Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Hound reads with Nicole Brossard

Nicole Brossard launches Fluid Arguments, a book of essays, and the paperback edition of the GG-nominated Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon. With readings by Susan Rudy and Sina Queyras. At This Ain't the Rosedale Library (483 Church St., Toronto). May 30th, 7:30 pm.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Andrea Zittel

Critical Space, now on at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, is Andrea Zittel's first major show. For over a decade she has been investigating "lifestyle" with more intensity than the average scientific mind. In fact, Zittel might be to "domesticity," what Serra is to a steelworker: the far end of the imagined possibility. Beds that slide out of cupboards, as we see in the A-Z Living Unit #21, or the A-Z Escape Vehicle. These are ideas that have lingered around in my mind for some time. Why not have beds that pull out of walls and can be tucked back in? Why not have more compact kitchens, slick ways of recombining storage space with used space? The recycling mind of the Depression era meets Art.

Somewhere out on the California desert she is, right now, coming up with new ways of inhabiting space: from daily living, to tuning out, to how we inhabit our own bodies. For anyone who has ever looked at the layout of your average apartment and thought, wow, this is just so wrong, Zittel is your girl. Not only has she thought about it, she has created new plans, and has a gallery to display them...some of which are so tempting you want to make like a gerbil and crawl in...

This weekend is your last chance: don't miss this show.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Richard Serra, The Gagosian


Richard Serra is one of the giants of contemporary art, and regularly shows new work at The Gagosian. This latest is more fragmented than the last show I saw: a sculpture tall and curved as the bulk of a ship--one of those lonely rusted ships Edward Burtynsky photographs. I still don't know how they got that thing in the gallery!
The current show, Rolled and Forged, continues Serra's fascination with weight, with density and surface:
"Weight is a value for me, not that it is any more compelling than lightness, but I simply know more about weight than lightness and therefore I have more to say about it, more to say about the balancing of weight, the diminishing of weight, the addition and subtraction of weight, the concentration of weight, the rigging of weight, the propping of weight, the placement of weight, the locking of weight, the psychological effects of weight, the disorientation of weight, the disequilibrium of weight, the rotation of weight, the movement of weight, the directionality of weight, the shape of weight. I have more to say about the perpetual and meticulous adjustments of weight, more to say about the pleasure derived from the exactitude of the laws of gravity. I have more to say about the processing of the weight of steel, more to say about the forge, the rolling mill, and the open hearth." (Richard Serra, 1988)
This last show I saw on a Friday afternoon, which is worth mentioning because it made all the difference. On Saturdays, the day I usually reserve for Chelsea, the galleries are packed, people spilling, sometimes dazed, out onto the street. Whatever art I might be looking at is therefore shaped in some way by this frenetic energy that I'm viewing it in. This last Friday, however, we were virtually alone in The Gagosian. Alone enough to get a sense not only of the "density," but the surprising warmth, and energy of Serra's pieces. Serra is nothing if not monumental, and I'm never sure how to take his work really, other than with wonder. And respect. Respect for the ability to manufacture something so solid, and precise.

Intentional remnants, or pedestals for air, the long steel structures are supposed to "alter and reshape one's perception of space." In "Elevations Repetitions" we engaged with the structure as if it were a maze, so one might say that our perceptions were altered. We were certainly aware that something solid was inhibiting and directing movement, as much as we were aware, looking more closely at the structures (again, see above), that an awful lot of effort had gone in to making them seem so blissfully content with themselves in the air and time. Not the same as finding a massive hulk of steel in a field, for instance, the sadness that rust can bring.

But this is not rust. Not simply rust.


And this last sculpture (sorry about the bad photo), shows perhaps the squat, buddah-like quality of the "shape" that can be found in the medium.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kitchen Stories

Loved this. It's a terrible trailer (movie trailer, the trailers in the movie are excellent...), but the movie is fantastic.

