The Greek thinkers speak of σωζειν τα φαινοηενος — “to save what appears”; that means to conserve and to preserve in unconcealedness what shows itself as what shows itself and in the way it shows itself — that is against the withdrawing into concealment and distortion. He who in this fashion saves (conserves and preserves) the appearing, saves it into the unconcealed, is himself saved for the unconcealed and conserved for it.
— Heidegger, Parmenides
grey whiteness of cloud against shadowed
top of ridge, motion of leaves on branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel
this object in this appears,
which was arrangement
of “flatness” comparable to
color, “subject,” one
cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
wingspan of gull gliding toward horizon
The words are a writing down of the ‘things’ the person is seeing looking out at them ‘out there’ (in the world). And the ‘things’ (which are ‘events’/‘actions’) are taking place in a real present of time going on, from one moment to the next to the next. … The words are not those ‘things’ (‘events’/‘actions’) per se, are ‘equivalents’ (in their own time and place, i.e., on the stage of the page) of those things (actions/‘events’) — “grey whiteness of cloud … shadowed top of ridge, motion of leaves on branch … sound of waves in channel” — going on ‘out there’ (offstage, in the world). As phenomena, those things change from one moment to the next, one day to the next, as do the words that are ‘writing’ them into the present (presence) of the page (as site or stage of such writing). And so on 12.17, “grey whiteness of cloud against shadowed / top of ridge, motion of leaves on branch” becomes “grey whiteness of fog against invisible / ridge, green shapes of leaves on branch” on 12.18; and on 12.19 things change (and also do not) again, to “grey whiteness of fog against invisible ridge, sparrow perched on redwood fence.” The “clouds” and “ridge” are there in the distance, the “leaves on branch” and “sparrow … on fence” in the foreground — observer’s eye moving in such a perception of ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’) in world, reader’s eye from word to word also moving. The words are an uncovering of what is ‘there’ in the world, visible but also “concealed” (from us, as viewers), in Heidegger’s sense that the truth of being in the world is also concealed, and that the poem can bring things forward to disclose themselves, as presence, in the appearance of their unconcealment on the page/stage (i.e., the site of their verbal ‘action,’ which ‘shows’ us (in words) that offstage action of those things/events taking place (‘happening’) ‘out there’ (in the world).
What follows those first three lines (i.e., two indented pairs of lines also set in Courier — an ‘equivalent spacing’ font/typeface in which each letter, space, and mark of punctuation has the same width; the first line in each of these couplets six spaces longer than the second; one comma in the first pair of lines, two in the second) shifts ‘things’ a bit:
this object in this appears,
which was arrangement
of “flatness” comparable to
color, “subject,” one
Does “this object” ‘point to’ what preceded it (a “sound of waves in channel”), as it seems to? Does the second “this” in the line ‘point to’ the line itself (i.e., to the prepositional phrase “in this appears”), where that “sound of waves” and, before that, the “motion of leaves on branch” and “grey whiteness of cloud against shadowed / top of ridge” also ‘appear,’ or seem to, as unconcealed ‘things’ (’action’/‘events’) now taking place as presences in the words, as it would seem? Are such words an “arrangement” of such ‘things’ (‘action’/‘events’) as words, whose “flatness” (i.e., on the page) is somehow (by what Prospero called “this rough magic”) made (mysteriously, certainly) “comparable [like, the ‘enactment’ or ‘performance’ of] to” such ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’) as it also would seem? And does “color” (in the following line) ‘point to’ (or rather, ‘name’) what these words are here ‘talking about’ as words (i.e., their material ‘focus’ or ‘subject matter,’ so to speak); and “one” (perhaps? floating there as it is at the end of the line) ‘point to’ what’s coming next, in the final couplet, as it also indeed seems to —
cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
wingspan of gull gliding toward horizon
— the words in those two lines (like the words in the first three lines) again also ‘naming’/‘pointing to’/‘performing’/‘enacting’/‘being’ those actual ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’) ‘out there’ in that (offstage) world, whose ‘appearance’ here in words discloses them, makes them present (gives them ‘presence’ here on the page/stage), brings them into what Heidegger called “unconcealedness”?
But this poem (“12.17” so called) is only one poem/page of many — its ‘title’ pointing to the day it was written, 12.17.10, 12 days ago (I’m writing this on 12.28.10 having written a new poem/page, earlier this morning, “12.28,” which looks exactly like this one: one 3-line stanza with two commas followed by two indented 2-line stanzas [one with a comma, the other with two commas] followed by a final two-line stanza with one comma) — in a work that began on April 10, 2008 (with “4.10”) and will continue to January 4, 2011 (“1.4”): 1,000 pages, written in 1,000 consecutive days (“12.17” is page 982 — a work called Temporality. And before Temporality, two previous 1,000-page works: Remarks on Color / Sound (written from July 15, 2005, to April 9, 2010), and HUMAN / NATURE (written from October 19, 2002, to July 14, 2005); and, before these, three earlier 474-page works: CLOUD / RIDGE (written from July 2, 2001, to October 18, 2002), REAL (from March 17, 2000, to July 1, 2001), Portraits & Repetition (from February 9, 1998, to May 28, 1999) — some 4,422 pages of ‘days’ — ‘days’ written in consecutive days — all of them sort of doing the same thing; i.e., “seeing, hearing, wording,” as Norman Fischer has written, keeping track (in words) of ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’) ‘out there’ in the world …
Every page in each of these works has its own physical ‘shape,’ so to speak, so that when one turns the pages one sees, or seems to, the same thing: in Portraits & Repetition, five 2-line couplets, the first line always three ‘characters’ — letters, spaces, marks of punctuation — longer than the second, somewhere in every pair of lines one comma plus one word in parenthesis; and in REAL, a 17-line prose poem (or so it seems, except that the line breaks are intentional, the right margin of each page having or making a particular ‘shape’), each with five sentences and a comma in each sentence; and in CLOUD / RIDGE (its title ‘shows’ the cloud above the ridge), each page with five stanzas (with one comma in each), each right margin on every page also creating a visual ‘shape’ on the page (which ‘pictures’ the acoustic shape of its sound in the air); and in HUMAN / NATURE, four stanzas (with two commas in the first and third, one in the second and fourth), ten lines on each page (each indented line ‘counted’ as part of the line before it, each one moved three spaces to the right of that preceding line); and in Remarks on Color / Sound, nine lines in four stanzas (with two commas in the first and third, two in the second and fourth), the two middle/‘inner’ 2-line stanzas indented six spaces to the right of the two ‘outer’ ones, which ‘frame’ them, one with three lines and the other with two; and in Temporality, four stanzas of nine lines (the same pattern of 3, 2, 2, 2, the two ‘inside’ ones again indented six spaces to the right), two commas in the first and third stanzas, two in the second and fourth, lengths of lines somewhat shorter than in Remarks on Color / Sound, as for example in “12.17” above.
