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P L R

volume 2

issue 2

PRAGUE LITERARY REVIEW

marchapril

2004

tary definitions), a noun. A solo passage intended to feature a performer’s virtuosity. A parenthetic pyrotechnic flourish, an ametric tangential, a brilliant “flight of fancy.” Nothing to do whatsoever with living room furniture or the heroine of Monteverdi’s Frottola. Now understood as a section of a concerto, usually situated towards the end of a first movement, a section reserved for the soloist only, the orchestra having stopped, leaving the soloist to display his instrumental proficiency. Then the CADENZA ends, soloist often signalling his finish with a long trill, and the orchestra re-enters to finish the movement. Though originally a CADENZA was a vocal embellishment, a practice which later extended itself into instrumental music. In opera, a CADENZA was improvised by a performer on a cadence in an aria. Performance practice allowed three CADENZAS in an aria, or melismas (as they are known vocally) the third being the most elaborate. Interesting to note that the CADENZA was defined to me, by my friend the pianist Alexander Wald, to whom I dedicate Schneidermann, as “an extended solo passage in an improvisatory style,” italics mine. Meaning that the CADENZA was improvised, ex tempore, up until the advent of Romanticism (and the advent of the famous virtuoso personality) during and after which composers wrote them out, in an improvisatory style, a style which derived many of its parameters from violin technique. Meaning that the CADENZA focused more on instrumental showmanship and less on a soloist’s exploration of a work’s thematic material. Third parties—the famous virtuosos themselves—also wrote their own CADENZAS, many written as specialized practice material, and a handful of these became so widely played, and loved, that they, today, seem like they were written into the original score, a prominent example being Joachim’s CADENZA for the Brahms’ Violin Concerto, overthrown later, to my ear, by Heifetz’s. Today, almost no virtuosos perform the CADENZAS of Beethoven or Mozart—which themselves had their genesis in improvisation, in the great tradition of the composer/performer—instead preferring CADENZAS written by virtuosi—examples here are those by Busoni and Reinecke. Today, outside of “modern” or “serious” aleatory musics (which are as deaf to the world as the world is to them) and excluding analogies in “popular,” “ethnic” or “world” musics, almost no virtuosos improvise their own CADENZAS. —music—

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface, Apollo 11 mission, 1969 (NASA file photo)

Memoirs of a Life on Mars Arod Suliman Modern science has long provided the assurance that there is indeed an end to history. Catastrophe or evolution, solar eruption or black hole metaphysics: the scope of human history is irremediably finite. This is a fact, not a theological fantasy, nor prophesy of doom or apocalypse. One of the most pressing questions confronting the human sciences today is how a commitment to futurity, grounded in the totalising notion of historical discourse, is able to come to terms with the inevitability of a “beyond (of) history.”

Art

At least since Heroditos, historical discourse has established itself upon a claim to verifiability, founded upon the facticity and truthvalue of its material artefacts and primary documents. That is, upon the worldly manifestations of humanity’s adventure at different times and in different localities on planet Earth. But history has, with the accessibility of new technologies, entered upon a different phase—one in which not only the presence (or past presence) of human artefacts, but also the pre-requisite condition of facticity and truthvalue in its empirical sense—as something potentially verifiable—no longer can be taken

Literature

(continued on page 2)

Cadenza for the Schneider mann Violin Concerto Joshua Cohen Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 4 in G Major, Opus 58, 2nd Movement, Andante con moto —Beethoven Philosophy, like the overture to Don Juan, starts with a minor chord.—Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Chapter XVII, On Man’s Need for Metaphysics

CADENZA, Italian, from the Old Italian cadence, meaning much the same as it does in English, a musical term (excluding the mili-

Philosophy

Theatre

Has the orchestra stopped? desisted? everyone finished? Gasp—it’s okay. Air on whose G string? It’s about time I’ve been wasting until, wasted on this fermata… So, draw out the long bows, downbow for the first violins, upbow for the seconds—the bowings are as necessary as they are Schneidermann’s, written in your parts, yes, believe it or not, in his own hand, and such hands!—and yes, the final cadence drawn out to the last and stiffest hair, to the frog and to the tip… Okay, gasp, don’t asphyxiate… Sorry, I’m shouting to be heard over this (Clausewitz’s first principle, that of surprise, you know) and then… Okay, a War word, and let’s let the resonance die in the nosebleeds, fine. Listen: I am standing here on stage, under the proscenium arch, addressing you instead of performing my solo. Understand. Or this is my solo. Understand? In matters of art, you decide. And while you’re deciding, allow me to wipe the sweat from my bow and my brow with a handkerchief I pocketed from my hotel, uptown, from the maid’s pushtray in my hallway, hotel name of Grand something, you should look it up sometime, everything’s marble… and the maid’s some half-breed, indigene ingénue with the sweetest two loaves, ready for sanctification, tucked away under that off-pink uniform and her name’s Maria, mother of one and divorced and I’ll know more tomorrow morning, I hope, or I won’t know anything more, I hope, but I’d have filled her F-holes anywhichway for ever and ever… ewig, ewig as Mahler would have it but only if Schlesinger’s conducting, and he isn’t… I am, sort of. Me, the world’s repre(continued on page 16)

Poetics 1


Contents

“Memoirs of a life on Mars”

Memoirs of a Life on Mars Arod Suliman 1 Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto Joshua Cohen 2 My Googleography David Seiter 7 Kambah Pool S.K. Kelen 7 The Fly Tower: Confessions of a Killer S.T. Swift 7 Q=A and a better Alan Halsey 8 Gilgamesh Agonistes Steve Nash 8 Loss of a Poetics John Kinsella 11 mdCBXb3J Alan Halsey 11 Does this Monster have a Name Phil Shonefelt, Kateřina Piňosová & Vincent Farnsworth 13 A Concrete Example Sandor Kanyadi

for granted or assumed as a principle or protocol of critical-historical enquiry. This is because science has already begun to accustom us to the fact that the future of mankind rests upon the separation of historical discourse from the worldly. It has begun to accustom us to the fact that if it is to “take place,” this future must of necessity be conceived as a “postevent”—an after-effect of the disappearance of the world and the reality constituted in and by it. The “historical-future” is subsequently conditioned by the paradox of unworldliness—the final cancellation of any historical referent beyond the “mere” fact of representation itself. The absence of the world may not mark an absence of historical discourse in any practical sense, but rather its end as the definitive separation of all such discourse from an actual basis “in the world.” Having been, the world will not cede to hypothesis but rather to an “abyss” of a present actuality delineated by means solely of representation, in terms of whatever forms of technological mediation arise from now on. There will be no world separate from the discourse representing its end. The world “itself” will become nothing other than a discursive object—the end point of the Schopenhauerean dream. As will or representation its premise remains mythological; the source and focus of an impossible nostalgia. So much so, that it may be that the very possibility of a future rests upon the capacity of human-kind to absolve itself of this world, and of the claims imposed upon it and supposedly by it. Not in any theological or apocalyptic sense, but through the re-orientation of human discourse and technology towards and beyond this “end of history.”

(from page 1)

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13 Lines for Swansongs Sandor Kanyadi 13 Hungary 1996 Katalin Mezey 13 Shards Janos Lackfi 13 Opus Anglicanum Geraldine Monk 13 a book from the sky DJ Huppatz 13 Argon Sebastian Gurciullo 14 Stained Youth Sue de Beer & Travis Jeppesen 22 In Memoriam: My Favourite Dead People of 2003 Travis Jeppesen 22 Q, or the Bowels of History McKenzie Wark 23 Haptic Bodies: Le Corps en Scene Simone Ghan 24 Letter from Blighty Adrian Hornsby

Science has taught us that the belief in redemption and/or progress in worldly or metaphysical terms was naďve. If such values are to be usefully maintained, these must be directed towards the real problems posed by our position within a universal “schema,” as opposed to one of merely human invention. Nothing in the universe exists to verify, validate or ensure the “meaning” or “purpose” of the human project. If the human imagination is able to grasp this it must also confront the fact that our material placement within the universe is precariously finite: that our world is punctual; that the particular forms of consciousness belonging to humanity exist, for all intents and purposes, in our own imaginings; and that after we have ceased the universe will continue in utter indifference to our fate and indeed in utter ignorance of us. There can be no solace in the idea that somewhere a god shall fondly preserve our memory, or that the universe will shudder to a halt at the news of our passing. History will not only have an end, but it will effectively never have been.

... PLR ..... volume 2 issue 2

PRAGUE LITERARY REVIEW Publisher Editor Associate Editors Editorial Assistance Design Technical Support Distribution

marchapril 2004

Roman Kratochvíla Louis Armand Aleš Debeljak, Drew Milne, Howard Sidenberg, DJ Huppatz Clare Wallace, Joshua Cohen, Travis Jeppesen lazarus Radim Ševčík Odysseus

The PLR is owned and published by Vršovický Ezop, o.s., Krymská 12, 101 00 Praha 10, Czech Republic. The opinions expressed in these pages are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor, publisher or advertisers. Contents copyright © 2004 by Vršovický Ezop, o.s. All rights revert to authors on publication. Please send subscription, advertising, or submission queries to review@shakes.cz, or to the PLR, Krymská 12, 101 00 Praha 10, Czech Republic. Tel./Fax: +420 271740839. Visit our website at www.shakes.cz/plr ISSN 121462777

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The magnitude of the forces operating in the universe pose a fundamental challenge to the “project” of humanity. It is not, it cannot be, a question of overcoming these forces (an impossible proposition), but of pursuing, by whatever means, a future condition within the ambit of them. Such a condition is a subjection without equivocation. Neither negotiation nor resistance nor exchange can underwrite this condition as being one of “human life at any cost.” Any future entrepreneurialism must be of “exile and cunning” in place of any notion of “corporate expediency.” The end of history is not something mankind, individually or collectively, can buy its way out of. Can any vision of futurity escape becoming the isolated desperation of the frontiersman “lost” in outer space? While the past evoked in historical discourse provides the illusion of a collective experience, the future beyond the “end-of-history” stands precisely as the contradiction of the very possibility of collective human experience. While the frontiersmen, explorers, pioneers and colonisers of the past rehearse in our imaginations a founding myth of certain cultures whose tendency has been towards the global, the fu-

ture offers no similar point of convergence, nothing around which a belief in the commonality of mankind can gather and adhere. The future offers no promise or likelihood of being re-united by way of community or technology. The universe, henceforth the perceived “adversary” of man, denies this possibility strictly in probabilistic terms. The community of mankind (utopian at best) has always devolved upon the removal of environmental adversity and upon the basis of locality. To stake our future against those forces at work in the universe requires the eventuality that human-kind must adapt to a scale of common estrangement potentially measurable in light years and in closed isolation. Assuming that humanity could survive and continue under such conditions, its self-consciousness, diminished across virtually infinite time and space, would become little more than a suffocated optimism akin to the crudest forms of religious conjuration. Once set adrift, humanity’s capacity to communicate with itself—its capacity to sustain the very idea of “itself”—will be as tenuous as mankind’s capacity to communicate with its gods. Within a matter of generations, consciousness of mankind “as a whole,” of “others,” will be little more than the expectation of a message arriving as if from nowhere: a message whose origins will become increasingly distant in space and time, until it becomes as ineffable as the flickering morse of a far-off constellation. 

My Googleography David Seiter An Anecdotal Survey of New Challeng es + Opportunities in Subjectivity + Form Before we get to the meat of this thing, let me tell you how I came to think about it. I took a girl I’d recently come to spend time with to the neighbourhood hangout. We went in, found a place to sit at the back, and then I went back up front to get drinks. While I waited, I overheard the bartender tease a girl about her oldfashioned plaid woollen frock, implying that she should have worn something less frumpy and more sexy. He knew her and thought he could get a way with it but she wasn’t pleased. I took my drinks and headed back. Second round, I went back to the bar and sidled up near the girl in plaid. “I love that dress,” I said, and I meant it. Her mouth gaped open. “Did you hear what he said?” she shouted at the bartender, and then turned to me. “And I love your mohawk.” We continued chatting for a bit, exchanging names and more compliments. Under the pretext of being new to the neighbourhood I asked if she frequented the establishment. She did. I told her I hoped to see her again. She hoped the same. She was cute but talking to her was unusually effortless because I had eavesdropped on her conversation and used the knowledge I’d gained to my advantage. Satisfied at my sneaky success, I collected my drinks and headed back to my girlfriend. When I sat down she asked me, “Do you like the word ‘kidney’?” “Why would you ask me such a thing?” I said. “Because you used it in two stories.” “I did? How would you know?” “I googled you,” she said, barely containing a mischievous smile. Among the many things the Internet has given us is a new verb—google—a neologism canonised even by Wired, the authority in tech-pop culture. Google the noun is the preferred search engine by those in the know. At least 28 million visitors spend 15 million hours on the site each month to access its index of three billion websites. Nearly four out of five Internet searches happen on Google or on sites that license its technology. As a result, the name ‘Google’ has become a generic, like Kleenex or Band-Aid, except that it’s used not as a noun to mean any search engine but as a verb that means to search the Internet. To google someone is to type their name in the input box at www.google.com, hit enter, and revel in the slightly transgressive deliciousness it returns.


Innocent work diversion or insidious new vehicle for espionage? Put yourself on the receiving end (i.e. my shoes); I’d been spied on. I thought quickly. Kidney. Yes, come to think of it, I did like that word. It’s a nice word. I had just learned that about myself and for that I was grateful. I would have never noticed otherwise. But I was suddenly nervous, and out loud I said, “You did what? What did you find?” I couldn’t remember what stories of mine published online had the word ‘kidney’ in them but I was more concerned about what else the web might have revealed about me. Not that I expected anything especially damning but I, like most people, dole out information about myself when and how it seems most advantageous to me. I was frightened in the way you are when someone tells you they ran into an old acquaintance of yours. You run through your head: did that person like me? did we leave on good terms? does he or she know embarrassing or incriminating things about me? what would he or she say? I was also a little indignant. That’s sneaky, I thought. At the bar, I was physically present. I could have been detected. I took a risk. But the Google spy is remote, anonymous, virtually undetectable. Villainous. And, to tell you the truth, I was flattered. I was worthy of being googled! And it could work to my advantage because she was finding things about me that otherwise would have required me to boast. Arrogance is unbecoming and braggarts are not tolerated for long, I knew. How boorish of me to impress upon her my publications. If I were to hand her a stack of bound volumes and say “Here, these are my stories,” she’d resent me for that moment in which she had to muster at least a feigning of interest. But here she’d gone and dug them up herself and I could pursue as if simply curious about the archaeology involved: “What stories?” “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. Disappointing. “Did one have a black background?” I prompted. “I think so…yes…because that was the one I couldn’t print out.” “You printed them out?” I was shocked and pleased beyond measure. It didn’t take too much poking about like this to discover that she’d come across “Par Excellence” published in 5-Trope and “Ice Trucking” published in Diagram. The first contains the sentence “The women come together in kidney-shaped corners of shade.” and the second contains the sentence “Kidney-shaped swimming pools in La Jolla threaded by deliberately, falsely, meandering sidewalk.” Apparently, it’s not just the word ‘kidney’ but the compound adjective ‘kidney-shaped’ that I favour. This was another revelation to me. A New Form The two fictions that my girlfriend found are two chapters of a new form—a mongrel, adaptive, electronic form—that is comprised of the result set of a Google search. The form is a uniquely contextualised representation of an individual, but because it is written partly by that individual and partly by other entities and factors, it is neither fully biography nor autobiography. Even the more biographical aspect of the form is a hybrid of the authorised/official and unauthorised/unofficial. So what is it? A web-ography? A search-ography? An interography? Perhaps ‘inter-ography’ is useful for its appropriately transactional and reciprocal implications. But Google, as the de facto player in search engine auto/biographies, is already entrenched as a generic, and usage is in the hands of the people not the linguists. So, though Google may not always hold the position it does currently, what we have now are Google-ographies. Let me pause at this juncture to alleviate any immediate concerns with my enterprise here. Am I making a mistake by taxonomising the fruits of a mere research tool (albeit a powerful one) as an end product? The difference between process and product is only in the user’s intention and, in this case, the fact that with a Google-ography the collation and organisation is already done for you. In that sense, the Google-ography is already an end

product. You will not reorganise your findings, embellish them with your own insights, opinions, and speculation, and write or otherwise present them again to others. But while you may use the results to your advantage, you may not use them to prove yourself to the world, convince others of your conclusions, nor accomplish something any other monkey with access to the Internet could do. Nevertheless, I’m going to pull a Duchamp and propose the Google-ography as a new kind of ready-made temporally granular biography, a record of one’s operative activity in an increasingly public social structure. Even if one does accept the somewhat outlandish suggestion that the Google-ography is its own form, is that a useful distinction? Perhaps not. What is useful in describing the genus (and structuring the description in an annotated example of what is being described) is discovering the new directions in which it points us. Formal frontiers are being explored in contemporary poetics and while the old forms feel spent many of the new forms feel facile and already tired. Moreover, as regular people become increasingly public entities, the Google-ography highlights issues in our shifting notion of identity. Whatever the formal value in a set of search results, the searching for who we are and how that is represented in this digital age is significant. Electronic SelfAssertion The online utopia has been sufficiently disproved already but allow me to flog a dead horse for a moment. The web is not a Walden Pond where one can go to live deliberately and in solitude. People have only limited control over what of themselves exists in that space and how available that existence is to their cohabitants. Never mind the myriad ways in which companies spy on consumers through the Internet. Privacy issues surrounding the gathering of usage statistics and other data through the use of cookies and applications that send info back to the mother ship have received much debate in public arenas. Frankly, the whole thing is boring at best; I don’t really care whether or not corporations know what I do on the web. Since googling has become the en vogue method of light-duty surveillance, I’m much more concerned about the information and misinformation my associates have at their disposal. The web keeps a record of us that can perform identification functions that range from the utilitarian (proof, portfolio, resume, repository) to the nostalgic (scrapbook, memorabilia box). In this regard, the web has made great strides toward popularising biographical data. Not everyone gets an hour on A&E, but anyone can be googled. Whether or not it returns anything of interest (or anything at all—because even that is telling), it’s perfectly egalitarian. People sensed this unprecedented accessibility from the beginning and took it as the cheap broadcasting opportunity that it was. It’s interesting that individuals’ first impulse when faced with the decision of what to do with the web was to make “home” pages—useless proclamations of selfhood that include lists of likes and dislikes, hobbies, pets, and links to other equally useless pages that they endorsed. The allure was ubiquity. Once you stake out a corner of cyberspace and clutter it up with personal manifestos and advertisements, almost anybody anywhere—even people you never knew existed—can know of your existence. That craze hasn’t subsided, but it has shifted shape and taken on weight. These days everyone with an inflated ego and a cable modem has a web log, or “blog,” with which to enshrine and celebrate their quotidian existences through periodic anecdote and free-form rumination. Granted, some blog authors can be compelling. At least, more often than not, a posting with some human substance is more interesting than a list of favourite TV shows and links. More important than its relative ability to amuse or enlighten, however, is the blog’s place in the taxonomy of forms. Somewhere between diary and autobiography, blogs attempt to craft the personal for public consumption, presenting exactly the face the author wants to the world in the most deliberate and (continued on page 4)

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“My Googleography” (from page 3)

convenient way, and thus they lose the titillation of espionage provided by a found diary and the cohesive reflection (or, 20/20 hindsight) and larger-picture relevance that an autobiography offers. The web affords a myriad of other more minor ways to assert ourselves. Amazon.com, for example, builds a loyal customer base by allowing customers to feel like they’re a part of the product by providing user reviews and comments, creating lists and writing guides for other customers to read, offering advice to other customers, etc. Brick and mortar businesses may have their own tactile, spatial, and utilitarian charms, but they don’t have the kind of helpful and expressive community that comes from people trying to be somebody in an ever-widening sea of souls. Whether commercially or non-commercially, the personal touches work. Not only do they serve as antidote to the impersonal absence of dirty bills changing fleshy hands, they allow folks to insert themselves into other folks’ transactions. The web will always be an easy, endless, and widely available avenue to mark territory, establish identity, express ourselves, and even fabricate our social networks. The point is, we offer ourselves up for surveillance. From Rogue to En Vogue One of the Internet’s first big thrills (well, for some, at least) was the easy, anonymous ability to watch Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson having sex. The tape was procured ostensibly against the will of either and distributed to record numbers by sidestepping the geographical limitations and potential embarrassment of traditional distribution channels (i.e. the local porn shop) and there was no residual object to hide under the mattress or bury in the morning trash. Whether or not the leaking of that tape to web viewers was a publicity stunt, the public’s own less-lascivious leakings are a kind of publicity stunt. And while the scandals come and go, the daily postings by and about The Average continue. Television’s proliferation of so-called reality shows prove that where once we were titillated to see the stars in their private lives, we are now more interested in seeing each other. Tally the number of The Osbournes and Anna Nicole Smiths and compare that to the Joe Millionaires and Survivors. On the web more than any other medium, we buy viewing privileges with our complicity. The web has its own rules, and a strong youshow-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine ethos has long been at the root of them. Before peerto-peer swapping became popular with the likes of Napster, there were (and still are) servers, operated by anybody with a machine and a little know-how, that allowed users to download expensive software, music, videos and other contraband for free. The catch was that you had to upload something of value in order to get permission to the download area. Napster and its successors took that concept a step further by connecting people directly to each other. Peer-to-peer computing, as it’s called, allows users to get free MP3 music files by putting their own MP3s up for grabs. A more implicit version of that agreement has allowed the Google-ography to become the phenomenon it is. We understand that we will inevitably find ourselves represented on a web page somewhere and agree to that condition in exchange for access to information about others. To see the world, we must allow the world to see us. Google is not only the du jour method of looking into our neighbours’ bedrooms but also the method with which we throw back our own curtains. But Google is not peer-to-peer computing and so the exchange is not unmediated. Hegemony The wondrously gawky sound of the word ‘google’ not only provides cover for its potentially insidious, invasive use but it also belies the company’s world-domination-esque ambitions. The word ‘googol’ is the number 10 raised to the power 100, or the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The term came from the mathematician Edward Kasner’s nine-year-old nephew. Only a child could come up with

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something so playfully innocent. It’s brilliant, obfuscating branding. The spelling the search engine uses comes from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: “‘And are you not,’ said Fook, leaning anxiously forward, ‘a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?’” The ability to search over three billion web pages and prioritise potentially several millions of results in under a second is not too unlike calculating the trajectory of every particle in a five-week sand blizzard. It’s a bit mind-boggling. Google began with a desire to not only rule the search engine world but to rule it righteously—a utilitarian strategy as their righteousness was a major factor in Google’s nascent hegemony. Google became the de facto search engine by deciding to be good to users and not being—as their founders still put it—”evil.” Not being evil includes avoiding the sin of spawning pop-up ads and the sin of selling slots in the search results as do other search engines. Google bills its method of ranking pages according to the number and quality of links to it as “uniquely democratic,” and the peopleover-e-commerce high road has been appealing to users who have felt respected and have responded by staying loyal. That, in turn, has exposed Google to interests with which it never thought it would have to compete. The Church of Scientology’s lawyers, in a huff over anti-Scientology sites, went after the larger, slower-moving target and managed to get Google to remove links to those sites. Even China has successfully battled the company over content it deemed threatening— heady stuff for what one assumes (and what Google itself claims) is a mere conduit of information. But Google was never a pure conduit. Internal policy keeps Google from selling ad-space for cigarettes and alcohol (evil) but not pornography (not evil). That’s problematic enough, but as soon as special interests start mucking about in the index and Google continues, however reluctantly, to fold under their demands, the conduit becomes increasing politicised and commodified. With so much at stake, everybody’s trying to get a say in what is evil and what is not, and that affects the content you receive and the content of your identity as it’s manifest on the web. An October 2002 statement of issues and call for data in the Harvard Law journal stated that the authors had counted in their preliminary fact finding some 113 sites which were excluded from the French and German versions of Google due to governmental, NGO and private pressures over sensitive and illegal material, specifically white supremacist sites or the auctioning of Nazi memorabilia. Based on that alone, one’s Google-ography at any given point in time may be unabridged in the U.S. and a Reader’s Digest condensed version in Germany (especially if he or she is a NeoNazi). Now we have concurrent Google-ographies based on the location of the reader, not the subject. The closer you look, the more the Google-ography comes into its own formally. Google’s cache (its storage of once-indexed but no longer existing pages) adds another layer of complexity. Information considered outof-date by its principal stake owners may subject Google to suits over libel, defamation, or copyright infringement. Consider too the tensions between readers/searchers and individual authors with more creative aims. Cached pages defy the will of their creator who has removed or allowed those pages to be removed for a reason. But Google-eers may cherish the cache as a sort of uniquely valuable marginalia. What other form comes with such whistles and bells? Both corporations and governments are fighting for control over something that should lie closer to the individual’s domain, but even among individuals there’s no unified front through which to enter the fray. And when Google goes public as it is poised to do, its shareholders will want ever-greater profits more than they will happy users, creating a four-way tug-o-war. Wall Street can only further jeopardise Google’s already questionable unbiasedness.

Control Newly worried over how the web was presenting me to people, I went into the office the next day and googled myself. I had done this before. In fact, so have other people I’ve known—my new girlfriend was not the first. In graduate school, some not-so-well-meaning colleagues (you know how mean kids can be in school) googled me and found, much to my chagrin, my first website, which I had put up while earning my bachelor’s degree. The centrepiece of the site was a gallery of artwork done by a young kid named Ethan who I tended occasionally. I thought he drew nice dinosaurs and cacti, not to mention a stunning portrait of his aunt Nanette. I scanned the images and coupled them with faux art criticism, which I thought was clever and generous of me (hoping that Ethan would appreciate the fame I’d bring him). But it wasn’t fully removed from the here-I-am, look-at-me Home Page genre people were rampantly indulging in at the time. In another section of the site were some poems I had written and links to my favourite site for vegetarian recipes, my favorite lit mags at the time (The Quarterly, The Mississippi Review, etc.), and so on. I had deliberately kept it for years as a sort of historical document— interesting (to me) partly for the contrast it was to the sprawling, functionally powerful and aesthetically pleasing six-million-dollar websites I now build for high profile clients. It remained as evidence of my humble beginnings and it gave me perspective on how far I’d come, but it was not something I wanted people to see generally. Its lack of self-consciousness ironically had me feeling like I’d been caught with my pants down and, yes, those mean boys laughed at me about it. I had long since lost the password to my student account and had to call the University of Utah, endure quite a bit of run around to get the right person, and explain that I was no longer a student so wasn’t it time they removed my personal stuff from their servers? It took several long distance phone calls but they finally removed the site and I was able to erase that chapter in my Google-ography. Luckily, I didn’t have to employ the strongarm tactics of China or the Church of Scientology to regain control of my digital representation. When I googled myself anew, however, I found that I don’t have control in all cases. Jazziz, a jazz magazine for whom I freelanced for a year or two, had me sign an agreement that gave them web publication rights to my articles in exchange for an additional, nominal fee. The extra money came in my paycheque but I never heard another word about it, so I was surprised when Google revealed that I had been published in magazines that I had never even heard of. My review of Jamie Saft’s Sovlanut album has been reprinted in Mostly Music, on Amazon.com, and on Jewish music distributor Aderet’s site. I hadn’t realised that the magazine intended to sell my work to other publications let alone commercial entities; I thought the agreement only allowed them to publish my work on their website. While I was pleased to have the additional exposure and publication credits, it was disconcerting to be left out of the loop of my own publication. What if I didn’t like the magazine or business and didn’t want to be associated with it? I had lost control over my own writing and I couldn’t call anybody to have it deleted if I’d wanted to. That entry in my Google-ography was written by somebody else. Absence Avenues for personal publicity are increasing both in availability and importance. Many previously private arenas are becoming increasingly publicised, and renown is becoming more of a mode of specialisation for which the question is in what way rather than if. This is a transition still underway. Many people’s lives are filled with real and impressive social contributions and, as has historically been the case, they receive little notice. But as the media encroaches on ever more facets of our society that lack of record becomes only more obvious. A search on my mother’s name, Honalee Seiter, produces nothing. Of course I think she’s a wonderful and important person. The lack of web pages that include her name does not say anything about how good or produc-


tive a person she is, but it does say something about her position in a changing social landscape. Thus, the holes in a Google-ography are revelatory. Perhaps the most major way in which I exist on the web is through my professional work, but that remains totally undocumented. The most recent site I’ve had a hand in is the U.S. site for Mazda, but nowhere on that site or the other sites I’ve worked on is my contribution listed. (Small businesses and organisations may sometimes credit the company or individual(s) who built their website but this is not the case with larger companies.) Even if my first site had remained, the evidence of my trajectory as a web developer would be non-existent on the web. No Google search will reveal that I have assisted General Electric, Harvard, Atlantic Records, JPMorgan/Chase, Renault, a joint project with AOL, Yahoo and Cisco Systems, and others with their web presences. Because of their collaborative and evolving natures, sites like those are inherently anonymous. Work that gets seen by millions remains unaccounted for. In one sense, because I’m adding to and helping shape the web daily it might seem that the most obvious chapters of my Google-ography are missing. But because those sites don’t say much about me, those contributions are irrelevant to my Google-ography. The Google-ography knows best how to be itself. I have newer personal sites that don’t come up in a Google search either, but that’s mostly deliberate. One of my websites is, in part, an experiment that relies on anonymity. Another, www.airhockeyfever.org, is the site for my air hockey club, which is too new to have garnered search-engine attention. Search engines have no way of knowing a website exists unless at least one other website links to it or someone volunteers its existence by submitting it to be indexed. Submission is a factor, but it’s often not sufficient. Another one of Google’s failures is that sometimes it just misses things. While Google gives the overwhelming illusion of completeness, not everything that’s on the web gets indexed. After being the music columnist for the Salt Lake City Weekly (then called Private Eye Weekly), I was invited back in 1996 as one of five local critics to rate the best local recordings. Google doesn’t know the results are on the web, but I do, and that page contains a lot of information relevant to my Google-ography (not to mention a lame Beatles reference):

social metrics is Alltheweb.com, an up-andcoming search engine that does a complete crawl of the Internet every 7 to 11 days compared to Google’s 28 days and, in my case at least, finds things that Google misses. For example, it returns my contributor’s bio from the issue of Quarterly West in which I published a story entitled “Helen’s XXX Flowers.” That bio, like the Salt Lake City Weekly bio, reveals important parts of my biography that Google does not: “David Berg-Seiter is a web developer in Manhattan. His work has also appeared in The Cimarron Review, The Quarterly, and Midland Review.” Alltheweb also returns a page which lists me on the schedule for the “Constructions of the Human” academic conference at California State University (which I declined to participate in). I had forgotten that I had been invited, so finding it was a happy rediscovery. The invitation was in connection to work I’d done in 1997 with a team at the University of Florida on a humanities approach to social issues. Some of that work exists in severely decayed form on the web. After an introductory page there remain sections on Tiananmen Square (with five sub-pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), pollution (with five sub-pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and a relay we called Red Noise (and one of its related pages). Deterioration in the form of broken links, missing images and partial sites is a quality endemic to Google-ographies. Like the total absences in a Google-ography, seeing what dies and what doesn’t can lead to observations not only about the subject but about the arenas in which he or she operates. I used to write for Citysearch, the online city guide, but because those articles served a commercial purpose tied to a specific place and time, they don’t exist anymore. Academic work, however, is intended to have a lasting effect, and as that effect fades or loses its autonomy as it gets cut and mixed into a larger dialogue, so too do the web remnants fade. These half stories result in misrepresentations that can work for or against the subject of the Google-ography, especially in the context of surveillance, but formally it’s certainly more of a freeing permutation than a limitation. Working on the assumption that semiotics killed the dream of representation, what can we do but take an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join’em attitude and co-opt the inevitable distortions, adopt the confusions as potentially productive openings.

“David Seiter is a past regular contributor to Private Eye Weekly and English literature student at the [University of Utah]. Among his favourite artists are Soul Coughing, Led Zeppelin, Meat Puppets, Johnny Cash and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. ‘I look for a backbeat you can’t lose, any old way you choose,’ he says. He is married to Eryn Berg-Seiter and has a weekend radio show on X96.”

Ephemera Even if Google finds everything currently on the web about its subject, websites come and go. The Google-ography isn’t complete even in the best of circumstances. Putting aside for a moment one half of the absences (those pages that exist on the web unbeknownst to Google) and looking just at the other half (those pages that once existed on the web but don’t anymore) and the fragments (pages or sites that only partially exist), one begins to get a sense of one of the more exciting formal aspects of the Google-ography: its ephemeral nature. In fact, one of the defining and instructive qualities of this new form is that it’s highly temporal; it follows as an aftermath behind its subject, always lagging. A Google search on my name a couple years ago returned, among other long-gone entries, information about my stint as a medical librarian when I worked at the Hope Fox Eccles Clinical Library in Salt Lake City. My Google-ographers will, for better or worse, never know I was a medical librarian. (At least there’s one thing reserved for in-person bragging rights!) In its place is something better: a critical review of Joel Chace’s poetic sequence o-d-e in the Electronic Poetry Review. The contributor’s note associated with that article reveals more details about me: “David Berg-Seiter lives on Manhattan’s lower east side where an international pickle festival is held each year. He works just off Wall Street. There, bomb-sniffing dogs are stationed outside his office.” But since that was published I have moved to Fort Greene in Brooklyn. This article will be the first explicit evidence of that, but even without it, the sharp Googler could figure out that I don’t live in Manhattan anymore because my Google-ography contains links to information about my moving sale posted on the free

My wife was invited to be one of the judges as well and from her profile, the Google-ographer can discover that she’s a high school English teacher whose favourite artists at that time were Tom Waits, Pennywise, Nancy Griffith and Luscious Jackson. This omission is significant because it is the only place on the web that a Google-ographer can learn that I was married and had a radio show. I miss being on the radio, incidentally. Googlers have to be careful not to expect too much. I had a friend whose boyfriend told her fantastic tales of his band opening for Nirvana. She didn’t trust him and Google couldn’t corroborate his claims so she broke up with him only to find out later that everything he’d told her was true. Because Google-ographies will miss things that a biography would be unlikely to miss, its function is not to provide a digital biography but to provide a snapshot of how one lives digitally. That emphasis is important in distinguishing the Google-ography as a form. As publicity gains ground as a condition of our social existence, only the Google-ography gives us a contextualised reading of our relative place in the world at a specific point in time. Fragments Threatening Google’s monopoly over the new

advertising board Craigslist after the review was published. Curious about my tastes in home furnishings and appliances? View my vacuum (no need for it in a brownstone with hard wood floors throughout), my desk, my bookshelves and the books I read. Books tell a lot about a person. But by the time this article hits the servers and puts another entry in my Google-ography, Craigslist’s 60-day limit for posting will have passed and though Google will continue to list my items in a link to the ad (the links read “desk, table, chairs, shelves, vacuum, Mac, a/c, blender, etc” and “good stuff, must sell this week, have pics!”, clicking them will get you nowhere, and my furniture will have been a part of a previous Google-ography. If Google is a mirage—shimmering beckoningly but failing to deliver on its promises—the Google-ography is a memory. Entries get added and others lost in whole or part. The Google-ography is a destabilised, floating form, losing pieces of itself from 60 days ago and retaining outdated bits from over five years back. It’s a form that stalks its subject, following at a distance, never catching up but never evaded completely. A Google-ography is like your little brother who wanted to tag along wherever you went, only in that case if you couldn’t ditch him, you weren’t trying very hard—with the web, it’s getting increasingly difficult to escape its recording functions. The web has recorded that I was once an instructor in the Networked Writing Environment at the University of Florida and that I left in 1999; that I was once the Senior Fiction Editor at Del Sol Review; and that I was enrolled in a class to learn the PERL programming language at NYU in the summer of 2000. From Nostalgia to Expose Another of my Jazziz articles, published in March of 2000, has generated additional links in my Google-ography and provides an interesting titbit about me. Entitled “Simple Truths About Good Sound: Three audiophile label heads sound off about how to build a homeentertainment system worthy of the music you love.” In it, I listed Wyetech Labs as a manufacturer of top-quality home stereo equipment. Wyetech was so proud that they licensed the article from Jazziz and republished it on their own site, including my contributor’s note which reads “David Berg-Seiter, who bought his first album on eight-track, writes about jazz and home entertainment equipment for Jazziz.” Considering my jazz-snob audience, I didn’t include the fact that the 8-track was Back in Black by AC/DC which my mother made me return because she didn’t like song titles like “Hells Bells” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You.” Let me set the record straight now: the first album I bought and was able to keep was Queen’s The Game on vinyl. By the time my Google-ographers click the link to my article for grid magazine on indie rock act the Spinanes, they will have learned a good deal about my wide-ranging tastes in music. The persistent Google-ographer will dig around the grid magazine site and learn too that I’ve also done graphic design work, since I’m listed on the masthead as both a writer and a designer. A bit of that design work is featured on the Spinanes article. grid magazine reveals an interesting aspect of the web’s nostalgia functions. The magazine’s current presence on the web is an afterthe-fact archive/memorial. grid’s original site outlasted the print version but eventually that died too. The current site was reconstructed some years later as a deliberate record, the motivations for which the home page makes explicit: “We really did publish a music magazine. We really did get paid to do it. Fishbone’s Angelo Moore really did pose as a housemaid for us. We really did sacrifice a writer to GWAR’s World Maggot. This is the story of what happens when two young players from the street decide to make a music magazine instead of getting ‘real jobs.’” The current site is less about providing interesting information to its audience than it is about providing lasting proof of accomplishment. The urge at work here is part of the urge toward accumulating and storing valuable markers of identification, which is satisfied in an unprecedented way by the web and made accessible by Google. Even if it weren’t cost

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prohibitive to make all the back issues of the physical magazine indefinitely available to how ever many people take an interest, the pages would unavoidably yellow and disintegrate while the web has the ability to serve forever-fresh pages to as many people as want them for as long as they want them for minimal financial expenditure all while exposing those pages on demand to people who would be interested but otherwise remain unaware of the magazine. Not bad. My own nostalgia is stoked when Google reminds me of my money phase (when I was reading and writing on financial topics) with a number of links about and to my investingfocused retelling of O’Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” that I titled Return of the Magi (A Christmas Tale for a Volatile Market) and published on popular financial destination Motley Fool in December 1998. While bastardising O’Henry for a financial rag might indicate a lack of moral fortitude, another entry may lead my Google-ographers to believe otherwise. In this example the Google-ography seems to leave the realm of simple reportage and take on the trappings of the exposé. In my case, Google reveals a religious background I keep close to the cuff. Religion, a taboo subject in polite public, is, like everything on the web, fair game. A Google-ographer will find that I contributed to the spring 1997 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. The issue includes articles with such provocative titles as “Recovering the Signifier: New Jack Mormons” and “Baptism for the Dead and the Problematic of Pluralism: A Theological Reconfiguration.” My contribution was two-fold. I was part of “Don’t Fence Me In: A Conversation about Mormon Fiction” with Joanna Brooks, Sam Cannon, and Sean Ziebarth, and I contributed four poems: “Revival,” “Hard Publics,” “Passing On, Holiday,” and “Kick and Muff.” My association with Mormonism is a can of worms I don’t want made available for opening by people I know casually enough that they need to google me. The revelation of a religious affiliation may be for some an opportunity for evangelise, but for me it’s too loaded, too fraught, and so I’d rather avoid it altogether. Perhaps the many more links to my criticism of Jamie Saft’s avant-garde Jewish music originally published in Jazziz—the one republished in several other outlets—will throw people off. What’s interesting in the exposing functions of the Google-ography that’s opposite of other forms is that its definition as exposé is not under the control of the exposing parties but lies with the exposed. In other forms, the exposer usually sets out to expose and having collected sufficient evidence will present the findings to others as such. Regardless of Google-ographers’ intentions, however, they have no control over the kind of results they receive or achieve. And no matter how damning they consider the results of their search, because a Google-ography is not packaged or presented to others, it cannot be billed as one thing or another. The only difference between exposé and non-exposé is the judgment that accompanies the information. Since the Google-ography does not convey judgment, only the subject’s relationship with that information can determine whether or not it’s exposé. The relationship is inverse. Unlike a biography in which the author provides direction on how to read the contents of his or her subject’s life, the Google-ography contains no such direction. Readers may judge those contents however they like, but they cannot give the Google-ography exposé status if the subject won’t allow it by his or her reservations about that content. While a peeping Tom may choose the bathroom window for his exploits, Google surveillers have only one window, the contents of which they have no control over and their subject has only limited control over, but if the subject is caught naked and has no shame the peeping Tom ceases to exist. The Google-ography fails to objectify. Pulsating Identities The record keeping functions of the web paradoxically create simultaneously contradictory movements in the formation and function of identity. As your name and selfhood are made

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available to the world as never before, you can’t help but feel bigger for it. As evidence of your existence on the global landscape mounts, your sense of identity expands. Indeed, you are an individual to people for whom you’d never exist otherwise. At the same time, all those for whom you now exist now also exist for you. The world in which you are now bigger is itself bigger and your relative place in it may contract more than it expands. One of the drawbacks of the creation of identity under conditions of universal accessibility is that you’ll discover that you are not alone. You are not the only you. In fact, there are probably many of you. The John Smiths of the world are used having an army of other John Smiths competing for their identity. The David Seiters and others with more unusual names are not, and it can be disheartening since it has a diluting effect on our view of our place in the world. As the Salt Lake City Weekly entry mentioned, I used to work in radio as an on-air personality. At the first station I worked at, the Program Director, serving a young audience,

just ask us about ourselves. Google-ographies can be misleading to those that don’t know you well enough to separate the returns for you and those for the other people that share your name. And it’s not just an issue for John Smiths. When my friends Silvio and Michelle first started dating, she googled him. The first item returned was the home page for a flamenco dancer from Malta that states “Please Note that this web site is made not to show how good I am BUT to show my love to dance and mostly to flamenco dancing , thankyou .” [sic] She knew that Silvio was from Malta so she was appropriately concerned. Luckily she didn’t give up on him before finding out that her Silvio Galea is not a flamenco dancer. The 7,700 results returned by “David Seiter” contain quite a few red herrings, so let me state for the record: I am not the American historian who wrote “Letters: Windows to the Past”. I’m not the Australian football player who scored two goals against Katungan to get “Best” in that game (whatever that means). I am not a religious education coordinator for a Catholic college in Victoria. I am not the pro-

personal identity is so buried on the Nth page, so inextricable from the other results, that he is practically obliterated, his digital face deleted. Access to information is undoubtedly good but it has become so overwhelming that people are getting off on Googlewhack trying to find that elusive query: two words (using no quotation marks) that return a single result.

wanted me to have an on-air identity. Not knowing me and thinking me mild mannered and meek, he thought for a moment and said, “Ah, I know. You’ll be Danger Dave!” The irony of that was supposed to be immediately evident and attractive to me, who would be charged with conveying that irony over the airwaves to an irony-starved American youth. I didn’t love the name and it eventually became apparent that it was more appropriate than ironic as I later shared a house with the Program Director and he realised that summer afternoons would have me schlepping ropes and tri-cams to the cliffs to go rock climbing or following through on a dare to ride my bike around the block naked. The name stuck with me as I moved to larger stations and people came to know me only as Danger. Nicknames are special whether you like yours or not, and I did come to like mine, so I was disappointed to discover in an early Google-ography that there was another radio personality in the states whose moniker was Danger Dave, a coincidence I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. Vastly increased cognisance of our doppelgangers is not only a problem for those of us that naively yearn to be unique individuals but also for those that want to discover more about us without the gate-keeping and editorialising that would attend the answer if they were to

vider of the datasheet for MOS Technology’s 6562/6563 Video Interface Chip (VIC) that was added to the Datasheets Archive. I was not an owner of 80 acres in Vernon Township, Michigan in 1915. I was not a pallbearer for George A. Weisenfels in 1999 in Clarksville, Arkansas. I am not the representative of Lego who in the spring of 1997 visited a New York student computing lab. And, there are plenty of other people I am not, too. If you know me enough to want to do my Google-ography, some of these you can rule out pretty easily. I don’t live in Australia or Victoria, and wasn’t alive in 1915, for example. But others are more difficult. You might think I was the Utah state award co-coordinator for the 2002 Social Studies Programs of Excellence, since you know I lived in Utah. But I wasn’t. Sharing your name with other people is one thing but sharing it with institutions, corporations, or other organisations is another. While not easily mistaken for you, such entities can be even more obscuring. My friend Roger Williams knows about organisational name sharing. Run his name past Google and you get 1,580,000 links in 0.07 seconds—a feat in itself worthy of eponymy—that include everything from a university to a zoo to a hotel to a national memorial to a medical centre. His

can’t resist, at least subconsciously, to assign value to the sheer number of results a subject receives: a person with more web entries must be more important. Whoever dies with the most links wins. Google-fight.com, brings that human tendency into focus. Google-fight is a website that allows users to enter two people or things to see which one wins. The site runs the search for you and conveniently tells you which garnered the bigger result set. While, expectedly, George W. Bush beats Saddam Hussein, I was encouraged to see Burger King beat McDonald’s. Even if you’re not dealing with a Roger Williams, for most subjects, constructing a quality Google-ography will be time-consuming. If the name returns hundreds or thousands of pages, it’ll take time and a little strategy to comb through them. If the name does little to inspire Google, adept searchers know that you get the best results if you play with the name a little, trying every possible variation. Google does some of this work for you, matching on portions of names. In my case, a Google-ographer that pays attention to the dates and connects the dots may be able to deduce that I was once David Seiter, got married and became the one and only David Berg-Seiter in the world (a happy distinction for the rugged individu-

Hierarchy Building If all those URLs were about my friend, he’d be king by decree of Google’s explicit and implicit ranking functions. We rely on Google to give us the relative importance of things, and not without reason; Google’s ordering of results is not random but based on an algorithm that takes into account the number of links to the page and the relative popularity of those linking pages. The obvious trap is that Google’s pronouncement of relevance is a selffulfilling prophecy—another way in which Google’s proud democracy isn’t so democratic. While Google’s ranking of the results is deliberate, its ranking of its subjects is not. We


alist), and some years later divorced and became one of the relatively few David Seiters again. Before Google, I didn’t know of any Seiters that I wasn’t directly related to. In fact, before Google I didn’t even know much about some of the Seiters that I am directly related to. I don’t have time to keep up with them personally, but I have run a couple quick searches. It does feel like surveillance because I’m watching them but they don’t know it. Sometimes I prefer it that way. Classmates.com gives people the opportunity to find out about their old friends but it’s too eye-for-an-eye; visitors can’t view anybody’s profile without first filling out their own profile. With Classmates.com’s guarantee of delivering to you the Other, you lose the thrill of espionage. Worse, participants construct flattering fictions about themselves and post them along with photos as if it were a personal ad. It’s autobiography at best and it’s uninteresting. The interesting thing about the Google-ography is the way in which it multiplies and blurs author and reader roles. Author/Reader Roles In light of Barthes’s Death of the Author, the author of a Google-ography is perhaps more socially and historically constructed than the author of any other form as the form itself creates contextually shifting, layered, and always murky roles in reading and authoring. To begin with, no single entity creates a Googleography. In many ways, Google, a business with a team of programmers that have unleashed a kind of biography-making machine upon the world—rather than an author/researcher in cohort with a publishing house—is the author. Google finds the data and presents it in a hierarchical fashion according to its ever-evolving and manipulated algorithms. However, the Google-ography doesn’t come into existence until the searcher calls for it and specifies its shape by his or her search criteria—not just the keywords entered but also through the use of ‘or,’ the minus sign (which instructs Google not to include results that contain the negated word), quotation marks that will filter out results in which the keywords are merely in close proximity and not side by side, and other techniques that one can learn about in a power searching how-to or a howto specifically tailored to Google, or simply by using an aggregated interface such as Fagan Finder which provides a page on which one can use all of Google’s features at once. Further, since the Google-ography for a given subject can never find stasis, time becomes a third co-author. If the author cannot exist prior to or outside of the Internet, and the Internet changes significantly every split second, the very notion of an author is difficult to pin down. The nature of the Google-ography’s construction is communal—not quite collaborative since it’s not done in a centralised, co-ordinated fashion but it is cooperative on some level. Every Google-ography is distinct not only because it has the potential to be different moment by moment, but also because its entries may be given varying emphasis and read in any order, yielding various deeper paths according to the interest, time, etc. of the reader, creating the author anew with each Google session. Saying nothing of the fact that the authoring of the web pages themselves is a collaboration between strategists, designers, information architects and programmers, authorship is muddled by the fact that there cannot be a pre-determined pathway through, or experience of, the collection of pages that comprise a Google-ography. If, as Barthes says regarding the author, “His only power is to mix writings…in such a way as never to rest on any one of them,” Google-ographers are certainly exercising that power. If the author role in the Google-ography is fuzzy, so too is the reader role. Not only are readers more active in choosing order and emphasis, but their own expertise is brought to bear. However willing and able to judge its merits and accept or reject its accuracy or stance, the reader of a traditionally published auto/biography is little more than receptacle. The quality of a Google-ography, however, is dependent on the fore-knowledge of the reader. In order to find the right results and sift

through them—weed out the falsies and find the clues that yield further links—Googlers must know something about their subject and the more they know, the more effective, accurate, and efficient the Google-ography is. As the author and reader roles have shifted, they have aligned. Because the reader is most often the searcher, at least that part of the author role (the part that brings into existence) is played by the same individual who plays the reader role. In a simple search, the acts of authoring and reading may be serial, but as the process begins to resemble research (in cases of either a more adept searcher or a more difficult subject), the roles are intermingled and simultaneous. The enterprise is participatory in a way and to a degree that it may be the first time in which the reader and author (however existent the author is) are one. Loss If we lose the author in ways we haven’t before, what else are we giving up with our Google-ographies (even if happily)? To some extent we lose worth-a-thousand-words photos and illustrations of the subject since there remain difficulties in effectively cataloguing the contents of visual assets on the web. We lose the acknowledgments page, which is always a favourite of mine (seriously). We give up the heft of paper, packaging and binding. We lose the marketing and subsequent profits. And if we accept the result set as our ephemeral Google-ography with the knowledge that what is missing or unclear is as much a part of that story as what’s there—that how fully and accurately we are represented on the web says perhaps as much about our contextual identity as do the details that are given—then we give up the educated guesswork and speculation, the occasional grasping at straws that attend paper biographies. The holes of a Google-ography cannot be filled in because what isn’t there doesn’t belong there. You get what you get, tautologically speaking. We lose the play of authority in the transaction, the privilege of being definitive. Sure, one can Google better or worse than another through permutations of names, knowing and using advanced search techniques, efficiency (knowing what to click on and what to skip, etc.), perseverance (for unearthing that nugget of gold truth buried 16 pages deep in a pile of irrelevance), plugging in Google-acquired information to find nonindexed items, and so on, but the Google-ography can never be final or correct intemporally. It can be fast and well chosen, but never finished. The advantage gained by better searching is ultimately only a marginal advantage, and nobody’s reviewing your scholarship in the New York Times anyway. Such is the price of a new form, and these things don’t get born very often. Let’s embrace it—or at least the implications it offers for contemporary poetics: its revelatory absences and fragments, its reflective decay and productive dsyfunctionalism, its contextualising and memorialising capacity, its reciprocity, its granular temporality and evanescent ephemera, its nonlinearity, its decentralised and decentralising functions, its new modes of mediation and transgression, its freeing lack of stability, its blurring of boundaries and inversion of roles and relationships. And let’s consider what such a form says about us individually and how it places us in our world, how it reflects, shapes, and comments on that world and the changes in the way we function socially and culturally. I don’t want to get carried away. Look, if I go to Classmates.com to get the dirt, all I’m likely to learn is that everyone I knew in high school has more cars and children than I do. That’s because Classmates.com is no more than a repository of the ecumenical confessions of ex-secondary-academics. I’ll skip the reunion and hit Google instead where I can find out the things people don’t want me to know. And what about the people I meet when I’m out? How am I to know they’re who they say they are and haven’t seen the inside of an insane asylum in a non-professional capacity? Google them! If I’d only gotten Candice’s last name… Maybe that’s the main difference between an auto/biography and a Google-ography. Having the former is a bit of an honour, or at least an acknowledgement of your impact on the

world for good or evil. The latter is a universally available product of surveillance and the uniquely interpretable intelligence it contains imparts a power that neither the biography nor autobiography can give. No wonder my feelings about being the subject of a Google-ography were mixed. Ultimately, I’m willing to put up with a little discomfort in return for all the formal fissures the Google-ography produces. The Google-ography is good for more than just giving us an inside peek of somebody we’ve just met. If that were all it was, we’d all be using Googlism.com, a novelty service provided by Australian company Domain Active. Put in a person, place, thing, or time, and Googlism will run a Google search and return a pithy definition, opinion, or synopsis of your search term based on the results of the search. It’s a tool that could have cut the time put into this Google-ography to a negligible few seconds. But even the simple haiku has at least three times the formal markings as a Googlism, and a Google-ography has far more than that. Besides, put in “David Berg-Seiter” and the Googlism reads, “David Berg-Seiter is one jump short of his skydiving license.” True, but I’d hate to be reduced to that. Sounds like I’m one card short of a deck. Put in “David Seiter” and you get “David Seiter is assistant director of the ERIC clearinghouse for social studies/ social science education.” Not true. Sure, Googlism gets its inaccuracies and half-truths from Google, but that’s missing the point. No other form has the same gamble with truth or privacy. And Google retains a veneer of objectivity while its indexes and algorithms are tampered with and self-justifying. Its boundaries are assertive and inverted. Its expanse of information is full of perilous pitfalls. But, whether in spite of all that or because of that, the Google-ography raises interesting issues in contemporary and emerging identity formation while pointing to new directions and opportunities in contemporary and emerging poetics. I’m using my girlfriend’s computer to write this while she waits with dinner. She’s asking what I’m writing about and I’m saying it’s nothing, that it wouldn’t interest her, but I know that only piques her interest. Her suspicion will lead her to Google me again and she’ll find this article. So let me say for the record: I wasn’t picking up on Candice. I was just having fun knowing something about her that she didn’t know I knew. She can understand that can’t she? 

Kambah Pool S.K. Kellen A bend in the river water’s clouded by green mud Deep, really deep, good for proper swimming. These days only children see spirit life Work and play—see a world invisible to adults— Clear and just, a solar system glows every grain Of sand and kids crush evil in one hand, Until growing up evil comes again— The light dappling the water surface Reveals some native spirits’ power Derives from fireflies—gumnut babies Fuss and fight give a lesson how funny Is the futility of conflict. Children see That crazy old spirit Pan left his shadow Hanging from a tree and reflection Drinking at the river the old goat’s galloped Way up mountain, leaps cliff to cliff Grazes on blackberries growing in the scrub Gazes over his Murrumbidgee domain. All glands and rankness, his shaggy coat Putrid with the smell of ewes, wallabies, Kangaroos, is still a monster—he’ll take A bird bath later—dirty musk fills the air Like a native allergy—tea trees blossom As he passes—kangaroos lift their heads Breathe deep his scent and there are dogs, too. When the kids see Pan they go gulp If dads could see him they’d beat him to pulp. You might not see but the musk stench Wafts on the breeze. Currawongs squawk The inside-out salute, warble a tone of pity For the brute. The immigrant god moves inland— Raucous the cockatoo never shuts up.

The Fly Tower: Confessions of a Killer A Novel in Two Chapters or 24 Paragraphs S.T. Swift Chapter 1 1. I don’t want words. I would like this to be without the sounds voices make, also. 2. If possible, no talking. No sounds, not even whispering. No languages. 3. How to be a writer without words? Perhaps I should have become a photographer, instead. 4. If you travel back and forth through the light, like flicking a bunch of photographs, you may almost have what I want. The sensation of something that hovers between the world we see and the world we know. 5. I think I will send this out to be translated into twenty-two languages first, even before I am finished. Iron out all the nuances of my own tongue. English. Somewhere in the muddle of cultures, styles, inflections, flavors, will come about a serene, if unstable, objectivity, an accident of flatness that often arrives with translations. 6. That is the world I know. The world I want you to know. 7. I do not know the names of shoes, scents, flowers. 8. The labels on the labels. How much milk costs. 9. What the boy’s sister is called. How far the sky is from the moon. The way silk is made. 10. Where, exactly, Japan is. Innocence is ignorance. 11. I am a child, but of course, there are no children allowed in here. 12. Flip through the silent pages of the photographs. 13. In all of them, and none, I am in prison. Chapter 2 1. When someone wants to sell a boring story, they say it is a mystery, to hook you in. You race through the tedium, wanting to know if anything will happen, next. 2. At the end of the book, you have learned nothing but how dreadful the author is, and perhaps feel more like distancing yourself from your cousin, the critic. 3. Usually, the book is really about the author’s life. Dressed up to look like a good story, and one with a new vision. 4. How many new visions, are there? A lot. We have them all the time. Each eye that closes opens on one, or two. 5. I dreamt of you last night, or someone much like you. I felt we were intimate, perhaps shared a secret. 6. Then I kissed you and it was like a rain shiver on a cool fall day and I was so glad to have made your acquaintance. 7. Then one of us awoke, and the day was upon me. 8. I have carried your intimacy with me throughout a day of jurisprudence. 9. This actually is a mystery, you see. I happen to be one of the fortunate ones— though hardly an author, in the sense that I have no photographs of myself on books— with something to tell. 10. If you fancy murder, incest, and that kind of thing, maybe you will find it here. But not in the words. Somewhere else.

Q = A and a better Alan Halsey How many Concept Houses, derelict or shiny, does one city need? And does it want a laughing policeman and a lighthouse? When is a slap of a memory a slab of a screen? Not Asia and not Latinate or edible to Also who spent Sunday sorting through his uncollected judgments. Picture the event simple and delivered. The original translation was ‘moonrush o new one’. ‘I’ll try not to think,’ CatRabbit repeats after me. A life jump or long fall as Z with some shifty vowels bat don’t toll me the latehours kipper was calor-blond for cries’ ache.

