Sunday, October 05, 2003

Lynne Dreyer Introduction, Bowery Poetry Club, 10/4/03

The writing changed my life. I was thinking how my affections would be thrown out, my feelings would be cast aside or just internalized. I know for some writers it makes them keep thinking, but I'm interested in the rhythm of words, and how combined we receive their story. Like when someone asks if "ya get the picture" and you do. I'm not a very intellectual writer, yet I feel I learned to think when I started to write. I need to emphasize my feelings and thoughts -- make them clear to others. The way words grow out of words and phrases, light on other words -- an icey voice. This happens when I start to write and when I forget myself. This is what is most important to me. I think the thoughts form themselves when I lose myself in the writing. I'm learning, making it clearer I like to get carried away by the words -- but I need to be understood, not hide by abstractions, vagueness or drama. I need to know it's real.

Lynne Dreyer
from The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, 1984

It's a little trepidatious for me to say anything about Lynne's writing, since I haven't read anything she's published since _The White Museum_ in 1986. Any characterizations I make could be easily overturned or contradicted by the stampede of time. I don't even know if her self-characterization still holds true for her writing. So it's better maybe to say that I am waiting not with trepidation but with eager curiosity to hear what this writer-phoenix will read to us today.

I do know that, back in the olden days, I used to read her statement in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book over and over again. It stood out. It was breezier, more intuitive, more colloquial than most. That assertion that she's "not a very intellectual writer" always struck me as quite bold, given her milieu and the primacy of the intellect in it.

Krishnamurti says, in Tradition and Revolution, that " The fact is that the intellect is an incomplete instrument and cannot understand a movement which is total." Lynne's writing, which I read hungrily, and which I aped shamelessly, was aiming, it seemed, for a "total movement." It's as if it comes not from the discriminating tendency of intellect but rather what Krishnamurti calls "the quality of the mind, of the whole psychophysical organism, that can explore."

When I read her I truly feel that I am along for the ride; she is carried away by the words, and so am I. It is as if someone else in the room (Lynne) were being hypnotized somehow I also go under. I get NDUCTED into the writing, which, it is true, is neither abstract nor vague. It's like if someone asks you to imagine biting into a slice of lemon and you begin to salivate. How is that lemon not a real lemon? You can practically smell its bitter zest, or feel the little pores on the rind. If not abstract or vague, though, her writing is, to me, and contrary to her self-statement, decidedly dramatic -- if nothing else, because it is so active.

The analogy that has appeared to me is... interactive video games. Her writing is dramatic in the way these games are dramatic, but unlike the games, her writing's not violent. Rather, it's fast moving, with you in the driver's seat, making things happen in the constantly-changing landscapes she has designed for you. Also, like video games, it opens a space into the fantastic and its specialty is the surprise morph. Try to hold this paradigm in mind as I read a little excerpt from her Tuumba book, "Step Work":

Death becomes the independent hand, crowded like the seeds. It becomes a caricature of itself, and the shallow walk becomes its harmony. Floridian gorillas are decorated with active super-heroes. The sex warp is active, complete, translucent. Wet my eyes and then the shadows can wall us in. They become timed and lasting: waiting for the family to be reunited, waiting for the family to be tried. Take some scene and think about winter, hand on cup, chicken hand image, and finally the dream image of the woman opening the door. Are the women opening the doors? The multiple image becomes its plot. The gestures have begun.

OK, my quarter has run out. Enough of this virtual metaphor. Now, let the real gestures begin with Lynne Dreyer's long-awaited renaissance...

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