Monday, November 27, 2006

Awesome woman of the week

The Story of My Accident is Ours by Rachel Levitsky now up on Conjunctions. Levitsky is of course the founder of the belladonna reading series which has hosted very close to 100 kick-ass women in NYC and which I have been very happy to be a part of for the last few years. Under the Sun is available from Futurepoem.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Traffic

Issue Number Two
2006-2007
ed. Elizabeth Treadwell

Okay, I've been wanting to post about this but really, I still feel I haven't had enough time to adequately describe the excellence of this project. My first reaction was Yes, oh Yes! Here's a fabulous example of what one might accomplish in lieu of blogging. At just over 200 pages Treadwell offers up poetry and prose from Alice Notley, Leslie Scalapino, Mary Burger, Nada Gordon and other poets whom I don't know (Steffi Drewes for example); essays on Notley & Scalapino, Cather, Deloria & Stein, and Aime Cesaire & Bei Dao (the latter being completely new to me); and essays on poetics from Alicia Cohen and Tonya Foster... There is also a generous review section with smart shortish readings of new books by Carol Mirakove, Joanna Fuhrman, Arielle Greenberg, Bernadette Meyer, Juliana Spahr, Norma Cole and others. As well there's an editor's forum of engaging and unexpected discussions (An exchange between Elaine Miles and Jennifer Firestone about Andy Goldsworthy (Hello, yes, is this guy the King of precious, or what?)) some of which I've taken up in other forms here on Lemon Hound...I'm so excited.

This is a fine journal with strong unpredictable selections all around, very multi-faceted (did I mention the interview with Yedda Morrison and E. Treadwell?), and what I want to say to everyone who reads this is SUBSCRIBE. Yes, do that old fashioned thing involving a check book and envelope: SUBSCRIBE. This is just what we need, and headed in an interesting direction if you ask me. Refreshing.

I had an email in my inbox a while back about trying to resuscitate the Women's Review of Books, and while I want to support all things women-related, I was disheartened by the lack of change in vision. I mean if there is little support for a project so that it ultimately shuts down, and then you reinvent it, why not reinvent? Why not try to think about where women's writing might be going, and try to look at where we've been and are with a wider perspective and sharp eye? Which is what we find in Traffic...

Can there be an online companion to this?? That's the only thing would make it better.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Elizabeth Bachinsky

You can see and hear Bachinsky read from Curio, published this year with Bookthug. One of the poems she reads is her anagram poem of TS Eliot's "The Wasteland" titled "Lead the Wants"...

Friday, November 24, 2006

buy nothing day and making meaning

Today is Buy Nothing Day, an annual event and so far I think not one that has made any major mark on our society. Adbusters is amazing. But in a sense it is preaching to the converted. Particularly since those of us who are even aware of it are usually folks who are already fairly conscious of things such as environmental footprints and "real costs" of things.

I've been thinking of other ways to use the time I would normally use blogging, I'm convinced that there are more effective ways of being at the moment. Particularly as it seems that while I sit here typing (even now), whole species are becoming extinct and with the same zeal that folks have wiped out much of the old growth trees and stripped resources and polluted water bodies and soil and air in North America, the entire globe is being developed at a rate that makes my head spin...how to take all of this in??

Meanwhile our world becomes smaller under the guise of being more global...we come to our screens in the morning but what are we looking at? Most often it seems to me we are looking at ourselves. And poetry? Well, as much as I believe in poetry and will obviously always engage in it, I worry about an art form that seems to have completely accepted the idea that it is only talking to itself.

This poet wants to talk to non-poets as well as poets. This poet wants to hear good news about the human race. This poet wants to see some hopeful signs for the planet. I'm concerned about gender and power and poetry yes, but like so many other things, water, global warming, I generally feel hopeless about it. Meanwhile there are people who are putting their foot down, who are really seeing what the implications are of us allowing the privatization of our water sources, the dislocation of local in terms of water, and what that will mean even five years down the road.... Who would have expected this stance from a Christian organization?

