Distribution Automatique

Thursday, November 24

If There Have To Be Holidays

as far as I'm concerned, let them all be like Thanksgiving. For some reason, I always associate this holiday with affection for the near-at-hand in time and in space. This holiday demands little more than to appreciate whoever and whatever it is you feel close to- and to try to share that appreciation with others. For some, it is an opportunity to express much needed generosity. In an era which eschews idealism, sentimentality, earnestness, appreciation and instead glorifies irony, critique and wit (no doubt worthwhile attitudes at times, but hardly substantial or communal enough to ritually celebrate), this moment has a a pleasantly anachronistic aura, a time-travel spirit I enjoy immensely.(Still, Robert Jensen's call for A Day of Antonement is worthy of serious consideration.[via Wood's Lot ].)

As is often the case in recent years, we are in Arlington, visiting Toni's sister, brother-in-law and nephews. And, as has become my custom, I've made my annual, or biennial treasured trip to that incomparable bookstore in Davis, Mass., McIntryre and Moore. If you ever get to Boston, try to make the trip. It is possibly the most pleasant literary store I know of, excepting those superb literary establishments in San Francisco and Berkeley: Moe's, Serendipity and SPD.

Yesterday Bob, my brother- in -law. took time out from working on Thanksgiving dinner to drive us down to Davis. Although I promised myself I wouldn't buy more than two books this time (suitcases stuffed already), I wound up using the fact that one terrific item I found there consisted of a three book collection. That item (purchased for an amazing $17.50) was a three volume set of Theodore Dreiser's Letters, a hardbound collection from 1959 housed in its original cardboard case. If you've read this blog for long, you know what a fan of Theodore Dreiser I've become. By the way, if you look around you can find a copy of *Dawn* Dreiser's autobiography of his early years, still on remainder in many bookstores, including St Mark's.

The other book I bought was Libby Rifkin's book *Career Moves* published in 2000. I've heard about this book from many friends for years now, poets who know my fascination with the notion of career as it is or could be applied to the life and work of poets, especially recent and contemporary poets. Once, when he was artistic director of the Poetry Project, I asked Ed Friedman if he would be interested in organizing a symposium there on the subject of the poet's career. Ed quipped: being a poet is not a career, it is a vocation. I guess many poets would agree with this and I might even apply the somewhat archaic term, as it is sometimes applied to clergy, a "calling."

Speaking of callings, no doubt this posting will soon be interrupted by a call to dinner! As I try to resist eating much on Thanksgiving day before dinner, I can't wait. But I also can't wait to tell you about Libby Rifkin's book. I got it an McIntyre and Moore's shop yesterday at the discounted price of $7.00. I can't say it was the $16 cover price that prevented me from buying this book before now. Like many poets, I am ambivalent about this topic that summons certain demons one would rather not think too much about. The book focusses on four poets: Charles Olson, Lewis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley and Ted Berrigan. (By the way, I also bought the Creeley biography recently, the one reputed to have been greatly disliked by him. I haven't cracked that one open yet. I remember reading Allen Ginsberg's biography a few years ago. I knew both these poets, though Ginsberg much longer and a bit better- having responded to the latter's call for secretarial assistance in the 60's-though I was very politely, even gently, turned down by him we always had a nice rapport whenever I ran into him at a reading or wherever. The last time was at the Second Avenue Deli, just before a group reading we were both included in at the Poetry Project. I have to say I regretted reading the Ginsberg biography, having learned more intimate details about his personal life than I wanted - or needed- to know. Still, it was fascinating to learn so much more about this incredibly dynamic person.)

Since I paricipated in two of Ted Berrigan's poetry workshops, I found Rifkin's take on Berrigan's life and work the most interesting, but I enjoyed and found useful all of the Rifkin book. In fact, I read the entire book yesterday, the same day I bought it. A little later, or perhaps tomorrow, I am going to tell you more about it. Rifkin seems fascinated by the way some poets are able to consciously and actively pave the way for the historical reception of their ideas, their work and even the way they lived their lives. I enjoyed the way Rifkin discovered much in Ted Berrigan's actual writing, particularly the Sonnets, my f avorite work by him, to illustrate her ideas about the way certain canonized poets might have dellberately or unwittingly desired to direct the reception of their work and even some of the premises of their ultimate "canonizations."
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Sunday, November 20


Gary Sullivan and Jordan Davis report on yesterday's reading at the BPC. Ron Silliman, who read with David Shapiro, blogs about his perfect day in NYC. We can expect a report from Al-Jimzeera shortly, as we noted Jim Behrle's presence at the reading with a video camera-and his call for extras at 4pm yesterday at the BPC for a taping of a coming Jim Behrle show. Gary also supplies a wrap-up of this and last year's seasons curated by him and Nada Gordon. This year the Seque series turned 28. The founder, James Sherry was present, as was the owner and maitre d' of the BPC, Bob Holman. I am not even going to begin a list of the notable poets present- there were too many to list, but I must mention veteran series organizer Charles Borkhuis and poet Stephen Paul Miller, who, by the way, claims to have kicked off the idea of the original Ear Inn reading series that spawned the Segue series. SPM once explained that his idea was to have a series not far from SOHO at the Ear Inn so that people could visit a few galleries and come by to hear a poetry reading afterwards. The first Seque Series was curated by Charles Bernstein and Ted Greewald in 1977. SPM had a copy on hand of his new book *Skinny Eighth Avenue* (March Hawk, 2005), which he signed for me.

