Sunday, August 26, 2007

To Lead the Mind Away

Joanne Hsieh and Jesse Roy, who last year regaled us with their song of Sam Patch, have produced another Patersong especially for New Jersey as an Impossible Object. From Book III (The Library), their rendition of Locust Tree would beat Williams reading it hands down, although were he to be backed up by Allen Ginsberg on harmonica, Marcia Nardi on bass, and Joe Gould on the spoons, he might have provided more competition.

For there is a wind or ghost of a wind
in all books echoing the life
there, a high wind that fills the tubes
of the ear until we think we hear a wind,
actual .

to lead the mind away.

Drawn from the streets we break off
our minds’ seclusion and are taken up by
the books’ winds, seeking, seeking
down the wind
until we are unaware which is the wind and
which the wind’s power over us .
to lead the mind away (96)

(Click on image for song. Joanne Hsieh on piano and voice; Jesse Roy on guitar and voice; Recorded and mixed by Jesse Roy).

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Reality! The Reality!

A young William Carlos Williams and his mother translated a surrealist novel about a stalker, a prostitute, a murderer, and a gangster who haunt the streets of Paris. Referenced in the beginning of Book 5 of Paterson, Soupault’s Last Nights of Paris is not as racy as it sounds. Perhaps it is only a surrealist who can take the source material for a typical thriller and evacuate it of all thrill, returning the action to everyday. It is cold in tone, evocative of the ennui of city wandering that denizens of the night experience. Were I argue its conceptual strengths, however, I would hide the fact that, for me, the book did not have much going for it except its connection to Paterson. The publishers even tacitly admit this exterior source of literary value by printing the pertinent section of Paterson not once, but twice—as the book’s only blurb and as its epigraph. It may have been an important inpirational source of Williams’ own exploration of intractable urban mystery (here the city is a woman, not a man as Williams would have it). Nevertheless, while there is much promise in a story that starts with a narrator, a dog, a sailor and a prostitute wandering randomly together at 3 in the morning, it was a chore to glimpse the “inviolable secret of Paris” that their journeys turned up.
Of greater interest to me is Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant (at least the first two parts of it I have so far read), more cryptically referenced in this section of Paterson's Book 5. I was introduced to the book by Holly Tavel who was using it for a summer-term psychogeography course; as she described Paris Peasant, she started to flip through it a few times, a sort of perfunctory gesture of “showing me the book.” What jumped to my eye was the following section, from which Williams seems to have pulled his "la realite! la realite! la rea, la rea, la realite!"(207) Williams is much more tortured (and in the end, impressed) by “the real,” while Aragon is clearly more contemptuous (if only because Williams' “reality” is almost Lacanian in its paradoxical unknowability, whereas for Aragon it is more synonymous with custom, albeit still paradoxical):

The Realities


Once upon a time there was a reality
With her own flock of sheep in real wool
And as the king’s son came passing by
The sheep bleated Baaah! How pretty she is
The re the re the reality

Once upon a time there was a reality
Who never could get to sleep at night
And so her fairy godmother
Really took her by the hand
The re the re the reality

Once upon a time there was an old king
Who got very bored as he sat on his throne
His cloak slipped off into the evening
So then they gave him for a queen
The re the re the reality

CODA: Ity ity the rea
Ity ity the reality
The rea the rea
Ty ty The rea
Ty The reality
Once upon a time there was THE REALITY

Aragon’s book is a much more fanciful and detailed exploration of the mysteries of public life in the city than is Soupault’s, and is in more in line with Williams’ aesthetic (menus, news articles, playlets, and street signs are pasted directly into the prose). His subject is the passages—“human aquariums” cut into the shadowy corners of the streets—which threatened to disappear under the impending Haussmannization of Paris. Or rather, the passages frame his various subjects—which include reflections on “blondness,” an accordionist with P-E-S-S-I-M-I-S-M written on the folds of his bellows, bathhouses, shoeblacks, cocktails, and postage stamps.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Secret Shrine

If you go to Paterson, you may now happen upon a secret shrine to William Carlos Williams' poem. Although, it might not be there anymore. Composed of trash the Education Department leaves in the abandoned Hinchliffe Stadium (e.g. busted file cabinets, waterlogged textbooks, wobbly bookcarts), the shrine is itself subject to the vagaries of what constitutes trash and what art . . . and what, for that matter, desirable furniture. After the first day, the "library" aspect of the shrine--a small bench facing a bookshelf under a tree sprouting from the concrete and stocked with English textbooks and xeroxes of Paterson in baggies--was disrupted when someone must have realized that the bookshelf was indeed still a good book shelf, and took it away (even though it may have been there for years.) It must have been a critic, because they also let their dog "have their way" in the shrine as well. The orange design is a shadow of the jacquard--the punch card that interfaced the vast worlds of labor, nature, and machine in the old silk mills.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Discussion, Annotated

Perhaps Jamie Mowder can now be forgiven for staying in the comfort of Queens rather than schlepp out to Paterson for last month’s discussion of the poem in its very place of origin, since he has posted at his blog a detailed annotation of our discussion recordings. In his three-columned form, you can revisit some of the more striking comments without having to slog through hours of our ramble and stutter. The following comment by Anne, arrayed by Jamie, now jumps out as a poem:

Why should we be
reading this?
It's, like, crazy.
It's the way I might
talk to somebody I
have issues with, in
my head,
pretending a
Who decided?
Why is this great?

And of course there is Cooper’s memorable:

falls in with same folly
as any identification or
signification does
it's a f__cking
frenzy of particles in
the Falls

The third column has Jamie’s exhaustive comments and links—which he self-effacingly calls the “pointless notes”-- many of which I have yet to work through, but which will undoubtedly prove illuminating. He clocked in his blog entry at 7:01 am, so--bless his heart--he was probably up all night with it.
In other blogosphere Paterson activity, there is an epoetry symposium going on at Hyperrhiz in which there is a long post about Paterson, presumably as a precursor to epoetry.

Labels: , ,