Entries tagged with Grand Piano

It is forty years since the Fall of Saigon, and the first event I record, in my lead piece in volume 2 of The Grand Piano, recalls my activities on that day. I hope it still means something to put this out there:


On 1 May 1975, I attended a public meeting of a communist organization. The Fall of Saigon, of course, did not simply coincide with that date; it had been taking place for weeks. The meeting was in a rented hall on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Two million people, according to mass media, had been forced to evacuate Phnom Penh. The speaker interpreted this report in a positive light: Khmer Rouge authorities were only trying to prevent disease and panic. Half the people in the room read revolutionary newspapers as the speaker addressed them, while the other half listened attentively. He went on: now is the time the movement for revolutionary change must commence. There can be no going back. By next year the organization’s size must double. We have a simple choice before us.
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GP completespread

Luke Harley, “Poetry as Virtual Community: A Review of The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography,” Jacket2, 7 February 2013. Click here.  

In part due to its demanding format—ten volumes by ten authors, published over a five-year period (2006–10), totaling over 1600 pages—and in part due to the difficult questions of poetics and community it raises, The Grand Piano has only now, more than two years after the last volume saw the light, received the kind of engaged and comprehensive review that will help open its project to readers in all its multiple dimensions. Barry Schwabsky’s 2011 review in The Nation, uploaded to this site, was likewise welcome as an enthusiastic introduction to a broader readership, one that perhaps had not heard of Language writing and would like to know more. Harley’s review, on the other hand,  assumes not only familiarity but positional engagement with the movement, these authors, this writing. Working through the debates of the 70s and 80s, as we did in The Grand Piano, Harley’s discussion extends literary history into the concerns of the present; it becomes, as Foucault would have said, a work of effective history. In so doing, his review joins Eleana Kim’s 2001 online history of Language writing to offer a broad overview of the movement, contributing to the work of documenting the past history and present possibility of language-centered poetics. Going beyond mere narrative history, critical readings like Harley’s reinterpret the effort to document the movement as a reenactment of its polemical force—from the archival matter of readings, talks, magazines, and books to its real-time engagement. Given the depth of discussion Harley and predecessors have initiated, one can only hope they will encourage more. La lutte continue!

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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.”

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Thanks to Aldon Nielsen for posting links to the 2009 MLA Offsite Reading. Here is the YouTube video of my section, one section of Grand Piano 9, preceded by Eric Selland’s reading of translations from the Japanese:


For all the videos of the reading: