Friday, February 29, 2008

 

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Anne Boyer, The Romance of Happy Workers, , Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Brandon Brown, Wondrous Things I Have Seen, Big Game Books, Washington, DC 2007

Sabrina Calle, The Gilles Poem: Winter 2006 Collection, Transmission Press, San Francisco 2007

Sarah Campbell, The Maximum, Bonfire Press, Fort Collins, CO 2008

Kate Colby, Unbecoming Behavior, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn 2008

Wade Fletcher, Snitch Culture, dusi/echaps, dusie.org, 2007

Alex Gildzen, It’s All a Movie, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2007

Alex Gildzen, Outlaw Dreams, Green Panda Press, Cleveland Heights, OH 2008

Harvey Goldner, The Resurrection of Bert Ringold: Selected Poems, Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso 2008

Lars Gustafsson, A Time in Xanadu, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2008

Linda Hogan, Rounding the Human Corners, , Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Alexander Hutchison, Scales Dog, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK 2007

Eugen Jebeleanu, Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems, translated from the Romanian by Matthew Zapruder & Radu Ioanid, introduction by Andrei Codrescu, , Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Trevor Joyce, What’s in Store, New Writer’s Press & The Gig, Dublin & Toronto 2007

Luke Kennard, The Harbour Beyond the Movie, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK 2007

David Kennedy, The Devil’s Bookshop, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK 2007

Carolyn Knox, Quaker Guns, Wave Books, Seattle & New York 2008

Douglas A. Martin, In the Time of Assignments, Soft Skull Press, Berkeley 2008

Ander Monson, Our Aperture, New Michigan Press, Grand Rapids 2007

Valzhyna Mort, Factory of Tears, translated from Belarusian by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright & Franz Wright, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2008

Pablo Neruda, The Hands of Day, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2008

Brenda Shaughnessy, Human Dark with Sugar, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2008

Alexander Skidan, Red Shifting, translated by Genya Turovskaya, Eugene Ostashevsky, Evgeny Pavlov, Jacob Edmond & Natasha Randall, introduction by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn 2008

Joseph Somoza, Shock of White Hair, Sin Fronteras, Las Cruces, NM 2007

A.B. Spellman, Things I Must Have Known, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Ruth Stone, What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2008

Will Stone, Glaciation, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2007

Sandra Tappenden, Speed, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK 2007

Heather Thomas, Blue Ruby, Foothills Publishing, Kanona, NY 2008

Steven Waling, Travelator, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK 2007

Marjorie Welish, Isle of the Signatories, , Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2008

Jay Wright, Polynomials and Pollen: Parables, Proverbs, Paradigms and Praise for Lois, Dalkey Archive, Champaign, IL 2008

Jay Wright, The Presentable Art of Reading Absence, Dalkey Archive, Champaign, IL 2008

 

Books (Anthologies)

Lyric Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries, edited by Reginald Shepherd, Counterpath Press, Denver, 2008. Includes Martine Bellen, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Kathleen Fraser, Forrest Gander, C.S. Giscombe, Peter Gizzi, Brenda Hillman, Timothy Liu, Nathaniel Mackey, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell, Martha Ronk, Aaron Shurin, Carol Snow, Susan Stewart, Cole Swensen, Rosmarie Waldrop, Marjorie Welsh, Elizabeth Willis, more.

Poets Bookshelf II: Contemporary Poets on Books that Shaped Their Art, edited by Peter Davis & Tom Koontz, Barnwood Press, Seattle 2008. Includes Jack Anderson, Ivan Arguelles, Mary Jo Bang, Ellen Bass, Robert Bly, Andrea Hollander Budy, Mairead Byrne, Nick Carbó, Maxine Chernoff, Tom Clark, Joshua Clover, Andrei Codrescu, Shanna Compton, Alfred Corn, Catherine Daly, Linh Dinh, Edward Field, Forrest Gander, Sandra M. Gilbert, Kenneth Goldsmith, Noah Eli Gordon, H.L. Hix, Anselm Hollo, Janet Holmes, Cathy Park Hong, Ilya Kaminsky, Robert Kelly, Amy King, Jennifer L. Knox, Ted Kooser, Greg Kuzma, Ben Lerner, Haki R. Madhubuti, David Mason, Gail Mazur, Judith Moffett, K. Silem Mohammad, Willam Mohr, Charles North, Kate Northrop, Jena Osman, Alicia Ostriker, Linda Pastan, Simon Perchik, Bob Perelman, Marge Piercy, Katha Pollitt, David Ray, Jerome Rothenberg, Jerome Sala, Dennis Schmitz, Grace Schulman, Lloyd Schwartz, David Shapiro, Reginald Shepherd, Dale Smith, Eileen R. Tabios, Tony Tost, Diane Wakoski, Diane Ward, Barrett Watten, Miller Williams & many more.

