Sunday, October 14, 2007


Apologies for the delay, here's the latest ceptuetics.

1. Xavier Gautier - Lydia (Notre Travail Benefique, 2001)
2. Dick Higgins - Omnia Gallia (1980)
3. Edwin Torres - E Man's Proclamation (The PoPedology of an Ambient Language, Atelos)
4. Jena Osman - Dropping Leaflets (2001)
5. Bob Cobbing - Suesequence (Konkrete Canticle, 1971)
6. Craig Dworkin - from Strand (Roof, 2005)
7. Aram Saroyan - Crickets (10 + 2 = 12: American Text-Sound Pieces, 1965)

The following day, I saw Aram Saroyan read "Crickets" at Poets House, where he was speaking along with Elaine Equi on the topic of minimalist poetry. It remained a beautiful piece, with the mimetic "ts" sound slowly detaching itself from the rest of the word to fill the room with a noise sadly absent in New York City.

"Crickets" is not only equally effective on the page and in performance, but remarkably, each presentation reveals something about the other. I was disappointed to hear that some of my other favorite Saroyan poems - "sky/every/day" or "a leaf/left/by the/cat/I guess" - sounded rushed and lost the visual elements when he read them. Many people have remarked that Aram Saroyan: Complete Minimal Poems is an amazingly fast read, and I also went through its 250 or so pages in about 15 minutes, but there is something unnerving in watching Saroyan read one of his poems while holding the following page open. Saroyan compared his poems with only one word to Warhol's images of celebrities, and in the same way we react to a beautiful and familiar face, I think it's important to stare at Saroyan's words for as long as we want.

Still, that's only one of many reactions I had in watching one of my favorite poets read pieces he had been good and done with for forty years. He told us that by 1967 he had abandoned the minimal poem, and in recent years has not written poetry at all, except for one piece prompted by the release of his Complete Minimal Poems. This poem, entitled "Autobiography", begins with the words "1943, 1944, 1945" and yes, continues through "2005, 2006, 2007." On the page, I don't think it would be very interesting at this point in Saroyan's career, but it was a wonderfully performative autobiography. Saroyan looked down at the podium during the 40s, looked up at the audience after '49 to announce with a chuckle "I've got this piece memorized," then slowly read through the following 58 words with his attention divided between the audience and the podium, his voice faltering at times so that despite the inevitability of the piece, there was actually a tense feeling that we might not arrive at the present year. Most of what we know and celebrate about Saroyan ends with the 1960s, and in a discussion that largely stayed fixed in a moment of Warhol, Kerouac, and Creeley, "Autobiography" was both a chillingly blank and expressive look at what followed.

No comments: