth wall” of the stage by vine, melting into a messy, viscous substance as he arrives stage left. A gaping orifice rests beneath the Queen, opening upon the thermal baths below. The hole, in classic Barney-esque fashion, appears to be a human orifice, a sort of outrageously amplified and synthetic anus, shimmering in the light of the opera house with a slimy film. From this vantage, the Queen watches Barney, waist-deep in the baths, as Füdőr sprites swim around his grotesquely abridged genitals, absconded by floating pearls.

Barney and his queen’s predicament is similar to Pyramus and Thisby’s, a predicament singularly important to my reading of Louis Zukofsky and his Bottom: On Shakespeare . Both dramas feature a disruption of the “natural” world by the synthetic, and in both, sense-impression undergoes the sort of synesthesia so important to Zukofsky and Bottom. When Bottom awakens from his dream he notes, ‘the eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was” (M.N.D. IV, i). As Pyramus, Bottom re-enacts this synesthesia and its pleasures: “I see a voice! Now will I to the chink, To spy and I can hear my Thisby’s face” (M.N.D. V, i). Only when Thisby attempts to kiss Pyramus through the wall’s chink (Snout’s physical hand cupped to make a hole) does the terror of their situation become evident. Thisby says, “I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all” (M.N.D. V, i). The terror of this misidentification permeates the Cremaster Cycle, creating a sort of artificial sensuousness, a frustration of desire and sense-impression, a wall constructed manually that exhibits the “radiant heat” of a live thing. Zukofsky writes of Thisby’s horror, “These words edge pleasure, innocence and terror. They canter towards a thoughful (sic?), sensuous, and pre-archaic wall all at once; like Disney cartoons that may amuse children their animation is not childlike” (Bottom 34). And like Disney, there is a childish sensation in Barney’s films verging on the “primitive,” undercut by a terror ubiquitous as “gas.”

For Zukofsky, the “primitive,” the “natural, elemental,” is a return to sense-impression, namely “a single and simple pleasure like sight” (67) . He writes,
...sight is a function of (numerically) irrational biological power of the human animal, which begins as body, finds a voice that involves or generates intellect, which recalls a type head atop the most primitive human animal...(67)

And further,
...in primitive time man looks around and into himself—his body and his cave to be decorated—then looks out and wonders how he first looked around and into himself; having reached fabling time he looks out by these means, above, underneath earth, its heard life that once made him speak now rarifying his picturing sounds of earth into song like those of an Odyssey; in late time he conceives past a vanishing point, nowhere and everywhere projecting ‘objects’ in signs and indices which may again let him look around, into, out, up, down for an underpinning of earth... (Bottom 87, italics mine)

This talk of the cave echoes the primitive of Snout’s piecemeal costume. Zukofsky writes, “the Physical vision that Shakespeare suggests...often effuses like an old pictograph” (36), implying the primitive of cave art. And as the primitive is “a typically rough or simple home accessory made by hand,” Snout’s wall is equally ingenuous:
Wall. In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall:
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often secretly
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall: the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper
(M.N.D., V, i, italics mine).

The audience (through the glass of the fictive fourth wall) is directed to “see” Snout as Wall, even while their senses tell them otherwise: Demetrius says to Theseus, “It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord” (M.N.D., V, i). Zukofsky calls this wall an “old solidity”—at the core of its material essence is a living being (as Barney’s walls pulsate with the warmth and wetness of living matter) covered in “plaster, or some loam, or some rough-cast” (note Demetrius’ language, suggesting Wall is a product of “wit”).

Zukofsky draws a distinction between the plaster and loam of Snout’s wall, and that of the “glass wall of the modern architect.” This partition of glass, “produced” in the modern world via intellect, is what Zukofsky dubs the new primitive, a product that “looks out of a similar wound on the few trees of the suburbs; he will not hunt in the woods again because a clock hand may be turned back but willfully" (Bottom 33). This modern wall is a “solid transparency,” making it possible to look back over the destruction of the natural world as one takes part in its annihilation. It appears innocent in the tortured landscape of the natural as it cannot be “seen”—its invisibility is a symptom of progress. The wall is the product of the hearth, and the hearth, in order to be stoked, is fed organic fuel. Zukofsky reminds us that “hearth” is part of the Greek root for “scar,” and to return to Scarus and his ‘T” made into an “H,” he claims that scar is analogous to both glass wall and text—the scar too can be pierced by vision (“Scarus had a wound...The glass wall of modern architecture looks out of a similar wound... (33)), and it can be read (Zukofsky in “Z (signature)”: “Sounding ‘That can doe hurt’—doe, the animal; as against do, the abstract scar. These eyeing intimacies of print are all actions...” (442)). Scarus answers Antony thus: “I have yet room for six scothes more” (A & C, IV, vii) as does the open field of the text and its landscape. Of this scar, both textual and tangible, Zukofsky writes, “all invention headed off by thought in late cultures has this wound” (Bottom 33).