Stacy S: Autoportraits, OMG Press, San Francisco 2007. Includes Trane Devore, Renee Gladman, Lisa Jarnot, Kevin Killian, Anne Tardos, Tim Peterson (or Trace), Elizabeth Robinson, David Gatten & photos by Stacy Szymaszek.

 

Books (Other)

Alan Filreis, Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-1960, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2008

Yehuda Koren & Eilat Negev, Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA 2007

Sophocles, Ajax, translated by John Tipton, Flood Editions, Chicago 2008

Joseph Torra, They Say: A Novel, Quale Press, Florence, MA 2007

 

Journals

First Intensity, no. 22, Fall 2007, Lawrence, KS. Includes Barry Gifford, Nathaniel Tarn, Ken Irby, Simon Perchik, John Olson, Anis Shivani, Rochelle Owens, Elizabeth Robinson, Mark Salerno, Whit Griffin, Murat Nemet-Nejat, Norman Weinstein, Lori Baker, Caryn Mrriam-Goldberg, John Phillips, Carol Novack, Xue Di, Andrew Zawacki, more.

Matrix, no. 79, 2008, Concordia University, Montreal 2008. Includes Dennis Lee, Stuart Ross, Darren Wershler-Henry, feature on “The New Underground” including Lisa Foad, Jenny Spirisi, Marcus McCann, Helen Heffernan, Evan Jordan, Katrina Best, Ian Williams, more.

Phoebe vol. 37, no. 1, Spring 2008, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Includes Charles Bernstein, Anne Boyer, Kim Chinquee, Michelle Detorie, Joe Hall, Liberty Heise, Karen Rigby, Jennifer Scappettone, Jessic Smith, Michael Wolfe, more.

Pleiades 28:1, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO. Includes Stephen Burt, Mark Halliday, Kim Addonizio, Claire Hero, Astrid Cabral (translated by Alexis Levitin), David Wagoner, Ngo Tu Lap (translated by Martha Collins & the author), Albert Goldbarth, Malachi Black, Campbell McGrath, Roberto Bolaño (translated by Laura Healy), Page Hill Starzinger, Robert Archambeau, Jerry Harp, Nancy Kuhl, Joan Houlihan on Sarah Hannah, more, more, more.

The Sienese Shredder, no. 2, New York, NY 2008. Includes Brice Brown, Paul Verlaine, Karen Swenson, Christophe, David Gray, Simon Cutts, Christian Hawkey, Guillaume Appolinaire, Richard Hennessy & Carter Ratcliff, Bill Zavatsky, André du Bouchet, Trevor Winkfield, Ron Padgett, Robert Desnos, Richard Denning with Don Joint, Nancy Kuhl & Duncan Hannah, William Corbett, Jasper Johns, James Meetze, James Schuyler, Mary Heilmann, Thomas Devaney,. a CD by Charles North & more, more, more.

Small Town XII, San Francisco 2007. Includes rob mclennan, Arielle Guy, Michael Slosek, Robin Demers, Carrie Hunter, Kathryn l. pringle, John Sakkis, Dorthea Lasky, Brandon Brown.

Zoland Poetry no. 1, Hanover, NH 2007. Sam Cornish, Mani Rao, Charles North, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sarah Fox, Ange Mlinko, Dean Young, Ben Friedlander, Patricia Smith, Valerie Duff, Jacqueline Waters, Jack Collom, Lyn Hejinian, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Meg Tyler, Ilya Bernstein, Gian Lobardo, Rachel Loden, Devin Johnston, lots of translations, more.

Zoland Poetry no. 2, Hanover, NH 2008. Miles Champion, Connie Deanovich, Bei Dao (translated by Eliot Weinberger), Tony Towle, Merrill Gilfillan, Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Scappettone, Elizabeth Robinson, Anne Porter, Joan Walsh, Lee Harwood (includes interview by Bill Corbett), John Estes, Deborah Meadows, Timothy Liu, more.

 

 

Just some of the items received since January 11
-- to be continued

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

 

Photo by Howard Junker

What national literary landmark appears in the motion picture Annie Hall? Hint: it’s not in New York, but rather Venice, California. When Alvy (Woody) follows Annie (Dianne Keaton, who won an Oscar for her role) out to California, he finds her stepping away from Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles’ major literary destination even back in 1977. As a literary bookstore, archive & site for readings, Beyond Baroque has been Los Angeles’ primary poetry institution now for just under 40 years, longevity that rivals St. Marks, and in those terms surpasses anything in San Francisco or Philly or DC or San Diego.¹ It frankly should be a National Historic Landmark devoted to this purpose.