But so much for what one sees when one reads these ‘shaped’ words on a page, seeing/hearing/wording ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’). What’s the point? Why do it? Why every day? Why the same thing every day (day after day after day)? Is each day (poem/page) the same? Is any day (poem/page) better than any other? How can you know? How can someone read it — who will read it for that matter (or for that matter publish it)? How will they read it, or think about it, or ever remember it? What will it mean (to readers who read it, think about it, remember it)? And beyond questions such as these, these further questions (for writer as well as reader): what happens when you look at (or listen to) something, day after day after day, over and over again? What do you actually see, or hear? And how can you ‘say’ it (i.e., write down what it is that you see or hear)? What is the relation between the words you use and the actual ‘things’ (‘actions’/‘events’) you see or hear? Is there a relation between the name of something and that thing, as Plato in the Cratylus seemed to propose: “things have names by nature”; “the name is to be like the thing”; “names rightly given are the likenesses … of the things which they name.” That is to say, can there be words “that [make] whatever I [look] at look like itself … words that make what I [look] at be itself” (my italics), as Gertrude Stein writes in “Portraits and Repetition”? And is it possible that those words are not, as Stein discovered, “words that [have] in them any quality of description” but rather are themselves those things — made (by naming) to “be” themselves as real/actual ‘things’ (presences) on the page that is the stage of their being (by being ‘shown’) ‘here’ (present)/(unconcealed)?
Though questions such as these might not be easily answered, they seem to be the questions raised by these long ‘serial’ works I’ve been writing these days (all these years it seems), works that go on and on and on, doing the same kinds of things again and again: noting ‘matters of fact’; turning, as Theseus says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “the forms of things … to shapes,” giving them “a local habitation and a name”; trying simply to ‘keep track’ of what’s going on from one (present) moment to the next, one day to the next — an ‘impossible task’ as it turns out— looking at, and listening to, things “without many preconceptions as to what that thing is,” as Norman Fischer again writes, wondering as Stein did in her “Portraits,”
just what one saw when one looked at anything really looked at anything. Did one see sound, and what was the relation between color and sound, did it make itself by description by a word that meant it or did it make itself by a word in itself.
And while other poets have turned their attention to writing “the long poem” (Whitman, Pound, Williams, Stevens, Zukofsky, and Olson “to name but a few”) no one (it seems) has taken it to quite such an extreme measure. Perhaps with good reason (!) for the reasons named in the preceding paragraph. But there are nonetheless some ‘contemporaries’ whose work I would point to as being somewhat in the same direction as mine: Larry Eigner, whose Collected Poems, more than 3,070 of them, in four volumes, has just been published by Stanford University Press; Ron Silliman, whose compendious The Alphabet gathers twenty-six smaller books (one for each letter of the alphabet, Albany through Zyxt) into one volume (1,062 pages); all of Leslie Scalapino’s life work — poetry, plays, fiction, and critical writings, including her just now published The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, which as Norman Fischer has said to me “is like seven novels, with every novel unfolding in every sentence”; and Robert Grenier, whose poems (‘hand drawn’ in ‘notebooks’) are virtually unpublished, at least not as printed books. What might one say about such ‘on-going’ (and, in Grenier’s case, impossible to publish?) work? Perhaps in the ‘glimpse’ that follows ‘here’ is the beginning of an answer to that question …
Bob Grenier, my good friend and neighbor here in Bolinas, started writing his ‘drawn poems’ in 1989, shortly after moving here. To date, he has completed some 130-plus ‘notebooks’ of these poems, each notebook measuring 8 3/4” high by 5 3/4” wide, each with 110 pages, which comes to a total of some 14,300-plus pages of ‘drawn poems’ by my count. The poems are written in four colors of ink, Faber-Castelli “uni-ball” black, blue, green, and red, impossibly expensive to print (in books) but now variously ‘available’ — both online and at the Greene Naftali Gallery in New York, which has sixty-four Giclée prints made from drawing poem images “from the ‘agricultural year’ 2003–2005 in Bolinas, California (rainy season to rainy season — a sort of Shepherd’s Calendar without shepherd or sheep) called 64” (see here for “rough [as Bob calls them] translations of the texts” of these poems). Here are “rough translations” of three of Grenier’s poems from “64”:
RED W [green/blue]
Note the presence of the afternoon sun shining on the wall of the house, which ‘[re]appears’ in such letters drawn in the poem that ‘says’ that light, lets it ‘come forth’ into being; how the words gather their authority from the things they name; how ‘to say’ it (what Heidegger in Early Greek Thinking calls “λεγειν,” “a letting-lie-together before which gathers and is gathered”) “names the inexhaustible mystery that the speaking of language comes to pass from the unconcealment of what is present, and is determined according to the lying-before of what is present as the letting-lie-together-before.” …
Note how letters line up on the lines like jars of apricot jam on a shelf: the A and P and lower case r and dot over the i in the first line look like real jars of jam; so do the C and O in the second line; so also the J and the A and the first loop of the M in the third line, and the J and R at the end — which isn’t to say that a word-made-of-letters is ‘the same’ as what it ‘means’ – since it is utterly ‘unlike’ whatever it ‘points to’ or ‘names’ – but that it ‘corresponds to,’ or is ‘in accord with’ or ‘in the company of,’ everything else that’s going on ‘out there’; that it occurs with the thing, ‘vibrates’ together with it, which is very mysterious. … Word-conserving/preserving, “language” (Grenier writes) “like jam when it is being made, or cookies when they are being made, a gathering-of-‘ingredients’ (letters, e.g., letters into words) w[hi]ch allows what is to come into being, as ‘itself’”; after-the-fact of the occasion of the writing, what is said is conserved in ‘written form’ to be read.”
