Last night Jim Brashear and I dashed over the Bay to Moe's Books in Berkeley to catch Steve Farmer and Ron Silliman's reading. Steve, whose work I've reported on here before, read from a collaborative anagrammatic project with Nathan Johnson. Some of this work has appeared on Thom Donovan's always engaging blog Wild Horses of Fire. Here's what Thom posted about this meeting of words and play:
Check-out the latest Others Letters, featuring poems and correspondence by Steven Farmer and Nathan Johnson, who via an anagram generator called "Anagramania" mediate a current semiotic terrain of NeoCon fascism in the US, with warm and exuberant interludes about baseball, friendship, and much else.The words and names Farmer inserted into the online anagram machine here included everything from John Boehner and Christine O'Donell to the names of baseball teams. Farmer extracted gems such as "tobacco guy nuking Troy" and composed poems from lines the anagram generator spat out at him.
Next up was Ron Silliman whose work I've written about in my dissertation; some of this will see the light of day in other forms soon, I hope. Silliman is on a x-continent reading trip, making his way into Canada and through various U.S cities and towns. His reading at Moe's marks the temporal mid-way point of the trip. Ron read from some short poems composed on cell phones and PDAs. He mentioned a digital sign near a bridge somewhere in the mid-west (I think) that was going to broadcast poems for all the truckers who travel across this route. I didn't catch all the details and perhaps his short cell phone poems were composed for this sign or with it as inspiration. Anyway, I like the idea of a digital sign (it might even be solar powered) broadcasting brief poems into the sky, across bridges, over highways.
Ron then launched into reading a portion of a new ongoing work called Revelator. Like much of Ron's work, Revelator is a long poem with an epic scale. I'm impressed by its sheer capacity to keep moving, collecting details, observations, bits of dialogue, landscape, and conjecture. Its mode is full of verve and energy. There were moments of humor, lines that made me crack a smile, and others that reminded me of themes and stances from the earlier books, Tjanting and Ketjak, though Revelator seems to have made what I might call a kind of "peace" with the idea of the person as it might be mobilized in the poem. It is also clear that Revelator, a poem containing and constructing a capacious fabric of language, experience, and the world, is written by a poet in his 60s whose perspective on the future and the work at hand is marked by a sense of the limit of a human life against the backdrop of a speeding and long-lived universe.
It is pretty impossible to keep up with Ron's reading and transcribe any of his lines at the same time. But some phrases and lines I did manage to jot down include:
bumble bee wonders
am I his flower?
I pause two poems three
pages before book's end
we all scream for what is unnameable
words themselves learn to resist
always make mistakes is the program
air syntax out
hum means mosquito right at ear
how many words do I have left
scribbling anything to be free*
Ron was handing out his "baseball" type cards. I've included pictures of the front and back of these. For all of you who might have collected baseball cards as a kid, wouldn't it be fun to collect poet cards?
*as always, my note-taking at readings is compromised by failures in hearing and who knows what else, so you, dear readers, should never take these notes as exact transcriptions!