Now Beyond Baroque’s lease is up – March 1st – and an anti-literacy city attorney is opposing its renewal. These hallowed grounds are in serious jeopardy. Anyone who remembers what a disaster it was when Intersection in San Francisco lost its lease & was forced to relocate to the Mission will understand immediately what is at stake.

Click on the Beyond Baroque website to see how you can help save this institution. It’s certainly worth a phone call – especially long distance. Let’em know that the whole world is watching.

 

¹ San Francisco State’s Poetry Center is older than Beyond Baroque, but it’s reading series has moved around considerably over the years. My favorite locale was the Gallery Lounge, a small art center just west of the current student union. City Lights, which is a National Historic Landmark, is different kind of animal altogether. Until it opened up the poetry room above its main new book section, the store kept verse in a little alcove in the basement and survived for decades off of tourists who came (and still come) seeking whatever fumes remain of the Beats.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

 

Talking with John Ashbery

Poetry that is never “about

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Lyn Hejinian & the Tampa Bay Devil Rays

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Using Jennifer Moxley’s Middle Room
as a “biblical text”

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Remembering Raul Salinas

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Charles Bernstein’s Objectivist Blues

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Pierre Joris:
3 poems & an interview

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A profile of Geoffrey Gatza

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Joseph Massey’s Out of Light

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Gregory Corso: The Last Beat

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Ghostwriting Gabriel García Márquez

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Gary Sullivan on “Numbers Troubles”
& an early”anthology” of mine

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Evie Shockley, Rudyard Fearon
& the rise of Barack Obama

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The Quietist as collector

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A profile of Le Hinton

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Committing Poetry in a Time of War

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Where poetry is more popular than soccer

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To Thomas De Quincy, Dorothy Wordsworth was
”the very wildest …person I have ever known”

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First Person:
New Media as Story, Performance & Game

Second Person:
Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media

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Roald Hoffmann, Nobel chemist & poet
on the art’s relation to science

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Eavan Boland & Charlotte Mew

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Talking with Bob Hass

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To Milton for the politics

“By far the most intelligent and serious of English poets”

Musicality is central to the poet’s works”

Milton, the podcast (MP3)

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The Year of Zbignew Herbert

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Remembering Robbe-Grillet

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How did you start writing?

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This week’s death-of-a-bookstore pieces
involve the last indie
in the western half of
Westchester County, NY
& a Brentwood indie
with deep ties to the
Hollywood scene

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Looking for Theodore Roethke’s Saginaw

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Slammin against hip-hop

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Slammin’” on the Northern Mariana Islands

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A biography of Wallace Stegner

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Talking with Ursula Le Guin

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Postcolonial poetry in English & the web (PDF)

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Poetry & the trace

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A profile of Eric “Bear Dance” Breland

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P.E.I. poet laureate
launches website

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The use of poetry

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Poetry in the schools, Jakarta style

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Fear No Fear Shakespeare

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A book fair in Bangladesh

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A biography of Audre Lorde

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Robert Frost unplugged

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Try a different hat

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He’s ba-ack:
BBC to broadcast lost Larkin poems

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Kashmiri poets document conflict

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A profile of Con Hilberry

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The oddest book titles shortlist

§

Why open-source publishing is like
anti-slavery abolitionism

Some comments thereon

§

Litfest ends amid recriminations

§

The end of a bad idea

§

Writing & Hollywood:
take the money & run

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Pierrot le Fou

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When shock & awe belonged to the arts

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Why should you suffer?

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Time to say goodbye
to your Polaroids

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The saxophone in South Indian music

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Basketball & philosophy

§

When the net takes over

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The myth of democracy on the web

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Pure hype

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Farimani

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A generational revolution in Bay theater

§

Images, metaphors & “movies” in the brain

§

A nation where all university jobs
are temporary

§

The 1,500,000th visit
came at
7:46 PM Eastern last night
from somebody at
the City University of New York
who appears to have been searching
for something in the October 2004
archive

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Because it is a three-dimensional art, dance functions on at least two planes: one vertical, where the axis is the dancer’s spine (singular or plural), the other horizontal, the stage itself a two- (or more) dimensional canvas. Anyone who can remember footage of Busby Berkeley extravaganzas, or even the June Taylor Dancers of the 1950s, will recognize that there are forms of dance where a seat in the middle of the main level of a theater is a disadvantage. Another artist who makes great use of the horizontal as well as vertical plane is Shen Wei, the MacArthur-winning choreographer behind Shen Wei Dance Arts. Born in the province of Hunan & trained in calligraphy, painting and Chinese opera before helping to found the first modern dance company in China & then moving to the US in 1995, Shen Wei – he always uses both names – is a polymath & showman of the first order: his images & work will help to open & close the Olympics later this year in Beijing.

