Friday, March 22, 2013


I'm reading THE GRAND PIANO by reading one poet at a time through his/her contributions in the series' ten volumes. The idea is, if I'm moved to do so after the individual reads, to then compare this type of reading with reading each volume as published in order to determine the significance of "collective autobiography," the terms upon which the project presents itself to the world. The fourth poet I read (after Lyn Hejinian,Ron Silliman and Tom Mandel) is Bob Perelman.

Okay (and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself in the future for writing this in public, but ...) Bob Perelman. How to articulate my reactions to his contributions....okay, picture a circle. Make that a circle fashioned from a circular band of metal -- like if Richard Serra did a closed circle sculpture. Now, picture Bob Perelman standing within the circle. Then, picture him reciting or talking out the words he contributed to THE GRAND PIANO. If you happened to be within this close circle, his words would be of interest. If you were outside this circle -- as I feel I am -- his words mostly create walls before the (this) reader ...

I don't know if Serra has ever created a closed circle. The sculptures I've seen by Serra always had openings so one can circle his sculptures, rather than that his sculptures would enclose you. But the circle I envision a la Perelman presents no such openings for a stranger to enter.

What do I mean by closed circle? Well, I'm not actually referring to, say, the circle of his cohorts, e.g. other Language poets. I'm talking about his prose. Any subject can be welcoming if the prose is interestingly-written. The problem -- and indeed the problem may be Moi rather than his writings -- is that I found his prose deadening. The prose is instructional but so is an instruction manual.

Actually, to be fair or more specific, I've been talking about 8 out of 10 contributions by Perelman. The exceptions to my feeling put-off would be his contribution to Volume 1 which is worthy of being the first of the first to begin the series -- it's relatively (and delightfully) succinct and it's hard not to be charmed by love. I also enjoyed much of his contribution to Volume 9--those engagements with David Bromige.

But I'm sorry to say that Perelman's contributions are the first (among the four poets I've read) that would make me not wish to re-read the ten volumes as individual volumes. Having said that, I suspect that his individual contributions might be elevated by being read in the company of the nine others since so much of what he writes refers to their shared contexts. Nonetheless, the idea of re-reading his insomnia-curing contributions does elicit the thought: Isn't life too short for such when there are so many things one has not yet tried?