7


Gilgamesh Agonistes Steve Nash Making your way through one of the many formulations of the Gilgamesh epic, arguably the world’s oldest literature, is like reading a book in which some of the best parts have disappeared. Most readers are probably grateful enough, however. That much of anything remains of this Near Eastern tale after the passage of forty centuries is an admixture of the whimsical and the miraculous that is typical of archaeological discovery. Unfortunately, current events in the lands where this tale was first told are lengthening the odds against the survival of many such treasures. The Gilgamesh epic predates the Iliad by at least a thousand years, and Mesopotamian literature, of which Gilgamesh can be safely reckoned as the epicentre, is a source for both the Biblical and Classical traditions. Its literary and cultural significance consists of more than mere primacy, however. It’s also a hell of story, and will soon—given our Iraqi connections and the stimulus of popular cultural interest—be more widely read. Only a few years ago, translations of Gilgamesh petered out in ellipses, signifying the many places where the eleven cuneiform tablets bearing the standard version of the epic are broken and incomplete. Nearly every year, however, new bits of the story have been translated, or old fragments illuminated, at the British Museum or other collections around the world, or as more clay tablets are excavated. About 600 lines of the 3,000-line epic are still missing, but the interruptions are now less frequent. Its most complete contemporary rendering, a critical edition by Assyriologist Andrew George of the University of London, has just been published. It consults and compares the widest known assemblage of the crumbling clay tablets. (This new work was preceded by George’s far shorter and more reader-friendly Penguin Classic translation, intended for a nonspecialist audience.) Gilgamesh attracts far more than scholarly interest, though. Dozens of translations have appeared in at least sixteen modern languages, and the story has been recreated, adapted, and derived from, in many forms. Just in the past couple of years, Joan London’s novel Gilgamesh, set partly in Australia, and Eduardo Garrigues’s West of Babylon, set in New Mexico, have appeared. It is also the basis of a couple of operas, countless theater productions, and—why have we waited so long?—a forthcoming Hollywood creation. It’s barely possible that some of the rest of the real Gilgamesh is still under the sand, and the looting of antiquities in Iraq was the subject of distraught discussion during a recent Assyriologists’ meeting in London. Indeed, it was originally feared that among the thousands of items stolen from the Baghdad Museum after the fall of Hussein were clay tablets that hold promise of supplying some of the missing sections of Gilgamesh. That turned out to be untrue—the tablet room was not breached by the looters, according to Elizabeth Stone, a Mesopotamian archaeologist at SUNY Stony Brook, who has been to Iraq twice since the war. What is true instead is that hundreds of looters are digging up world-class archaeological excavations all over Iraq. “The situation at the archaeological sites is horrendous,” she told me. “I could give you a list of the ones we know are being actively looted in the South, and we know there are probably many more. With a couple of exceptions, I don’t think we saw any sites that had not been looted. Basically, the U.S. forces are doing very little about it. If anything, things are getting worse.” A poignant/pathetic email from an Army major who describes himself as “responsible for identifying and protecting all the ancient ruins in the Babylon Province,” was circulating among archaeologists by then. “I am concerned that the ruins in the outlying areas are (vulnerable) to looters,” the email says—this after a whole summer of accelerating and widely noted looting. It asks how to find important sites and adds, “I would appreciate any assistance you can provide me on locating as many ancient ruins (as are) known to you.”

8

A Loss of Poetics

Stone lamented: “We’ve sent them coordinates about a hundred times by now. Over and over and over. I don’t know what happens to them. They fall into a black hole. We know where the antiquities markets are, too, but no one’s closed them down.” Oxford University’s Eleanor Robson has predicted that looted antiquities will appear for sale for $50 or $100 in antique stores all over the Middle East, Europe and North America or on eBay: “The unsuspecting or the unscrupulous will buy them as novelty Christmas presents or coffee-table pieces.” Enter the search word “cuneiform” at the eBay site and, on many days, you will see that she may well have been correct. Jeffrey Tigay, Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the loss is “incalculable, in the neutral sense of that word. We can’t say what has been lost, but it may be extraordinarily important. These sites may be

tion of his friend Enkidu...

simply ruined because of what’s going on, and much of what we might have learned from them may be lost forever.”

I grew fearful of death and so roam the wild. The case of my friend was too much for me to bear, So on a distant road I roam the wild. (p. 683)

Assyriology as an academic discipline also finds itself under gathering shadows. In England and Europe, Andrew George summarizes, governments are trying to withdraw from many public sector operations, health and education among them. “What is dispensable? A small subject like the Ancient Near East is vulnerable, because many people feel it is not central to what a university should be doing, and advise that we let another university do it. Of course, if everyone is thinking that way, the thing dies completely. If you threaten the existence of expertise in the subject, it’s more dangerous for its future even than the disappearance of the tablets. We still have a lot yet to do, but very, very few people who are doing it.” In the U.S., too, Assyriology is a threatened discipline on both public and private campuses, according to Tigay. He is the author of the seminal Evolution of Gilgamesh which managed, in the early ‘80s, to carefully compare different versions and trace the nature of the epic’s evolution over the centuries. “I would say that there is a kind of a loss of interest in the past, or less of an interest than there was,” he told me. “University budgets are more and more driven by undergraduate enrolments, and this is not a field that attracts a huge number of undergraduates. It is not going to die, but it has serious problems now. I think at every university, people who think of it as something very important are engaged in a struggle to maintain it. Creating a tenured position in a discipline that is only going to attract a handful of grad students is expensive.” Gilgamesh was the mythical and perhaps also the historical ruler of the Mesopotamian city-state of Uruk, along the southern Euphrates River in what is now Iraq. Heroic sex and some cathartic face-offs with the gods help move his tale along. For example, the seduc-

John Kinsella

Shamhat let loose her skirts, she bared her sex and he took in her charms. She showed no fear, she took in his scent: she spread her clothing and he lay upon her. She treated the man to the work of a woman, his ‘love’ caressed and embraced her. For six days and seven nights Enkidu, erect, did couple with Shamhat.

Some kinds of make-believe remain more rewarding, as a rule, than others. It’s not quite fair, of course, but compare the following passage from Gilgamesh with the blowsy, shopworn hyperbole of a website promo for the movie: …for six days and seven nights I wept over him. I did not give him up for burial, until a maggot fell from his nostril. Then I was afraid…

Thru thousands of years, GILGAMESH has endured as the oldest and most revolutionary work of literature known to mankind…risking life and love on his tumultuous quest to find the answers to happiness and immortality. What he found was much less mysterious than he ever expected…and it was always there, right at his finger tips.

So it would be well to read the original first, of course, before running the risk that your own imaginings of Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu, the wild forest god Humbaba and the harlot Shamhat, are flattened into someone else’s deracinated celluloid caricatures…much less mysterious than you ever expected. (Then consider the film. Its producer, Beni Atoori, also produced the estimable 13 Conversations About One Thing.) Despite all, Andrew George is confident that the gaps in the Gilgamesh epic will be filled. “The eventual recovery of this literature is assured,” though not in his lifetime, he says. The efforts of another four generations of Assyriologists will need to be enlisted. It has long been established that much of the Bible, including the Great Deluge, is based on Mesopotamian literature, and there is some evidence linking Gilgamesh and Greek epics. “Its influence permeates our civilization through those twin streams,” George says. “Because when you look back at our origins, and if you can see over the fences of the Bible and Greece, you can see beyond, to ancient Mesopotamia.” In any case and inalterably, it’s a landscape we find ourselves reconnoitring at close quarters, once again. 

To write poetry you don’t have to like it. I’ve been increasingly recognising that language and its correlatives in music and art are not the pure coordinates or sole arbiters of poetry. There are two issues evolving out of these comments that seem pivotal to me. The first pertains to the suggestion that poetry might happen either out of necessity, or, paradoxically, incidentally. The second, that poetry does not rely on an aesthetic response to the tensions involved in reconciling interiority and articulation of the external world. These two simple principles are becoming the turning points for a personal re-evaluation of what constitutes the poem for me as a reader, or more precisely “experiencer,” and what it means for me as a maker of poems. On the surface, I am inclining towards poem as gesture or utterance arising out of the precognitive, or maybe out of the half-realised. I have often used the expressions “error zones” and “anchor points” to describe the tautological discomforts that drive the written or spoken poem for me—the error zones being ambiguities that arise out of apparent errors in syntax and form, out of parataxis and enjambment, a disturbing of the rules of prosody, juxtaposed or interacting with “realisms,” points of concrete and external referentiality which clarify and focus perspective—anchor points. This is the hybridising of the unified self and the disrupted or displaced lyrical I. So in writing poetry I have tried to merge, say, a reference to a specific moment in time, recording with subject-object certainty, and a sense of linearity, with a series of, say, tense or syllabic or syntactical disruptions. The wandoo tree covered in pink and grey galahs morphs into an exploration of something metonymically associated with tree or bird that might then evoke a series of historical or etymological associations and so on. In other words, it’s a poetry of digressions and associations based largely—though by no means exclusively—in one language, having a point of reference common to the whole work in the epistemology of the language itself. And even should the work digress into other languages, the process of orality becomes the unifying signifier-signified construct. So that’s how it’s been, but it’s no longer that way. Two words best sum up the shift in my poetics. Mimetics and mnemonics. Poetry, in form and in language, in how it is said and why it is being said (which is desirably, at best, at least partially inexplicable on the surface level of “meaning”), is a process of imitation and reproduction. The word itself derives from the Greek “mimesis,” and in many ways my mimetics is really an adapted and “personalised” mimesis. Maybe the medical meaning of mimesis is even more relevant: symptoms appearing without the actual disease. We might compare the process to watching a mime play, and recalling it later as being rich with language, with voices. We can hear the movements of the players. The same happens for me in the creation of a poem. The poem forms as a series of sounds and images and associations that seemingly have no specific register in language—that is, words don’t necessarily correlate to what is being seen or heard, nor is explanation offered. But when it comes to placing them on the page, creating an artefact, or to speaking it aloud—that is, reciting it—language finds its dynamic equivalent, and the poem that was sounds and images becomes an imitation, a mimicry of the original languageless poem. Sometimes this emerges as the short imagistic poem, distilled, such as the Finch poems:

[Finches] Salt Paddocks Down below the dam there is nothing but salt, a slow encroachment. Fighting back, my cousins have surrounded it with a ring of trees. At its centre lives a colony of finches, buried in tamarisks.


Finch Colony The leaves, like wire, are so tangled we dare not venture too far into their heart where flashes of song and dull colour betray a whole family of finches. We hold our breath and become statues. Is this fear of disturbing their peace or of a delicate raid from unknown spaces.

spills over your hands, the funnel slipping. The heavy soil is sticking to the tines and a fox is barking up towards the Needlings. You grow groggy. The tractors light glow silver and orange. Another two hours at least, the figures of eight that cut out the corners harder and harder to do—the light inadequate, the body hard to steer. Your lift back down to the city arriving at first light. A serepax to link the events. Night seeding & notions of property.

Finch Flight

Dizzy with figure-eighting the corners of his fields, the drills filled with seed & super

To join the finch in his tenuous kingdom amongst tamarisks, the hot snow of salt

and closed over under the tattooed rash of night, foxes’ muffling barks

You must gather trajectory and direction, sharp summer flights

& fighting to cover tracks with a starpicket the axis of a compass whose North

Exile yourself from the wind’s hand.

is wire-guided & lethal: silver tennis balls exploding in their spiralled swing on totem-tennis poles

Finch Death

for here stillness shivers & moves like frost moves the shattered flesh of quartz

The dead finch lies on salt, tight-winged and stretched. The others shimmer loosely in heat the salt’s white mystery coveting tin cans, skull of sheep. Slowly, death rides this hot glacier further and further away.

At others it flows in a more cinematic way, and with less pause or hesitation. It’s like too much information trying to distil itself but shifting rapidly from one (often metonymic) connection to another. This is not simply a problem of the synapses, brought about by the excesses of my youth, but a life-issue associated with insomnia, hyperactivity, and a mobile mood register. Poetry becomes tied up with the chemical balance and imbalance of the body. One of the problems I live with and which has certainly been compelling my mimicries and their attendant inverted mnemonic transliterations (I write to unremember, not to remember—it’s a matter of rearranging the flood of information into art, not into confession or nostalgic reconnection), is the constant interruption of past moments of my life into the present. I can be sitting in a park in St Louis, thinking about an Elizabeth Peyton image, and I’m instantly in King’s Park in Perth, with my wooden sailboat, scratching at the rust around the mount for the mast. I can taste the rust, smell the sail that has been soaked and dried dozens of times over in heat that will eventually lead, one day when I am older, to the removal of skin cancers. I can see the twenty-eight parrots exploding emerald and sapphire and yellow in the eucalypts. There are interpolations—a banksia blossom from another time and another place, a heightened emotional moment. There’s no biography to this in the strictest sense, the incidents are too fragmentary. But the tactility of the moment is preserved. A few years ago I wrote an autobiographical or anti-autobiographical work, Auto. The experiences are fragmentary, the narrative shifts around. Issues of duration become pivotal when a brief moment extends into pages, and massive events (on a personal and historic level) are glossed over in a sentence. Time is not as it should be. But then sometimes the words move as they were chronologically enacted. As author, I retell my own story from a variety of points of view, never stable. What is truth—as remembered by whom? My mother’s version of events will most often be different; my brother’s closer, but still different. And so it goes. You bypass circadian and diurnal rhythms. The cave is open to light, the Fremantle Doctor fills it with fresh sea air in the late afternoon. You stay in lit places at night. You close your room off to the light in the day. Jet lag kicks in and out. It’s midnight and cold out on the hundred acre. The fuel is metal cold as it

over the wasted plots. A clear dawn is soluble anyway & the tractor gnaws, its queasy stomach turning slowly & coldly with winter: dispossessed the farmer moans—a sudden downpour shaves his precious topsoil. The ghosts clamour about the microwave & television set, the stove broods in this sauna of politeness. City people are expecting billy tea & damper & the sheep to bleat in unison. Nous regrettons parler. There wasn’t a kangaroo to be seen. Night-seeding, the tractor’s floodlights are blood-red & ovarian— nurturing the cloddish soil, & always the farmer working the wheel, hands gnarled & frostbitten & large.

Katherine can’t sleep. Think of something nice, you say. Think of Walsingham, of the Shrine of Our Lady. Of the Stations of the Cross. Of the Catholics and Anglicans taking tea together. Can’t sleep. Go to sleep. John Kerrigan has invited us to lunch out at the cottage. A vegan feast. Daddy falls to sleep after he’s been awake all night. He falls asleep on the couch listening to the stereo and watching the television. He watches the television when he’s asleep. Can’t sleep. Go to sleep. I can’t go to sleep because I’m worried I’ll be tired in the morning. I don’t want to think, thinking keeps me awake. Dear S Is it possible to have a series of dreams? Well, in keeping with a theme, I dreamt last night that you came to a meeting in a large colonial house (with necessary wrap-around verandahs) to discuss the compilation of a new international anthology. The publishers were trying to convince you to do some television appearances to give the anthology a nudge. Why the dream was set in Australia I’m not sure but our family property—“Wheatlands”—was the setting. It had a sad atmosphere of decay as the property has been broken up over the years and in many ways it is my writing it that keeps it conceptually “together,” and retains the family ties. Fortunately, its proudest moments—the reclamation of land ruined by salinity (“the hot snow of salt” I wrote in “Finches”)—has been safeguarded. It’s like a wildlife reserve and a great achievement, if somewhat ironic given that the family originally cleared it, drove off the indigenous peoples, and destroyed it in the first place. But times have changed, and there is a distinct effort to make amends. Not an excuse, but something important all the same. Anyway, in this dream, when there was a break I man-

aged to catch your eye and you came over for a chat. I asked if you’d read Simone Weil, a thinker I really admire. I had a copy of Gravity and Grace in my hand. You began to weave an incredible poem that tied the colonial situation in Ireland with the colonial situation in Australia, weaving the different landscapes in and out of each other. “Every separation is a link, every separation is a link...” repeated itself like a prayer or mantra. Suddenly my sight began to blur and I couldn’t see you, only hear your voice... and I woke. Well, a strange dream, eh? Best, JK

My head is going fast inside. Go to sleep. Think of the walk to the Slipper Chapel, the fighter jets cutting in over the coast, the ear-tags of cows destined for slaughter as the mist lifts from the field and the thistles dry and the world begins to glow. What I did in Auto which, like Dante’s La Vita Nuova in this one respect, searches to understand love—maybe a lack of self-love— with prose commentaries cutting across poetry texts, was to imitate or mimic systematically the experiences of my life as I remembered or re-remembered them. These experiences were presented in different shapes, with different prosodies. A system of mimetics tied them together, but the imitations constantly shifted. As a reversal of Dante’s guiding principle, though, I make tangential commentary and illustrate with a verse by the object of my subjectivity!: Last year I bought my wife a new flute—to replace the one I’d hocked and lost at the beginning of our marriage. As a teenager I’d hated body fluids and dirt and loss of control. I then devoted a dozen years to overcoming these phobias. That’s one way of looking at it. Andrew Burke turned up with Tracy at my flat in South Perth near the river. I was pretty far gone. I said something about fucking Tracy and Andrew was disgusted. When I did, or maybe I already had, I burnt the curried vegetables and shaved the hair from around her cunt. She’d written a poem called “Hair” which I’d published in Salt long before I knew her. It went: The length of my body is an odd nudity, what is it doing there, how did the hair get pared down to just these patches we cultivate like fetishes meant to excite when we want to play animal or we control to stress and make the difference between sexes as if otherwise we couldn’t find ourselves. I can’t force what once was to grow now in a strange season. I’m caught between the dreams of befores that paralyses and the need of my own nakedness which is there, which is there.

Back to the park. The poem forms between the moment I actually occupy and will occupy, with the short-term past and the imitated (but highly “real” to me) past that interrupts my thoughts with painful and disturbing clarity. I know every revisiting of this that’s foisted on me, though I recall them as being identical, is mediated by the place and context of where they occur. As with the text read in a different place, or the poem you’ve read a dozen times, meaning never remains stable or consistent. It shifts. Maybe this is why I see the draft as the most relevant part of the poem, why a poem for me is never completed. It’s part of an ongoing conversation in which a dialogics forms between the text and the unwritten “seeing” of what that text might become as conditions of

production and reception change. The mnemonics also has a personal angle. It won’t fit the poetry definitions volume. These are associations that assist memory. They’re tools of remembering and remembrance. For me, they become tools to lose the moment so I won’t have to revisit it compulsively. Now, I’ve just said that poetry gives no closure to me, that it’s an ongoing series of drafts, a revisiting, a reanimating or mimicry of tensions between the past and present and future, of the real and imagined, of the perceived and conceptualised. All of these. But now I am suggesting that I don’t want any of it. And I don’t. I DO NOT WANT TO WRITE OR READ POETRY. I am addicted, compelled. I cannot stop. This is mental illness of a sort, and not inspiration (or delusion of this), but compulsion. What I’ve tracked so far is the subtext of the poem, the reason it might come into being. Moving along, the process of transcribing or translating or transliterating this compulsion into a form (visual or oral—or never uttered but seen or heard in the head), is a very different process. This is where un-mnemonic become pivotal for me. I encode my work in traditional ways—often using traditional rhythms which I disrupt with colloquialisms and dialect, using set forms from a variety of cultural spaces (conscious of the appropriative issues therein)—but also encode it with unmnemonics that cause a disintegration of sense upon rereading, especially as context shifts and changes. Those points of ambiguity become increasingly larger, and suddenly the anchor points don’t hold. The repetitions and patterning of words, that assist us in our ability to recall them, become unstable—an apparent volta is seemingly not where it should have been, a noun is really a verb, and so on. The stock epithet isn’t quite the same each time. When I read aloud I do so mainly from memory, with the page of the book as a rough guide. No two readings of mine have ever been the same— not only in tone and performance qualities/ styles, but in actual textual consistency. I try to be inconsistent. Only slightly. A changed word, a reshaped line. I can close my eyes and see the poem on the page because I have that kind of memory, but I can also see the drafts that led to that version, and the versions of the poems I should write. They are key points of memory in the poem—specific words that have a texture, a strong form and function association, or that are emotional triggers. Some fit an idiomatic pattern that comes with being brought up in a specific space. The mnemonics are where I try to disrupt, to subvert the poem. Mnemonic systems can work by abstracted repetitions or patterns of association as much as by, say, a string of music, or a series of visual or verbal prompts. For me, it’s a question of disturbing juxtapositions that come out of having witnessed animal cruelty or death, or say some natural phenomenon that is inexplicable: glowing fields, ball lighting, will-o-thewisps. Patterns build up in my subconscious, repeat themselves in recreating the poem I have mentally formed onto the page, or in recitation from memory. A chair, a table, a tree might trigger locations and patterns of words, help in the recreation of a poem resembling what I have “thought.” Location Triggers The pillared porch, Corinthian because it’s easiest from books, plastered, upholding world’s ceiling that goes through to the next story always colder in winter, maybe cooler in summer, airflow and loveseat, swinging where foliage redresses trees in gendered avenues, sweeping uphill as around flat fields, the grey rot of corn stalks, Japanese beetle driving towards modification, it’s said, avoiding upper rooms where heat unsettles small windows, vicarious and remembering a purple rising light, hillfolds and outcrops bettered by kites and glider, their freedom paramount over scrub and small animals they’d destroy, farmers alarmed by drop-ins, all land there like thermals and updrafts, but suddenly

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undercut, we resist calling it revenge, colluding with indifferent Nature, visa and permit, green card as crops spread: they won’t let me into their pastoral entirely, invited to ride the header, to harvest cobs and interiors that exchange chemical appearance, protectionist policies and markets fill supermarket aisles, fill hunting and trapping magazines, fur around collars, covering cold ears, addressing steers on Texan clichés, clinging like ideas of Kansas. We take back leaf-litter stirring in warmer years, lack of snowdrifts, birds chopping and changing or not there at all: correlations so easy, suppressed to keep mystery intact... or fenceless plurals full of Wallace Stevens, growing randomly and imitating gardens, as if you’d fly straight from Columbus to Paris, or get diverted to New Orleans, or Baton Rouge; I track these infinitudes, connect nouns from an uncle’s paddocks in places threatened by closure, by tariffs, sucked into global silos and temptations, cantons and guilds and red barns lit by nuclear light, as fission is comradeship, alliance, the blind leading the blind, and grain swelling on lightless nights, Biblical texts written with a human hair on rice, as faith makes cars run and the fringes shutdown: deny all access.

Having spent a lot of my adult life living in various countries other than that of my birth, and being doomed (against my wishes ultimately) to be a perpetual wanderer, memory and the associations of words with a specific place tend to be disrupted. Maybe that’s why I also persistently write over the place I come from. That’s where most of the flashbacks take me. But it’s no longer the story of that place I’m telling, that place has changed and become something else, I am telling in poetry the story of hybridisation, of dislocation, loss and disruption. My poetry is full of death, and maybe this is why. It shifts register dramatically. Maybe this is why. I don’t feel comfortable in any “school” or “camp.” Again, maybe this is why. Poetry, for me, is an eclogic structure: a dialogue between disparate parts of myself, most often centred in the rural, and between conflicting cultural inputs. Characters are speaking through me—sometimes characters close to myself, but they are all mimicking someone from the real world. They are not real. It’s all a simulacrum. I see romanticism in revival. There are obvious culturo-historic reasons for this, and the threat of war (we have been in a state of world war for a number of years now) always brings on a search for a sublime, especially in a world where nature is increasingly being destroyed or disturbed, or can be undone in extreme ways, instantly. The end of language poetry and the rise of new-lyricists such as Lee Ann Brown, Lisa Jarnot, Lisa Robertson, and Jennifer Moxley, with their strong consciousness of the tensions between deployments of tradition and the fetishisations of linguistic innovation (especially regarding “class” alienation), illustrates a shift in receptivity not only to environmental and social concerns (also pivotal to language poetry), but to a concern about the ecology of language and meaning. Consider Lee Ann Brown’s poem “No Melpomene”: No Melpomene Re: Lone poem, pen nomme Pommel pope poop Olé, Olé, Ol’ Pop Pomp Pelé mope Mono men pole, lop me One pen open poem Peel ‘em: La Pomme, pome, pommelo Moon pone molé

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There is no lyrical self, mediated or otherwise, located textually here, but there is a subjectivity in the texture and immediacy of address. This lyricism locates itself in the implication of song, the implication of self, without being dictated by the unified self. These are poets who do not wish to lose referentiality, or to deny it entirely. Here’s the end of Shelley’s over-quoted Defence of Poetry: It is impossible to read the compositions of the most celebrated writers of the present day without being startled with the electric life which burns within their words. They measure the circumference and sound the depths of human nature with a comprehensive and all-penetrating spirit, and they are themselves perhaps the most sincerely astonished at its manifestations; for it is less their spirit than the spirit of the age. Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

The abovementioned poets and other innovators, steeped in the historicity of their poetries, the environments their languages arises from, might be forced into this mould. I say forced, because their individual intentions and agendas couldn’t be bent in this way. It’s the convenience of the overview. There is an emphatic belief that poetry can make a difference. The mere production of it suggests this. Despair hasn’t closed the door to utterance, though, of course, it might in the future. Their significance is in the recognition that the moment of self is undeniable within or outside a political intentionality. Their poetry is a poetry of purpose, they have something to say: it is semantic and linguistic legislation, even if it’s a civil or linguistic disobedience. I would like to consider myself simpatico with them as poets, though more recently my despair has driven me away from cause and effect, and certainly beyond the ironies of engaging with the sublime. Prayer is still poetry for me, and poetry prayer, but nature can’t even work as a mimetic construct. The paper I use, the books I read mean suffering for this “nature.” My existence as a print poet becomes a process of bad legislation, and consequently denial. I wrote a poem when I first became a vegan called “Of”: Of emulsifiers and preservatives extracted from boiled-down animal, of houses with walls of horse hair and thongs of leather to restrain the tortured awning, of feet covered in dead cow, kangaroo, crocodile ... the business of pig-skin briefcases, of those whose guilt lay in fish, of those sucking the nectars of sacred beasts, of the differences between clean and dirty flesh, of those who seek truth in the burnt offering, of “perfect and upright” Job, slaughterer who sought to appease over and over, of Julius Civilus With A Dead Cock arrogantly accepting what is over and over, back and forth, to and fro.

I don’t enjoy polemical poetry, but then I wonder if all poetry isn’t polemical the moment it is written or sung or spoken. There’s another kind of politics when it stays in your head, even if fully realised, but more relevantly, a less explicable politics when it remains half formed. Literally, for me, poems are a series of mime enactments in which characters are never given names. They are dumb eclogues. It’s the stone, the leaf, and the made object. Okay, that’s easy. Not original. But it’s a truth for me. I wonder what it is I am articulating outside my own chemical disconnections and odd internal wiring. As an anarchist, am I legislating, laying down a series of commands for others to follow? If so, I should stop, stop now. But here’s my quandary: I don’t want to stop the stone, the leaf. My interpretation of a bird’s flight, a baby crying, creates a series of associations that struggle to separate themselves from the thing as thing-in-itself. Past memories burn back. I can’t dispose of the connec-

tions. I don’t want to be part of a poetic experience, but I am. If there is a “modern sublime,” then maybe therein lies part of the necessity of this contradiction. Can we reclaim, revamp, and reprise the sublime? Consider it a viable literary tool or mode of expressing a reverence and awe born out of terror for nature. To give an alternative name and face to beauty? Yes, if Burke’s “ocean” with its terror is sublime not only because of tidal waves but because of heavy metal saturation, butchery of its life, oil spills. The sublime of the polluted, the sublime of the greenhouse effect. It’s an angry irony. The sublime never worked as more than an idea. An exchange with God or nature that can be transmuted into artistic expression is simply a version of mimicry. The sublime becomes the space-travel or star-gazing experience in an environment disrupted and destroyed. As a subtext of deep ecology, the sublime may work as an inspiration, but the layers of contaminants and the paucity of wildlife and forests work against it. The mountains become engagements with different kind of contaminants. There was rubbish for Coleridge and Shelley, they were tourists—they made rubbish and were tourists themselves. Nature has overwhelmed me in its infinite complexity in places like Bluff Knoll, or The Gap, both in Western Australia, but simultaneously I feel its loss and destruction. The sublime is a textual displacement, and divergence, in a cautionary tale of not what will happen, but what is happening and has happened. Time shifts. The duration doesn’t match. We caution in the reading of who we are. That it might not translate into the way we treat each other. But it does. The transcendent that cannot be pinned down in words, despite the movement of the self towards its possibility, the veneration the path to an unrealisable actuation. Beauty is isolated, and we grapple towards it. The majesty of the sublime remains, necessarily, unobtainable. I would argue that the sublime has been rendered as trope, as construct that is obtainable insofar as beauty has been forced into subjectivity by modernism, and becomes the ironic footnote in a world perceived in its wholeness as having been made increasingly ugly. The sublime, outside text, rests in the lens of the Hubble, and a cracked mirror is corrected so it can be maintained. The need is there, but it is textually subservient. Maybe it returns to John Dennis, to the “sublime object,” simply an issue of style. The separation of the sublime and the beautiful is a tension in modern poetry. The beautiful is a fetishised advertising construct that, even in private moments, we are required to question. The sublime suffers the same fate. In isolation they exist per the moment as well, but constructed in the poem a consciousness of language and its history renders “purity” impossible. Here’s an extract from Edmund Burke’s essay “Sublime and Beautiful”: THE passion caused by the great and sublime in nature is astonishment, and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. The mind is so entirely filled with its object that it cannot entertain any other, nor reason on that object which fills it. Astonishment is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree; its inferior effects are admiration, reverence, and respect. No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as terror; and whatever is terrible with regard to sight, is sublime. It is impossible to look on anything dangerous as trifling or contemptible, so that even serpents are capable of raising ideas of the sublime. The sublimity of the ocean is due to the fact that it is an object of no little terror. How closely allied are terror and sublimity we may judge from the Greek language, which has but one word for ‘fear’ and for ‘wonder,’ another for ‘terrible’ or ‘respectable,’ while a third means either ‘to reverence’ or ‘to fear.’

