24 May 2007

Update: children, warehouse, Paris, HD, Pushing Water

My oldest daughter, Kate, graduates from high school tonight. Otherwise, she's singing Mozart and contemplating the future, a year of college at the U of Arizona before auditions for music schools: Juilliard, Indiana, and more. When she sings I am amazed and lifted. Maybe there is some truth to the Wordsworthian and Keatsian sublime.

My youngest daughter, Nora, graduates from eight grade to high school. We spent last night decorating the hall for the event. She's the class president, so she makes a speech today. I can't wait!

Tucson City Council seems to want to fix our Steinfeld warehouse, keep it for artists, and lease it under precedents set for museums, to a nonprofit organization for $1 a year. That organization could be Chax Press or Dinnerware Arts, the two nonprofits in the building, or a combination of the two if we can work that out. Various dominoes have to fall into place for this to work out, and we still may have to exit the building for a period of months or a year, even if the dominoes fall right, while some structural repairs are made to the building — although it also looks like it might be possible to accomplish those repairs without such evacuation. We hope so. More will be known after a June 6 City Council subcommittee meeting; it was at the last such meeting that my optimism began to grow. I spoke there, but at the next one I can't, because . . .

I'll be in Paris June 4-18, for a translation seminar, working with the tremendous poet Vincent Broqua; I'll be working on his poems, he will be working on mine, and later we will give a reading together, in the Double Change series. Thanks to Cole Swensen and Sarah Riggs and the Double Change organization for making these events possible.

Yesterday I finished reading HD's Tribute to Freud. If not for Trilogy, I might think it her best book; in any case, it is one of the best prose books by a poet I have ever read. And maybe one of the best prose books by anyone. It's a model of writing specific and detailed memoir without falling into any sentimental or overwriting traps. Read any section. The prose is amazing, as are the insights into self, iconography, the relationship between the person and the dream, HD, and Freud.

Other current reading: the earlier books of Jack Spicer, as collected in The Collected Books of Jack Spicer. Various essays by Walter Benjamin, particularly "On Language as Such and on the Language of Man," in Reflections. Some of the remarks on language as magic seem particularly pertinent to thinking about Spicer.

While waiting in a hair salon for my youngest daughter to have her hair fixed for 8th grade graduation, I also finished parts 38, 39, and 40 of Pushing Water. That work continues to embrace a philosophy of vision, in these sections involving the Roden Crater Project of James Turrell as a place of centering vision, a working out of a sort of relationship of equality between articulation and being, and a questioning of what is left to write if Wittgenstein is correct that the world is everything that is the case.

08 May 2007

Aviary Corridor

Listening to a midi file of section one of Tim Risher's Aviary Corridor, right now, I have little sense of the complexity I heard not quite two weeks ago, and again not quite one week ago, at performances of this work in Bothell, Washington, and in Seattle.

I don't consider myself a "lyric" or "lyrical" poet in a traditional sense, yet I do believe I use my ear, in writing, always. Each word, in fact quite often each syllable, just has to sound right. And that's exactly the sense I had when listening to Risher's composition which set my text for soprano voice, singing with string quartet, flute, and piano. The work has many qualities of contemporary music, such as repetition rather in the manner of minimalism, dissonance, oddly sounded violins (to my ear, although quite beautiful odd soundings), and more. Yet it also had the sense of very precise music as in early music, and baroque music, though without the shift to more rococo sensationalism. It did not surprise me at all to find that Risher has played early music and that he has composed "new music" for baroque ensembles. The performance also benefitted from terrific musical direction by Mike Katell and great performances by Megan Drake (soprano), Jesse Myers (piano), Erik Anspach (flute), Tim Strait (violin), Heather Elsa (violin), Melissa Hughes (viola), and Brad Hawkins (cell0). The performance on April 25, and the subsequent one on May 2, could never have happened at all without the indefatigable work of Jeanne Heuving, the support of her colleagues at UW-Bothell, and the support of the members of the subtext collective.

You can scroll down on the compositions page of Tim Risher's web site to Aviary Corridor and listen to the midi files for parts one and four. But you won't get the sense of inter-instrumental dynamics and wonder he has put into this piece. A recording was made of the U of Washington, Bothell performance, and I hope I might someday listen many more times and provide a more complete description of the work, and perhaps put a part of it on this blog. For now, you'll have to do with the midi files and the text.

Aviary Corridor



despite the agony of worship
underneath a tree

which is not which is not
the world
in a green coat


among a different

The world above
or contains

(hummingbirds fly through red hoops)

forensics multiply
stemmed tides

for a minute
a bit of wood
the markings
of painful lodgings
deals composed
tonight, who is watching

in the attic
or echo

twice willing
aforementioned sins


a night's loding
or fractional

underpass mural remembers
garden to garders

one can not
say the past
speak a person

I know a man
who said that
take the fifth
on Stone Avenue
two miles north
to a light
a direction
stirrups render

no thing
he needs
a bowl of soup
watch the thermometer
for a time
something alters
or runs
around a river

she becomes
watch now
or enter
the only
manner music
at the edges

a language
depicts, detains, detours
toward statement
one means a friend
or two
takes twisting
or find first
figs, branches

Right now this is my favorite version of the poem, and you can find it here on the EPC site, put there some years ago by Chris Alexander. You will also find there something of the history of the poem and the visual art work of the same title by Cynthia Miller that preceded the poem. This poem keeps getting a lot of life, and I don't know what's next, except that we hope for, and are working toward, more performances of the musical song cycle.

A slightly different, more condensed version of the poem (and I also like this version quite a lot) is available in my newest book, Certain Slants, available from Junction Press.

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06 May 2007

last two weeks

I spent the last two weeks mostly in Seattle, as artist/writer in residence at U of Washington at Bothell, with a musical world premiere of a song cycle in 10 parts, by composer Tim Risher, that featured my poem "Aviary Corridor" as text. The title of the musical work is also Aviary Corridor. That premiered April 25 and was featured at UW-Bothell and was featured in a subsequent performance in the Subtext series at the Richard Hugo House on May 2. I also gave readings for the Spare Room series in Portland, with the incomparable and marvelous David Abel, and at Evergreen State College, with Glenn Mott (who I heard twice on this trip, reading primarily from Analects on a Chinese Screen; he was tremendous) and Shin Yu Pai, who I just met before the reading, and I hope to know better. Her reading was fascinating, and included a great sequence on so-called Japanese "love hotels" that considered them as an anthropological phenomenom, i.e. did not see them through lenses of various kinds of value judgments (negative OR positive). I also taught a workshop, presented on two panels — on visual poetry and an artists' book exhibition, read and spoke to a class, and more. A whirlwind trip I'm very glad to have been able to undertake. While there or traveling I also visited the studio of the sculptor Cris Bruch, who I have known for some 25 years now, and whose work is a revelation as always; and I read a variety of work, including the first volume of Cao Xue Qin's The Story of the Stone, Shin Yu Pai's Sightings: Selected Works 2000-2005, and two fine works in manuscript: Jeanne Heuving's Transducer, and Robert Mittenthal's Wax World. And of course, while staying one (far too short) night with David Abel, pulled down books by and about Jack Spicer and H.D. from his library, among others. Any bookstore, including Powell's (at least in poetry), pales in comparison to David's terrific library, and that is with a good number of his books still in storage.

I plan blog entries in more detail on various of these activities and perusals during the next week or so.

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