Monday, October 22, 2007


A series of solid, fast decaying sounds are produced with the implementation of dampening techniques. The desired effect is produced after striking the busel, by leaving one’s hand or knee on the flange or the mallets themselves on the busel.
--from Wikipedia's entry on the "Agung"

Which is to say, I reconstituted/re-translated the poem I began as "Chant for kari" into what became "Fado for my Father" in time to read/perform it at yesterday's lovely reading with contemporary Asian American poets. I want to thank Michelle "good sport" Bautista for collaborating viz the agung (a musical instrument from Southern Philippines), allowing the poetics manifestation thus of words deliquescing to music for such can be the power -- and beauty -- of Poetry's own language. A classic unrehearsed collaboration -- in this instance, got off the plane, met with Michelle to discuss the gig two minutes (or was it two seconds), and then just did it.

The agung was an interesting presence, as reflected in Wiki's description of its "decaying sounds." In this translation, I tinkered with translation's decay of the original text -- accepting life's transcience, with which I think kari might empathize -- even as it honored it if the resulting poem maintained its own integrity as abstraction. Obviously, a lot going on, poetics-wise, for this poem -- I should probably do an essay or paper on my translation/sound poem/transcolonialism poetics (transcolonialism? hence, fado) but I need to walk the dogs.

Meanwhile, also returned to California to see that a post I'd blogged from New York hadn't gone through. I replicate it here because the blog is also my file cabinet and I gotta keep these notes somewhere (for another non-blog purpose). Not menched in this post below is my visit to Sharon Louden's new exhibition; details HERE -- highly recommended, in part for the power of abstraction, an abstraction reliant on -- deeply integrated with -- quite specific (figurative for Louden and in my poetics, narrative) references:

Well. I didn't think I'd be blogging whilst in NYC but the hubby brought his laptop so I can do some e-stuff viz the hotel's wireless. Speaking of hotels, so I'm staying in the Chambers Hotel, which I like to do because the Chambers is one of those "art hotels" where contemporary artists' works are sprinkled throughout the hotel rooms, lobby and hallways. I've always loved the idea of the art hotel, in part for providing some support for the artists living and working in one's times - decorating with Picasso? That's for bourgeoise Las Vegas, no?

Still. I think this everytime I visit the Chambers so I'ma gonna write it publicly for the first time (Google me, Chambers, and let me tell you where your art and/or interior design consultants went wrong). Art hotels also are often draped in black or dark interiors so as to hew true to their attempts at chic hip. Thing is, they gotta lighten up in the hallways. Because that's where some of the biggest art works exist and I AM SURE those art works were not intended by their makers to be shown in near-black lighting. You don't need to be architecturally inclined, do youse, to know that setting/context should figure in design?

Next. Whilst meandering about the city, stopped by the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave. and near 40th for their book sale. As with any library book sale, it's hit and miss but I got these books for a buck each, except for the Espada for which I had to pay $2 because it was in hardback:

A MIDWIFE'S TALE: THE LIFE OF MARTHA BALLARD, BASED ON HER DIARY 1785-1812, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history tome by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

THE BIRD CATCHER by Marie Ponsot (synchronicity: Marie just joined my publisher Marsh Hawk Press' Artistic Advisory Board - which is also to say, I love Marsh Hawk's disciplined eclecticism as evinced by the total list of artistic advisors)

PLANT DREAMING DEEP, memoir by May Sarton

MAYAN ASTRONOMER IN HELL'S KITCHEN, poems by Martin Espada (I am only sorry to say that this book was available for sale because it was deaccessioned by the NYPLibrary. Now, what be the sorry story wid dat?!)

POEMS by Shin Shalom (Israeli poet trans. By Ada Aharoni)

TESSERAE: MEMORIES & SUPPOSITIONS, essay-memoirs by Denise Levertov

So, stop by this library branch - you can get some decent bargains there…

And while on Fifth Avenue, passed by the Philippine Embassy and noticed a painting exhibition. So walked in to see, and it's off mixed media paintings by Dan S. Pangan from the Philippines. I don't know him or of him but he was there, and we were able to have an amiable chat - that type of amiable conversation among strangers where nothing meaningful is said but the obligatory hems and haws to acknowledge the existence of an art exhibition for which I was happy to note "Congratulations" (I am trying to remember the last worthwhile deep conversation I've ever had in any art gallery….must be years now….)

And of course, with internet access, surfed through some blogs. And I noticed that Lorna Dee Cervantes posts a reading report that references my recent participation in LitQuake (Hi Lorna! Someday, we'll actually press flesh!)…which amuses me (maybe, embarrasses me) as it refers to my somewhat skewed performance aspect of my reading - where I, as Lorna reports, tore a page from my book. Thing is, I actually had intended to tear up many pages, crumple them into balls, and toss them at the audience as part of reading the words from a poem "edit / edit it down / edit edit edit" etc. But I'd not rehearsed this performance (as Joseph Lease aptly said afterwards, Of course I wouldn't have rehearsed tearing pages out of a book), and so I hadn't realized until I tore that first page that it was more difficult than expected.

My generous publisher had a decent paper stock in The Light…so it was actually kind of awkward to tear out a page. So I only did it once. It made bookmaker Lorna wince - and I also have to say, I've been going over the conceptual idea more and more in my mind. I had thought of it as part of the fleetingness of poetry, making it evaporate and all that. But maybe I angered the poetry-playing angels and so they're sending me a message: Don't tear up the poetry book!

She cocks her head up at the ceiling. The angels glare at her. She thumbs her nose up at them: Oh yeah: we all know how obedient I am…. Snort.

Where was I?

On this trip, I'm reading, among others, Jennifer Moxley's impressive autobiography THE MIDDLE ROOM which is impressive and not just because it's 633 pages. LOVE THOSE POETRY BRICKS LOVE 'EM LOVE 'EM LOVE 'EM!!!! Y'all should check out this project - I love the intended and manifested ambition!

Also stopped by the relatively new Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle coz I needed a cuppa and so decided to check out Border's (sorry; I do intend to go downtown to the indie and used bookstores later). But while there, bought BANKER TO THE POOR by Muhammad Yunus - you all should know of him of course as the Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his ideas on micro-lending for battling world poverty.

In typing "world poverty", I first typed "word poverty." But of course the slip is apt. When I discovered, for example from my trip to the Philippines, that only 20% get to graduate high school, such of course has consequences for poverty, not just economically but psychologically; as regards the latter, I'm also referring to my small involvement in bringing kids' books to poor children in the Philippines. Suffice it to say that I love books.

And that I love poetry so much it even makes me tear up my own poetry books.... Click again on Lorna's link for her lovely Mission poem that ends:

An aroma of growth
in the opalled puddles
Your dream or mine?
Your poem or the fine
wine of tomorrow
and sage, winter
and age.

Opal references always remind me of surrealism, which leads me to lead you to more LIGHT, city lights, HERE.

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