One of the most inspiring people I've ever heard of is a man whose name I don't remember. He's a man who, when forced to retire from his work due to a head injury began walking daily in Toronto's Don Valley. After a few days he began picking up garbage. Then he began to bring bags with him because he found so much. Then he began recording what he found. Then he began looking further into the land around him and began discovering bigger things, shopping carts, televisions, etc., which he diligently hauled out and recorded. Then he began to talk about it, then he began to get attention, then more people became involved and ten years later the Don was suddenly showing signs of revitalization... I love that story because it's a great reminder that dailiness adds up. That "heroes" are usually the most common people doing common things. That there are signs of hope. Real, not virtual. Real.

And I suppose in the face of this a daily blog is harmless enough. But I want more than harmless. I want to shift things. I want to shift. What would I have after ten years of blogging?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

winding down

After much consideration, I've finally chosen a date to pull the plug on this adventure. Lemon Hound will officially end along with this turbulent year. Hopefully I'll be able write at least mini-reviews of all those books I have stacked by my ugly orange chair. What's next? Indeed. What's next.

nouvelle vague...

a little morning music...and while you're on coolhunting check out the latest in Brooklyn edginess from Bushwick. Bap took place this summer. Thanks Zzee...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

cyberwomen poets, a post in progress

Quickly, quickly, name all the cyberwomen poets you know...

Exactly. Well, Stephanie Strickland comes to mind, yes, Stephanie Strickland...and...and...well? Well, here are some ideas for you. Check out Betty Nkomo (a wow) by Young-Hae Chang at poems that go, and then born magazine...and then over at logolalia...thanks to mairead for those links...I can't help but pass them on and I am now onto this, so a more detailed post to come.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Angela Carr

Does the line last longer
than the point at which you wanted me?
After a time.
Am I fragile at this point you wanting me?
Am I lasting at this point?
Am I coming at this point and is it lasting?
Am I nettles?
Are you burning in this point?
Am I centered in your beauty and is it cold and are we holding?
from "The Louise Labe Poems" Ropewalk, Angela Carr, Snare Books, 2006.

Enjoying Carr's three part book, staring with "The Louise Labe Poems" , which you can hear her read from courtesy of the Atwater Reading Series in Montreal. These are collaborative poems, generously spaced on the page and engaging, lush silences, leaps, acrostic in the Jackson Mac Low sense of writing through.

"Empty Cups," a series exploring Steinian non-sequiturs:
This spine with bapitzer. A name in abeyance. Atop the slide I open the here.
beautiful, slender poems, very delicate on the page.

The final section is particularly haunting. "Mountance of a Dream is the length of time it takes to travel a dream." This section recalls childhood dreams, the entering into and attempt to exit from, the hangover dream state that often creates a permanent shadow in our adult world, and later the circularity of language and desire, what brings us back to that inner landscape: "My first memory is a set of stairs," "If at the top of the stairs I shed myself effortlessly...."

These poems linger. The mirror stage of a dream, stuck in a stairway, all of these images ring true, and then some:
If the tongue were a leaf I would be silent all winter.

If time was singular and without grief, time was.
This is an impressive first book. Quietly confident, and best of all it has all the earmarks of a long conversation just begun, in no hurry, enjoying the nuances of itself.

This is the third or fourth publication from Jon Paul Fiorentino's upstart Snare Books out of Montreal. The other fall book was Zoe Whittal's The Emily Valentine Poems. If Snare and the other new press, Bookthug, are any indication, the future of publishing poetry in Canada is looking good. Very good.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

good lord! oceans, greycup and ginsberg

Thanks to Jordan for the link to this horror. Recycle, recycle, recycle...but that's just the tip of the wasteberg: more ocean horrors in this week's New Yorker, but only the print edition. All this pales next to previous headlines announcing the end of fish within the next 50 years...ocean fish in any case.

Meanwhile Ginsberg continues to hold interest. See NY Times Book section for a bevy of bad boys.

Sook Yin on CBC cheering me a little in the face of all this bad news...and hey, Americans ever heard of the Grey Cup? Oh, yes, the Canadian Football League's version of the super bowl.

Kate Greenstreet

Kate Greenstreet's reading on Thursday night was a breath of fresh air. Yes, the Hound finally made up to Kelly Writers House on the Penn campus, 3508 Locust Walk, for the Emergency Reading Series. Featuring Kate along with Jason Zuzga and Noah Eli Gordon.

