Monday, April 20, 2009

Susan Bee’s Eye of the Storm @ A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, New York

Drowsy, uncertain memories form the substrate of Susan Bee’s luminous dream-dramas, where hellfire nightmares interrupt the amorous gestures of courtly paramours, and prim little girls shoot guns at fairies. She evokes the half-waking state when the body grasps for situation in the real world in order to leave behind the strange figures of night-time reverie.

An image from the title sequence of Hitchcock’s Vertigo haunts Bee’s work. In the film, a dark eye and a spiraling light initiate a web of ocular desire focused on the numinous beauty of the heroine. Eye of the Storm directs that watchful eye on the wispy Hollywood bombshell and the coy and corseted Victorian damsel, imagining the feminine in idealized forms clipped from dime-store paperbacks and antique postcard illustrations, all caught in a gaze that radiates insatiable fantasy.

In The Flood (2006), demure lovers clad in starched linen and crinoline stand perched on a tree amid turbulent waters, the calamity below bearing little effect on what looks like an otherwise placid Sunday picnic. A bikini-clad sex kitten is suspended in an action movie pose, lusty and unfazed while painted figures rendered in simple, flat, folk-art colors clamber up trees or flail in the rising waters. The appropriated images, as familiar cultural signifiers, embody in various forms the conceptual language of the status quo; the pervasive visual vocabulary to which we agree by acceptance or recognition. As clich├ęs they have little to do with either the palpable and singular effect of the painted artwork—where the mottled and vigorous waves of color are no more and no less than the choppy deluge that they indicate—or the very real tragedy of human suffering which Bee invokes in referencing the September 11 attacks, the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. She renders the bleeding wounds of a broken nation as the turbid and undifferentiated stuff of lived experience, dotted with the images that give form to memory—lifeboats bobbing in the waves—or the historical signifiers that govern and organize the inner life.

The Eye of the Storm trains our gaze onto the very phenomenon of looking. And it is the blindness of unmediated experience that gropes in the rising waters for the images visible at the horizon promising salvation. What we see in her work is the impossibility of reconciliation, which we as viewers and distinctly constituted selves stand to reckon with.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Boog City Cakeshop Reading

The Boog City reading and events publishing/booking organization has just "offically" posted full audio links to the Cakeshop Poetry readings that were held as a part of the "Welcome to Boog City" Festival back in September of 2008.

You can hear my reading at this link, under the name "Manson Douglas Manson" which is not my legal name, but if repeated often enough, may create an impossible-to-forget effect on you the next time you want to listen to or read unique poetic works.

I've listened to about 30 seconds of my recording so far, and am a little surprised at the low & loping tone I begin this with. I am reading from the opening pages of the book To Becoming Normal, a poem of transient line-endings and small pools of sentient awareness. A book of little, just-cracked-open geode crystal hoards. I also remember that I had to read immediately after listening to a poem which, to my mind, was filled with heavy heavy degrees of anomie, animosity and aggression, thus my voice begins with a kind of "pressed against immovable stone" effect, which eventually wears off after a few minutes.

There are also recordings of the Welcome to Boog City Friday night readings at this link.

I hope you enjoy all of the audio files.

Thanks to David Kirschenbaum and Damian Weber for the work they put into this. And to New York City for bringing me the chance to get to know and fall in love with Miriam. "No, never in those fiery days / when I indulged in youthful ways, / did I experience such a torment . . ."


Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Interview

This March I was invited to participate in the Wick Poetry Center's 25th Anniversary reading and panel series at Kent State University in Ohio. Seven former Wick fellows and interns were present to discuss their experiences at a number of panels, and at a reading of poetry and short story on the night of March 12. In this interview, I respond to a series of questions about the role I played at Wick, and discuss other aspects of my writing, editing and scholarship. Interview