Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mystery Mountain, Part Two

If you are following this vlog, way back in September we had Part One of a journey to a inconspicuous-conspicuous hummock that had haunted our guest-drifter Kyle Lapidus whenever he passed it on the highway. Turns out that this haunting led us to Garret Mountain itself, and constituted New Jersey as an Impossible Object's first trip to this place, central to Williams' poetography (a word that--if you force it between a volcano, a tectonic plate, and a word processor--becomes topography). While Williams found ghosts of a German Singing Society transformed into a vengeful mob, and dead babies killed for crying too loud, we found Middle Eastern women posing on tanks for boudoir photos, and plentiful cries of little children.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A New Williams-Machine

To make things clear, I have no undue veneration for William Carlos Williams. I approach his work as I would a lucky find on a street vender’s blanket, as something at hand. “We are all handymen: each with his little machines,” say Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus, and I guess to get out of the who-influenced-who, who-studied-with-who, who-slept-with-who Oedipal traps of poetry, one must make Williams-machines and Paterson-machines when one can, if one wants. That said, PENNsound just has posted over a gigabyte with the voice of the man himself. What of it then? Merely cause for creation of some William Burroughs Williams cut-ups? Listening to the recordings, most of surprisingly high quality, the readings of his poems seem to me less interesting than his clear, forceful promoting of the difficult ideas behind them (especially in conversation with the likes of Mary Margaret McBride—a 1950s Oprahesque broadcaster, who I have been curious to hear for a while). Some highlights include a soniferous version of “Paterson: The Falls” which I have never seen in print (recording #2); readings of long passages from Paterson (recording #3); and a morning address at Hanover College in which he talks passionately about outmoded verse, accompanied by a pleasing faint whistle of feedback (recording #16).
The only criticism of this addition to PENNsound is that I’d prefer more random access to the data; in fact, PENNsound goes against a point in its own manifesto: “it must be singles.” The content is too overwhelming and sometimes repetitive (note: I won’t eat your plums, if you just put that wheelbarrow away). These very large files need to be chopped up more, or at least the files need to be equipped with better metadata. I downloaded most of the files so that I could listen in my car, but the mp3 names of the files proved useless for navigation. The only way I could slog through it with any kind of direction was to have the site popped up on my computer at home while playing the files.
In the end, I found his voice sweeter than expected. It gave me no clue, however, into the way he’s organized his lines in Paterson. (Which makes me a little less self-conscious about the fact that Blogger abuts all his lines against a single indentation, regardless of my tabbing.) Interestingly enough, when reading Paterson, he skips over the archival passages, which are undoubtedly his most interesting innovation.
Let the remixing begin.
[Dec. 18, 2007 note: since this post, PennSound has divided up the Williams audio files into more manageable "singles."]

Monday, January 01, 2007

Make A Song Out of That: Concretely

When I first saw this extant poetry, I couldn’t write it down because I took all my pens out of my pocket so they wouldn’t explode while I slept in the back seat of my car. I thought about the generations that must have puzzled over Paterson’s most prominent concrete poem, especially because the Q in JACQUARD—hardest, most lost and ancient word!—was the letter most eroded. Once I secured a pencil from a mini-mart, I appended my transcription with the line “a daily deformity to be deciphered,” which I think must be from Paterson but I can’t find the citation at this moment. In any case, I immediately crossed out this line, perhaps thinking it a bit much . . . maybe my initial lack of equipment let me appreciate the purity of this string of words that conjured and crafted string itself. Googling them, I imagined that there would be umpteen references on historical and city sites. However, it seems only the Japanese are hep to their poetry, and these particular tourists were even curious enough to find the referent, which I did not know existed. The actual Silk Machinery Exchange Building is now a half-way house, and the Paterson Museum, where you will now find the machines, is oddly across the street, which I guess is also half-way, between use and oblivion. The museum is hard-to-find for those of us who move more by serendipity than by travel guides, and it is over-shadowed by the more prominent “Cultural Center,” a stone’s-throw away.
The Paterson Museum is a bonanza of found language. A yellowed tag provided an addendum to the Silk Machinery Exchange text: Reeds, Harness, Lingoes, Shuttles, Quills, Pickers, Twine, General Weavers Supplies, Loom Fittings. I wondered how the pride of the “lingo” went apace with the development and mastery of the machine. We’ve (weave?) come a long way from the crack of the Jacquard Q to the narcissistic buzz of terms MySpace, iPod, and YouTube, even though the Jacquard card started it all, the origin of the computer. (Let’s not get sucked into the eddy of the mise-en-abyme again.) The words--like the machines whose noise once filled the air of the streets here--are now silent.
In a dark corner of the museum, a lexicon of nostrums: delphinium, quassiae, jalapae, digitalis, pimpenell, aether, lavender, anisi, citronella, myrrhae, cudbear, Syrup of Rhei, Mavis Talcum, Tancro Cough syrup, Unguentine, Salva-cea, Anti-Drink, Granulated Black Draught, Larkspur lotion, Vinol, Kondremul, 4-Way Cold Tablets, etc.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,