Saturday, May 14, 2011

 

Live at the White House, it’s
Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Common,
Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles,
Aimee Mann & Jill Scott

Kenny’s not the controversial one

Linh Dinh has a different take

Al Filreis responds to Linh Dinh

Should Common be censored?

Obama welcomes
Common to the White House

Are Common’s lyrics
really so bad, Sarah Palin?

Common Sense eludes Sarah Palin

Palin: I’m not anti-rap

Fox News
provides its perspective
(with some helpful context from The Young Turks)

Is this overblown?

Gerri Willis
is just against poetry

(and can prove it)

Backing Common @ the White House

Jon Stewart’s commentary

What Common actually read

One attempt to
trash Common while
staying “above the fray”

For Smerconish,
it all comes down
to Mumia

Is Common controversy
raising the profile of poetry
at the White House?
(with videos of readings by
Elizabeth Alexander & Kenny G)

The dangers of metaphor

The Politics of Distraction

Barack Obama on the power of poetry

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Friday, May 13, 2011

 

Music with Roots in the Aether:
Gordon Mumma

From Robert Ashley’s
groundbreaking 1970s
opera for television series

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

 

Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate in 4 movements
performed by
Christian Bök, Florian Kaplik,
Christopher Fox & Jaap Blonk
@ Warth Mill Industrial Estate,
Bury, Lancashire
May 1, 2011

Compliments of Little Star & Merzman

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

 


Deinococcus radiodurans the future of printing?

A thought about Christian Bök’s epic act of minimalism taken to its logical conclusion, Xenotext, has been haunting me since the Bury Text Festival. As I understand Xenotext, it’s an attempt to imprint a short lyric poem into the DNA of a particular single-celled bacterium in such a way that will cause the bacterium to create a benign protein that, when “read” in the same “language” as it was written, would generate a second short poem, the words, order, lines & line breaks of which Bök also already knows. Because the bacterium he has selected for this act of signage is Deinococcus radiodurans, an extremophile, a bacterium that lives at – indeed is happiest in, to the degree that one might assign bacteria emotions – exceptionally hot & caustic environments¹, it is one that could conceivably survive at least up to an explosion of the sun terminated life as we know it. It is in this sense an attempt to create an immortal poem, one that could easily outlast not only the English language & humanity itself, but even sentient life on the planet on which it was originally inscribed. In Bury, Bök characterized Xenotext as the first such attempt at literary immortality.

So here’s what haunts me: How do we know?

If, for example, one Canadian might conceive of such a project, how do we know that elsewhere in the universe other species have not likewise thought to imprint their deepest thoughts onto compliant organisms? Further, as we are now starting to discover archeological evidence of molecular life on various modes of stellar debris, why might some civilization not have thought even to create some sort of symbol akin to the NASA “hey there” message shipped off out into the universe awhile back. Maybe one of those fossilized bacteria in the asteroid belt is its own message from some Christian Bök type figure on an inner planet of some other star? (I refuse to imagine Jar Jar Binks in a purple shirt & tie.)

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Monday, May 09, 2011

 

After a long, intense day of events at the Text Festival in Bury – the morning spent at the museum where my neon excerpt from the still-in-progress Northern Soul has become the public face of the festival itself, the afternoon at a reading in Bury Parish Church – the building dates from the 19th century, the congregation from circa 900 – to an evening at the Met where mostly a sequence of sound and performance poets (but nary a sign o’ slam) tickled & occasionally ripped at our ear drums, I found myself the next morning reading Sarah Riggs’ 60 Textos, simple one-stanza lyrics (or perhaps anti-lyrics) feeling that there was more that was genuinely new in her tiny poems than I had seen the entire previous day, even as I’d been immersed work that everywhere proposed itself as new (my own included) but was in fact something different altogether.

The axes that converge in something like the Text Festival – poetry as visual art, as performance, as sound – have their roots in traditions that are at least 100 years old (in the case of the Russian Futurists or the Dadaism of Hugo Ball, twice that or more in the case of William Blake & illuminated manuscripts). It’s fascinating to watch Christian Bök build a career out of two or three very divergent types of work: obsessive, jaw-droppingly brilliant contained projects like Eunoia or the ongoing Xenotext; performance poetry that draws knowledgeably from the masters of Futurism, Dada & fluxus; sound work that extends the legacy of Steve McCaffery, bpNichol and the Four Horsemen in Canada. But it’s those obsessive projects of his that represent something transformational in poetry. Much of the rest of it is theater that enables him to go places, entertain & build a public presence. That’s more about marketing than innovation, tho Bök is as thorough a scholar of performance poetics as I’ve ever met. Nor is there anything new, as he himself acknowledged, about him writing a set of responses to the questions of my work, Sunset Debris. Alan Davies beat him to that over 30 years ago, and such responses are threatening to become a genre (or at least genre-twitch) of their own. What’s new in Bök’s approach is the use of a computer program and artificial intelligence to “write” the responses. Frankly, it’s refreshing to hear a machine forced to admit repeatedly “I don’t know.”

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

 

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