Thursday, June 25, 2009

Los Ladrones part 5

This episode's special guest star Marcel Duchamp.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Return to Paterson

I spent a little time in Paterson last week, while participating in the William Carlos Williams Society's Annual Conference. The talks happened some remove from the chaos of the city in the more bucolic satellite campus of William Paterson College, mostly dead for the summer, although the focus was particularly on the relation of the poem to the city. As hoped, I unearthed some bits of knowledge not easily dislodged from academic books or internet searches. For example, my hunch that the Kevin McCarthy involved with a dramatic reading of Paterson at the Lexington Ave. Y was the Kevin McCarthy of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (thus, through pure hunch setting off the continuing series of Body Snatcher hacks) was given credence since someone pointed out that he was Mary McCarthy's brother, and thus would share her literary circles. I met the almost-allegorically named Dr. Peterson, distinguished for having written the first book-length study of Paterson, and whose collection of Williamsiana includes a manuscript with a mole Williams removed from Floss taped to it. He also had some David Lyle manuscripts and gave me some insight into Lyle's personality. While I couldn't get her to say anything on tape, one scholar mysteriously said something during a question and answer session something to the effect of "Marcia Nardi ruined my career!" So, some juicy bits from long-time travelers in the Patersphere. I took a few of the "greener" critics--including someone writing on ecocrit and Paterson--out to the more off-limits places, where the dead factories seem to have sagged and mulched a little bit more since my last visit. I wonder what will happen to these mysterious and historical abandoned spaces now that the falls area will become a National Park. I almost fear the worst, but hopefully they can get people who are smart about maintaining "preserved ruins" in the spirit of a place like the Eastern State Pen, rather than turn it into a tacky tourist phantasmagoria. Already they have painted the Looms-Warpers-Winders-Quillers-Coppers- Jacquards-&Supplies on the side of the old Paterson Silk Machinery Exchange. Ugh!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10th & A

"Let's get bitchy about a few things, he in effect said. What about this "local," isn't that a little overrated? what about all those things he's supposed to be that he isn't? Oh, I said, local was a word he used to explain why Poe wrote horror stories that took place in horror-story land. Long stupid exchange about the local. Like, The most local thing about a person is their body I said, for some it's their brain he said, etc." --Alice Notley, "Dr. Williams' Heiresses"

Yesterday, I recorded a PoemTalk about Notley's "I The People," along with Al Filreis, Erica Kaufman and Zack Pieper, in which we had a long, hopefully not stupid exchange about things such as the locality (or ideality) of her 10th & A. You can decide whether it turned out "fast, perky, sassy, talky" when it comes out in the fall. But in the meantime, Google Earth gives us the most likely vision Notley had of this corner:

In the spirit of the local, tomorrow begins the William Carlos Williams Society's Conference Paterson: The Province of the Poem.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Triumph of the Bill

A while back, Albert Min mentioned to me that Williams’ “so much depends” resonates with the common Spanish phrase “todo depende.” These translational resonances are afoot in my retooling of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers into Los Ladrones de Cuerpos with Williams’ Paterson in the subtitles. I had originally intended to get the dubbed Spanish version, and hack the English subtitles. When a mislabeled BitTorrent served up the original English versions with a Spanish subtitle file, I was initially disappointed. However, by using poorly understood Spanish as the source text, I was able to inject a little more indeterminacy into the process, especially when I kept myself from looking at the actual film (I have yet to watch more than half of the whole movie, even though I’ve been watching it for the last couple months). While I’ve had to shape the subtitles, to a certain extent, to the speed and logic of the image, I’ve not been slavish to these requirements, sometimes gleefully inserting flashes of text that could not possibly be read within the temporal constraints of the film, as if the subtitles were a foreign language, an ambience of exotic chatter. And this is poetry, after all . . . not as foreign to Santa Mira as are the pods. Doctor Miles Bennell not once but twice gives way to reciting some bit of doggerel to charm his constituency; in some of the next episodes, we’ll meet his literary buddies. But Miles—or in the translation, Dr. Bill—does not recognize language’s body-snatching powers for what they really are. He toys with them a little too casually. It thus seems appropriate for the repressed to return in the form of cameos by William S. Burroughs (the police and the psychiatrists, natch) and Jack Spicer (we’ll meet him in future episodes). So far, if you caught them, there was a bit part played by Marcia Nardi, some quick homages to the early subtitle art of Frank O’Hara and Guy Debord*, and nods to The Matrix. Keep your eyes out for other special guests. I’m working on Duchamp and Genet right now. Some early plans not put aside just yet included a William B. Williams character (he’s probably the first DJ, the guy who came up with “Make Believe Ballroom”). While we’re at it, why not William D. Williams (you know, Lando Calrissian?) and maybe William E. Williams, William F. Williams, and a William X. Y. Z Williams? The Bill is in the mail!
By turning William Carlos Williams back to “Carlos,” we can maybe get at some body snatching at the heart of not merely Paterson but Williams’ language practice in general. However, I don’t imagine any return to some authentic resonance with a Spanish origin, but rather hope to multiply the possibilities for movement of the poem. When Danny Snelson was in Seattle this spring, we worked through some of these possibilities with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Ronald Johnson’s Radi Os for a performance we put together. I have been thinking about these issues a lot since our confabulations, inspired by his particular take on the act of translation. I’m sure if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have tried to translate a poem in Cyrillic this morning. Now that’s hard, although we all know that that the most common English translation of that funny little Russian “x” is “spider-vehicle.”
*actually I didn't realize until now that "Can Dialectics Break Bricks" is Vienet's not Debord's, although I did know that it is more of a redubbing than a resubtitling, even though the subtitles will of course seem at first the locus of detournment to English viewers.

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