Saturday, March 1, 2008

Olchar's Report on the Chriss/Bennett Reading

The FIDDLESTICKS exhibition, a three-month show at the Lost & Found Gallery leading up to the Anti-Festival in June, opened last Saturday with work by Bradley Chriss, Lenny Corea, and Jamie Bruno. Photos and a video of what they did with the space are posted below, Lenny's vaguely Cthuloid clusters of phalluses wrapping around the wall, merging into Brad's choratic and androgenous prima materia, with Jamie's string angling across the space, slicing off the corners, and wrapping itself around the appendages of Lenny's drawing.

At 8:00 the series kicked off with a reading by Chriss, followed by a reading by all of us of poems by John M. Bennett. Here's my own report of the event, hopefully other people who were there/involved will post their own too.

Brad's reading, formulated around the notion of the Hermaphrodite, moved back and forth between his thoughts on the hermaphrodite as a figure, and his poems in which he engages with it. He started out with a reading of the chapter on the hermaphrodite from Lautréamont's Chants de Maldoror (Book II, Strophe 7), which certainly made my fucking day at the very least. As the chapter progressed, his rhythms and cadences began to subtly disrupt the text, they developed their own ebb and flow that worked independently of the grammar and sense of the passage. It's the first time I've heard someone other than myself voice this seminal text, and it was nice seeing this gesture of turning back to examine this tradition that he (and we all) are continuing, so that we can all take a measure of both how an Anti-Tradition has developed and changed, and also of the continual projects and concerns that we share with our counterparts 150 years ago... Brad then read two other poems on the hermaphrodite from his book-in-progress, hermaphrodite. These poems are quite a bit more constrained and refined than his earlier stuff (formally at least; in most other ways they're still pretty, mm, balls-out shall we say?) and his reading was more restrained as well, which (as a kind of microcosm of the progress of his set as a whole) made the final, a-semic strophe of the second poem that much more effective as it broke apart into rhythmic phonetics.

Which led us right into the Bennett reading.

We began with the (by now ritual) Distribution of the Noise-Makers. Warren, Brad, Tomislav Butković, and myself planned to take turns reading at random from a stack of Bennett poems to the accompaniment of everyone else--we had La M al, Sound Dirt, Cantar del Huff, Backwords (Quite a bit of Konstelanetz got read somewhere during the evening as well, an interesting added dimension of a joint endeavour on that book's model), and a thick sheaf of printouts of recent poems, especially from John's Globbolalia series. We would offer the opportunity to any of our guests to come up and give it a go themselves. As so often happens with New Jersey Post-Neo crowds, their energy was too restless to allow anything so straightforward to proceed. After several poems, Brad sent a stack of poems around the room, forcing everybody to step into John's linguistic world at least once. As the texts began to crisscross the room, there would sometimes be a couple going at once, sometimes read intentionally as simultaneous poems and sometimes nearly oblivious to each other; an impromptu assemblage grew out of the floor, and it took on the quality of a Brute Salon (the gatherings of collective automatism that have been going on intermittently in New Brunswick for the last couple of years), though the spine of Bennett's texts being read--sometimes as the centre of activity, sometimes on the periphery--provided a textual and (a-)linguistic continuity. Not what we had expected or planned, but it is nice to be surprised by your friends sometimes. Whenever new people showed up they were commanded to perform duets with us--Lenny, Andy Wolf, Megan Blafas when she arrived from Washington at the height of the thing. Jamie was unable to attend the event in person, so she called in to a speaker phone lent to us by the audience and belted out some Bennett poems from a bathroom stall someplace for about 15 minutes. (a side-note: as it happens, the set of Bennett poems performed by David Beris Edwards and I at the Anti-Festival in England a year and a half ago also took place in the toilet.) The phone sparked off some other ideas and Steve Dolnack started playing feedback produced by playing two cell phones off each other. At this point precise memories begin to fail me, perhaps other people can fill you in, but--eventually it all ended, apparently, everyone very kindly pitched in cleaning the place up, and a group of us went out and got pizza, then back home for further refreshments.

There will be some photos and video posted as soon as possible; we've got a pretty driving schedule here but we're getting everything up as quickly as possible.

This weekend--in fact later today--is BOSCH ON ICE, organised by Tom Russotti, which we'll get reports up on as well once we can do so; and the following weekend FIDDLESTICKS will undergo its first metamorphosis as Tsubasa Berg (New Brunswick), Alan Reed (Quebec), Charlotte Whalen (New Brunswick), and Angee Lennard (Chicago) move their stuff in; celebrated by (among other things) a Silent Soiree (this idea's been in the air for a long time) and a reading by myself (Olchar) of poems by the Ohio Post-Neo, Imogene Engine.