Lisa Robertson, The Men: A Lyric Poem

Lisa Robertson and Carol Mirakove closed the Segue Reading Series at the Bowery on Saturday, and what a finale it was. I had never heard Mirakove before, and will definitely watch out for her work. Robertson on the other hand, I've heard several times, and always with pleasure. Her latest offering, The Men, is vintage Robertson: commanding, erudite, precise, and topped off with that deadpan wit, irresistible. The poem begins:
Men deft men mental men of loving men all men
Vile men virtuous men same men from which men
Sweet and men of mercy men such making men said
Has each men that sees it
Cry as men to the sensate (9)
Robertson's erotic relationship with lyric has always fascinated me. Liberating it, as she does, from the anecdotal weight of so much confessional poetry...here is the usual delight in language and perspective:
The men find themselves happy only insofar
As they gratify an inclination.
They are men of warmth and humour and
Acute sensitivity and if I choose
To speak of them it is no trifle.

To speak of the men is no trifle.

They are both sublime and
Beautiful, delicate
And copious, rolling and touching
And rubbing one against another
In their most serious actions
But nothing makes them men
But their word in the new-found world.
I study them more than any other subject
Studying hard in this disordered rabble
Remembering to drink water
Judging soundly like a man
The ceremonies and decorations
The opportunities for ornament... (18)
But cheeky, too, irreverent, and reverent at the same time.
Toronto, you're up next. Enjoy.

Tonya Foster

Tonya Foster, co-curator of Seque, introduced Carole Mirakove, and herself as it turns out. I knew nothing of her, but was taken by the thoughtful, precise introduction. Wonderful energy, and wonderful poetry. You can hear Foster read here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Robertson in town!

The Segue Reading Series @ the Bowery Poetry Club

Saturday, May 20, 4-6 p.m.

CAROL MIRAKOVE and LISA ROBERTSON

***$6 admission goes to support the readers***
The Bowery Poetry Club is located at 308 Bowery, just north of Houston

Carol Mirakove is the author of Mediated (Factory School) and Occupied
(Kelsey St. Press) as well as two chapbooks. She is included on the
Narrow House CD Women in the Avant-Garde and her essay "Anxieties of
Information" appears in the debut issue of Small Press Traffic's new
magazine, Traffic.

Lisa Robertson lives in France. Her new book of poetry, The Men, has
just been released by Bookthug in Toronto. Previous books include
XEclogue, Debbie: an epic, The Weather, Rousseau’s Boat, and a
collection of essays, Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office
for Soft Architecture.

The Segue Reading Series is made possible by the support of The Segue
Foundation. For more information, please visit www.segue.org/calendar,
http://bowerypoetry.com/midsection.htm or call (212) 614-0505.

Curators April & May: Tonya Foster & Mónica de la Torre.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rae Armantrout in the New Yorker

Are others as surprised as I am? Really, have we slipped into a parallel universe? It isn't online, but the contents are...

The city is movement

"This city is beauty," Dionne Brand says in Thirsty. In fact it is the first line of the book. Here is the first stanza:
This city is beauty
unbreakable and amorous as eyelids,
in the streets, pressed with fierce departures,
submerged landings,
I am innocent in thresholds
and smashed night birds, lovesick,
as empty elevators
Hear Brand read from Thirsty. I wish I could link you to an audio file of her reading from No Language is Neutral, a poem that for me, is one of the most important poems to be published in Canada in the past few decades.
If I were to write such a poem about New York the first line would have to be "this city is movement." And so it is.






Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mark Truscott

I've been loving Said Like Reeds or Things by Mark Truscott for a while now, and wanting to post something more like a review, but, but, but, the time, and pressures of otherwise...let's face it, thoughtful reviewing takes time. So, I hereby announce the blog review, a postcard review, anecdotal, informal, succinct (as possible).

What I love about this book is the playful elegance of the lines, both in terms of their sound, and the way the way they take up space on the page. It's impossible to represent many of the poems that would illustrate this aspect accurately on a blog since the tab or spacing function is nonextistent. I have to include left-hugging poems such as Pastoral:

where or
only odd
dolmen

which no matter how many times I read it, still sounds like "odd old men," and of course this makes sense of pastoral...those impassioned old men with their lines (I imagine Basho or Wordsworth maundering in increasingly parceled bits of countryside). I love the poem, but the poem I would have liked most to post would have been next door to this. Haiku, with its spacious interiors and missing "e" is one of my favourites. It makes new the haiku, while maintaining the essence: nature, transience, meditative, deep engagment with the physical limitations of self...