And: The last extreme of littleness is sublime also, because division, as well as addition, is infinite. Infinity fills the mind with that sort of delightful horror, which is the truest test of the sublime; and succession and uniformity of parts, which constitute the artificial infinite, give the effect of sublim-

ity in architecture. But in regard to the sublime in building, greatness of dimension is also requisite, though designs, which are vast only by their dimensions, are always the sign of a common and low imagination. No work of art can be great but as it deceives. Another kind of infinity also causes pleasure, as the young of animals are pleasant because they give the promise of something more, and unfinished sketches are often more pleasing than the completed work.

The loss of the sublime is in the idea of a universe—expanding but finite in content; but it remains in the idea of the “unfinished work.” A resistance to closure can be an act of sublimity. I write only drafts, and that’s a sublimity? It fits the category of mimetic sublimity. It relies not on nature, but a human construct, or an interpretation of a damaged nature. The ocean is still a place of terror, but we are led to believe it is being controlled. Science works to harness it. It resists, and the sublimity is retained in this. Or a meteorite hitting the planet. The beauty I find in the white wastes of salinity that have destroyed the farm. So it’s there, just reconfigured. This from Lisa Jarnot’s 1996 p(r)oems, “Sea Lyrics: I won’t go to the waterfront anymore, I am basking on a beach far from the army, I am pointing to a thousand speckled birds, I am watching the salads roll down to the shore, I am on the grounds of Mission High School with the murderers, I am near the edge of all the bungalows, I am reaching toward the pineapples to reach, I am dreaming the dreams I hardly know and know I have tattoos, I am in the ambulance at dawn, I am in this town beneath where you have jumped from bridges row by row, from the midtown light, I am in the dreams Lucretius, I have helped you to assemble all the mammals on the lawn.

Parataxis, rolled text, and pollution of beauty make the sea as sublime terrible before the sea is actually considered. There’s a displacement of the sublime by the terror of the incidental, the matter-of-fact. Sublime still, but brought down to ground. The awe has been defamiliarised. The ur-text of the sublime is now believed to come from the middle of the first century A.D., Longinus’s On the Sublime. Here’s an extract from Chapter 1: 3. As I am writing to you, good friend, who are well versed in literary studies, I feel almost absolved from the necessity of premising at any length that sublimity is a certain distinction and excellence in expression, and that it is from no other source than this that the greatest poets and writers have derived their eminence and gained an immortality of renown. 4. The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport. At every time and in every way imposing speech, with the spell it throws over us, prevails over that which aims at persuasion gratification. Our persuasions we can usually control, but the influences of the sublime bring power and irresistible might to bear, and reign supreme over every hearer.

And an extract from Chapter 9: Now the first of the conditions mentioned, namely elevation of mind, holds the foremost rank among them all. We must, therefore, in this case also, although we have to do rather with an endowment than with an acquirement, nurture our souls (as far as that is possible) to thoughts sublime, and make them always pregnant, so to say, with noble inspiration. 2. In what way, you may ask, is this to be done? Elsewhere I have written as follows: ‘Sublimity is the echo of a great soul.’ Hence also a bare idea, by itself and without a spoken word, sometimes excites admiration just because of the greatness of soul implied. Thus the silence of Ajax in the Underworld is great and more sublime than words (Odyssey XI. 543 ff., at Perseus) 3. First, then, it is absolutely necessary to indicate the source of this elevation, namely, that the truly eloquent must be free from low and ignoble thoughts. For it is not possible that men with mean and servile ideas and aims prevailing throughout their lives should produce anything that is admirable and worthy of immortality.


It is easy to see how the latter is undermined with every modern irony. Aesthetically, it’s the mean and ignoble I search for in language. The Warholian piece of trash, the art that is Cicciolina rather than the Venus or David. These are the contemporary registers of popular culture, of the new sublime. These elements of the “filthy” sublime, as maybe we could call them, become codes and triggers in my personal mimetics, another form of mnemonic mapping. My effort at confronting the irreconcilability of the classical and modern, though the conditions of oppression, environmental destruction, and cultural destruction share much in common, is “Bluff Knoll Sublimity,” a poem more about language as object and a construct of sublimity, than about the sublime in nature: Bluff Knoll Sublimity for Tracy 1. The dash to the peak anaesthetizes you to the danger of slipping as the clouds in their myriad guises wallow about the summit. The rocks & ground-cover footnotes to the sublime. The moods of the mountain are not human though pathetic fallacy is the surest climber, always willing to conquer the snake-breath of the wind cutting over the polished rockface, needling its way through taut vocal cords of scrub.

Does this Monster have a Name? Phil Shoenfelt, Kateřina Piňosová & Vincent Farnsworth “A meditation on the dark sexuality of Prague” is how Phil Shoenfelt describes the long series of poems, short stories and letters entitled Magdalena, a collaborative effort between him and Czech poet and visual artist Kateřina Piňosová. British-born Shoenfelt is a longtime resident of Prague who is known for being singer-songwriter of the bands Southern Cross (Prague) and The Fatal Shore (Berlin). He has recorded eight CDs to date on various labels in the UK, USA, Czech Republic, Germany and Greece, and is the author of Junkie Love (an autobiographical novel published by Twisted Spoon Press), and Zelený Hotel/The Green Hotel (a bi-lingual edition of poetry and song lyrics). Junkie Love was winner of the 2002 Firecracker Alternative Book Award in New York. Piňosová is associated with the Czech and Slovak Surrealist Group and has had her work published in Analogon, Surrealist Women, Manticore, New Presence and S.U.R.R. She is also the author of Housenka Smrtihlava (a book of poetry and illustrations) and collaborated with the American poet Laura Conway on The Alphabet Of Trees. She has taken part

2. It’s the who you’ve left behind that becomes the concern as distance is vertical and therefore less inclined to impress itself as separation; it’s as if you’re just hovering in the patriarchy of a mountain, surveying the tourists—specks on the path below. Weather shifts are part of this and the cut of sun at lower altitudes is as forgiving as the stripped plains, refreshingly green at this time of year. You have to climb it because it’s the highest peak in this flat state, and the “you have to” is all you can take with you as statement against comfort and complacency: it’s the vulnerability that counts up here. 3. You realize that going there to write a poem is not going there at all, that it’s simply a matter of embellishment, adding decorations like altitude, validating a so so idea with the nitty gritty of conquest. Within the mountain another body evolves—an alternate centre of gravity holding you close to its face. From the peak you discover that power is a thick, disorientating cloud impaled by obsession, that on seeing Mont Blanc—THE POEM— and not Mont Blanc—THE MOUNTAIN— the surrounding plains with their finely etched topography can be brought into focus.

As the horrors of the twentieth century are exacerbated and perpetuated, I am guided by Adorno in the belief that I cannot but work towards silence. What I am performing is a mime, enacted to a tune in my unconscious, while sublimity raises its polluted head and becomes the acceptable, the desirable awe. 

mdCBXb3J Alan Halsey Bounty-hunters probably. Sketch of a conifer plantation with 3 diamond-shaped encampments. Not a mappamundi. The monkey ate the pomegranate first then the spider so there’s nothing now to be seen except the mask and a voodoo doll attached by a red-headed pin to a black-letter bible. Also unused footage of Sir Thomas Urquhart playing Gavin Selerie at barley break and Screenface flickering statesmanlike telling some tale about a street in Portugal sulking for not being Timbuktu.

colour of those writings. Maybe you could best describe Magdalena as being somewhere between poetry and pornography. KP: Well, to me, it doesn’t have this straight connection to those writers. As I get older I understand their work more, and I don’t think I was purposely doing that. But I discovered what Phil calls the dark side. I have this personal analogy for the whole thing, what I call the second night life which is connected to the city. This is more what I would call it. Meaning there is a high sensibility attached to it, the sensibility of Prague. VF: Tell me about “the second night life.” KP: Well this is all very personal for me. I mean that the senses are kind of sharpened like those of a creature that goes hunting at night. Which isn’t to say that these things are only attached to the night. That’s just my analogy, if you like. Because Prague can be a whore. And this is what I feel and mean when I talk about “the second night life”. Sometimes she hides from you, like a woman, but she can also be a whore. You have to find it out for yourself, through your own experiences. PS: We tried to tap into this subterranean Prague nightlife, the typical Prague scene where you can go from one pub to another, endlessly, meeting all these bizarre people, having these bizarre experiences. I’m not talking about the commercial idea of “Magic Prague”, but there is a certain dark magic to the place. There’s this wealth of mythology here, and if you talk to Czech people you find that they are still aware of all these old stories from their childhoods. In this respect, it’s very different to, say, England or the USA where these old folk tales have largely been submerged and noone remembers them anymore, except specialists in the field. Obviously Katka, having grown up here, knows a lot more about this mythology than I do.

neck and neck with Paris, I thought about what different fates were awaiting these places. PS: What Katka is talking about, this intuitive connection to another time, reminds me of The Angel Of The West Window. The central character is a man who believes he is a descendant of the English alchemist John Dee. KP: He’s his grand-grand-grand nephew, I think… PS: Well, the narrator of the book inherits a package containing the diaries of John Dee, who was the court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth the first, and these diaries tell the story of how Dee and Edward Kelly, the necromancer, apparently managed to conjure up the Green Angel. Dee believed that contact with the angel would enable him to decode “Enochian”, the secret language of the angels mentioned in the Book of Enoch. Later, the narrator goes into a Prague antikvariat where the owner, a strange Mongolian-looking guy, gives him a “skrying glass” similar to that used by Kelly to summon the Green Angel. By using this skrying glass, or magic mirror, he gradually discovers his connection to John Dee. Dee and Kelly actually came to Prague in the late sixteenth century and were invited by Emperor Rudolf to show him the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone, so for me Meyrink’s book has a very strong resonance—on one level it’s about accessing poetic language, the “language of the angels”, and on another more personal level I see it as a bridge between London and Prague. Two very different cities. For me, London is a man. If you look at the statues in London, they’re all about battles and chariots and heroic figures holding swords—Wellington, Nelson, all the English heroes. When you come to Prague it’s a much softer, more feminine atmosphere. That’s why the book is called Magdalena—it’s an attempt to capture the spirit of the city. VF: How much more is there?

VF: A brief summary of these things— PS: OK, there is one story in Magdalena about Šemík, the mythological horse that jumped from Vyšehrad, though in our version the story is completely twisted. In fact, it’s quite obscene. Katka was actually carrying out a series of rituals on Vyšehrad when we were writing this. What the hell were you doing up there anyway? Phil Shoenfelt, by Barry Myles

in various collective surrealist exhibitions, and her illustrations and paintings have been shown at exhibitions in Czech Republic, France, the UK and the USA. 1. PRAGUE Farnsworth: Meditations on dark and sexy Prague? Recapturing through collaboration the mysterious Prague of old? Piňosová: I don’t like that definition. I wouldn’t use such strong terms. VF: I met a young woman the other day who was doing her dissertation on the English language literary expatriate community in Prague, the myth of it, and how the myth got started. Are you also playing around with a myth in Magdalena? If so, are you trying to pump life back into this construct? Or are you approaching it from a more direct or, if you will, more authentic source of inspiration? Shoenfelt: I guess it grew out of reading books like Severin’s Journey Into The Night by Paul Leppin and The Angel Of The West Window by Meyrink—the whole “Magic Prague” thing, in other words. It’s an exploration of that, but at the same time there is a certain amount of humour and detachment to it. VF: More detachment than those guys? PS: What we were doing was a little more distanced, in the sense that we were playing with the imagery of the dark, decadent Prague which is presented in those books. We were exploring it ourselves on a genuine level, but to a certain extent we did take on the tone and

KP: That was the beginning—Vyšehrad introduced itself to me—but then it took years until I really felt like a part of the place. Now it’s very important to me. Again, I wouldn’t use words like “magic”. I just have a very bodily feeling from the place, that’s all. Well, I was doing certain things up there, but I was provoked by the hill itself to do these things to it, to discover what’s really there. This is what I call being “down to earth.” VF: Literally… KP: The connection with Prague is definitely there, with an older Prague which is to some extent an imaginary Prague. Then there are these flashbacks you get, if you live here long enough—you can feel the history and the legends all around you. VF: How old? What flashbacks? KP: How old? Well this thing I am talking about is pretty timeless. When we were writing the poems and stories in Magdalena I often felt this connection to the Prague of the 1920’s, or to the Prague of the late nineteenth century. Yet mythology is outside time. As you know, history proves that there was some Přemysl and probably some Libuše, but this is mixed history, history mixed with legend. This is what I love. And though I say it’s timeless, I also felt a connection to the era of the cabarets, the time when Prague and Paris were like equal whores. So I would date it like this, on the level of intuition. VF: Anyone who has been here a while starts to get fascinated by that time period. As soon as I saw pictures of Prague and realized it was

PS: (laughs.) Hard to say. We wrote this book over a period of about a year and a half, and there are almost two hundred pages to edit. It’s still being worked on. 2. PROCESS KP: I’d like to make another analogy with the idea that you can actually find the history of yourself through someone else. We agreed to pretend that we were related, let’s say like brother and sister. Magdalena, when she writes these letters and responds to the letters and poems of her incestuous lover, believes that the person she is addressing could be many figures—could be a brother, father, some kind of pervert, or lover. VF: You guys sitting together could be relations somehow. I wouldn’t say brother and sister. A cool uncle maybe... (laughter) PS: Katka is a member of the Czech-Slovak surrealist group, and she was lending me a lot of books and old issues of Analogon. I was really into Surrealism and automatic writing when I was studying poetry at university years and years ago. I’m still interested in the concept of automatic writing, even though it’s really located at a certain time in the Modernist movement, the early twentieth century, the Dadaist movement. So we decided to experiment with that form by getting absolutely drunk in pubs, and reaching a point of inebriation where we weren’t really aware of what we were writing. We played a lot of different games, we wrote maps, we drew pictures. We played this game where I’d write a verse or even just a line, then Katka would write a verse or a line—the folding paper idea, we tried that. VF: The Exquisite Corpse... KP: I was very lucky that my friends from the group introduced me to all these games, which are not only based on Exquisite Corpse but also come from the individual’s own imagination, the way the person thinks. Yet I was still interested in this simple form, in writing not with a stranger, but with someone that I’m related to in a way. From my point of view, I

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wanted to be amazed and to explore more of Phil. We were experimenting, not only to get to know each other, but to get to a place without limits. We didn’t care that a third of what we wrote would probably end up in the trashcan. The point was to extend the possibilities, and we used transgressive sexuality for that. Of course, I don’t mean that we’d actually kill some child on Vyšehrad hill by sacrificing it, or something. But we used such imagery to provoke and to explore our own imaginative limits. PS: It’s very interesting to me now because all this stuff was written two or three years ago, much of it, quite honestly, in an alcoholic haze. Now, coming back to it, I’m discovering it all over again, as if it were a text written by two people I don’t know. I have it all on computer, and while Katka was away in America and Mexico I went through it and selected which bits worked and which bits didn’t. Because it was an exercise in automatic writing, there’s no narrative there, no real story. It’s just a series of poems, letters, short stories, maps, drawings. And yet somehow it does tell a story. 3. ALCOHOL PS: I guess the alcohol freed us up. Like any drug, it cuts out the conscious mind to a certain extent. It allows you to write whatever comes into your head without censoring it, without worrying about it making sense. We got some beautifully evocative imagery from this, from being completely open to the atmosphere around us, and what I’ve been working on lately is a process of editing and selection. Sometimes the poem in its entirety doesn’t work, but there may be two lines in it that are beautiful. So then I copy and paste them into another poem where perhaps two thirds of that poem is working. And somehow it fits. You discover that there actually is a direction, and this comes through by itself. It’s really like looking through the skrying glass and suddenly seeing something emerge from formlessness into form. VF: Another poet who spent some time here, Bill Lavender, just did a book in a similar way, based on found texts having to do with computers. He kept running them through things to mix them all up, and then chose the good parts. And the thing is, you say you are picking out these two beautiful lines, but it could also be that those two lines are just what’s needed to further the story, even though you’re not consciously aware of it. You don’t know what the story is consciously, but you do on some level. PS: I showed some parts to Katka the other night and I think she was quite surprised. KP: Yeah. PS: One of the most interesting things is that we don’t remember now who wrote which bits. Sometimes I remember, oh yeah, we were sitting in this or that pub when we wrote this stanza. But it’s all been chopped and changed and has mutated so much that we really don’t know who wrote which lines anymore. KP: And after this it’s all very fresh for me again. It did surprise me when I saw what Phil had done—I could recognise a lot of the writing, but at the same time it was like reading something I remembered from a dream. We still have these original papers, beer-stained and often in very strange handwriting—but now it’s changing into something quite different. And I want to say—this is very important for me—that what Phil is doing is making a collage out of a great source of spontaneously written material. I don’t like it when people write automatic texts then later impose a rational meaning, to the point where the logos is so much in there that it destroys the flow. But what he is doing is different—because we didn’t finish things, because the game is never finished, because you can still play with it. I think if you are taking part in a game, then you should really just follow your intuition, not your logos. He is creating a new thing, actually, this is what I like. A new thing based on what we did, but an extension of that game. It’s so vivid and alive to me.

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VF: When you say that you remember where you were but you don’t remember who wrote what, that’s also a loss of self among a group, not just automatic writing. It’s really a loss of self concerning an individual— PS: Yeah...

express things more easily than in Czech, but at the same time I’m never quite sure if the person I’m talking to has the same understanding as me. 5. THE MONSTER VF: And what about this rarefied language? Where is it coming from, and is that you also?

KP: This is interesting to me because it’s your survey, and you ask how come? Well, that’s not my experience. If you were to do this survey anywhere in this world—well probably it would be different in Mexico, as I know now— but I think it’s likely you would get a very similar response.

VF: —between individuals. PS: It’s like this idea of “the third mind” that Brion Gysin had, where two minds come together and it’s like a third mind outside those two minds. 4. LANGUAGE VF: A short turn to language—what would you say about the word magic in English, the word magicky in Czech and the word kouzelno?

KP: Well, I think so. Because once something becomes an obsession and you must live with it, you experience it in your own way and so it becomes a part of you. VF: But don’t obsessions come from the outside? Don’t they pick you? KP: Well you have to be careful. For some people that can become a lifelong struggle. VF: Did it pick you, or did you pick it?

KP: The adjective? VF: Or the noun. KP: Okay. Well, I discovered through learning English, and being obsessed with it, that it became something else, something more than just a subject I had to learn. I still have difficulties with it because I know what a big field I have to explore—a field that is wild, as we say here. The thing is, I discovered that in English people use words a little differently, or I understand them differently. For instance, we might use magic too, but we might also understand it in a different way. For me, it’s all very personal. Whenever I talk with people about such things, I always make sure we understand the terms. VF: Have you had this talk with Phil? KP: I didn’t have to. There are individuals in this world who share your own understanding. It was never a problem for us to understand each other. PS: It’s very interesting that when she writes in English she uses the language in a way that an English person wouldn’t. Her poetic voice is very strong, and in addition it has this special quality that comes from writing in a language that isn’t her own. Yet somehow she makes it her own, and I didn’t want to lose that quality by correcting it into perfect, formal English. I mean, it makes sense in English, but I think her own unique voice is still there. VF: I got the feeling you were reading some very old English texts. PS: Katka got kind of obsessed with the richness of this antiquated English terminology, and so sometimes we’d explore it a little—using doth instead of does, for instance, or oldfashioned terms of address such as thee and thou. Like I said, there’s a certain amount of irony to it. VF: I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about the sensibility. PS: Maybe we were trying to capture a sort of dark gothic feeling, the atmosphere that is so much a part of Prague, even today. And because I love the way that Katka writes in English, to a certain extent I tapped into her voice, and also into her fascination with oldfashioned syntax and vocabulary. I’ll say it again—she has a very strong and individual poetic voice. VF: (to Piňosová) Is it yours? KP: I think so. The thing is, I had to wait years and years until I met people who I could talk to in English, to see if I was understanding things correctly. It’s taken me seven years. And I have the impression, now, when speaking English or writing in English or reading in English, that I feel the words differently from the way a native speaker does. To me, these words are like jewels that I can hold in my hands, but I could never explain why I get a certain feeling from a certain word. Because they’ve become a part of me, part of my own experience—and so yes, I do think it is my own voice. Sometimes English allows me to

KP: I think at the beginning the monster was doing whatever it wanted with me, but I’m pretty sure now that I know what I’m doing. Well, maybe I do have illusions, but I fight with them. VF: Does the monster have a name? KP: Are we still talking about Old English? It used to be a monster but it’s not anymore. PS: I don’t know how it is in Czech because my knowledge of the language is still very basic and I can’t really understand what Katka writes in Czech. But certainly in English she has a very visual and also a very tactile relationship with language. She would become obsessed with certain words, there’d be an almost incantatory quality to the way she used them. Certain words would crop up again and again, and I really enjoyed her fascination with these more antiquated English forms. My favorite era of English poetry is the 16th and 17th century, and for me the literature of this period somehow connects with the literature of the First Republic in Czechoslovakia. I don’t know why, but for me it somehow does. VF: There’s a future project, finding the connection.

VF: You think so? KP: It’s hard to judge, because I haven’t travelled a lot, and actually I don’t know so many languages that I’d be able to talk to people and really get into them. But I think it’s just the way the world is nowadays, that people would deny the spiritual element at any cost. PS: I have a very different experience. For example, all these young people around Jolana (Phil’s wife, and Czech fashion designer), they all believe in ESP, they all believe in UFOs, they all believe in telepathy. They seem obsessed with New Age philosophy—dreams, psychic powers, herbal remedies, the whole caboodle. And like I said before, just about every Czech person you meet will know all these traditional folk stories and songs. The folk roots go much deeper here than in western Europe or the States. When I go to visit Jolana’s family for Christmas, it’s just nonstop singing—all these traditional Czech hymns and folk songs that everybody here knows from childhood. I don’t know so many from England anymore—maybe something like Roll Out the Barrel, but it’s hardly the same. Come to think of it, even the melody to that song was written by a Czech! My grandmother’s generation was the last to know all these English folk songs and stories. I vaguely remember them from when I was a kid, but most people have forgotten them and don’t consider them relevant to their lives. We’ve got Irvine Welsh and the mythology of the permanently unemployed instead! Of course, there’s a very strong streak of materialsm in the Czech Republic, but I think that’s more to do with the end of Communism and the images of western affluence portrayed in the media. I think the folk roots are still there, hidden away beneath the surface of the new consumer society. VF: It’s definitely disappeared in the States.

PS: John Donne, Richard Herrick, Andrew Marvell, for example. There used to be this gentlemen’s drinking establishment called the Hellfire Club, where aristocrats with literary leanings would meet in the caves around High Wycombe, just outside London. It wasn’t exactly a literature appreciation society—all kinds of debauchery went on there, apparently, in a very demonic sort of atmosphere. I think it’s the fifth poem in Magdalena that taps into this, the stanza about the “haunted bitch” being sacrificed “on a table of toadsmeat and ebony.” We play with a lot of these sacrificial images in Magdalena. KP: To clarify things a little—imagery that can somehow make a person feel sick, I guess it’s more of an illusion for that particular person. There are things that can make me sick, of course, but I am trying to understand them in a different way, so it’s like coming back to myself. Since the age of five, I can remember having these dreams where I was sacrificed, but I managed to stop them after a long, long time of very hard work. But I could cope with myself and work on that, and while I remember that there were these images, it wasn’t so much the killing itself but the ritual of the sacrificial act that interested me. But I’m not so obsessed with this imagery anymore. I mean, I don’t want to sexually sacrifice someone and get myself excited! For me, what’s interesting is to read things in a different way because they have a message, they show you different things. And I use these very strong images to bring out this message. VF: In my experience, Czechs are a very materialistic and irreligious people. These teenage students of mine, they don’t just deny religion but even any idea of ghosts or an existence beyond the senses. How does this work, then, that we have “Magic Prague,” emanating a strange glow, and we have Bohemians saying, for instance, that dreams don’t mean anything?

KP: I think Communism destroyed a lot of things, and of course its handwriting is still there in the mentality of the people that grew up under that system. It destroyed a lot of old folk traditions, or at least those that weren’t useful to it. But I think that within people these things are so embedded—they step on these cobblestones, they go to these woods—and the woods here are so sweet that they make you faint. You can feel the presence of all these magical creatures, and people do remember them—so I’d say that this denial is only a fashion thing. When you are born here, and regardless of the system you live under, you really do have this secret belief in the invisible world. Because the surroundings force you to, they make these things real for you. VF: That’s amazing. I thought I was becoming this way in contradiction to the people around me, who were so irreligious. KP: When I talk to my friends’ children, they have names for the monsters, ghosts and fairies they meet, you can talk to them about these fabulous creatures—and I consider that all very natural. And if you live among Czechs, you’ll notice that they often do things that are not logical at all. They seem to follow a strange voice, or something. Because the Czech lands, the Slavic lands, these lands are still very powerful, they have a strong impact on people that can’t really be explained rationally. Someone might do something really strange and believe that it’s perfectly normal, but if you asked them to explain their actions they wouldn’t be able to. It’s the power of the place, the power of the landscape, the power of dream. VF: Alright. You convinced me. KP: Well, I didn’t mean to. It’s just what I believe. 