Gordon's assaultive approach to reading is intense, energetic, almost compulsive and I wish I had been twice as far back from him (as it was I was already at the back of the room). He has tremendous energy and am now curious to encounter his texts in the silence of my own room. But for me, Kate was the highlight of the evening. Her work is completely out of step, not trying to do anything but be itself, and itself is a methodically-paced 37 degree, now 49 degree musing on the state of being human. The perspective in her poems is always a little off in just the right way. I felt as wonderfully disoriented in fact as I had by the time I got to the top floor of the Guggenheim at the Zaha Hadid show.

Otherwise, excellent to talk to Nick Montfort about Autostart, which I missed (just one of the KWH events missed due to weekly trips to NYC). Montfort and Stephanie Strickland are two people who I need more of. Meanwhile I have this to dip into, though the pile of books I've been meaning to post on has not diminished...and I better hurry. There is a time-limit on this blog and it is running out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Jersey as an Impossible Object

Joe Milutis has an intriguing project in the works, an explication (a multiple rendering...) of William Carlos William's long poem, Paterson. Aside from the obvious, and yes, intriguing connection between Robert Smithson's work and William Carlos Williams work which is explored here, there is a kind of sonic exploration of the implications of the Williams text, and like Smithson, a gesture of making literal, or firm, the dimensionality of the text. Check out this sound file.

What I found interesting about this project is first of all, that it made me go back to Paterson which I hadn't read in a while, second that it made me cognizant of the difference in the way I perceive that text now, as opposed to my initial introduction, which was entirely without any geographic or cultural context, and finally, that it made me consider the difference in the way we might perceive the text now, so many decades later.

Our encounter with Williams' texts must be profoundly different than the attention with which they were created, or what he might have imagined possible. I wonder too about the different perceptions of geography and the intersections of human development which Williams must have existed in...what seismic shifts did he witness? How do we experience those now?

Isn't there a movement to make Paterson's Industrial district a national park? And why not. It is as much a part of America as anything else, and I for one think the process of reclamation and destruction is an interesting one to watch...but perhaps that is not what those wanting to make this area a park have in mind...

In any case, a great project. And it just enforced my thinking that the most successful texts must exist beyond the author's ability to control them in some way, that they must be fluid, collaborative, and unruly, and in this way morph and change as the world around them does, offering many levels of potential engagement and readings...and as Mr. Milutis shows us, multiple entry points and potential excavations.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Caroline Bergvall reading at Haverford and Shanna's blog


Bergvall read the 4 Shorter Chaucer Tales tonight, along with More Pets, and Gong. The Chaucer pieces are a "must hear."

And over at Shanna's place the question of female role models and literary continues...

Music turns my head

Now and then I remember one of my earlier desires, which was to write for Rolling Stone Magazine and take photos of women like Chrissie Hynde and Annie Lennox... Lately CBC's Radio 3 Podcast has been introducing me to a host of Canadian bands (see #76 Tintin in the Land of the Podcast) that make me wish I were 21 again and interested in hanging out in nightclubs, looking slightly bored, prone to rolling around near the stage to get a shot...I'm not. But I'm still interested in music. Joanna Newsome turned my ear recently, and Arc Lab, Carmaromance (no album yet that I can find), Amy Millan, and yes, Final Fantasy's "He Poos Clouds" (Yes, I feel too old for this, but it's good...) Caribou, even Peaches (who knew she was Canadian...oops!?) which you'll find on the electronic playlist...And here's a link to the #77. Enjoy. And in case you missed it when I posted this link earlier, this is one of my all-time favorite playlists...ambient.

Monday, November 13, 2006

New poems!

Post Lemon Hound poems up on MiPOesias thank you very much. For some reason I don't have many poems online so this is fun, and new work, well that's always fun.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

ouch, wow, zowee

Okay, now I get why everyone is talking about Battlestar Galactica...I have some catching up to do. And I only discovered this because I was looking to post a link to Martha Wainwright, who is awesome and kicks ass... I found this video which is wacky and well, confusing, but you get to hear Martha...

