I’m feeling a little mournful today despite the absolutely irreproachably gorgeous weather… perhaps because I had my last class meeting with my students today. You would think that after two dozen years as a teacher I would be better emotionally equipped to deal with the severances and cessations that are part of the job description, but no, really, it’s hard. These students were particularly open to intellectual inquiry and creative experimentation.
We focused on learning English through film this semester, paying a lot of attention to Lyrical Nitrate, Un Chien Andalou, Vertigo, and Mullholland Drive, as well as several avant-garde films and the 45 years of Video show at PS 1, and for their final projects, students did some wonderful creative work. Lola revisited “Grease” as a feminist benshi, Kira translated the Russian animation of Winnie the Pooh into English and dubbed in voices, Kyoung Ah made a beautiful collage video about travel (“life is a journey”), Yina made a collage video of Bruce Lee inspired by Dara Birnbaum’s Wonder Woman video, “Transformations,” Soo collaged and was pyonsa to a Harry Potter film, Yang made us all cry with his brilliantly edited video about the challenges international students face, and then Tai made this fabulous video, ” The minute when a lion is kissed by two zebras,” very much, I thought, influenced by all of the experimental stuff we’d been looking at all term.
And hey, it’s on YouTube! I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it, because IT’S REALLY AWESOMELY GREAT. I give it three thumbs up:
I just finished a new video, too: “Do Not Take Your Eyes Away From Mine,” but I need to compress it before posting it as the file is too big still… are you looking forward to it?
Terrified of any kind of lag. What’s next? Can’t bear a void. New dress made, check. New video finished, check. Book going into production? Must check with publisher. Can’t quite check, not yet. Soon. I hope. A benshi comissioned for July, OK, must get started on that. Ideas percolating. Like… how can I use the Japan trip? And plays, I need to write some more…plays…
I had the great good fortune (OK, I’m namedropping here) to hang out with Carolee Schneemann recently, and I’m trying to sound casual about that, because I don’t get into hero-worship, but still, CAROLEE IS SUCH AN INSPIRATION NOW AND ALWAYS. We know each other a little from the glitterati scene, yes, and Gary and I had her read several years ago at Segue, but there’s this wonderful coincidence, which is that one of my oldest and dearest friends, Peggy Fusco, who was my best friend when I was eight and she was nineteen (here we are in Bolinas, early 70s)
happens to be Carolee’s landscaper. So I used this double felicity as an excuse to meet Peggy and Carolee in New Paltz a couple weeks ago to see Carolee’s retrospective show at the Dorsky Museum on the campus there. I’m sad that I missed the panel on her work the day before, but was so glad to see her show. I loved the exuberance of the early assemblages, the total physical engagement of the performance pieces, the poignancy of the films, the felinity of not just her feline companions but of Carolee herself, and overall the extraordinary trajectory from flat plane to movement and dimension in her work. She is Great, and that’s a word I use with much hesitation (can I say great hesitation?)
One thing I was deliciously aware of in this show, more than I had ever been about her work before, was her sense of mischief. I don’t think I’d been aware of her positively flarfy Correspondence Course before. Can you refer to a feather duster emerging from an asshole as a kind of impudent costume? It seems to me it is. This piece, as you probably know, are real selections of letters and messages to and from Carolee, and their contents are both hilarious and enraging. Urgent solicitations of her work with no remuneration offered. Repeated misspellings of her name. The letters are accompanied by photos of Carolee in theatrical, sometimes “obscene,” poses. I don’t think you can really see or read clearly in this image, but I urge you, if her show comes to your town, O, see it, see it!
So.. having tea and cookies later with her and Peggy and a Stanford grad student who had presented on her the previous day, somehow the topic of Brakhage came up, and I asked her to reminisce. She obliged. I won’t repeat the details of what she said, because I didn’t ask her if it was OK to do that, but she had wonderful stories…and described what it was like staying (with Stan) as poor young artists on Maya Deren’s living room floor. I had one of those sweet moments of thinking of the world of art as this kind of giant house on which for a time we spend some time sleeping on the living room floor, and then maybe we rent a room, and then if we’re lucky we get to own the house and let others sleep on our living room floor, and everyone basks in a mood of gratitude and graciousness… well, this sounds too hierarchical, and also too naive, but I did feel that way for a minute, there under the flowering fruit trees.
If you will forgive a jump cut to a topic quite unrelated… I am also thinking of how much I disagree with this quote of Cedar Sigo’s (from Switchback) that I stumbled on recently on Sara Larsen’s blog:
When a poem becomes too long or crowded I begin to see I added its staircase and panels to the hallway (making it longer) out of pure desperation and wanting to sell. I have one of them removed in favor of a two-way mirror. When a poet reads a poem considered long & fat with self love it bores us. It ignores sadness, intensity and horror. If these aspects do not make you physically ill or forgotten I am forced to have the writer put down, horribly uneven parts, mirth, brilliance and luxury, not a single line added that is out of step with the band.
The trouble with so many poems, it seems to me recently, is that they have this stupid fixation on condensare; they cut too much out; they blandify. I want poems that are long and crowded and fat with all sorts of things including self love, sadness, intensity, horror, mirth, brilliance, luxury, sausage, Uruguay, typefaces,lentils,requiems, flaxseed, stumbling, violets, Gardening Tools, Swimwear, Electronics, Toys, Men’s and Women’s Clothing, Bedding, etc., etc. If you can keep the energy in the fatness, instead of resorting to that tired old trick of whittling, then you are really something, and please send me your poems to read.