Amsterdam reading 1200Reading @ Amsterdam
Perdu/Lloyd Hotel
Oostelijke Handelskade 34
8:00 PM, 30 July 2013

After reading via Skype at the Amsterdam poetry venue Perdu last fall, for a thematic program based on the formal idea of “parataxis,” I wanted to return and present my work in person. I was able to arrange a reading through Samuel Vriezen and Frank Keizer, which due to the renovations undergoing at Perdu, would take place at the Lloyd Hotel, booked as “the world’s first 1-5 star hotel.” The hotel itself has a history and design idea, recounted here.

I wanted to develop my reading from the combinatorial matrix I gave in Nuremberg in May, described here. For this reading, I chose different texts and altered the way in which their serial organization would take place (see composition notes, right). I imagined 6 columns x 10 rows, totaling 60 compositional units, to be read in sequence that always began with a stanza from my poem “Silence” at the beginning of the row. But the sequence that followed would vary from row to row, beginning with a straight left to right reading, followed by a reading that skipped every other column; then one that skipped every two columns; then every third; then every fourth; and back to a straight left to right reading. I imagined something like a loop that would become more irregular and complicated, with juxtapositions between elements (originally placed to provide contrasts whose value I could anticipate, i.e., “tonal” ones) becoming more “atonal” at least in terms of formal values, and as well in terms of content. I wanted to create a dialectical argument that would begin clearly but become unresolved, before partly clarifying itself again. The effect I was looking for was one of lucid, felicitous transitions–uncanny convergences and overtones–against transitions without such values and that had to be taken as simply what they are.

The six texts (corresponding to six columns) were: 1) a stanza from “Silence,” in 1–10; 2) paragraphs on “friendship” from “Sauve Qui Peut,” Grand Piano 5; 3) four stanzas from “40 Poems,” from Politics of Nothing (MS); 4) sections 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, C, and F from Bad History; 5) three-stanza sets, read in sequence but skipping over three stanzas every row, from Zone I (MS); and 6) paragraphs on “the body,” along with stanzas from Progress that mention the body or embodiment, from “The Turn to Language” in Grand Piano 6. In the event, it proved difficult to move quickly from section to section, due to the fact that each was in a different book or MS; this created a deliberative rhythm that one member of the audience, Mia You, commented on (saying that it added a sense of co-production to the reading). I would pause briefly, as well, to check off each element as I read it, in order to maintain the spacing between them. It proved impossible to read all 10 rows, as I might have guessed, so I simply broke off at the seventh row. This manner of ending brought to mind Jackson Mac Low, and the way some of his combinatorial works in Stanzas for Iris Lezak stop when he has had enough.

What I actually read, to the best of my knowledge, from rows A–G, is as follows:

A1: “Silence,” stanza 3, in Frame (1971–90), 00–00
A2: “Sauve Qui Peut,” para. 1, sect. 1, Grand Piano 5:34
A3: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 1–4, from Politics of Nothing (MS)
A4: “Art School,” from Bad History, sect. 2, 11–14
A5: Zone 1, sects. 1–3 (MS)
A6: “The Turn to Language,” paras. 1–2, stanza 1, sect. 1, Grand Piano 6:58–59

B1: “Silence,” stanza 2
B2: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 5–8
B3: Zone 1, sects. 7–9 (MS)
B4: “Sauve Qui Peut,” para. 2, sect. 2, Grand Piano 5:37
B5: “The Turn to Language,” sect. 2, “Body,” Grand Piano 6:60–62
B6: “Intellectuals,” from Bad History, sect. 5, 23–24

C1: “Silence,” stanza 3
C2: “To Elsie,” from Bad History, sect. 8, 35–37
C3: “Sauve Qui Peut,” para 12, sect. 3, Grand Piano 5:37–38
C4: “The Turn to Language,” paras. 3–4, stanza 4, sect. 3, Grand Piano 6:63–64
C5: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 9–12
C6: Zone 1, sects. 13–15 (MS)

D1: “Silence,” stanza 4
D2: Zone 1, sects. 19–21 (MS)
D3: “Cadre,” from Bad History, sect. 11, 50–53
D4: “The Turn to Language,” paras. 3–4, stanza 6, Grand Piano 6:67–68
D5: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 13–16
D6: “Sauve Qui Peut,” para. 2, sect. 4, Grand Piano 5:41–42

E1: “Silence,” stanza 5
E2: “The Turn to Language,” sect. 6, “Sensation,” Grand Piano 6:68–69
E3: “Sauve Qui Peut,” paras. 3–5, sect. 5, Grand Piano 5:42–43
E4: “Numbering Machine,” from Bad History, sect. 14, 67–70
E5: Zone 1, sects. 25–27 (MS)
E6: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 17–20

F1: “Silence,” stanza 6
F2: “The Turn to Language,” sect. 7, “Technique,” Grand Piano 6:72–73
F3: “Sauve Qui Peut,” para. 1, sect. 6, Grand Piano 5:44
F4: “Erotica,” from Bad History, sect. 17, 84–86
F5: Zone 1, sects. 31–33 (MS)
F6: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 21–24

G1: “Silence,” stanza 7
G2: Zone 1, sects. 37–39 (MS)
G3: “The Door,” from Bad History, sect. 20, 98–101
G4: “The Turn to Language,” paras. 1–2, stanza 9, sect. 9, Grand Piano 6:73–74
G5: “Forty Poems,” stanzas 24–27
G6: “Sauve Qui Peut,” paras 1–3, sect. 6, Grand Piano 5:46–47

The effort required simply to recover this structure, and type it out, testifies to its commitment to complexity. But something of the opposite may have been the realized effect, in that each of the sections seemed to create a frame in which the specific element could be heard. The contrastive architecture of the presentation, then, worked more toward a steady state of comprehension, rather than an affect of the manifold vastness of language, which must be one of the unconscious goals of Language writing—at least in its early stages. Against which, the strictures of number provide the counterpoint necessary not to get lost in a mere sea of associations. The reading, overall, went well; I kept to a 50-minute time frame; and there was time and space for questions. Several went right for some of the interesting entailments of this selection: the relationship between friendship and language; the question of discontinuity and argument; and the effect of putting together the sequence in the performance itself. We then adjourned to the hotel bar, followed by  congenial chatting and a round of Dutch liquor.

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