Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All Realms Convey/ Humanly we struggle to express: literacy in longing

If you know Antler's poems, I'm thinking about his alarmingly and devastatingly pure scream, his "Guernica" I suppose (, in "Your Poetry's No Good Because It Tries To Convey A Message"--a title Antler was given, apparently, by an unsympathetic listener. I've been thinking daily about Wei Wei--it wasn't long ago he was the celebrated topic of Frontline ( ; And I've been thinking about Juliano Mer Khamis "The 52-year-old was born to an Israeli Jewish mother and Palestinian Christian father", and Freedom Theater ( It is difficult to avoid thinking about Victor Jara ( and Naji al Ali (, a kind of editorializing older Keith Haring (in some shared curves of line and tone). I think about these people (our list could be quite long) and return to Antler's incredible title: Isn't it absurd to want the human expression to not convey a message (ANY message)? The ambiguity of the message (and the reception of its subjects) lights the fog and this illumination can cause some anxiety. But the fog lifts and reveals openings about which we had almost forgotten. The "plainly stated" can seem ambiguous too; we're not always sure about the destination--or the sincerity. Tone brings the message only so far, and tone can make the difference also.

"[W]e are cloud-like in the decades and centuries of marvel, we stand a chance if we abide by no dictation except the fuzzy shadows, we are light bound as much as nurtured by the dark. . . " and "when the speech comes it will be salvation." (Che p. 105). We convey the message murky and on-the-mark, and every place in between. While doing, may there be music, a kind logic, an individual tongue and hand that is inextricably connected to its "Other" humanity and sentience.

Yet the gut knows what the mind interprets. In the April 18th, 2011, issue of New York magazine (p.86), friends of the novella Che may find some affinity in the painter Jennifer Wynne Reeve's current exhibit at Ramis Barquet, I think. A "departure" from the "overt" and "political" I mentioned above, Jennifer Wynne Reeve's work is engaged in "Mixing a feel for succulent surfaces, rich color, and witty prose. . . paintings and photographs that are at once like vertical tabletops slathered with satiny paint and abstract diaries of life, death, sex, and longing. . . thick, saturated daubs and impastos rutted with waves and ripples transform into phallic shapes and faces begging for attention. . . stories of marriages, divorce, and sexual tension. Reeve's work skirts surreal realms, the real world, the inner lives of women, the imagination, the ego, and the id" (writes Jerry Saltz). Diaries of life, longing; rutted, waves; transform. Faces begging for attention. Skirting the realms, in layers. What it all conveys--foggy though it may be--is as vital as the direct narratives of Antler, Naji al Ali, Victor Jara. Somewhere in here is a little bit of Guernica (maybe the unspoken lovely part?)--that "they lived." Maybe somewhere is lineage from Pasolini's lyrically inspired narrative films. We should all hope to "convey a message"--and understand the message is its own material, and has far to go.

We can be intentional even while admitting the oblique. The message rattles the cage at every second beat. We realize tension in our longing. We love what exists that is a kind reminder. We suffer into what we cannot see and we are embraced.