The sparse, sure strokes of Truscott's poems makes me think of space, and gaps between thoughts. Poems float in the middle of the page:

Clouds
edges

just
talking

What luxury this book is. What luxury this space. You can see the visual spacing of the poems in this review, which I don't entirely agree with (what do reviewers mean when they describe poems as self-indulgent? I suspect it has something to do with "space"), but which points out some nice moments in the book. One thing I do agree with is "what's next?" I want to read more poems from Truscott. No, I want to read a whole new book, because it is a rare find, a whole book that one wants to hold on to, and this is one that I do. Want. To hold on. To.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Zohar

Here's a visual poem from Zohar, one of my new favorite people in New York. And here's a link to her website. Check out the videos: Fly and Motion are two of my favourites.

lists, lists and more lists

Much ado about the list of important books, or best books published (in the last 25 years) in the NY Times recently and which Silliman posted today. The problem with all such lists is that those who make them feel absolutely entitled to call them grand things like "Best American" or "Most important Canadian" never once allowing for the fact that they may have a prejudiced, or limited, opinion. Over and over again I hear of polls of 10 writers, 9 of which are white and male, or in this case, as Silliman points out:
the NYT posted a list of "the writers, critics and editors the Book Review asked" a total of 124 names, fewer than A.O. Scott says replied. Of the 124, 37 are women.
No mention of what range of men or women writers were asked either. But no, to ask such questions is to assume that people look outside of their own circles, which we should all concede by now seems to be quite impossible, unless it comes wrapped in a package that looks suspciously like whatever it is one is accustomed to ingesting. I should be careful making such observations however, because the one who points out such discrepencies is usually labeled difficult, or angry, or shrill, and met with the concilliatory eye-rolling, and gentle head-shaking that reminds one of who really is in power.

This reminds me of the time I told my professor of American Literature that I didn't mind registering for his course provided he call it what it was, which was white male American literature of a certain slant... He was so enraged he held up his wrinkled syllabus and shouted "I've been teaching this course for 25 years and no one has ever complained." Well, then it's about time, was all I could muster, and he conceded, after publicly denouncing me as strident in front of the rest of the mute class, to add two stories by Flannery O'Connor, the titles of which I think, were meant to send a very clear message my way.

But about this list--yes, Carver, Ford, DeLillo, Roth, are all fabulous--and Housekeeping is wonderful, and Beloved is a classic, yes. But where is Lydia Davis? Lorrie Moore? Alice Munro (or does she not count as American in such lists??)? What about Sherman Alexie? (these are not even the more experimental writers one must surely consider!!!) What about Bastard Out of Carolina? Talk about important books...but reason it seems, is not what makes, or who makes, such grand lists.

If you want to have a clear idea of the kind of male power I'm describing, take a look at the gender balance on the Paris Review website. They offer up interviews over the past several decades. It's a brilliant resource, but it shows just how sexist and ethnocentric the literary world really is...I've posted on this before, here and here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Million Poems Show




Well, I had to check it out, never having seen the show, and only ever seeing Jordan Davis in passing, and being a general fan, in general of his project, and poems and photos I was not disappointed. What a hoot. What Genius. A poetry talk show. There are those who should feel threatened by such tactics, such prowess with a mic, such timing, such mayhem. And Rae Armantrout was a perfect guest. Or are they all this good? Like I said, it was my first time to the show. Who knew poetry could be fun, and mean something too...what a radical idea!

The positive power of blogging

I have been impressed with the way the poetry community in Canada has called out certain behaviours as unacceptable. The rallying around a. rawlings has been refreshing, humbling even. Part of the reason I have continued to blog, though I am often at the brink of calling it off, is that I grow tired of the lack of women's voices in the mix. The isms ( and I try to keep to just one here...) seethe under the every day, making themselves known every now and then with sudden eruptions, but they are there, daily. I grow weary of always seeing, and always pointing this out.

I want to thank rob mclennan, a person who perhaps without even knowing it, encouraged me to blog, and to begin to critique other's work, after many years of silence, of listening, mostly to the male voices around me describing the world for me--arguing one on one for sure, but not publicly. How did he do this? By talking about this on his blog, and on the poetics listserv; by working to create a more welcoming presence online, and in dialogue. Aside from calling out these behaviours, that, to my mind, is the other thing, the ongoing thing we can do. I'm not suggesting a kind of walking-on-eggshells approach, but perhaps taking the torque down a notch, advocating a little more thought between word and utterance. This shouldn't be such a daunting task given that we are after all, writers.

