Joel Kuzsai and Wystan Curnow
read last evening at Saatchi and Saatchi. It's an impressive place, though some of my poet friends described it as a corporate cathedral. Huge gorgeous Elizabeth Murray painting/assemblages[my mistake- Wystan corrected me today at lunch- they are late Frank Stella paintings] grace the walls of the lobby when you enter.Three doorman were needed to guide you to an impressive reading room on the 16th floor that had a skylight on a round gabled glass ceiling thaf must have been 30 feet high. There were elegant aperitifs and an open bar. Both poets read from recent and earlier work, and the performances complemented each other well. When I thought about what these poets had in common I realized that both have a powerful curatorial impulse, Wystan in art and Joel in publishing (he's the publisher of Factory School books, along with Bill Marsh). These were readers who offer multilayered performances of striking intensity and subtle, yet pervasive irony which no doubt stems from a profound critical impulse. Joel's references included the Wizard of Oz and Wystan's another Oz known as Dada. Both poets clearly have thought long and hard about what they had to say before they said it, yet read with relaxed directedness and focus that lets the listeners think- but not overly long - always moving right along, no carelessness, but little rigidity. Joel read a second autobiographal, and very dramatic piece that I enjoyed immensely. Wystan ended with a poem about Matisse's erratic sleep habits that was both dreamlike and intensely wakeful- how did he do this?- that seemed to amplify everything that been performed thoughout the evening. The audience was excitedly appreciative: there were three children there who were graceful and attentive- a significant coup for any group of readers (Adeena Karasik's daughter and the daughters of Joel Kuzsai's associate Bill Marsh's- my recent publisher's- wife Octavia Davis. She'll be teaching writing at St. John's in the fall). Although she and Bill are relatively recent arrivals in Jackson Heights, Queens, I was happy to hear they are considering moving so they can stay for a long time. Charles Bernstein introduced both readers as close friends whose work he strongly feels deserves complete and wide attention. He is right, and the audience members, that included numerous fine poets and artists (I think I had met the painter Max Gimlet once before, as well as book collector and soon to be publisher Patrick Lovelace), Of course there were many others frequently mentioned on this blog. When Wystan comes next from New Zealand don't miss him; and if you see him ask Joel Kuzsai if he might read more often. Another treat was a quick conversation I had with Robert Fitterman whose review in Jacket was mentioned here this past Sunday. I told him that I had pointed my readers to Gilbert Adair's fascinating review of Rob's newest episodes of Metropolis. Rob mentioned an earlier review in Jacket sometime back that would complement this one- I plan to find that one too. Joel announced that all his poetry is procedural, and Patrick Lovelace mentioned to me that the graduate school poet friends he knows are all interested in Rob Fitterman's-and, no doubt Joel's, conceptual (found) poetry. Also, I had a chance to tell Susan Bee how impressed I was with her two page spread in the Brooklyn Rail-I liked the smiling photo (taken by Charles B it turns out). Also the interviewer, while pointing to all the important info- like the availability online now of M/E/A/N/I/N/G that Susan edited with Myra Schor, was witty as well. I left the reading feeling I had had a vacation in Oz and I wouldn't mind staying longer. But someone has to point you to the Emerald walk, don't they? Plenty of poets aournd these days seem willing and able to do just that, Wystan and Joel last night invoking and evoking the Tin Man, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters,and Dorothy; Lex- who knows Maryann Shaneen reminded me how we had all been graced with Bunny ears and photographed at her birthday party a couple of years ago, in honor of Marianne's upcoming documentary about the Furries- people who take their animal personas very seriously.. Poets as Furries; must be something to that. Wystan said-in one of his poems- that at times Max Ernst truly didn't know if he was a man or a bird.