Bruce McPherson read Robert Kelly's tribute to Thomas McEvilley, along with his own, at The Arimaspia launch and McEvilley celebration at the Poetry Project last week. My preface to The Arimaspia was published in Hyperallergic.
Tonight we're presenting two new books by Tom McEvilley. First, a collection of poems translated mostly from the Greek Anthology. It's a handsome hand-set limited-edition letterpress book and its lovely formal quality contrasts with the poems' ribald profanity. Tom's versions of Meleager and Philodemus and other poets are earthy and comical laments, barely recognizable when compared against the “accurate” translations of a century ago. Following Pound's example and dictum, he makes these great old poets come alive again, makes them new, suffusing them with the very spirit and transience of Now.
Most of these poems also appear in The Arimaspia, or Songs for the Rainy Season. There, the poems are worked into one of the two main narrative streams, the one dealing with an apprentice Greek philosopher's journey to India. If I'm right that these poem translations came first, then I imagine The Arimaspia arose somehow from them like Across the Universe arose from the songs of the Beatles, a scaffolding for composition, but with a result of far greater complexity. The Arimaspia is simultaneously a novel and a poem, a mock epic and a cacophony of voices, a send-up of the Victorian novel of adventure and a post-Modern reflection on the futility of narrative. Because this is the literary counterpart to his great work, The Shape of Ancient Thought, it tells of forgotten or effaced encounters between the West and the East, between the Self, in other words, and the Other. This is a theme found in much of Tom's work, but nowhere is it more brilliantly and comically exemplified.
I'd been reading Pound's Cantos for some time before I first happened upon the recordings he made of some of them. It was a revelation. As a student I'd always read him with utter seriousness, and now there he was wisecracking and imitating voices and singing and declaiming and generally hamming his way through what I had thought was supposed to be the most serious poetry of the century.
In some regards The Arimaspia is a Poundian work – a transgressive work containing many voices intruding and impinging and harmonizing while narrative streams carry forward strange tales of fortitude and depravity. So tonight we thought we'd try to convey some of Tom's comedy by reading two excerpts as ensembles. These selections are from later parts having to do with a libidinous professor of classics who seduces his students, and with the itinerant philosopher's campfire poetry slams. Joyce Berstein selected and edited the group readings.
Just a few words about the publication of The Arimaspia. We were able to produce a small edition of 250 copies for tonight, in advance of a larger publication soon afterward. Think of this night, then, as a Kickstarter. We invite your help to bring this work of literary genius to the world at large.
Robert Kelly: McEvilley
When you paint a girl blue and roll her on a canvas or when you paint your hand with red ochre and press it on a wall you are doing the same thing, making the same sort of thing.
The mess of meaning lasts thirty thousand years.
Nobody knows what you have in mind in doing so. But that is not important, thank God. There are people, and McEvilley was among the smartest of them, who know that once the mark gets made, it gets made in us. It lasts.
He doesn’t care about the 30,000 years that separate such marks, marks that could be generated tomorrow if there were such a thing as time.
Art doesn’t defy time. It denies time.
So art speaks to a society by itself and by the critics who help us, force us, to look at it, or intensify by their palaver the force of seeing.
Criticism can be nothing without literature — Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Ashbery, John Yau, it keeps going. But literature could be nothing without the cave-work, the isolato crazy self-encounter that gets cleaned up and publicked as philosophy.
I marvel at the breadth of McEvilley’s generosity, his insistence on tracing thinking back and forth, our Europe, their Asia, their Europe, our Asia, their hands on the walls of our mind.
I suspect McEvilley knew there was no such thing as time, only space, space of cave, canvas, display case, window, śloka, stanza, epic. What is any epic poem but a refutation of time, the whole war in your hand (as in Homer or Quintus of Smyrna).
We say of someone who has died that he has gone away. The French say ‘disappeared.’ Proof enough of the poverty of time, the richness of space, into which such animals can prowl off.
The work of his that touched me most was the novels — are the books so telling because he was a writer, one of the few I ever met, who could talk about everything?
Context was complete in him. So everything could be said. Those years of saying everything else, art, culture, poiesis, and all the while he was making his masterpiece, The Shape of Ancient Thought, that showed so clearly that we get what we think from the same place we get language, the breath of the other.
In his last novel, The Arimaspia, someone starts us off by saying that out of the primordial soup of neurological perceptions and proprioceptions someone else is trying to shape and organize a bicameral brain. Our kind. Then trying to make some sense of what he’s made: the baby god of the self, confusing his own spasmodic gestures with the movements of the planets and other wanderers.
So art is otherwise. Art is thinking with the hands and so on.
McEvilley sat in his cave in the Himalayas a long time (I forgot to ask him if he was in the Terai or the high peaks), sat there thinking by himself.
When you think by yourself, everybody thinks with you.
East and west, thinking crowds in. It can dwindle into mere thoughts or stay alive as thinking. And writing was his way of getting thinking out of the body. It might be the only cure for thinking.
I'm pleased to pass along information about Bruce Andrews's 25-hour twitter project, April 1, 2014.
Bruce Andrews// 25 Hour Twitter sculpture & performance
Curated by Maria Chavez
On April 1st, 2014, Bruce Andrews and Maria Chavez will collaborate on a 25 hour performance piece on the social media platform, Twitter.
After experiencing an intermedia performance of Bruce Andrews late last year, Maria sensed a striking affinity between Bruce's text/ language work and Twitter's interactive focus: short modular posts, limited to a handful of words, with a stress on vivid conciseness, wide open to immediate responses and links to a variety of media.
The Bruce Andrews 25 hour piece is meant to use Twitter as sculptural documentation, becoming a real time archive of Bruce Andrews's current poetic writing and the responses it elicits in real time. Using a social media platform as an exhibition space, Maria Chavez will tweet a Bruce Andrews language text, every 5 minutes for 25 hours. That’s the 300 parts of a new poetic sequence, ‘Improper’, designed and edited for this occasion.