Better, the new primitive: “a late thought retrospective with or anticipating an earliest freshness. In stance, so that the eye both savage and civilized when it looks thru glass wall and present abstract implications of solid state only the instruments of recent physics that are not eyes may study” (34). The new primitive confuses the senses with its reliance on physics and invention. The eyes alone cannot “see”—they rely solely on instruments to measure the veracity of their subject (the measurements of technology control what and how we see/know). Here is the meeting point of the organic and synthetic: one can see, but only through the lens of science, and as such, sense becomes artificial/contingent. The glass wall is a product of the environment, but disallows the sensation of being part of the same; it is autonomous, but concedes a contingent perspective. Ironically, because the wall is synthetic (as are Barney’s gelatinous barriers), it facilitates the synesthesia that Bottom wishes to convey. And if the wall is opaque, the chink / pictograph allows one to see (often via sound) no matter how contingent upon the wall’s obstruction : Peter Quince proclaims in his prologue, “Wall, that vile Wall which did these lovers sunder; / And through the Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content to whisper” (M.N.D. V, i).

In order to illustrate the properties of the chink (and its capacity to produce synesthesia), Zukofsky describes a soothsayer capable of predicting the future using the primitive means of magic and intuition. He writes, “—a soothsayer—whose physical vision is no doubt lately primitive, new as modern musique concrète” (Bottom 36). That is, new in that the natural world is made manifest by the instruments of technology: the music is composed of the sounds of nature, captured (controlled/manipulated) via manufactured tools. Shakespeare’s physical vision, Zukofsky claims, “often effuses like an old pictograph thru the syllabary or word it has become. Looking back to see itself with its acquired sound, it must ‘see’ with a motion forward to a circuitous self-answer of an apocryphal soothsaying” (36). Soothsaying is the simultaneity of looking forward and backward in order to produce “an image of the voice.” Ultimately, the destruction of the American landscape (in the name of progress) is a similarly circuitous process —an innocence like Acteon’s as he becomes the very thing he has been hunting, damned by his own design. Shakespeare, in his 59th sonnet writes, “O, that record could with a backward look” (Shakespeare 13). In order to illustrate the melding of sight with sound, Zukofsky uses the language of chemistry. He claims, “there are three states in existence: one is solid, another is liquid, and the other is gas...It’s the same with the materials of poetry, you make images—that’s pretty solid—music, it’s liquid; ultimately if something vaporizes, that’s the intellect” (Prepositions 169). He continues, “I’d like to keep solid because I can’t help myself...,” but on the other hand, “it’s when the senses vaporize and, the head floats, but sometimes it floats beautifully. All these gases are very nice if you know what you are talking about” (171). The poet ought to employ a lower limit intellect, at least hierarchically lower than solid (sight) and liquid (sound). And as described above, it is difficult to separate one from the other in Zukofsky or Shakespeare. Both retain a backward glance as the “voice finds its image.” Zukofsky uses Chapman’s “the unspeakable good liquor there” as an example of a line that perfectly fuses image and cadence: the pictograph of the image comes out of the sound. Zukofsky restates his claims in these terms: ‘I said solid state, liquid, gas; as a matter of fact you can word it sense, essence, non-sense” (242). Epistemology is non-sense (“God knows, when I was done doing away with epistemology in Bottom...” (242)), too far gone from the human body and its impressions to make “sense.” In fact, the body for Zukofsky, and how it “knows” phenomena, is far superior to the intellect. He writes, “I like to keep the noises as close to the body as possible, so that (I don’t know how you’d express it mathematically) the eye is a function of the ear and the ear the eye; maybe with that you might feel a sense of smell, of taste even” (231).

