In: About life

Getting ready to head north

David Larsen gave me a copy of "Signs, Omens, and Semiological Regimes in Early Islamic Texts," a completed chapter from his dissertation. Which is fascinating reading, and, may I mention, won the 2004 Abduljawad Prize for Best Paper on an Islamic Subject, sponsored by the Al-Falah Program of the University of California’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Sunday night, over to Alli Warren’s party for Jim Behrle, where the now-legendary trampoline antics transpired. By the time I got there, things were in full swing, but I was near-catatonic from exhaustion and general moving-related stress. So I’m afraid I may have appeared standoffish at times, which was not my intention.

I surrendered my plastic Voice Changer to Stephanie Young when I read at Kelly Holt’s earlier this month. Stephanie brought it to the party, and Jim was abusing it. No, I mean really abusing it. With his whole body. And it was complaining. Rumor has it that Jim may be considering a West Coast move: great news, if accurate! But everyone, please, hide your Beaver Mustard.

There was a little group reading by candle- and flashlight out by the trampoline, and when asked to participate, I became cranky and finally would do no more than open up a nearby anthology of Great English Poems and commit grave disservices upon Emerson, whose "Threnody" I began reading until it became clear to me that I had no feeling for it, and so switched over to Marvell’s "The Garden" and Drayton’s sonnet "How Many Paltry, Foolish, Painted Things." Why? No idea.

A few fleeting reflections:

James Meetze read again from his longish poem "Synthesizer," which I’ve come to think of as a reliable folk instrument he keeps strapped to his back, like a wandering minstrel. I’m not sure if he’s still revising it, but each time it sounds a little different, and its resonances define this passing summer for me in large part.

Stephanie read two pieces by Jennifer Knox, including the very funny "Chicken Bucket." She gave me a copy so I could report back to her on what connection, if any, Knox’s work has with Flarf. Thinking about it: Flarf isn’t really a style, maybe, but a position already enunciated and therefore already occupied, filled in, buried up. There is no Flarf, or if there is, it happened before any poems were actually written, as an occluded publicity stunt. Still, see the newest Village Voice for a nice article by Jordan Davis on same.

When Alli read, she read with a new lilt and swagger that startled me awake. Her work emerged sometime last year as near as I can tell in a state of nearly fully realized "maturity"–that is, the poems were instantly recognizable not as the precocious exercises of a bright student, but as the committed work of a serious artist. Now they’re even stronger, and I expect they will keep setting new standards for themselves for longer than anyone should bet on. She’s one of maybe ten or fewer Bay Area poets under 40 whose writing strikes me as marked with … I want to say permanence, but that sounds so T. S. Eliot-like. What the hell: permanence.

And sandwiched sneakily into the middle of Alli’s set, a poem written and recited by Carra! A wonderful poem in which

the dirt pile[s] up on the linoleum, this one giant night,
so that a level may be reached
from which our story can be taken
in a single frame and held up as
a convenient store for posterity.

What else? I finally picked up a copy of Lyn Hejinian’s The Fatalist, and it’s one of those books that makes my excitement at its contents compete with an impatience to set it down so I can tap the current of that excitement to write something myself.

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