Monday, July 14, 2003

21 Grand Reading Report (part 1)

Eileen challenged all of us bloggers (and there must have been a dozen of us) to see who could post the best report on last night's 21 Grand reading. Let the games begin.

The blog that ate San Francisco...if you thought the SPD open house back in April was a blogfest, you should have been there last night. In addition to Stephanie Young, Kasey Mohammad, Eileen Tabios, Catherine Meng, and James Meetze, I got to meet Tanya Brolaski, as well as Alli Warren, part of Kasey's entourage from Santa Cruz.

To give you some idea, here's how introductions went:

"Hi, I'm Tim Yu."

[blank stare]


"Oh, hi!"

At one point I heard Ron Silliman pointing some of us out to his nephew (also a blogger) Daniel Silliman and saying (approximately): "That's lime tree...and that's tympan...and that's the well nourished moon..."

Later, during the reading, it occured to me that I should probably reach into my bag and get my notebook out so I could take some notes to blog from. Then I thought maybe that would be hopelessly nerdy. Then I looked across the room and saw Eileen scribbling madly in her pink notebook (which perfectly matched Kevin Killian's shirt); then I looked two chairs down from me and saw Stephanie scribbling, somewhat more languidly, in hers...(Stephanie now claims she was doodling, but I know better.)

I did promise to report on a reading in here somewhere.

It was an impressively full house--I'm guessing there must have been 60 people there--and quite hot despite the best efforts of a few oscillating fans.

It's not easy to be an opening act, but Mary Burger held her own with a serious, substantive performance. I hadn't known her work before and admit that at times I had difficulty knowing what to do with her pieces, some of which were called essays and some not. Her first piece, inspired by a scientist friend "who talks about the universe as if it really exists," seemed like a meditation on dualism and solipsism, but I'd be hard-pressed to put my finger on its philosophical position. Her repeated references to "language-games" as a "shiny fetish" reminded me of what frustrates me about the way a lot of recent poets think about Wittgenstein--that he's drawing our attention to the gap between language and what's "really out there," when he seems rather to be making that gap go away.

Another piece engaged in an "argument" with a passage in Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans. Burger read her own piece first, then read the passage from Stein. Burger's poem involved a lot of repeated phrases, but when she read the Stein passage I was reminded that Stein doesn't repeat--she iterates and varies and moves things forward.

Perhaps the most interesting moment came due to a technical failure--Burger wasn't able to project images from a work involving photographs, forcing her to give us lovely, pithy descriptions of the photos we weren't seeing: "A flag, torn almost in half, held together by a thread."

Her final piece, on the "semiotics of the rubber duck," was probably her best, moving convincingly from Chinese factories to a toy duck floating in a bathtub.

More to come...

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