Friday, February 27, 2009

Bonita Z and Galatea

Goodbye Bonita. We Love you.

The poem is by Sara Teasdale. Published in 1920.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fully Linked

In my experiences as a poet, I’d never hosted an open microphone reading before, even though I have attended and read at hundreds of them. The first time I read a poem publicly (a pretentious attempt to sound literary that included the word “trillitrumpetings”) was in 1991 at Brady’s Café in Kent, Ohio. True to the 1990s, the Café was bought out by a Starbucks, and the musical portion of the Café moved to the town movie theater and became The Kent Stage, and the readings moved to the Standing Rock Arts building on Water Street (which could lead me into more nostalgic/nauseate reminiscence about venues, poets, and music in Kent in the mid-1990s). The Jawbone Open readings were organized by Maj Ragain, though there had been another poet (or writer) who helped begin the readings in the 1980s, and whose name I can’t recall. Ragain and others had been part of a reading series at Shelly’s Book Bar back in the 1970s, and it is significant that Mark Mothersbaugh, who is the fine DADA-sophic writer of "My Struggle" (by Boojie Boy), would offer some of his early, trenchant DEVO ideas for them before the "band" transmutated into new wave/punk phenomena. I was too young to witness the beginnings of these series, though the strength of Mothersbaugh & others’ work made Kent in the late 1970s, still in many ways in shock from the student shootings of May 4, 1970, into a destination for filmmakers, musicians, progressives, and new american poets, the ripples from which I was able to feel.

This is a long introduction to my acknowledgments here to the many people who came together to make the first Endocrinology open microphone “jam” such a good time. Even if the microphone was never used! But it is personally important for me to acknowledge the influences I am cognizant of, so that I can thank those who set a precedent tone, and those who were participants and audience at the thursday night reading. Thanks are due to everyone for coming out on a evening of stinging, bitter weather, and for bringing such a high quality of serious and damaged works to read and perform on a Thursday night.

So my thanks go to Michael Kelleher, who inspired the open-mic idea in me when he picked me up one morning as I was walking to work and listed out all the reading series that had closed in Buffalo recently (among which the Spoken Word Sundays readings hosted by Liz Mariani, the Just Buffalo Open Mic Series hosted by Livio Farallo, and the Buffalo Poetry Slams hosted by Gabrielle Boulaine). Thanks to Ryki Zuckerman, first for reading at Endocrinology, but also for her tireless effort in organizing and hosting at least three or four open mic series in town—Earth’s Daughters, the Gray Hair Series, and the Wordflight readings at the Crane Public Library—and to Jennifer Campbell who now hosts at least one of these. Thanks to Aaron Lowinger, for not egging my house when I scheduled my reading for the same night as the Anselm Berrigan (no show) and Dorthea Lasky Small Press Poetry reading series. Thanks to Dorthea Lasky for reading the inaugural Endocrinology poem “Real Boobs” before her main feature reading down the street (diplomacy works!!). Thanks to Eric Gelsinger, who forwarded the text by Robert Kocik (“Stressogony”) that formed the basis of almost all my remarks between readers. Thanks to Michael Basinski, who put his own health on the line to make to the reading, and who gave a brilliant (first time?) reading from his book Of Venus 93, and to whom I must apologize for not introducing in an appropriate way. Thanks, big thanks, to RussellBloodbeamsPascatore for creating the Facebook event page, inviting hundreds of people to attend, and for his encouragement, accurate perceptions, fortitude amidst a no-alcohol policy, bright lights and printer problems, and especially for his all-around sucky attitude. By the way, Russell, the first band to admit they sucked was, I believe, Primus. Thanks to Gina Pennock for designing the flyer & scientific acumen in understanding “open slots”. Thanks so so so much to the Sugar City artists and organizers, Aimee Buyea, Tom Van Deusen, and Morgan (?!) for their amazing work and vision in creating the space, and for attending. Thanks to Eco Joe, Richard Cimbalo, David Gluchowski, Josh Smith, John Markle, Zach Keebaugh, Jack Topht, Chris Fritton, David Lewitsky and Zev Gottdiener for filling the open slots and reading/singing/slurring & stretching into such a range of linguistic permutations. Thanks to Thea who didn’t see the reading, but gave me a ride home. And to the audience. And even though she was stranded far off on an island of artists with a bag of Cheetos, thanks to my very own Homestyle, for all her sweet supporting sustenances.