foulipo and drunken boat #8

In my round-up of journals I forgot to mention the new issue of Drunken Boat, which contains a folio of Canadian writing I edited. It's a slim feature with many ghostly contributors whose work you will find on this blog either to come, or in the archives, or on the links when I can figure out how to move them to the beta blogger. The Drunken Boat also has an exhaustive Oulipo folio containing among other excellent essays and poems, an essay by Juliana Spahr/Stephanie Young, which asks the questions we've all been thinking for a while now, and murmuring about behind the scenes...
In the middle of all this convesation we wote to Craig Dworkin and asked him what was up with all the men and thei love of estictive, numbe based pocesses and he said he didn't know but he told us a joke about a photogaph he once saw of himself and Kenny Goldsmith, Rob Fitterman, Christian Bök, and Darren Wershler-Henry, all in a line, all basically the same age, same stocky build, same bad haicuts, and black t-shits. We could think of no photogaph of Jena Osman, Nada Gordon, Caroline Bergvall, Joan Retallack, Johanna Drucker, and Harryette Mullen all looking the same age, same build, same bad haicuts, same black t-shits. Fo some eason this wok did not unite them. And how thee still seemed, like Michelle Grangaud, elected to the Oulipo in 1995, oom fo only one o two women wites to build a caee in this categoy.
What they suggest is a new category called foulipo.
We thought about Caroline Bergvall's wok, like "About Face," which might be one of the foundational woks of foulipo if foulipo had foundational woks because it is witten out of the emoval of a painful tooth and the wok seems to be slendeizing he face.
And I say, yes, my thought exactly. No offense, I adore you Christian Bok and derek beaulieu, Darren Werschler Henry, Kenneth Goldsmith et al...but why not our own coterie? Never mind looking to the big old Poetry Daddy's for approval, what woman do you want to read your work and go, Oh, yah, that's where I'm heading...

I know who that is for me, though I don't always have a way of connecting with those women and I'm not sure why that is: accessibility, scheduling, a different kind of network, or do we just file ourselves in and focus upward? Is there a Silliwoman out there? Is there someone keeping all the darts in a row, categorizing and canonizing the work? Or, is the work just assembling: Lyn Hejinian, Carla Harryman, Ann Waldman, Susan Howe, Alice Notley, Rae Armantrout, Gail Scott, Lisa Robertson, Erin Moure, Joan Retallack, Rachel Blau Duplessis...and yes, Juliana Spahr, Jena Osman, Elizabeth Treadwell, Mairead Byrne, Carole Mirakove, Rachel Levitsky, Margaret Christakos, Elizabeth Willis, Gail Scott, Renee Gladman, Mary Burger...and overflowing in its excellentness? I'm stopping only because I have laundry to do...and I can't name all of the hot young poets doing curatorial and editorial work...but where is the center I wonder? And what direction?

The center problem is a big one and certainly I don't expect any easy answer. I can look admiringly at folks like Jena Osman, Juliana Spahr, Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Frost, etc., who are doing amazing work on our behalf. In terms of the poetry however, and a future feminist poetic, I did argue on an earlier post, and in the Brooklyn Rail, that Caroline Bergvall is a new model for an experimental poetic, one that offers new ways for women to investigate language and sound while allowing themselves to experience the headier performative elements of the Boks and Goldsmith's of the world. Taking up an innovative space that is in fact radically feminist...and rooted in the above poets, but moving into a space heretofore claimed by the boys of poetry.

And this bore out when I saw/heard Bergvall read at Fordam in the summer. The 4 Shorter Chaucer Tales are in your face experimental feminist innovations, that are risky, and political, and fun. Bergvall is having fun, and kicking ass...and yes, creating new routes for us to follow. Not sure how this relates to all the flarf fluff fireworks, but I admire Bergvall's ability to have fun and be relevant, or maybe that's not a good word, I guess to provide a polemic of some kind, one that moves us forward... but this is raw and thinking still. Just some thoughts.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

ww, sh sd, wh fn.
wh nds vwls nyhw?
nt hr. nt hm.
n nd n th rn wnt wtht rmrs

nd thn sh wnt fr dnnr wth hr lvr
wt sh crd! thr s smthng mssng!

n, n, nly vwls.

rmmbr, rmmbr, nvr frgt.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bat Barbie redux


Found in the garbage files...

Hola? Girl gang leaps tall buildings for pretty things...

One of Chile's most notorious gangs, and they're all girls... Check out the Spider Girls.