And here are three more from the June 2010 notebook:
FOX W [red]
Note the numbers: first one fox (the mother) then four more (her “kits”), then “FOX” singular (rather than plural), like the first one: 3 + 1 letters in that line ‘equal to’ Arabic numeral “4” in next line. …
Again note the numbers (counting): first one bat then another — which disappears out of sight off the page to the left (vertical stroke of the B in the last line missing); a 1, 3, 1, 3 series of letters per line; one A in each line, two B’s and two T’s in lines 2 and 4. …
I AM [black]
A poem for Leslie Scalapino (who is no longer here), which echoes Creeley in Pieces (also not here): “Here I / am. There / you are” — without enough space for “are” after the “you” in the last line (since Leslie also is not here). All of these poems are elegiac, in that time is passing in them (is registered in this writing of the pen moving across the page), these marks made by “this living hand” of Robert Grenier that bear witness and testify to the fact of being alive.
And here finally is one of the poems from Penn Scans:
Note how the words seem to bring forth the action: how, as Grenier writes, “Whether drawing poem texts like ‘the one about crickets’ (no. 39) accomplish (or help accomplish) whatever it is they are otherwise ‘saying’ — so that seeing/reading ‘crickets’ a reader may hear ‘crickets themselves’ (& even be able to literally go (‘by ear’) ‘across/the/road’?) — remains an animating question.” …
The examples that follow illustrate the practice described above. For more poems by Stephen Ratcliffe in this feature, click here.
From Portraits & Repetition
approach of a bird's sound before the observer sees it (out)
window on left, profile of figure standing in front of it
vertical edge beside (angle) of plane, appearance of subject
whose following perception includes the feeling inside it
sunlight in relation to thinking of the surface of the ridge
(see) adjacent to which it isn't an actual event, example
followed by object on left, the way the person's hand passes
across face in mirror leaning against the wall (imagined)
(not) like invisible action before it becomes the experience
inside thought, distance between stem in glass and viewer
Sunlit surface of an orange globe on white shelf
reflected in the window opposite it, small dark
bird crossing the pale blue of sky in vertical
window on left. Pregnant woman in a dark blue
sweater who watches child jump naked into pool
at edge of brick plane, woman whose hair falls
across right cheek calling museum in Amsterdam
"the mother lode." Ophelia pulling a necklace
on a string from bosom of white dress, wanting
to give it back to Hamlet who doesn't want it
back. Silver-haired man in green sweatshirt
whose teenage boy tapes ounce of pot to his
groin before boarding plane for Mexico, gets up
each morning to a vial of insulin without which
he will die. An inverted triangle of sunlight
slanting into canyon below top of ridge, bird
passing across low grey cloud cover above it.
From CLOUD / RIDGE
upturned curve of pine branch against first grey
light in right corner, chorus of birds calling
from plane of field below it
woman in dark
green shirt recalling her parents not letting
her leave Beirut to see her boyfriend, locking
herself in her room all day to read Dr. Zhivago
woman in blue V-neck sweater asking “what would
Mrs. Ramsay say,” claiming she had been in love
Mr. Tansley thinking “if only he could
be alone in his room,” noting that “he was not
going to be made a fool of by women”
circle of sun’s reflection in the motionless
grey green plane on the left, bits of white
shells scattered over sand bottom below it
From HUMAN / NATURE
golden-crowned sparrow perched on dried hemlock stalk against
grey white sky in right foreground, two red finches on feeder
across from it, sound of waves in channel
man on right
noting “a streak of pure paint might give a sense of red,
its glow would be cross-hatched with green"
from him adding “I have limited myself to the use of black
and white, as being the most disparate colors, red the color
most opposed to both of them”
sunlit sandstone-colored point
against pale blue whiteness of sky in upper left corner, white
edge of blue green wave braking into foreground across from it
From Remarks on Color / Sound
silhouette of hummingbird perched on yellow and green tip
of branch against grey whiteness of cloud, golden-crowned
sparrow calling oh dear me, sound of jet passing overhead
the eye moves from one to the next,
measuring each one’s effect
these perspectives, each one of us,
cannot be simply juxtaposed
grey whiteness of cloud on horizon to the left of point,
shadowed green canyon of tree-lined ridge above channel
9. Larry Eigner, The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, ed. Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010); Ron Silliman, The Alphabet (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2008); Robert Grenier, “Penn Scans Note,” “64 / Robert Grenier Drawing Poem Prints,” “‘Rough’ Translations from Drawing/Poems, 2004,” and “Notebook,” June 2010.
A report from the Marin Headlands
Maybe the mountain lion droppings on the hiking trails or the rocky splash shorelines make the Marin Headlands seem remote, but geographically, this place is a cuticle on the Golden Gate Bridge’s big toe. And here you can find Headlands Center for the Arts, which hosted Remarks on Color / Sound, in which Stephen Ratcliffe and composer Edward Schocker performed Ratcliffe’s 1,000-page poem on May 16, 2010, in the Gym Studio at the Center. Bay Areans who missed the performance could use the remote location as an excuse, but certainly not the time of the performance. Locals had fourteen hours to stop by, sunrise to sunset. That’s like seven poetry readings combined.
As press for the event describes it: “The reading of the poem will accompany sound, light, movement, and sculpture in an open dialogue with the architecture of the surrounding space.” The philosophically vague “space” mentioned is a converted military complex in a recess of eucalyptus and concrete bunkers, most nooks replete with ghost stories. Remarks on Color / Sound was in the gym, where national guardsmen once played basketball while on break from protecting the coast, circa first half of the twentieth century. Ratcliffe was stationed within, at a simple wooden desk.
The arts center is not exactly squatting in a decommissioned military base. The nonprofit is a breathing organism of Golden Gate National Park, which was incorporated in the early 1980s when local artists traded renovations for studio time and then mustered up a board of directors. It functions as a residency for local, national, and international artists, writers, and musicians, like Schocker, who worked in the gym several days a week for six months in 2010. In Remarks on Color / Sound, Ratcliffe read the 1,000 pages he wrote in 1,000 consecutive days beginning October 27, 2005, and finishing April 9, 2008. I sat through two months of the poem, at 11 a.m. and then again at 4 p.m. Knowing that the reading and music would last fourteen hours mediated my interaction as fragments not entirely lost from the shape of the whole. I was following a trace of writing from several years ago deposited into the gym. It was a crazy clock of invisible hand-me-downs cast on mountains staring at me through tall windows.