More jams, and all-around devoluted suckiness to come for Endocrinology Open Mikes in March: national small press month!!

--Douglas Manson


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Gormandist Manifesto

Consumerism, as we know—though it produces heaps upon heaps of twisted metal, battery acid, banana peels, bones, and fecal matter—only gets its eager mandibles on the paltry goodies that it deems attractive. We proudly confess our affinity for rusty old novelty items with their orange and blue motifs and misspelled slogans for defunct enterprises, but we dirty our hands at the junk shop only with that same delicious orange powder that sticks to our fingers after a bag of Cheetos and a Bartles & James Blue Hawaiian. And we all know that despite the delightful melange of happy colors and rays of sunshine that beam forth from the supermarket aisles, there really ain’t much to choose from.

I therefore inaugurate with this statement New Gormandism. Our ninety percent submerged iceberg brains can handle only so much culinary aptitude in that measly bit of floating grey matter, thus we finish our peas in anticipation of the pudding. The peas are often soggy, bland and kind of mushy but they’re not that bad. The pudding is good—sweet and creamy around our tongues like underwater embryonic memories. New Gormandism proposes that we supress the feeble and ill-founded preferences of our fungiform papillae and in the spirit of Gargamelle, who, when great with Gargantua, ate immense quantities of godebillios—the fat tripes of fat oxen—take into our gullets everything that our gullets will take.

As Gormandists we are the new foragers, yet this time we forget our contest with those sluggish Cro-Magnons; indeed we play hacky-sack with them and other non-competitive sports, invite them to tea. We shall raise our glasses of milk thistle extract and Murray’s Pomade in a toast to consumption: “here’s to the body: full o’ shit with nuthin’ to do about it!” We eat indiscriminately and thus begin to walk a little bit closer to the ground. We fill ourselves with coal dust and flower petals just to see what happens and then forget about it. We stand among the old, glass Coke bottles and perfume flasks, our purpose simply to contain, waiting to be picked up by the oblivious junk collector hungry for Cheetos only to float from his fingers like a bunch of inflated pig stomachs at hog-killing time. What we put in our mouths will never suit us, nor should it, for we are mere vessels, our aim to make true among the urban waste factories spitting out all the good stuff that everything has its place.

Our bodies will merge with gasoline rainbows and discarded Christmas trees because we are what we eat. Should Gormandists remain faithful to the tenets of their practice, they will achieve unlimited transubstantiative powers. They shall remember the time when they gazed at a bag of Cheetos, longing for both the awesome speed of that biotope feline and Chester’s dandy indifference, now wielding all of those powers and more. We shall all become Chesters and vacuum-sealed bags that crinkle like the thunder that crashes over the Serengeti.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lists that Make a Man With Qualities of Life Out of Me

These organization men want the honest intellectual to expose himself for them, but as soon as they only remotely fear having to expose themselves, they see him as a capitalist, and the same honesty on which they were speculating, as ridiculous sentimentality and stupidity.
Normality is death.

Theodor Adorno Minima Moralia

Two kinds of normality. In the tumble of these temperate/icy days, all my attempts to cut costs floundering in an inexplicable heating bill, the continuous struggle to even communicate an honest feeling, to make it carry some semblance of the feeling that inspired it, all I can do is go back over these lists. The first is from a former student of mine. Here are the classic definitions of what it is to be a man:

adventurer: brave and courageous
the best, #1 : "I can't" is not acceptable
breadwinner : cash, not nurturance
control : control your job, your emotions, your woman
hurdles : pass all the tests of manhood
money : a man is judged by how much money he makes and the status of his job
playboy : sexually aggressive, muscular, attractive
president : always pursue power and status
self-reliant : never ask for help
sports : enjoy the thrill of victory, and always compete
superman: be perfect
tough guy : show no emotions
warrior : take death-defying risks
work ethic: work for a living, do not take handouts

List #2: A list of social indices that determine your quality-of-life level--

1. an absence of sexism and racism
2. an absence of age-ism
3. cultural diversity
4. health
5. access to open spaces
6. adequate nutrition
7. regular physical activity
8. level of literacy
9. periodic holidays
10. quality of your environment
11. adequate income levels
12. a long life span
13. leisure in abundance
14. opportunity for travel
15. educational opportunities
16. novelty
17. freedom of movement
18. employment
19. enjoyment of basic rights.

and to complete today's randomness:
those days that fall outside of the calendar are the epagomenal ones.

