Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's Here!

Hey! Correspondence No. 2 is now available! Look here:

Not only is the book very handsome, it also contains a ridiculous amount of terrific writing. There is poetry of all sorts, some of it illustrated; a Möbius strip (kind of); essays on gender, hipsters, and the cannon; fiction; the kitchen sink! Seriously read it! Right now you can find it at our Online Store --- or you can order a copy the old fashioned way: email (thecorrespondingsociety; we use gmail). Oh, yes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

(Three) More Announcements

The Corresponding Society in Williamsburg. Remember! our spring tour will conclude this Sunday, back in Brooklyn, at a new community space in Williamsburg. If you are in town you are entirely encouraged to come and welcome the traveling poets back from a perilous journey. Unfortunately, Chris Sweeney will not be among the featured readers; he was arrested in Ohio and has a court date on Tuesday. But! the new issue of Correspondence will be there (and wine, probably). The landlord of this new venue has respectfully asked that nobody overdose during the event. Details:

Address: 99 South 6th Street, Brooklyn
Date: March 22
Time: 8pm
Featured Readers: Chanelle Bergeron, Lonely Christopher, Greg Afinogenov, Robert Snyderman, Adrian Shirk

Tallon at the Bowery Poetry Club. Correspondence contributor and filmmaker Tallon is up to no good at the Bowery Poetry Club next week. Here’s some info:

Event: Trance-Psychotic Fetish Bodies (a Film & Video Phantasmagoria)
Venue: The Bowery Poetry Club
Address: 308 Bowery
Date: March 25
Time: 8pm
Tickets: $10 (at door)
Curator: Tallon
Featuring: Pawel Wojtasik of Martos Gallery, New York
& Almagul Menlibayeva of Priska C. Juschka Gallery, New York
And: Come see the cock-pump god-children of Kenneth Anger & Stan Brakhageconjure the punk-shamanic test-tube-daughters of Maya Deren & Jack Smith! Absinthe! Magick Lanterns! A movie mad-marriage of the prurient & pure cinematic union of the depraved & sacred.

Dance at PS 122. Correspondence contributor Bruce Andrews is the music director for Sally Silvers and Dancers. He worked on the dance project Yessified, which is going to be at PS 122 from March 22 to 29. More about Yessified: “Whiteness is on the hook and down for the hybrid. Silvers answers the seductive call of a stable/single racial life by outing and othering it. Whiteness as symbiotic, open face Blackness. Sudden turns and shocks, bleed-throughs and angularity, pivoting centers, conflict embrace -- a new world is ever unexplored and the night's secret is to make the day swing blue.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Four Seasons

Few Ideas for the "Book" and and a Finger's Painting and Wealthy Lethargy
by Robert Snyderman

I learned Trance through, "through" as in of-penetrating, a series of four paintings, once hung on walls of MOMA. And beyond the paintings themselves, since the room where they hung also served as the towering hollow of MOMA's structure - the center, the waiting room, the exchanging room - exchanging visitors into the opportunity to shuffle north, south, east, west - and one must choose - so, I say, "opportunity," and in the reality of the Towering Hollow, perhaps in this "opportunity" there, a force involved - perhaps I can say this room, "Towering Hollow," served/serves as a kind of heart to the building - And beyond the paintings themselves, there was force. The force of the room. The force to witness more, by way of leaving. One must leave the heart. One must continually penetrate.

Do not arrange Trance. Entrance. The body stops. What keeps?

Perhaps this series of paintings is titled, The Four Seasons. A few impressions: the year it was painted: 1996: very recent, for this museum (thus time is thought of, considered, and myself within it/a friendship), I thought; and the title itself. The seasons. For a poet, and I think at that time I was still in the violent-fog of an Arthur Rimbaud-era, I found "poetry" in the will to represent and re-present that quiet cycle - that cycle of the seasons that lasts in such a way that one wants to break it, but does not, through forgetfulness, the vastness of the cycle's lasting, one forgets one is within it - Is that the point weaving - where one's veins become one's noose? Dried leaves for dinner, dried leaves for dinner, then color-mist, and shaping of death, and a shaving of hats, until the hats are hairs, until the seasons are more like swimmers.

Then, the paintings themselves. I believe one's family - as in the lost family/I don't know what the lost family is/I know what the family is/By family I mean one's bloodline, ancestry, womb and seed, brother and brother.../As far as "lost family" perhaps I'm trying to get at, that scattering fragment of teachers one finds, searching in vain thus half-searching... I've met people who believe one's bloodline-family distracts one from searching, within and through the vanity. After all, one's vanity becomes a very tricky symptom to deal with when tumbling among the hands of one's bloodline.

I can say that, fearing many decayed processions, I have been introduced to, and now am engaged with a few full-bodied voices of, my Lost Family. The beginnings of such a finding have, in my experiences, started with sensations of brief and bearable pain - brief because painful. As if the methods of this relationship, when first introduced, introduce themselves with the fullness that one will grow into/"The world is gone. I must carry you." [Paul Celan]

At the time when The Four Seasons was displayed, one could not be in MOMA without passing it. Thus, I too passed it, along with the crowds who are now crowds and not faces, not to be walked around or smiled at or hated... But the crowd is important. The crowd, the Towering Hollow, and the painting itself are, for now, the important elements of the Trance I am burning towards.

I am having trouble knowing whether I should refer to The Four Seasons as "a painting" or as "paintings." I warn you. My feeling: I would not want to be introduced to the series dismembered, as in be shown only the winter painting, or only the summer painting.

That "feeling" adjusts me to the spine: The Book.

I will quote Edmond Jabes, from the first volume of his The Book of Questions,

"When, as a child, I wrote my name for the first time, I knew I was beginning a book."

My first experiences - my introduction to The Four Seasons - were of a passingness. I was with others. Accompanied by good friends. I now go to museums alone. Good friends are good friends. Museums need silence, need the echoes of loneliness. We would enter the museum. Ascend the first staircase. And there was the painting. And we'd walk toward it. And I had the feeling of time, not the feeling of timeliness. Perhaps I stood in front of the four pieces. But this Towering Hollow was no security. A nearly endlessness above, and no substantial walls to tell us that the pieces within the Towering Hollow were placed together. More like entering an office that had art-fragments for the sake of oxygen rather than displaying artwork in order for it to be displayed and witnessed.

The eyes of my body were swimmers. The Four Seasons was meaning to drown me. A certainty. A burst. A severe accident. I describe the painting now, to those who have not seen it, as "...Imagine a deaf and blind child - covered in paint/his fingers are claws as they are also words - is told to create the seasons of the earth."

After reading the title, the date, and the artist's name, I changed for the painting. I became ready to be a reader. I realized there was something of a rite involved in the production of the painting. If the art-piece is named The Four Seasons, then that art-piece is a proposition. The artist is proposing this work to something. Let us call this "representation" or let us call it a proposition. I will call it a proposition.

This specific proposition, Cy Twombly's The Four Seasons, proposes an incompleteness. Each section, from left to right: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter: through notions of stain, through sentences half readable and ascending into the exterior of canvas which holds it in, through movements of paint rampaging delicately down, across; all of those visual notions one might be forced to call abstract expressionism when in the context of wrapped-expression, when in the context of the swift unknown - through the realism of these notions, I consider a cycle of fragments. I was gaping with a new idea. That one could take an experience, and through the aggression of the will to propose a re-occurrence, can propose, to the world outside oneself, a meeting point of act and remembrance.

After this thought, when in the Towering Hollow, I would find myself unable to leave the Towering Hollow. Feeling as if I was being followed. Feeling as if the back of my neck was being spoken to. Perhaps I spent hours and hours in that room, gazing, attacking, whispering to The Four Seasons.

Let me return to my idea of the book. I am a poet. And for now, I think, I will always be a poet. What I understand about most poets, the poets I read etc., is that books contain poetry. Books are sold in bookstores. Books can be carried. In books, pages contain poems, and pages are connected - pages can be turned and new page will be revealed while the past and the future pages are concealed. There are covers. Author photographs, publishers, editors, etc. Multiple copies. Here take my book. I have more. Bookstores have more. Libraries have more. And to the book, there is more. Why, besides the containing of the object, is a book a book? I know there are folks reinventing the aesthetic presence of the book form. Wonderful. If the words need that. If the words are only themselves within that environment, then wonderful. But, I am not so much interested in focusing on the purpose of aesthetics. Perhaps my work might imply that. Perhaps my work might, to some, necessitate that. However, for now, the only concentration I am instigating unto the aesthetics of my work, is more or less accidental. For now, I begin with the text. Nearly in the mind of a graffiti artist. For now, I care about how a text can be a book. And I am interested in producing a book that is not one object. A book that can be in many different places. A book that is never together: A book that cannot be carried.


The current trends in my will to write involve a nature that depends on where I am and the means by which I can write, by what I can write on/what I find beautifully-destructively-birthingly-necessary to write on, whether it be by hand with a pen, with a typewriter on pages torn out of the Torah, whether I be amidst other poets or whether I be living on a dirty mattress next to a tribe of beggars in New Mexico, whether I be in small haunted Pennsylvania with my family, whether I be alone in a Museum, whether I be trying to make money to eat with "Poems for sale!" I find the event important. And more, I find the words important. And I find the delicacy of the craft of the words more honesting in an evidence of the environment I had to bear them. But I am interested in the book. And more than interest, I work in a serial manner. Memory is important. The evolution of evidence is important. My poetry must be understood as always a part of something that is whole. Perhaps in the case of a poem signifying that there is more behind and ahead of it, more diagonal to it, more breathing on it, more killing it, more breathing through it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There Will Be Readings

Spring Break Aught-Nine Roadshow: Beginning Friday the 13th, five poets are going to get in a car and visit a bunch of cities to introduce new populations to Correspondence in anticipation of the release of issue two. The travelers will be Adrian Shirk, C. Sweeney, Greg Afinogenov, Robert Snyderman, and Chanelle Bergeron (with special guests along the way, including Beenish Ahmed, Lonely Christopher, and unspecified musicians); they will subsist on non-perishable food and sleep in improvised arrangements. This exhausting project will conclude back on familiar turf with a show at a new community center in Williamsburg. According the our schemes, The Corresponding Society will be invading Philadelphia, Columbus, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Madison, Pittsburg, Buffalo, and Amherst --- bringing our roadshow to coffee shops, bookstores, cafes, theaters, The University of Michigan, and possibly even a funeral home. We have tried to compile all the details together on the Events Page of our website, where even more information will be posted re the tour as it is confirmed. Locals: do not fail to welcome the weary poets home at our Williamsburg reading. Provincials: do not miss the chance to witness firsthand these representatives of The Corresponding Society if they come through your town. Fun fact: out of all the touring writers, C. Sweeney is the only one who can drive, although unlicensed Robert Snyderman has vowed to learn stick on the road. There will be adventure and, surely, misadventure. Scary fun.

A word from our friends: The Agriculture Reader, a journal edited by Correspondence contributor Jeremy Schmall, is celebrating the release of a third issue (featuring work by Dennis Cooper, Christian Hawkey, and Eileen Myles)! Read all about it on their website here. A celebratory event has been announced, consequently. There will be discounts! Mike McDonough, another Correspondence contributor this time around, will also be reading. The details are as follows:

Event: The Agriculture Reader #3 Launch
Venue: Stain Bar
Location: 766 Grand St, Brooklyn
Date: April 2
Time: 7:30pm
Featured Readers: Mike McDonough, Justin Marks, Sharon Mesmer, and Mark Doten

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Night at the Opera

Richard Foreman’s and John Zorn’s Astronome
by Lonely Christopher

A note from Richard Foreman: “Most theater and film offers narrative examples of how human beings navigate daily life --- either mundane or extreme situations. I admit this doesn’t interest me.” The divorce of theater from mimesis has such severity here that that statement is comically brusque. In Foreman’s work, the signification of all the elements of theater aren’t clumsy methods for reaching some meaning that the signification is supposed to jab at while simultaneously obstructing somewhat. The audience wants to get behind the mechanics of signification as if there is anything there. The man with a puffy stomach and green face sticks his tongue out and points to it. A figure enters with a grandfather clock on his back; presently he is curtained with a sheet held by two others. The audience is being shown nonrepresentational activities, which is actually uncomfortable but fascinating: we want these unfolding disclosures to transparently deliver us to a signified, a narrative, an objective correlative. Foreman makes everything available on the surface. This is not a theater of deceit or misdirection --- it is not rude/silly either (unlike, maybe, Offending the Audience). The audience is told beforehand that John Zorn’s music will begin five minutes into the performance --- it does. This anticipatory gesture imbues all the creaks and swishing incidental noises with serious import before the score kicks in to drown them out with Zorn’s self-aware, heavy metal racket. There isn’t much silence thereafter, or talking. I only remember one line of dialog, repeated maybe twice by the same woman, something like: “Hi! I believe everything that comes out of a human mouth.” The drama is an accumulation of mimed negotiations. What happens is not choreography: rarely do the actors seem to have any awareness of the score. Foreman explains: “John’s music, alternately calm and intense, presents a challenging occasion within which I have tried to situate my own aesthetic program.” A play like this goes maybe about as far into nondenotative territory achievable within the form. I am almost amazed it never comes off as tacky or facile. I read the reason for its success in Foreman’s mention of an “aesthetic program,” the rubric under which all aspects of his theater are organized --- this provides relationships between everything. Get with the program: Astronome runs through April 5 at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater of St Mark’s Church, details here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pigeons on the Grass, Alas

All Saints
Re an opera to be sung: the recent staged oratorio version of Four Saints in Three Acts presented at the CUNY Graduate Center as part of an event celebrating the 75th anniversary of its Broadway premiere
by Lonely Christopher