These blogs, have been wonderful:

http://funnomad.blogspot.com/
http://processdocuments.blogspot.com/
http://www.robmclennan.blogspot.com/
http://imperfectoffering.blogspot.com/

and others I'm forgetting. I wonder if there was any connection between my thinking about the poetry bad boys right about now?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Michael Turner

Can we still call Michael Turner the west coast's bad boy poet?According to this amazing photo by Vancouver photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, we damn well should be able to. Loved Turner's Kingsway (find an excerpt here), and Hard Core Logo. Whatever happened to The Pornographer's Poem, which Soft Skull picked up for US publication?? Anyone check that out? I'm thinking I will post on Canadian poets again for a while. Starting on the west coast, though perhaps not as chronological as all that. Can you tell I'm homesick?

The Hound on Bergvall

Review of Caroline Bergvall's Fig in May's Brooklyn Rail, and now online.

Jordan Davis on Lemon Hound

Okay, so, I'm chuffed...and well, chuffed. The Constant Critic gives the Hound some love...thanks Jordan.

AND wow to tonight's triple-play. Laynie Brown, Marjorie Welish, and Rae Armantrout rocked Dixon Place to full capacity. Chapbooks available from belladonna.blogspot.com. Can you believe so many rocking women reading in one night? You see why belladonna is the baddest reading series in town? And I won't even begin to taunt you about next year. We're all over the globe. Including Canada of course. Oh, of course.

Check out Shana Compton's blog for a review of Armantrout's reading, and for some poems! (How could she focus enough to copy them down?) Also check out this blog and this blog, to see the latest installation on the nasty gender politics that seethes below the surface of our otherwise blessed poetic lives.

And if you want more Rae Armantrout she's appearing tonight on Jordan Davis' The Million Poems Show at The Bowery. Come. The Hound will be in the house.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lourdes Vazquez

I heard Lourdes Vazquez read for the first time last night, at Zinc Bar, and she was incredible--she read the original, Erica Kaufman the translations. I'm so glad I found this poem online to share with you because it was my favorite of the night. You can find it at www.tribes.org--sorry, I'm having trouble with links again. A snippet from "Gusto de las historias con perras como personajes":

True bitches: the one who desires her progeny

the one who abandons it

the one who guards it jealously

the one who despises it

the one who kills the puppies

the pack of mongrel bitches

who wander

around my mother’s neighborhood

without anything being done about it

howling + bloody +

destroying their pieces

for the sake of carnal odors,

of she-animal fights. ↓


My sister and her love for bitches.

My father declaring his yard a burial ground for bitches.↓


→→My neighbor’s dog, small, white, furry. She carries her around in her purse with the little dancing head looking out at everybody in the train, which she has taken at West 4th station. People smile when they see the little furry one. At 14th Street a cop pushes through. He tries to board the train in the middle of the crowd and PAFFFFFF! the cudgel sets loose and whacks the animal.

Has anything been left of the poor thing? ↓

Lourdes Vazquez
Translated from Spanish by Enriqueta Carrington

Rae Armantrout, Laynie Browne, & Marjorie Welish

Tuesday, May 9, 7PM
@ Dixon Place (258 Bowery, 2nd Floor—Between Houston & Prince)
Admission is $5 at the Door.

Rae Armantrout's most recent books are Up to Speed (Wesleyan, 2004), The Pretext (Green Integer, 2001), and Veil: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001). Les Cahiers de Royaumont published a volume of selected poems, Couverture, translated into French by Denis Dormoy, in 1991. Her poems have appeared in two French anthologies of international poetry: A Royaumont (Creaphis), 2002, and 21 + 1 Poetes americain d'ajourd'hui, (Delta, 1987). Her poems have also been included in numerous American anthologies, including Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (1993), American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Language Meets the Lyric Tradition, (Wesleyan, 2002), The Great American Prose Poem: Poe to the Present (Scribner, 2003) and The Best American Poetry of 1988, 2001, 2002, and 2004. She is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of California, San Diego.

