Commentaries - June 2014

In audio practice XI

Media mapping performance 2014

Chris Funkhouser, Newark Improvisation Festival 2014; photo by Ben Polsky
Chris Funkhouser, Newark Improvisation Festival 2014; photo by Ben Polsky

In Spring 2014 NJIT Theatre Arts professor Louis Wells invited me, as a musician, to participate in the Newark Improvisation Festival (held May 10 in Bradley Hall, Rutgers University-Newark). My daughter Aleatory and I began taking guitar lessons together in early April, so I decided—with my new instrument—to prepare a digital poetry performance with synchronized sound and media (visual accompaniment with embedded textual arrangement). I would interconnect a series of pictures to the sound by way of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology, specifically Eugenio Tisselli’s software program MIDIPoet—my experiments with which I’ve documented in posts on Netartery and Authoring Software.

One woman's garbage ...

Taking out, taking in, the trash ...

Lara Durback, Greg Turner, Garbage Research 1: Hoarders and those resembling hoarders (Dusie/No No Press, 2011), unpriced — This little collage of found materials, original commentary, illustrations and sketches is part of Durback’s ethics of making, a commitment to recycling everything. To that extent, then, the subject of hoarding holds a mirror up to the found stuff that comprises this chapbook. The house of mirrors is a system of ecology here; feedback and loop are pertinent practices. And yet a large part of the commentary concerns the television program Hoarders, a show that focuses on those who withhold themselves and their “stuff” from circulation. Durback thus investigates the emotional toll — guilt and shame as effects of what we might be tempted to deem adolescent recalcitrance vis-à-vis obsolescence (a psychoanalytic perspective might see in hoarding arrested development at the anal stage….).

Yona Wallach (June 10, 1944 – September 29, 1985)

In the June 10 Haaritz, Linda Zisquit writes: "Had Yona Wallach survived the breast cancer that she chose not to treat – and that ultimately killed her in 1985 – she would have been 70 years old on June 10. Wallach, a controversial diva of Hebrew poetry, attracted censure, admirers and lovers for her eroticism, blasphemy and experimental Hebrew. She is best known for provocative works with fluid gender boundaries like “Jonathan,” from her first book, “Things” (1966); and “Tefillin,” from “Wild Light” (1983), in which a female speaker imagines donning phylacteries in a violent sexual context." (Zisquit translated Wild Light, a selection of Wallach's poems for Sheep Meadow Press published in 1997.) (Tefillin are used in Jewish prayer: two small leather cases containing portions of the Torah , which are wrapped with straps on the forehead and the left arm.)

David Antin: 10 for George

[The following is a new work by David Antin, commissioned for The Oppens Remembered: Poetry, Politics, Friendship, edited by Rachel Blau Du Plessis & scheduled for publication in a new & important series from University of New Mexico Press.  The over-all series, titled Recencies: Research and Recovery in Twentieth-Century American Poetics & under the directorship of Matthew Hofer, began last year with the publication of the collected letters of Amiri Baraka and Ed Dorn & promises more contemporary & modernist work in & out of series.  David Antin’s selected talk poems, How Long Is the Present, edited by Steve Fredman, will also be published by New Mexico, scheduled for later this year.]



A young man has written a slim book of poems. He has sent the manuscript to an older poet whose poetry he admires. The older poet approves of the work and allows his approval to be printed in the book as a kind of preface. His name is Ezra Pound.  

New dark age

(With apologies to Donald Revell)

A patch of sky
somewhere in southern Spain...

Ed Roberson, The New Wing of the Labyrinth (Singing Horse Press, 2009), 83 pp. $15.00—The last section — part 4 — of Part One is titled “at the ends of the earth.” I can’t help but think of Roberson’s recent, and magnificent, book, To See the Earth Before the End of the World. The reversal of earth and world in these titles portending absolute limits is, I think, one way to think about the devastation of life after (near) death that suffuses this book from five years ago. Depression, mania and suicide occupy the thoughts of Roberson’s narrators in what has to the darkest book of his I’ve read. As the title poem and cover photo suggests, this is a record of failure, a grounded Daedalus, a rescued Icarus, as noted in, for example, “Deep Song”: “the body left / shocked    surprise of / weakened    of part of / of different    not all / alive    but left.” These poems have the somber resignation and world weariness that Tennyson captures in his bleak “Ulysses.” Roberson’s narrators are no “idle” kings but their idylls arrest themselves in the paralysis of utter speech, mere talk.