Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunday 18 February 2007

Cool. South wind. Overcast.
"The way upward and the way downward are the same." T. S. Eliot

The artist has become invisible in our culture.
Making the artist visible again is itself a kind of artistic endeavor.
Here is the window through which the poet has climbed. Let us call to her- Poet! She stands outside the poem, outside of the frame. She stands with the mass of pedestrians she has called together. She calls to the world. "Here is the view! Come and see." She says to them, "In looking out, you look in." They understand. And see. She is a pastor.
The reach from poet to public, on behalf of all poetry, is a sacrament.

I am consumed with thoughts on the reading series I am developing for the Phinney Center. Fielding questions from poets, performers, the media, friends who wish to understand. "What are you trying to do?"

Asking a distinguished poet to recognize and introduce a colleague who hasn't yet published a book seems simple. Artists supporting artists. Yes, but what an seldom incurred event! And so this is my effort, to call forth the humanity of the artist. To expose the nurse/patient, food/hunger, relationship between poets, mentors, the literary society. To take the artist outside herself, put her in a telephone booth, on a seesaw, to recognize that balance and need.

The artist sits in her room, alone and wondering. "Who will recognize this? Recognize me?" Wondering how to be found. "Why are the other being published? When will it be my turn?" Talking to herself, forgetting how to relate. "For whom do I write?" Forgetting the aim of voice, which is to converse. To live. To explain. To comfort. To affirm. Not to preserve, but to begin. Not to prolong, but to grow. Not befuddle, but expose. Not dispute, but avow.


What is the purpose of coupling poetry and performance? How to explain performance art?

The public is confused. "You mean slam poetry? You mean performance?" The poets are worried. "There's going to be a performance during to my reading?" The performers are most leery. "What kind of poets are these?"

Well, I think all of this is like asking an onion and a glass of water how they might relate if I were to put them on a table together. The fact is, they can't help but relate because they coexist, they inhabit the same frame. The onion just by being an onion. The glass just by being a glass. There is no work to be done. There is only information spent. The bend of skin through water. The reflection on glass. The moisture breathed by a paper skin.
Ah, but this still leaves the question, why encourage these forms to relate?

I chose a title, a title meant to read like a label, for a painting.
Untitled [Intersection], 2007.
It had to be in a gallery, in an art space, a place where poetry could wrap itself in visual art. It had to be equalized, poetry needs the real dialogue of living art, of performance art.


Whether or not you agree that performance art work was born in the work of Futurist Italian poet, F. T. Marinetti in 1908, it is hard to deny the parallels between performance and poetry. When true, they serve as forms of attack on the state, on the state of art in the modern world, in the bourgeois culture. Poets and performers are the artists most significantly affecting how we see the world. How we live in it.

Untitled [Intersection], 2007 proposes to merge these efforts, to posit them against one another, as means of correcting their fracture and of instigating a dialogue between them.


Talk about a rose petal in a canyon! The poet goes to the mailbox, drops in a submission, put it onto the blue tongue and Amen waits. What quieter death exists?!

Rise up devout one, tie a stone to your petal. It is time you made noise. Tasked yourself with talent.


A visitor brought me Janet Wong today, a local children's author and poet. A kindergarten teacher brought me Janet Wong. She reads Wong's poetry to her students, to her kindergarten students. Someone is working to turn the tide. Thank you, Professor Lilliput. Thank you for planting the next fairy tale crop.


"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you" (Jesus, in the Gospel of Thomas).

Fred Bissetti came to see me. He came to the lake. A famed Seattle architect came to see the unknown poet. He suggested putting a booth beside mine, sitting at a desk that read a-r-c-h-i-t-e-c-t. Yes, I said, please do that. That would be lovely.

Your buildings are not invisible. Are you? Where is your entry way? You are here at my desk, in a chair, before me. Yes, I said, please do that. That would be lovely.

Mr. Bissetti brought his daughter, Ann, and two chairs. Or did Ann bring her father?
They spent twenty minutes with me. It was awful blustery and overcast. They brought literature and ideas. Poems and definitions. And Fred was real. He sat on a chair under the dome I constructed. And his papers fluttered. He is 90 years old this January.

Fred brought the Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of poetry. It begins, "Poetry is a vast subject." It goes on to raise connections between poetry and breath. It explains why we'd continue trying to define a term after so many years failing. The reason we must keep striving, they say, is out of pigheadedness. We, the poets and critics, presumably, wish very badly to determine what is not poetry so that we may claim poetry. The poet is challenging her existence. O, what boldness!

"The French poet Paul Valery said that prose was walking, poetry dancing. Indeed, the original two terms, prosus and versus, meant, respectively, 'going straight forth' and 'returning,' and that distinction does point up the tendency of poetry to incremental repetition, variation, and the treatment of many matters and different themes in a single recurrent form such as couplet or stanza" [Encyclopedia Britannica].
We must applaud our Circlers for creating poetry.. by moving. By moving in a space that churns up poetry. Applause for having recognized and preserved this poetic space. Applause! Applause!

Mr. Bissetti is renowned for his work on the Burke Building, for his efforts to salvage elements of its pre-modern, Romanesque architecture, for incorporating them into the modern structure as architectural fragments. He is credited with architectural nostalgia, with warmth and intimacy. No not architectural nostalgia, but memory. Nostalgia shows weakness, memory shows strength. He is credited for imbuing Seattle with an architectural memory.
My desk as a stage surrounded by Evan and Casey and Miriam and Dirk, discussing what theatre can do. We start by asking, "Who are your heroes?" Evan said Bono. Casey said the name of a local forest firefighter killed two years ago. Dirk said Ghandi. Miriam said a 1600's Peruvian figure named Tupa Kapparu. I said Goran Kropp, the Swedish purist climber who died in Vantage, WA a few years back. We have heroes. We have a stage.
The theatre is a catharsis. Is an experiment. A testing ground. A lesson and exercise for life. And then, finally, life itself.
Augusta Boal, in Brazil, developed a theatre close to life with his Forum Theatre. A theatre intent on solving our particular problems now, without violence and without magic. During the show, the action is frozen and the audience is asked to come forward to fill in for the characters, to solve the problem happening on stage, which is their problem. Which is a problem raised by studying their own concerns and events. This is a form of participatory theatre.
"In Forum Theatre, audience members witness the unfolding of a scene in which someone playing one of their members is faced with oppressive practices (eg. by a public official, employer, patriarchal family member, etc.). Audience members are invited to call “stop!” at any time and to take the stage in place of the oppressed character, performing alternate
responses in defiance of the oppression. Boal draws a clear distinction between what happens when the actors who are not members of the audience community play out the scene and when audience members, who he calls “spect-actors”, take up the role. He says when people watch someone not of the community represent their lives, they experience a sort of catharsis—a recognition of the familiar with an accompanying emotional response. But when the actor is one of them, it gives rise to a far more compelling process because it is a sort of self- libratory act
initiated by the oppressed people themselves: 'We should depart from the theatre galvanized with our desire and our decision to bring about change for that which is unfair and oppressive' (p.25)." [Performing Respect].
This call to action, to act upon life, is no different than life. Yes, all the world is a stage and you are called to act on it. Really, you are. Despite the pacifiers that have been laid about by those in power, who wish you would not act, upset things, change the order. The screens and lights. The dim rooms and vats of wine. The world calls to you. The wild geese. The evening air. The onion's paper sleeve. The bevels in a glass of water.


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