The poetry at this performance came to represent a place to enter and leave. Unless you were there at the very end, you had to leave the poetry, as opposed to the reading being announced as over. Schmoozing was at an all-time low. A fellow audience member, while in the made-from-scratch-all-organic mess hall, mentioned to me the off-putting hierarchy of a durational performance. How fourteen hours may be more intimidating than inviting, making the audience feel inadequate or left out, and as a result, noncommittal. Remarks on Color / Sound did not pander to the audience used to a time of trends known as participation. The performers took eating and resting breaks to stay afloat; some wore their pajamas. I saw Schocker at one point roaming away from the gym with a hot water kettle, the plug scraping along the ground.
Stephen Ratcliffe’s reading table.
As much as there was music and poetry coinciding, accompanying each other, a report on the event requires first some attention to Ratcliffe, the definitive star of the piece, with the most deadpan aria I’ve ever heard. This was a performance of active and accidental editing. It brought up the question of how is it as much the reader entering a long piece and leaving it as the writer selecting the best parts to read out loud. At times, there was no audience in the Gym Studio. Who was listening to this poetry then?
The audience for Ratcliffe’s work encompasses the insistent generalities of landscape being written of and the space the work is read in. Ratcliffe’s formal consistency — a daily production of poems — lives just up the coastal trail from Headlands, in a studio with a breathtaking view. Remarks on Color / Sound summoned spirits who refuse selection from a poetry of practice and then summoned spirits who denounce the conundrum of editing. Can editing be as rhythmic as waking up, as routine as taking in the scene and air immediately around you? And the relief, what’s edited out, is the time you are not inside a poem’s space? In other words, how do you edit Stephen Ratcliffe? You walk in and out.
Ratcliffe describes the form of Remarks on Color / Sound’s 1,000 poems as “ALL in the same ‘shape’ on the page, a three-line first stanza (with 2 commas), followed by two 2-line middle stanzas (the first with 1 comma, the second with 2 commas), followed by a final 2-line stanza (with 1 comma at the end of the first line).” And every poem is set in Courier font, “so there’s a physical shape to the right margin.” This sounds like a choreographer talking to a group of dancers. Ratcliffe’s form plays with notions of a performative score. And then the pages in Remarks on Color / Sound take on a conceptual sculpture, with all the pages looking similar from a few steps back. Wait: is this art or poetry? Wait, I hate that question. Let’s read the stack of 1,000 pages as the contours of a rectangular sculpture. But the consistency Ratcliffe yields does not equal or result in a reading of ambience at all. There are sharp incisions embedded here, in terms of content, especially with Ratcliffe’s criticality on his language product: “I do not visualize anything, all these landscapes are already there.”
silver circle of sunlight in grey whiteness of sky,
shadowed plane of sandstone-colored wall in lower
left foreground, sound of cars passing in street
when eye wanders away from the edge,
white crops the image
in this way, horizon of possible,
though each appearance
edge of sandstone wall against grey-white sky,
shadowed green leaves of trees across from it
Left to right: Zachary Watkins on electronics, Suki O’Kane on drums, and Stephen Ratcliffe.
It would be unfaithful to a full report not to start talking about the soundscape. Ratcliffe’s reading was embedded within the work of four musicians led by Schocker. A partial inventory of their instruments is as follows: wood flutes, enlarged glass vases, pots, rice, grills, walkie-talkies, speakers, a mixer, and a bass guitar. The musicians worked with their toy store at a rotation of fresh liberty to build accompaniments to solo breakdowns. The music’s randomness was not nearly as calculated as a Merce Cunningham score. It seemed the musicians were responding to what Ratcliffe was reading. The arrangement of the musicians on the basketball court was orbital to Stephen’s desk, but everyone seemed to be stuck in a visible earth tilt: backs were turned to each other like it was gravity’s fault, not bad manners. Perhaps these postures brought deviance to the switchboard: sometimes Ratcliffe’s words were not audible, but other times his voice was adjusted to maximum fuzz blast. I even had the feeling that the musicians were spiteful of the 1,000 poems’ calm constancy.
I’m feeling stuck on the words collaboration and interdisciplinary in describing my experience at this performance. This naming of the performance feels strained, like a tortoise and hare roleplay might, which brings up the risk of competition among mediums when they share the stage. The musicians achieved the problematics of democratizing instrumental sound with language sound by demonstrating that not all voices are equal. This echoed the experience of reading such a long work as Ratcliffe’s, how parts get lost and pieces get held onto. You’re given the illusion of control in a very large system.
Stephen announced each page with an easy-to-decode numbers scheme of month, then day. I heard no years. The date announcement is a pause where your own brood of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays latch on to the date. Personal connotations bump into Ratcliffe’s subject, the three-dimensional audiovisual from a window. A resonating moment was the line “sound of jet passing overhead,” repeated and landing on the aftermath of September 11. This is not a timeless poetry. The date of the poem makes listening to the poem uncomfortable; it is unafraid of what the fact of time does to us.
Instrumentals at the Marin Headlands reading.
Then there is the page: something of a technical necessity at a durational reading. Don’t even try to memorize this or look up at the audience to connect. The poem in Remarks on Color / Sound is located in the act of reading the 1,000 pages. I locate the poem as a region on a mind map where poems are not singular places. Which makes Ratcliffe’s poetry, in refusing a selection, insist on the performance as its wedding night. Remarks on Color / Sound becomes a sort of did you hear about this event poem as opposed to a did you hear it’s very difficult to fund the printing of a book of 1,000 pages poem. And this performance becomes a legend to drag your cursor over.
But what about the power of institutions to promote the documentation of performance art so that it lives past the sparsely attended event? We depend on documentation just as we depend on performance art to do the unusual. I don’t think that makes undocumented work a spectacle. And I don’t think it makes documentation of an event any less complicated. On September 25, 2010, the Marina Abramović Institute West in San Francisco hosted 4 Better, 4 Worse, by Lital Dotan and Eyal Perry, an homage to Abramović’s 1974 performance Rhythm 0. Rhythm 0 was the piece where Abramović got a gun pointed at her head. She put the gun on a table with seventy-one other objects the public was asked to use on her.
Back to reality: at the famous performance artist’s nonprofit, the stage was a woman on an air mattress, plus anything the step-right-up audience felt like doing to her with household objects mounted on a wall nearby. A cluster of people behind two video cameras on tripods built the mirroring stage. This wall-o-documentation made me feel like a dog with an invisible fence collar zapping. Then there was the official photographer who looked like he was on the court at Madison Square Garden and then there were all the people the official photographer told me he couldn’t, or didn’t care enough to, stop from taking pictures of the performance. And this was an homage to canonically spectacular performance art, the type where you wait for blood.