Each twitter post will also have a link leading to a Soundcloud web page made specifically for the piece, with audio recordings of Andrews, performing each tweeted ‘poem’ individually.
We're hoping for lots of interaction — retweets, liking and favoriting, parallel poetic comments, anecdotes, translations, mash-ups, sound files, photos, graphics, video: the internet sky's the limit.
Once the 25 hour time period has lapsed, the Twitter profile will sit on its own, with all of the added links and responses. (Not updating a social media platform like Twitter becomes a gesture towards the 'sculptural' element of the piece. An archive begins to take shape.)
BECOME A SPONSOR
We are asking individuals and organizations in the arts and in the literary world to become sponsors — to commit to sharing and retweeting and reposting about the project. It’s an opportunity to reach a larger audience and network for interaction.
Since the Twitter social media platform is free, your support as a sponsor requires only the ‘invisible’ currency that the Internet has created: better access to social media participation. This project wants to test out a new arrangement with artists and organizations working together, providing value and possibilities of interaction without cost.
To become a sponsor, all you have to do is reply to this email address [email@example.com] with the statement “I agree to the sponsorship terms and will participate in BRUCE ANDREWS 25 Hour Twitter Sculpture.” Make sure to include this letter in the body of the text.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A SPONSOR
In the next few weeks, each sponsor will receive an email from Maria Chavez outlining #hashtags and links to past work. During this time, the goal is to sketch out some background and share some history of Bruce Andrews’s text and performance works. The project will require no more than 3 social media posts and/or tweets per sponsor, a week prior to the event.
The day of the 25 hour performance will require no more than a few retweets and posts of the Twitter performance link, per sponsor. (Of course, we’d love for sponsors to do more announcing and retweeting — ‘more’ is always welcome.)
There are so many layers that can come into play when thinking about social media and its possible relationships to artists and organizations. With your participation, this project can help to push forward a new form of interacting and presenting when it comes to art and intermedia on the internet.
We look forward to your working with us, and signing up to follow us now on Twitter & Facebook.
“Years ago," writes Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein at LunaLuna on March 3, 2014, "when I would get overwhelmed, I used to call the Kelly Writers House and listen to a poem wherever I happened to be. They feature poets who have read for them, as well as their own faculty and students (the latter at a different extension)." The number is 215-746-POEM (215-746-7636). She also provides information for two other dial-a-poem services.
Miranda Pearson moved to Canada from England in 1991 and has made many important contributions to the literary scene in Vancouver, BC through her work as an editor, teacher, and poet. Pearson’s poetry has been published widely in literary journals and anthologies, including The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems about Facing Cancer and Forcefield: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia. The Aviary, Pearson’s second book of poetry and the winner of the Alfred G. Bailey Award in 2006, is an intriguing collection in its progression from shorter poems with more recognizable lines of verse to longer poems that dance to the very edges of the page with increasing finesse and innovation. Amid all the Dickensian by David Lean greyness in quizzical stills from Westerham to the West Coast of Canada, the might and charm of Pearson’s lyric personality is certainly a silver lining woven through each silence upon the page. As Robert Kroetsch indicates: “I delight in these poems. Their verbal strategies, their echoes and replies, their life-givingness.”
The Aviary by Miranda Pearson (Oolichan Press, 2006, Page 54)
You were not born for this. You have always
gone too far, stretched thin the miles
till nothing and no one could reach you.
This elongated winter has ground on
for too long, contentment has been refused
like food or the delicate wrought-iron chair
you prefer to leave tipped over, with its
small burden of snow.
For years you have been a child in the dark, searching
for clues, believing you were not wanted but
if you were good you might be safe. And the inverse of that.
Geomantic Riposte: Bananas
For the warbride, it must have been a shock from sea to sea
railing on through all that nothing and winter nothing Held
in her husband’s arms outside the CN station and snapped on
the front page next to that riveting piece WARBRIDE BABIES
FEAR BANANAS probably the conquest of the new world
was a bright pamphlet with sexy cartoons shiny bullets
about the finer points of plots that were not theirs to shill
in this limited-time offer subject to Depression and snow
A Dagenhamite Jew and an Irish cop is kind of cliché come
Christmas when “diversity” smashed a window to bring the
tree inside Yes they looked happy next to words and facts
checked, when The Vancouver Sun did its caryatids proud
The way the line never ends
When I was thinking about a motif or query that could help focus my Commentaries here at Jacket2, I kept returning to a central question about time. The way that we experience and imagine time is directly shaped by the quality of our attention and the terms of our engagement. There are many areas of interest through which I could engage this experience of time (film, for example), but while commentating here, I shall limit myself to the way that language operates in poetic contexts.
I decided to title my series TIME TEXT BODY NOISE because these elements are all centrally linked in how I am coming to understand the production of time as a poetic experience. Embodied realities inform how time proceeds for us when we encounter a work, but there are also historical and discursive habits that engineer time for us as readers, watchers, and listeners of poetry...the short breaks on the page as synaptic observations mirroring the spoken phrase in Creeley’s work, for example, or the way Myung Mi Kim’s lines begin to “cohere” like fallout or debris from a slow-moving explosion in what constitutes a different sort of “dailiness” in her book Commons.
One quick example of this that I'll use as a way of opening is from Truong Tran's 2004 collection, within the margin (Apogee). The title poem is composed almost entirely of one long line that becomes a horizon on the page. As a reader, I feel an interminabiilty in the line that suggests density. All events get thrown into this horizon together. The line reads and feels as if it will never end. This begs the question to me--what is complete? What has deeper "value" in this flattening, endless, running time?