On the newstands

In this week's New Yorker Janet Malcom provides more evidence of Gertrude Stein's bad behaviour and Rachel Cohen reviews a new book about Leonard Woolf. Is everyone still loving the Believer? I haven't found a magazine to be excited about in years...and I'm not a believer Believer, not yet. But this piece on a newspaper that featured a column in rhyming couplets caught my attention. And what about Tin House? Here's another one I'm supposed to like, but don't quite get...as for lit journals. What on earth? Am I just getting crusty? What is anyone reading these days? What is exciting out there? Poetry Magazine just gets worse and worse (and what does that tell you about giving poets money???). Fence, well, it's a good idea, and sometimes Court Green works, but these journals...I find them fat and unfocused, filled with too much half considered work. God, just give us a slice of well-considered work...all this mish mash...it just dilutes the conversation if you ask me. Not that anyone is... But I guess what I'm asking for is a well considered publication and I just don't see that out there. Well, not often. The Virginia Quarterly Review is a wonderful production--though I haven't been excited about the poetry I find in there in general. The following often get my pulse going: Cabinet, Geist, Jubilat, Bordercrossings, Open Letter, Chicago Review, Boston Review, Brooklyn Rail, Chain (which we have no more), W, Matrix.
As for fiction, that's another area of great disappointment. The new online Narrative Magazine? Snore. Noon, the annual publication edited by Diane Williams, yes, yes, yes!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

News Round Up

Alice Notley is everywhere (Kelly Writers House, Cue Gallery, Poets House, Cuny) at the moment, and I keep missing her! Well, I did hear her read an Allen Ginsberg poem but it's not the same... Also three books in one year, phew, and I have none of them...yet.

Next week in NYC a Festival of Contemporary Japanese Women Poets sponsored by belladonna, Poets House, The Bowery, and Litmus Press.

Is this guy really the greatest living poet? Why am I laughing? Is it funny? Should I be laughing? I'm so confused...

Meanwhile in Non-literary News:

Three blind mice regain sight. No, really, scientists successfully restore vision.

Dismantling industry in the forest, BC Lumber Mills not what they used to be.

Snakes in the pulpit: ouch. Woman dies from snake handling in Kentucky church.

Meanwhile in South Africa man bites deadly snake and lives...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy Birthday This Magazine

This Magazine is 40! In the birthday issue, the iconic Canadian magazine of youth/left/hipster politics out of Toronto offers up 40 Big Ideas we need to know about. Here's a snippet from the ubiquitous Clive Thompson. Let the revolution begin. Or is this not what Hilary Clinton was talking about last night?
A few years ago, Merlin Mann hit the wall.

The San Francisco web developer was completely disorganized. He was juggling five projects at work, and to try and keep the chaos in check, he produced endless to-do lists, rolodexes full of phone numbers, and calendar reminder-notes. As things spiralled more and more out of control, he desperately tried ever more organizational technology: A Palm Pilot, Microsoft Outlook, anything else his high-tech friends recommended. “But nothing really worked,” he admits, because as most of today’s office drones know, those personal data organizers—or PDAs—are usually more hassle than they’re worth. With all the typing in of notes, synching to your laptop, and sitting there while it harangues you with reminders, you become a slave to the machine.

So Mann threw the technology out the window, and started with a fresh idea: Pen and paper. He bought a stack of 3’’ by 5’’ index cards, and fastened a few dozen together with a big alligator clip. Now whenever he needs to remember something or make a to-do list, he just pulls out a Sharpie marker and writes it down. There’s nothing to synch, no batteries to recharge—just an incredibly elegant “device for capturing and sharing information.”

He even gave it a name: The “Hipster PDA.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Caroline Bergvall's Shorter Chaucer Tales

Hey kids, I posted on this back in the summer and now Bergvall's awesome revisioning of Chaucer is up on Penn Sound. My personal fave being the Franker Tale... There is apparently something printed from this in Jacket, but I couldn't find it. And guess what Philly poets, Bergvall will be reading here at Haverford on Tuesday, November 14th, at 4:30, tea at 4:15 in Chase Hall, 104.
ps the Jacket link here.
Jacket also has an interesting essay on flarf. Flarf off already. No, me like flarf. Me do. Me don't know where it leading us but me like its inevitability...it a good mirror for our times. No one likes accurate mirrors.

