It was the first ball game played in New York after 9/ 11. The Mets were down 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Mike Piazza got up with a man on first base (Desi Relaford, if memory serves) and unloaded a pitch over the wall in center field. If you had been at Shea that evening, as we were, with a full house, you will never forget the feeling through the stands at the moment the ball cleared the fence, as Piazza rounded first and Relaford symmetrically rounded third, and strangers hugged themselves in the aisles.
Seeing a screen
and a slide projector set up in Room 510 is unusual for Poetry Forum gatherings
at The New School, but we had artist Trevor Winkfield to visit Tuesday night,
and of course, seeing the work is its best introduction. John Ashbery says,
paraphrasing Walter Pater, “If all art aspires toward the condition of music as
Pater wrote, Trevor Winkfield must be counted among the most successful artists
of all time.” (Check out Trevor’s website here. )
An attitude of
precise methodical whimsy pervades his work, and it was especially illuminating
to listen to a painter who is also a writer who has collaborated with
poets.In his introduction, New School poetry coordinator David
Lehman (above, right, with Winkfield, left) explained that he and colleagues believe in the inter-dependency of the
arts, and that if you’re looking for inspiration, “It makes as much sense to
expose yourself to painting as to poetry.” Trevor Winkfield
has collaborated with Ashbery, John Yau and Ron Padgett among others. Exact
Change Books recently re-published the Winkfield's translation of Raymond
Roussel’s How I Wrote Certain of My Works. Winkfield has collected his
writings in In the Scissors’ Courtyard and his art in Pageant. At the beginning
of his talk, Trevor tackled exactly that: How to begin. The problem -- “Where
Pierrot and Harlequin, Winkfield, 2006
place the first mark on a canvas, and what it should represent” – is a
problem for poets as well. The speaker also noted the special blessing (which
doubles as a challenge) for artists and poets – unlike ballerinas, they have or can have life-long
careers. That’s the blessing. The challenge is how to keep
developing and coming up with fresh ideas. He made the comparison to Scheherazade,
who, in the Arabian Nights, is constantly in mortal danger if her powers of
invention fail her. Winkfield warned against what he called the Marc Chagall
effect -- the endless repetition of motifs from the start of one’s career. The
room tittered at that -- it’s always fun to poke fun at one of the "big
["I summon to the winding ancient stair"? no, we went round the long way. Perugia at night]
These days, for me, jet lag in this direction is much worse than jet lag going to the States. Going that way, my clock is just a little off, so I get to pretend that I'm a morning person (ha!) But coming back this way, I zap right up at 3 in the morning and I'm wide awake until 5 or 6. I'm only happy about this now because it gives me more time to read Words in Air, the letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, as I'm sure you know, and if you haven't gone out and plonked down the 45 dollars (or however many Euro it was; I think we got it through Amazon.France--quelle bonne idee pour nous expatries! and I'm not putting in the diacritics because they mess up everything!), please do.
It's a wonderful book, full of humor and love, intelligence, pathos and literary gossip. Last night, for example, I went from EB saying "I feel awful about Hemingway's suicide" to talking about organizing the gift of a Brazilian dress for little Harriet Lowell: "Or how about a monkey instead of a new dress? He would adore your various typewriters and might learn to pick out Beat poetry." Yes that was EB, not me!
I do find it odd still that 'blogging absolutely occludes its initial "we."
When there's an "i"phone, there is a 'blog.
Some little bit about this poem--eh, well, Cavafy and Donne in bed? Or Cavafy and Emily Dickinson in bed. Or Cavafy in bed with a fortune cookie. Or Cavafy alone in bed, in rapture, rolling onto a fortune cookie and noticing the fortune amid the crumbly bits.
One little note about the terribly lovable Cavafy: ok, he's so cool that when he's dying of throat cancer, unable to speak, his final "words" are him writing on a pad of paper: he writes: a circle, then, in the middle of that circle, a very firm dot.
During this poem I was thinking of dots, periods, whatever, but of, particularly, that gesture. And how, if someone isn't him, isn't as Cavafy as him (damn wish I were), isn't even playing him on tv, what would that gesture seem? How would it play? As a non-final gesture: A stuttered dot. But a stutter--as we (former and present) stutterers know, ( I love how that makes what it says happen, erer....) --is in time, not simultaneous. A frustrated futurity. Repetition with compulsion. A block which will be repeated as a block until...there it is. Well, until communication of whatever sort.
So, what about a stutter out of time, or a being against its own self with only slight visible sign? As glaring (optical) as a stutter (aural). An entirely optical stutter. What would an optical stutter mean? Or what could it mean? Can it mean?
Today, teaching class, I stuttered horribly, not by most standards, but by my own.[Um, the text I was teaching, first real repeated stutter of the entire year, was talking about J.L. Autsin's How to Do Thing With Words.] Whence this return? Or rather, why feel it AS A RETURN? Even though, of course, a stutter is always a return, but what if the return to a stutter isn't a return to but a re-feeling and re-flection of the pleasure of return. The younger body asserting its aliveness, a non-creepy this living hand. Well, I'm not sure I know what water I've swum into.