Commentaries - November 2012

Notley's "In the Pines" set to music, and performed

Andrew Whiteman (Broken Social Scene, Apostle of Hustle) and Ariel Engle (Land of Kush) have formed a new group, called AroarA.  Andrew has long been a PoemTalk listener and serious user of PennSound recordings. He visited Kelly Writers House a few years ago, while in Philadelphia on tour — came by to meet us and get a feel for the actual place. A few weeks ago, Andrew returned to KWH with Ariel and performed songs from In The Pines by Alice Notley. They use all fourteen poems from Alice’s book and convert them (back) into faux folk song forms. Each poem became its own song.

In a 2011 interview (given in Miami),Whiteman was asked about the book of poetry he's been writing (how far along was he?), and here was his answer:

Not far. Broken Social Scene is still working a lot. Plus, I have a new band (hopefully playing on the 30th) called AroarA with Ariel Engle — she sings in Montreal with a band called Land of Kush. We are singing the poetry of Alice Notley's In the Pines in a bizarrely concocted version of faux folk. But I do keep working away at it, so hopefully it'll be online by the end of the year. It's called Tourism and its about being on the road. I might read a couple of things.

The very brief video clip here is from the Writers House performance:

Celebrating Marjorie Perloff

On November 10, 2012, there was a celebration at the Kelly Writers House in honor of Marjorie Perloff's induction into the American Philosophical Society. We timed the publication of a major Jacket2 feature on Perloff's life and work to coincide with the induction and the party. Here are a few photos taken that evening.

Sam Truitt: Two Improvisations from Vertical Elegies 6: Street Mete

tuesday, august 10, 1998

 the wells at the mouth of itza

 the sun is an orange chasm we are plunging     the jungle a flow a
single unifying key     continual earth crying storm     transcription
of lightening on water spout         a column of stone         we are ever
alone         the jungle's drooling thicket the edge of the clearing
left toilet paper purple flowers blue flowers crimson flowers and so i
have come to nothing banging a drum         beyond a road divides
underground between power failures jerking what the land goes up
from     there is a stone angle platforms the earth pushing upward
the land grizzled         attitude disappears         the sky disappears         only
the door into it remains         a phallus     someone is singing hacking
at earth with scythe         scale does not matter         we do not matter
time doesn't matter though all is drawn in it     though everything is
yellow flowers         faces shine inwardly building against them
silence is nothing         underground river         do not believe anything
you will die         it is these splinters 10 levels to the sky         where the
clouds lie         the stones are teeth           there are no people     no place
without a face         strangled in geometry         always the sheath         there
is a god at the top of the stairs         there is one level         the stones are
not teeth         this is not a mouth         this is not a world it has swallowed
dispersion of trees         a man sits alone under one     a thousand
butterflies fling themselves         one stone     one world     one block of
ice under the sun 4 interjects         like a knife         already nothing is left
to go inside and die inside         feather         ochre sky         truth         ready now
where few describe what is incised flame in debris         the
shattered abacus         here we felt         place your hand in your mouth
terraces of mass and moss nobody is home to tell us how are you
and not to know but be and not to answer the question we are not
enough to figure here fiercer than water         space that has no face to
say what we feel blood drying some     not to climb but to be climbed
take all the figures out         is this how it is really kind of crooked?
to leave the road in the ruin         you are here         fresh oaks grass roots
roofs         pillars         the pillars          years the years         what is above and
what is below         pillars trees time laid on its side         shadows         we
have left nothing         hide discus in diamond shape         a god sat here
if we had one thought they have left it     always the face in the sun
the disc of     human whistling in the jungle         terror is nothing         the
moment observes walls that fill the space between the columns
sky god emerging from the mouth of a serpent higher than they are
wide here that dug to live among columns the knotting of the ears
alongside the planet venus morning star an offering consisting of
the skull of a decapitated man found in the eastern stairwell     this
is what we found we found     we could do nothing     a hawk swings
above     square pyramid hiding circle of construction         there is a
circle outside         guts her whole         roots with no tree         body with no
heart         an iguana         rooms        square holes         breathe         jungle
peaked stone         chambers         passages         ways through         to bring it
the darkness through you in a chain of syllables          no place without
a face         nothing to go through         there is no way out         we must
remember who we     are there is no place to stand         jaguar behind
steel cage         cannot stay         we cannot leave

 march 1999

 disorder at the border

—for CH

 i.

amid the rain and sunshine the ghoul         bands of light and shadow
gather on the wall         considerably the man         come in out of a box
on window sill         but then to come on the hexagonal fort         wet
through the woman in steps taking many times to wipe our feet on
the ledge         we are only taking up what was left off         laboring up the
hill we have come to         note transitions, patterns of life between
neighborhoods         little overlaps start as a point          scroll of smoke
take your foot back and place it         forever pigeons wheel         short
breath long breath short         breath short breath short breath         bet
against the sunrise and you will lose          colder today shorter         like
crushed rock     and the palaces of eternal space     a shout heard in
the forest         can there be others or only one         position         periods of
ice periods of calm         the earth basks as we hasten through the
shower         worst of it over and above us         to take a small problem
and dissect it     coming to terms with polyp     red dye along an in-
seam     galaxies are being born     something in us     halting in the
stairwell to pick up a curious object     in the mirror     forward
skimming over the pool     holly began to climb out of her     his cock
rested at the lips of her cunt, touched     lifting the heavy metal once
it took 10 seconds to climb the steps of the courthouse     if you
remain here i will leave     cool dead woman on a subway train


ii.

