Recently the Wilde Boys, a salon for queer writers, met to discuss the work of Joe Brainard. I was unable to attend, but I hear the discussion was lovely and Keith McDermot was there with some of Brainard’s collages and letters. I did read the text I Remember, which is something I had been intending to get around to for years (I remember Richard Loranger telling me about it when I was a freshman). It was a delightful, friendly book, inventing a form that’s impossibly tempting to try out. Anselm Berrigan, for example, used it here. While I’m sure the risks of narcissism and sentimentality are great, below I’ve written an I Remember exercise focused around experiences related to The Corresponding Society. I was eating a tea-soaked madeleine when I wrote this. (Lonely Christopher)
I remember whole nights writing in the living room with Christopher Sweeney and Robert Snyderman (we were listening to Sufjan Stevens the entire time and even if we left for the day it would still be playing when we got back). I remember The Corresponding Society’s first official meeting, attended by an impractical number of our friends and held in the biggest bedroom in the Bed-Stuy apartment. I remember I serendipitously met Bob Snyderman on the first day of school when he introduced himself after overhearing me telling somebody on the phone the first thing I was going to do in the city was go see the new Gus Van Sant movie. I remember the first verse poem I ever wrote was a rhyming satire called The Joke of Rape. I remember Richard Loranger taking very seriously the readings we held at Central Park’s Bethesda Angel (when we were freshman). I remember filming Bob recite a poem and filming Sweeney, shirtless, talking about Foucault. I remember when Zachary German read for us at the KGB Bar and then wanted to leave immediately. I remember the first time I saw our journal at St. Mark’s Bookshop. I remember reading Kenneth Koch freshman year, around when I decided to study fiction not poetry. I remember drawing a picture of Roland Barthes on the wall, which kept reappearing when we tried to paint it over. I remember I wanted to start a "salon" like Gertrude Stein. I remember when Bob Snyderman made paintings by hanging a canvas on his wall and stabbing it repeatedly with paint-smeared knives. I remember when Bob bought a violin, then decided to play it without formally learning it. I remember stealing bikes from Pratt and riding over the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember seeing Sweeney perform with his hardcore band at ABC No Rio. I remember Sweeney brought a coffeemaker to a party one night and couldn’t explain why. I remember he also would drink coffee in class from a big glass vase and everybody thought it was wine. I remember when our academic advisor, a recovering alcoholic, brought several dozen 40 bottles of malt liquor into our apartment, and we drank it all that night, and somehow it was all paid for by Knopf. I remember Bob became obsessed with this (huge) ratty, creepy doll named Dakota that he found somewhere (he put her in his fiction and plays, but his devotion began to concern us). I remember when Bob brought an entire tree into our apartment. I remember reading Moby-Dick on the subway on the way uptown. I remember eating hotdogs in a backyard and talking about Proust. I remember my favorite random present: a copy of Turco's Book of Forms from Mae Saslaw. I remember my academic advisor telling me he knew I thought I was smart because I understood Gertrude Stein, but I couldn't take an independent study on Joyce's Ulysses. I remember getting expelled from PS 122 for bad behavior at an after party. I remember when Bob observed Shabbat, but he cheated by leaving his room full of lit candles and keeping every door to our apartment unlocked so he could leave and get back inside. I remember the time Bob turned in some dead leaves for a critical theory assignment. I remember sitting on the street near Times Square with Sweeney and watching him as he ripped a book by Beckett in half, gave me a piece and put the other in his bag. I remember the year I was obsessed with Hamlet. I remember driving to Robert Frost’s house, but not going inside because an old lady was there charging five bucks per visitor. I remember walking fifteen minutes in the snow in the morning to study grammar. I remember almost the whole program was hung over in our Friday morning writer's forum because the salon was the night before. I remember Chanelle Bergeron stayed in a teepee in my living room one summer and almost everybody wrote a poem about her. I remember after reading in Providence, a Brown student asked me, “Are you gay?” I remember working in a library and listening to Philip Glass as I shelved books. I remember I wrote a story that won a contest at school, and the prize was a critique by Mary Gaitskill, and she hated my story, really loathed it, and was openly cruel about it. I remember Adrian Shirk, fiction writer, frustrated at rampant abuse of the title "poet," being a super loaded term and easy to exploit, and time was I agreed with her and preferred to think of myself as a "creative writer," but then I gave up again because I secretly wanted to be a Mythic Poet. I remember taking Bob and Sweeney to see the Richard Serra exhibit at the MoMA, trying to convince them I was applying minimalist processes in my poetry, then we sat in the sculpture garden and taped an interview while Sweeney smoked a cigarette. I remember when everybody would talk about Gender Trouble at parties and one girl named her dog Judith Butler. I remember issue 1 of Correspondence went fast because Bob sold copies in Central Park. I remember we called the kids who acted unruly at our salons “the groundlings.” I remember Josh Furst telling me the rules for writing were “live cheaply, don’t kill yourself, and write what hurts.” I remember when everybody but me went on tour for Correspondence and I convinced myself our cat had rabies (when they returned I found out Sweeney had been arrested). I remember Bruce Andrews was extremely particular about how the em-dashes looked in his poems for issue 2. I remember how the spine of issue 1 was accidentally backwards (nobody said anything). I remember our first business card had a misspelling (nobody said anything). I remember Anselm Berrigan approving vigorously of the self-publication in our journal, even sort of angry about people who think it's distasteful. I remember we were going to watch Basketball Diaries because we had that and Hook, but when we put it in the VHS player, we discovered it was really Freddy Got Fingered in the wrong box, but we watched it anyway, and I honestly thought it was a masterpiece. I remember finally reading John Ashbery. I remember the editors binding chapbooks together while watching Do the Right Thing. I remember having to meet with a disciplinarian at school after a production of one of Bob's plays was shut down for safety reasons. I remember when Bob did a play at St. Mark’s Church that also was forced to end prematurely (it never bothered him). I remember acting in a play by A. E. W. at the Bowery Poetry Club, yelling the line, “I gave you that kerosene to save you, not the baby!” I remember Jody Buchman began periodically conspiring to direct Waiting for Godot, staged outside on a huge mound of real cow shit. I remember nobody believed my insistence that "Godot" is always pronounced wrong. I remember we drove to the Cloisters to watch an outdoor production of Hamlet (everybody but me left early because it was terrible). I remember when Dave Swensen got us obsessed with Beethoven’s thirteenth string quartet. I remember the first play I wrote was ten acts long and featured no actual people, only furniture. I remember taking Bob to see Philip Glass at Carnegie Hall for his birthday. I remember trying disastrously to learn music theory (too much math). I remember memorizing the poem “The Rainbow,” by Gerard Manely Hopkins, and attempting to set it to music. I remember the editors trying to figure out what The Corresponding Society was principally about without writing a mission statement. I remember when we went out to buy new footwear and that somehow led to stealing a bagful of books by William S. Burroughs. I remember telling Sweeney all his favorite poets were gay. I remember how Greg Afinogenov would yell “Wisdom, let us attend!” to get people to shut up for readers at our salon. I remember sitting in a pile of trash near Columbus Circle and talking about Kafka.