Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Re Several Readings

The 20th through the 23rd of November constituted an exhausting extended weekend of differently purposed readings. It began when Robert Snyderman and I attended an appearance by Bruce Andrews and Cris Cheek hosted by The Poetry Project at St. Marks Church. Events there are always enjoyed. Bruce was very friendly and read well --- Robert thought he made “good use of the microphone.” Cris Cheek was wearing a dress, which I was informed is a kilt, and his was sort of layered, performative, hybridized work that I was glad to become introduced to. I’m afraid I damaged myself pretty thoroughly with red wine at a small, friendly gathering later where I demonstrated an absence of moderation and skirted misadventure. I vaguely remember some words on about Hamlet with Mr. Cheek; my teeth were most likely purple by then. I was in terrible shape the next day and, uncharacteristically, was unable (too nauseous) to drink during our customary Thursday night salon/reading series, which ended up being kind of rough. On Friday we had to pack into a van and travel to Vermont for a Corresponding Society appearance at Bennington, Saturday was mostly spent driving home (except for a trip to Robert Frost’s house, which we couldn’t afford to tour), and on Sunday I participated in a six-hour marathon reading of Stein’s The Making of Americans (to be addressed in-depth in a forthcoming entry). The Bennington College event was decidedly enjoyable for its participants. The featured readers were Correspondence editors Greg Afinogenov, Robert Snyderman, Lonely Christopher, Adrian Shirk, and Christopher Sweeney along with contributors Matthew Daniel and Katie Przybylski. Bennington, Vermont is a distant land surrounded by lumpy yellow fields and purple mountains; the drive from Brooklyn was pleasant despite several run-ins with police who didn’t take kindly to a bunch of kids listening to Puccini in a speeding car with expired insurance and registration. Bennington College is an adorable place where students are encouraged by the administration to engage in safe sex, drink recreationally, and start contained fires. The reading was held in a gorgeous, well-furnished room with a fireplace and a quaint stereo system we utilized to play Grieg records on a loop. Several readers stayed behind and were never heard from again. We are eager to repeat the experience at different schools and will presently attempt to organize something else. This veritable spree of readings would be even more protracted if the Unnamable Books event hosted by Adrian Shirk wasn’t delayed indefinitely, but alack. It will be rescheduled and when it is it will be noted here.

Monday, November 17, 2008


An upcoming appearance by The Corresponding Society:

The Corresponding Society at Bennington College
Venue: The Welling Living Room at Bennington
Location: One College Drive, Bennington, Vermont
Date: Friday, November 21st
Time: 9pm-10:30pm

(&) Other forthcoming readings of interest:

Gertrude Stein Marathon at the Pratt Institute
Venue: The Alumni Reading Room at the library of the Pratt Institute
Location: 200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday November 23rd
Time: 2pm-8pm
Description: In spirit of the epic 1992 Paula Cooper Gallery marathon reading, we invite you to the first installment of THE MAKING OF AMERICANS: a six-hour vocalizing of Gertrude Stein's most unread work. Stop by the Alumni Reading Room any time from 2 until 8 to listen, or sign up to read for a 10-minute time slot by e-mailing Jenna at

Making Skeletons Dance
Venue: Unnamable Books
Location: 456 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
Date: Tuesday November 25th
Time: 8pm-9pm
Description: A reading series with familial themes, hosted by Robert Balkavich and Correspondence editor Adrian Shirk, featuring Ian Alexander McKenzie, Shannon Harrison, Lonely Christopher, & others.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Response from a Happy City

Lonely Christopher (web editor) mentions or comments on anecdotally the following aspects of last week: atmospheric excitement, public spectacle, holograms, 1968, hipsters under arrest, constitutional discrimination, preventing Asian land ownership, emotional vulnerability, the machinations of political power, a malevolent nincompoop, the same shit on a different day, bullshit that makes one feel better, a stupid car on fire in the middle of the road.

