Helen Diffenderfer, my grandmother, died today. She was 85 years old. She was a badass. She worked at Cape Canaveral. She wasn’t much afraid to die, & had a pretty good last few days, from what I can tell. She ate like a trucker: two Christmases ago she berated me for not giving her a gift certificate to Cracker Barrel. This year she got one, & used it to eat what she wasn’t supposed to, again. She laughed a great deal, rather boisterously, which I used to think a lot of old ladies did but actually a lot of old ladies don’t. She loved Wendy. She loved movies & her family. She loved church. I could describe her a thousand ways that would only help to describe a thousand grandmothers, but she was mine & I’ll miss her dearly. Helen Diff-en-der-fer. I’ll miss saying that last name.
Archive for the ‘Random’ Category:
Blue Safari by Josh Bell continues to show why he should be considered one of our great poets. In other news, I threw open the windows to the whole apartment & cleaned for two days straight. I could live there, I thought, looking in the room I live in.
I’ve been neglecting my own website for the Brooklyn Arts Press website, which is brand new (praise be to Martin Rock) and seriously pleasurable to look at. I’ve also neglected writing about AWP, which was a wonderful experience, given how I was finally introduced to some of the authors I’ve published. Our reading at the LIR bar in Boston really cemented the idea, for me & for others there, that BAP is a family. My thanks to everyone involved.
Visions of Drones Swarming U.S. Skies Hit Bipartisan Nerve By SCOTT SHANE and MICHAEL D. SHEAR ___________________________________ Last Friday I was in Boston attending the AWP conference when Wendy & I finished up dinner & drinks with some Boston friends & headed back to our hotel room. I figured I’d jump on Facebook before hitting the sack (a long day full of book selling & catching up with old writer friends & beating the blizzard) when I noticed a friend of mine had posted a link with my name attached to it. I opened the link & found my poem “Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper” had been quoted in the New York Times. Wendy hopped out of bed & jumped around. I reposted the link immediately & since then my website has blown up, the poem has been disseminated by a great deal of people on the major social media platforms, & the emails have poured in congratulating me for what would the next day appear on the front page of the NY Times print edition. I did not expect in my life to appear in an article concerning the actions of Rand Paul. Although our ideas diverge greatly at times on many issues, part of the reasoning behind his filibuster, which brought attention to the question of the President’s & our military’s possible authority to track & kill Americans on American soil using drones, was just & appropriate. People can decide whether or not it’s a question worthy of protest & arrest, though I must say that though the weapon we would now use is new, state killing of Americans on American soil happens all the time in prisons around the country. We have a distinct history of killing our own & the legality of the action, though it has been questioned & fought against, remains as it had before. My point is, this is no new thing, & to object it one must realize what one is rejecting in full, in broader scope. All I can do is thank everyone who read the poem & felt the need to send me their thoughts, it means the world to me. Thank you. Cheers.
Green Dance from Joe Pan on Vimeo. “Green” is a surreal work influenced by video games, the sonic permutations of language, competition, spring, the green of astro-turf, sex, & memory, featuring the poetry of Joe Pan. Green Impetuous Impetus The crassly fashioned. The crudely uttered. The caped crusader as a crêpe crew saber. Consciousness is interruption. Even a hollow gesture informs. Movement as text without shelf-life, with a poplife provenance in kinetic pleasures, whose half-life is performing whole notes of rote consistency & strength. & joy. There’s always enough laughter to go around, so unlike gruel— there’s never enough gruel. Consider yourself. Consider yourself at home. The kireji of a haiku is a word representing the moment the poem is cut, where consciousness is severed in its telling & heralds a new thought; the wound is an act of creation. The closest English equivalent might be the caesura, the drum thump, aid to memorization. Then there’s the non sequitur, which seeks for its own sake, emblematic of movement in that it must cut itself or be cut to continue, as any green-thumbed gardener will explain. Fwomp, the dance instructs, meaning slow but whiplash-y. Fwomp fwomp. The child in me claps & stomps about, green as a comic Seuss egg, her magic handbag a music & a means of perilous adventure & Atari possibility. The Force & the Green Fuse In certain circles, dance is a sport. In certain circles, a deadly one. From certain angles. For some, a circular sprint. Or sacrifice. Like sand iguanas, the dancers breathe-in green. What is green? What is the Green Agenda? Apolitical as a popsicle, parsimonious as a president seeking re-election, it cannot be encapsulated by the entwined trunks of three miniature trees. Or these translucent peacock feathers. This candle. This fuel. The envious. The dollar. The decibel. A copper invested in raw weather. Jack Burton’s lime-eyed noir-fried gal pals in Big Trouble in Little China. Tatiana is gone. Violetta is here. Neither have a green card. Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Emerald Isle symbolism & vegetation myths, where folklore is again made green as the grunt. As the unpopped cherry. The new renewable. The unpoppable cherry. The news, graphic as a gringo novel. Novel as a ginkgo gecko focusing its filmy green eye. Young outlaw love is the new inbred. There, I said it. I feel your clean ruining my green slate. Your tattoo-able taboos. The best part of green tea are the dead leaves that nag one’s sense of fate. They lie & lie about & laze & laissez–faire our fears like unfazed lasers. Don’t worry, there’s always enough new loss to go around, enough competition to break our able bodies like an oboe. Lost, in a Sense; Found in Another Dear deciduous dryad, I aim to process your private syrups, would settle as a simple window sill wildflower a happy accident opening its amino palominos to the bee’s dripping knees. I’d ravage you like horseradish, swell your tongue & curve the slick of each incisor. I miss you like the moment misses a maker of moments. You make me feel so Jungian. Make me spring like sprung’s a scrum. The lung-like mint-scented split of your center is a favor I hope to favorite, to enter airy as birch, your body as bendy-flex as my hung desire to see you slung astride my switch. Contrapuntal as celluloid & score are core & stomach muscles gone wrong but O so right, like the impetus towards empire, or a bee slathered in its own sweet scent. Choice is paralyzing. I ease into the act of watching you become something unobtainable. If I ease too quickly, I obtain, but what I get is not you. If I ease too slowly, you get elsewhere & I get nothing. You move again, a bullet of brevity I’m anxious to acquire, but acquire by acquiescing. The Offal & the Feral: a Fall We go after the ineffable. We go after what we see as inevitable. We go after each other’s throats. The Ballet Russes enters the Grand Guignol & is entertained. The body enters the world & intertwines. Both capture flailing until death. Go ask the wasp tail; go ask the green leaf why it balances the trembling dewdrop on its kitten paw. There’s no bottom to our greed for life. Bathos is its own heaven. O Helios, you power the leaf’s circulation but cannot stem the algal upchuck of an ocean bloom. The leatherback sea turtle fills a shallow pit with ping pong ball-shaped eggs & when they hatch the maritime birds will gorge themselves to gluttony; come night the survivors paddle sand toward the light of either moon or highway. Are you going my way? Have we gone? The new Pacific landmass is constructed entirely of plastic— mountains of dew, forests of sprites— the condition of mankind reflected in a hundred trillion plankton nuclei. It is a perfect metaphor for itself, green as the day is long, deep as our willingness to forget it. An Unscrolling, a Principle of Pleasure These aren’t, in one respect, the first dancers to do this. The opposite is also true. You work at play until you’re tired. My memory breads into instances, renditions of us in this position, How the body fits into wedges, tucks into itself at energizing angles. The tense blue vein wrapped about an engaged Achilles is what I know of love. Muscle memory is a mechanical constable, rigid constraints snapping body to form, hi-ho. Hum. Sometimes we blow a gasket. Sometimes a gymnast. Our muscles, by definition, define us. Memory is muscular. A stronger one I keep is of the soles of her feet, a crenulated shoreline. Her voice terse as a clothesline. Facing away. The corrugated heat sleeve on my coffee cup is patent pending. One day movement will be made proprietary—imagine these breaths expirated in intriguing couplets as a buy one, get one free. Imagine the new market of lovemaking. The bear & the bull. The vertical & horizontal markets. The way cloth hangs from a body can add or detract from presence. Divide orgasm from organism & what you get is a way in. Getting out is easier. It seems the world’s job is to inflate people so nature can peer back at itself. & then it helps everyone stop breathing. I envy the immediacy of her art— how quickly one gesture in nature erases the next. One body erases the next. She closes her eyes & I’m gone. Postscript Dance is the apparatus of body in ecstatic curiosity. The emphatic spin cycle of desire & a release like resurrection. No one is a totality, & none are autonomous. We are left with nothing & more.