The text is cut off by artificiality as “all invention headed off by thought in late cultures has this wound.” The natural (sight and sound) can pierce through the “tensile strength” of the wall (intellect/progress/invention), only if the senses are capable of “seeing” its breaking point. “Wall,” played by Snout, is not a wall at all, only loam and plaster—manual “things.” Beneath the cover of what makes one “see” wall, is the essence of wall, a vibrant being diffusing radiant heat. And in Cremaster, the sensation of “solid state” is undercut by the viscidity of the material of construction: wall is synthetic, and thus can be pierced by sense. The chink, or the scar of the wall, allows the viewer to pierce the artificiality of the construction, yet, because of its limited scope, forces the viewer into a state of synesthesia, in which sight and sound become indistinguishable. This, in effect, creates the image of the voice.

Lawrence Weschler recounts an analogue in his Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder. In 1952, chiroptologist Donald R. Griffith, led an expedition to capture and study an elusive breed of bat called Myotis lucifugus. For two months, though this specific breed had been documented by researchers in the past, Griffith and his team were unable to capture a specimen, regardless of the many advanced snares they had developed. Welsher writes, “(So) Griffith devised a brilliant snaring device, consisting of five solid-lead walls, each one eight inches thick, twenty feet high, and two hundred feet long—all of them arrayed in a radial pattern, like spokes of a giant wheel, along the forest floor. The team affixed seismic sensors all along the walls in an intricate grid-like pattern, and proceeded to wait” (Welsher 9). It seems the bats “had developed a highly specialized form of echolocation based upon ultraviolet wavelengths, which even, in some instances, verged into the neighboring X-ray band of the wave spectrum” (8). The bats were impossible to catch, as they employed these ultraviolet rays to fly through solid substances. Griffith was finally able to catch a specimen of the genus when the “sensors recorded a pock. The number-three wall had received an impact of magnitude 10x3 ergs twelve feet above the forest floor and 193 feet out from the center of the wheel. The team members carted an X-ray viewing device out to the indicated spot, and sure enough, at a depth of 7 1/8 inches, they located the first Myotis lucifugus ever contained by man, ‘eternally frozen in a mass of solid lead’” (9). The bat was able, finally, to pierce the wall with echolocation—a form of sound-seeing. The natural technology of the body, on a primitive level, revealing the tensile strength of the wall through synesthesia.

Works Cited
Adams, Henry. The Tendency of History. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1919.
Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 4. 1994.
Barney, Matthew. Cremaster 5. 1997.
Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Stamford: Longmeadow Press.
Weschler, Lawrence. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder. New York: Pantheon Books, 1995.
Zukofsky, Louis. Prepositions +. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2000.
Zukofsky, Louis. Bottom: On Shakespeare. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2002.



11.13.2003

A note from Taylor Brady regarding Microclimates:
(sorry for the strange right hand margin!)

Dear Michael,

Just wanted to send a quick note of thanks for the kind
words about Microclimates on your blog the other day.
As you might guess, I'm in agreement with you concerning
its having been overlooked -- but should add, lest that
degenerate into special pleading, that the readers who have
found their way to it have been rather more than usually
responsive. The "genre issues" you mention are, I think,
at the root of both dynamics -- the quantitative lack of
response, and the qualitative engagement with it among
folks who did read it.

What I really wanted to do with that book (and what I'm
working at elaborating with the next one), was to create
a modular writing across several generic, procedural and
"tonal" dispositions, such that each of the various "units"
out of which the book is composed would propose as
forcefully as possible its own protocols for "how to read,"
not only itself but the book as a whole. At this level, I think
it's a book of rather more than average readability when
considered against the post-Language, post-New Narrative
background it's situated in, since these protocols had
to be rather didactically forefronted in order to make such
an operation work. This maneuver, I think, probably cost it
a certain number of readers who saw the various transparencies
(of narrative, lyric "voice," argument, etc. -- mostly false
transparencies, ruses really, but there nonetheless if you're
looking for them) as a neo-conservative backsliding from more
aggressively experimental positions. (I actually have a great
deal ofsympathy for this response, even though I'm
characterizing it rather one-dimensionally here. If you'd
asked me a few years ago whether I saw myself ever writing
plotted prose, I would have laughed you out of the room).