Laynie Browne is the author of five full-length poetry collections, most recent are Drawing of a Swan Before Memory (2005 University of Georgia Press, Winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series), and Mermaid's Purse (Spuytenduyvil 2005). Her other collections are Pollen Memory (2003, Tender Buttons), The Agency of Wind (Avec Books 1999), and Rebecca Letters (1996). She is also the author of Acts of Levitation, a novel (2002, Spuytenduyvil). Other recent chapbooks include The Desires of Letters (gong editions, 2005), Webs of Agriope (Phylum Press 2005) and a collaboration with Lee Ann Brown titled Nascent Toolbox (The Owl Press 2004). She is former co-curator of The Subtext Reading Series in Seattle, and The Ear Inn in NYC. She has taught poetry-in-the-schools as a visiting artist in New York City, and Seattle, and has taught creative writing at University of Washington, Bothell and at Mills College. She currently lives in Oakland, California.

This year Marjorie Welish became the Judith E. Wilson Visiting Poetry Fellow at Cambridge University, 2005. A poet, painter and art critic, she is author of Word Group (Coffee House Press, 2004) and The Annotated "Here" and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2000). She is also the author of Signifying Art (Cambridge University Press, 1999). A conference on her work at the University of Pennsylvania has resulted in the compiled papers and presentations accompanying a sampling of her writing and art, in Of the Diagram: The work of Marjorie Welish (Slought Books, 2003). Welish has taught at Brown University and New School University, and is currently Adjunct Professor in the MFA Writing Program at Columbia University and Adjunct Associate Professor in the graduate school of Pratt Institute. Her paintings are represented by Baumgartner Gallery in New York and Aaron Galleries in Chicago.

Belladonna* is a feminist/innovative reading and publication series that promotes the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, unpredictable, dangerous with language (to the death machinery). In its five year history, Belladonna* has featured such writers as Leslie Scalapino, Alice Notley, Erica Hunt, Fanny Howe, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Cecilia Vicuña, Lisa Jarnot, Camille Roy, Nicole Brossard, Abigail Child, Norma Cole, Lynne Tillman, Gail Scott and Carla Harryman among many other experimental and hybrid women writers. Beyond being a platform for women writers, the curators promote work that is experimental in form, connects with other art forms, and is socially/politically active in content. Alongside the readings, Belladonna* supports its artists by publishing commemorative pamphlets of their work on the night of the event. Please contact us (Erica Kaufman, Rachel Levitsky, Sina Queyras et al) at belladonnaseries@yahoo.com to receive a catalog and be placed on our list.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Water, Deepa Mehta

The second in her trilogy, Water, is even more powerful than Fire, the first installation released nearly a decade ago. A slant remake of Romeo & Juliet based in Varanasi at the time of Ghandi's release from prison, the story of Chuyia, the seven year old widow sent to a widow's ashram, is utterly transporting. Epic, larger than life, and yet these characters are deeply moving. The acting was incredible. The scenery--in typical Mehta glorious detail, her delicate courtship of the real and the sentimental. Sometimes she loses, but only briefly. In the end, no one in the arch audience at BAM stirred until ALL the credits were over.

Quite a different experience from two night prior and Friends With Money which succeeds in odd ways, but is depressing despite a knock-out cast. The best Holofcener seems to think straight women can do is find a gay man willing to marry them. Were we supposed to feel compassion for those characters? Not one of them likeable. Like Raymond Carver but without the little grace moments...yes, Virginia, the women really are hollow.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sheila Heti on Ticknor

I can't strictly recommend this podcast, but I can recommend anything Sheila Heti-ish, and there she is, talking about the creation of Ticknor. But you can read The Littlest Dumpling, from The Middle Stories.

New bp Nichol sound files

New Nichol sound files up at Penn sound. I know those links for Welish that I posted this morning aren't working. I've sent an email. Hopefully they'll work soon... Meanwhile, check out the new Nichol.
**That was quick! Check back next week for the Welish sound files.**

Marjorie Welish

Thinking about the poet Marjorie Welish, whom I met this week, and whom I will introduced Tuesday when she reads for belladonna (don't miss this!). Educator, critic, ARTIST, Welish is one of the most exciting poets I've come across in a long time. Her mind is active on the page, a great, imaginative, analytical lyric quality:
The here of actual space, addressed
in face, to face
proximally yet aesthetically in pencil
like an eyelash

an eyelash addressing the canvas
which tantalizes.

