Douglas Kearney

Adore adore (PoemTalk #159)

bpNichol, 'Dada Lama' and 'A Small Song That Is His'


Al Filreis and PoemTalk engineer and editor Zach Carduner took to our virtual Wexler Studio and convened Tracie Morris, Douglas Kearney, and Derek Beaulieu, from Brooklyn, Minneapolis, and Banff, respectively, to talk about two sound-poem/performance pieces by poet, editor, fiction writer, sound poet, and publisher Barrie Philip Nichol, best known as bpNichol. The two pieces we discuss are “Dada Lama” of 1966 (recorded in 1969) and “A Small Song That Is His” of 1974.

Douglas Kearney and the cool ipso facto

Photo credit: MOCA

Douglas Kearney is a vitally important poet, critic, and performer — and, given the significance of his massive open online course, “Sharpened Visions,” public teacher too. As a poet and as a critic-essayist — in both genres of thinking-through/while-writing — Kearney evinces an intense interest in micro-glossaries, socially invented argots, the ironic political possibilities of cant, the language-y side of folktales, the dense musicality of Black speech, the naunced differing registers of the ways people say what they say. He averts falling into the (as he once put it) “vortex of self-reflexive word play,” but he comes riskily and thrillingly right up to the edge of it.

Repetition and revulsion

So a call for effect: I ask ________. I ask ________. I ask ________. I ask ________. The repeat entreats, endures out a threshold in its and again and again and again. A really really really ask “but not only that,”[1] the performance of devotion: I won’t stop since the source of power, the entreatied, doesn’t want me to stop “but not only that,” the source is boundless and will only answer if it reckons me for kin. So again and again and again as “recursiveness, incantatory insistence … repeated ritual sip … aiming to undo the obstruction it reports.”[2] Again.

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