Friday, December 02, 2005

Re: Nov 27 (Thurston, Lowinger, Fritton, Royer, Basinski)

From: Jonathan Skinner
Date: Dec 2, 2005 1:01 AM

Subject: Re: Mike Basinski & Friends at Rust Belt Tonight!

I was lucky to be able to hit this on my way out of town, back to Philly, and it made me want to say . . . Philly is great, but, jeez, this evening reminded me why there really is no place like Buffalo, for pushing the poetry and performance envelope. Thurston enumerated thirty or more Buffalo poets in a lawsuit action, claiming damage to his financial prospects. He also did some more serious stuff that was really good but I can't remember the details, just now--as I'd arrived a bit late and was settling in during his performance. I remember being captivated by his audience command.

Lowinger read (or wailed, in a kind of passionate Patti Smith circa Horses hipster break-down voice) his gritty autobiographical lyrics of life in Buffalo (in my neighborhood, so I'm partial), tightly woven in a synesthetic and looping temporality reminiscent of Trakl. The density, delivery and serial recurrences also reminiscent of Berrigan's Sonnets, but something totally new going on here.

Fritton issued hoods (in a variety of materials) connected by threads, that the audience was instructed to wear, while he delivered two lectures ("in lieu of poetry"): one on "super string theory" and one on "non-Euclidean geometry." The wearing of hoods (pulled down "all the way") was obligatory for the string theory lecture, optional for the geometry lecture. (Any Abu
Ghraib allusions also appeared to be strictly optional.) "Light is laced with sewn edges, surged." These "lectures" are impossible to paraphrase, but they were very clear, deadpan, funny, philosophical and moving. There was a crisp use of the imagery of angles, a poetic detournement of the syllogism, and a slow delivery not tied either to podium or page--as Fritton
walked into and out of the audience, delivering his points between thoughtful pauses. "Meaning makes what it measures . . . All of our angles fall out of our eyes [when we die]" Fritton's Ferrum Wheel, incidentally, is a great trashpo/vispo/ lost and found art publication project, well worth looking at:

If you haven't been "touched" by a Royer performance, well, I don't know how to encapsulate what he does, but this too entailed a "lecture" (titled Implenitudinistic Voyeurism: Athanatological Presencing in the Performic Mode, in the Age of Postmortemism) that swiftly segued into a variety of modes, some absurdist, some lyrical, some philosophical, including a
rendition of the hit song "Poltergeist, Poltergeist," and a laying of hands on and stage dive into the audience, with speaking of tongues. "I should also point out that . . . I am different from a piece of fruit," he had cautioned us at the outset. There was also a request for jokes from the audience, at which point Steve McCaffery treated us to a ribald WWII joke featuring Winston Churchill's long, hard, unwithdrawing manhood. (You'll have to ask for the details.) Royer's polite and soft-spoken charm belies performative sophistication and a mordant mind. It's been awhile since I've seen/ heard something as alive and wildly unpredictable yet tightly controlled--hardly a sloppy moment in the whole act.

No need to describe Basinski to this listserv (I hope), but we were treated to one tour-de-force "unstructured" piece, with three preludes and a coda.


1. Odin chant.
2. A continuously-sounding, 100 word poem ("sound of one breath clapping")
made of 2-syllable words that the poet never saw before ("I just kind of
made them up"). Facets of flowers, crysanthemums. "If there is a point

where you hear silence, I've failed." (I was worried by the degree to
which the poet's neck became crimson during this performance.)
3. 100 countries (this took about 15 minutes, with much help from the audience).

The Poem:

"Atriums of the Heart." A "very fecund" visual piece--"the instrument"--unwrapped from a plastic bag and sonically explored for the audience. "[In my fridge] I saw 10,000 people that George Bush left to die in New Orleans." "This particular heart does not beat for Republicans . . . There could be giraffes in the atrium of this particular heart." Falling into vowels, down the rabbit hole of an O. "All performances are contemporary."


"Pressed rat and warthog."

I'm glad I delayed my departure, to catch this reading, which renewed my
faith in poetry-as-live-art. The excitement of an environment where poems

spill beyond their edges and "mere talk" embarks you on the poem before you
know it. This was brilliant stuff! And so far as I can tell, from Philly
to NYC to Chicago to Portland to San Francisco to LA, it ain't happening

(like this) elsewhere . . .

Maybe this was a rare, last-minute convergence of a special group of poets, but Thurston's energetic arrival on the scene seems to be a good thing. (I understand he'll be bringing PhillySound poet and wizard CA Conrad to town.)

Hopefully, you can all make it out to support his events.

I have the recording, and it is righteous. Pending permission from the poets, look for it on PENNSound, one of these days.



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