Sandor Kanyadi A red goose-breastbone on Saint Martin’s day foretells a crazy winter, winds with rain to blow. A white goose-breastbone on Saint Martin’s day foretells a nourishing winter with plenty of snow. A black goose-breastbone on Saint Martin’s day foretells a snowless winter, freezing our blood’s flow. (entry for Nov 11 in an old almanac )

Practically shriveled to worms two homeless spent the night on the third floor of the tenement under the attic stairs on cardboard mattresses just opposite our apartment door I know the story of Saint Martin of Tours and what he did slashed his cloak in half so as to share it with a naked beggar that’s what he did, this captain from Savaria of Pannonia who had been pressed into military service by force at his father’s request and at the Caesar’s command he had been pressed into service by force at first he did not share his orderly’s plain fare – as an officer’s offspring he was entitled to an officer’s slave – but then they became buddies and began to have their meals at the same table which was still unusual during our second world war even in armies fighting for democracy where the black descendants of slaves were not allowed to lunch with their white comrades Martin soon gave up his army career converted, performed miracles, lived as a hermit, started a religious order but the promotion to bishop was also pressed upon him by force he hid from the nominating committee in a coop for geese but the geese gave him away by their gobble-gobble one of them even waddled after him his modern-day namesake Bishop Martin of Transylvania has a goose peeking from his crest and the two Martins say together non recuso non recuso laborem I do not shirk do not shirk my duty and the two of them now share a feast day in the calendar the first having been posthumously transferred into the army of saints he continues to serve probably spending his nights in an ash-heap even up there as it was his wont to do down here like the two homeless practically shriveled to worms on the third floor of the tenement under the attic stairs on cardboard mattresses opposite our apartment door and I too have a cloak blankets and even comforters to spare yet I did not cover the two miserable wretches practically shriveled to worms trying to get some sleep that’s all we needed this old lunatic opening the house to the whole world inviting a lice infestation I would’ve heard no end of it if I had done what I should have done especially in light of my talks to packed auditoriums where I often almost boastingly quote-invoke my dear old dad who had never got past the fourth grade yet managed to speak in parables when explaining his saintly deeds: seeing the victims of natural disasters, fires, flood or drought I have learned that we live together with people of all shapes and tongues like in the forest wide-girded beeches live together with hard oak and the always quaking birch and virginal poplars stealing glances at pines tall in perpetually green uniform and there’s room left at the edges of clearings for hazelnut bushes guarding dew their sibilance may differ and they may suffer through storms in different ways but woe to all in any one kind or species gets cut down, torn up, used up, displaced from their community because the dirt under all of them the very soil composition too gets altered I noticed already as a child it’s customary to give more to beggars of rank

the flood or ice-storm victims of villages with gothic cathedrals coming in capacious wagons drawn by sturdy draft horses were put up by the village magistrate or the minister or in the guest houses of well-to-do farmers where they had their grain delivered to them by hundred-kilo sacks they were honored by my big-hearted fellow villagers with donations of replacement seed while the bare-foot survivors of floods and the destitute refugees of dust bowls were given a handful of this or that bread and cheese and bacon whatever happened to be on hand but shelter was in short supply as my father used to explain and he backed up his claim one sunday I will never forget it was toward evening that I saw him hang up his sunday-best jacket on a plum tree and clutching a bale of hay from the freshly-thrashed haystack he covered the floor of the front room with a thick layer and called to my mother for sheets and blankets and a decent supper to serve to the rag-tag gang we was ushering in a big bare-foot family whose only home was the road they said good-bye with profuse thanks in the morning and left us with their lice my mother blamed my father for the infestation and he said as if quoting from the bible the lice can be cleaned up but the traveler must be given shelter for the night the front door of the tenement should be locked for the night and a buzzer installed that should take care of the problem but the ownership of the building in now in dispute and we may soon be evicted by the winner of the on-going court battle and in the meantime the tenants will not waste money on improvements and so we did not give shelter or cover to the homeless even though there was no need for me to slash my cloak in half we have blankets and comforters to spare although if you can trust the almanac we too may end up shivering like those two up on the third floor of the tenement under the attic stairs on cardboard mattresses across the hall from our apartment door practically shriveled to worms trying to get some sleep on the holy eve preceding the two thousandth birthday of the first recorded homeless in history —translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

Lines for Swansongs Sandor Kanyadi we hold it against each other we pile it up on top of each other we nail it to each other can’t tell each other apart we attack each other we fall upon each other we strangle each other can’t tell each other apart we suck each other’s blood we blow up each other we devour each other can’t tell each other apart —translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

Hungary 1996

but someone wanted to sit there with elbows on the soft green felt where the fate of the whole world is always settled and spelled out in smoke-filled rooms, where champagne pours like powerful, bubbly rain, in innermost shrines where plain good luck beckons again and again. Then dawn broke for someone dressed in an empty money sack, waiting for the reward of Judas or at least a pat on the back. That someone wrote out the iou’s in behalf of all of us. Now we sit on our bundles, trying not to make a fuss, waiting quietly for the end and the final auction block to bury our honor along with our burnt-up, worthless stock; we have a funeral mass purled proclaiming our birthday to the world. —translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

Shards (Szilank) Janos Lackfi He says he’s been living here for ten years and picking glass shards out of the garden for ten years a bombed-out building used to stand here before this house was built miniscule pieces of old window panes in the grass still hold surprises in camera flashes almost as if someone were sowing fresh glass shards here every day but not all that gritty dimness he says looking at me through thick lenses and a grayish glass sliver erected between our faces —translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

Opus Anglicanum Geraldine Monk (movement) taunts sewn daily beaming a cluster of ad-ages: history history history will be sore-winged with selective forgiving A cast shedding envy throughout Europe. oui ya sí we gave them a-needling to die for couching ore sprigs into brand ancient chasubles of awe so much so they named it after us O-Opus Anglicanum ‘England is for us surely a garden of delights—an inexhaustible well’— so sang Papa Innocent to our choral copes and mitres. what beauty we unravelled

still a metre of petersham will stiff out a great coat with sham to spare for fair war just (movement) stuckup on thorn hedge hemmed in broderie anglaise capped pearlies kink the may day blossom floss a fly pass is buzzing her maj at enormous expense the sky streaks red white blue on blue Intelligence born in sour light cramps eyes guiding the gilt ~ a sequence of sequins is a chain of glitzer on the slope going blind for an anthem is a song too high on a hot bright morning in a strained voice he sang across the waters: ‘we have not yet found shiny pointy things we call weapons’ expert embroiderers finger their bodkins weaving empires upon time threads get knotted Dong! The history drowns.

a book from the sky DJ Huppayz patterns charred into skin, a lightning tattoo or making prints: a wall built by ghosts to encircle a night traveler. pounding the wall, a child brought in under the roof. secure the fortress of established forms. he planted jade in the indigo field that it might grow. Lao Zi enshrouded in purple mist beyond the Han Gu Pass. project: collect waste paper, wash carefully in the river, store flat under the bed. accumulated sediment of sentiment, a reminiscence tied together. protection from the marauding hoards who never arrived. when Cang Jie invented writing, the ghosts wailed all night – either the secret was out or the lies start here ...

(movement) With every fibre of spin Ministers of Misrule thread-paint moral empires on their sleeves. pink pink pink go the shears at the wrists on the edge of the wood

Katalin Mezey This little country has become a gigantic gambling debt. It had gotten tossed into the pot and proven to be a losing bet. Who knows who had dealt that hand, how many gaming nights had passed when finally the map turned up as the final stake at last. At first both legs were cut off, and then both hands, too, had to go and then the progeny, men, women, and kids, all in a row. Someone had nothing else to stake— bad luck, if he had to lose. The cards were all in well-greased hands and the players all in cahoots,

secular embroidery —what stands still long enough— catches trappings banners palls purses underneath and hidden linen outre vestments couched bed hangings misleading cushions runners lips lying in wait you name it O Opus! and a pair of shin-new leg-long buskins found in a power-tomb in Canterbury where a cathedral is

Sebastian Gurciullo, Argon

A Concrete Example

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Sue de Beer, Door + Mirror, 2000

Stained Youth Sue de Beer (images) & Travis Jeppesen (text) BED (2000) I was walking through a dream thinking of you, or more precisely, your absence, so you appeared: The landscape is all gravel and stones, and a large rock protrudes from the dirt where we meet. It’s totally deserted, but running into you makes it feel like an avenue in some overpopulated city. We talk without speaking, I look past you to see all the others I’ve vaguely loved since you went away. They’re naked except for the one I still talk to, tied together with a rope yet struggling to move forward, like they’re engaged in some sort of hazing ritual. They move out of the frame before you notice them (I somehow know they’re only in my head anyway) which frees us to walk side-by-side. It doesn’t feel like the old days. I remember the summer we lived in that house with the TV. I found out later it was the neighbourhood where Bundy found his first victim. On another continent, we were drunk one night. You pissed me off so I kicked you in the head, didn’t stick around to watch you keel, just like I couldn’t wait for you to find the courage to kill me in the dream. It’s when I woke up that I noticed the blood.

TWO GIRLS I never wanted to be a part of you. I never wanted to have that dream, rather corrupted by all the bullshit I’ve endured the past nine months with you here beside me. How long’s it really been anyway. You write me postcards from someplace safe that I can’t guess to tell me you’re dying. But I don’t need you anymore. It’s my line (this week.) Fullygrown it fucking emerges, but I can’t reach that golf course. I wish I could’ve been more of something for you, but it’s your fault for trusting me. You can only know someone when you’re inside them, and I’ll never let anyone else in. Especially after the night you came home covered in fake blood, saying you had an accident. You just wanted me to feel

Sue de Beer, Bed, 2000

sorry for you, which I did, even after you rolled over on me when you were sleeping. I can see you sitting on a milk bottle to get off. I hate all the sentimental shit you give out for free. Watching people kill themselves is still not a spectator sport in this country, although the authorities are discussing it. Tanya says she can’t take your shit either, so you’ve lost the only two people who once cared. You’ve ruined my ability to console, but not my telepathy. I still have a soul and that is why, despite all your physical suffering as you wither away into the nothing you were always destined to become, it hurts me even more to not care.

Sue de Beer, Ian/Keanu, 2000

DOOR + MIRROR There’s a light in the hallway, and I should feel something. But there’s only this gnarled fear of the forced silence it inevitably brings, even if I’m blasting it all away to make them experience the anger. They took the door off because of some stupid shit I didn’t even do. One day, I’ll be free, and they won’t remember they have a son. They’ll see the bloodstains on the mattress and point it out to their friends, say “That’s Billy,” or some professor writing a book on teenage depression. I see that light, so I keep it dark enough to let them know that their world begins and ends out there, mine is in here, where they know they’ll never be allowed to enter. Even if they take all my CDs away, all the furniture, I’m not theirs to intrude upon. They’ll have to fucking kill me. They won’t cos they know how much I’d want it. When I hear one of them coming up the stairs, I yell at em to go away. It’s my house, he’ll say, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please. That pompous smirk that pisses me off so. One day, when I’m big enough to hit him, then he’ll know. Until then, I’m nothing. It probably gives him a boner to rough me up like that. I could fuck off to Brandon’s and then they’d never see me again. His mom would let me stay, too. She’s actually cool enough to like me. Lets me do whatever. She always says “let’s cut the bullshit, Brandon” and that’s the kind of attitude I want to have. I can worship Satan and buy the Anarchist’s Cookbook and it’ll be fine. I hate you you fucking spies for trying to make me think like you. I will never believe in ANYTHING you people tell me to because I am like the demons and werewolves and you are the lousy pieces of human flesh I devour, your eyeballs fall out of your head and onto the floor, I squish them under my Converse so you cannot see me while I destroy you.

IAN/KEANU In high school, he wasn’t like the other boys. He’d sit in Geometry and paint his toes like a girl. The teacher, she didn’t care, she was a hippie. One day he told us it wasn’t his real hair, that he’d had punctuation marks tattooed to his scalp. When we asked him to prove it, he just scowled, got in his car, drove down the freeway. It started hailing chips of sawdust. Eliza said it was god’s mucous, but we didn’t believe her till morning revealed the stains on the bed. I thought I’d dreamt of crystalline androids, that’s the best I can describe the figures you could see through, but they couldn’t show me anything I hadn’t already seen. When the weather turned musty again, he sprained his ankle on the shore. Our hippie teacher had taken us on a field trip to show us some shapes in nature or something, but it’s the colours we’ll remember

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best. “It’s not an emergency!” she shouted as a snotball clouded the rainbow. By the time the paramedics arrived, the crowd dispersed, leaving only myself and the injured party. “You can go back to your tent now, Ms. Jones,” I told the hippie, and she pretended hard enough to evoke concession. When it was just us men (me and him and the medics), he grabbed my hand and looked me in the third eye. “Todd,” I heard him say. “I want you to cut my hair next week.” They took him away and the next time I saw him was on the silver screen. I was relieved. Finally he’d be allowed to mean something. All the kids who never hung out with him, we were just a part of his past. He’d found a wider audience to appreciate his talents, even if no one could name them. Looking back at those golden years, it seemed at times that he was made of clay, but in retrospect, I guess that was only certain parts of him.

TINA GRAY Hey girl, don’t look so down. I made a fire out here in the woods, and it’s all for you. I can show you how much I’m something you can rely on. I haven’t been corrupted by all that American fake innocence. I’m the real thing, babe, if you’d give me a chance. I’m the bird on the wire, you know? It’s me. And you’re you. Even when you’re walled-in like that. Even when you’re taped to the ceiling. I’m there with you when I see you so low. So come sit by the fire and I’ll tell you one of the stories you like to hear the most.

Sue de Beer, Sasha, 2001

Sue de Beer, In Sides, 2001

IN SIDES Her parents bought her a pony. He cut her in half for her 16th birthday. She still didn’t know who she was and it bugged him. He knew he couldn’t break it off cos it hurt too much to see her cry, so he gave her something permanent instead. It was a 3120XP Husqvarna chainsaw. It wasn’t like the movies, where they try to run as though that’ll prevent it from happening. She put up no resistance. As the blade sank through her, she thought she saw heaven, or all those other things she’d always seen when she looked at him but never been able to articulate. It was pretty deep.

SASHA He’s out in the world tonight and you’re not with him and you can only imagine where he is so let your imagination run wild. And you think about everything you gave and everything he took and you realised he would’ve accepted anything you offered—this is how desperate this person is. And it hits you how humiliating a position that is for someone to be in—naked to the world— and you realise the extent to which you ruined this person’s life—for not being understanding and empathetic enough. You failed at the task. Someone came to you for help, and you misled and failed them. You were The Answer and you spat in his face. And now he wanders the streets alone, while you sit at home and write poems about how fucked up you are.

Sue de Beer, Tina Gray, 2001

I understand now why people don’t talk about things. That just makes it hurt more.

Sue de Beer, Two Girls, 2000

BED Go ahead and stare. I’m not even there. Life can be perfect. If only you’d let it. Empty out the colostomy bag of your thoughts. There’s a new drain for objects in heaven. That’s what the wind shot itself. My best friend Tina. She never calls on the telephone. Her parents’ religion. So we find other ways of communicating. Stumble upon closure to this mess. Tell mom I don’t wanna clean it up. I hate the bitch the more she loves me; it’s my curse, these ideas. So I write a poem to the one I love. He doesn’t know who I am. He knows my name, that’s all. I dreamed we were together last night in Starbucks. Tina says his gun is sexy as a flea. But I know not to believe everything the other girls say. That’s one thing mom taught me before she disappeared for good.

Sue de Beer, Bed, 2001

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“Cadenza for Schneidermann” (from page 1)

sentation, and now I am yours. But who am I? Famous enough. My name’s ten feet tall and I’m no one, really. Don’t be shocked—the cultured are so easily shocked—don’t whisper to each other, don’t whisper through the hairs of ears. Yes, the answer is yes, I have a speaking part, not quite notated, not quite in the program you’ve read through and riffled through the pianissimos and are now flipping through to see if I have a history of mental instability, schizoid personality disorder. Not quite. And do not see, listen. Allow me to remind you that it is I, the soloist, the world’s famously renowned virtuoso… and now I am yours. So what? Those who praise me, and there are many—though less and less of some and more and more of others with each passing season— praise me as less a violinist than a virtuoso and less a virtuoso than a musician, a pure musician… shades of Pythagoras… and O’ yes, shades, Orpheus… But of what use am I now? Who knows from music? Look up music in a dictionary, Jesus… and you won’t find a picture of me, but… and Schneidermann’s not in the Grove, you understand? Yes, might I take a moment of your evening and of my solo to recall Schneidermann? Sure, shout out at me like I can hear you. I’m just another voice in the din, this heteroglossolalia verging on ipsissima verba in here so that I can for the life of me remember this great man’s friendship? kinship? the ship? See this violin you’ve been tuned to? Owned by Hitler. You hear it? No, it wasn’t, but for a moment you believed me and something was different, no? Schneidermann himself though played this violin, Schneidermann the refugee, Schneidermann who died insane as you all know the story, read it in the newspaper of record or in the glossed magazines. Died insane, maybe, died how though?—died anyway. Schneidermann gifted me this violin when he fled Hitler, so Hitler, in the poetic sense, might have owned it had Schneidermann not been lucky and smart in that order. But what do you know? You aren’t fit to lick my rosin, and you… from among the orchestra ingathered, one hundred and seven people, one hundred and eight for the final movement when the harpist punches in—she’s just sitting there lovely now, hands folded in lap and mortified—from among you, how many understand what you’re playing, really, truly, I ask rhetorically? (Everything the soloist does is rhetoric, don’t you know?) Yes, that’s it, boo and heckle and jeer and whatever, go ahead—people are so afraid to disagree these days… to be impolite. Someone go around to a bodega near hear and pick up some overripe Joisey tomatoes from José or Manuel whatever his name… O’ Maria—soon enough!—are you here? did you get those tickets? Besides her though, how many of you out there know what you’re hearing? She has an excuse, remember, being within a majority meaning a minority. Yes, hiss. Go ahead— sounds like a bad Bratislavian spiccatto, I tell you. Me. Don’t know what to think if no one tells you, huh? Who’ll vet your opinion? I, myself, well-trained from eight years, had no idea what to think the first time Schneidermann played this, not this, for me in the piano reduction, first day of harmony instruction— strange discipline: the study of harmony. He explained it, this piece we’ve paused in, thusly as he paced the room… and he paced like a tuned string, tight vibrations and then gradually loosened, slackening right and left, loosing pitch, becoming not music but gut, and gut luck explaining that to Helmholtz. Whose dead, Helmholtz, Schneidermann too and me soon enough. Gut, cat gut, is what they used to make strings from if you didn’t know or forgot—that’s what cats are for, ask my friend Katz he owns ten street versions of them… and then the initial stages of violin domestication are often likened unto a cat’s screeching, and what hack composer was it anyway who transcribed his kitten tripping across the piano keys and had himself a fugue subject? And who lining a birdcage (Frau Haydn?) or a litterbox with scores of whom (Haydn, Herr Baryton?)? I’ve never owned animals myself for the simple reason that they are dumb, but Schneidermann kept spiders in a jar (as Spinoza, a pretension), spiders he’d pit against each other in death duels and it was not my pets but

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Schneidermann though (though I am, in a sense, also Schneidermann’s pet) and I was to explain this piece to you… but of course Schneidermann was not at all an explained man, not at all, not at all, nothing programmatic about him… man and work and work and man, same thing or just the terror of popularity and don’t send in your responses, don’t care what you think. Enigma, the word, so used, slips into its own definition… the word in my own language, my first language, word I learned in short pants: Rätsel, near anagram on my own name, surname of Lästerer, meaning of mocker, now Laster and anglicised without an umlaut—immigration, my management and my promoters to thank for that. Prefixed by Gottes—, as in Gotteslästerer, and I mean blasphemer, god-mocker. I mock through my music… and, as a Laster, I last all night, just ask Maria tomorrow… and I’ve been mocking you all night, and you’ve been paying through your hooked blackheaded schnozzollas for the goddamned privilege of it all, you bourgeois schmucks… and, what’s this? … some of you are leaving? Already? Why, we haven’t even begun yet!—I need to explain. Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t leave. This thing

has a bang-up finale, real crowd-pleaser. And now not you, you fucking communist—you all fathom this? My concertmaster’s exiting stage right. You can’t trust an Asian, can you?—they’re all so… so diabolical, inscrutable… and so placid—well alright Wang-Lee, suit yourself you hack, you have no tone, you have no touch, no feel—you’ll never work in this town again, which is all shteyger. I teach all those people, those Asians—they think they can play but they can’t. Maths and music, O’ the Asians. But if I would’ve been born an Asian, life would’ve been that much simpler. You rote monkeys, you deserved Einstein’s bomb—I mean, what do you know from ecstasy? what do you believe in? I myself believe in death. That’s because I’m supposed to do something with my life, because I have greatness’s birthright. Charge of representing the world. Chosen people etc. And all I need to do now is die… but not yet—still have bills to pay… so I need to do it, need to keep this medicine show on the road, travelling, this piece and maybe a few accompanying… don’t you know I’m Schneidermann’s performing monkey? that I need to keep it going, perpetual motion machine on the eternal return tour, the eternal tour to infinite nowhere? And why? Well, because just like you I’ve got debts to pay, children to support, alimony and all my money, wives to pay, first wife’s children, second wife’s children, third wife’s children and but calando, calando, calando—an anagram on Doc Alan, my personal physician, my prostate-feeler, hands of an artist which should be cast in bronze or plaster take your pick except

for that gorgeous watch of his his wife got him for his fiftieth birthday. Come here, come prima— come sopra , as previous I shall remind… Doc, are you out there tonight? Are you disappointed I’ve given up my famous cadenza in favour of this improvised piece of poopy? Infamous soon to be nonpiece of worthlessness… but I have something to say. To my wives maybe—whenever I play this original sin Apple at least two or three are in attendance—stand up dears…, or not. Let me address them first… and someone get me some water, someone speak to someone more important or go hit a rock or something. Okay, dears, so which one of you played Euridyce to my Orpheus? Which one of you did I most rescue or did I do the utmost to rescue? Who was my Euridyce? Or yourId-is-she, and don’t you out there, undistinguished mass, pity my violin-shaped women. Let’s have the house lights, please? No? Maybe? So I can see who’s leaving through the doors I hear slamming. And here, there goes half the brass section. Definition of optimism: a tuba player with a business card. Friends are as nonexistent as God. Go empty your spit valves on the peaceful faces of your sleeping lovers at home. And the oboists gone too, the

tuning Sirens, the touched heads of the orchestra—all that air backed-up, traffic jammed, gives them eventual inevitable enviable brain lesions, didn’t you know that? Those lesionaires. Suspect my wife, which one, of playing the oboe—those lips and that absolutely perfect stupidity. So, wives… my first wife had loved me for my music, my second for my fame, my third for my money—divorce, divorce, divorce and now I’m on my fourth, no fifth, not legally, actually, well, out of country, fourth I’m only separated from, or, maybe, ask my lawyer or my lawyer’s lawyer, he’s out there somewhere, or my shrink—but what does she want me for, number five? My shrink’s shrink. O’ let’s say all the reasons previous. She’s a soprano—aren’t you dear and what’s the difference between a Lamborghini and a soprano? Most musicians have never been inside a Lamborghini, hahahaha… I should stop smoking, but anyone got a light—no? O’, thanks for the help—a hearty round of applause for the man in the front row with a book of matches from the bistro around the corner, Giorgione’s, a good good good place. Anyone want the phone number? What did you have? Great. Everyone, he—what’s your name?— everyone, Alvin Feingold heartily recommends the salmon tortellini… everyone, thank Mister Feingold, great… now, mmmmm… You will not notice that I have executed, with one minor mistake in my between me and you absurd second entrance—the bow does not break like that—I have executed thus far without a conductor. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, heathens and Philistines of all ages, one tuxedo held

together the first half entire. Tonight, your eminent musical director, your foreign maestro laureate (because all geniuses are foreign…), he’s in his penthouse, one of his four penthouses, engaging in anal and oral sex with underaged males, members, yes, members of your youth chorus and your regular guest conductor—this I have on good authority—a janitor in the wings, name of Holden, tells me, and janitors, no irony or slumming, know everything… Schneidermann… well, not that he wouldn’t have indulged. It’s acceptable, permissible to laugh now—and it’s okay to feel joy, because all homosexuals are essentially optimists and you can understand the reverse of that lemma and lemma tell you that those who swing pendulum to any pits, half-filling and half-emptying are essentially the only sane ones out there. Not the men waving their hands on the Loggia as if they’re popes or on trains departing, pulling out now for the nineteenth century—what do you want? You’re doing what? You know, I first heard the thing… I decided to speak this instead of the three cadenzas written for this work… And Jesus is my elbow shit tonight, and… Awake, overheated Apollo’s temple! … Where is Zeppo when you need him most, all of them for that matter, the luftmenschen, all the bisbiglissando brothers of last season’s subscription? You know, Harpo wasn’t Harpo cause he played the harp, fyi—he’s Harpo, mute Harpo, from Harpocrates, no joke, the god of silence, guardian of the rose of Eros. Manfred, the eldest, was to be the violinist… he lived longer than all of us—he died in infancy. But wait, moment, langsam, shtum, please, psht—those who are leaving, I almost forgot, you know how much you paid for this, so sit down and enjoy the show if you haven’t already refugee’d and I don’t know if I’d blame you if you did, I did… I have something here with me I’d like to share with you. A letter, from a wife, never mine, not all of them are, a mother, here in a pants’ pocket, allow me to unfold it. It’s from a woman I never met—I never met her, my present wife, which and whoever she is, has no grounds whatsoever for any of her accusations and is her lawyer present, probably having drinks and eighteen holes with mine and mine’s mine and I’d like to put eighteen holes in her—links always pursuing links… I received this letter from my agent, who, while he does nothing, does receive my mail. I’ll leave off the salutation and some odd, touching personal details… the crux originally from Latin’s cruciare, to torture, reads: Your music saved my life. I went through the worst of depressions, not eating, not sleeping, and you… your Beethoven Concerto, which I heard in Los Angeles last spring, it made me want to live again. God Bless You. Well, Agnes Whitbread of Whitest Plains, Lamb of God, thanks for writing, but God is dead, I have heard from a fellow countryman, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done some good in someone’s eyes. Even though they may need multifocular glasses like mine to speak through Spinoza’s lungs of glass. And then again, maybe she’s a dog poisoner, or an arsonist, or a dues paid-up National Socialist— who knows? I once was once an essential worker of some out of sorts. But forget all that and the trash comes tomorrow morning at dawn so—let’s get to the essentials… Who wants some cheesecake? Some yummy in the tummy cheesy bakey-cakey-wakey-wakey those in the rear—and who doesn’t want some? Everyone leaving, get some next door, on my tab, no prob—they’ll file it against my estate. So eat up, enjoy before it all goes rotten, turns, turns, turns—what the gehenna that exemplary passage? Allow me to recommend to you the fake cherry topping, or the coconut, decisions, decisions, decisions… and a waitress… What are they worth? This is undoubtedly the worst cadenza of my career. First cadenza to Schneidermann was by Kohen, the next by Roubíček, listed in Patel’s as Roubicek—the latter heavily derivative of the former, R. of K.—both too virtuosic, Romantic. I’ve got one of those love/hate’s with the two poles, but not Poles—I hate them all, except for that… I’ve recorded my own, thrice, it’s published, two students of mine, hacks, play it often, consult your local media conglomerate for impertinent


details. Kohen was a moron, a man who devoted himself, and his career, to modernity, because he wasn’t talented enough to pull-off the Classics—I shouldn’t talk… I listen to no music, and sometimes Bach, listen to him in my head, what morons refer to as the inner ear, hearing itself, right, through the fuzz and the wax, I listen well. Though Noah—is Noah here?—the ass, he gifted me a stereo last Christmas, I never plugged it in but… what’s it gonna be this year, Noah? What else you got in your ark out in the suburbs? You know, I love Christmas in Christendom… that’s been my most amenable, receptive hall, Christendom, excellent acoustics, maybe though too much capacity for reverb…—and about capacity, where’s the fire marshal when you need him? Too many law enforcers in our midst already… who called? … a squad now, in my sanctuary, the House which Heifetz built, and him, long dead, and only him, and Schneidermann, I’d bow to, and not Heifetz even—who also, the two of them, observed Christmas. Also the Heifetz I knew best, Larry Heifetz, owner of a great high-rated B & B in Cape May, NJ, down the shore, dead end of the GSP and who’s… Who’s torn the pigs’ tickets? Coat check anyone? Check your guns? … And in the winter, now, laying last night atop my anonymous bed melting ice cubes on my bare belly… shallow white plate of water, naked to the waist, and then a large dripping sponge, pooling in my bellybutton, yes, I have a bellybutton, navel, sponge lay on my stomach, getting larger, largening, wrung out down to the bedspread… I hadn’t eaten for as long as it had been hot in my room, everything maxxed-out, enormous industrial fans and the minifridge whining in Bb… and then the shades kept it all out when it rose over ice, and I had this idea… me baking under many artificial suns, me not to be confused with Dionysus… O’ Xenophanes was to never step over the horizon, the quivering string with the setting fingertip—he, Xenophanes, thought there were many suns just passing overhead, fingertips like consecutive suns passing o’er the horizon… and so maybe we do have the time allotted for me to massage your head with my callous calluses—and what do you say to that? Xenophanes the rhapsodist, of Colophon, dimmed by the Homeric verses, denounced poets for giving gods men’s traits, anthropomorphizing them, and gave to the Greeks a single God, an eternal sphere, the earth’s goatskin drum I’m pounding on. I’m a rhapsodist too, but with no new innovation, no improved goods, just abusing public trust for what? for you? your sakes? I’m your somehow father? guide? Virgil? lover? Yes, you are all my Orphans and I, ladies and genitalmen, I am a liar’s lyre thrumming some Thracian sweettalk. Can any uptown cunnilinguists enlighten me as to what in the gehennahell does harken mean and from what and wherefor and how is it so derived? You, under… It’s not about imagination and the serial, or now whatever they’ve masked the serial as… it’s not Apollo on one hand and Dionysus on the other—Apollo the bow, Dionysus the fiddle—… no. It’s all Orpheus: Apollo is Orpheus, Dionysus absolutely is, Orpheus in every hand, from the toes to the head, disembodied, singing still, and floating down the Styx maybe. And Jesus, yes, and Kingly David too, the tehillim you Reformim and unaffiliated schmucks in the midst of the encampment would refer to as the Psalms. But Orpheus… allow me to recall the Hymns of Thomas Taylor, theme with variations of not a few fumigations. Can I get some houselights and what? You’re calling maybe more police, S.W.A.T.? an army of lusty young men home from private wars? Overreact and it’s fine with me…—it was Orpheus I was orphing on and on or die in sleep and that’s the error of a waking man or some Spinoza and let’s all now praise Alexander of Aphrodisias may your ideas stand me in good stead tonight and ever rhapsodic after. May all your lives, your worthless petty lives, be as an infinite gliss up and down, infinitely up and infinitely down, an infinite piano keyboard played infinitely upon with infinite hands bearing infinite fingers— you know maybe Thomas Bernhard’s Der Untergeher? Well, you should and Orpheus, he too, was a rethinker, a tinkerer of myths… an interpreter, understand? A priest, not a God—me and not Schneidermann, Schneider-