Ann Liv Young as Sherry Vignon from Joe Pan on Vimeo. This video was shot in December, 2011 at the Louis B. James gallery in the LES of New York City, during what was deemed a retrospective slash holiday special by performance artist Ann Liv Young’s infamously in-your-face character, Sherry. (Why write about this performance a year later? Because I’m a pretty busy person, & because I needed to let this piece, however light it may read, stew a bit. I’m not setting out to make a grand statement about the work of Ann Liv Young; these are a few observations on a performance that stuck with me, which I think speaks to its resilience as a work of art. Also, it interests me in the way real world events might carry themselves into fiction, as Sherry is a true character.) The event was entitled “Sherry is Present,” a slanted homage it seems to Marina Abramović. But where Abramović sat quiet & still across from her participators, Sherry gets up in your grill, belligerent & unavoidable. The audience reaction, though, strangely mirrored how audience-participants react to the work of Abramović. Some people leave feeling like they’ve just experienced something profound & authentic. Some are moved to tears. Some find the whole thing ridiculous. But everyone, you can be sure, will have an opinion. In the video above you will see Sherry do several things of note, for which I’d like to provide some context. 1) Sherry will sing the song “Dead and Gone” (T.I., featuring Justin Timberlake). 2) While face-humping a fan, Sherry will bring down a ledge above him. Resting on that ledge was, along with various other Sherry artifacts, a large stoppered jar full of her urine. 3) Sherry will, at one point, refill the jar with urine in front of her audience. 4) Sherry will call onlookers passing by the large gallery window “a bunch of cheap-ass niggers” for not paying to watch the show. Audience members will cringe & laugh. The video will end. Context: Sherry was singing “Dead and Gone” for a man whose father had recently died. The entire holiday performance was centered around the idea that brutally honest discussion can set you free. Sherry is a character that will say or do anything to provoke a viewer into action. Most wilt under her scrutiny. At first, she reaches out to her participants with a delicate urging, mic in hand, a few feet from your face, in front of everyone. At times, she’s a real sweet talker with genuine southern charm, exuding warmth & strength. But what keeps the average viewer/participant at bay, & nervous at first about sharing with this woman anything of value (to be used against them perhaps), is Sherry’s overwrought style & appearance, her heavy makeup & what feels like a latent, explosive violence waiting in the wings—evidenced by manic bursts of karaoke, manic speeches, & a seemingly crazed, impetuous need to involve her captives in the discussion of capital H honesty. It’s no wonder then that Sherry has a history of angering people with her antics. On this particular night, near the beginning of the performance, Sherry engaged a pissed off woman who believed Sherry had singled her out for slow torture. Sherry continued to ask the woman why she was being so defensive, pointing out that her body was curled in a defensive position, that her tone was defensive (as I remember it), wondering aloud why such a person would continue to attend the show, or show up in the first place? Sherry urged the woman to speak her mind, refusing to drop the subject. The woman eventually rose & left, taking her friend with her, but not before giving Sherry what she demanded, which was her honest take on the experience. It was not a flattering take, but it was honest. & so Sherry was satisfied. A Sherry there is that does not love a wall. Conversely, as the night went on, attendees (what were we, exactly? witnesses? viewers? participants? actors? enablers? We sat in a gallery that became a stage with us on it) grew more comfortable with Sherry & began sharing their own experiences, real life stories of pain & pleasure that reduced other listeners to giggles & yes, genuine tears, executing what I believe was Sherry’s ultimate goal: a holiday catharsis. This was, after all, Sherapy. Something about us needed fixin’, & right quick. Sherry wasn’t interested in song & dance, she wanted purging. Thus the gentleman who told Sherry about his father’s passing & was rewarded with a soulful karaoke attempt at an empathetic eulogy. The strange pairing of words in a phrase like “soulful karaoke” is indicative of my theory of the performer’s intent, which was to create (& moderate, & modify) dualities. To set up an obstacle to reckon with, & reckon with it. Be it real, imagined, or the politician’s straw man, It was being dealt with. & because Sherry’s dual roles as profligate performer & homespun psychologist amused & terrified us by turns, our moods becoming more dependent on her shifting. Oscillating between repulsion & attraction, we took sides when we needed to. Nobody wanted to be an I, not in this space. We needed to be part of the Us, or risk embarrassment by Sherry, who we knew would not banish us but make an example of us, turn us into a Them, & needle us until we gave in or gave up. When one walks into a gallery, does crossing the threshold automatically sign you up for whatever will transpire in that space? Artists sometimes speak of this as if it were a natural law or universal known, & not a formula for arranging one’s preclusive sensitivities: “Know what you’re getting into.” If the stage suddenly becomes the floor you’re standing on, too bad, participate or beat it. But then what is to be done with nonparticipants who refuse to leave? The rebels? The ones that shy away? Some of these folks, in moments of dread, create a performance within the performance, lashing out at the