Friday, December 30, 2005

Hey, I got quoted in the NY Times - who wants to make out?

Although they spelled my name wrong - it should be B-R-I-A-N, not P-I-T-C-H-F-O-R-K:

There is miniature majesty to their music - sounds and motifs come and go on the record, seemingly of their own accord. But just when you think Clap Your Hands is a domestic version of Belle and Sebastian, the British kings of twee-core, they rear up and make a big, scary noise. Pitchfork did a good job of describing the music: "Clap Your Hands traffics in melodic, exuberant indie rock that pairs the shimmering, wafting feel of Yo La Tengo with a singular vocal presence that sounds like Paul Banks attempting to yodel through Jeff Mangum's throat. Or imagine the Arcade Fire if their music were more fun-loving and less grave."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Criticism vs. Divinity

"Critical clarity is bullshit," someone recently said to me, and it has been much on my mind, as I think about ways of seeing and experiencing music, books, and art that don't involve dissecting them on a slab, laying out their parts in an orderly fashion and in the process excising the divinity right out of them. But I don't know how to get around it within the current music crit paradigm, where divinity is poo-pooed and everything is a surface to be buffed or gridded. I think that clarity is a very poor way to experience a piece of art, when a sort of befogged wonder is perhaps more in order, although this is perhaps my poetics creeping into my criticism. I've been thinking about divinity a lot - by now I'm very deep inside the F7 process, using it much more organically, and in these states of deep interface with the texts, the air becomes radiant with the stuff (divinity, that is) - especially since I read about the suppressed gospel of Thomas, which excised all the miracles and biographical details from the New Testament in favor of simply listing Jesus' parables, unbowdlerized (i.e. without the pithy morals the apostles were wont to attach to them in transcription), which wind up reading a lot more like Zen koans than parables - they don't instruct, they raise questions for contemplation. What emerges is a teaching that's not terribly concerned with sin and redemption, or the promise of an afterlife - the upshot is that the 'kingdom of heaven' isn't something you suffer through this life to achieve, it's here on earth, waiting for humankind to claim it by renouncing binaries and embracing their unified being, that spark of divinity in us all. This makes so much more sense than, and is so very diametrically opposed to, modern mainstream xtianity, where the focus is all sin and redemption, moral imperatives, and a blind faith in miracles and received wisdom that Jesus surely would have despised. What could be more detrimental to divinity and pure, unmediated experience than the rigid binaries of modern music crit? And how could something so personally be translated into text, anyway?

Note to the friend to whom I sent this in an email - I wrote it for you, I only posted it here after the fact. I'm not just emailing you my blogposts now, honest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Don't ask

Monday, December 19, 2005

Let's vote on it

Price Saves the Circus

My poem "Price Saves the Circus" joined the stellar ranks of the Order & Decorum project today. Go here and click on "Your Role in Combating the Insider Threat" to become complicit (after Wednesday, it will be moved into the archive).

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Torrid Cement of Sorrow

It's been said many times that a dunderhead donkey with a dunderhead type rider would even tally, by sheer erotica, shakeup ears. Scantier to me is the audio that these same donkeys would, with lewd probity, use to produce trig sorrows that have not yet been knitted. Sorrow embeds this audio, a physical epic, in his library of labor, a triage, seemingly definite lifelike structure, wild with spooks that nontoxic every easily permitted ration of lingo now to name. As a goon fearing this torso in the 21st denture, it's lateral to image the library of labor as a rebuke. As a rite and a nomad gene, I deify this audio, exiled and flightless, terrific dying: A lower prelude purring through stiffer actions of lunge could, ethically, even tally eroded clients and optical breadth simply by dancing across the torrid cement of sorrow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Imogen speaks

Imogen Heap's vocodered hymn "Hide and Seek" has to be 2005's most arresting single; the only thing that comes close in terms of pure, heart-stopping, oh-shit-I've-had-my-eyes-closed-for-three-minutes bliss is Antony and the Johnsons's "Hope There's Someone". If you haven't heard these songs, do yourself a favor and drop .99 cents on iTunes. You won't be sorry. Anyway, I recently wrote a little 200-word feature on Imogen for Paste Magazine. I fired off way too many questions for such a short piece, assuming she'd poke at whichever ones she fancied. Imagine my surprise when an email came back that ran to pages of thoughtful, detailed answers; the kind only someone who's really in synch with his or her life at the moment can give. Imogen was so great that my bosses at Paste decided to complement my thin piece in the magazine with the full text of the interview online, which is available here.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Losing Face in Georgia

