Five p.m. yesterday found me in an icy theatre in a building named Quirk, ready to listen to Jeff Clark and Andrew Joron read poems. Each first located with precise whoppers of introductions by Clayton Eshleman, who managed both a subtle dig at the self-proclaim’d Master Innovators of our epoch, and a less subtle nod toward Eshleman’s own cave drawing theories as spelled out in Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld.
According to my sparse notes (and sparser rude memory) Jeff Clark read a longish translation of a thing by Louis Aragon (“let’s spit on love”), “Jade Ache” (Clark: “what started off as a kind of chickenshit spoof of John Ashbery”), “Teheran” (“just me starting to remember my dreams”), “Lunar Tercets,” one of the “Demonologue” poems (“I had a ward I adored and tortured in four ways”), and “The Grass” out of The Little Door Slides Back, and finish’d with “Farewell Antithesis” and “Fountain” out of Music and Suicide. Easy-going boyish perplexity (casually transferring wad of gum out of mouth to music stand that served as lectern) versus occasional violence of imagery (“One dog attacks the back of another’s head / One turns and assaults the rock, one unwittingly shits / on the dismantled rib cage”).
For Andrew Joron, sparser notes and less initial familiarity with the work. He read early pieces out of Science Fiction, a couple out of The Removes, some lively (though difficult to “see”) homonymic things out of Fathom and uncollect’d. The early speculative-fiction influenced pieces less sound-generated than idea-generated—and read with less confidence. The homonymic play: to an end not always apparent to the ear.
In the audience: Joshua Edwards, Patrick Durgin (both recently relocated to the area, unbeknownst to me), Ken Mikolowski of The Alternative Press, and likely scads of low-profile luminaries. We skedaddled, ice-cover’d.
Albertine (Sandra Grindebäck) and Count Charmant (Johan Ehn) in Replika of Stockholm's production of Witold Gombrowicz's Operetta, directed by Jurek Sawka. Third International Gombrowicz Festival, Radom, Poland. Photo: Stefan Okolowicz.
And, earlier, sitting at th’elementary school in the Lumina my ponder heart goes to Ange Mlinko’s human ledger dilemma, the way she says “guys” with a hint of contempt. The twenty-first century human ledger (exterior model) in North America is an un-prepossessing package, isn’t it, a variety pack, meaning these six choices are the only choices, so who needs a daily run-down? (“Dined pleasantly enough, spat’d with X, viddy’d ‘A History of Violence.’”) The human ledger is Capsule Summary City, we all do the things we all do. (See Gombrowicz’s Diary: “Monday. Nothing. Tuesday. Nothing.” And so forth.) Point being: it’s only the “interior model” that scats out a differential, no? And that’s going to be “theory”—if theory is mild concoctions of (cocktails of) images, “thoughts,” “readings,” freight’d only by the wonder of having pass’d close by, unseen and unseeing, in the dust kick’d up by the passing freight of our human daily lives. Freight’d by proximity, sans doute, to those lives, a proximity which is always a manifestation of love, or vice-versa. So: no two ledgers, one ledger (here). The rest is just the mischief of getting by.