Monday, August 27, 2012

Notes

Journal Excerpts

Having lost his mind, his journal revealed he was beyond words and communicating through primordial images.

"We'll take a car to Neptune," Colin said.

"[A]rt is human willpower deploying every means at its disposal to break through to a truer state than the present one." -- John Ashberry

I feel the world is too holy to live in. And so is Heaven.

She was so beautiful and so crazy, a legitimate lunatic, and I was bothered by this -- because such beauty couldn't be tainted by insanity? I guess that's what I thought.


What is here that all of us want -- those who consciously chose to come here and choose to stay?  I don't know if all our sacrifices, specifically spiritual ones, are worth it. Residents unconsciously trade their souls for the world, but we do get the world in return. And the world is what the prophets foretold and is New York City and is empty machinery.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gare d'Austerlitz


A friend created this powerful film as an intimate portrait of a painful moment. (See the "My Films" section to play the video.) I'm impressed with her candor and bravery.

If you take the time to watch this short piece, brace yourself.  Also, please leave a comment or rating if you don't mind.




Yin Yang

I did hedonism
and asceticism
before deciding
to live more
than 50 years


Monday, August 13, 2012

Center of the Universe

He walks in quick small steps ahead of her, ashing his cigarette on every fourth step. She is large, mainly belly. He can't escape her gravity despite his pace and attempted levity. They round Quincy Avenue onto 13th Street, he gives way to her and walks on the weeds shattering the sidewalk. He accelerates for his stumbling to maintain pace. "Chuck is happy I want part time. Few people do, you know? Women's clothing is women's clothing. I'm good at sorting by designer and size. Faster than everyone. So fast. But, yeah, I know he's getting 40 hours work for 20 hours pay. Hey! watch this, watch this!" he says. He takes four steps and puffs his cigarette but holds the smoke and takes four more before blowing smoke rings that are shattered by the sun. "See those?! Did you see them?!" She says nothing. She's got continental sweat stains beneath her boobs: Africa on the right, Australia is small. Her world is trembling.

"I'd like to organize by colors, but they don't shop that way. I sometimes do for fun. I sometimes wear the blouses for fun!" he says. The wet crotch of her jogging pants sags and rubs her things raw. They are off 13th Street and onto Quaker.

"I like the paisley tops, but I don't wear the skirts -- I wear the solid skirts, not the paisley," he says. Four steps, puff, blow. Four Steps, ash. He's scattered by the shattered sidewalk that tumbles into 13th Place. He's lucky not to have fallen. She's not breathing heavy. She's pacing herself off Quaker and onto 13th Place. She's not talking.

"Did you see that, did you?!" He's skipping backward ahead of her. "Concrete must've been blown to bits by the drunken curbers -- you know drunkards hitting the curb?!" His bare feet are burning. Her flip flops are slapping. The brick apartment building is shattering the skyline to the left of them as they spin: left turn, left turn, left turn -- 450 steps, then left, 464 steps, then left, 451 or 452, then left, 464.

"I love you!" He blows the words into her path and her face shatters the cloud of smoke. "I love your baby too -- our baby, our baby." She stutter steps. She steadies her pace and eclipses him around Quincy Avenue. "Living on Tulsie time! Yeah, yeah, yeah," He laughs and sings, staring at the sun and he shakes a flame across a new cigarette while sidestepping sidestepping he hops outside her orbit in the grass.

"Ahh!" He screams.

She stays steady forward. A shattered bottle bleeds his foot. He can't drop his cigarette and hops alongside her. Onto Quaker. Onto 13th Place. On one foot. Onto Quincy. Onto 13th Street. Pangaea of sweat quakes on her belly. He gets ahead of her but bows to the pain. She maintains orbit and passes without him.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Elegy

Remember those magic cards that used to be in the back of books and contained the names of previous readers when you borrowed them from the wonderland? I miss them.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aphrodite Underground


A subway woman is red
and wearing red
Her hair reflects
no sun
Her freckles are not
the focus as
Song births her lips
           open


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

11.

Sunshine lines shadows across plank tabletop on office rooftop


Normal Is Your Neighborhood

My first blog post was about the scents of New York because it floored me how strong and multifarious the city's summer scents are. Leslie and I also couldn't get over how many wonderful things you could do here for very cheap or free -- the first month I was here I saw Chuck Klosterman read at the now extinct Borders in Chelsea. The things one takes for granted in his hometown are illuminated with fuzzy nostalgia when he's homesick.

I asked a friend who was born in Queens if she ever had epiphanies from the powerful impressions the city creates around almost every corner. She asked what I meant. I said that the sunlight off the Chrysler building at sunset stabs my heart. She said she never had any experience like that -- well, she said, maybe with shoes.