provocateur in hopes to be left alone, confirming their feelings with the audience, or joking their way into ultimate withdrawal. Sherry does not seem to allow for this. (Perhaps once, out of distraction.) The question remains, though: what are we to these performers if not simple resources? Does our sharing mean we were having a more authentic experience, or were we just feeding Sherry’s own desire to watch us squirm? The man who’d lost his father, it should be noted, seemed genuinely pleased & thankful for, albeit a little embarrassed by, Sherry’s tribute. His smile never faltered throughout the rest of the performance. Despite the abnormality of the situation, people were displaying sincere emotions & purporting to be genuinely touched. I certainly was. Despite being shadowed by a creepy Santa & various male minions in old-lady drag, Sherry had a way of focusing all attention on her, until she wanted that attention focused elsewhere. When Sherry asks you for your honest opinion, it actually means “you honest opinion with a microphone shoved in your face, before a crowd of raw & sensitive individuals (being kept this way by an energized prison guard) who are poised to either relent or become confrontational. But, really, say what you sincerely feel.” Sherry is easiest on those who acquiesce. The confrontational are asked to explain themselves, undergoing a barrage of questions until they give her something she feels is authentic & real. Even if it’s nasty, or attacks her, Sherry respects “the real.” Not the actual. Not necessarily the truth, but the “real” of the moment—which is more or less a confessional sort of response that lies somewhere between “the unfiltered genuinely expressed” & “the case.” The first words we hear from Sherry comes from the song she’s singing: “Lemme kick it to you right quick, man. Not on some gangsta shit, man, on some real shit.” A question Sherry is always posing is: “Where is the real shit?” It’s a good question. A second unavoidable question during the performance is: “Who here has the power?” And one’s response is always: “You do, Sherry.” & in most cases, this is true. If Ann Liv didn’t excel in fully embodying her character, Sherry would not be able to hold you. The single most powerful act any viewer is ever capable of is walking out on a performance. (I would urge you not to; the show sustains itself.) The unseen performance artist is a word stripped of its speaker. The audience brings the real. & so we shared. & perhaps because telling a story about yourself helps you share in the feeling of having power, or because Sherry’s eyes & those of your peers tell you that you have done right, you are relieved. The mic is taken from your face & you feel better. Happy holidays. During our sharing, people wandered in off the street. They were actually being coaxed in by a woman standing near the door. The gallery space had crept out onto the sidewalk, & into the lives of people on their way to dinner & drinks. At one point, several men wandered in (I believe one admitted to being on Ativan or Adderall & drunk on beer—we’ll call him Adderall Guy) & began interrupting Sherry mid-performance for laughs. After Adderall Guy made a rude comment directed toward a participating audience member, who immediately broke down crying, Sherry interrogated the abuser until he began revealing details of his own life. He spoke of his own insecurities & failures, which led to an apology. But that wasn’t enough for Sherry. She asked the man to take off his pants. One question that remained with me following the show was whether Sherry is a hardass with a keen sense of persuasion, systematically breaking down the boundaries of her audience, or whether she’s an outright bully, demanding our full participation in this ritual of art (one couldn’t imagine Sherry in any sort of non-engaging meditative space). When we opened up to her, she made us believe we were part of the discourse, that what each of us said carried equal weight, & that what we were engaging in was a traumatic, public version of group therapy. Of course, this was never the case. Sherry controlled the space. The audience was participating on an unfair playing field. But so what? We took for granted that Sherapy was designed to help us, because it rhymes with therapy, & therapy is supposed to help us. Sherry never promised us anything. We began trusting her, & each other, with our feelings, which was perhaps a mistake. Or maybe that’s just what being a socializing human entails—sharing, with no promises. Sometimes you get a positive experience, sometimes a negative. When the Adderall guy refused to take his pants off, though we could sense he was close, Sherry attempted a new line of persuasion by showing the man that nudity was accepted in the space. She asked two of her collaborators, Michael Guerrero & another man, dressed in holiday drag, to take their pants down, which they immediately did. The collaborators were part of the show, & thus quite familiar with what Sherry expected of them. But though Adderall Guy was aware of the momentary ridicule he’d experience undressing before the crowd, he might not have been aware, given his state of mind, of its lasting effects. For instance, there were many cameras present. Most of Sherry’s collaborators had cameras in their hands & were digitally recording the event, & one must assume that at some point the videos will pop up online or be sold to a viewing public. The Adderall Guy, as any witness would attest, would have disrobed of his own free will, in a gallery space, which as a venue could have had him arrested, & that choosing to participate in this way was not the responsibility of the gallery or that of Sherry but only of himself, & that his naked error (or drunken, drugged antics) could be broadcast at any time without his given permission. But