And so forth.
"And so forth," meaning "setting out"
reiteratively from the heartland.

--from The Annotated Here and Selected Poems
Perhaps it's the fact that she is an artist (from what I've seen, her paintings are large and abstract) but her work has that quality of wonder that does not stay at the surface, or bounce back self-referentially, but rather spurs off into a more resonant, and specific intellectual inquiry. Like Stein's ability to lob off, or suspend meaning, Welish slashes through language, making words strange and new.
Structural, and playful too:
Insert brick in life.
Insert syllable in life, black ink only.
Immerse book in ink-flushed syllables, ink-fleshed syllables.
Borrow terminology from rainwear.
Welish is an embodied thinker, present on the page the way that Erin Moure is. And what an astonishing presence. This is the kind of poetry that excites me, even as it sends me spiraling in ways that require much more thinking, and reading, to catch up with the poet as she strokes her way through the book. It isn't a poetry that lets you sink back into the sofa and feel good about yourself in the world: it makes you want to get out in it, and into the ideas of its architecture--which will require, for most of us, a trip to the library...bibliography to come.
You can hear Welish read here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Every Other Day & First Book Interviews

Ooops! Stacy Szymaszek isn't the first of the first book interview over at Kate Greenstreet's Every Other Day. You'll find Shana Compton's interview here. There are a number of folks who it would be good to hear from: Jen Benka, for instance, a. rawlings--a great first book out from Coach House this spring--Rachel Levitsky. Many more, but I'm running out the door. Go Kate!

Theory of the Loser Class

There's so much to love about the latest installation of Jon Paul Fiorentino's exploration of the loser. I love this project. How infinitely refreshing. So much of our energy spent polishing, posing, projecting confidence and perfectability...not that the book isn't coiffed and polished, but its articulation of our anxiety, with the stranglehold of form and the rigid thinking that accompanies it, is immensely pleasing. I leave you with a poem:

RIGHT IN THE SPINE

Crooning Gertrude Stein's songs
but sounding shallow, somehow

Arrived in style but
can't get off your bike

Time to slash prices
on the Paxil and shovels

I've listened intently (almost)
to the revisionist chorus:

If a loser falls
I feel it

And if a loser falls
I feel it

from The Theory of the Loser Class, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Coach House, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Chicago Review takes a look at Lisa Robertson

Insightful essays by Joshua Clover, Jen Scappettone, and others; new work; an interview! Well worth tracking down.

Every Other Day

Kate Greenstreet, who has her own first book coming out this fall, has started interviewing poets about their experience with first books. Stacy Szymaszek, whose first book I discussed a while back, is the first up. Her book is great, so you should read it, but you could start by reading the interview.

The first book is an odd experience. My own reflections appeared in an anthology last year from the Banff Center Press. Two things made the book more fraught than usual: one, that it came out weeks after 9/11, and two that I had recently moved to the US. Cut off from my people, and as a non-citizen, effectively silenced in the US during a time of extreme mourning and anger, was very odd indeed. But first books are odd, and I think the process is largely fraught, whehter you have the luck of having a first book that is immediately lauded or not. And I say luck because I think that's what it is, and not necessarily good luck either. I think good poets settle into the fact that they can write their whole life and still have a relatively small audience. Every time I meet a poet with a lifetime of work behind her, that I don't yet know, I am reminded of this.

At her peak, Woolf made the equivalent of a civil servant. That was one year...but I think it was only one. And she never knew whether she would have an audience.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Comments, why bother?

I've had a few emails asking me why I don't have my comments turned on. I said I would consider turning them on again, but recent events at a few blogs remind me why I turned them off in the first place. You'd think people who purport to care about language might think about the words they use, but no... And particularly in the comment threads, huge gaps of unconsiousness appear, aspects of human nature I know exist, but would rather not have to witness. What use such volleys might have I'll never know: my sense is that rather than comment folks should go and write an essay, develop a thoughtful response, anything but offer their often inane and bombastic responses. No, instead of thoughtful, or productive, we get these extensive, flaming attacks.