This is all to say, the spectacular, or the thrill, in Remarks on Color / Sound lay in its challenge not only to the page, but also to the small space of a thirty-minute selection we tend to hear at the traditional poetry reading. Ratcliffe and Schocker have worked together before. Remarks continued “investigations into the integration/interaction of human beings and natural landscape that began in their 2008 performance, human/nature, at UC Davis,” described as “the relation between things seen/observed in the natural world and how such things might be made (transcribed/transformed) as works of written (or visual) art.”
In human/nature, Ratcliffe and Schocker underestimated the time it would take to get through the work by five hours. Ratcliffe recalls, “Sometime in the middle of the night I realized I was the only person in the room who was still awake.” And yet, how is that different than a poet’s potentially weak moment of unconnectivity with the words on the page to the people in the folding chairs at a poetry reading? Stephen Ratcliffe’s durational poetry readings are not necessarily radical but real to his work. And what would poetry readings start to look like if the formal aspects of performance started to speak this fluently to what the work wants and needs?
One thousand pages of reading at the Marin Headlands.
Stephen Ratcliffe's REAL
Thinking about the practice of Stephen Ratcliffe’s REAL begins with wondering about the practice and duration of reading itself. How to stay alongside — faithful to — a writing that over hundreds of pages meticulously records its daily meeting with a continuously framed and framing world. Does reading accompany the quiet imperative of this attention, its repetition and observance, or find another route? Is it a process to inhabit slowly, keeping pace a day at a time, and how would that be possible, in translating what it makes present into an elsewhere? How and where does REAL take place?
REAL is one phase of a continuous project of recording, which most recently can be seen on Ratcliffe’s blog, where the sequence Temporality is unfolding daily. Like this work, and other companion sequences, from Portraits & Repetition CLOUD / RIDGE (available in its entirety on UbuWeb and also forthcoming in print fall 2011 from BlazeVOX), and from the thousand-page HUMAN / NATURE (online at Editions Eclipse, making a kind of triptych with the equally extensive Remarks on Color / Sound and Temporality, which can also be found there), to REAL discovers its own material shape and organization as document. The documenting of this experienced world has extent and duration, like the living of a life, but it is also a registering of an unrolling enquiry into its abstracting translation by language and aesthetic form, via curious crossings, small and sometimes miraculous detonations of thought and reflection.
Each of these works has its own procedurally repeated shape on the page, often a framing observation of the early morning in Bolinas, California, Ratcliffe’s home: the ridge, sea, light, sounds of particular birds, occasional movement of creatures, cars, and planes, all surrounding or embedding, always in a repeated form, a fragment of reading, quotation, or moment of reflection on the practice of painting, music, film. These works are all in different ways founded on a dedicated enquiry into repetition and time, repetition understood as a Steinian ‘insistence,’ perhaps, which works to capture “that present ‘something,’” as Ratcliffe discusses in his reading of her. At the same time, there is a phenomenological pitch towards the world which at times suggest a Thoreau-like trust in that point of awakening, the opening of a field of perception which is both recognisable — it is the same ridge, the seeming same palette of movement, color, sound — and yet never the same, always present to rediscovery in new perceptual vectors as encounter. In what follows I want to explore aspects of what might be seen as the choreography of this process, and then how REAL in particular (as an intimation of what I see as a noir version of this) might appear to begin to test it.
Often in the philosophical and reflective fragments — portraits? — of these epic prose-poem sequences it’s not clear who is speaking, if evidently voiced. Or where the found material might come from. Texts about the Red Army. An ekphrastic invocation of Cézanne. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Media moments, reportage: “Wolfowitz recalling ‘how terrible it was for the Poles during the uprising, three thousand killed every day, a World Trade Center every day’” (HUMAN / NATURE 11.14, 758). In all cases the sustained and meditative practice of encounter promises the surprise of continual and sensed counterpoint. Like that instance in Remarks on Color / Sound, when the “sound of owl hooing through grey whiteness of fog” gives way to another gestics:
black-capped chickadee landing on shadowed tobacco plant branch
in right foreground, quail walking across wet brick red plane
below it, sound of owl hooing through grey whiteness of fog
speaking of a melon, one uses both hands to express it
by a gesture
hoot de-onomatopoeticizes, hoo re-onomatopoeticizes,
which is ugly but moves like a tango
grey white fog across top of sandstone-colored point, oval
grey green mouth of wave breaking into foreground below it (5)
If there is a process of stepping through this writing, it works to an acoustic rhythm, an often visible patterning of sound. Or to the sometimes awkwardness — ‘ugly’ — recursive tango of a moment of thought. You think about “the what of the line,” as Ratcliffe terms it in his wonderful Listening to Reading, through multiple kinds of texture and movement, the gestics of its deterritorializations and reterritorializations. The turn of a comma. There’s a kind of ghost freight in this instance, too: hearing in the “wet brick red plane” both a Poundian imagism of the “wet, black bough” and an echo of Williams’s red wheelbarrow, perhaps. But this is a spatializing quality of a different order. The quail is in its continuous present “walking across … a plane” — an abstracted surface crossed in curious mimicry of what the eye does in walking along a line in the act of reading. I found myself wondering whether the quail was moving against, “across” the grain of that act. “Wet brick red plane” suggests both a paralleling of empirical world and its aesthetic translation, and at once its subsumption by the painterly, in which the plane is wet and brick-red, the quail in its quail-ness finding its place in other dimensions.
Attempting to describe the quiddity of the object in time is a kind of ‘anchoring,’ as Merleau-Ponty puts it in his essay “Temporality”: “I do not so much perceive objects as reckon with an environment.” That environment might be understood here in geometric terms, recorded as a series of surfaces — planes — and arguably also as the inhabiting of shreds of spacetime. The natural world of a Bolinas morning is there in itself, but also the occasion for a kind of seizing. The body, “speaking of a melon,” works to capture its dimensions in both hands, but it cuts into the frame at this moment as a phrase as well as an imagined object. The conjured-up melon might seem tangible but its introduction through a montage cut has a spatial and indeterminate quality. There is no melon. No one is speaking of a melon. Or, “speaking of a melon” might seem at the same time a declaration of a universal or habitual case, as if it might become a thing, a gerund. Or again, “speaking of a melon” might be an interruption, as if a conversation has not been heard, and we are suddenly tuned in. Perhaps the melon is there. What appears to refer to the direct mimesis of an object in the world turns into a form of simple abstraction, or gives way to a multiplicity of dimensions.
