It’s the same word in English as it is in French, which does apply if you’re from Quebec…this novel is ripping my guts out. I want to say “real-life female Rimbaud” and I literally got the book in the mail today and am half-way done with it, in a good way. It is a novel that contains poetry. R.I.P. Mlle Gendreau. 1989 – 2013
I went to two free poetry readings in one night earlier this year, this fall, and it feels now like this was a decade ago, but no, it wasn’t. I had my day job, then I strode Uptown, in the rain, I seem to recall…to the first: at a university. I knew one of the people reading. I went by myself. In the room where the reading occurred, I saw other people I knew. A crowd gathered, everybody sitting down. I heard the poems, some I thought were lousy, but anyways I always liked the person who read them so much, and I wondered if the poems really were so lousy after all, or maybe I was just in a lousy moody hearing them, and they were pretty good poems if you were to stand them up against a lot of other poems, other people’s poems, though it may have been too that I just thought they weren’t the best that this particular person had ever produced, certainly, and I had a feeling because I was such a fan of this person, and, when it comes right down to it, their poetry as well…and they had drawn such a crowd, yet again, 60 people easily…so hats off to them, the first reading/reader: for the university audience, while the reader was not actually one of the teachers there, not everyone listening a student.
The second reading took place at a museum, further Uptown. At “The” museum, some would say. I had to take the subway. I had my special ticket, had received my RSVP notice weeks earlier and taken care to reply. I even wrote in that I would like to secure a second seat for my friend “Virginia” which was made-up. I didn’t have anyone to go with, how do you like that? But of course I was going anyway. No one asked me where was my date when I got there, phew. I walked all through the quiet, empty museum to get to the top floor where the reading was, the museum was technically closed, so I had temporary VIP privileges. I looked at all the old statues, painting, etc, old weapons, priceless antiquity. I wondered if we will still learn from it, keep it, be able to re-interperet. I got to the reading room: outside, the sun set behind the Manhattan skyline out the big sloping windows. They served fine French cheese and Pouily-Fuisse. No more than 30 people. I saw some older friends and their respective partners, colleagues, most everyone older than me and better dressed. It had been a long time since I had had such a classy drink with such classy, dignified folk. They handed out free copies of my older friend’s beautiful new chapbook. I thought about the New York School, what it means…both poets I had seen that night were friends and students, so to speak, with this in mind…what is it then, a possible genre, a way for people to make good reason for drinking Pouilly-Fuisse and watching the sunset behind city architecture, which are both really excellent activities, especially when they’re free, I thought.
Below, my excerpt from the http://www.metambesen.org festschrift collection of writing for, around &/or about Robert Kelly.
The entirety of the collection here:
for Robert Kelly
When I first met/became friends with Robert (as his advisee) I was at the helm of a little poetry magazine that contained the work of some old friends of his…lots of them, actually…alongside the work of my own friends. There were still many others whose work I liked enough to maybe believe its authors might also be friendly people. That might bridge the terrible inevitable gaps of time/influence/geography/faith(s): “Your magazine is very Catholic!” Robert said. “Giving a wide berth.” That sufficed for me…very well, and complimentary too…I thought that was an apt description of what I was up to, or at any rate, trying to do.
The most un-useful & un-necessary word I ever conspired to place in my poems. I guess I liked the look & sound of it. Prof. Kelly was kind enough to point this out…almost too kindly…but what…was I trying to become some sort of 18th century British polo-playing aristocrat verse-ifier? Jesus, no! Almost every other word surrounding it though (luckily) in what I presented at that time made some sort of contemporary sense, had actual meaning.
3.) “fried shoe”
Gregory Corso? A tangent…but the maestro again making a point about desire vs. necessity in a poet’s language. Necessity sounds a little desperate…a bit nerve-wracking…better stick with desire! But if Greg wanted to throw a “fried shoe” into the middle of his poem he is justified. We’ll never know the need or want behind it. Could it be both? We have never even seen a fried shoe, and come to think of it now…this phrase may’ve even been a Robert original. Memorable!
4.) “the Flarf in our head(s)”
So many petty lines of conflict that pull writers away from one another. Robert & I both agreed there was enough Flarf-like mess in our heads anyway to fill a book’s worth (or two) a year. Keep the search engine in your pocket: save it for later. Randomness may also be inevitable (to some aesthetic degree…) whether or not we look to the Internet or academia or anything at all, for our own reflection, or for what’s happening/going(s) on outside our most private-colored sanctuaries.
5.) “where I grew up in Brooklyn everyone talks like this”
Is it true? The poet’s own accent…I stood once outside a bar in Manhattan along 14th Street (circa 2006) and spoke with a fellow who had a similarly interesting accent. I could’ve sworn he was from England somewhere. So I asked him, but he said he was decidedly not from there. He was from Brooklyn, and wanted me to know the absurdity of my query. I wish I could remember his name. It was some remarkable dignity of cadence and the resonance of the vowels…like Rimbaud’s vowels…that stood out to me. I don’t even remember what the name of this mythical neighborhood was, but it seems as though I’ve maybe already met two people who once called it home.
from a world of noise
these travellers like you and me
exchanging improvised customs
7.) “what is not here
should live in cities
these ghostly edens of twilight
where all we have never been
mocks what we are”
— excerpt from the R.K. poem “Last Light” (1960-something)
8.) “how to let everyone in”
Names of course being the first cardinal obscenity & sin that we (poets especially) are so guilty of. Back in the good ol’ days the word was all. Less egotism that way!
Language resists possession. John Wieners removing stars from his poems for example in favor of parking lots: “Drive a great big car / into the parking lot.”
I blame the troubadours, Dante, young Werther, Villon, Apollinaire, those who put milk in their coffee, swans, Bard Spleen, Denise Levertov, Boris Vian, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, the sly post-modern eras…Bernadette Mayer, Robert Duncan, Pindar & Goya’s “quick adulterous tread at the heart.”
I grew up in a small town
where churches burned down frequently
At the hands of Irish and Quebecois
gamblers, pirates & railroad people
Their melody is the situation
10.) “a poem about time-gaps”
I is an extra. Rimbaud was just a spoiled little brat who never worked a day in his life. The quality of his dreams however could sustain him. The dumbfounded child who won’t let go of your hand…it’s The Hands of Jeanne-Marie, or a coven of woolgathering Sufi carrying around their ostrich luggage. No religion but poetry.
BOSTON 9/18 – (TOMORROW!!!) @ Le Mat First Issue Premier Launch
8pm – 10pm, Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More
541 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
NEW YORK 10/17 – @ The Segue Poetry Reading Series (alongside Drew Gardner’s Poetics Orchestra)
4:30pm – 6:30 pm, The Zinc Bar — 82 West 3rd St. NYC, between Thompson and Sullivan St.