For me, the twist comes in what happens next -- or at least
what I attempted to make happen. What I wanted was for all
these readable units of text to propose not only different
approaches to reading the book as a whole, but contradictory
ones. I'm interested in the way, for example, that the memoiristic
frame can't quite be reconciled with the operatic placement
of the lyric poems, nor either of those with the interpolated
"letters" in the middle of the book, or the way the
“metafictional” framing that takes hold in the editorial
apparatus doesn’t really close its rectangle.
(There’s a great Carla Harryman prose piece –
in Vice, I think – that explores the geometry of a
frame that becomes an element of the framed in such
a way, and probably with greater rigor than I mustered
in Microclimates). Further, I wanted to look at ways in
which that incommensurability could be more than a matter
of the simple judgment: "It doesn't add up." Rather, I
wanted to create a situation in which each modular component
of the book internalized its critical (in the sense of critique, but
also and more to the point in the sense of crisis) relation
with the other components. So, if it works, there's a kind of crisis
of legibility for the whole, articulated within a series of legible
parts, and then this system-level crisis reflects
downward into those parts themselves. What I wanted was the
coherent and rigorous experience of one’s (my) representations
of a world (world-building, see below) becoming incoherent and
inconsistent, and demanding some enagement with that texture
of contradiction. In this, in its own odd way, I see the book as
participating in the shift from ideology critique to rearticulation in
writers like Cabri, Elrick, Toscano and Derksen. (I don’t know at all
whether any of them would see it thus, though Rodrigo’s response
to it upon first publication seemed largely sympathetic and nuanced).

Part of the inspiration for this was Samuel Delany's writing on
the seriesnovel in science fiction, which he reads not so much
through the kinds ofcommercial motives that create, say, movie
sequels (though of course that's an undeniable material substrate
driving production in a genre as sensitive to marginal returns
as SF), as through a schema in which each new installment in
the "world-building" series (his example is usually Asimov's
Foundation novels, though his own Neveryon series is to my
mind a more cogent one) “folds back” onto the previous volumes,
returning to their sites in a critical rather than simply agglutinative
mode. (For some reason, this brought to mind the events in the first
parts of the prose sequence in Williams’ Spring and All, in which the
work wills the destruction and recreation of the world twice over
before finally arriving at the place where the work itself can be heard –
again, that weird geometry, too, where the space that enfolds the
work becomes a constituent part of the work itself, and thus
articulating some linear progression of small to large, content to
container, becomes incredibly fraught). I came to the Delany essay
(writing from work, don’t have the title at hand, sorry) at a time when
I was reading and writing serial poems, trying to tease out what it
was about the form that struck me as useful for developing a critical
poetics (critique and crisis, again). Blaser’s sense of the twist
(elaborating a similar concept in Olson), Rachel Blau Du Plessis’ “fold,”
etc. seemed to have similar valences.

Anyway, where this led me was to a pair of questions concerning
dimensions in the series, probably stemming from an intuition about
the geometrical paradox I was talking about. First: rather than
serializing a sequence of like units (poem + poem + poem…), might
one instead serialize the differences between unlikes (poem + novel
+ essay + poem + genre distinction between poem and novel + failure
of genre distinction + malt liquor bottle + Free Labor Zone + editor’s
notes)? Second, and as a sort of half-assed corollary to the first:
could one approach the series as both horizontal and vertical?
In other words, does “serial” in the serial poem have to denote a
succession of units one after the other, or might it instead name a
situation in which units are stacked on top of each other, a series of
partial simultaneities in which the units themselves vibrate interactively,
and thus mutate each other through this mutual reverberance?
So, in a sense, wanting serialization to be not only melos but
harmonia as well. Think of the simultaneous presence of an overtone
series in any single struck note, for example.