11 times the wall         periods of funk periods of calm         wrapped in 
a seal skin down by the river         never look back or ahead         anywhere 
you can make a connection         return         something to be halting 
before         like a yo-yo         an afternoon of sunshine         elastic         stacks 
of cordwood against corrugated fence         dearest cheeky i lighted this 
whole matchbook for you slumped over the bar looking up the
bartender's nose         periods of ice periods of calm         the dream as i 
just dreamt         lept on a rock set out dancing         i just put what wasn't 
there there         and nothing is there again         etc.          but how to be 
really         like a golf pro         cool in winter to remember puddles         a 
series of mirrors         the man with his arms vs. his eyes         crossed 
in the garden waiting         letter knife inserted in rock         jesus christ! 
like some animal at the door     broken arm hanging down coughs 
the image that he'd seen was still in his mind         a series of mirrors 
a man walking the line     i can say anything now     appraise the 
value of things     of a sky     negate the image     let the kite go     the 
sky writing     remain     what     “veritable"     to see the writing 
before the fall     triangular message in the 8-ball floating     up like 
van gogh

 [NOTE. The work above is part of Truitt’s ongoing project, an exploration of voice & mind in process, walking through different landscapes with voice recorder & camera, to create something akin to what David Antin defined for us as “talk poems.” The effect & the source for the effect, however, are quite different here, emerging not from memory of time past but as an immediate response to the here-&-now of what surrounds the walking/talking poet/subject. That work, more complex than what can be shown here, appears in its latest manifestation in the publication by Station Hill of Barrytown, of which Craig Dworkin writes: “Truitt has produced a site-specific poetry triangulated between the transcript of improvised language, snapshots, and the tenuous, tremulous breath of the embodied speaker …” And Truitt himself: “Explore what the author made of Thoreau’s saying we must be born again to speak what we can write: what it means to fly into that storm a kite.” (J.R.)]

Ephemera

subscription insert (c. 1980)

PennSound just made these 1984 talks available, but scrounging around in old files, I found this and the other items here. By the way, I misidentified the series: I called it New York Talk (and then a later series St. Mark's Talks).

Ear Inn fliers for the first Ted Greenwald and I coordincated the series are here: pdf

Emotional deficit strikes Singapore

'Fun City' it ain't, survey claims

Singapore, November 2012, photo (c) John Tranter
Singapore, November 2012, photo (c) John Tranter

More about Singapore in South-east Asia, where I recently enjoyed the 2012 Singapore Writers Festival:

Thanks to Singapore’s strength in finance, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and other industries, its economy almost doubled in 10 years, making the country of 5.3 million people one of the world’s wealthiest, with per-capita gross domestic product of $33,530.

Fun City it ain’t. U.S. pollster Gallup conducts surveys in more than 140 countries to compare how people feel about their lives. Singapore ranks as the most emotionless society in the world, beating out Georgia, Lithuania, and Russia. Singaporeans are unlikely to report feelings of anger, physical pain, or other negative emotions. They’re not laughing a lot, either. “If you measure Singapore by the traditional indicators, they look like one of the best-run countries in the world,” says Jon Clifton, a Gallup partner in Washington. “But if you look at everything that makes life worth living, they’re not doing so well.” [from Bloomberg Businessweek]

The Australian newspaper went further:

Singapore's citizens have reacted to a survey depicting them as the world's least emotional people, many saying the competitive culture leaves them no room for feelings.

The Philippines came out as the most emotional society, with Latin American countries dominating the top of the list.

Singapore is one of the world's wealthiest and most stable societies, but at a cost.

"Where got time to laugh? Wake up, must fight for place on trains, lunch time, must fight for place to sit down and eat, go home, must fight for place on trains," one resident posted on Facebook. One commented on Yahoo! Singapore: "It's so stressful to be living in Singapore. Our mind is all about $$$ - how to survive, how to raise family, tax, etc. Nothing is free here."

Another said: "We have everything, and yet we have nothing. No one in this country actually lives life to the fullest; we merely exist. To our government, we are nothing more than a statistic."

Gallup said it surveyed about 1000 respondents in each country annually between 2009 and 2011, on whether they had the previous day experienced any of a range of emotions. Only 36 percent of Singaporeans said they felt any of them.