Here I attempt to transcribe my initial impressions after listening once to the full album of Cecil Taylor’s recorded poem, Chinampas,and repeatedly (for perhaps 9 or 10 hearings) to the penultimate track, #6.56. I was drawn to the editors’ invitation to show the “under the hood” work that precedes a smoothly running piece of writing, their interest in how we deal with poems that exist only as sound texts, and their curiosity about what a first reading/hearing looks like.
As readers, writers, students, teachers, or scholars of poetry, many of us have 'first-encounter' stories — hearing Poet X read for the first time; copying neglected Caedmon LPs in the library basement; borrowing a thrice-dubbed cassette of the Black Box Magazine or New Wilderness Audiographics; exploring the personal collection of a generous friend, poet, or teacher. In the days before the web, one might infer the performativity of David Antin, Jerry Rothenberg, Charles Olson, Anne Waldman, or Amiri Baraka through books like Technicians of the Sacred or Open Poetry or envision the scene of a raucous Beat coffeehouse reading, poet jamming with a jazz quintet — but recordings could be scarce.
Last June I sat looking at this “sampler” by Elizabeth Parker in the textile archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I put “sampler” in quotes because I do not think this piece really is one and neither do the curators and archivists. What is this object? What might it say toward a textile poetics? Similarly, the stitched works of Arthur Bispo do Rosário are called “outsider art” yet they were exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
I do not want to comment on the high art/craft divide or museum and art world ethics/politics—though textiles are often in the middle of those debates. And I have written about Parker’s sampler before.
[The following is yet another excerpt from the forthcoming Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, edited with commentaries by myself & John Bloomberg-Rissman and published by Black Widow Press as the fifth volume of Poems for the Millennium. Earlier excerpts have been posted on Poems and Poetics over the last several years, referring to the work as “a mini-anthology in progress,” but the completed work will now appear as a 450 page assemblage to join the other volumes in the