Gertrude Stein is not known for her libretti, but her first collaboration with composer Virgil Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts makes radical use of the operatic form and, paradoxically, was popularly received on Broadway in 1934. The night before I became accidentally aware of a program, at the CUNY Graduate Center, dedicated to the opera, I fell asleep --- drunk, wearing shoes --- listening to The Mother of Us All, Stein’s opera about Susan B. Anthony. Hungover at work in the morning, I happened to read a notice about this daylong event that was already in progress and would conclude with an oratorio performance of Four Saints in the evening. I abandoned my employment and got on the subway. The train is where I remember reading Tender Buttons for the first time. Stein has been the most important writer to me for years --- curiously, only recently did I find and begin to listen to recordings of the two operas. My avoidance was casual, encouraged by what little critical treatment of the project I’d read. I became aware of Four Saints from a biography of Stein that described it as rightly ignored because the conservative music (churchy and juvenile, even) didn’t match the radical text; Alex Ross, in his survey of music in the 20th century, dismisses the opera as silly and the original production as racist. The Broadway run featured an all-black cast, which was unheard of then. Virgil Thomson failed to articulately explain this decision, but Ross’ reaction is embarrassingly starchy. The singular concept, with its historical significance, can be understood as problematic or liberatory. Accusations of insensitivity aren’t helped by Stein’s cringingly worded opinion: “I still do not like the idea of showing the Negro bodies.” I’m aware of some alternative critical perspectives that are more thoughtful: the hypothesis that that aspect resulted from white composers’ hip admiration of black culture and/or blackness characteristic of the musical climate of the time (Show Boat and Porgy and Bess are examples of this tendency, maybe) and then a queer reading positing the otherness of the black saints as a locum tenens for the outsider position of homosexuals (which both collaborators could only address using the encoded conceits of the closet). Regardless, the whole project was so bizarre that its status as Broadway hit seems impossibly uncanny --- black saints arranged in tableaus on a set wrapped in cellophane and fabric (to abstractly represent Spain), no narrative progression, and sung text such as, “Letting pin in letting let in let in in in in in let in let in wet in wed in dead in dead wed led in led wed dead in dead in led in wed in said in said led wed dead wed dead said led led said wed dead wed dead led in led in wed in wed in said in wed in led in said in dead in dead wed said led led said wed dead.” The success dates from a period where Stein received general recognition (long awaited) for her bestselling memoir, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: she returned to America for a sensational lecture tour, saw her name in lights in Times Square, was the subject of intense national press coverage as well as innumerable jokes and references (the theme of a department store window display was based on the opera’s title; New Yorker cartoons poked respectful fun at her; a headline announced her arrival stateside, accompanied by her “secretary,” describing her as the author whom few comprehend). Her celebrity was partly serious but also the product of bemusement; today it’s inconceivable. She’s now relegated to a specialized corner of academia, as evidenced by the program of lectures and panel discussions leading up to the performance at the Graduate Center. The audience was small and old; the organizers and participants were critics, writers, scholars, curators, &c. --- all with major Stein related projects. The woman who introduced everyone is the author of a book (which looks rather self-published, egotistic, and is printed in a really tacky narrow sans serif font) mostly about a libretto she wrote about Gertrude. The atmosphere was one of esoteric devotion (I wondered if Ulla Dydo was there): at one point I witnessed a scholar (who is preparing a book on Stein as well as related curatorial work) itemizing a display of memorabilia that was provided by a private collector (who was there, proudly assisting her list making). Eventually people who had never written a book/thesis/libretto (or even an essay or blog entry) about Stein arrived for the oratorio performance and the recital hall was filled to capacity. I sat between individuals who, like me, were clearly alone: a lady who produced the text of the libretto and read along the entire time and a man who chuckled at almost everything. I am not a frequent concertgoer --- and when I manage it the circumstances usually find me stuck at the upsetting remove of the fifteen buck standing room seats at the Met (never try that) or sitting in the second mezzanine directly behind a large pole at BAM --- so I appreciated the intimacy afforded by the space. The stage just fit the orchestra, choir, and principal singers (and left no room for the three dancers) --- when the concert began, the startling and waltz-like opening blurts struck me like a vehicle; the sound had presence/immediacy that the album hadn’t educated me in or, to start, prepared me for (and yet the sung imploration is to “prepare for saints”). I understand how Thomson’s style could be derided as simplistic and insubstantial, but that’s also a common complaint about Stein --- I think nothing of it in that example because my enjoyment of her has metastasized in earnest (I’m helpless: it’s a final property). When the music began I wasn’t intellectualizing, I was silently allowing for the pulverizing relationship between what I heard and that I heard. Unfortunately the epiphanic and teary amazement of the opening wasn’t sustainable under the circumstances, although I don’t know if it’s valid to complain that a performance failed to constantly make me feel that the only tense is the present and that I am made of pure light. The whole thing was indescribably enjoyable, although the minimal dramatization was questionably staged and there were several annoying glitches. The director apparently began her career with an early production of The Mother of Us All. I’ve been listening more to The Mother of Us All lately than Four Saints although it’s less complete/resounding and, compared to the unlikely novelty of the earlier collaboration, of a much more conservative bent (imagine Stein writing a celebratory scene, the music patriotic and march-like, with the lines, “The vote! The vote! The women have the vote! They have it each and every one. It is glorious! glorious! glorious!”). The recent preferment of the second opera is sort of shallowly motivated --- The Mother of Us All is way catchier. The director’s history with Thomson wasn’t demonstrated in this staging, unfortunately: the sentimental smiles forcefully plastered on the singers’ faces quickly turned creepy/sinister, the costumes looked like pageant robes borrowed from the basement of a Midwestern church, the lead baritone had some vocal trouble and generally seemed wrong, a stage door kept slipping open and accidentally revealing a wheelchair ramp, and corny images (possibly the results of hurried Google image searches for “sky” and “water droplets”) were projected insincerely on the upstage wall. Regardless, nothing could prevent Four Saints from actualizing its avant-garde gorgeousness. Many will never experience this opera as originally presented --- or as later interpreted by Robert Wilson --- but the opportunity of even a weakly dramatized oratorio abridgement provides an uncommon profit after being restricted to on an old vinyl recording transferred to digital format. Four Saints doesn’t operate according to operatic convention --- it is a pageant exemplifying the holiness of that which “makes it be not be makes it not be at the time. The time that it is as well as it could be leave it when when it was to be that it was to be when it was went away.” Which is a fact.