My close friend Zhanna was born in St. Petersburg and moved to Brooklyn in her youth. I asked her the same question and she said, Of course! at least weekly; just the other day I was in the Village when -- .

Did Zhanna relate because she was a transplant like me or is my Queens friend a Philistine? Maybe both or neither, the power of the city's impressions likely depends on the sensitivity of the soul that perceives them. But this realization made me think of the endless star-filled Oklahoma sky that I rarely paid attention to in Grove growing up, of my mom's hands cooking pancakes on Saturday morning, of the smell of Portland dust in my clothes, of my grandmother's singing voice over the pulpit. I have to consciously think of all these things now because they are not here to unconsciously impress me, but I can get waylaid by much here if I just remember, as one poet said when speaking of how to be a poet in New York, to just "look up".




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Poets Are Few and Weird and Amazing


When Leslie and I finally stumbled upon the patch of grass where the New York City Poetry Festival was being held after crossing the entirety of Governors Island, this was the the first thing we saw.


Poets are weird. This was the "poetry forest" where children could tear writing prompts off the floating heads of dead poets, and play in tipis.

It took us a while to even find the festival because there weren't enough people at it to differentiate them from any other group on the island. Here is the billboard where you could graffiti or leave a comment.
 


Yep, Les and I were the 3rd and 4th persons to sign the board midway through the second day of the fest. I felt weird before we even entered. The park was a triangle with a stage at each corner, but it was so small that you could simultaneously hear poets from all stages. I first thought: Who are these strange people? And then, I'm not like this, am I?

After we paid our five bucks and grabbed a stage schedule, we went to hear Thomas Sayers Ellis "read", which he didn't do. He made oral sounds and moved while his friend accompanied him on sax. It was great. Those who've been to a reading know they're boring. A good poet will attempt to entertain or be engaging, but most are simply not extroverted. So they're boring readers, regardless of how good their poetry is. Ellis was riveting. He was entertaining though I have no idea what his poem was about, which is the opposite of what a poet usually wants, and Ellis' point -- I think.

Thomas Sayers Ellis and friend.

After he broke the ice the rest of the day was wonderful. Valzhyna Mort read from her most recent book. She bit and hissed at the audience with her pronunciation, and her poetry is so sexual and sensual that it was a little disturbing. I liked it of course. Mark Strand closed the festival by reading from his newest collection, Almost Visible, that's composed of prose poemish things or paragraphs. Some read like Koans. The crowd enjoyed "Dream Testicles, Vanished Vaginas", which I can't explain, just grab the book if you want to laugh, cry and think.

On our way back home we saw a bunch of kids crawling on Lady Liberty's face.



Over 200 poets read at the festival. We only caught the latter half of the second day, but if The Poetry Society of New York decides to do it again next year, I'll be one of the weird ones there early. After it was all over, around 30 of us went to a bar where Strand read while girls cheered like he was a rock star. It was bizarre and amazing.


Succubus (Radio Edit)

Here you go, Mom. A radio edit for your listening pleasure.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Succubus

Colin and I recorded this tune on the porch of a cabin in Phoenicia, NY (yeah, those are real bird chirpings in the background). My apologies to my mom for the language, her least favorite word in the world, but the song is so angry that it just made sense.




Friday, August 3, 2012

One in a Million or Deja Vu?

I called the Strand to reserve the single copy of The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol that they had in stock. The clerk said it was already reserved by another customer. I had a flashback to this. And New York just got a little smaller than smaller.


Parents and Theft

I once went to dinner and a movie with my parents while I was in college. They had driven up from Grove, 70 miles, to visit me in Tulsa. We had a good time and enjoyed the film, but when we returned to the truck, Dad's tool box was missing. He usually put buckets of tools in the cab when in "the city", so if they stole the box itself, he was only out $50. He hadn't done that this time.

Well, my Mom flipped. She was furious. My dad remained calm, likely because I was there, and they had come up to treat me to a night out -- he didn't want to spoil the mood. Not to mention that my education would help me work with my mind, not my back, and make more money than he ever made. He didn't want the theft to be about money either.

This morning, talking to co-workers about the woes of old buildings and shitty contractors in NYC, I not only realized that my Dad is an excellent craftsman who is sought after by foremen, contractors and architects who know their stuff, I also realized how much that stupid date-night cost him and my mom. What does one do without descent parents?

Paul and Dawne Erickson, ca 1970s.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Poetic Tension in Your Chest

Art that attracts great and lasting attention has tension in the chest of the work and reader. When this tension eases the attention often does too, but worse, the greatness of the art diminishes. A few samples of artworks with this tension are OK Computer, Beyond Good and Evil, Wheat Field with Cypresses, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Highway 61 Revisited, Notes from Underground, and The Waste Land.

Portrait of T.S. Eliot by Wyndham Lewis
I wrote about this tension or dissonance in similar posts here and here.