mann the last of the great unphonies and euphonies. So come and tear me apart—sparagmos I think it is dears, maybe, forget—rend, ritual, this victim… or melon-scooped out by the women, with the implements of domesticity or… You know, I’ve read, Plato hints at a cult of wandering priests who took money to relieve laymen from anxious guilt. And then there’s reincarnation—the flower that’s not in my lapel, my boot-in-here. So consider this an initiation ritual into manifold secrets… the orientalism that destroyed not me… whose flight of fancy? Secrets of Jesus and Solomon and every orb which shined with orph. Soteriology they say and I say reasons. I say not original sin but a sense of loss from the first that my countrymen, my dead and once-slandered countrymen, explained much better than I could ever hope to—so I see now you’re listening… but this isn’t an apology or at least not yet. I won’t invoke names, no, no naming names unto the commission—naming is owning, is possession, is eleven-tenths of any divine law pertaining thereto… and it’s better to have every name, whatever people want to call you, Polyonymos, asshole… I’m gonna tell you what you can and what you can’t do, but first let us welcome the Chief of Police of this fine urbis and the Director of this wonderful hall coming down the aisle as if for binding consecration at my hands—but I’m the one to be bound, no? Good evening, gentlemen—no irony in that word, no, from me? Perhaps you know the work, Chief, of Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorf, no? O’, but you should. Orphism in the Orphica was not a religion, but an art, understand? Or it’s all bulldinky—I see some of my children are standing now, present—and that’s the same ding. Religion is art is philosophy is whatever satisfies, maybe, like the candybar… Separate me from my stalk and my head’ll still be singing, floating in the perfumed midsts. My Greek is execrable, as was Shakespeare’s. Orpheus birthed the Muse—her name to me was Alicia once and Maria tonight and maybe Markéta and then Ashima and then Hillary and then lots of Beths—Schwartz and Weintraub, the latter a soprano… did I ever remember to you the joke? Yes, I guess I did. Orpheus and me, the fathers of lays, as glossing Pindar. What was Orphic was every religion rolled into one, what we would know of now as the Western World… and you’d know me as one of its avatars. Who’s drinking the reception already? Langsam, you’ll have your opportunity for rebuttal when I’m good and dead… It’s a search for the mystical, the personal you want? New-aging getting older, without grace, and what onyx saveths you now? Too bad, to be denied you… I knew Schneidermann. I watered his ferns when he was away concertising. I watered his daughters when he was away concertising and lecturing—who’re you talking to Chief? Don’t gimme your megaphonics! No, you listen to reason! I watered his wife and his daughters when he was away concertising and lecturing and teaching. No, I won’t come down from the mountain until I’ve had my tablets… and I watered his wife and his daughters sometimes at the same time when he was away concertising and lecturing and teaching and working— this was my practice… what one of my Ostland girls calls my practicising—and yes I took my meds, my pills, yes I remembered and no, it has nothing whatsoever to do with that… come on, Doc Alan… and the rest of you keep smelting away at that calf and now I’m mixed like my meds and where was I? I was with Orpheus. And who was he besides me? Me, a hedgehog in foxfurs to babel my enemies, Trojaning them… Schneidermann, as difficult to place as Zeus—was He Chtonios and Olympios? did he change names like Schneidermann changed shirt collars? and changed names also, his name, Schneidermann and then later, over here in the underheated flat, Schneiderman, two n’s to one n, so which one was it or two? and once even on a concert program three n’s, morons and then what? Did the letters, the naming, make him any less of a mann or a man? Who knows? Capricious as Mozart he was—a composer he loathed and thought an inferior imitation of C.P.E. Bach… but you have to forgive a man his idiosyncrasies, don’t you? Especially a man who was raised, after his father died young, by his seven aunts. Those were his real instructors. Goddesses all and he was a God,

not as a God. I don’t even know if I can or should tell you this stuff—my nonexistent, wholly imaginary, secret society might get pissed. Art: the authority for ritual… or so says Guthrie, you know him? Three-initialed scholar and his is a hieros logos—what do I know? But everything, right? No, President Astoria the Third of this great hall erected on the aching spines of dead meatpackers and railroaded employees, this is not embarrassing, not a regrettable incident—I’m making an honest true spectacle of myself, on this parquet mountaintop. Finally, propitious, thank the Gods here are the house lights, finally. Orpheus, it is said, forbid cannibalism—so what are you going to do with so much flesh? I’ve put on a few pounds— Shylock it, good idea, but to who?—and no, you’d’ve noticed… my publicity shot’s not quite up to date. Important to note though, and understand, though, that fat people are essentially harmless. Schneiderman or Schneidermann was a spine with some skin on it, even through the fat years of banquets and tribute feasting when and where he ate like Fort, Dionysius… A line from Guthrie then, that’s where I was: When a Neoplatonist quoted the Orphic writings, it was often to impart an aroma of antiquity to his doctrines. An aroma? Smell under my armpit and I’m maybe not halfway through… smell me any day of the week for that matter, wake me up and smell me and put me down again—and what time is it anyway? Time is a novelty, understand?— not my bed, sleep, dream. Music itself stops time—Orpheus there singing and strumming, time suspended, the music of the spheres, Joshua at Gideon with the sun stilled. But time is a way of enlisting two ideas in mutual defence… dialectics… I’m of German extraction (that’s what Oma put in her soups, secret ingredient of German Extract) and with this definition of time we’ll be able to divine the proof for the theory that art and religion never flourish at the same time, no, think about it for a sec that’s not a sec and that doesn’t even exist in the first place, not meaning the front row, front lines, where all of you have too much money and not enough time. Time I’ve wasted pulled the dialectic apart, ritual rending apart of the intended victim, between on the one gnarled, soon Parkinson’s probably hand the enraged Maenads and on the other, the Muses. Which will Maria be? Depends if I ever intend on returning to the Grand—if I can get any work after this. Usher, you of winged Hermes, why do you flee fleet? Sacred, winged, fickle things, why are you never tipped? Here’s some money for you—come and catch… or we’ll put it in escrow… No, don’t grab—it’s for them… thank you all O’ so very very much for your unrivalled expertise in the wide open field of alphabetical order and numberology— seating plans tattooed on your arms which makes me think of Schneidermann and how it was before the Cadenza of History, before the improvised history (what set me against my beloved Romanticisim)… understand that when the world is Romantic the art is Classical and vice-versa and they each think the other and read your Nietzsche with sunglasses that aren’t your prescription… Schneidermann’s memory was great because his eyesight was terrible… hearing too, believe it, everything. Reminds me of black & white, childhood, all that with the tattoo on the drums and the march, and history in an improvised style—one egotist soloing on the instrument of humanity (sawing away, a magician?), one man above all the rest playing with all of us in an improvisatory style… and not just that, but really improvising… sure, there’re some tropes: mass-death anyone? Those days… One full of himself man improvises, plays with history with panache, real admirable technical brilliance, virtuosity even… an overload, a superabundance of brilliance, which is disaster… some acknowledged means and ways. Don’t you feel, not you, don’t answer, that some periods, eras, are made up on the spot, extemporized and you’re the material being fucked with? We, me and Schneidermann, were high notes in Hitler’s, one Austrian’s Cadenza of History… the upper spectra of the tessitura… Schneidermann, I remember now, with this need, the idea of shit, of artistic excess… and his piano throne with the built-in custom toilet so he’d never have to stop playing, yes playing—playing being the ultimate thought—and

then the roll he’d prepared inside the piano, resting on the strings roundabout C4… explosive! Did I say I’m a terrorist and Jesus does that put a scare into you! Terrorist or Good Shepherd, it’s the same gig. Cause uprights were all he played over here. Why? Money. Though he went to occassional parties, Columbia Gem of the University, a block from Bartok, near Gershwin’s and Mozart’s grocer, he was more feared (respected) than loved, and where was the money? Homer and not Orpheus… but the public intellectual half-raped into existence (that’s the meat of the Upper West sidetalk) from a windblown seed renting out either the aither or the ether at what he couldn’t afford…—and that’s what they used, the ether, when Schneidermann had his spleen out, which he also couldn’t afford to and to not to… he let me have a piece of it, and I ate it, and it leaves lesions on the mental apparatus like playing, or even listening to, the goddamn A-whining oboe four-hundredand-forty-times per moment however defined. Orpheus the sailor, like me and Schneidermann, the weakling artist, unnecessary weight less, across the wide ocean—ergo nought? And silencing the Sirens, so we have three tropes, not trop: Sirens and Muses and Mother May Nads—and which was which and which brother-in-law or overbearing father loosed his snaked unto my Eurydice, name meaning wideruling, I’ve read, and did they ever rule wide! as the ocean, as ego and iron-fisted from behind iron curtains they took me to task for ever, ewig… and how did the woman get so strong on this side of the ocean? It used to be fathers we were afraid of… read your K., okay, I’m sure you have, but have you really? (K. not as in Mozart, but…) My own father, adopted, Schneidermann—an incredible taskmaster, phylactery whips—he was a religious artist… and incredible hours of incredible discipline, self-imposed. Just couldn’t be trusted, could I?—more lies than… Up and down my scales, scaling my scales, do, re and me at quarter note equals prestissississississississimmo, off the metronome’s scale, scaling higher and faster— a warped metronome on his windowsill overlooking the garden that slowed and that’s how I became so much of an interpreter. But I want to be the speaker! Yes, that’s it Chief, take a seat, finally. Someone get him some coffee, two creams and two sugars, but if you leave the hall and the building, please, I beseech you, save your stubs. And outside is the descent— I’m onstage—into Hades, hell and Orpheus, me, returning empty-handed after shystering the death god, Schneidermann, who you thought was Zeus—but didn’t I tell you everything runs together? A phantom of a woman, a shadow of a shade. Whisked away because I… I made a mistake—so shoot me, seriously… I screwed-up big-major-leaguetime and I’m sorry, al cheyt… I relent and repent being but ashes from dust to dust—striking my tit in the gesture of indigestions or repentance. The failure though, a late addition—like the Florida room Number Two, parlor as evil, she had added on to the house in Miami where all the rooms were Florida rooms and then she goes and shtups the workmen she hires… and all because I shtupped her sister… well, listen, mistakes were made. And her sister was her: they looked the same in the dark which is why you can’t trust your eye, especially my eyes focular, only your ears, your hearing, your ears… and my ear knew it wasn’t her, my wife, but someone else… maybe from the pitched moaning or the cries and utterances and imprecations or maybe because she said another man’s name, her husband’s, who’s a good man, into insurance… which is what I need right now like a hole in my head which brings me back to my original point, my ur-request (Abraham to Isaac), that someone should seriously, or at least seriously consider the possibility of, shooting me. Not meaning take my photograph. In my overburdened and overtaxed head—you know what I pay in income tax and property taxes down there in Florida? No, the Alexandrians came up with the failure angle on Orpheus—they had that pathetic spirit, empfindsamkeit-type deal. Charon or Sharon was her name, the pathetic one?—the yoga farter and yes, yes, yes I’ve urinated in my pants… I can’t leave, can I? Diaper the diapason, no. Aristaeus by the by Euridyce’s, the Thracian nymph’s or Dry-

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ad’s, undesired lover—he was my manager, my agent, the guy who scoops the gorgeous autumn out of my lap pool leaf by sogged heavy leaf. Do you even know the names of trees? No, and so they’re not yours! Trees inclined to sweet music to help them grow up big and strong and then the animals gathered and were subdued. Do I need to hold up a mirror? Surely some of you have mirrors in your purses, maybe compact roundlings to reflect the stage lights in my eyes so I can’t see anymore and only hear—O’ but I see you’ve killed the stage lights, and right on cue, bravo lighting maestro who fucks his little moisturized hands up in the misted booth… yes, a masturbator. And after… he shunned the company of women for men or celibacy or music or death: the same things. Woulda shoulda coulda, I’m there soon enough by the banks of the Strymon, by the banks where all my accounts have been frozen like wives… I’m now Baroque and who’s gonna fix me and what’s it gonna cost? … frozen like my now untended pool, like the unsalted sidewalk outside HAMU in Prague, their conservatory, where I slipped and broke a hip and you don’t want those doctors—so you see, contrary to my doctor’s recommendations (and they’re only recommendations) all you need is salt… salt for everyone! Hark and hear the distant church on the other side of the ocean, its bells soon striking our midnight, their six in the evening when they’re all salting their meat plates and guzzling beer. I had friends there: Braunstein, Schwarzstein, Grabstein, ein… and the slide into what followed… who knows? Die Posaunenstelle but Gabriel’s gone isn’t he? And his part with him tief im glühenden lit. trombone but in Luther’s a trumpet, Cf. Apoc. Leertext, but what exactly is missing and am I to be his redactor? in Fackelhöhe, and what’s this funny business with the lights anyway? im Zetiloch: Which is where we are, not to be too obvious, after the music stops. hor dich ein Yes do that… mit dem Mund…? With anyeverything and the mouth, a pack of lips, apocalypse, to the mund and music is the Zeitloch and a timecourt too, what’s allowed and what’s not weighed in scales like two jangle-jingling nuts… aaaaahhhhhhh… … in which the ear hearing itself and hear earing itself and I… can almost hear the plunkings and scrapings of my fellow students at the conservatory, school which conserves that which is neglected by everyone else. I hear Braun, later the clapper. Crowds, the undifferentiated mass… Schwarz, later the undertaker, grabbing you and sticking you in the wet mud, graven you on the earth, imagine that… but that was Paul, not Peter that thrice denier… and he too was one of us, Antschel and then Ancel and then Celan and an Ant schel who? A suicide. Nevertheless, a great admirer of Schneidermann and kinda sorta vice-versa admiration returned but, let’s just say some postage was due. B. the pianist and S. the clarinetist—but what’s this? a game you’re playing? The house lights up and down again? What’s this about? What’s the program?—I asked pacifically, or there’ll be no encore. What you say Mister Hall President, Astoria great name? get what? A Handel on myself, hahaha. You know Petro Esquire, Handel’s father, a barbering surgeon, wanted him to be a lawyer, but lucky for us…—you shyster Petro sitting with the Chief, and Mister Arschstoria President… your sold-out hall at curtain is now either half-full or half-empty depending, and if you ask me it’s the latter for the very reason that I’m not a faiygele but a pessimist. So Schneidermann’s fate then, because what we’re interested in, here, are fates, and fates only. Because what do lives matter? Nothing. Amount to? Efes. All prophets should end up denying their Gods—so take a long walk Schneidermann, like you always did, hands clasped behind your back, Brahms (Beethoven’s battered wife), and that day… was that a totem in your pocket or were you just happy to see me?—or is that question taboo? I should know to have the answers—after all, I am to you what Horace, not Greeley, said of Orpheus, said he was: Sacer interpresque deorum, the sacred interpreter of the Gods and as such I address you directly. Or-

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pheus, the man almost god who dies—ever hear that spiel before? But Orpheus wasn’t like Jesus H.—no, not a singer too, but a mamele’s boy… not a castrati, though, as Lefranc de Pompignan notes, he was: the first of the world’s singers, in poems earlier than Homer’s. Schneidermann’s teacher was a man named Schneidermann, the boy’s father, dead, and then his next teachers, Schneidermann’s too, his father’s seven sisters, the seven musical aunts who raised him, muses too and, yes, I’m implying incest not of Krafft-Ebing’s idealized sort, but dirty, dirty, dirty beginnings for this mystagogue (one of his favourite words) … this synoptic man and his synoptic religion, a religion of art, kind of a Gesamtkunstwerk— and how’re your foreign tongued chops feeling tonight? O’, I wish he were here tonight—how he’d explain it all to you, so Bach crystalogic… and well let’s summon him up, shall we? An Upper West Side séance of sorts, lets rap the tables of your diamonds set in your gold rings, shall we?—and see, no hear, what he’s up to? Maybe a timpani for this on the tympanum… But no. How I’d hear it when I was on tour, later, was through the magnificent invention of distanced speech, a sort of extra-sensory by which I of course mean the telephonic apparatus. O’, how I touch myself to the moist heavy sound of the dial tone and the young, lonely operator. Now let us praise the telephone’s inventors: Philipp Reis, Antonio Meucci, Elisha Gray and not to forget Mister Alexander the Great Nevsky, gram for gram the greatest man of his time and on his dime, yes. His, Schneidermann’s, was an early century model still in work, still at work (we’re talking Siemens & Halske here), but funny thing about it was you couldn’t hear through it—in another word he could only talk… someone called him and he picked it up, had to guess who it was, or not, or just not care, and he’d just start talking, monologuing, ranting, sermonizing to desert rabble. He’d call someone—sometimes he couldn’t remember who by the time the other party picked up—and he’d just start going off again. But he couldn’t hear a gottesdamned ding anyone on the other side was saying and when they hung up, then he hung up. So if I got lonely and just wanted to hear, I called him and he gave me my piece of his mind and then when I had had enough, I hung up, and then, I guess, he did too… easy enough, didn’t trouble his own house, you know? And he never called women, thinking the telephone too crude to use to call women…—it was for men to discuss absurd, weighty things, issues… you know? Often he’d hum or sing or read his translations of Shakespeare into a language he invented and only he understood—so who knew if they were actually translations? Or he’d rest the receiver down on the piano’s lid and he’d play: Scriabin, whom he was smart enough to admire… and Beethoven… forget the late sonatas, yes, he played only his own keyboard arrangements of Beethoven’s symphonies and, if your ring rang late at night, left-handed whorehouse piano in the late style, four-five ante meridian, with period performance practice meaning dead drunk… and thank you for keeping your telephones at home, phones which ring only in the key of SEE, when you arrived promptly at this whorehouse this evening… or else he’d pull a fugue out of his arsch, and FUG as in fleeing from his own forehead he’d hold against the keys and beat the keys’ lid against, on his neck like a guillotine, when he got stuck for an academic Mahler fuck-you Apollonian brothers stretto or somesuch development modulating to other things that made him smash his throat with the keys’ lid: Asians, Asians, Homosexuals, Single Old Women who Owned More then One and sometimes only One Cat, Students of Philosophy, Happy Paraplegics, Young Men, Young Men, Young Men, Men Younger Than Himself Not Excluding Me, Poets in Languages No One Spoke… but he envied them and that was, the envy, the source of his hatred, yes hatred, and smashing… And his brother… his aunts murdered his brother, he said, when they were pushing his, Schneidermann’s, piano, a grand, like my hotel, unlike what he had over here, pushing it, the grand, or maybe baby, across the room to have better dappled light for the young prodigy’s practice and study and they pushed with too much energy, pushed too far, and the pi-

ano went right out the large floor to top window of the apartment on the top floor… dorfer with the extra key… and this was in Budapest on a street that no longer exists, or now in hiding under an assumed name… and the piano shattered out of it and fell six stories crushing and killing his, Schneidermann’s, younger and only brother, also twin, a totally unmusical personality named Rudy, even though he was of the same religion as… and killing him forever… clearing out sinuses dancing the hora behind his eyes… pedals: una corda, sostenuto, damper and the kid’s schoolstockinged feet stuck out from underneath like in what’s it called? Oz… fell like losing pitch to that which is Most High, a string constantly tuned higher and higher until it snaps on the sidewalk with a sound that was like the atom bomb, which was a handful of years later, actually 15/5ths of a handful later, and which he, Schneidermann, Rudy’s older brother, claimed ruined his hearing forever after—so that might be your telephone answer right there and the issues with the late Beethoven resolved easy, neat and simple like dominant to tonic and that was the buzzing pedal… like of the bicycle young Rudy would ride unfettered and free, the healthy youth, the one half alive while Schneidermann, half dead, stayed pale and inside and practicised and didn’t play well with the other children, but played with himself— they didn’t even know he existed, yet, and maybe not after and half because they were twins, and Schneidermann, our and my Schneidermann was one whole minute older… and in that minute he came to know and perfectly understand, perfectly know, this large and imperfect world where things happen like seven aunts unknowingly, which they’re trying to do some good, killing one of two nephews, the sons of their one dead brother, the boys’ father… but it must be said, put on record, that they loved Rudy much less than they loved Schneidermann, ours and mine, and so there was maybe something unconscious at work… but who knows because by then Freud was at the other polar end of the Continent and his students, well, most of them, Schneidermann’s friends, would have forsaken him, Freud, by then, for something less… fantastic, more mature not pronounced in the Amurican Way. And the piano… umpteen six stories fell, Rudy squashed, huge strings and loosened keys not tumbling head over heels like lovers fall, but falling, straight down, a virtuoso fall, a true plummet and the sound an anthropomorphized pluck of an infinitely tuned string strung to a heavenly sphere… yes, it almost pulled the dead sun down with it, ouch (dark inside him like it’s outside now), and the mammoth snap, a rill up and down infinite and Rudy riding his bicycle and yes, eating a banana, peel on the sidewalk… man on the corner saw it and cried, his trenchcoat draped over a puddle for his ladyfriend (then you had ladyfriends)… and it hit, legs buckled, pedals stuck out from under like feet, accordion squash, dead squeezebox—but I wasn’t there—sides split, tensions exploded off of tuning pegs, lids bucked, women wept freely into their handkerchiefs as their husbands held them around their thick necks and looked at their watches as you’re doing now, the final chord, resolution of the cadence, dominant to tonic, perfect and authentic over, curtain, applause, curtain, bow, curtain, all contrapuntal and then this is elision, and then dark, sharps and flats of enharmonic night, the black keys, night falling with the piano and perpetual, trans, until the continent entire was void… Someone fire me from a cannon and I’ll saw away in mid-air say in the ballpark of Adagio or Largo, slow. The thing hit. So, fates… Are you paying attention to serve and to protect? Only law enforcement personnel and medics in this hall now and some lay members and high-rollers and so, fates—they tie things up, loose ends, strings wound in string. So, shot dead, exterminated, Schneidermann? No, no piano, a suicide. Insane. He dropped a Steinway, had Stein & Sons haul it up on rope and he pushed it off and then ran down the ten floors of his New York brownstone… Braunstein where is he? Did he? Dead too and gagged with armbands… to catch it on his head? Push the piano out the window, he’d have to think, then run downstairs and out the door, hoping it’s remained unlocked since it was last shut, he’d have to think, then find and

stand on the exact spot where the piano I pushed would hit, he’d have to think, and then the easiest part—just stand there and get hit, and he wouldn’t have to think anymore… a test before with an X-marks the spot and dot dot dot… but this is ridiculous! No. So, when, what year? I hope the reporters are getting this? You want drama? Some Wagnerian trappings, a liebstod? A lovey-wovey-deathy-weathy?— this my wife’s friendspeak. Her Jane, me me… If Schneidermann would’ve been born earlier he would’ve been a Romantic, no? Or a Roman earlier. Some Greco-Romance like what’s aka gesture… all overdone, and who to blame? Have you been listening to anything I’ve been telling? Has the world mislaid its brain? Left its mental apparatus in its other pants? He, Schneidermann, to his detriment, had read, had memorized, his Walter Pater—Schneidermann’s life constantly aspired to the condition of music, unfixed, much mechanics… I have planter’s warts on my feet. This Pater quote from The School of Giorgione, anyone hungry? and published in the year of Schneidermann’s father’s birth, 1873, year amid another Renaissance. And Schneidermann, O’ Schneidermann… born out of date, unborn of date, stillborn in too fastening a time, quicksilver— like these fingers, my entire life… four fingers applied to four strings, wood and some metal, guts, like the death of their God, of the man who thought he was a God and the God who thought He was a man… and some right hand sawing, masturbation. Speed I have, but an old form of speed, analogue before analogue, outdated… like what they say about Szigeti’s vibrato, you know? Szigeti, the true God and his name should be gilt up there and not Heifetz’s… need anything to get ourselves out of this computer sound (computer such a last season word), this digitisedsoundworld or whatever Germanisch monster… this impersonal lushness, his corporate warble… and truth be told, sacrilige, that’s my final answer on Heifetz. You should’ve heard me—I should’ve heard myself on a 78. Understand: too often the idea is the beauty and intensity of the violin rather than the expressive flesh of the music. Touch and your touched head, God’s swirled thumbprint and you think you’re something… not in the same way we talk about touch… touch Schneidermann had. Invoking all this, these ideas of interpretation and so I interpret a ghost in the darkness, a play on the stage of another play, and one stage of evolution giving way to our more accomplished, happier ancestors… Yes, I invoke Schneidermann. And so, poof! Schneidermann’s here. Yes, he’s there, no joke, look—one, two, three, fourth row there, to the left, five in, will you stand, sir, and take a bow? The curtain calling, no. Schmucks! I once took a bow—some Baroness lent it to me and I never returned it after the tour, it suited me, and she didn’t want to disturb the natural order of things… the rich preserve dignity, however false and rotten it might be, what else you think keeps my travelling healing show, well-snake-oiled, on the road? But I, and Schneidermann, born poor. And we took to… to ascension, elevation, loft. Me, after or now they say post, Kreisler and Flesch, Elman and Huberman, Menuhin… great violinists, as liner or program go, of the interwar years, before the Cadenza of History. Me too, in those days, a marketable prodigy, short pants so my thing would stick out the leg when I sat… so I stood, and played. Szigeti, the same trajectory: Budapest, Royal Academy or by then the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, then to Berlin and Busoni, who taught him music, took him from the flash (in the pan) of display pieces, the schlocky salon melodies, prodigy repetoire, stock-in-trade… and taught him what I know: worse Greek, bad Latin, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, enough Russian, this language, musical French, Italian, some Czech/Slovak/Polish from the Russian… I’ve read, I’ve listened. I am the height. Hear O’ Israel, in the original. But this is less about listening than me, which might be the tragic flaw in music, this music. I’m more important than you—you think I paid to listen to myself play? I’ve been around, gotten around… and take it from me: the earth is round…, a tympani and who’ll beat it? I’ve eaten poulet frittes in Paris, sipped kaffe im Berlin, gulaš in Prague, borscht in Moscow, won’t talk Russian no more no more no more no more of this


cadenza nested in a greater cadenza and me just a flourish… I’ve often described myself to myself as a soup-oriented personage and it pleases me to think of myself thinking of myself as that and further… THE CHILDREN’S CHORUS

O’, so I see they’ve schlepped in my kinder. Subway’d them to midtown. How many of you have been here before? Fixed the place up nice didn’t they? I have as many as Bach, I think… Wilhelm F. and C.P.E. and Johann G.B. and by Anna Magdalena: Elisabeth and Johann C.F. and Johann C., all grands of old Hans Bach who had a son, no joke, hand to God, named Lips, died all of 1620. But mine, all they do is give lip. And so, hello there! Yes, I hear you. Amiel and Ariel or. What’s your name, no don’t tell me. Nathaniel and Shimon, and by Sumi… Akira, now Akira what’s the new one’s name? Huh? Repeat it for me, slow, hearing’s not what it used to be. Akira Goldberg. Lord. That’s my alphabet wherein G in followed by A, the enharmonic note, G#/Ab in the middle and middles inside there, sort of a light blue phenomenon. How have you all been, how’s life been treating you and no, I won’t come to my senses, no I won’t come down and be reasonable. How’s the new gig, Joshua? Treating you well? And the wife. I hear through to remain anonymous socialites of the Upper East variety that you have three children now, so I’m multiplying as a grandparent. But how far do you reasonably expect my love to spread? Like creamed cheese over warmisch pumpernickel and I need a nickel, a dime spared, I need everything I can get my grubby Jew hands on, hahaha, the nerve, the nerve. My love, it doesn’t even touch down to my toes, let alone palms on earth. I used to be dressed in short pants— what do you know of that? You’ve all had it all too much. Answer is nothing. Schneidermann would answer the door nude, a faddish cold leftovers Austro-Hungarian thing, nature idea, but still? Unembarrassed, natural as anything, he’d admit you in. That was my best performance, one Neue York afternoon, me and him at his piano, her, an upright as he, believe it. Way the gehenna and gone uptown. Not a piano reduction, even on his reduced piano, but he nailed down everything… The orchestra—which has slowly dispersed behind me, all except for the baby timpanist who seems to find me amusing, don’t you?—well, Schneidermann held your whole woodwind section in his right ring finger… unadorned, unmarried. So, the woodwind section, years of training, of discipline, fine honing and for the oboes, reed insanity, the money that bought them, you, the leisure to fine hone—because there are no geniuses here— he, Schneidermann, had all that above the knuckle. How could you—dispersed backstage, into cabs or subways and away, statements to the press, next door for teas to watch me on the screen, gossip—how could you expect to live? If you wanted to? If you weren’t staying on this thing…. I’m sweating too much, sweating on you, sorry… if you weren’t staying on this road because there hasn’t yet been a turn-off, a welcomed detour? Like the road— if it could be called a road—I took from Lublin to Vilnius… and I hitched and walked that, to my first lesson with Schneidermann… no, truth, with a famous violinist, a virtuoso, who would bleed for him… and there I roomed with the virtuoso’s nephew (to remain nameless) in one room and studied in the afternoon with Schneidermann, in his studio like India… Moved from the virtuoso to the musician, switched studios (something you never do!), declared alleigance to music over shit, meaning over gesture, and there was only one among us who was not a monkey, who wasn’t a retarded child, dead in childhood, reincarnated as a spider monkey, a lemming—you ever encounter one of those?—for sins too numerous and too grievous to apologize for just now, atone, repent, or so it seemed, then. Busoni to

