Monday, January 25, 2010


[Shout out to kewzoo's flickr stream for the photo!]

Ten reflections on Impersonal Space with Dana Motherfucking Gioia:

1) Became much more personal/mantra-like than I expected. Isolated, walking those streets. This felt like failing (for the same reasons as below, a worry over a recreation of personal/reflective lyric space, rather than exploded public), though it was interesting to experience.

2) Walked the same route, a loop between the CCA Writing Center and the ReBar installation (was that the name of that group…?). Most electricity/static/energy when encountering groups.

3) Decided, based on availability, to read Gioia’s book of essays, rather than poems. This also seemed appropriate given that I bought the book at the talk he gave where I first had the idea to do this performance. Started with “Can Poetry Matter?” expecting to read several essays (business and poetry, and notes on the new formalism).

4) The text stretched out—the single essay took the entire hour.

5) I found the switch to prose pretty fascinating. People would walk by and the looks on their faces suggested that the normative syntax of the essay seemed even more disorienting than poetry would have. The mad wanderers jabber in poetry; prose as a jeremiad is somehow out of place. This was excellent and generative for me.

6) The content of the essay worked pretty well—the call for a more public role for poetry made public and somehow shamed by being screeched at the streets. At times I couldn’t help bursting into laughter at some of the ridiculous claims, but this didn’t feel out of place. Some knowing laughter as I approached groups.

7) Given the context of the event, impersonal space invading was drained of its aggression. Not sure if this is good or bad; made it easier, in some ways.

8) Decided, spur of the moment/while in performance, to ‘leaflet’ car windows with the ‘business card’ I printed, which said:

Dana Motherfucking Gioia
Poetry CEO

Google me, Barbara!

It’d be interesting to know what the afterlives of those scraps of paper might be.

9) The ‘impersonal space’ element would work much better when there’s more street traffic. A kind of tunnel vision ensues, reading and walking simultaneously, making it hard to ‘aim,’ as it were. With more traffic, one could bumble around side to side and still be a personal space invader. But catching the locations of individuals or small groups in my peripheral vision was hard to do. This is interesting to me—the movement/text/intervention into public were somehow not able to coexist as a trio. I worry that the effect was a kind of recreation of the lyric space, and felt like a failing of the piece. I’d like to try a similar project on a larger scale, in a more public public—something where a group of people read a variety of essays on poetics while walking circuits around some place, perhaps Union Square or some other shopping district. The overlapping ideas/voices and intersections between individuals and their experiences of the texts could be great—a kind of disembodied seminar.

10) The book burning was great. It didn’t feel monosyllabically political or aggressive, as I had worried. In some ways the most purely aesthetic moment of the entire process. Meditative in an unexpected way, too, watching the pages curl. Someone compared the new artifact to birch bark.

All in all, a fascinating and thoughtful afternoon. My only complaint was that I would’ve liked to see/participate in more of the performances…

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