Commentaries - April 2010
Yes, there's Larry King at a midtown Manhattan Borders, checking out the Collected Poems of E. E. Cummings. He read them, but did he buy the book? Not sure of that. Our great literary photographer Lawrence Schwartzwald found King with his camera. Always watching out for poetry's unexpected readers. It must be Poetry Month after all.
A series of dreams
David Milch was visiting us from Sunday morning through yesterday. An extraordinary experience, at every turn. Spellbindingly smart. The guy is both brilliant and supremely funny. Every story (about himself) he tells is both far-fetched and true, and the combination slays me.
I'd felt that I'd known him already from all those years of intense watching, starting of course with Hill Street Blues. HSB provided me, during the dimmest years of graduate school, an alternative universe on Thursday nights at 10; yet getting to know him in person now was nonetheless an adventure. What I hadn't yet realized about Milch was the extent of his generosity--a better word is an old one, charity. He had every reason to be distracted (pilot of the new show, Luck, is currently filming back in LA) but he focused on every person (and there were many, and they were various in kind) who came his way in our quite open space. He refused to take our honorarium, directing it instead to a campership program set up in the town (Arcadia, CA) where Luck is being filmed. He was still his hilariously acerbic self but he also had a kind word, a real ear, for everyone he met--and this was, in the course of days, many dozens.
On Monday evening he read the first 20 pages or so of the script for the Luck pilot. On Tuesday morning (yesterday) I interviewed him. Both these sessions are already available as audio recordings (mp3) and in video (streaming). All four files are linked here.
Anyone interested in my top four moments in all of Milch's TV-making? Probably not. But it's my blog and here they are:
4. Sipowicz has hidden his prostate problem from Sylvia and so she believes their not having had "relations" in a while was caused by the revelation of her traumatic experience with rape years earlier. She lovingly tells Andy that they are going to grow old together and their bodies will be what they will be, and that they should talk about it.
3. Mick Belker, in tears, standing in Frank Furillo's office doorway, saying he's 36 years old and can't afford to take care of his father.
2. Merrick reads aloud to the camp elders the contents of the simply and beautifully written letter Seth Bullock has composed to memorialize the life of a simple Cornish nobody who's been killed by Hearst.
1. The first 5 minutes of the final episode (#10) of John from Cincinnati. John and Shaunie reappear - surfing in from the far-off oceans, while all the characters in various places waken from a shared dream. The whole thing is covered (and unified) by Dylan's "Series of Dreams."
New York Botanical Garden’s upcoming exhibition, Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers. The show is on display April 30 June 13, and gives visitors a new look at Emily. She was an avid gardener, and took visual cues for many of her poems from flowers such as tulips, roses, and lilies. Exhibition highlights include: Opening weekend featuring a marathon reading of all 1,789 of Dickinson’s poems; an award-winning play about Dickinson’s life; a talk about this American poet as a gardener by Marta McDowell; and more. To be part of the opening, please contact Jen Josef, Director of Public Education and Interpretation, at 718.817.8573 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Poetry Walk through the Garden’s grounds blooming with spring flowers. Dickinson’s 19th-century New England home and garden are re-created in the Conservatory. Gallery exhibition showcasing manuscripts, watercolors, and photographs that tell the story of Dickinson as a gardener, nature lover, and woman of the Victorian era. Additional programming such as home gardening demonstrations, children’s events, and much more. More information is available on our website here: http://www.nybg.org/emily/.
Robert Grenier's "Sentences"
Five hundred cards in a box: on each is typewritten a few words or phrases of poetic writing. This is Robert Grenier's Sentences. Al gathered Joseph Yearous-Algozin, Jena Osman, and Bob Perelman to talk about this complex work. As Jena notes several times, there's something odd about producing an audio discussion about a oral reading or performance by Grenier from a work that was and is so closely associated with a material text-object. A text-object that indeed has become famously central to people's response to the writing in it. So one question immediately is on that count: by performing the work (and by doing so with such comic pleasure, and even, at times, with such schtickiness), is Grenier signaling to us that our focus on the object is misleading--that Sentences is meant to be always somewhat and variously unmoored from the codex book and the normally printed-on-page poem? All the PoemTalkers, led by Bob, want to discuss in some way how and why Robert Grenier always forces us to think about the most fundamental qualities and definitions of poetry. And surely this is good in itself.
In October 2006 Charles Bernstein interviewed Grenier for the "Close Listening" program. During that discussion Grenier reads from and discusses a few of the cards from Sentences, including "Bird / I wonder if I do," a representation of birdsong that occupies the PoemTalkers for a few minutes and causes Bob Perelman to look back on his own critical effort to comprehend Grenier. In the second of a two-part interview with Grenier, Al, Charles, and Michael Waltuch discuss the actual construction of Sentences, a project in which Waltuch played a role. If you listen to the interview you'll get to hear Waltuch and Grenier talk together about that moment.
The remarkable performance of a selection of cards from Sentences that serves as the basis of our PoemTalk discussion was given at the Poetry Project, at St. Mark's Church, in New York, in April 1981. PennSound's Grenier author page includes a full recording of that reading. One of the two excerpts featured in PoemTalk, the one beginning "CONCEPTS / they see us," has been made available as an excerpt also on Grenier's PennSound page.
Whale Cloth Press has made a full edition of Sentences available on the web. And the folks at Whale Cloth have also provided photographs of the original box.
PoemTalk's director and engineer for this show is Steve McLaughlin and our editor is also (as always) Steve McLaughlin. In PoemTalk #32 we take on Susan Howe's Emily Dickinson - in specific: Dickinson's "My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun." Stop back in a few weeks for that episode.