As an aside: applied to the larger issue of serializing form,
this dynamic plays a role in the essay that accompanies the
recent box set of Rhys Chatham’s compositions, An Angel Moves
Too Fast to See, and I think his comments are helping me to clarify
what I’m up to. Chatham writes of the postmodern moment in
composition as opening up the possibility that the various methods
and historical accretions of modernism, in all their contradictory relation
to one another, could become simultaneously available to the composer.
Thus, an extreme porosity of genre, harmonic and melodic procedure,
etc. For Chatham, this is a tremendously ambivalent achievement: on
the one hand, it presents itself under the sign of freedom
– “I can do jazz, rock, classical, atonal, microtonal, serial, and
minimalist without regard to any socially enforced orthodoxy now,
simply as a matter of free choice.” But on the other hand, it’s the peculiar
"freedom" of the free market: one gets this expanded range of
choice only if one assents to the lapse out of critical engagement,
and allows that all possibilities simply represent equivalent units
in a statistical heap. So the project in the wake of 80s
postmodernism (the periodization is of course different for various
art forms, and even within single ones –Chatham’s thumbnail history
is incredibly New York/new music-centric), is to stage this pluralism
in such a way that its constituent parts enter into critical relation with
each other – one has to force this dimensionless field to articulate
itself. Chatham identifies two major downtown-NYC methods.
One is represented by John Zorn’s collage compositions, in which
exempla of genres or methods are arrayed in quick succession, one
after another in a single composition. The other is what Chatham has
been exploring, a more vertical method in which various dispositions of
the same musical material occur simultaneously, so that one might force
a serialist approach to melodic development into dialogue (or diatribe)
with a harmonic line in just intonation, with a rhythmic orientation coming
out of free jazz. The point of all this is not only a kind of eclecticism
(though that’s often fun in itself) but to hear, as manifest, the
contradictions between various approaches to the musical artifact
resonating within the artifact itself. It places within the artwork the
question of scale and determination, rather than simply inserting the
artwork into a "neutral" marketplace that will ascertain these dimensions
from above.

From descriptions above, I think you’d guess that I see my
approach as more in line with Chatham’s (though I still listen
to those Naked City recordings pretty often). And of course, before
Chatham, for me, there’s Anthony Braxton, who was articulating a
similar critical, engaged approach to the plurality of musics available
within the “jazz” tradition. (With Braxton, I think, one needs the scare
quotes, not so much for the fucked-up Wynton Marsalis slander that
“that shit ain’t jazz,” as to preserve a sense that what Braxton’s after
is really something larger than jazz, more like a music made of the
relation of jazz to the African diaspora, and the relation of that to global
history, and the relation of that to cosmology. What I think I'm saying is
that it's the macrostrucutral relationships that defined the "outside" of
the music -- how do I taxonomize it in relation to other musics, for
example -- that become, for Braxton, the microstructural "insides" out
of which he composes). Where all this leads me is to something like
Microclimates, I guess, and it’s also why I think the response to the
book has been so spotty, but so engaged when it happens.
Hearing the “difference tones” between those multiple musical
text-events reshaping the space in which the text happens can
be greatly pleasurable (or so at least I like to think, in the Blakean
sense where embodied thought is pleasure), but it also requires a
kind of naïve acceptance of certain generic legibilities on the one
hand, and a willingness to participate in the collapse of that acceptance
into a broader field on the other. That’s not a fashionable set toward
reading on either side of what Silliman might identify as the
post-avant/School of Quietude “divide” at present, nor is it likely to
become such anytime soon. And again, lest I toot my own horn too
much, I should make it clear that these are simply the barriers to
reading the book that I can see given what its overall project
is. There’s a whole other potential set of obstacles that come into play if
I simply haven’t carried out the project with any great skill. On these, of
course, I’m singularly unqualified to comment.

So there’s my long-winded two cents. I’m glad to see that the
other books on your “unjustly overlooked” list are all, in one way
or another, things that shaped my sense of what was really up with
poetry last year (and similarly, your list of “please don’t ignore” titles
for 2003). I hope the early phases of the long Buffalo winter are treating
you well. Buy sunlamps. And find a bar you like.

All best,
Taylor



Announcing!!

"Involuntary Vision," poetry working with Akira Kurosawa's "Dreams," is just out from Avenue B press, edited by yours truly. This is the first anthology of New Brutalist writing, featuring work by Ryan Bartlett, Trevor Calvert, Julia Bloch, Tanya Brolaski, James Meetze, Cynthia Sailers, Eli Drabman, Geoffrey Dyer, Stephen Ratcliffe, Elizabeth Willis, and myself.

Juliana Spahr says of "Involuntary Vision": "In INVOLUNTARY VISION, eleven Bay Area poets write out of and about Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. The poems they write explore with Kurosawa realtionships, childhood terrors, the seductive nature of death, nuclear annihilation, and environmental pollution. As they do this they maintain an allegiance to the formal and measured dance of thought and word. This is a moving collection that celebrates poetry as an art that is both social and intellectual."

You can purchase a copy at Small Press Distribution at www.spdbooks.org (search title), or through Avenue B at www.durationpress.com/avenueb. Please check this volume out and support yr. local poets!!


