Translation in Performance--Brandon Brown & David Larsen

The Scene: Small Press Traffic's Reading at Timken Hall, Friday Night, September 18, 2009. A hot day turned cool.

Friday night: Brandon Brown in a coffee jacket with a complimentary, maybe silk (?), flower in in his pocket. Summer peach t-shirt beneath. Stage right: the large screen on which there was an image of the following Catullus couplet scrawled on the wall of a bar, Brandon said, the night before.

Odi et amo. Quare id facium, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Where to begin? Perhaps (read this as a pause, an anchoring doubt, a question that recurred throughout the reading.) Everything is complicated, conflicted, riven. Loving and hating. contiguously. Brandon explained that he is translating Catullus because it is both impossible and redundant. There are so many translations of Catullus, not the least of which is the Zukofskys'.

Perhaps it is the excruciating pleasure: the translator is torn apart--reading and writing. Strong feelings divide a subject--the reader remarks upon this while the translator repeats.

a fiery syntax lights up my feelings

Brandon, a shirtless David Brazil, Catullus, and later, the voice of Bernadette Mayer, haunted the stage with a conversation between Catullus and The Door from poem #67. Brandon reading along with and slightly off of Mayer's reading.

What can I say? This was an amazing performance, an embodied enactment of the difficulties, ambiguities, complexities, the excruciating pleasures and torments of translating, of being both reader and writer. This tangled nexus of the excesses of reading, writing, parsing and pleasuring, incised and excised incertitude, lascivious linguistic lilt and stutter....

Perhaps, perhaps.

The reader asks a question of Catullus. Where are the adjectives?

I hate your asks. I love your tusks. I love hats...

David Larsen was warmly welcomed back to San Francisco, taking the stage after Brandon, and after himself. What I mean is that first, David showed a video piece of him reading and riding MUNI, hanging out at the waterfront, the Ramp and on Third Street in San Francisco. David read from a variety of books and included a translation of a poem from al Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion, and a brief translation from Nietzsche's The Gay Science. There was a lovely piece about a bookworm.

There were two blonde women directly in front of me (mostly i saw the backs of their heads) with amazing manes and one seductively massaged the neck and head of her partner. Kevin Killian sat at the end of the same row. Rob Halpern and Michael Cross were to my side. Susan Gevirtz, Bob Gluck, Wendy Kramer, Kathleen Fraser, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Suzanne Stein, Sarah Larsen, Stephen Vincent, Bill Luoma and many others filled Timken.

A pleasurable evening. Hard to let oneself go and to track it all simultaneously. a divided subject.

Bios from Small Press Traffic blog here.

Brandon Brown is a poet. In 2008, TAXT press published Camels! In 2009, Mitzvah Chaps will publish Wondrous Things I Have Seen. He co-curated the Performance Writing series at New Langton Arts, The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand gallery, and publishes small press books under the imprint OMG!

David Larsen returns for his first Bay Area reading since leaving San Francisco last summer. For a time, he was a co-curator of the New Yipes poetry and video series at Oakland's 21 Grand. He now lives in New Haven, where he is writing a book on historical semiotics. His translation of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh's treatise on the Names of the Lion appeared this year from Atticus/Finch (Seattle).

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