Friday, July 23, 2010

Word & Ear: Beckett, Markson, Olson, Louis Armstrong, Calvino, Argueta, Kafka, Cid Corman [by suggestion] & Miss Pond's Oyster. . . ,

There's a lone sentence in the novella Che that speaks from the forest and the tundra in the same moment: "To realize, of course, is to give word." The line is its paragraph's only voice, so to speak (there are also other one line paragraphs in the novella but they are the rarity). I suppose, in this context (one word, one breath; one space of time), I've been thinking about David Markson (his brilliant and lovely, I think, This Is Not A Novel)--and Italo Calvino's Mr. Palomar (a favorite of mine since roughly 1985). With these, I've been re-reading passages of William Empson's opposite-of-critical Seven Types of Ambiguity. Empson "states a case" in the way inventive novels do, in the way most poems do; the way a garden does! When a person pursues his or her own construct(s), a person enacts the daily renewal that would seem to sustain their thinking, engagement, sense in place. I've been editing the next Across Borders journal and I came across this line, in a musician's assessment of Louis Armstrong's writing using Charles Olson's perspective: "verse will only do in which a poet manages to register both the acquisition of his ear and the pressure of his breath" and "of the breathing of the man who writes as well as his listening." This last part interests me the most and refers to something else I had written on this blog ("on" this! --as if this is the deck of a boat, yes?) but which I cannot exactly call to mind without having two computers before me (one can only "jump" back and forth so much in one mode, one mind, one time-frame). So we listen to the hand, the hand remaining, the slate given and to wipe clean.

When we listen to what we read we read it again, instantaneously with slight echo, and we hear the breath of the voice--not only the artifact of the word.

Lately I've been reading passages of the novella "in Irish," in my Irishness, realizing a fluency--or maybe a result of a tendency, aural inclination, propensity--from an influential time in my life. Teaching, to the extent the writer teaches, Beckett brought the joy of the realization of each word (as a lengthy music, in each breath, bearing--) back, entirely. The emotional lyricism, the traveling melody within the smallest units of narrative, the breath-pause--which is the mental-emotional-ontological pause--become fully comprehended only as a listener. The writer is a listener, choosing her or his words sound by sound--and not unlodged from the sound of bay, the solid of mountain base, and yet willingly giving that up for the sake of getting on, to travel in the line or the narrative, to tell the parts of it--in melody and refrain--as a body with eyes and ears and lungs does. This is the kind of text I mean. If text had skin, brain, chemical; it "gives" if we are open to listening for that. Like Kafka's hunger artist below the straw, barely heard and--until then, at the end the whisper confirmed--completely unseen (in fact, thought to be disposable).

While a listener (and reader) at a cello lesson, I found a book I'd not seen or opened before: One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta. What I was able to read there, in the moments of music, were these (and I certainly hear their breath): "The dog is my brother." "A cloud is wrestling with the sun." "Until you appeared. . .you have brought fresh air."

You have to get and bring fresh air. You do it in living, why not do it in reading.

I listen to the lungs of text.

I was stopped in "my tracks" when I read Markson's lone line (among many there), repeating history--without any feeling of being dated: "Please, sir, I want some more."

The words ask a simple request. The writer lived-dying in this simple moment of request, line by line, word by word, syllable by syllable, sound by sound, breath by breath.

In this morning's paper a person writes to complain about children using "frozen trout" for an art project (prints) at a local public library. "In this economy!" the citizen chides. I have to admit to admiring the letter writer's name. It is "Pond." I want to write to her, via the paper, saying, "Dear Miss Pond, The word is your oyster"--(["hoist ear!"]; Why not world and word at the same time? It's possible!); and a painted fish is an opportunity in a child's imagination. This will feed nations, eons, even the embers. And so, we take a breath. Breathe, and listen to what breathed. Make a life of this. Discover text, breathing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Language as Necessary Spectacle

The new language--like late 20th century/current film and dance--mix-mashes jump-cut, mind-leap (hydrogen jukebox [to quote my teacher, Ginsberg]. . . a reality sandwich [AG]--minute salad, pod speech, hyperlink (that old term!), cosmic display, multi-atmospheric birdsong in real time, hybrid of samples, contxtualized, yes?

We reinterpret the "Stuff As Dreams" (SEE New York Times, Theater [Isherwood], 7/11/10) in spectacles. . . be them waves of rap and warp of sound/image. . . or the book, the novella, the poetic existential trail of making the essential expression of now. Yes?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Teens and Perseverance and Courage: Super Hero Qualities; Humane, Literate--A Kind of Beat Transcended

Today's paper has an article about "What America's Teens Admire Most" (possibly what all teens admire--around the globe--decade to decade): "Perseverance" and "Courage" (plain and simple?). There has to be an age (ages. . . ) wherein we can be idealistic, dreamy and undaunted. Maybe this is why we feel comfortable suspending disbelief while we imagine and accept the qualities and character of the Super Hero. (It's also useful to read between the lines, to observe how the Super Hero was empowered [SEE James Sturm's Unstable Molecules (Marvel)--in which Vapor Girl reads Peyton Place, and the Human Torch is schooled benevolently by a Beat-spouting bonfire poet who speaks Kerouac]). I mean to say there is a humanity that informs such perseverance and courage most of all. There is, too, a literacy in all this extra-exceptional experience.

Bill Morgan's new book (The Typewriter Is Holy), featuring our friend Ginsberg, is given a generous spread in the current issue of Seven Days magazine, under "State of the Arts": "The world actually needs some poets and people like the Beats to come around now, when we're becoming more conservative and scared. . . " (my emphasis). In the Bill Morgan article, I'm grateful Seven Days brings in the new: ". . . a copy of Che.: A Novella In Three Parts, by Peter Money, a former student of Allen Ginsberg. . . While the author doesn't call his work 'neo-Beat'. . . Money's novella, closer to prose poem than narrative, features the kind of continuously flowing imagery that many people associate with the more spontaneous modes of Beat writing."

Thank you, Seven Days. Here's to "independence": to courage, perseverance, and renewal--by text, and [humane, inventive] living.