11.11.2003

Four Consecutive Upcoming Readings (Holy Cow!!):

Tina Darragh and Dan Farrell
Wed., Nov. 12, 4pm; Poetry/Rare Books SUNY Buffalo

Alan Loney
Thurs., Nov. 13, 4pm; Poetry/Rare Books SUNY Buffalo

Simon Cutt and Erica Van Horn
(Discussion & Exhibition of Coracle Books)
Fri., Nov. 14, 12:30-1:30 pm; Poetry/Rare Books SUNY Buffalo

Jane Sprague & the Donolesinger Transmutation (Thom Donovan and Kyle Schlesinger)
& Someone else I can't remember at the moment (Sorry!)
Sat., Nov. 15, 8-ish at Rosa Alcala's House

11.10.2003

In my stereo:

Spoon "Kill the Moonlight" (Merge)

Deathcab for Cutie "Transatlantacism" (Baruk)

Laddio Boloko "Strange Warmings of..." (Hungarian)

Six Organs of Admittance "Dark Noontide" (Communion??)

Thuja "Suns" (??)

Songs: Ohia "Ghost Tropic" (Secretely Canadian)

Music I want:

New Howard Hello (Temporary Residance)

11.09.2003

I am only now aware of how cold can manifest itself. Cold independent of other elements is one thing, but the wind off the lake...

11.08.2003

Seriously Overlooked Books from 2002:
(Being a list of my favorites from last year that were seemingly ignored by peeps doing critical work on cont. poetry / A list of books you ought to start writing about)

* bk of (h)rs by Pattie McCarthy (Apogee Press)

This little number renewed my faith in the prose poem as a generative form. McCarthy's lines are deft and interesting and they sing (often loudly!). I especially love the section "bell (h)rs" in the beginning as the columns work well with her lines (Pattie knows how to use the page to her advantage). McCarthy has new poems in the upcoming issue of syllogism; look for it in December. If you don't have this book, give up writing poems now.

* The Shirt Weapon by Brandon Downing (Germ Monographs)

Brandon's poems are funny and quick and way smarter than they first seem. This is also one of the best looking books from the last few years. Look for new Downing poems in the new syllogism as well.

*Arrival by Sarah Anne Cox (Krupskaya)

Sarah's poems are so, so good, and for some reason I never here her name being dropped at the poet soirees. There are so many lines here that, in the words of Tanya Brolaski, "I would wear on a shirt"! Arrival is a slender little number, which makes it the perfect book to carry in your pocket and read a couple of times in a single sitting. This is the kind of poetry that ought to be on the New York Times Bestseller list. So accesible and interesting even the most poet-phobic could get into it.

*Anything by Stephen Ratcliffe (but especially Portraits and Repetition (Post Apollo) and SOUND / (system) (Green Integer))

Ratcliffe is fast becoming the most underrated poet of his generation. The man puts out something like two books a year on some of our most prestigious presses (meaning someone thinks his work is interesting!), yet I know many, many poets who are fully unfamiliar with his work. This is truly unfortunate as Ratcliffe is writing some of the most formally interesting work around. His poems are variations on perception that are as careful as anything I've read. The poems in Portraits and Repetition are laced in tight couplets (five a poem) that act as variations on perception. The poems lose their subjectivity as they morph into the reader's conciousness. Essential as always, and (as always) completely ignored.

*Microclimates by Taylor Brady (Krupskaya)

I know this was printed in 2001, but I still feel like it was criminally ignored. Why are poets not writing dissertations on this thing?? So much of interest I wouldn't know where to start. One of the most innovative books published in a long, long while. Most people can't seem to get past the genre issues here. Read it, dammit. Make new friends. Push yourself to try something new.

