Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I noticed that International Exchange for Poetic Invention has listed the available postings below from the Agression Panel. Here they are copied from there.

Jasper Bernes'"The Liberalizing Ideology of the Internet"

Juliana Spahr's talk

Erika Staiti's Race & Gender

Link to Craig Perez'"My Michael Magee and the Frontier of Democratic Symbolic Action"

And, again, the Aggression panel blog.

It is worth mentioning that a number of panelists (Jasper, Erika, Rob Halpern) called for future actions that had to do with setting down and asserting one's own history or identity or issues, sometimes in a collective and sometimes anonymous way. This idea compliments Erika's archiving project. As an older writer, I feel a lot of pleasure in knowing about these projects (some of them imagined, some already begun) and in being involved in them, to the degree that I am. But I feel a bit separated by generational issues or assumptions from those who will really do them. I don't mind this feeling because we older ones have other fish to fry. My sense is that younger writers might want to highlight personal life, the body, gender considerations more than has been the case with some recent poetics, but that is just a guess. There is a lot going on. Will I even know when whatever is going to happen happens? I hope someone tells me. Meanwhile, about the 70s.

Me at 20, 1972

Jerry and I are having one of our first dates. It is a hot day in early summer and we go to a group reading in the North Beach. One of the readers, I think the others are Beat poets, is Kathleen Fraser who has just gotten into town to run the Poetry Center at State (where she founded the American Poetry Archives of which I am later the director). She is fresh from close involvement in New York School which is going strong in the East.

Kathleen Fraser from the back cover of Memory
by Bernadette Mayer, North Atlantic, 1975

Jerry has just made friends with the poet Alta, who seems famous to me because I heard her read at Sac State. I perceive when they meet at this reading that she believed that their meeting was a date but Jerry, with me in tow, has a different sense of it. I experience being a silent girl thing as they talk poetry and wonder how I will find my way in the poetry world. Because of my working class background of not really knowing anything about anything but what I have read, I think of myself, to quote a Sappho book I often read, as a “hayseed in [my] hayseed finery” but I don’t care. My plan is to keep writing. I want to see my version and I want to see it out in the world.

One encounters, at that time, various Beats in North Beach as Gregory Corso who marries a young woman and has a kid. He always seems to be drunk and mean. One encounters Bob Kaufman as he wanders like a ghost from bookstore to bar, exquisitely dressed in thriftshop clothes, having gotten out of the asylum and begun talking again after ten years of silence. He depends on the baby Beat scene to buy him drinks and take him in of an evening. He likes to leave the shower running and sit in the steam.

Kearny Street Workshop forms in 1972 in the International Hotel where the Transamerica Pyramid now is. I am vaguely aware of the writers there but don’t move to San Francisco until just before they are evicted in 1977. There is a big demonstration. People surround the building. I think I do too. Jack Hirschman is very much part of the North Beach scene and is part of this action. We probably follow him down the hill to the crowd surrounding the hotel.

Jerry Estrin and I in 1976
In 1976 Jerry and I move to a place on Mason & Vallejo. He is part of a group of surrealists who have worked with the Greek poet Nanos Valloritis who teaches at SF State. Nanos is a connection to Andre Breton and French surrealists, some of whom he knew in the day. Jerry and Ken Wainio, a fellow SF State graduate, found the magazine Vanishing Cab by the usual surrealist method of randomly opening the dictionary or maybe throwing it up in the air. Neither of them drive at the time though both are to make a living that way later. They are also both to die young but we don’t know that then. I don’t identify as a surrealist and I resist some of the gang Jerry is friends with – as does he eventually. However he continues to admire Philip Lamantia and to have a surrealist inflected thinking which values experiment and the idea that one changes all of life with one’s work. In that way it is strangely political. Jerry and I write poetry and argue about poetics a lot. We talk Blake and Lautremont around various campfires on top of various mountains and in secret cabins he knows about from old girlfriends. We like Michael McClure’s work and go to see his plays at Malvina’s Coffee House on Union, one of the places everyone hangs out but we don’t really meet him. When September Blackberries appears I buy it and take it the Civic Center park City Hall to read in the sun. We are friends with a poet called Stephen Scharwtz who is destined to write Jerry’s obituary for the Chronicle. I admire Bruce Conner and other visual artists and often go to museum and galleries. After visiting one gallery and seeing Conner’s piece that I think was called Tables & Cards, I write the poem with his and Michael McClure’s words with which, thirty years later, I will open my Selected Poetry.


Blogger Nada said...

I love all this, Laura. A note on Stephen Schwartz: when I was a punk kid he was always around, hanging around the commie-punk band, The Dils, of whom I was a devoted fan. Schwartz at that time called himself "Nico Ordway" and wrote on punk and leftist issues. OK, well, come the Reagan era, he became a NEOCON. I have no idea what he's up to now, but it's worth a google.

6:58 PM  
Blogger WRD said...

That's not Kathleen Fraser in the photo from Bernadette Mayer's book Memory. It is Kathleeen Dabney - an actress. She was a close friend of Bernadette's at the time of Memory's creation. She was in the classic film Alice's restaurant with Arlo Guthrie. She was part of the Stockbridge, MA hippie/theatre community. She would later suffer from severe bouts of mental illness.
An unpublished Sonnet of Bernadette's can be viewed on my website blog:


12:24 PM  

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