What then does it mean to ‘reckon’ with an environment in this way? In his excellent blog (itself a richly continuous work), John Latta has recently discussed Thomas McGrath’s response to Williams, to the “so much depends upon” of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” McGrath preferring the late Williams where the “poems begin to sing, and they’re not so tied to objects.” As McGrath continues: “It’s a terrible presumption, you know: ‘so much.’ How much? What? — ‘depends upon’ this? A better, a far better poem, is a poem about the same time called ‘Nantucket.’ At the end of that poem he puts a key there, and that, in the whole poem, just opens like an enormous flower of possibility. What happens when you use the key in this place that seems nature morte?” McGrath’s point, as Latta describes, is that while the Objectivists moved away from the “decorative” moment of seeing in Imagism, they “left out” in his view “that objects exist in a fluid world. They have to exist with people; people put them there.” There is a sense here of the human — social — context for these positionings, the pivot of that relation suggested here by the semicolon. McGrath’s hunch about what is missing in Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow,” or what is barely hinted at by that “key” in “Nantucket,” might be linked, Latta argues, to “a whole unsung compendia of political and economic (human) contexts,” to what is omitted in the act of seeing.
The “so much depends” in Ratcliffe’s work is evidently of a very different order of duration and attention. Sometimes it verges on meditation. Its sheer accretion arguably underlines something like this notion to the reader, the necessity of that daily assignation. Something depends on a bearing witness to. At the same time it is a kind of disassembling of that presumption — what occurs is what happens to be on that day, a series of chance crossings, like the quail wandering across the plane. Each day opens onto the flow of a continuous present; things are on the move, becoming. The intense phenomenological extension into the world this writing captures might suggest philosophical routes to the understanding of what it means to be “outside oneself and open to the world,” that condition of “ek-stase,” understood through Merleau-Ponty, or indeed through Heidegger, who is clearly in mind in the pages of REAL in the notions of presencing (4.30) and unconcealment (3.17). But what would it mean to think this writing in terms of what is unsung in this encounter? What happens in its placing of objects, events, sensations? In other words, how might the real in REAL be grasped?
REAL was written daily from March 2000 to July 2001, and each of the 474 pages registers the date, followed by a prose poem that uses certain constraints: seventeen lines, divided into five sentences, each of which pivots on a comma. The font is Courier, the shape plastic on the page. A set of observations moves through familiar and repeated planes and thresholds: descriptions of weather, birds and flowers, and the landscape and ocean; recurrent observations of men (“long-haired man,” “man in black wetsuit”), women (“woman in fuchsia dress,” “woman in red jacket yelling Fidel to black and white pit bull”), and children talking and interacting; the presence of material and scenes (other cities, sidewalks, interiors) which may be televisual or movie images or some other incursion of memory or off-stage percept made present; the surfacing of images, directly quoted words or phrases, colors, objects, and unanchored ‘missing’ perceptions. If REAL works the same Bolinas horizon as its companion sequences, it also moves into another temporal tectonics, it would seem: identifying in its repetitions and namings the material presence of events that have not yet taken place, emotions that would have happened but did not, things that occur, like the sound of water, outside the frame. It is more peopled and mediated than Ratcliffe’s other works, at times resembling (for me) watching the choreography of Pina Bausch.
The material in REAL works a rigorous counterpoint on the comma in each line. At the same time as the poems extend into a phenomenological world outside themselves through their everyday deixis, they encounter that activity in fragments of philosophical thought, intimate instances of artistic making. I’ve taken one sentence from each dated entry:
stating “the main who neglects the real to study
the ideal” will accomplish his ruin, real being
“varying circumstances of life.”
Man in the green chair
looking across the red brick plane, Cézanne
noting that painting from nature isn’t copying
the object but “materializing sensations.”
The woman who doesn’t talk taking a two-
hour nap on two consecutive days, Stravinsky
also claiming “what diminishes constraint,
These instances contain an aphoristic charge, but embedded as they are they work in each case like random encounters, becoming as material and present in the everyday as the people and objects that pass through the space of each entry. Something in the writing and its repetition equalizes, brings material in to a quiet point of exchange, a quoted fragment of philosophical thought that might be balanced, say, with the angle of a building or barking dog, a color equal to the view of someone from behind, when the viewer isn’t there. This counterpoint hints at impossible lineaments of connection, which REAL stays alongside.
Ratcliffe has spoken somewhere about how the process of REAL reminded him of the journal writings of Dorothy Wordsworth, and there is something about REAL’s accretion which suggests both the randomness and matter-of-fact pitch of a datebook’s relation to its present: that odd distribution of material that joins unrelated details in the manner of montage as well as habitual observance, such that the writer might look back and recall what passed through on that day, testimony to his having been there. There is a passage here, it might seem, as things become present to naming and yet overlaid with something retroactive, somehow everyday and yet invested with potential weight because they are lived and already gone.
So REAL attends to what is clearly on one level a familiar and habitual world, focused on a circle of unnamed friends, and on a particular landscape where infinitesimal shifts in light and observation mean that repetition is always in some sense renewal, a logic of difference lived out as ritual. Poetry taking place among friends and among everyday patterns and happenings, as if elements of the New York School were transposed for a season to the West Coast. Yet this is a poetry which stems from place and the meditative traditions of the poetic environments of California: that would include Bolinas poets such as Joanne Kyger, Philip Whalen, and also Ratcliffe’s close friend Bob Grenier, who surfaces enough for readerly recognition.
Something in this intimacy abstracts. The way the sentence balances on the comma’s central point produces a kinetic effect, as if in watching the central bubble of a spirit level you might suddenly be overcome with vertigo at the flow tipping the weight one way or another. These might appear points of equilibrium, in which seeming contradictions or contiguities are worked through a rhythmic counterpoint. But while this balance is there, calmly, as if its cutting is simply documenting what is, its pivot can also swing to a point of intensity, sometimes disturbance.
Take, for example, the first two opening lines of 9.28 in REAL:
Prone position of the ridge in relation to white-
grey texture of sky pressing down on it, motion
of cloud embedded against it. Woman in window
in a black shirt leaning over the corner of table
above a surface of yellow and pink and white
circles, the man in a faded green tee-shirt
hanging up the phone on the word “venting.”
