Death be not proud: We’ve Been Here Before

Oriental Mourning

There were varied responses to an earlier pandemic, and I first read the following poem in a 1989 collection, Poets for Life: 76 Poets Respond to AIDS. David Kalstone was James Merrill’s friend whose study of Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and Robert Lowell was cut short by his death in 1986. Caro is an Italian endearment.

There were varied responses. What are our varied ways today? How to be in solidarity in a time of distancing? Continue reading “Death be not proud: We’ve Been Here Before”

Symonds, Whitman, Rossetti and Rake

Outrage cover image

Before Christmas I checked out a book from my little public library branch: Naomi Wolf’s Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love. I had a lot of other things to read and left it for last, not knowing what it contained, vaguely recognizing the author’s name. Turning to it, I recognized Wolf’s photo. If nothing else, readers might remember her defense of Julian Assange when he was accused of sex crimes in Sweden. I thought the book would be a history of censorship, but it’s more comprehensive. By introducing and then returning often to her cast of characters, Wolf creates an intimate narrative against the mise en scène of her historical sweep and sociopolitical stance. Continue reading “Symonds, Whitman, Rossetti and Rake”

Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)

Joseph Shuldiner

Yesterday my friend and collaborator Rob Berg messaged me that my old, dear friend Joseph Shuldiner died. Of a brain tumor. It’s a cruel joke: I’m the one bingeing on cheddar cheese, and last week I was told to go on statins.

My heart goes out to his spouse Bruce Schwartz, his sister Judy, and to all he’s touched.

Joseph and I go a long way back, but hadn’t corresponded for several years. Looking for a photograph last night I came upon a half-dozen file folders containing the following mementos. Continue reading “Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)”

Vaneigem and Bubblegum

Zulu Compilation Gatefold image

Last week, when I was uninspired whilst reviewing my running list of blog topics, YouTube operated as a sort of Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards initially developed by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt independently in the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Eno included four of Schmidt’s prints in his 1977 album Before and After Science.) The cards’ suggestions and comments can act as disinterested—oblique—prods for artists when they encounter roadblocks during the creative process. And so YouTube essentially did the same for me, but not obliquely—rather, evidently, based on my past searches and pointing-and-clicking. “Recommended for you” last week was an obscure track from The Zulu Compilation (1984), an album I happen to have in my collection. Zulu Records was formed by Jayne Casey and Ambrose Reynolds (both of whom also worked in the band Pink Industry, which issued lovely minimalist and melancholic music in the ’80s). The compilation is perhaps most collectible for its inclusion of a pre-Trevor Horn version of “Love Has Got a Gun” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

I hadn’t listened to that compilation LP in years and had completely forgotten the track YouTube selected for me: “The Kremlin in Flame [sic]” by S.T.F.O.T.P.A. It sounds like something from the 1976 Art & Language-Red Crayola collaboration, Corrected Slogans (discussed in my post I Found That Essence Rare). After some searching I found the identity of the track’s creators in a 2010 interview by Arthur McDonald of The Royal Family and the Poor fame. Except that I’d never heard of the band. Or, rather, when coming across their LPs, two of which were issued by Factory Records, I’d passed them by. Continue reading “Vaneigem and Bubblegum”

Marx and Eno

Marx and Eno collage

An instance of years-ago seeming yester-day. My recently departed comrade, Lowell May, in a fortunate instance of synchronicity, on September 12, 2011 forwarded a snippet of Karl Marx just two months after musician Brian Eno had issued his collaboration with poet Rick Holland, Drums Between the Bells (and six days before Occupy Wall Street). What Lowell sent was a blog post of the same date by one N Pepperell, lecturer at an unnamed university in Melbourne, who felt the quotation from Marx “is on point for the sorts of reading strategies I apply to his style in Capital.” The language of this relatively obscure open letter, published twenty-four years before Capital, when Marx was 23, abstractly mirrors that of Holland’s words atop Eno’s soundtrack. Continue reading “Marx and Eno”

Hanky and bandage, cigarette and perfume

Hanky and Cigarettes

The other day I came across Prashant Bhilare’s recitation of a poem on YouTube. As it streamed, themes like beads were strung on a thread (sūtra, from the Sanskrit)—of imperialism, impermanence, love, possession, exposure. And I was reminded of similar work, such as Marguerite Duras’s The Lover, which I’ve mentioned here before. Her roman-à-clef received the prestigious Prix Goncourt despite its subject: an intergenerational relationship that otherwise would bestir the book burners if not the gendarmes.

Bhilare is more circumspect. Yet, I thought to myself, somehow he shares Duras’s audacity, if not her craft. And I returned to him. The poem is titled “ME.” (Unlike Duras, no subject-or-object equivocation.) Who dares title this thus? Continue reading “Hanky and bandage, cigarette and perfume”