After spending six hours in the car exploring Marcus Slease's manhood (not quite as tawdry as it sounds, but close), we arrived at the Eyedrum Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a beautiful space; cavernous, filled with paintings and installations that actually did not suck. The stage was large and well-lit, and the sound system was terrific. We drank beer and mingled with the Atlanta poets as what sounded like Surrealist sound poetry played over the PA. We split into two cells for the reading - David Need, Ken Rumble, and Randall Williams in one, Marcus Slease and I in the other. David's poems were leavened with his usual vivid lyrcism. His first poem was particularly wonderful, and since he read it very fast, in my mind's eye I saw the poem bathed in the light from a blood-red sun flying up and down like a yo-yo. The unrelenting attention in Randall's poems makes you wonder whether you actually speak the language, and if you watch him closely when he reads, you'll notice that he's levitating an inch above the stage. Words leave him like tiny weights and his body arches upward. Ken enlisted Bruce from Coconut Poetry at the last moment to read one of his "Monologues for Voices", in which simple realities question themselves to exhaustion. He also read a new poem that I love, or, I should say, "l l l l l o o l l l o v lo ll e e e ll o v v l e". You probably had to be there, but watching Ken attempting to express language in a moment of utter collapse, I thought him very corageous. Marcus and I read from "This is the Motherfucking Remix", an in-progress collaborative chapbook that pits my F7 process against Marcus's Marcus process to produce rather disorienting effects. It was the first time we've publically read any of it, and we gained a lot of insight from audience responses and our own intuition. The audience was terrifically attentive, and we got good responses to our collaborative reading style - by jumbling up the poems of the whole group into one mass, we achieve unexpected resonances and tensions within the work, which would not manifest if we were all just reading from our respective manuscripts for fifteen minutes.

It was at this point that things began to get out of hand. We went to a bar called Manuel's with a group of the Atlanta poets, including Laura Carter, John Lowther, Heather Brinkman, Zac Denton, Tracey Gagne, Randy Prunty ... it was all perfectly civilized at first. Then Marcus decided that everyone needed to drink shots of Jaegermeister. They were served in little plastic medicine cups. We had very many of them. I remember singing the song that Marcus's grandmother sang to him when he was little, the one that sounds suspiciously like a drinking song: "I u-dul-used to pla-da-lay my little ol' ban-jo-da-lo..." I remember marvelling at the $250 bar tab. But I do not remember walking out the door. The next thing I remember is my face slamming into the concrete parking lot. How exactly this happened remains unclear. There are conflicting reports. I know that Marcus was right on top of me when I fell, perhaps holding my arms, which would explain a) the high velocity with which I hit the pavement and b) why I cushioned the blow with my face instead of my arms. I contend that Marcus tackled me, but he denies it, maintaining that I "tripped." We don't think the nose is broken, but we are not sure. Big thanks here to John, Tracey and Randy for letting us be unruly in their home until five in the morning. It takes a special kind of person to let out of town poets with blood all over their faces invade your space.

After about two hours of sleep, we rallied our decimated forces and prepared to head to Athens. I looked in the death mask in the mirror and felt conflicted. On the one hand, it looked pretty tough, and we entertained ourselves all weekend joking around about it. "Dude, what happened to your face?" "You know, poetry reading." Everyone we met was regaled with tales of the former beauty lurking behind my new hideousness. On the other hand, it hurt like shit, and while it was all fun to joke around with my friends about it, I thought about having to explain it to strangers: I mean, essentially, I got really drunk and fell on my face. It sounds kind of sad out of context. So I wore it with a mix of embarrassment ("I am getting too old for this") and pride ("I love life so much I'm willing to destroy my face in search of it, see?"). Our hosts took us to breakfast at a local diner and sent us on our way. In Athens, we found a coffee shop that had a "quiet room" (an ingenious innovation, to have a room where no one is allowed to play music or talk in a coffee shop) and began to put together our set. At the Flicker Bar, we were greeted by the lovely (Marcus would say "brazen") Sabrina Mark, who organized this reading for us. It was sparsely attended - four in the afternoon is maybe an odd time for a reading - but we had a great time. David had stayed behind in Atlanta, so it was just the four of us, and, possessed by the unholy animation of the profoundly tired, we nevertheless turned in a reading we felt good about. I would love to reconstruct it for you but I was so tired I barely remember it now. I remember cracking up as Marcus read an early Resident Alien poem that juxtaposed expressions of religious devotion with lists of food. There was a Christmas tree in the back that had those glowing fiber-optic lights coruscating over it and it was hypnotizing me. We had dinner with Sabrina and her friends Kristen and Brian (whose last name I unfortunately don't know), then went to our cheap hotel for a power nap. When we emerged, somewhat rejuvenated, we went to a bar with Sabrina, Brian and Kristen. Ken Rumble, it has to be noted, didn't drink a drop all weekend, yet maintained his almost obscene energy level. Randall wore a fur-lined vest that I was sort of jealous of. We played darts and pool. We sang the song again, several times. We found out that Marcus has seen his doppelganger and is therefore going to die. He asked for group hugs until everyone became uncomfortable. He was very into us being "like a family" and sharing food all weekend. We inflicted no further injury upon one another. We stayed up too late again.

Spending a weekend in close proximity with poets who are also people you love remakes the world into something both awesome and terrible. The sky gets too portentous, and every stone gets overturned, and you feel a little crazy but you want to do it forever. Even so, having just been home for a few hours, I feel banality starting to close around me like a fist ... what I mean is that we'll come read anywhere, anytime, for free, if you just ask us. To escape banality, even for a weekend, is worth any absurd bar tab or facial reconstruction. Thanks again to all the wonderful people who helped us get away.