On the desk & in the works

Poetry, yes, more on that soon. In a stack by the ugly orange chair: Sue Wheeler, Anne Szumgalski, Diana Hartog, Steve Noyes, Jan Conn, Bread Not Pain, Marlene Cookshaw, Michael Kenyon, David Seymour, Karen Solie, Steven Price, Howard Akler, Nathalie Stephens, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Angela Carr, Kate Colby, Sarah Manguso, Amy King, Beverly Dahlen, Sharon Mesmer, Rae Armantrout, Laura Sims, Jena Osman, Lyn Hejinian, Rachel Blau Duplessis, Yedda Morrison...is it any wonder I'm feeling a little overwhelmed? Lust list including both Alma, Grave of Light, and the Notley essays, the new Atwood (of course...), Carson's Grief Lessons, Stephanie Young's Bay Poetics, all of Carole Mirakove...

Other new and newish Canadian poetry I want to get my paws on: Jacqueline Turner's Seven into Even, Dionne brand's Inventory, Jason Christie's I Robot, Sharon Thesen's The Good Bacteria, Matt Holmes, Hitch, and Abandon by Oana Avasilichioaei

Where are you Shani Mootoo?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

crimes against humanity no fish in fifty years crimes against humanity six women killed in iraq crimes against humanity is good for the Iraqi people crimes against humanity sentenced to death by hanging crimes against humanity in Beirut crimes against humanity in Iran crimes against humanity is crimes against humanity is no fish in fifty years is blind eyes and blind eyes is crimes against humanity what are crimes against humanity stay in bed for humanity stay in bed for humanity read newspapers for humanity write letters for humanity who hangs who for humanity who kills who for humanity i don't understand humanity i am not fond of humanity i want humanity back i want to believe in humanity i am not understanding of this humanity i am all over this humanity where is humanity hanging for humanity war crimes against humanity is bones is humanity is confused is humanity is the bill coming soon who will pay the price for humanity and fish and fish and fish and fish and don't confuse fish with humanity and don't confuse humanity with humanity and it is time to unplug and walk it is time to unplug and walk while we can still walk while we can still walk while we can still walk

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Blah, blah, blah, who's really killing poetry?

Ug. Can anyone make it through either of these postured and out of touch attempts to get at something about contemporary poetry? I mean, really, how can anyone be so verbose and say so little? And AWP is an organization that is supposed to somehow be advocating for writing? And this one! Ugh, ugh, and more ugh. Gee, could the problem be that Poetry and readers of Poetry Magazine just aren't looking around at contemporary poetry (which is thriving very much thank you very much, and largely without the help of billion dollar endowments... as it always has).
These guys are so out of touch it's staggering... I have refrained from posting on this for an impressive length of time. I refrained when I got a long, insipid letter outlining how remarkable Poetry Magazine was and how it had resuscitated poetry under the editorship of Christian Wiman, but I can hold my tongue no longer. BLACH!

Excuse me while I go attempt to keep my dinner down.

Awesome woman of the week

She feels embarrassed by the fuss around the world after being robbed and locked in room in her house. She feels compassion for the robbers. Through all of its turbulence, South African novelist Nadine Gordimer remains in her country, and even when faced with violence she remains open, looking beyond the surface into the violence's architecture. It's been a long while since I read one of Gordimer's books, but perhaps it's time again. In fact, it would be interesting to read a survey now of South African literature--and to see more contemporary art. If recent photography on view at Moma is any indication, things are more on the edge than I've seen in some time. But I so admire Gordimer for sticking it out in South Africa when so many have left, and for trying to do something more than just understand or write about what happened in her world (although that would be enough...). Staying put is so often the most difficult thing to do. And peace and reconciliation? Who of us can even contemplate such a thing?

Moma this week: Brice Marden

Last week I was able to see the Brice Marden retrospective at MOMA prior to my workshop at Poets House. A retrospective, the show offers fifty paintings and an equal number of drawings (which I didn't have time to see). You enter into the first room and see four nearly solid colored canvases with titles such as "Dylan" and "Nebraska." Immediately stress levels plunge. There is something very calming, very slowing, about the work. It has give, it has room to enter, no pressure to translate or process. At least this earlier work, which is very much in the vein of minimalist art that was common in the 1960s a la Martin, Rothko, etc. The grays here are more Jasper Johns than Rothko, and somehow as sweet. Yes, sweet, and that is a surprising achievement in a gray palate, no?

