Monday, February 23, 2004


Computer issues dealt with, at least for the time being, while the debate rages internally about whether to get the pink minipod or the 20 gigabyte model. Thanks to all those who made generous offers to helpl

Last night an interesting reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, organized by C.A. Conrad, in support of the global women's strike. Heard poetry from such notables as Rodrigo Toscano, Carol Mirakove, Hassan (whose name I've also seen spelled Hassen -- which is right???), Alicia Askenase, Frank Sherlock.

Alicia read a kind of satirical news article piece composed of Bushisms -- it was hilarious and I loved it (as I also loved her staged crotch-grab) but as I mentioned to her afterwards, she was exploiting those Bushisms for their poetic effect, while also looking at them condescendingly from the point of view of a kind of grammar maven, which is an inherently conservative position! That is to say, we laugh at him (or fear and despise him) for "mangling the language" at the very same moment that we do so with aesthetic intent. Alicia commented correctly that my perspective is very much that of an ESL teacher.

Frank read a piece that listed names of reality TV shows interspersed with the repeated word, "news." I just read an article in the new Harper's that delves into the connection between reality TV and the Republican world view -- a kind of uncanny elaboration of Frank's poem.

Carol read a piece that collaged in the letters of U.S children writing to children in Afghanistan on the eve of the most recent war there with memoirs of her grandmother's cultural assimilation to the US. The detail that sticks with me: her Italian grandmother changed her name to -- what was it? -- Jane Smith -- and shaved her eyebrows-- in order to get a job at (I think it was) IBM. Wow! I wondered if eyebrow shaving was a job requirement.

Hassan read a piece that rewrote the beginning of the Book of John -- it was extraordinary and somewhat self-contradictory -- an examination of the chaos inherent in the world and problematic attempts to stifle that chaos by means of compulsive systematization (esteemed critics, take note!). Also an odd piece about smelly red socks and the fuhrer.

Rodrigo read a kind of meditation on strikes and also a poem that ruminated on "swivelization" -- it posited reality and the future as both gyrating and gelatinous. I was impressed by his extension and elaboration of a very strange metaphor, which I commented to him was Donne-like (and as always by his compulsive punning).

It was a very wonderful lineup of skilled, witty, profound, compassionate writers -- good work, Conrad. I remain wary, as you all may know, of explicit or heavy-handed political or social content in poems. Too often have I seen the didactic function tip over the aesthetic --

(and I would disagree with a recent post of Charles Bernstein's lauding Richard Foreman's latest play (("King Rufus Rules the Universe")) for being able to address the burning issues of our time. I thought the play was wonderful, but not even comparable to "Panic," the play that just preceded this one. I thought "Panic" was perhaps the best play I had ever seen --though perhaps the fact that it was my first-ever Foreman play colored my perceptions somewhat. "King Rufus" was skillfully produced and acted, entertaining, mordant, and relevant, but to me it was weakened by that very "relevance." Gary agreed. "Panic", by contrast, took me to another world. Watching it, I remember thinking that I wanted to take Richard Foreman as my guru, become a playwright or director or performer, and forsake all else.)

-- I know that many of you will disagree with me. It's a tired old argument anyway, and I don't think I want to go there. But my point is that these poets were adept enough to address and include the Topical and at the same time keep me with them prosodically and conceptually. And I'm grateful for that. But I also wish (we would make) the new world order (would) come soon so that we need not use the tiresome name "Bush" so much in our poetry.

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