You can't blame me for so much nostalgia on the day following such an intensely pleasurable event. A few bloggers went out for dinner afterwards, and I mentioned one of my favorite anecdotes (if you've read this blog for long you are well aware that I've reached my anecdotage). As we left the BPC the dj was playing Led Zeppelin. (The following anecdote is presented here at the request of blogger Katie Degentesh.) I recounted the day in the 70's when I had an extra ticket to a Led Zeppelin concert and ran into Patti Smith on West 8th Street- with whom I had recently given one of my earliest readings on the roof of The Kitchen, curated by Ed Friedman. Patti told me she couldn't accept because she didn't want to upset her boyfriend! Needless to say, it was an amazing concert. Since I am in the mood for telling stories, I might as well mention the time I was leaving a reading (also in the 70's) at the Poetry Project with famed New York school poet Tony Towle. Towle told me that Frank O'Hara had introduced him to his wife and had found him the job that he would keep for his life- a job in the fine arts field. In my case I can credit Ron Silliman with having twice facilitated important directions in my writing life. First, by having included an essay I wrote in his famed anthology, *In The Anerican Tree* (reissued not long ago); and second by encouraging me to start this blog!

Ron read from his book *ABC*. I have my Tuumba Press copy in hand, #376 from an edition of 550 published in 1983 by publisher Lyn Hejinian as Tuumba 46. Ron mentioned in his preamble to his reading that there are 100 lines in this work, with an average of 6.3 words per sentence. ) Ron explained that he created his book Albany, which was recently made available in a complete version by Salt Press, by building each section from each line in the first section of *ABC*. The earlier version of *Albany* was commissioned by a publisher of High School texts, and it was edited. The idea of his recent book was to use each line of the first section of *ABC* as a starting point for remininscences. It is an excellent format and I'm excitedly looking foward to reading it, having heard some terrific work from it at the reading. I love the classic first line of *ABC*: "If the function of writing is to 'express the world.' My father witheld child support, forcing my mother to live with her parents, my brother and I to be raised together in a small room." Ron explained that the idea behind this piece was to "combine the political and the personal" in each of the 100 lines. I was too absorbed in Ron's reading to write down very many lines but some that jumped out at me were: "If it demonstrates form some people won't read it"; "nor is the sky any less constructed";"black is the color of my true love's screen." Ron also included, from from *Albany*, a page-turner type anecdote of his having been stopped by the police during a robbery. Afterwards he told me and Toni about how his house had once been robbed, and he found only one item missing: his CIA file that he had requested be sent to him! He also mentioned having posted on his blog the famous photo of David Shapiro sitting in the president's chair during the Columbia University demonstrations in 1968. More lines from ABC: "Rubin feared McClure would read Ghost Tantras at the teach in"; "Enslavement is permitted as a punishment for crime"; 'I look forward to old age with some excitement"; "A woman on the train asks Angela Davis for an autograph" [wait a minute, didn't Katie tell the story on her blog of seeing someone ask a famous person who had been in prison for an autograph, on the subway-have to ask her about this]; "They call their clubs batons. They call their committees clubs"; "Mastectomies are done by men"; "Talking so much is oppressive"; "If it demonstrates form they won't read it. If it demonstrates mercy they have something worse in mind"; "The design of a department store is intended to leave you fragmented, off-balance"; "The body is a prison, a garden"; "Our home, we were told, had been broken, but who were these people we lived with?" "I just want to make it to lunch time"; "Macho culture of convicts": "The want-ads lie strewn on the table."

David Shapiro and Ron were excellently matched, particularly due to their contrasting reading styles. Ron read extensively-and intensely- from two very related texts, with few interjections. David read from many different books and provided a continuous witty patter-which Toni characterized as "excellent comic timing." I couldn't help scribbling down a number of lines: "Jasper Johns said 'I like David Shapiro's poems- he just writes down what I say'"; "I grew up in New Jersey among communists"; "Meyer Shapiro's favorite word was 'restless'"; "Wallace Stevens is my favorite living poet"; "The stars in the sky- I seem to hear your voice"; "Jerry Lewis went to my high school"; "my father used to say-'Practice early & eat in the garage with the dogs";"I have seen God in dungarees" (from a poem for Joe Ceravolo); "What was there to do- it is said the violins do not sleep"; "we were safe in Texas-in Texas- mostly in love with the earth"; "a girl in Israel once said-'Why be serene?'"; "the snow falls and covers up the word 'poetry'"; "you cannot live your life in quarter tones" At the end of his reading David passed out some copies of his collages.