it is also important to realize that Sherry wanted this to be the case, was trying to talk him into this possibility, thereby extending the duration of his shame. This particular moment seemed an act of humiliation. This man had hurt one of the people Sherry had worked so hard all evening to manipulate into a place of true vulnerability, & he was going to pay for it. & that’s what we wanted, too, as the audience. We wanted to see the drugged asshole drop his drawers. If the bully wasn’t bullying us, what did we care who she was bullying? Was it so bad that she was bullying a bully? Footage of the Adderall Guy naked will never see the light of day, because it didn’t happen. The dramatic apology following the public shaming, sans nudity, was still an impressive win. Sherry was a lawyer, a caretaker, a lounge singer, a deviant, a therapist, a friend, a hound dog, a psychopath, & an ex-wife all rolled into one. A chimeric being with love in her heart, & perhaps more than a little sexual animosity. A person with a deeply fucked-up sense of convention, with an instinct to punish always simmering just below the surface of her desire to lend a hand. & whether they were enjoying themselves or laughing through the weirdness, everyone was enjoying the spectacle. The gallery had an upstairs & a downstairs. Each floor showcased a variety of objects—shoes, fingernails, paintings, purses, dresses—artifacts of a cultural icon; the apotheosis of Sherry into a star of trash & camp: the Queen Tramp. The objects appeared framed in glass, kept in bottles, displayed behind velvet ropes. There was living room furniture, as if we were in a house within a gallery. Videos showed past performances. All of it was highly self-referential. Downstairs stood pink Christmas trees & a table set up for Sherry merch. I can’t recall what was for sale, but some part of me believes everything was for sale. The urine that fell on the fan (I call him “fan” because I heard him expressing his love for Ann Liv’s work; he might even have been a friend) was several weeks old. It was, as Sherry hinted, putrid, an assault on the senses. Which made it all the more funny. It was only one of only two times during the performance that Sherry was caught a bit off-guard, & where Ann Liv Young possibly broke character. Sherry made up for the shift in power by refilling the container with her piss, as you can see, much to the moaning delight & laughter of the audience. In the video, the woman sitting next to the fan drenched by the urine is my wife. Wendy received a little bit of Sherry herself, some droplets on the sleeve of her coat, free of charge. Barring that not so wonderful moment, Wendy thoroughly enjoyed the performance, & saw Sherapy as a means of honest discourse. Urinating in public is an act which Ann Liv Young’s become known for, best recalled by Art Fag City (in regards to Ann Liv’s now infamous PS1 show) & by Ann Liv herself in this interview with Idiom. She peed to retake control of the situation, & to ask us to follow her back into the magic space of our shared performance, which we did. During the crazier moments of performances like this one, people sometimes leave, & I’ve never understood why; I’m always excited by the prospect of what might come next: will the artist try to outdo herself, or reel the strangeness in a bit & give us all a breather? Sherry, filled with power & the excitement of the night, thrown off balance by the unforeseen collapse of the ledge, managed one more massive shift of perspective by calling gawkers at the gallery window “a bunch of cheap-ass niggers.” In the video, watch the young black man do that thing with his glasses, the thing one does when somebody you enjoy suddenly says something way out of line. Beside him, a woman who I believe is a professor at Columbia University creates a mask of her smiling face & retreats inward. It’s a tough one to swallow, this person you’ve trusted to unite everyone in embarrassment & march them through a desert of honesty & deliver them to…not salvation, exactly, but perhaps to a place where one feels like one belongs to a community of survivors…has suddenly betrayed that trust & sent everyone off to their personal corners. For some, I’d imagine, the off-hand statement killed the fictional dream we were experiencing as a group: it broke the spell. Racism is a line toed by few performers regularly save perhaps comics & even they can lose careers over it, when the line between performer & performance breaks down into actual hate speech. (Michael Richards comes to mind.) But more people make their careers in its cringeworthy parody (Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Daniel Tosh), upsetting the conceptual space between perceived & actual, which leads to a slew of obvious questions: Can Sherry get away with this? Does her parody of a crass, off-balance, trailer-park raised Southern healer hold up? It certainly wouldn’t be beyond the realm of her character to say such a thing. & yet later, after the performance, the young black man asked Sherry why she felt comfortable using such language (Bear in mind, it has been a year since this happened, so I’m not sure if the young man asked Sherry about the word outright, or if Sherry asked people what they liked/disliked about the show, & he responded). Sherry’s response was that she shouted the common but still jostling go-around word “nigga,” a word ushering from the general vernacular of the songs she’d been singing (again, this is paraphrasing), at which point both the gallery owner & Michael Guerrero (Ann Liv’s co-producer/husband/bullshit detector) pointed out that no, Sherry had pronounced it distinctly as nigger, not nigga. At which point Sherry apologized. Or Ann Liv did. Certainly one of them was present. Her argument amounted to being in a headspace where people wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the use of the word “nigga,” & that any slip of the tongue was just that. Which I believe was the case; she seemed uniquely vulnerable at that moment, & Sherry was so open to everything & everyone that any attack of racism would seem to me unfounded. One could argue that Sherry is a secret racist, or that she has a subconscious or latent racism, but then who are we talking about now, Sherry or Ann Liv? Can there be a subconscious racism within a character that doesn’t exist for the artist? (If you’re a behavioral analytic studies PhD candidate looking for a thesis project, you’re welcome.) & why would Sherry apologize for this & not for pulling up her skirt & rubbing her vaginal juices all over the gallery window, much to the disgust of gawkers & winter-night passersby? Was it a mistake in the heat of the moment? Was Sherry just a fucking nightmare of a human being? Was she a delusional woman regressing at times to a violent childhood? Was she yanking our chain? Could any part of the experience be described as genuine, the real deal? After sitting through a performance, its natural to wonder just how far removed Ann Liv is from her testy, inviolable character. Quite a lot, I’d imagine, as I don’t suspect Sherry’s personality would keep her on the streets for long before she was institutionalized. Ann Liv has talked a bit about the real her peeking through her characters, though, & if you’re up for a fascinating meta-interview, I’d suggest watching the video of Ann Liv interviewing Sherry. It also bears mentioning that the very person one might expect to defend Sherry’s actions or come to her aid, Michael Guerrero, patently refused to, because that’s not what the show is about. It’s not what Sherry is about. Sherry is about peeling apart the reality of a situation. Sherry is about honesty. After confronting her, the young black man in the glasses laughed it off, saying he knew she wasn’t racist, but that it had jarred him, if only briefly. Earlier on, it should be said, Sherry had grown visibly excited & proclaimed her happiness to see people of color in her audience. (She also gave a shout out to any lesbians in attendance & sang a song for them.) This does not absolve her of anything, though it does speak to her wishing to make everyone aware that her desire to help is all-encompassing. People will come to their own conclusions, but by the end of the show, those waiting to speak to Sherry seemed unfazed by the incident. So many boundaries, so little time. As the magical truth-telling time faded, folks spent the final minutes praising the performance for what it was—a truly unique, nerve-wracking experience with implications for larger social change. I’m not saying one should seek out enlightenment in group therapy sessions led by a sociopath, but it is remarkable how some of our more basic core values are now being expressed by characters residing at the fringe. Think Dexter from the self-titled TV series, or Tony Soprano, or Rorschach from The Watchmen, or Jack Bauer from 24. We see who we are through their view of us, because they are us, exploded. We say we want brutal honesty, until it hurts, but when we get it, the way that Sherry gives it, we may not want it ever again. When we find wrong in others, the same wrong that may exist in ourselves, we shame them anyhow. Because who doesn’t deserve it. These creepy little dualities that exist within us, how they itch so. So there’s some context. I asked both the gallery owner & Mr. Guerrero if I could use my iPhone footage for a blog post & they said it was fine. I hope one day to see the entire performance again online. It might just show that how I remember it is not how it happened at all, & I’ll accept that. Things change after a year. We further privatize experience until it becomes a trigger for nostalgia or something useful, & this experience falls into the latter category for me. Maybe I’ll use my idea of Sherry as a character in a short story or something. Only time will tell. If you’d like to see Sherry live, she’s been traveling around in her Sherry Truck, billed as “a mobile Sherapy office, a sculptural coffee shop, and a boutique filled with memorabilia from Sherry’s world” by MoMA: PS1. Or would you Skype with Sherry? Or experience Sherapy in your living room? Check out Ann Liv’s website here for more details. If you, dear reader, actually book a Sherry therapy session, please drop me a note & let me know what it’s like. I’d very much be interested to hear about it. End matter: Disclosure: I’ve met Ann Liv at various times in my life. Before New York, I knew her as a modern dancer attending the North Carolina School of the Arts; I lived across the street from NCSA with a former girlfriend & they took a lot of the same dance classes. Ann Liv & I were often at the same parties & spoke on occasion, but I never really got to know her well. I’ve seen her perform here in New York several times, once with live bunnies. When her & the two other women on stage began singing, the rabbits began shitting. Ann Liv dropped a finger under her skirt, played with herself a second, & took a whiff. Even as the audience in the warehouse roared, she appeared unshaken, nonplussed, & as I watched her watching the audience, I was struck by the idea that this performance wasn’t being done for us. We were performing for her. If I remember correctly, the day of the NCSA graduation, Ann Liv, wearing a tutu or a skirt, I can’t recall, walked across the stage to receive her diploma. Just before she reached her spot, she leapt up in the air & mooned the entire audience. There were a good many people laughing, but there were just as many people around me saying “Jesus Christ why.” All I remember wondering was whether or not she got away with it, or if she was reprimanded.