If you access the audio guide you eavesdrop on a conversation between Marden and Moma curator in which much is revealed about the origins of the work, influences, and most interestingly, the artist's process. You hear details such as "refrigerator door" as palate, and "metal spatula" as paint knife. You begin to imagine the artist stripping away, an approach more like a sculptor who carves away, than a painter who builds up on the canvas. You are directed on how to look at the paintings: stand as far from the work as the size of the canvas, look at the surface, approach the canvas up close, notice the marks, or "events" I think he says, then move back as far as you can and take it in like a horizon... All of this is extremely helpful and pleasant in fact, and I found myself more drawn to the work after listening to the artist discuss it.

The paintings themselves--and incidentally, I'm still in the first room--are soft and skin-like in the way that Marcia Hafif's monochrome work is, but there is something even warmer about these, and I swear that a hint of that is in the scent: Marden added beeswax to his paint. The result is a lovely matte texture, but also, like Hafif's glaze paintings, an intense organic sense about the work, a kind of glow and vibrancy. Yes, Rothko achieves this too, yes, of course, but here one begins to feel the surprising "narrative" of monochrome, and by now, monochrome seems the most sensible response to our time..

What surprises me is the collaborative nature of the work. How have I gone so long not seeing this? After all, when Marden talks about the surprising geographical details of the Nebraska landscape as inspiration for the monochrome gray canvas, one begins to sense that landscape, the scent and movement of viewing it from a car window, passing by at 20th century speeds, the physical nature of painting yes, but also of looking, feeling, sensing.

As one progresses chronologically through the show the canvases seem to shrink and multiply as the artist explores composition and color relationships. There is a studied classical nature to this work that makes more sense to me than some of the more famous minimalist artists. Here's a hint at why this might be:
From single-panel paintings, Mr. Marden moved to two and three panels, keeping theme vertical. One of these is the imposing yet delicate ''D'après la Marquise de la Solana,'' inspired by Goya's portrait of the pert, lavishly gowned aristocrat standing on and in front of an ambiguous plane of shadowy gray. Mr. Marden distilled the basic elements of the image into slablike planes of gray-green (background), gray-gray (garments) and grayed pink (flesh). A collage spells it out, juxtaposing three postcards of the Goya with three rectangles of graphite built into hard, shiny planes.
Perhaps I'm just becoming more comfortable with this vein of work, but there was something utterly timeless about these canvases, a natural progression, a line connecting them back through art time to Goya, etc., in a way I've never seen or understood. When the grid appears as DNA-like stands in the work, there is a moment of shudder, but this gives way quickly as the lines themselves soften both in tone, texture, and shape. Ironically, this shift corresponds to an interest in Chinese characters. The poetic rendering of the lines is deeply satisfying when they achieve a kind of symmetrical unity. There are obvious connections here, to Johns, as I mentioned earlier, to Stella, and at this point, to Pollack. However there is something more confident about these Marden canvases. The abstract more physical, or robust in its rhythms...

I didn't like all of the work here. When Marden dips into orange I couldn't stay in the room for long. But by the end he had won me over again with the plane surface, a series of large, dynamic paintings that seemed to harken back to the first canvases and extend the more energetic explorations of lines and movements from the middle period. I was surprised by this work. Pleasantly. And now I want more. I also want to read poetry, and even a novel that resembles in some way, this approach to the canvas. I want to be in this world for much longer stretches of time. And I want to go back to Moma next week and check out the drawings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reading Ginsberg at Poetry Project

Caught the tale end of the Ginsberg tribute reading at Poetry Project last night. I was blown away by CA Conrad's reading of half a dozen or so poems incluing "is about" and "you know what i'm saying," and one that he sang. Beautifully. Absolutely beautifully. A great reminder that poems, even list poems, are about, or should be about so much more. It was great to see some passion again! Fuck all the over-serious, or overly arch shit. Just poetry. Refreshing as hell.