For the Boston AWP in the Spring of 2013 (the only time I have attended the gathering), I presented an adaption of “Recantorium: A Bachelor Machine after Duchamp after Kafka,” the orignal of which was collected in Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essay and Inventions. David Caplan asked Adam Kirsch to join him in speak on “How Do We Know How Much is Too Much, Not Enough, or Too Little?”. We filled a hotel ballroom for the panel and there was a lively conversation after that delineated what I called the theological differences between Kirsch’s view on poetry and mine. AWP had contacted me in advance to get permission to record the event and, although a recording was made that day, AWP informed me a few months ago that the recording will not be made availalbe because they lost it. Here is the text of my AWP adaption of “Recantorium.”
[In the course of a recent conversation with George Quasha & Charles Stein, the idea of “crazy wisdom” came up, as it often does, & led to a consideration of how it might or might not relate to the construction of a book of outside/outsider poetry & its relation to the art brut discourse of an earlier modernism. The figure on whom we focused was the Tibetan/Buthanese lama & poet Drukpa Kunley (1455 - 1529
The man in the middle, in the book The Man in the Middle, published thirty years ago this year (1984—a year before I first met this man in the middle), is a guy who managed to find his way out of the tower of Babel, despite the Babel of languages, French, Arabic, Armenian, broken English, buzzing in his ears from his immigrant refugee-ish elders.
I became interested in joining SUNY-Albany’s doctoral program in English after participating in a fruitful collaborative computer-network writing session with the Awopbop Groupuscle — a collective comprised of students and faculty — on campus in late 1991. Nine months later I left glorious Santa Cruz to pursue graduate studies in Albany; a decision I far from regret. While the University at Albany had not the clout, prestige, and name-power that SUNY-Buffalo’s Poetics Program offered, its smaller scale, uninterrupted access to faculty, and emphasis on experiment and collaboration in a networked environment (before the birth of the Web) greatly appealed.
Through Katie Yates, a friend and collaborator from Naropa, I met two of Albany’s poetry professors, Don Byrd and Judith Johnson. Byrd, I eventually learned, was a heavyweight in Olsonian and Duncanian poetics; I knew Johnson had nurtured and inspired many writers, and admired the way she encouraged formation of performance groups (e.g., Snickering Witches, Architext) and was dedicated to providing publications for students to work on, such as The Little Magazine and 13th Moon.