I went to a fascinating event last weekend (yes, I’m blogging but I still ruminate for several days over what I might write like an old-fashioned writer): Two young musicians guitarist Ben Kaplan and composer Peter Flinthttp://peterflintmusic.com/ played together for free in a little exhibition space called 571 Projects http://www.571projects.com/. Kaplan played guitar and synthesizer and Flint played accordion also electronically altered. They played the kind of Reichian/Glassian Bang-on-a-Can new music that I love. So about 20 of us sat there sweating and rocking to the music, while glancing around at these mixed media pieces based on the painter’s time spent in the Everglades. But what was particular poignant was to learn that this space, which had been there for 3 years, if I recall correctly, was due to close at the end of the summer. Why? Because the building, which sits off the corner from the Chelsea Piers, that is, in prime Manhattan real estate land thanks to all the artists’ galleries, was being demolished to make way for high-end condos. Big surprise, right? It’s what always happens. Except there are those of us who remember what it was like when New York was a place where young artists—dancers, writers, painters, theater performers, musicians—were able to move and live, working at peripheral jobs while still pursuing their metier. This has all become less and less possible. As the terrific raconteur Fan Lebowitz puts it in her Martin Scorsese documentary, Public Speaking, to paraphrase: If a city is nothing but rich people, it’s not a very fascinating place. She uses the word fascinating as the camera pans over the seedy, but somehow authentic, Times Square (with its FASCINATION parlorhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/christianmontone/4830837185/lightbox/), which she mourns has become a cleaned-up tourist spot one is ashamed to be seen passing through. I’ll save my trip to Brooklyn for a future post.
In the Bryant Park Word for Word Poetry finale reading of the summer season, Sharon will be reading with Eduardo Corral, Dean Kostos, and Mike T. Young on Tuesday, Aug. 28th, at 7pm. Outdoors at the Bryant Park Reading Room, located at 6th Avenue and W. 42nd Street in NYC.
Rain Venue: The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 West 44th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues) http://www.bryantpark.org/
I just finished reading a terrific little book. Actually, I’m embarked upon reading it a second time because it so perfectly captures one woman’s obsession with the color blue as a way to read her world. Maggie Nelson’s Bluetshttp://www.wavepoetry.com/collections/authors/products/bluets is written in the form of numbered “propositions,” a la Wittgenstein, but they are as lyrical and as far-reaching in style and subject matter as possible: from disquisitions on fucking: “There is a color inside of the fucking, but it is not blue” to discussions of Platonic, Newtonian, even celestial optics, as well as questions of God as light or darkness: where abstruse topics such as “the idea of agnosia, or unknowing, which is what one ideally finds, or undergoes, or achieves, within this Divine Darkness.” And, of course, there are nods to William Gass, Goethe: “We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances us, but because it draws us after it.”
And threaded throughout—yes, with a cobalt blue thread—is the lover’s despair, not unlike Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husbandhttp://www.amazon.com/The-Beauty-Husband-Fictional-Tangos/dp/0375707573, though this thread is subtler, less central though perhaps the initiating emotion.
Color. She rejects yellow—as being the least pleasing of colors when alone (is that why Jews were associated with yellow?) and green.
Poets who are drawn to color—though what poet isn’t? Mallarmé, for one. And Rimbaud. And of course Lorca: “Green, green, I want you green.” And Kim Addonizio, whose poem “What Do Women Want?” opens “I want a red dress.” http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16213
“What does your poetry do?—I guess it gives a kind of blue rinse to the language” (John Ashbery).
Several, actually nearly 10 years ago, I published a book of ekphrastic poems called Serious Pinkhttp://www.marshhawkpress.org/Dolin.htm. While it is mostly documents my love affair with painting, there’s also a long collage of a poem called “Ode to Color.” Most of what’s there is what others have said about color, not because I have nothing to say, but because I wanted to make a patchwork quilt, a coat of many colors, about color.
I’ll leave you with a poem about red that’s inside that larger poem—red being a color to counteract all this blue, red being a color that has duende in it, red being the color, according to a study, that if a woman wears it on a first date, is a sign she will sleep with the man right away. I’m not convinced by that reading of red, but I do know I was told, if you wear red for a poetry reading, you won’t trip up on your lines. And that I have found to be true:
ODE TO COLOR
A man in a red GEORGIA baseball cap wearing
a sweatshirt with a red bulldog over his heart,
sitting in a subway car, the smell of his poverty much too strong
but I stay out of weakness and pity:
his dark skin has gone through fire
and his hands and arms and who knows how much more of him
wear the ropy scars: I watch him, not wanting to stare,
as he draws out of a pocket dangling from a long rope at his waist
a red-plastic compact he opens: inside, a red plastic brush
on its obverse the mercury pool he dips and dips his face towards
as though to stanch the fire (who knows what he sees)
he shuts it opens it shuts it then like a black Narcissus he has to re-open
and stares. Maybe it solidifies him, all I know is I'm mesmerized too and steeped
in my own pool, trying to think only of color, see this portrait in red.
At a recent book party, someone asked me what I was working on and I said that I hadn’t been writing much for the last year and a half. I guess that’s what others would call writer’s block. But, of course, that’s not entirely true. If I look at my notebook, at least my main poetry notebook (and yes, I do write by hand, preferably with a fountain pen in a physical notebook), I might find very little there. And yet, there are now all these other little notebooks I carry around (usually 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″) in bright colors or patterns, as in the photo of some I bought at MOMA (I started buying Moleskin once they started doing something other than basic black). There I scratch away, particularly when in transit, in fact, mostly when in transit so that for the last several years, I have found myself writing by not writing sequences of aphorisms (prose poems?) connected to place.
The most comical aspect of this project is that I’ve been getting these aphoristic sequences published as creative nonfiction. As someone who has always only written poetry, I feel like I’m a prose writer-in-drag, that is, a poet tricked up as a writer of creative nonfiction. In fact, my New York Aphorisms will be published later this year from Fourth Genre, which only publishes nonfiction. You could another sequence here:http://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2011-summer/selections/andalusian-wind/.
So perhaps that is the secret to writing without writing: to write with the left hand (if you’re a righty), to write someplace else all the time believing that you’re not writing at all. And I’ve had this experience before: the sensation that I’m not really writing, and apparently, it’s not a unique one. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz, author of Other Desert Cities, was recently interviewed by Alec Baldwin on his radio podcast Here’s the Thing .http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/2012/jun/04/ At the very end of the show, Baldwin asks him if he’s working on anything new. Baitz balks at an answer and Baldwin persists, “You’re scribbling . . .” And Baitz, “Yeah, I’m supposed to be doing things. I’m a mess at all times.”