Considering the show his dance company performed a little over a week ago in the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, this is quite the achievement. His work unquestionably is good, but there is nothing here that viewers of any of the choreographers associated with the Judson Church movement, post-Graham dancers like Margie Jenkins or younger choreographers like Sally Silvers will not have already seen. In a sense, the effect is not unlike watching Baryshnikov dancing the work of Lucinda Child or Trisha Brown with the White Oak Dance Project to an audience with more than a few blue-haired women in minks, what once was radical having now become ever so uptown chic. But in actuality, Baryshnikov is a stunning dancer & the impact is profound. So too Shen Wei, tho with some critical differences.

The most obvious one is that Shen Wei isn’t dancing with his troupe, but he does just about everything else, from sets to costumes to make-up. The first of his two pieces at the Kimmel was Map, a seven-part construction to excerpts from Steve Reich’s The Desert Music. Choreography to Reich’s music is so 1980s & Reich’s glaring misreading of William Carlos Williams’ poem of depression & despair is itself an odd choice for a work that seeks “to create an abstract dance of raw and pure movement.” But Shen Wei has no apparent interest in the work’s underlying text, so much as in the work’s construction into a symmetry of seven movements, rather on the order of a palindrome: ABCDCBA. Shen Wei uses each section to create a work that often is defined mathematically, using four groups of dancers for the most part in threes. The photo at the top of this note shows one moment of the work in which three groups are onstage simultaneously, involved in coordinated but separate activities. From up high – second balcony, first row – this is even more effective than viewed head on. Shen Wei’s experience as a painter comes across more powerfully here than in the I-wish-I-was-Robert-Rauschenberg-or-Jasper-Johns backdrop that is the set for this work.

There are some extraordinary moments in Map, starting with the beginning when the dancers snaking across the floor at the start of the opening section. The most extraordinary is the opening of the fifth section, and it’s worth quoting from the program, penned by Thea Little when the work was first performed in 2005:

In this section, the first dancer feels the internal flow of her center, leading her to eventually move to places of suspension and momentum. As she continues this for most of the section, a group forms to repeat an adagio phrase that is based on lengthening the space between the joints. The movement comes from the joints, as the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints spread apart and lengthen to the fingertips. Thus, the limbs are lengthened as they swing from position to position with no effort. The movements are nonmuscular, with a floating internal quality. Soon, one by one, the dancers peel off from the group and dance their own solos until they are off stage.

The very opening portion, with the first dancer solo on the stage, her back turned to the audience, sort of wriggling up from her spine as she extends further & further, is flat out one of the most erotic moments I’ve ever seen in dance – even in blue jeans & a perfectly modest halter top.

In later sections, there are movements in which the dancers appear to mime the course of fireworks in the sky, or schools of fish darting about a tank. One can watch almost perfectly relaxed as the mind constantly rehearses the mathematical ratios as they play out on the stage.

The second, and much shorter, piece was Re- (Part I), “broadly based on the feeling of the land, the people, the religion and the culture of Tibet that I gained from my recent journeys there.” The dancing itself, done by just four dancers, appears mostly to have been modeled after Tai Chi, with that same essentially very calm sense of rhythm throughout. When the lights first came up after the intermission, the dancers were sitting on the floor at various points around what appeared to be a modernist or minimalist painting, circles inside of squares inside of circles, with a rectangular border that really did make the page appear to be a canvas. My first thought was I wonder how they did that, followed quickly by I wonder how they’re going to dance on it. The instant the first dancer’s foot swept through the pattern, which scattered as he did so, I realized that the stage had been turned into a very simple version of a sand painting. Soon all four dancers were moving through it, dragging their feet as they went, so that the stage transformed very quickly into an abstract expressionist work of art. This manifestation of the page as canvas is something that Shen Wei has done before, and his choreography is such that it looks great at the beginning, in the middle & at the conclusion. On the other hand, artists like Jill Scott were doing this in their performance pieces in San Francisco back in the 1970s & Yvonne Rainer was dragging nude models covered in paint over canvases long before that. All of this, incidentally, was accompanied by some traditional Tibetan singing by Ani Choying Dolma.