Be sure to check out the latest two poems I’ve chosen for publication at Hyperallergic. “The Last Day” by Debora Kuan from “Corsica Inside the Daughterhouse” by Paige Taggart
My summer can be summed up in work. Even with the trip to Europe & upstate for Mt Tremper, I’ve worked everywhere, seven days a week. These three magnificent books are half of what I spent my time on, & I’m proud they’re out in the world.
Peyton Marshall, Xeni F. & Jim Sidel were in town & we all met up & had drinks in the Burg, settling into the garden at Soft Spot before moving later to The Counting Room for some catch-up conversation & good times. They’re each still funny, which helps conversation that’s filling in the blanks of a decade (in Xeni’s case) that much easier & delightful. Peyton is here meeting with her editor at FSG for her first book, which I’m very excited to read: it’s about the propensity of violence in young boys. She once wrote a story about rabbits I liked tremendously, so I told her the story of Wendy’s father’s rabbit who had a stroke because Wendy’s father kept feeding it dog food & when the rabbit went to raise it’s ears, only one raised and the other flopped forward. The topics of our discussions varied but never kept too far from the black comedy we enjoy, which isn’t a generational thing. With good jokes, someone gets maimed. With great jokes, you know the person. I’ve been working diligently each day the past two months on five books, which I will have ready for sale all before Christmas. The amount of work I’ve put into this endeavor has taken some minor tolls, but you gotta push yourself if you ever hope to produce anything of worth. The books will be: Jared Harel - The Body Double Alejandro Ventura - Puerto Rico John F. Buckley & Martin Ott - Poets’ Guide to America Jackie Clark - Aphoria Laurie Filipelli - Elseplace Aaron Sing Fox did the cover art for Jared’s book, & Jonathan Allen did Alex & John & Martin’s book. I’m trying, for the first time, to experiment with Print on Demand by using both Createspace (owned by Amazon, run by Beezlebub, et al) & Lightning Source (similarly rent with QCS demons). Neither are known for the quality of their work nor their high standards of customer service. Both have legitimately enormous potential for changing publishing forever, but have chose to limit themselves in frustrating ways. If I use CS, I get to have my books immediately listed on Amazon, printed on demand for any customer, anytime; I get to order publisher copies for around $2-$3 a piece plus shipping; I get a PDF proof if I so choose; it costs me next to nothing to produce. They do not, however, do matte covers or lamination & their digital printers print at what looks at times to be 72 DPI, even though they swear it’s 300; plus, the covers feel & look cheap. Plus, & this kills me, if the book like most poetry books are over 100 pages, they will erase the spine elements (without consulting you) & refuse to print the book with any spine whatsoever. Lightning Source does everything CS does, but they do matte, which is awesome. They also have their own built-in distributor, Ingram’s, as well as the ability to list on Amazon & B&N.com right away. They also allow for spines on small books, if you beg, & assign you actual contact point employees to help you with your questions. The problem? Publisher copies run full price minus 10%. What? I use Small Press Distribution to help place my books with libraries & universities, & must have books shipped there directly, which means there is currently no economically feasible way to have SPD receive books I print with LS, which cuts bigtime into my profits. I should begin my daily fiction writing habit now, but will return to this at a later date. Cheers, Joe
There’s something that undercuts the nostalgia of reworking old material, & that something is the Oz of the fictional dream. We’ll call him Editor Emeritus, because he’s been around a while & is persnickety & panicky & full of pretense. He can’t believe you wrote that sentence in that way, but is too much the realist to chalk it up to maturity or impatience–it is a flaw you’ve carried within you for some time, a flaw in your ability as a writer to engage the world properly, born out of inexperience or laziness, & so end up capturing a milder form of reality poorly reconstructed using language that can do no justice to the real world given it is being put in service of a false one. Even if can be such a prissy asshole, I love the old dolt. We have fun together, & he’s not afraid of roller coasters. In fact, he’s much more adventuresome than I am, & pushes me to attempt new things, even when it means destroying the sound of sentences I enjoy to such degree that I unintentionally memorize whole passages entirely for their rhythms. Without him I’d be content to be content, & there hasn’t been a single instance I can dream up where contentedness inspired original content.
