Monday, June 29, 2009

Laser Lights, or, Interpenetrations: Buffalo

I’ve always wondered about the meaning of autobiography, and to go with it, the kinds of disclosures that people make about themselves during correspondence interviews (where conversation can take place over vast scales of time and distance). Written interviews, especially like those collected in the third volume of Tom Beckett’s E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The final XIV Interviews +One, focus in equal portions on the life of the interviewee and the work that distinguishes them. Interviews are usually initiated because of the work an artist has accomplished, work that brings about a desire for detailed explanations as to how it came about. Interviews attract us because they promise a look into the mind, working methods, interests and origins of the subject, and they propitiate a desire felt among readers, the randomly curious, the fledgeling practitioner as well as the solitary artisan for the sense of belonging to a community. Interviews attract us because we also want to learn how something complex and beautiful (such as a major poem) actually came about. We want to know the person’s politics, what they’re like at home, find out what’s really going on in line 347 of the poem Gelid Cuspidors in the Bank Lobby of my Heart. In their collaborative interview manuscript Interpenetration of Views, Tom Beckett and Geof Huth have recorded a year (May 2008-May 2009) of daily conversational exchanges and questions. Two days ago, they presented a portion of it in Buffalo as a kind of performance art: definitely as an experiment, but also as a way of “reading” themselves back to each other and to us--as we all shared a proximity that, paradoxically, transformed the intimacy of the interview text into a kind of distanced, objectified formal presentation, such as one finds at serious poetry happenings. Better still, the “Interpenetrations: Buffalo” event seemed to be less about the chance for those assembled in the room to swap shop and dig poetic as it was a chance to examine that “big hulking” manuscript they brought with them. It seemed to sit there, emanating unknown reserves of thought and energy, perplexity and pathos as if it were a record of events that took place long ago and far far away.

It’s interesting to think about how many interviews I have heard, read, watched and even conducted in the course of my life.

I have myself conducted and recorded over 45 interviews in the last 10 years—the first of these in a conversational “round” with Brenda Coultas in 2000, and the most recent of these with the artistic director of Hollywood’s Unknown Theater in 2007.

The central reason for lesser concern with the form and the art of the interview is, I think, because it seems to demand far less attention than I gave, or give, to a work of serious literary art—to poetry, to works of complex philosophy, or the mind- and mood-altering books that teach me a new way to read each time I pick them up. What I want to say here is that Tom Beckett and Geof Huth have, I think, initiated, even if somewhat uncertainly, a concretization of the activity of the interview in such a way that it just might provide us a chance to see deeply into what has heretofore seemed (to me) “mere” journalism—or a subsidiary poetics—and therefore less enduring in meaning because it is simply a conversation, as easy as falling out of bed; and engaged in because, as writers, we want to learn from each other, deepen our relationships with each other, commiserate, console, and challenge each other. I see now that, for years, I’ve been assuming that the sources of the work of art really come from some other place (but I don’t want to get into the where of it right now). Of course, I can articulate this now only because I’d been blind for so long as to how wrong my ideas (assumptions, really) were. And, after Saturday night, I can see how nothing seems more obvious than the way that formal interview situations are composed entirely of performances—whether we are performing “ourselves” for the sake of the interview, or we are creating narrative or a valedictory showing of ourselves (despite our dissimulations, shows of humility, candor and deference). Interviews are intended to provide public, personal accounts of the reasonableness of our activities. But I would now say that, in just such a way that they are performances (and Jerry Springer can take credit for making this realization easier, too), they are as available to us to be treated aesthetically as anything else.

MORE to come . . .


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Geof Huth and Tom Beckett in Buffalo

Saturday, June 27, 2009
7:00pm - 11:00pm
Karpeles Manuscript Library
453 Porter Avenue

Visual poet Geof Huth and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Tom Beckett will be reading together for the first time in Buffalo this coming Saturday at the Karpeles Manuscript Library, 453 Porter Ave. in Buffalo NY. They will discussing their year-long interview, as well as reading their own works.

"Tom Beckett and Geof Huth, after interviewing each other for one year (and 680 pages), will read from their interview, continue the interview in person, and read and sing their poetry. This is the first reading by Tom and Geof of selections from their interview, which focused on discussions of poetry, philosophy, and the act of living as a poet in the modern world."


In the 1980s Tom Beckett edited and published The Difficulties, a journal which became well known for its critical issues on Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, David Bromige and Susan Howe. More recently he curated the E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S website ( which presented 39 in depth interviews with poets. These interviews, together with supplemental texts by each interview subject, have been published in 3 handsome volumes by Otoliths (

Beckett's Unprotected Texts: Selected Poems 1978-2006 (Meritage Press, 2006) is available from Small Press Distribution and Amazon. Additionally, Otoliths has published This Poem/What Speaks?/A Day (2008), a collection of 3 longer poems.


Geof Huth has lived in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and North and South America, all the while using language for his own purposes. His interest in language turned him into a poet, textual, visual, aural, and digital. He works words in many media: condensation, crayon, frost, object, paint, pen, pencil, pixel, pollen, sound, type, and video. He writes almost daily on visual poetry and related matters at his blog dbqp: visualizing poetics. His most recent books of poetry are Longfellow Memoranda (366 tiny poems incorporating the vocabulary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), texistence (300 one-word poems co-written with mIEKAL aND), a book / of poems / so small / I cannot / taste them (78 micropoems around the topic of winter), ENDEMIC BATTLE COLLAGE (the first publication of a suite of digital poems written in the 1980s), and the chapbook Gingerbread (a long poem written in 1984 and published in 2009).

Geof Huth writes for the blog:

dbqp: visualizing poetics


Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Are Invited

19 Wadsworth Street in Allentown

The first featured reader will be SHERRY ROBBINS, author of Snapshots of Paradise and the book Or, The Whale. She has been a writing teacher since 1977. The second featured reader will be DOUGLAS MANSON, author of Roofing and Siding. There will be 10 open slots for sign-up readers/performers. Attending this event will give you the sensation of holding a mirror at a forty-five degree angle in front of your eyes as you are whisked forward at seventy-five miles-per-hour!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Celery Flute Issue 2:1

At long last, a new issue of Celery Flute: The Kenneth Patchen Newsletter is now available!

This is a special issue dedicated to the performance of Kenneth Patchen's work--plays, poems, and even some of the issues surrounding the "performance" of the "outsider poet" in literary history. Features in this issue include an interview with Chris Covics of Hollywood's Unknown Theater, special Patchen-Fest '07 notes by Green Panda Press publisher Bree, plus detailed discussion of verbal-visual poetry by Karl Kempton and others. Two full-color reproductions of "Albion Moonlight" paintings by Douglas Paisley. Issues are $9 postage paid.