So read the messages: modernism, Tai Chi, sand painting, abstract expressionism, Tibetan music – it’s almost a perfect pastiche of globalization in dance. As a whole, it proved more cohesive than Map, tho it did so by sacrificing some of the high points of the first work. My wife, who studied dance at the North Carolina School of the Performing Arts as well as at the American Ballet Theater, preferred the first piece primarily because there was more pure dance involved. I can appreciate that, but for completeness of vision my own preference was for the second.

What to make of all this? Should I be happy that so much of what I’ve enjoyed elsewhere over the past 30 or so years is connecting now with larger audiences in a slick motif? You don’t get a larger audience than the Olympic opening & closing ceremonies. Or should the constant appropriation of everything creep me out? There is, in fact, some first rate dance here, and some moments of first-rate choreography. But what I really saw & heard at the Kimmel was the cool construction of terrific theater, and a glimpse into the process by which what was once avant-garde becomes source material for pure pop.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

 

It took this blog two years & five months – from August 2002 until the end of January 2005 – to receive its first 250,000 visits. But it took only three years & two months – just nine more months – to receive the next quarter million and hit the half-million threshold. That ramp upward got steeper still as it took just 16 months to receive the next 500,000 and hit the million visit mark. That was February of last year – sometime Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, the 1,500,000th visitor will click on through.

These are not the sort of numbers I normally associate with poetry. That is three Woodstocks, or the current population of Philadelphia.

One thing this tally doesn’t represent is anything like 1.5 million separate individuals. There are a few hundred people who show up here daily and a few thousand more who come by with some regularity – once or twice a week perhaps. And a third, larger cluster that is far less regular, some of whom may do so only while taking a class that requires it. My guess is that those three groups combined add up to six or eight thousand people. That’s less than the number of poets who write in English, but still a sizeable fraction of the number of folks who care about poetry. And it’s more than the thirty a day I had hoped for when I first started this project.

There are all kinds of interesting ways that a marketer would want to cut such numbers, demographics being the default in that mode of thinking. What percentage of my readers are men and how does that relate to the percentage of people interested in poetry who happen to be male? What are the age breakdowns? Race? Religion – how many Lutheran are there here (how many Lutheran Surrealists)? How many readings do we attend each month & do we go out for a meal before or after? How much do we each spend on books? Etc. I know that among my comrades in the Grand Piano project, there are some who appear never to read this blog, and two or three who seem always to do so. I would suggest that this is probably to be expected from a cohort that ranges in age from late 50s to mid 60s – all of us are what we call “digital immigrants” where I work, people who came to the technology a little late in life, unlike my children who are digital natives, having used PCs since they were toddlers & Richard Scary’s Busytown was the software package of choice. Except that my Grand Piano co-authors are all people who have known me for at least 30 years, so I think that may boost the numbers artificially. After all, I do know poets from my age group who still avoid PCs pretty much altogether. They’re the last of a dying breed, and I think they know it.

I try to imagine what it must be like to be a poet today, particularly in the U.S., who is entirely off-line and still working with a typewriter. If I were that poet, I think I would find it strange, as if the social domain that is poetry were somehow getting away from me & becoming more & more ethereal. Where I used to see all the “important” literary magazines, say, in Cody’s or Moe’s in Berkeley or in City Lights in San Francisco, there are now many important journals that seem locked up out of sight, because they don’t exist in the print world – How(2), Jacket, mark(s), Big Bridge & so many more. I remember being a teenager & not being able to get hold of a copy of Locus Solus or Art & Literature & feeling totally frustrated by that. Try to envision this same phenomenon many times over for the poet who is not wired.

I can’t say that I’ve met any younger poets who consciously disengage from poetry’s existence on the net, tho I suspect some must exist. We are moving, faster than I think any of us (or me anyway) are conscious of, toward a day on which poetry is something that exists primarily on the web, having made the migration away from print & bookstores to a degree that right now seems unfathomable. Those older poets who currently refuse to publish on the web – they do exist – will discover soon enough that they have painted themselves into the proverbial corner. Far from being a “debased” terrain where works commingle without being presorted by “value,” the web simply is becoming the commons for such work.

I have been fortunate, especially being an old paradigm guy, to have had some success with this new medium. I don’t think what I’m doing here is in any way unique. I think I’m more consistent & dogged, and that I’ve thought through my positions whether or not anyone agrees with them. When people who do generally disagree with me sit around and argue over a concept I first threw out here – like post-avant or school of quietude – I have to admit feeling pleased. Even rejecting one of these ideas, if done thoughtfully, furthers the discourse, and that is the point really.

Do I have the capacity to stick this out another five years & six months? I have no idea. I do know that this process functions as the most powerful crucible for new ideas, for me, that I’ve found since the very earliest days of poets’ talks in the late 1970s. And that’s a powerful motivation. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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