(pictured top left clockwise to bottom left: Martin Rock, Jess Mynes, Joe Fletcher, Sampson Starkweather, Ana Božičević, Paige Taggart, Bianca Stone, Liz Clark Wessel, Mathew Pokoik, Iris Cushing, Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Joe Pan) Wendy P. & Liz S. not pictured. The trip to Mount Tremper Arts Festival was incredible, magical, a relief, a renewal, & so on. I was lucky enough to share this space with these amazing people for five days. We fished, we talked poetry, we wrote, we performed, we debated, we answered questions from the audience, we learned from one another, we ate incredible food & lounged & watched Kota Yamazaki and Asa perform two Butoh dances. & we saw bears, one big one in an apple tree & a cub in Phoenicia. & we had fireworks. The small presses represented were Argos Books, Birds, LLC, Brooklyn Arts Press, Epiphany Editions, & Fewer & Further Press. Someone will write more about this trip, but for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy remembering it on my own terms.
I’m back in the saddle, preparing 3 new books for publication with BAP, as well as running a clandestine poetry workshop, odd as that sounds. More on that later. In the meantime, check out my story “Bridge Jumping” in the new Cimarron Review.
Perhaps the single best train ride I’ve experienced, the journey from Bergen to Flam to Oslo is what you would expect to experience if you combined the boat ride from Anchorage to Vancouver with a scenic drive through Yellowstone, Wyoming. The white desolation of forever-snow fields & frozen mountain lakes leaves you mystified, as the steep fjord canyons & the small red houses speckling the green rock cliffs keeps alive one’s desire to live in as many places as one can in one lifetime. We drank cappuccinos, took photos, hugged for warmth, made friends with two lovely women (Londoners via Hong Kong & Singapore) with degrees in environmental policy, & watched a bizarre song & dance duo put on an Irish-sounding performance next to a waterfall literally in the middle of nowhere, popping from behind the ruins of what was either a castle or a bakery. Now we’re at Karmen’s with little Gryf, catching up, eating breakfast, & telling stories. The trip’s been amazing so far & it only looks to improve.
I’ve decided to try & write a long poem in 16 days, while traveling. It will help me set down my experiences of the trip, both imagistically as well as culturally, while providing my brain with some activity. I can’t imagine achieving more than 6 pages. Bergen, Norway is a deliciously small harbor city filled with artsy curiosity shops & public art & food art all meant to be consumed within a day or two & then remembered for its charm. We spoke with several shopkeepers who find living there to be a different story altogether, but luckily, we are leaving at 6 AM for Oslo.
So we have two friends to visit, Karmenlara Ely, a dancer, linguist, erotics professor who is currently teaching acting at Østfold University College in Norway, & Dan Gresham Glover, a recently retired sand sculpter creating graphic novels out in Portugal. I attended middle & high school with them both, & because it’s Wendy & my 6th Anniversary, we’re making a big trip of it. Itinerary: Fly out of NY, quick stop in Reykavik, land in Bergen. Stay the night, then take what is supposed to be one of the great scenic train rides / fjord ferry trips of the world, into Oslo. Take the train from Oslo to Fredrikstad, where Karmen lives. Hang with her a few days, visiting the small towns, shopping in Sweden, etc, & then a quick hop to Paris for 4 days. Yep, & after that, an overnight to Barcelona for a 2 night stay, then an overnight to Madrid for a 2 day stay, then Seville for 2 nights, & then Faro, Portugal with Dan for 3 days, & 1 day in Lisbon before hopping to Heathrow & flying back to New York, where I will be met with hundreds of submissions & duties disregarded. It should be a hell of a trip. I’ll try updating the blog with thoughts as it happens.