Szigeti as Schneidermann to me: You Must Be Man Enough To Realize Your Own Mistakes! … it sounds better in the original. You must be genius enough to claim, to believe, to know your mistakes are better than what you do correctly! (The faithleap of the great soloists: Hitler, Stalin, Caesar, Alexander…) And this the essential change, metamorphosis if you like, from Prodigy to Man. Innocence, understand, brooks no mistakes. Your sister broke Bubbe’s dish (not you, Leah, my life…) even if you don’t have sisters, are an only child and you have concert to think about in three hours for rich patrons your father wants to know better. Mistakes, understand, make it all more correct. So, let’s set up the dialectic now, indulge me: Ysaye parted the waters of Joachim (expression) and de Sarasate (technique), united it, according to Flesch (my flesh was dead, or not born yet), by making vibrato, adam’s apple shake, an essential component of style… vibrato, an artful inaccuracy. Kreisler shook it out, further, using vibrato, employing it (at minimum-wage) even in fast passage work. And now, with my arms and hands and fingers giving me problems, carpal tunnel vision I have and arthritic putz, everything hurting, I can’t even be a retarded monkey anymore. My

move? … great steaming cups of tea so hot you’d never touch them to get near them arrayed around her bed to come in and clean for her, the girl whoever she was he, Schneidermann, paid for cleaning, and, I admit, the girl I paid for my first experiences… children, do you like to hear that? But later I just cleaned her room in exchange for favours, by then just a quick toothsome suck, and to clean the whole Schneidermann household—whichever then Mrs. Schneidermann and her daughters were lazy good-for-nothings and weren’t even awed by his…—and to clean the whole thing but to never, ever, ever, never… these were Schneidermann’s instructions, the only words he ever spoke to the Friedas, whom I did mit Holz, to: never, ever, ever, never dust the piano or its bench, which, the bench, of course doubled as his, Schneidermann’s, toilet. And sick… and I think the both of them sick and with teacups, handles bursting through windows to stumbleblock passersby and shards and the street… all European girls slept much (Rilke and…) and were always ill, their natural state—what gigs these girls had! … like the scam Schneidermann’s neighbour was working, a man who was cheating on his wife with his cleaning lady, the man was a civil servant of some sort who

arms hurting and my wrists and my hands and my pointer, my index, my fuck you finger and my ring and my pinkie and all their joints and knuckles ache… and so I have to remove myself from the zoo before all the bad reviews begin flowing. Before my chordophone’s taken away from me, repo’d, impounded and all… I can take a stand… from the first violin section most probably. Rests. Shut up Stephen!— I always hated you because you look too much like your mother, but without the breasts… and what a tailpiece on her too, when she was young. Not like my Frieda, who she just slept all day—this was my first woman, the woman who cleaned Schneidermann’s house, or who was supposed to clean it but never did… she just slept, and drank huge cups of scalding, steaming hot tea… largening teacups so big day after day they’d hide her face, so big you couldn’t, after a month of the illness which killed her, you couldn’t get into her room… was as if the teacup was blocking ingress and egress, and the heat. She had an important job in the Schneidermann house—which she never did—and yes, Marc, I know I’ve told this story a thousand and one times… she was supposed to be able to differentiate between butcherpaper to be thrown out, and butcherpaper which had useful musical sketches… and, Jesus, she must have thrown out the equivalent of twenty-one sonatas, and I don’t know why I pick that number… ppp… The heel of the bow, right here, is called the frog and that’s what she called me and I don’t know why… it’s maybe because I betrayed her for her younger sister who was hired when she, Frieda, got sick, to clean Schneidermann’s house— or maybe her, the younger sister, was the one named Frieda… who remembers at this re-

knows and he told his wife he was out late at night taking piano lessons from Schneidermann, two-three in the morning, soontime, time in another dimension, the past, and this man paid Schneidermann to keep up his cover, paid him, supported Schneidermann and all Schneidermann had to do was to play piano late, which he did anyway, and it never annoyed his neighbor, the man’s wife, because she thought that it was her husband taking his lessons, shows what she knew, and Schneidermann, though the man didn’t ask him to, would say to the man’s wife when he happened upon her in the street, You know Frau Whatsoever, your husband’s really coming along. His Verbinski sonata is quite accomplished considering how long he’s been playing.—which is funny one because it’s not true and two because there was never a composer named Verbinski, Schneidermann made it up, or at least no famous composer known to me as Verbinski, and I would know, I would think, and no sonata not numbered Opus Zero. But one time this man and his wife were at a society party and the wife of the host asked this man’s wife to ask her husband to entertain them on the spinet and she asked and he had to say to her, an excuse later repeated to Schneidermann the next Wednesday when he paid him and they played chess, which Schneidermann always won even when he handicapped himself without one of the rook’s pawns and he, Schneidermann, always playing Schwarz… he, the man, said, I’m sorry, but my teacher, Herr Schneidermann, has forbidden me to play in public until such time as he feels that I’m adequately prepared or somesuch ding like that, and you know I’m so eager, but Teacher must be respected and they, He knows what’s right,

and the man and Schneidermann laughed, while the wife and hostess were disappointed and apparently said as much to the man, this most probably tone-deaf man, said, What a disappointment!—and Schneidermann’s reputation as an eccentric was only heightened… and of course this man went on shtupping his cleaning lady, not Maria, at some hotel or at her, the maid’s, blind and deaf grandmother’s house, until he got syphilis and Schneidermann was anyway never invited to these parties because once he was caught at one early in his career, in the linen closet at an after-concert party thrown by a real live from the grim fairy tales Princess and also the toilet… could never control his outbursts… but this isn’t for polite company such as my Leah here… THE CHILDREN’S CHORUS

But you remember my sins, don’t you, Leah dear? Yes, I’ve noticed you out there, too much makeup as always and your gold’s blinding me. Shayna was the prodigy too and girl prodigies sell, I tell you, me, my daughter, our daughter, Leah’s daughter… the grand… and now in later life, a failure who raises funds for what or whom? Leah Weiss now, and who doesn’t wanna Lay a Weiss? Who cares? O’, the perfection of childhood, the perfect innocence, maturation then… maturation is improvisation, Shayna, if you’re listening…, growing up… but women, forget it. It takes a man to know his mistakes, to love them… those are my true wives and I’ve evidently paid my alimony, must make a note, which one, to thank my manager, but no time now. Leah, how’s husband # one thousand and nine treating you? Flat daughters and sharp mother… O’ but he’s here too, the husband numbered late opuswise, slinking, disappearing towards the back of the house, fire exits are illuminated even with the house lights on, off, on, or just the spot on me… in my house… it’s my goddamned house, understand, you spoiled little squirts of dreck, you shitkopfs and ingrates and Philistines. Jesus, let’s ask him, get his opinion, yes, why the f not? Okay, are you, Doctor Trocki, and how have you been feeling, and have you been feeling, lately? Might I borrow your prescription pad for a moment, a rest or two? I’d promise I’ll return it, but you adopted my daughter— no, you, shhhhhhhhhhhhh, ppppppppppppp, hear the dynamic markings, mit Dämpfer too, you—quite high-nosed, she, this one, yes? But is she in possession of any talent whatso? No, I wasn’t around long enough to find out. And there are no encores, ja? Listen, listen, listen… I almost fell, no, no help, you just stay… I’m going to die, I want to die, free, alone. A. Lone. Here’s my handkerchief, can you catch, like a dove. Noah in his ark, watching golf on the screen wide raven’s wingspan. Reincarnation’s a good moneymaker, wish I thought of that. I should’ve been a rabbi, a priest, a monk, mystic, hermit. Yes, yes, boo and heckle those few remaining adherents of this dying Yeshiva, crumple up those programs and throw them at me—I’m a good catch for those goodly hearkened days of old of short centerfield. Instead, I apply pressure to allow sounds, fingers on the tightrope and Saint Szigeti, patron of no one and nothing, working the German circus, the Hungarian summer theatre troupe… once in a Hungarian year, we once joked, would what happen? come to pass? 1913 and Szigeti gets TB, has to spend three Swiss years taking the cure… and now we have the disease of Perlman and Zuckerman and whomever, Kremer maybe or, I don’t know… don’t even listen anymore, my landsmen. And so, working the shitgigs, there wasn’t that ascension, the seamless uninterruption between Szigeti’s prodigy and adult careers. You understand that like unlike Jascha, Mischa, Sascha, he never appeared as an adult under his prodigy name: Joska, but always, and don’t you forget it, as Joseph Szigeti. Knowing Schneidermann, a modern composer whatever that means, bit of the infant terrible to him, made me hate that prodigy shit, discontent with standard rep. and so on. The idea’s to intuitively get to the heart of the piece, the heart of the heart of the heart, a passage, a fucking note, as no one else, and you need to be able to circus it up, need to be open to improvising, experiment, to always approach fresh, new, unorthodox fingerings like me and Schneidermann’s which wife? Fle-

19


sch had warned long time ago of the monotony obtaining in thoughtless applications to all musics of an exaggerated vibrato, improper, nauseous stuff. “Blatantly sensuous, artificially inflated rather than naturally matured, spirit of our times…” Szell writing to Szigeti: “Any subtle function of the wrist and fingers of the right hand is practically unknown to them. They have never been told that the bow has to articulate the music.” Szigeti letting others speak for him, the inveterate interpreter… am I an interpreter or just a memoriser? I’m full of rage, fact. I’m brilliant and worthless, fact. Unorthodox bowings heighten expression, fact. Artur Schnabel: “Safety last!” Szigeti, fucking prevenant: “The urbane, smooth style (of young violinists) … has no doubt been conditioned and moulded by respect, not to say fear (fucking say it!), of the microphone and the monitor in the recoding booth.” And so today: everyone engineered, parted out, mechanical, like wearing lubed prophylactics on each finger of your left hand. O’, but Music itself is so rigorously strange itself that there’s no such thing as strange music. And music, infinite, universetuning music, has failed me. Why am I ever holding this ridiculous log? For the fire, this prop? RETURN TO PROP DEPT. Not anymore, too late… I, now, could just about afford this, and then I’d be broke, chapter eleven, all I own. And then I could just wander around with it, stand on roofs, fiddling away for the insomniacs. Yes, I’m a terrorist, you’re my hostages, but I’m the only victim. Tell me this isn’t educational for you, no? A deepening experience? A character-builder? Some advice for the departed violinists? Become failed violinists if you aren’t already, failed violinists better known as violists. There’s absolution in failure, strange success, metaphysical redemption, ask Judas. And as violists they should also give it up. Stop even listening to the stuff. Grow earlids. Détaché yourselves, non legato. Who likes it anyway? Who finds this dreck enjoyable? No one—it’s all pretension, a put-on. And I play better and better the less and less I have to lose—and you don’t even know what’s good anymore… I have nothing to lose—what the fuck do you know? You schmucking rubes, lick my ass, no one else will lie with me alone. I don’t own a plot. I had three, sold them, settlement, divorces—what is involved in obtaining a divorce from one’s self, ask my lawyer out there, tell him to begin billing, in his box, season tickets, a subscription for those who don’t own mitts, because if you did, I’d pitch this on out, let a schvartze run home with it. I hate myself, and you, everyone, who not? No cues, I’m doing this without music, I said and you can talk to your friends afterwards, and grandkids, squeeze-boxed and medicine-breathed, and say in a punta d’arco/á la pointe/an der Spitze voice—opposite being at the frog, me, on a Lilly… al tallone/au talon/am Frosch says it best that I was conceived at a music lesson… that my father was mother’s pupil, and then the quick wedding, no spread to speak of and no, no, no music, with a disgraced rabbi officiat—

mitterated upon my trousers again, drip, drop of water torture—lucky I listen to the old nonadage: semper ubi sub ubi—and it’s dripping down to pool in my handmade alligator leather shoes, squash squish squish, and no that’s not my age, it’s my fear of—jeté… You might wonder to yourselves if I’d written something, if I’ve prepared what’s known of as a prepared statement. Well, I have, here it is, in one of these pockets somewhere, on Grand stationary, one of these—no, this one’s not slit yet… so I didn’t pocket the handkerchief as much as just steal it and pretend to blow my schnozz out into it, expel my sinus-matter, sinus-stoffe… but it’s not a new tux (I’m not that permissive), it’s old concert dress, hospital black—… or here, in one of these interior breast pockets, the slit one, here it is crimpled and crumpled up… and woe is me, I spilled

washed up! Get it? Come on and heckle—now that the law and the Law’s in on it. Get some overripe Joisey fresch tomatoes in here from the bodega on the corner (I’m tired) and some jujubeans again I’m asking and how many times? I’m tired. Throw in your badges and your bullets from their guns. Where is…? I tried teaching myself Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, and I’ve got one word for someone who doesn’t exist in any form: ∆εοθ meaning God, He who parted the waters and I’m at sea, like I was in steerage practicing fingerings on a length of rigging rope while Schneidermann… with whom I’d been touring and then the visas came through and into New York, New York under the sign of Lazarus’ metal ice-cream cone. Yes, I’m all washed up, wet. I’m a Marinor, entering, wet, just trying to survive the soliloquy, pacing and

early scotch on it and late coffee…

fretting my how long’s it been?—a few hours now… it’s almost… is it? It’s after midnight already…? I’m tired. Happy Tomorrow and No Returns on the Day! My American language is great, isn’t it? My sixth language, how beautiful it is! Aside, yes, I’m self-speaking staged directions… Here I am, onstage, apace, pacing and not fretting on a violin with my skull in my hand, kindled thoughts… my skull, my father’s skull, my brother’s, Schneidermann’s… everyone’s, all fractured, in fragments and krazy-glued together, again, the light, towards the innerlight. All eyes on me and someone coughs in the cheap seats, where the women should sit and children, my children to be seen and not heard a peep from. To the wings, take to the wings on a prayer—but from me you expect from Armbands to Zyklon… For this I survived. Yes, yes and yes, I raise myself up onto my feet balls and bow.

THE CHILDREN’S CHORUS

Is the son coming up, which one?—everyone have cafeteria coffee on hand, I’ll bring the salt, yes. Dina laughs, beautiful girl, shayna punim and all babble to you. What can I do for you? Dina dear and if you weren’t my daughter I’d be seeing you after the show in my suite… but that’s not couth, no… I’d pluck you pizzicato, those nipples—I shouldn’t… Are you still dating that schmucky lawyer and what do you see in him?—certainly not me. And you talk in such high natural harmonics, I forgot. No, daddy will not come down and hold you, though he wants to. And why not a policeman for you, a fine husband?—there’re many here today. No, not appropriate—I have work to do… what do you think you, not you, pay me for… pay for me. And now let us praise the firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel who have all seen fit to assemble here tonight to coax me down off this perch… this frog smoking on his perch. I salute you gentlemen and I hear women out there, am I right? Don’t be afraid, but don’t be too hasty. Allow me my allotted time, until the union quits or gets time and a half which is impossible even under Einstein—allow me my seventy plus years of age, remember that to yourselves… And, yes, I’ve

20

I leave my entire estate to the man in Row AA, seat 100. That’s the last seat in the last row of the hall, cheapest ticket—sorry standing room people, only I need someone respectable as an executor, someone who feels passionate about something. And that’s as far as I got. Do I really mean to commit suicide tonight? Answers, later, to follow, at the champagne reception, again: save your stubs. Quick, someone, some clown run from the wings and shpritz me with some seltzer water. How much for those seats, hahaha? They really soak you in here. Come on. you’re not picking up on it? You’re supposed to yell: You’re all wet!, that’s one half of the house, and the other half’s supposed to shout, after the first half finished: You’re all

Aside: I’m also contemplating a bust of Homer, who antiquity deliberately represented to us as being blind. Another lie! To emphasize poetry’s music over its written down form, an Orpheus, the union of poetry and music before writing it down tore it asunder. You wanna talk epic, let’s talk epic, but we haven’t the time… you see, not see, but… I’m busting a contemplation of Homer, that’s it! That’s the ticket!—or an interpretation of Homer, because all I am and ever was and will never be again is an interpreter… And even with all these tongues I speak only one language—the language you speak to yourself and only you understand and which is, in the final reckoning, you, yourself. Standing alone, that’s what Orpheus was, the only Romantic among the Classicists—the man who stood up there and had the beitzim to say something, to shatter the old things and have the hubris to think, screw you Ecclesiastes, there is something new under your sun, Apollo’s… (The mistake of every soloist, initial motif of the Cadenza of History I’m only a germ of…) I mean, Orpheus made art a religion and religion an art, and that was something, even if you only pay lip service to it as I’m—I mean, I was born, was born in a sanatorium or sanitarium, I forget which, under no signs, or not, just into a mudpit and my parents aspired, dreamed—you don’t dream anymore… the idyll doesn’t exist anymore and do you even have a goddamned clue what that word means? It means—but they’re getting restless and you’re the only ones left. They’ve all left, good shepherded out, is that it? saved the embarrassment? But wait, you know, and it’s an old sawing, that Shakespeare also had no conception of time, or timing and… Aside: The house manager, hello Jeremy, there too, do you like my jeremiad?—he’s breathing over his padded shoulder saying to hurry it along, miming to me in the chironomy of cantillation, arms flapping wildly this way and that and the roll sign, hands tumbling down a hill and now the cutthroat sign—I’ll be executed, O’ goody!, and that’s largely par for the coursings… though I’ll take my sweet time. I’m writing this into the score as I go. It’s going to be dawn soon enough, soon enough in this winter of my discontinence and incontinence and I’ll die now—is that fine by you? okay? You catch the decorations going up and the tree? The baum-movement? Makes me sick. Ice-skating season, season of ski injuries, flu, and I’m not going to traumatize anyone out there, am I? Tchaik was a suicide too, the pederast, and Mozart was short too and short Stravinsky who wanted to be Mozart but failed—but who has the patience for these symmetries? And the idea which follows the death of symmmetry: this is unplayable! And then when it gets popular: O’, sign me the fuck up, make my mark on the bottom line, gee, I guess I’ll learn it, get it under the old fingers, whiz. I commission my mouth and it’s delivering, right? To the amazing, terrible and fanatic etc. accuracy of ever improving recording equipment—hear a women fart in another hemisphere—and the difficulty of achieving a consistent violin sound night from goddamned night after goddamned night, transfigured, have together (recording, sound) encouraged a mode of teaching which emphasizes an all-day every-day vibrato, intense, dazzling lefty fingerwork, mal, and uniform, even, powerful bowing. But who cares anyway? Too many goddamned privileges. The world taught me and I heard people in Romania, ‘round Sighet, Satmer stomping grounds, play better than that, faster too. This style wins laurels and makes green money


greener with envy for other money already made, wins competitions and so here, in this town, damned be the dead Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay the bitch (poetic justice too long delayed)—teachers of too many of today’s young virtuosos, fucking Asians with no explosion, no real immolation… of the soul and laugh at me, but hey. I never had a stand partner, never played ensemble, not even quartet to sit-in at a daughter’s wedding, and not because I don’t like people (I do and I don’t) or the literature (Beethoven! Bartok! Shostakovich! Even some young who they think are Europeans who don’t exist no more no more no more no more!) … but who cares? I got only me to worry about and who has time for anyone else? My part’s always nailed, to a Cross. And then the ad for work I read in what newspaper yesterday? A young, virtuous pianist seeks work… Yes, virtuous, and God Bless You, you break my fucking hard heart. Hire him and let him shtup a bride’s maid, the bride, prima nocte for such yearning, need. Especially now when everything’s so much a drama that there’s no drama left anymore? Proscenium arch, the wedding canopy, chuppah to the coreligionists out there—let’s get hitched before I off myself, whack myself, whack-off myself. Whaddy’a say Leah, give me a second go at it?—you look great, and with Dina and all… who? No Jeremy, leave her be. She’s a mother of my children, I’m pretty sure and pretty anyway. Sad to say sort of my mother too—you do the math. And listen: music has nothing to do whatsoever with math—that’s just the intellectuals and the Classicists trying to outeunuch each other. To resolve or not to resolve is the question and everything else is dreck, pure and simple. And no drama—or flattened drama like a Russian Orthodox religious icon—because no one’s recording this, no one’s, no reality made less so through its presentation… the entropic appetite. No microphones or cameras allowed in and thank you for that, no little red lights to squint away from and no one knowing from this spectacle except the initiated. Consider, beasts of the field, yourselves, lucked. You’re all I can make out, even if I squint. And I do, have always done, a lot of squinting, my share, my share, always made out. Should I kill the lights before I kill myself? Can’t… Okay, no, I understand, you’ve made yourself heard. Aren’t democracies great? Excepting the orchestra. Though I prefer benevolent monarchies, but some positions are just so hard to fill, to attempt, alike the scissors position I’ll never get to with Maria tonight that won’t exist for me… some sedatives, killers of pain please, and some padding and maybe the straightest jacket the divine tailor has ever cut and there was man in my village, a tailor and, clad… To Himself: These pneumas are getting to me, the active and the passive you know, at my age, to myself and Schneidermann smoked his whole life through like me, setting fire to his nose and lips—apocalypse is a pack of lips—for insurance purposes, Jewish lightning, no just… and the pants he wore his father made walking advertisements across the tush, Schneidermann told me, so when he sat up to take a bow after playing a prodigy recital or concert his, across his tush big red letters read: L. Schneidermann, Tailor. Best Pants in the Ganze Welt or something like that in the mamaloshen. Forgive him his eccentricities and idiosyncrasies and whaton. Schneider the Tailor man, the Taylor man too, but not—more in the figurative sense, untranslatable: frieren wie ein Schneider, even with these lights bearing down, or as in aus dem Schneider sein and I, I’m finding my way out, my out, having quit and though I, I try, to put in fifteen-twenty minutes on the exercise bicycle in the mornings, sweating with the rag like a tallis draped over my, scoliosis—know the word? … the tailor was just stooped and he could have licked the spreads between his toes that was the size of his hump, the old jokes sacrificed at the hor and the tor, but you should’ve heard him sing ever Friday! Sirota style in his Warsaw Ghetto period, three smokestacks a day. Do you believe? I haven’t even gotten to the most important memories of Schneidermann, yet. I must modulate— would you like to modulate with me? I’ll be ever so gentle. I can also play the viola—I thought I would fail but don’t let that give you any hope whatsoever, imparts noding, and the

piano, though not as well as, nodding… but that’s an extra charge, supplementary—you didn’t pay for that. They used to stay the same, not me. My audiences are getting older! Greying, fattening. Paraded around to the halls of the world and auditoriums. The Auditorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, that’s where I’m reborn, church groups and colleges, university groups and later master classing in their lecture halls, these amalgamations of wackjobs and weirdos ingathering from the aesthetic whore diaspora as part of an annual subscription series, and me cranking out the same hits every time, over and over and over again, windup musicbox, mechanical bird, etc. I’m a memory machine, Schneidermann’s performing retarded masturbating monkey, symbol with the cymbals, insipid and hallelujah so! But only one thing happened in my life: the violin, early years listening to the town klezmers, then up late in Berlin or Paris listening to older violinists on 78s and, at first, admittedly, this can be a bit unpleasant, shocking. We’ve grown fond or expectant of that thick throb, the wall of sound between ear and violin, us and music. Once that’s knocked down (walls are for knocking down) the violinist seems naked, vulnerable, weak and maybe, yes, effete, impotent, ineffectual, light in the shoes, less of a man… in the rippling mirror, media circus distorts. But it’s the still small voice! Me? I masturbated on trains. Not music. On planes. In my long life. In limousines. The same twelve tones over and over again— related to whom, Schönberg, your two beloved Nazis? Nothing after, no children and grandchildren I love. No anything. No music, really. On boats. Music was me, ego—why do we have this word? Even on the boat that brought me and Schneidermann here, vying for who gets what lifeboat when and why, what merit. Yes, this is a soliloquy now… I’m the Ham in Hamlet, not quite kosher as Vineland Poultry down where an uncle I had, the Egg King, and you haven’t yet even begun throwing the eggs. Schneidermann never ate eggs, but I love them, and, as King, I have a silver crown watered down with other metals too, as everyone is… I should be listened to as a great lieder singer and I’ll lied you to water and there you will drink and can I get the water, saltwater, I asked for, or maybe not, almost three or four hours ago? I’ve stopped time, but it’s 3 AM already, is it? … three hours past the whiching hour when usually I’d be passed out on the floor of my hotel room, heating full on, while watching a pornographic movie on mute, reading Wagner and eating lactose intolerant ice cream. But no, it’s too hot inside, for your lives, have stopped and nothing exists, offstage. Only on. Realize how much we’ve lost, you’ve lost! How the violin’s range has been reduced, but who cares? your range too in the day and age when you think everything’s open to you, and it’s not, openness only meaning less. Less to rail against as the cattlecars pass, rolling stock downtown. Vibrato under control, and nothing else, though. And Schneidermann taking a shit in a piano, onto the soundboard, a bonewhiter at some party, a duchess, feet on the keys, tapping out Beethoven’s Ninth, pants around his ankles, the melody, the fraternal muzak, sell-out, his turds vibrating sympathetically some strings somewhere and the crowd shocked. This is not what an artist does (if he does, he’s a fake), but this is what art itself does, is. No, this is an apology, not for him, but for me. Cause I’ve never done anything (except this, and this is a pity, pitiful) never done anything real, huge, exploding, aaaaaaahhh… Yes, an applause-beg. A bow to convention. Still—suspend your disbelieving ears—this commandment is forever, time directed within. This moment has inflated out, bloated out, to burst the proscenium arch. I’ve always had fine woman eyebrows. This is all an aside. I’ve read my stage directions. Abraham storms stage right, undertone, except my name’s not Abraham. They’re so detailed, aren’t they? They become more and more detailed with each passing line. I would go to bed early. That’s what he said, Schneidermann. But there’s work to do, to be done, to do you, work making the man, the man dying and the work living on, to remake, fakes… So, the confession: it’s time for me to say, who and what I am: no one. A man who didn’t even have a halfway decent opportunity to die. A

survivor who survived survival for what? For this? You’re all utter morons, unctuous bastards. When a character dies, and here I’m Homerisch, he’s described as the son of someone, and I’ve read it in the original German. Is there a crown my size? Can I borrow it? I’m having mine blocked. Money’s in the hat band to the back hung on the rack in my dressing room—save the redeeming ticket left in your other head—along with a will for my manager’s eyes only, stipulating that guy whatever your name is and I don’t want to know in Row AA, Seat 100 and some vodka and slivovitz there on the vanity, appropriate word, going back to my roots and forsaking the scotch and three encrusted monogrammed handkerchiefs containing what could conceivably be three more children or more because… children, my seed’s still strong have any doubts and I should tie my tongue in a bowtie now, before… which makes me look like a monkey anyway and so I am that I am, which I’ve also read and heard read to me in the original and could repeat to you if you cared enough. But accents, accents. No, instead you’ll let me go or make me young or let me young or make me go, but not just yet, langsam, wait up. I took your ear strangely, and I’ll give it back if you’ll refund me my deposit back in full and then round me with a sleep. We all heard and then we wept when we remembered. Exit and Exeunt and we’re not over, yet. Just let me take a bow and then we’ll get down to the business of brass tacks, a microindustry in serious trouble of late and for what reason? Why does everything require your pledge-drive generous support? Never forget the free tote bag. Why can’t someone or thing just succeed honestly in this world, on his or her or its own merit? This shithouse world, this shithouse universe with its shithouse string coursing through on down from the nut. Like me—I can’t play this thing… you can’t peg this on me, cause I slept my way to the top. Want to die, not slow Yiddish death, 2nd Ave., but fast, immediate, must rid first… and this goes… God, I want to die, die, die, die, die and then. I’ve smashed this into, this violin—and this should be a Yiddish or at least a Yinglish word—into smithereens. A waste? Worth priceless, don’t own it. Stick of a bow and snapped over my knee. Why not? Gasp. Vomit. Not mine to waste. I’ve turned Asian women into observant Jews, I’m sick. Jappish they speak. Mushi-mushi, is here Sarah and the like. I’ve watered the wine and they get gone so easy, Jesus. I’ve made mistakes, left out notes, which ones? slowed down metronome markings, freely interpreted difficult passages and so what? They are what made me. Splinters at my feet. I am them and they are me and I’m a mistake then and what’re you going to do about it? I’m a fraud and that pisses you off cause you paid for this and own my albums and now you have to radically revise your cocktail/dinnertable opinions. I’ve had my difficult passage, and now I want to die. I’ve smashed my violin which isn’t mine. Dead. So approach. I am worthless and the whole world has mislaid its mental apparatus and lost the instructions and the markings and no one knows what’s good and what’s bad anymore and what would it matter anyway if they did and Schneidermann killed himself maybe or maybe not by allowing himself to go insane, drowing in shit, history and his concerto, which I haven’t explained yet, will never be properly finished, again, and no movement in the future, understand? No direction, staged or not, no next scene, next waiting waiting waiting and then what that I’ve lost my marbles, Dina, you swallowed and I was so nervous I sucked it out of you, and it was the shooter, swirled glass of three colours, which reminds me… And so, now, the bar set has come so low as anyone can and should probably trip on it and it’s time, the time set firm in its foundations—O’ yes, it’s in the tobe-evened score—for you to approach the royal presence you badges, bluemen, courtiers from the empire most foreign, empire of decorum, empire of politesse, empire of fat and happiness and applause on the palm, light and like we’re at tennis when this involves… and death, the slowest death I won’t stand… or the death where everything’s going to resolve in the end… you gottesdamned Classicists who don’t even know what Classicism is, resolution and not hanging, tying up loose ends, com-

edy, tragedy masks without ears, frayed veins in fluted marble… no, the Romantics not an opera of soapflakes sneezed at and the winter flu-season, frozen sick like me, won’t live to water another hayfever season, subscription, sold-out to companies for clients or to impress whomever, an excuse to get dressed-up, and then the redux, Christmas in July down the shore, redeye and allergies, sniffles, sneezes and sinuses dancing the hora behind the pupils I hate until anymore, which anymore is a Romantic idea, not now, here, bound and contained, the demark of whoever He is of space, of message, of fulfillment, here in the nuncstans and all that. So don’t obtain permission, get clearance, don’t, come in, rush in, where everyone fears to tread. O’ Schneidermann, why hast thou forsaken me, for whom and what’s in it for you? Verily, let’s split the difference. Drop a gossamer piano on me now, or God’s turd, here on me now in the anus mundi. Pucker up and listen to me, ye, who are left here and haven’t been here before because the State doesn’t pay you adequate salaries. I propose raises all around and all the precincts get a night at the opera every week with presentation of badge and bullets and gun but what good would that do you utter retards? Instead, home asleep vide soaped-up operas, lathered in fat, and then the hang for the next installment or else, within the span, closure, the arch completed, arches of globes spinning in your sockets. Let me show you what I know now: lalala… me on the morning news, tomorrow, and so let us praise a stationed break in the way of sorrows and advertisement for some Thomas Taylor, whom the Americans (Emerson most notable among them) read and not the Europeans because who knows why except why: Thy fleep perpetual burfts the vivid folds, By which the foul, attracting body holds:

I’m tired. C’mon: How tired are you? And her vivid folds… So tired you should kill me now cause I’m too afraid to do it myself, dream, too afraid as all poets are, as all artists are, as all prophets are, all afraid of not being a martyr. Someone betray me besides myself! Someone martyr me! Make me unto Orpheus, Jesus, Myself—someone, anyone, please! I’ll make it worth your while while I can’t have much time left… you’re coming… yes… come, don’t walk, run, run to embrace a lost brother who stole the age’s birthright and you’ll bear the gifts of silence. I mean you all have guns, so use them, won’t you!? A big boom, a kettledrum, the firetruck New York, New York sound and the anvil of Mahler, not-so merry schvartzesmith… but, wait, no, we haven’t even gotten to Mahler yet, so wait, hold-up, Schneidermann was eclipsed, but Alma, you know the idea of striving? whom he slept… Now, no gag, allow a man his dignity, yes, by the shoulders, and dignified… Alright, three steps back and bow, there are some things left unsaid, unevoked, are called art. And what can we realistically expect of ourselves? Nothing from nothing, lowest rung of the angel’s ladder and we’ve lost our footing the bill. And so we scream. Everyone, together. And Jesus H., Rilke too! Apologise—where’s my memory? Sei immer tot in Eurydike—, singender steige, preisender steige moment zurück in den reinen Bezug… And wait…, no… So now lead me out. I’ll never remember it all, but I will lead the processional, up the red carpet for my coronation… crown of stars not back through the wings, no, under the balconies and down the centre aisle, and out the front door into the winter of my what-tent? New doors, aren’t they? Yes, I expected them waiting for me, and not everyone enjoy the reception and you are all working overtimes forgiven. And yes, is it snowing out? whose dandruff? Soon… soon, soon the lit air.

