The nexus of modernist forms of performance/poetics has been around in the West at least since Dada, and non-Western and minoritarian poetry communities have cultivated traditions of performance poetry where the body/voice is rarely an afterthought. However, in many of American avant-garde traditions, notions of performativity tend to focus on the poetry reading as the primary site for performative innovation. Of course, given the historical emphasis on the musicality of poetry (sound, meter, aurality, etc.) an emphasis on the poet’s ‘voice’ as the instrument of performance (sounding aloud the music on the page, as it were) is understandable, but occludes other forms of performance and embodiment in relation to poetics.
[The following is text of a talk I gave early this fall at the Philadelphia conference on Psychedemia (C.S.)]
The point is that a thought — any thought — retards time: The infinitely rapid rush of transition — the white susurrus of the immediate movement from one instant to its successor. To be possessed of a thought — it is as if there were a station in time at which one could have a recess from its passage. One stops to consider. One places before oneself that which a thought contains in order to elaborate, reflect, develop, associate . . . while holding the position of the original thought. Time flies on, but the thought remains... Sort of.
Sometime around late August/early September, I had lunch with one of the young women writers I see often in New York. She told me she had recently been to a reading in Philadelphia where Holly Melgard had, as she described, “performed childbirth, not actual childbirth, obviously, but just like made noises like she was in labor, and it was really loud, and people were really upset by it.” This performance apparently caused a great reaction. A number of people were furious, some felt insulted; why would some young girl who has never had a baby do something like that? That's what it seemed to boil down to, according to my friend.
Well, only Holly Melgard can answer that. But let's not pretend the WHY question is really just about explanation. Discussion about a controversial choice made by an artist opens up opportunities for all kinds of analysis. And with the sharp increase in people choosing to not bear children, emotions on this issue seem to be running high in our culture. From what I'd heard, Melgard landed herself squarely in the middle of it when she performed in Philly.
I am delighted to be in touch with Carol Williams, a dear friend of Shizumi Konishi (Corman), Cid Corman’s wife of many years in Kyoto, Japan. Carol read J2’s recent feature on Corman with pleasure, and wrote me with further details about Shizumi and the Cormans’ life together in Japan. I urged her to let me publish a few of her notes, and they follow. — Al Filreis
I have just come across the article “Basho’s Pheasant” which I enjoyed immensely, but feel I should make the following corrections.
We lived just outside Kyoto for five years and became very close to Shizumi Konishi / Corman, shortly after Cid’s death, meeting her at least once a week, sharing meals and exploring places together both inside and outside the city. She also came to stay with us on several occasions such as American Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shizumi spoke of Cid, his family and her own at great length so I feeI I can safely say that she would be turning over in her grave at being described as a “native of Kyoto.” The Konishi family was from Kusatsu, a city outside Hiroshima, and moved to Kyoto shortly before the outbreak of W W II. As stated by George Evans, outsiders were treated 'politely' by those who were really from Kyoto, i.e. that their family had been there several hundred years.