A collective nervous excitement was temporarily demonstrated in New York City last week --- during the time the polls were open and the subsequent exceptional day or two. Shortly after dusk on Tuesday, a varied assortment of individuals were already crying and yelling in the street. (I learned that Ohio was called for Obama from a kid running by on the sidewalk, screaming in disbelief into his phone, as I sat outside with my computer, trying to pick up a wireless signal to check The New York Times online.) Halloween seemed like an unenthusiastic rehearsal compared to the public spectacle that ensued that night. Members of The Corresponding Society spent the evening in a small apartment, equipped with television and Internet access, crowded with drunk and anticipatory students. The coverage of the election results was rather depraved in its theatricality --- but maybe it only seemed so nightmarish because I haven’t been exposed to news networks in several years (do people routinely appear for televised interviews via hologram these days or was that some bizarre novelty?). The neighborhood of Brooklyn in which I reside, Bed-Stuy, erupted in rowdy celebratory gestures upon the announcement of Obama’s victory. When CNN declared the win, I was on the phone arguing with my Republican mother about the political unrest of 1968. (She mentioned, “I married your father in ’68 and later he was flying planes over Vietnam.”) Our packed room of students watched McCain’s dignified concession speech, followed by Obama’s sort-of-general but incredibly-important-seeming address; then we drank a few bottles of champagne and sat out on the stoop to listen to the ruckus in the street. Outside: black Brooklyn residents expressed feelings of empowerment, white hipsters were beaten and arrested in Williamsburg, apparently there was some dancing on buses, and somewhere on Staten Island a few white thugs jumped out of a car and attacked a black kid on his way to his mother’s house. As far as the sweeping Democratic victories, the night seemed an indication that our country is capable of reforming after an awful decline into villainy --- but the occasion was also gravely marked by the establishment of discriminatory measures that will surely retard the social and cultural development of our nation. On a night when Barack Obama became the first president elect to include homosexuals in his acceptance speech, three states voted for constitutional bans on same-sex marriage (and I hear tell Florida decided to retain the antiquated legislative ability to prevent Asians from owning land, which is also unbelievable). Regardless, New Yorkers were walking around in a pleasant daze on Wednesday with an emotional vulnerability resulting from the shock of something tremendously positive actually happening in the political system. It was as if every smiling stranger was constantly poised to yelp, “Obama!” --- and his name did frequently punctuate all manners of daily activity. Reactions from our community of young writers were and continue to be more taciturn, but nobody is displeased about the general outcome. We are a group apart from the machinations of political power but we remain aware of how misdirected our country became under the Republican regime that was, for eight years, ostensibly led by a malevolent nincompoop. I was waiting for a slice of pizza last Wednesday when a woman ran into the parlor and screamed at the proprietor, “We won!” The man, kneading dough at the counter, looked at her wearily and replied, “I don’t know lady --- I woke up this morning in the same goddamn world as ever.” Maybe more optimistically, I overheard a fellow poet say, in apropos of Barack Obama’s win, “I know it’s all bullshit but it makes me feel better.” It’s difficult to provoke the city for long; nearing a week later everything has settled again. A car on fire in the middle of the road isn’t, as it was when I saw it on Wednesday, a car on fire in the middle of the road in a country that just elected a significantly atypical politician to serve as the next president, but simply a stupid old car on fire in the middle of the road that’s annoyingly blocking traffic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Letter on Election Day

Maybe if students reemerged as an actualized, politicized network of organized assemblages the apathetic disunity and ennui that broadly characterizes us would develop into the tenacious need for a paradigmatic shift and renegotiation of hegemonic structures that informed the widespread and revolutionary unrest that reached its crescendo in 1968. Students probably aren’t as pathetically dependent as the general on the crutch of false security (an artifice in exchange for which many acquiesce to the machinations of regimes of power that offer the public, to placate in order to subordinate, but a hollow parody of what they think they need); ergo the student is possibly capable of a critically informed perspective less structured by fear instilled by whatever system perpetuates the hegemonic pressure at the time. This has been the first presidential election that I’ve been aware enough of to be ravaged by (those previously I’ve lived through I’ve experienced with sluggardly developing recognition, but have also spent most of my life being a dumb kid in a rural town); the damage wasn’t extensive enough to lead to total self-destruction because I don’t have access to television and (myopically) rely mostly on the coverage in The New York Times and The New Yorker to inform my political understanding. What I feel I witnessed was a sort of extended carnival, in the specific sense, during which some of the more dangerous and ugly of our expressions of national backwardness were flamboyantly paraded about in the manner of a vicious pageant at the end of the world. My mother, with whom I’ve had increasingly frustrated topical confrontations in the previous months, pointed out to me that this is a historically significant election in our textbook history. In New York City (which is practically a noncontiguous territory of the United States), in my daily academic environment, I have been exposed to an implicit support of the candidate we perceive as not as dastardly as his opponent --- but the typical treatment of this election by my peers, co-workers, and the faculty of my school wasn’t really politically sensitive or adamant: we just knew that one candidate was totally preferable (and could barely conceive of a being stupid enough to think the opposite) but were generally preoccupied by the farcical crudeness of the spectacle that was readily viewable on the Internet. I personally imagine that the next president is going to have a tremendous role in determining what happens to and in our disgraced superpower; withal it sort of seems as if the general is struggling painfully toward a perspective that in some obscure way represents our position in the 21st Century rather than some frightening alternate universe. The relative liberty enjoyed by most students in this country might appease us, enabling our disinterest at a time when war is the normative state and our culture becomes ever disabled, but I don’t know what measures (voting? solidarity? taking over the campus gymnasium for a few self-important days?) could contextualize a student position in the national political discourse. The community of writers in which I participate is a very politically problematic/ambiguous group of students: almost all of us lack any sense of a political praxis (although our work is inevitably politicized); a faction of us declined to vote in this election for various reasons (from apathy to nihilism and beyond) --- I don’t know exactly what that means. I don’t presume to defend or really criticize this position and I envision the idea of a political actualization of students without positing it as imperative. Living as artists in New York City we are rather culturally/politically/ideologically divorced from the general and, in that way, are unaccredited expatriates (yet not the Beckettian kind involving underground resistance) --- still, like the revered expatriates of high modernism, our ability to function as artists is menaced by the enforcement of fascist politics. So nobody (except for Sweeney, but that’s too disturbing and complicated to really address here) wants the US to become more fascistic. At this writing I am casually uncertain about the outcome of the election --- knowing that the general is troubled enough to perform as it did four years ago and that the government is structured to enable an outrageous calamity as it did eight years ago --- withal I’m incapable of a developed position on the absence of the student in political discourse (which possibly is the result of the hegemonic political system being incongruous with a critical grammar of the student or artist). Whatever happens I will presently sit down and write a poem and that poem will not be about the recently decided presidential election but, unavoidably, it will be a poem by a writer informed (evidently and unconsciously) by his sociopolitical orientation, which happens to be especially complicated right now. (Lonely Christopher, web editor)