The description of the scene builds a sense of pressure: ‘prone,” “pressing,” “embedded”; the woman “leaning over”; but there’s a sense that you don’t really notice that until the word “venting” arrives as a release. The spirit level suddenly slides. “Venting” suggests a displaced description of anger, a verbal sounding off, the phone is hung up. As elsewhere there is nothing to explain this detail as event, though it appears as one instance of what might be seen as a telephone series, the recurrence of “telephone space” and its unheard conversations. These points of intensity render unease in what is otherwise a surface accounting without emphasis, producing other series of gestics throughout REAL. These gestics begin to accrete for the reader, often intimating violence, potential jeopardy: earthquakes, sharks, traffic jams, visceral encounters, sex, murder. As in 5.21, which I’m quoting in full:
Whirr of hummingbird approaching tobacco plant
flowers above the listener, the backs of three
bright yellow birds heading out into the field.
“Might Gertrude Stein lie open to criticism?”
asks the last page left in the black Royal,
followed by “it seems to be”. Top right corner
of moon disappearing through a gap in the trees
above crickets on either side of a gravel path,
the tops of tallest grasses slowly falling
as the weed whip moves to the right below them.
The woman attempting to pour red wine from one
martini glass to the other spilling it, small
pieces of glass embedded in man’s left index
finger. The long narrow frame on the floor
breaking, body lying on the table violated
by the man standing behind door who wants
to do it again.
This kind of attention in the continuous present is reminiscent, perhaps, of the ‘objectivism’ of the nouveau roman of Robbe-Grillet (I’m thinking of a narrative like Jalousie), in its detailing and its enumeration of environments that seem encoded with significance and threat. But perhaps it is more interesting to think of REAL as a phenomenological form of noir, and in that way revealing of an unsung Californian real of another kind. Noir in the sense that Steinian insistence “lies open” to another “transformational grammar,” in Mike Davis’s words, in which the arcadia of the West Coast landscape returns in sinister equivalence. In City of Quartz, Davis argues that noir offers up a “surrogate public history” of Los Angeles. Perhaps REAL offers a glimmer of that accounting in bringing the unseen and unknown materially into the frame, exposing the human violences and desires that work through the angles of things and environments. The sustained tone of REAL, noncommittal, neutral, is itself suggestive of a kind of symbolic violence. Or perhaps its reckoning remains no more than an extended desire to stay live to the documenting, as in 6.7:
The man on the radio understanding
man on glass porch in Swampscott, noting that
each next thing in Eigner’s poem is just that
For the reader, there is a rich sense of suspension living alongside the attention of this writing, its daily practice, its quiet. But it’s also possible to encounter it differently. I listened simultaneously to Stephen Ratcliffe reading from Temporality in a sound file (there is ample opportunity on PennSound) while reading Color / Sound online and thinking about REAL. The triangulations it produced were accidental and generative, new kinds of acoustics and crossings. At the same time dimensions of a small London yard reflected in the screen, “the world / being thus put under mind for verb and noun” (2.26, 349).
6. John Latta, “McGrath’s Objectivists,” July 22, 2011. McGrath is quoted from a 1987 interview in Thomas McGrath: Life and the Poem, ed. Reginald Gibbons and Terrence Des Pres (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992).
In the early 1990s, Phillip Foss and Charles Bernstein coedited a special double issue of Tyuonyi ostensibly addressing contemporary tendencies in late twentieth-century poetry. To do so, they distributed a short survey asking participants to address what they called “patterns, contexts and time,” shaping (sharpening?) a praxis of the present by investigating the social and political factors influencing (both positively and negatively) tendencies in contemporary writing. In response to the question “What patterns, if any, do you see developing that are presently influencing habits of reading or readership within poetry?” Stephen Ratcliffe curiously addressed his contemporary scene by invoking none other than William Shakespeare: “The writing of today that most engages my attention reminds me of Shakespeare’s plays; one doesn’t so much want to ask ‘What is the meaning?’ but rather ‘Where does the meaning lie?’ — which is to say, ‘How does the work make meaning?’”
I’m immediately reminded of a dictum adduced by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben that “the contemporary … must firmly hold his gaze on his own time,” in order to stare squarely into darkness — to face the aporias, the crucial absences that all but define one’s contemporary scene (despite the glare of the popular, the fashionable — the bellicose glare of what comes to stand, for better or worse, for an age and our participation in it). For Ratcliffe, however, Shakespeare offers the possibility to read what a text does rather than what it says — to stare into the darkness of meaning in order to meditate more intensely on how it works. He writes that Shakespeare’s words “send a current my way, through the ear by way of the syllable, whose sense so to speak won’t hold still, isn’t easily tamed, caged or made in any way to fit the pigeon-hole paraphrase would set to trap it, chew it up, digest away the play.” Shakespeare, then, is Ratcliffe’s closest contemporary, for he is precisely the poet (to use Agamben’s terminology) who knows how to see this obscurity — “who is able to write dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present.”
Ratcliffe’s writing on Shakespeare in Tyuonyi is roughly coeval with the sustained meditations on sound-shape and sonic visuality in Listening to Reading in which he invokes an oft-cited Wittgensteinian text: “Do not forget that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not in the language-game of giving information.” In Listening to Reading, Ratcliffe reminds us that language is only what it says by virtue of what it does — meaning made tangible (however temporarily) by the confluence of acoustic, visual, and intellective interplay; which is to say that the best writing doesn’t shrink from blatant, shrill, conspicuous meaning-making but rather asserts itself as crafted, material object next to what it says. This is precisely the manner by which Louis Zukofsky made Shakespeare his contemporary: in his massive critical statement Bottom: On Shakespeare, Zukofsky reminds us that Shakespeare’s characters are both actors and words on the page, words that can outperform their speaking counterparts even in what they don’t say.