An excerpt from The Quorum, forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press, 2005. 

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In Memoriam: My Favourite Dead People of 2003 Travis Jeppesen People die all the time. It’s nothing unique. Life is harsh, suffering inevitable, death the only constant. Last year sucked for a number of reasons, but especially because it saw the loss of two of America’s greatest songwriters, Johnny Cash and Wesley Willis, who died within a few days of each other (September 12 and August 21, respectively). Beyond the fact that their deaths leave a gaping hole in two distinct strands of American songwriting—the one encompassing the renegade godfearing outlaw mythology, the other the raw embodiment of outsiderdom in a cruelly judgmental society—the two seem to have little in common. Johnny Cash was famous as the Man in Black; Wesley Willis was famous to a much smaller network, the so-called underground, as a big fat Black Man with chronic schizophrenia. Both men were incredibly prolific. Cash recorded over 1,500 songs, as did Willis, who, despite his comparatively young age (40 at the time of his death), left behind over 50 albums. The critics were often a lot harsher on Willis than they were on Cash. Some of them weren’t willing to take his music seriously, since his songwriting/recording method mostly relied on the demonstration button on his Ca-

A Quarter-Pounder has 28 grams of fat Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Wheaties, breakfast of champions

In addition to Willis’s flair for rendering the quotidian into the extraordinary through both his music and his drawings, Willis also paid tribute to his favourite bands in his music, even scoring a minor hit with “Alanis Morissette,” from his album Pound On Fabian Road Warrior: You are a rock star You are a rock legend to the max You can really knock it out You can really wupp a horse’s ass Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette You are a rocking maniac You are a singing hyena You are a rock star in Jesus’s name You can really rock Saddam Hussein’s ass

sio keyboard, which he’d sing over in a loud monotone voice. But it was the greatness of his lyrics that legitimised his stature as a serious artist. A typical song consists of four spoken lines declaiming Willis’s opinion on the subject, with the song title sung loudly four times in the chorus. To top it all off, each Willis song comes complete with an advertising slogan tacked on at the end. Let’s take a moment to admire the stark simplicity, as well as the ease displayed in mastering the comical rejuvenation of a presumably mundane subject in “Rock and Roll McDonalds,” one of Willis’s more famous songs:

Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette

McDonalds is the place to rock It is a restaurant where they buy food to eat It is a good place to listen to the music People flock here to get down to the rock music

Taco Bell, make a run for the border

Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds McDonalds will make you fat They serve Big Macs They serve Quarter-Pounders They will put pounds on you Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds Rock and Roll McDonalds McDonalds hamburgers are the worst They are worse than Burger King A Big Mac has 26 grams of fat

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You are my sweet woman to the end You are my honey lover to the max You are my sweetheart for years to come You are so lovable to me in the long run Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette Alanis Morissette

In the words of Jello Biafra, who released several of Willis’s albums on his Alternative Tentacles label, “is there any band he saw that escaped being in their own song about how much he loved their show?” “As I got to know Wes,” wrote Biafa on the occasion of his friend’s death, “what really struck me was his sheer will power, his unrelenting drive to succeed and overcome his horrifically poor background, child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and obesity among other things. He was the most courageous person I have ever known.” Although he once referred to his music as rock and roll comedy, Willis’s motivation for creating art and music was therapeutic. He used rock and roll as a method for fighting the demons in his head who cursed at him, insulted him, and encouraged him to do bad things. Willis’s indefatigable legacy not only elevates him to the realm of eternal superstardom, but

is a powerful model for anyone forced to overcome the most tenebrous obstacles life throws in one’s path. Like Willis, Cash also wrestled with demons, and used his struggles as the raw matter of his musical creations. For Cash, the trials and tribulations started early in life, with the death of his brother at the age of 14 (Cash was only 12 at the time). Cash spent his adolescence picking cotton in the fields and singing gospel songs with his family on the front porch at night. He became a country music icon in his early 20s with the release of the single “I Walk the Line,” a song that has since been covered by over a hundred musicians. But fame did not come at an easy price. Like a lot of young rock stars, Cash sought refuge in drugs and alcohol, weathering the rough storm of addiction at least twice in his long career. He was fucked up and insane half the time, but he used his suffering—“the only thing that’s real,” as he sings on his last album—as the raw beef in his juicy folk recipe. Whereas Willis was a master of super-flatness, Cash was nearly the exact opposite. Gertrude Stein once told Ernest Hemingway, “Literature isn’t comments.” In a truly postmodern gesture, Wesley Willis proved that songwriting could indeed be comments, while for Cash, particularly later in life, songwriting became a vehicle for spiritual transcendence. Not only that, but he emerged in the 90s as the

most pertinent storyteller of his time, with powerful, dreary ballads that defy summarization, ballads like “I Hung My Head” and “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.” A totally undiscriminating music enthusiast, he recorded both his own songs and songs that others had written, transforming them into his own works of art through his trademark interpretation. While darker themes pervade his entire oeuvre, particularly towards the end of his life on the four American Recordings albums, death permeates the atmosphere on Cash’s final album, the Man Comes Around. It’s obvious to anyone who listened to the album that this was Johnny’s way of saying goodbye to us, his fans. What was amazing about this album is Cash’s fearlessness in his approach to a subject that American culture in general seeks to avoid, as well as the calm and ease that accompanies his playing throughout, as well as the range of emotions woven into the fabric. The fact that a 70-year-old man afflicted with several maladies could breathe new life into a Nine Inch Nails song, as well as classics such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Danny Boy,” is amazing in itself; the fact that, on the same album, he also gives us his own “The Man Comes Around,” one of the best songs he ever wrote, is testament to the man’s genius. Like a lot of listeners, I’m struck with awe whenever I put on a Johnny Cash record…I’m literally paralysed, unable to do anything but sit there, listen. If I have any regrets, it’s that I never got to see Cash—or Willis, for that matter—perform live. With the passing of these two large legends shrouded in black, American songwriting will never be the same again. 

Q, or the Bowels of History McKenzie Wark Luther Blissett’s Q is a terrific read, an epic from “the bowels of history” (Q, William Heinemann, 2003, page 517). The story follows two main characters. One wants to overthrow the social order. The other is a spy in the service of the forces who want to maintain it. Q is the spy, in the pay of Father Carafa, an ultra conservative figure, rapidly rising up the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The other main character is a radical protestant, who sets himself against both the corrupt power of the Catholic church, and also against Luther’s Protestant reformation. For the more radical protestants, Luther is a political tool in the hands of a rising mercantile class, not a friend of the peasants and artisans. His is just a new kind of authority, by “putting a priest in our souls” (353). These two characters cross paths many times, from one end of Europe to the other, until a final confrontation, in Venice, where their identities will finally be revealed to each other. If that were all there were to it, this would be a fascinating, but ultimately overlong genre novel: the historical thriller. But Q is not so much a novel as an anti-novel. The confrontation between the two characters ends up something of an anti-climax. It provides a narrative impulse to get the reader through to the end, but the real narrative strategy it conceals is quite different. In Q, conflicts are never resolved, merely deflected, transformed, shifted to another level. Yet that does not mean that in renouncing the bourgeois novel’s sense of narrative closure and harmony, that Q falls for the other dominant form, pulp serial fiction, which creates the necessity for each new installment out of the inevitable incompleteness of the episode. In Q, our hero learns from his struggles, grows wiser, avoids old mistakes. This is a didactic novel, but with a different purpose. It is about learning how to struggle against the ruses of power and get by. One of Q’s lessons is not to get too bogged down in identity. Our hero changes his name many times. He adapts, he sheds failed strategies. He finds new friends, new structures of belief and methods for reading the signs. This is not unlike the authors of the book themselves. The Luther Blissett who wrote this book is Roberto Bui, Giovanni Cattabriga, Federico Guglielmi and Luca Di Meo. They emerged out of a milieu in which Luther Blissett was a popular pseudonym for all kinds of radical actions, avant-garde provocations and spectacular pranks. But they too have moved on, and now call themselves Wu Ming. In Q, the Blissett crew finds a form and a narrative to hold together a popular account of all that a generation has learned in various struggles. The book can be read as an allegory for the history of the late 20th century. The folly of Mao and the prudence of George Soros can all be read between the lines in the actions of the books many walk-on characters. Or, one can read Q as a more local allegory, for a series of struggles waged by the Italian left from the 80s to the 90s. It may not matter whether these allegorical readings are actually intended. One of the effects of the book is to encourage allegorical reading—and some skepticism about it. The many radical protestant leaders who populate the first third of the book are forever using the bible as an allegorical machine for reading the signs of the times—with very mixed results. Just as 60s Marxists read every hiccup of capitalism as heralding the ‘crisis,’ Q’s true believers see everywhere the coming apocalypse. English language readers will find some of the background material familiar if they have read Norman Cohn’s book about radical sects, The Pursuit Of The Millennium, or Raoul Vanegeim’s The Movement of the Free Spirit, or even Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces. The latter was famous for insisting on a subterranean link between the Sex Pistol’s John Lydon and the radical Anabaptist John of Leyden. Leyden is a featured character in Q, but a much less romantic one. This Leyden is emblematic of the reactive, persecutory forces that can seize hold of a radical movement from within, just at its moment of triumph. There is a remarkable study here of the forces and pressures that can lead a militant movement into


self-delusion, worthy of Guattari. Those familiar with radical European avantgardes will find much to chuckle over in Q. In this version of the 16th century, radical forces use theology and religion in much the same way as the avant-gardes use theory and art. There is a useful dialogue with the Situationists in these pages. Blissett seems to have a fondness for the practical strategies of the SI. The derive, or the drift: the wandering through cities, cutting across the order of the working day is artfully applied here to give wonderful portraits of medieval Venice, Antwerp and Münster. The whole book can be read as one long exercise of the other SI strategy. Detournement, or the detour: the appropriation and correction of existing texts, plagiarism in the service of a militant education. The genre of the historical thriller and popular histories of the Reformation are here freely plundered and repurposed as an almost Brechtian learning-book for “awkward people” (403) At one point a character utters the famous line “let the dead bury the dead.” (160) It’s an expression Blissett have pinched from Marx, knowing full well that he in turn stole it from that original revolutionary text—the Gospel of Matthew. All the great lines in history happen three times: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, and the third time as detournement. Ironically, for a book set in the 16th century,

there is a very contemporary focus on ‘new media,’ which in the context of the times means the printing press. The book is both an early artifact of commodity production and exchange, and something that points beyond it. Throughout Q, the book keep re-appearing as a market opportunity for a growing merchant class, and an impossible commodity that may be freely pirated and distributed beyond commodity exchange. Blissett locates the paradox of the vectoral economy of our own times, where information is the stake in a struggle over private vs communal property, in the very origins of the mechanically reproduced word. Q is divided into three parts. The first concerns peasant uprisings and radical protestant movements that sought to abolish private property and both secular and religious authority. The second looks at the movement of the free spirit, which employed a strategy of seduction rather than revolution, seeking to create a new world within, rather than against, the old. The third takes up the rise of a new Papal authority that radically shut down the space of theological pluralism, and the struggle to open up what we would now think of as a ‘public sphere.’ This could be read as an allegory for political theories of the late 20th century, moving from 30s Marxism to the 60s new left to 80s radical democracy. It is also interesting the way the terrain of struggle moves from the locus of the city to a more nebulous space of information, made up of networks of oral and textual vectors. The status of the text changes across the three parts of the book. In the first, a text is a tool for struggle; in the second, a form of subjective self-management; in the third, part of a network, a milieu that makes many different kinds of thing possible.

The last third of the book revolves around a book within the book, a work written by progressive forces within the Catholic church that restates in popular language the radical theses of the Protestants called The Benefit of Christ Crucified. This book within the book strategy will be familiar from postmodern fiction, as a device for drawing attention to the formal, textual dimension of the work. Or, perhaps closer to hand, it is a technique repeated over and over in the popular anti-literature of Stewart Home. As with Home’s anti-novels, Q uses the book-within-the-book to ask questions about how to read the book-outside-the-book, the book in the world. It’s more the reverse of the postmodern strategy than a continuation of it. It’s not about the formal, textual play within, it’s about the way a text moves through the world. Blissett may be speaking of Q as much as of The Benefit when they describe it as a “mediocre book.” Unlike Guy Debord, who pondered out loud about whether to include his statements to the police in his Collected Works, Blissett judge their work in terms of how it circulates, rather than on its textual perfection. “Books only change the world when the world is capable of digesting them.” (408) Q is a useful reality-check for avant-garde tendencies that, in diving head first into ‘new media,’ forget their own pre-history in the avant-gardes of the past. The real skill displayed in this book is not ‘literary.’ The actual writing is serviceable and generic. The skill is in taking the avant-garde strategies of detournement and making a popular, readable work out of it. This is a textbook for a ‘catholic’ avant-garde, with something for (annoying) everybody. At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, one aspect of Q that strikes me as rather ‘Italian’ is the fondness for conspiracy and dissimulation as an explanation for world events. I’m reminded of Sanguinetti’s On Terrorism and the State, in which that latter-day Situationist accused those involved in armed struggle in Italy in the 70s and 80s of being the dupes of the secret police. Throughout Q there is always a conspiracy afoot. But then conspiracy is, after all, the popular route to understanding social totality, as Fred Jameson once remarked. In one remarkable way, Q is not an allegory for past events, but for present and future ones. The book ends with our hero and his crew escaping from Venice for the real centre of the world: Constantinople. Carafa’s vision of how power works has come to pass. The public sphere has closed down, taking with it a more ‘moderate’ and diffuse order. Carafa has triumphed by recognising what is really required for “the foundation of a millennial power,” namely “a gigantic and complex apparatus that inculcates that message in people’s thoughts and deeds.” (611) One that is based on fear. What could be a more prescient description of our present situation? Q is in some ways an optimistic book. Sure, the popular revolts of the first part are all in vain. The scams of the second part get people killed. The attempt to open a space for free thought and life within communication of the third part is foreclosed. A millennial power triumphs, and it’s not a pretty sight. But then, “the illustrious names of the defeated and the victors remain in the chronicles, available to anyone who wants to reconstruct the intricate events.” (626) Benjamin had said that “not even the dead are safe,” but what he didn’t count on is that power always leaves a trace of those it has vanquished in its own account of its own triumphs. It’s a question of a narrative resurrection, where the return of the marginalised, the disempowered is still possible. A return, not as victim, but as a different kind of hero. The kind of hero who works in situations, does what is possible, and moves on. A Luther Blissett.

Bioinformatica: Le Corps en Scene Simone Ghan “With this system you don’t need to know anything in advance about where you’re going.” So states Roberta Klatzky, a scientist at Carnegie-Mellon University who is developing a “navigational system for the blind” along with Reginal College, a geographer, and Jack Loomis, a perceptual psychologist, both at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Wearing a set of stereo earphones linked to a computer in a backpack, which links to the US military’s Global Positioning Satellites, blind people will be able to move, however aimlessly, without fear of becoming lost or of colliding with objects. Through the satellite guidance system, the backpack computer is able to name places or impediments as they arise (“library here,” “bench here”), guiding the wearer “through a Disney-esque landscape of talking objects.” (Coleman, Daniel. “Sonic Device for Blind May Aid Navigation.” The New York Times, September 6, 2002.) Difficulties are many, of course, such as the precise phraseology of the objects (if an object suddenly has agency and speaks to you in order to identify itself, what does it say?), the points at which objects should begin to announce themselves, and the number of objects that should speak at any given time. A greater problem also presents itself, unwittingly indicated by Michael Oberdorfer, a representative of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, which is financing the research, in his comment that a “blind person could walk down the street and know, not just that he was on 80th and Broadway, but what stores are around, and that Zabar’s delicatessen was up ahead.” Such a scenario prompts the disturbing image of ambulatory blind people being shuttled about from store to store in a play of competing market interests (however accurate a vision of our own condition this might be). On the other hand, as walks with this navigational device may also be previewed, reviewed, or simulated from one’s home—allowing an imaginary walk to be taken from one’s armchair, an earlier walk to be replayed, or a backyard stroll to be taken in place of an actual walk through the city—one wonders whether it would be necessary to leave the home at all. Indeed the possibilities for interweaving these “real” and “virtual” situation become endless, especially as such systems become part of interconnected telecommunicational environments. In this regard, the navigation system for the blind provides an interesting model for our increasingly networked societies—and it prompts us to consider how this dispersion of communications technology in everyday life not only augments and effects body and sensorium (in this case allowing prosthetic sight, not centralised in the brain but dispersed in space, prompting an alteration of the contours of the body), but enacts a deconstruction of such oppositional relations as the sensible and intelligible. Such an intermingling of the “physical” and “telecommunicational” is already quite evident when one considers television and other media as sets of techniques of the body, which include strategies of mobilisation and immobilisation, methods “for the production and disciplining of attention, for the fixing and narrowing of the range of consciousness.” (Crary, Jonathon. “Critical Reflections.” Artforum, February 1994: 59.) While such systems, spaces and phenomena are frequently divided into “virtual” and “real,” these binary classifications become increasingly problematic. So, too, with the distinction between movement and simulation, viewer and viewed, and the direct correspondences so implied. In the above example, where is the line-of-sight of a blind person? Where is the place of sight and of that which is seen? Does a distinction between “real sight” and “virtual sight” matter? Is the “reality” in which benches can speak “real” or “virtual” for a blind person? As Merleau-Ponty suggests in his last book, The Visible and the Invisible: “One can say that we perceive the things themselves, that we are the world that thinks itself— or that the world is at the heart of our flesh. In any case, once a body-world relationship is

recognised, there is a ramification of my body and a ramification of the world and a correspondence between its inside and my outside, between my inside and its outside.” 

www.saltpublishing.com

textbase Sebastian Gurciullo, Marginal Text, 2003 Louis Armand, Malice in Underland, 2003 D.J. Huppatz, City of Swallows, 2002 D.J. Huppatz, American Songs, 2001 Nicole Tomlinson, Familiar City, 2001 Louis Armand, Land Partition, 2001 D.J. Huppatz, Sealer’s Cove, 2000

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Letter from Blighty Dearest R, Today is Sunday and my first real day of leave since arriving here now 43 days ago. God rests and all his children also. I am as always writing to you from beside the bay window, where pink clouds come by, and plane trees luff at the wind. I do not think you should worry so much about love or how we sign ourselves at the ends of our letters. Mr. Ibriham of the ice-cream vans is out today, looking them over fondly, though he has to be careful what with this weather and his condition. We are in a cold snap. I had to stop to scrape the windscreen. The ice came away very dry. They have started work now on Telegraph Hill Park—paths are to be laid, and trees planted, in October, which is the best time of year. Just before the closing in. I saw Suzy there recently by chance. She looked well—still very much the broken doll, though her hands are older. Mine remain stiff from work. Dogs will be allowed in the lower park while the upper is being renovated, and then the inverse. I live as you will remember a little way down from the park. Mr. Ibriham of the ice-cream vans is one down from me. Mr. Ibriham’s son is here running the vans, which he does once a week, on Sundays, though they never move. He is checking the oil, draining the refrigerators, opening the chokes as the engines warm. Mr. Ibriham likes to keep them ticking, just like his heart. All twelve tyres are bald and flat to the ground. The son is called Mosha and drives a van with Gibbons Printing Company proud all down the pavement side. He parks in Sherwin Road, where wild cherry-tree blossoms are caught in the cold snap. Suzy said she was cold too; she was wearing strange leg-warmers. Better for bicycling she explained. Mr. Onu is uphill to the right-hand side though I have not seen him today. There is something about the blood of Jesus and love or sin written into the concrete of his forecourt, and his wife teaches in a school. I sponsored two girls to walk to the river for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, at a pound a mile and seven miles of walking. We all have to look after our own. Mr. Ibriham I think hoped his son would ride the ice-cream vans once his own hand had turned in. These vans are his hopes, left out in the rain. My mother thinks she would like to plant a wild cherry tree in our forecourt. Not the leaning elm or ash or pale silver birch as they grow too tall, and their roots open the pavement and till water from the foundations of the house. Fruit-bearing trees bring boys with sticks. I think I found a hair of yours in my dictionary. Mosha is the Ibriham’s fourth child; he wanted her to keep bearing until a son was born. You are lucky, Mrs. Ibriham told my mother, to have had him second. She is a small woman with a wheeling crate she takes shopping and permaluxed red hair. The Onus have seven

children—boys and girls I cannot tell their order. There is a daughter who come evening with the lights turned out. A kind of Gospel swing. I could hear her as I painted the render skirt late one night on that side. Full of passion, and maybe love or sin. Mr. Ibriham has asked me if I might have a pump for his bald flat tyres. I wonder if they would even hold the air. We are in a cold snap now, and Mr. Ibriham is suffering fond memories. His question came from somewhere which had almost already given up. There is a wasting point whence people turn and look. I had a bath last night and thought about you— they’d been playing that Sondheim song on the radio; coffee cups and telephones and so on. Astonishing the places people find to put their hearts. As it happens I do have a pump for Mr. Ibriham—it was my grandfather’s who

parking and so he asked the council if they would move it. Yes yes yes! they replied, and for only Ł3,000! Mr. Ibriham has offered one of his vans up for seven, or nearest offer. He has written as much in pale brown ink on a cardboard sign, which he props behind the fractured glass of one rear window. Behind tendrils of ivy and dieselled veins. His son confided that seven thousand was optimistic, and he would be lucky to find four. Everything expresses a muted desire to sell. Everything expresses, and yet is mute. Elizabeth Welsh sang the Sondheim. The recording was made when she was eighty-seven, and most likely losing her mind. Less naughty than Josephine Baker, less drunk than Billie Holiday. Suzy I thought was looking better.

Angel Tree by Marc Atkins, 1999 A man called by yesterday looking for a used it on his ride-on mower. There was a large former friend—a little girl who lived here in garden in Surrey. Mrs. Onu is trying to grass her back garden. the early fifties and who he’d play with after It is covered in black plastic sheeting and is school. By God you must be lonely now I off limits to her family. Her boys dawdle oc- thought. Last night I was in an almost endcasionally on the forecourt with whips of tree lessly long building, perhaps a mile stretch of branch, and the blood of Jesus cuneiformed terraced housing with the party walls fallen in beneath their feet. When I pulled the plug I lay to make one continuous dilapidated tenement. down and listened to the whole bath drain. I was carrying my mother in my arms, past There is a line running all the way to the sea. mounds of expired bricks, over holes in the Thirty years or so ago they separated the floor between splintered boards and floating sewers in London: one for rain off the roads limbs of joist. Outside the bombs fell, whisand another for people’s houses. It used to be tling like children. My aunt had a fruit-bearing tree on her forethat flash storms could fill the system and faeces would spill up into the streets, the morn- court, and soon thereafter came boys with ing’s washing pour back through your sticks and green appley hands, and the pelting basement, old baths where you had thought of small sour missiles and their shards oxidisabout distant things rise again and ream from ing silently in the afternoon sun. She moved it beneath the manhole cover. In torrents of rain the following October, just before the closing and noise and night people broom tinily in in. Mr. Ibriham is suffering fond memories. It purls of flood. Now it is only the rainwater that overflows, in dark sheens by bus stops, in was thirty years ago he moved here from Cyhalos beneath the standing lamps. There is one prus and piped his first 99. He is now a sick on Mr. Onu’s forecourt which complicates his man he tells me. I have a pacemaker he says

and taps his chest where the ribs rise and fuse. And there beneath his ailing heart: a lifetime of ice-creams and hot-dogs, children and dinky tunes. There is a Cypriot proverb that every mutton is hung by its own leg. His relatives visit often, and stay long. The man was looking for a friend from his boyhood. In the early fifties he was a regular visitor to the house. Much has changed he observed, and all still so very familiar. This garden, those walls .... A split pink ball is stranded beyond Mrs. Onu’s sheeted zone, where is lies and fills with rain. Clouds come by, their lower reaches grey and locellated by terracotta pots. I am writing to you as always from the bay window. There was formerly one at the back too I learn but it fell away from the house and was demolished. His friend was called Lucy. When I was carrying my mother through the ruined building she was so light I was both frightened and relieved. I remember how my grandmother before death was a twist of string in her nightie. We were picking our way through to a distant bed. Occasionally collapsed sections of roof align with holes in the ceilings and I stop, amid broken slate, to look at the night. The rat population has tripled since they separated the sewers. Mr. Ibriham had a faucet installed for washing his vans. Salt from the palms of summer’s children, though their dirt now is all disuse. The pump is very fine with a fire-engine red cylinder, a gauge, and red wheeling trolley. Mrs. Ibriham’s womb is exhausted from four. If you are thirsty he said, you may drink. Or water a wild tree perhaps? I don’t know what became of the mower, only its rider. Sundays are pretty on Pepys Road. In Outer Mongolia they ride horses from the age of two. The infant is strapped on his parents who crack the flanks, and the horse bolts until the child either finds mastery or dies in the desert with the beast still prancing. Those who master their horses ride them in turn to the death, with straps and the dust. The horse is on its side now it four legs lock and slump and one eye is in the desert, the other to the bare blue sky. The rider comes round and kicks it in the heart to see if it will fire again, or if it will die this time with its master kicking it in the heart. Mosha has gone in now, though the vans are still running and our windows rattle on their sash cords. Otherwise the cold snap is very still. We write letters, move papers, frown into telephones. Inhabit these houses. Mr. Ibriham folds up his hopes. He will be ridden into the dust by the battery in his little electronic pacemaker but his teeth are indomitable; they are brown as tree bark and so widely spaced they could never rot. They will be found in the ground like chipped stone long after the graveyard has returned to unceremonied earth. I will be found in you. Adrian Hornsby London, 23 Feb. 2004

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PLR vol.2, no.2 (March, 2004)