Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mighty Alternative Media

The falls were overflowing this weekend in Paterson. The rains and the floods made the waters fierce, which, combined with the arrival of sunny weather, brought crowds to the park. I am again reminded that making an audio recording of the falls is about as exciting as holding your mic up to television snow, and I think that’s how Williams conceived of their sonic presence—a constant white noise in the background, out of which sense emerges, and into which it just as quickly gets pulled under and swept away.
Today, I was visiting with Flux Factory, the group with whom I will be collaborating in June to conceive of a monument to Paterson. Race seems like it will be—as it had been for me—the elephant in the Passaic for this project; we were greeted with “are you lost?”, “what are you doing here?”, “here comes the spirit squad,” and “Mommy, where did all those white people come from?”
We bumped into Mighty Joe and his tricked-out bicycle, who welcomed us with a radiophonic urban alternative to 1010 WINS on his CB. We also met a guy who quit his day job in New York City to start a Socialist-Christian farm in a markedly unbucolic section of Paterson; empty lots and abandoned structures predominate, and he hopes to expand from his small backyard to some of the unused land that surrounds him.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Never Told You To Read It

Those who have followed this blog know that I am not a fan of Pound, although, of course, when dealing with Williams there’s somehow no avoiding Ez and his pretensions. The newly archived sound recordings of Pound on PennSound, reveal that he was as much if not more a voice than a writer, but it’s a voice that has erased all the original Jersey in it, replaced by some monstrous fake-bardic brogue. I prefer the simple, cracker sing-song of Williams next to the oracular posturing of Pound spouting the indecipherable or the patently ridiculous (an example of the latter is the insufferable whine of “Cantico del Sole.”) The reason Pound has been on my mind again is that, while rereading Paterson, I am paying attention this time to the overall design, and it’s interesting to me that the geological cross section passage which has fascinated many of the writers associated with this blog (Shaw, Lunberry, Wontham) is preceded by a passage culled from a correspondence with Pound. It seems that the “unreadability” of the geological cross section is montaged with Pound talking about the readability of Artaud. It’s as if Williams is saying that the mute geological depths are just as unrelentingly silent as the classics Pound is telling him to read instead. So, I’m reading it as a diss of Pound, but you tell me. While Pound seems to be criticizing Williams for enjoying Artaud, Williams is siding with the vitalism of Artaud (note the higgeldy-piggeldy of the text on pg137 before the Pound page, which is regimented more like a sales receipt.)

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Between Athens and the Amphioxus

Now’s a good time to reread book III (esp. parts 2-3), taking place in the cold April on Garret Mountain. It’s structured around the open-aired harangue of a preacher, his nacreous pate glistening in the still wintery sun, benches and harmonium set out pell-mell on the plateau of the overlook. Williams is taking a walk and, while listening to the preacher (whose thoughts seem to echo his own), his mind strays to the history of a hanging in the same place, and to the magnified detail of black cloth on the coat that Washington wore at his inaugural, and to the abstract notion of the system of debt and capital, and to the woman who writes long letters pleading for his attention (Nardi). In some ways, this section is about exploitation, the way in which “Cash is mulct of them that others may live/ secure.” But it’s clear as he beats things around in his mind that the preacher who preaches giving all his money away is the only beauty there, a beauty that may be “torn to shreds by the/ lurking schismatists” (the latter is actually a word meaning “non-believer,” although at first I thought it was some portmanteau word with a geological pun embedded.) As such, the preacher is another avatar of the noise and chaos of the falls, which preach their own sermon of return to the nothing that founds the chaos of Paterson. “—with monotonous insistence/ the falls of his harangue hung featureless/ upon the ear, yet with a certain strangeness/ as if arrested in space” (70). This section is a progressive building up to a moment of clarity when, almost in song, Williams delivers his magisterial advice (channeled from the preacher and sung to Nardi and the reader) to “Look for the nul.”

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