But if we can define a "just war," I suppose we can define a "just attack." There are those who take the language of war quite literally: they take aim, they have game plans, they stake-out their territory, they destroy the opposition, and if the opposition, or even their own platoon, balks at their behaviour they say "go hide in the fox holes" if you can't stand the shooting, or worse, "back in the kitchen, bitch..."

I've been thinking about the language we use to discuss poetry and it's amazing to me how personally people take it. I mean, not that it shouldn't or doesn't matter on a personal level, but how literally they think they can define, not just their own "poetry" but poetry as a project, or even a nation. We have people literally digging trenches, unrolling the barb-wired, claiming they are "saving the canon" or defending their turf out of love, in some cases...a lover's quarrel?
Good God. Is there anything useful in this?

Janieta Eyre

Surely one of the most interesting photographers in the past decade, Janieta Eyre, like the brainchild of Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman, creates portraits that are as disturbing as they are compelling. The Lady Lazarus series is particularly compelling in its handmaiden-meets-lomo sort of look. What is it about women and self-portraiture? There is something so sculptural here, and archival, as if lifting the veil of the housewife one might actually find this sort of apparatus...yes there be spokes, and bearings, widgets, and such...doubleness and domesticity seem endlessly fascinating.

The Power Plant, Toronto





Kudos to Toronto's Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery for two great shows this spring.
The Welfare Show is billed as "a multi-tiered installation and performance work that offers a provocative commentary on the erosion of social welfare programs throughout the world." Babies left at ATMs, doors leading nowhere, bodies on stretchers in hallways, a baggage carousel creaking empty, and above, perhaps the show's most effective message: the well wrought doors of administration and the crumbling steps to get to them. Berlin artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have collaborated since 1995, and these are the guys who built a Prada store in the middle of the desert.

"Prada Marfa is a store with no entrance that has been stocked with Miucci Prada’s 2005 fall accessories. Following its inauguration in October 2005, the store has now been left to decay..."

Toronto artist Shary Boyle's small-scale figurative sculptures create "a hallucinatory and libidinous universe with a spare, unsettling realism." These finely crafted pocelain figures are eerily reminiscent of the kind found in finely dusted and highly polished cherry-wood buffets, placed on doilies in the middle of oak hutches, and on those highly polished maple-wood sideboards. And so it should: Boyle uses the 19th century art of lace-dripping that brought you those Dresden dolls... But look closely and you'll see the severed limbs, and scarred wrists of these distraught and hysterical figures. All is certainly not well in this world.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dominion takes a look at Lemon Hound


A fine way to start the month of May...

Landing, Newark





"I'm not interested in in casting material but in art that's made out of casting a glance..."
-- Robert Smithson

For every development "there has to be something equally monumental in the landscape where we have taken all this material from. I felt that Newtonian law implied a reciprocal action in nature--a hole in the ground that meets the scale of the rising of the skyscapers--and my task was to go in search of the evidence of that reciprocal action, to see what the residual world looked like."
-- Edward Burtynsky

Making literal the patterns witnessed on my commutes from Penn Station to Rutgers. Slim demarcations between pharmaceutical plants and baseball diamonds, garbage transfers and airports, refineries and cemetaries, no tax, no buffers, no tax, no clean-up, no tax, no trespassing, no movement without tolls...but movement, yes, all roads, trains, tunnels, bridges, the magnetic pull of New York...for a slideshow of NJ from the train click here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Last day of April


A fulsome Sunday in the city. Starting with a less-than-thrilling opera, Miss Lonely Hearts, at The Julliard, then a party for a short-short film based on Jeanne Beaumont's wonderful poem "Afraid So," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, followed by Queer Ink, at the Bowery, and ending with a launch of New Translations of Osip Mandelstam by Ugly Duckling Presse. I ran out of steam before the final reading finished, but I leave you with this brilliant translation by Ilya Bernstein, who also read it beautifully.

You're not dead yet, you're not yet all alone,
As long as with your beggar lady-friend
You take delight in the greatness of plains
And in the cold, the snow, and the darkness.

In splendid indigence, in might poverty,
Live in tranquility and contentment.
Those days are blessed, blessed are those nights,
And the sweet labor of song is blameless.

He is unhappy who is cut down by the wind
And fears the barking of dogs in his own shadow.
And he is poor who, half alive himself,
Goes begging for alms from a shadow.

January 15, 1937. Translated by Ilya Bernstein