And don't forget the brand new Endocrinology poetry plus! open-mic reading series at Sugar City, Feb. 19, 7:00 p.m. $3 donation. Look for flyers in Buffalo, and a myspace page in cyberspace SOON!

Have an epagomenal day.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Machine that Ate Itself

@ Susan Inglett Gallery 522 West 24th, NYC 01.08.09-02.07.09

Eric Fertman likes conveyor belts, cacti, fingers, fists, pulleys, broken axles, scaffolding, stones, flop-eared dogs, penises, gears, piping, abdomens, spinal cords, air shafts and mitochondria. His dendritic, arterial, robotic compositions are simultaneously machines of production and decomposition, where the motley components of his palpitating laboratories each arrest an instant of growth or decay.

In Monument, A smooth axis with radiating, foot-like appendages faces a splintered wagon wheel on a large, black sculpture of wood and steel. The damaged wheel is mirrored in its parallel image, redoubled, polished and purified, such that the machine addresses and neutralizes in its form its own incompleteness. In an ink drawing, Slab 3, a white cell multiples among black pupae nested in the endoplasmic wood grain of a cartoon factory complex. A broken plank stuck with bent nails protrudes from the roof.

Fertman treats the technological powers of generation as pure appearance, equating the birth and death of the animal with the fate of the dated machine. His is a poetics of fertility and obsolescence, and his impossible apparatuses throb with vitality while incorporating the prophetic shapes of their own ruin. Rocket science and biology share in a diagrammatic plan that pivots on a single foot in a shiny, globular Mickey Mouse shoe.

Fertman’s minimalism is in pared-down comic book shapes, where the object is reduced to its dominant proportions: the wiry limb and the bulbous joint, the floppy ear and the oblong head. Slim wooden bars suggest bones and joists; structural elements dramatized in an aesthetics of gravity. The capacity of each structure to bear its own weight, to articulate its own architectural schematics, is the final purpose of Fertman’s industry. What he produces, then, is a caricatured portrait of bio-industrial life processes, where the bare form engenders a conceptual anatomy of mechanized life envisioned in both the nested egg and the fuel pump.


Proposal for a talk never delivered

Though I was unable to find the time and resources to compose the more extended essay, I thought this brief summary of some ideas I was working on last summer were useful in their own right. The ideas were proposed for the UM at Orono "decades" conference (which Kevin Killian has documented in fine detail elsewhere), however, various "personal" issues (read: sucking poverty) obligated my remaining in my home town, and the research and essay abandoned.

Coach of the Ganglia Frame: on bpNichol's Small Press Poetics

The 1970s saw a huge rise in modernist-inflected small press poetry publications. With the readily-available mimeograph as a primary means of printing, and the photo-duplicator just around the corner, the stage was set for the web-poetics that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. While many poets today will email their works to one another (creating an interesting divergence of fine press and visual-voco-verbal texts amidst relatively traditional poetic forms), the 1970s were marked by a proliferation of poetic communities linked by the mail. This essay looks into the ways that single works of poetry and publication reflect the larger aesthetic projects of book publication and the serial poem, focusing on works by the Canadian poet bpNichol (1944-1988) and his mailing of poetry publications, specifically those distributed by way of a mailing list for his poetry series Ganglia and grOnk. In examining the role of the poet-publisher-designer during a critical period of innovative poetry, we can distinguish a poetics of publication from the poetics of aesthetic/thematic language art, and observe the correspondences between them in the drive to materially distinguish individual works by their physical shape, implicit rules for reading, or the processes by which they are composed. Among many other poets involved in the mimeo and artist's-book communities of the 1970s, bpNichol attended closely to the sometimes necessary, and sometime intentional aspects of designing others' and his own works throughout the decade. Aleph Unit (1973) and Love: A Book of Remembrances (1974) are manifestations of concrete poetry, inflected by English-language book traditions and European modernism. In a parallel process, by building a publishing and reading community by mail, bpNichol recognized the meaning of the "frame" for the work as a concern for the way that a work is to be read. In The Martyrology Books 3 and 4 (1976), he takes up themes of a personal and local history within the newer practice of a poetry explicitly centered on autobiographical and subjective experience. If the popular press deemed the 1970s a "me" decade, Nichol's work reminds us that a little letter-pinch can induce mirrors, transpositions and reversals sufficient to spin selfish concepts towards new interpersonal insights: ME --> WE.