Books out now that ought to be on your reading list before they become the most overlooked books of 2003:

*The Dirty Halo of Everything Geoffrey Dyer (Krupskaya)

*The Frenquencies Noah Eli Gordon (Tougher Disguises)

*As in Every Deafness Graham Foust (Flood Editions)

*Deerhead Nation K. Silem Mohammad (Tougher Disguises)

*Anything by Laynie Browne


11.04.2003

It's been a serious couple of weeks!! Last night, Songs:Ohia at the Mohawk!! Surprisingly full evening (stayed 8pm-2am). Talked at length with Jonathan Joseph (drummer of Bonfire Madigan, ex-Tarantel) about the city and my love of California. They have three-four weeks left in a van and it's getting cold! Obbyrkill River (Jagjaguwar) was a major surprise and very, very fun to watch. The label on their cd said something about jumping into REM's "Country Feedback" and then screwing it up. Something like that, and strangely true. I talked with Jason Molina before the show and it turns out he is friends with Peter Gizzi and is familiar with James' Tougher Disguises!! Molina started the show with three solo songs from the upcoming Pyramid Electric Company record, and then joined Jennie Benford for some gorgeous duets with Mike Brenner on lapsteel (even tho he never heard the songs before the perfomance! Wow!). By the end of the night "Magnolia Electic Company" became a seven member band, and played psych versions of Magnolia Electric Company tunes. One of the few shows recently at which I wasn't aching to go home earlier. Two o'clock in the morning came much too soon...

The "Bottom" conference was Halloween weekend! Oh man...! What an amazing event! Two days of panels including Mark Scroggins, Thom Donovan, Louis Cabri, Barbara Cole, Gregg Biglleri, Stephen Collis, Nick Lawerence, myself, etc.etc. We talked, we ate, we talked, we talked; An amazing presentation by Scroggins on the writing and publishing of Bottom, followed by an equally amazing presentation on Pound/Zukofsky/Esoteric Address by Cabri. Gregg Big., Stephen Collis and myself read Halloween night after a very, very long day (some of the participants flew in that morning!) and during his reading Stephen Collis nearly passed out from fatigue/nerves/etc (a testament to the hardcore dedication of the participants!). Thom Donovan and Scroggins read the following day at a great party at Lori Emerson's, at which Susan Howe / B. Cole convinced me that I ought to subscribe to HBO (Apparently Susan and her husband Peter Hare are huge fans of the Sopranos, Sex in the City, Six Feet Under, etc.etc.; Peter, a major thinker/expert in philosophy is supposedly contributing to one of those philosophy/pop culture books on the Sopranos!!). Thanks again to Thom Donovan for his energy/organizational skills/hardwork/etc.etc.

AND Trevor Joyce last Wed. all the way from Ireland. He read from his newish collection "With the first dream of fire, they hunt the cold" (one of the better book titles I have heard in quite a while!). He read fast (upper limit music) and then faster in a beautifully inflected Irish accent and then tryed to explain the esotericism of the poems even faster, so I followed the melody and stopped "listening." It was a fabulous reading--Joyce needs attention from our humble American audience and fast!

AND Bernadette Mayer at Just Buffalo the week before last!! The joy, the joy! Bernadette read with Peter Cully from Vancouver (New Star Books, label mate with Lisa Robertson, Stephen Collis (see above)) and both were so entertaining to watch. Peter's presence instantly filled the room as he read from his new book "Hammertown" and was done before I processed the first poem. Bernadette read some of the funniest poems I have heard in a great while--in my opinion she is one of the few living writers that does humor really, really well. Highlights: "Catullus" translations from "the Reader," poems about her neighbor mowing the lawn (?), a very loud and confident burp in the middle of her reading (by far the best moment!)!! Party at Jonathan Skinners' after for beer and some of the spicest salsa I've sampled in Buffalo. Bernadette and I talked New Directions and her new book of aphorisms and sonnets coming soon! Hurrah!!

Oh man, what else?? Eshelman on Olson the day before. I think I'll skip that...

Upcoming events in the BFLO:

Rachel Blau Duplessis on Wed. Nov. 5th for talk and reading!
(If you are in the area, stop by Clemens 438 / UB North Campus at 12:30 for the talk; reading begins at 4pm in the CFA Screening Room)

Thom Donovan, Kyle Schlesinger, Jane Sprague, and someone else I am forgetting next Friday (I think...?!)

Tina Darragh and Dan Farrell Oct. 12

Alan Loney Oct. 13 (check out the "erasure tapes," I've heard it's quite good!).

Simon Cutts / Coracle Books showcase Oct. 14 (Have you seen Susan Howe's Coracle books "Kidnapped" and "Bed Hangings II"??? You've got to flip through these books!! BEAU-TI-FUL!! And both are significantly different than the sections of the same name in "the Midnight").

Grandma Willy and Aunt Tina's for Thanksgiving (want to come??!). I will work and eat. K. will talk and eat. Neither of us will exercise ever again.

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