Sampling The Grand Piano

@noon, 12 April 2010, with Marie Buck
Department of English, Wayne State University

Today I read samples from The Grand Piano to an appreciative group of faculty and students at Wayne State. The samples followed the position of my section in the volumes, not the volume number. For instance I began with the opening two paragraphs of section 1 from part 2, with an additional paragraph for counterpoint, and then read the third through fifth paragraphs of section 2 from part 1. I think of these reading sequences as compositions in their own right, and so will record the order of selections here:

1. Part 2, pp. 11-12, “On May 1, 1975, I attended a public meeting . . .” to “There was no money, and few agreeable jobs”; p. 17, from “Kathleen Cleaver met with an impromptu group . . .” to “. . . but all I saw there was a modern airport.”

2. Part 1, pp. 13-15, “I remember talking with the editor at UC Press . . .” to “This writing is his tombstone; we survived.”

3. Part 5, pp. 37-38, “Is it possible to say ‘we’?” to “Friendship as originally negative.”

4. Part 4, pp. 69-70, “The Russians have a name for the epoch . . .” to “Toyota has just surpassed the production figures of GM.”

5. Part 6, pp. 69-70, “The decisive question has always been . . .” to “Either number or weight, / Sex . . . .”; pp. 72-73, “The art of complexity is written . . .” to “. . . regrounded as sensed, with the mind in it.”

6. Part 7, pp. 109-11, “The troops are departing by boat . . .” to “. . . I found that much of it had been erased.”

7. Part 3, pp. 96-96, “Hunger coalesces in huge time sockets . . .” to “. . . a historical dimension the poetasters do not usually comprehend”; p. 85, “I would walk from my cataloguing job . . .” to “. . . for the daily working relations of the staff.”

8. Part 9, pp. 164-65, “Believe me, I am a poet and professor.” to “. . . make their works and discourse on truth for all time.”

9. Part 8, pp. 162-67, “”The head of a king’s son . . .” to “What is the City you are now in?”

My original thought was to read from the final section of the The Grand Piano, now in press. But I decided against it. The possibility of closure for the authors of The Grand Piano has led us in divergent directions; there is no consensus about “how to end it.” Therefore, the end of the The Grand Piano will be a topic in its own right—for later.

Later that day, I learned that our coauthor on the project, Rae Armantrout, has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Is that legitimation, or what—and if so, does it help?

- - -