Ratcliffe’s Reading the Unseen: (Offstage) Hamlet (Counterpath Press, 2010) also begins with the mystery of Shakespeare’s characters, but where Zukofsky’s language “sees,” Ratcliffe’s is unseen — felt somatically (often deeply) through the interplay of senses. The book’s claims are humble and in some ways totally conspicuous, but its conclusions are much larger than they purport to be. Here’s the thesis: while we’re not always cognizant of the fact in the theater, the majority of “action” in Hamlet happens offstage, in and as language, through dialogue, anecdote, and aside; in fact, virtually all of the major plot-advancing action takes place through description, in the character’s speeches about absent actions: King Hamlet’s murder, Ophelia’s death, Hamlet’s voyage to England, et cetera. Which is to say that when we watch Hamlet, we find ourselves watching speech (or better, watching our minds seeing what they’re told to see). As such, Ratcliffe concludes that Hamlet performs, sometimes blatantly, how words can be entirely present while absconding their own materiality in the totally absent center of meaning-making. As such, “‘Words, words, words’ (2.2.192) in these speeches make physically absent things imaginatively ‘present’ … they ‘show’ us action we don’t actually see; how what is concealed from us (thus unseen, unknown) is essential both to [Hamlet] and to our lives in this world …” (xi–xii). Which is to say, finally, that words “see” what is unseen; they paint for us absent action and bring to life (imaginatively) language in our heads while somehow retreating into their own materiality (or lack thereof). So, for Ratcliffe, “words … are what Hamlet itself is ultimately about” (52).
It’s a brilliant thesis, hard won by Ratcliffe’s particular brand of obsessive close reading, but what makes it truly masterful is how it too, layer upon layer upon layer, rehearses how language actually works. While the book is ostensibly about offstage action (just as language has a determinate content), “there is more to it than meets the eye, and ear too for that matter” (30). While this book is certainly about Shakespeare, it is also just as much not about Shakespeare (in a prototypical avant-garde tradition); let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Reading the Unseen is an allegory for poetry, which makes Ratcliffe’s project, like Shakespeare’s before it, a book about words. Poetry is all about reading the unseen, making aurally-visible and visually-aural what is ostensibly not there — that poetry (and here Ratcliffe is actually talking about King Hamlet’s ghost) “may be taken to represent (“perform,” literally to embody) everything we cannot see (and thereby know) in this world” (3). Or better: poetry creates “a world made of words in which the eye sees only what the ear hears, thus sounding the limits of perception itself” (32). By staring squarely into the darkness of Ratcliffe’s text, we find what is most contemporary about its claims: that that which is most obscured by language is language itself.
Which is, of course, precisely the kind of all-too-obvious-and-thus-totally-brilliant thesis Ratcliffe makes about Shakespeare. But let’s abstract a bit further. I’d argue that Reading the Unseen joins the classics in the genre (say, Zukofsky’s Shakespeare, Olson’s Melville, and Duncan’s H.D.) in that every word applies too, and perhaps with greater precision, to his own work, making Reading the Unseen an occulted statement of poetics. Ratcliffe’s poetry practice is also about what goes unseen in “words, words, words,” in that much of what shows on the page is determined by so many exacting procedures unnoted in the text. For example, when I first met Ratcliffe his line lengths were often determined by the shape of the right-hand margin alone: using a stock version of Courier (because, according to Ratcliffe, the letter width is exactly the same for each character, including spaces), he’d slowly shape a wave in the margin until he was satisfied with its visual semblance. The problem, of course, is that such formalism is a bit Sisyphean, especially if the printer cannot exactly duplicate the margin in print. His work is often determined by these unseen constructs whether they register to the reader or not; for example, in Portraits & Repetition, Ratcliffe set himself a number of formal compositional constraints that, while absolutely crucial to what we see on the page, barely register to most readers: the book is 474 pages long (an arbitrary but exacting number as a handful of Ratcliffe’s books share a similar page length), five couplets a page, with line lengths determined solely by characters per line (sixty in the first line, fifty-seven in the second). At the end of the day, these formal restrictions (or permissions?) often mean very little to the reader of the poem, but they absolutely and irrevocably alter how the poems appear on the page. Ratcliffe wants to remind us that it is precisely the unseen labor of composition that most often disappears in the glossy reified book product as it’s prepared for publication, and in some ways his Reading the Unseen takes us back to the factory floor to underscore the poem’s status as made thing, clearly articulating the variety of unseen actions determining its hidden raison d’être.
Interestingly, this description applies as well to Ratcliffe’s unparalleled teaching style, a pedagogy in which each word’s unseen allusions are duly registered. As a result, his students learn to see language again as language — as it draws into itself as thing while pointing to the abstraction of meaning. So, yes, the poem does something — it shows us something — it has content. But it also has words and before words praxis. I once attended one of Ratcliffe’s classes where he and a particularly rambunctious student discussed the merits (and demerits) of Joyce’s lexicon in Finnegan’s Wake. “But most writers,” the student contended, “don’t obsess over language like Joyce.” “And that’s why,” Ratcliffe responded, “they’ll never be great poets.”
As a contribution to the occasion of Jacket2’s gathering of materials to celebrate the life & work of Stephen Ratcliffe, Robert Grenier proposed to ‘the Author Himself’ that the two of them might engage in a conversation addressing matters involved with (& otherwise concerning) his recently completed making of a (kind of) ‘selected poems’ (from the period) out of the six long ‘daily’ works (comprised of two triptychs, the first 3 of 474 pages, & the second 3 of 1,000 pages) begun in February 1998 & continuing into January 2011, to wit:
Portraits & Repetition, 2.9.98–5.28.99 (Sausalito, CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 2002)
REAL, 3.17.00–7.1.01 (Bolinas, CA: Avenue B, 2007)
CLOUD / RIDGE, 7.2.01–10.18.02 (Buffalo, NY: BlazeVOX [books], 2011)
Selected Days (forthcoming from Counterpath Press) itself consists of another progression of days/pages (made from a determination to take the last sequences of 15 poems from the first 3 works noted above + the last 30 sequences of poems from the second 3 works noted above, making a new sequence (& ‘time’) of 135 “DAYS” (pages)) — and it is the making of this ‘organization of materials’ (& related matters) which is spoken to, at some length (on the afternoon of Sunday, October 24, 2010) by the two of them, available here and here.
‘Duration’ is the heart of the matter — what is that (?), and how might that be addressed using Gertrude Stein’s distinction between “the time of the composition” & “the time in the composition” (in her 1926 lecture “Composition as Explanation”) (how are these ‘similar’ & how they are ‘different’) as a touchstone, as a means of engaging with Stephen Ratcliffe’s developing work …?
Herein ‘the Author Himself’ is provoked to provide his own account of …
October 29, 2010
Robert Grenier and Stephen Ratcliffe in Bolinas.
1. A reading/performance of the complete text of HUMAN / NATURE, in collaboration with five musicians (Dylan Bolles, Keith Evans, Michael Meyers, Edward Schocker, and Zachary Watkins) took place at UC Davis on June 6, 2008, and is available at PennSound.