Saturday, May 01, 2010

post moot movement

Looking for the start of the post moot notes in the moleskine notebook I had with me through the four days of events, I come upon “dance is movement that is not going anywhere.” This phrase sounds pretty good and like it might relate to my experience of this convocation. I can’t figure out who said it, but then realize that the line is from an earlier occasion, an SF Poetry Center ‘Poetics of Healing’ event in Berkeley, with Alphonso Lingis. On further consideration, I think there might be a connection. Was the post moot an instance of “movement” in the sense of a diffusely organized or heterogeneous group of people or organizations or, well, people, tending toward or favoring a generalized common goal but not actually trying to get anywhere? That is, would this work as a loose definition if you eliminated the common goal (or maybe having a goal at all would be something to talk about ) or the goal would be to speak, act, read, move and talk in relation to contemporary writing and other art practice, and then talk about it again? The poetics the attendees of this convocation might be said to have in common are more enacted than explained by the use of the mysterious and yet appealing word “moot,” meaning, we are told in our packets, “meeting.” Who but us experimentalists would put up with such a word and, in fact, pay good money to come and enact at length with our fellow mootists?

cris cheek, asked for a quick fact checking, has helpfully provided me with more background on moot which I think useful to present in full:

moot

assembly of people, esp. for a judicial purpose XII; † argument, discussion XIII; discussion of a hypothetical case in the Inns of Court XVI. ME. (i)mōt :- OE. mōt (in comps. only: later re-inforced from ON.), and ġemōt :- Gmc. *(ʒɑ)mōtam; cf. MDu. moet, (also mod.) gemoet, MHG. muoze meeting, attack, ON. mót, and MEET2; of unkn. orig.
Hence moot adj. debatable, arguable XVI; developed from attrib. uses of the sb. (m. case, m. point). Also

moot

1154, from O.E. gemot "meeting" (especially of freemen, to discuss community affairs or mete justice), from P.Gmc. *ga-motan (cf. Old Low Frankish muot "encounter," M.Du. moet, M.H.G. muoz), from collective prefix *ga- + *motan (see meet (v.)). The adj. senses of "debatable" and "not worth considering" arose from moot case, earlier simply moot (n.) "discussion of a hypothetical law case" (1531), in law student jargon, in ref. to students gathering to test their skills in mock cases.


There was a lot of all of that -- right off the plane and off the bat, I encounter Kasey Mohammad with his suitcase and Stepha Carpenter and Johnny Lohr standing there holding a “Laura Moriarty” sign and without further ado, before even getting to the van, we launch into it. Three hours later, we still have not managed to traverse the 20 odd miles to the Miami University campus. (Faulty engagement with the GPS unit resulted in this predicament but it is important to note that no blame accrued. We truly love and appreciate you, Stepha, Johnny and the other student helpers!) In the car, there is a little understated A Tonalist/Flarf fencing between Kasey and I and we retell each other our basic histories involving how hot it can get in the valley in California and rehash recent AWP events and stare out the window at the trees and then at extensive parts of Cincinnati and then at more trees and then hallelujah! we arrive at the on-campus hotels where both Kasey and I are staying, he at the Marcum Conference Center and me at Miami Inn. We register, stow the luggage and then are driven about a mile off campus to cris cheek’s lovely dwelling in the Ohio woodland to a long delayed dinner of salad and pasta with some sort of meat sauce (the word bacon was used) which Kasey & I wolf down and there is some arty chit chat and we meet others and I reflect that the distance between two points might be experienced in many ways. cris is wearing a sparkly sweater, the first of many impactful outfits I see him in. Cathy Wagner is there and Rodrigo Toscano, who seems to have gotten in even earlier than us, and there are Mark Jeffery and Judd Morrissey who are very quiet but engaged and Cathy drives us back to our hotels and I realize that we are in the first wave of mooters. Standard Schaefer, collaborator in the presentation he and I are giving on Friday, checks in by cell from the Marcum Center but it seems too late to go get him for dinner at this point and he claims not to be hungry and we agree to meet, or I guess I should say moot, tomorrow. My hotel is extremely nice. I call Nick and I call Norma to report (as I do every night) and I open the window that thankfully opens onto the cool night full, just outside, of white blossoms and I wonder if I will sleep but do and then it’s Thursday morning and we have some time so we go behind the Marcum Center for a walk on a trail through the trees next to the stream with students sitting in the bushes drawing. It is an exquisite Midwest spring day, the kind of which I have not experienced for a long time or maybe ever, and there are so many trees here that the air seems green. We return and encounter Kasey in a common room in the Marcum Center as we are highlighting the section of our novel, Detectif, that we are going to read. He is wearing his suit. He always wears a suit at these things, rain, shine or heat wave. We tell him we have asked Cathy Wagner to read the Buddha Box, a mind reading machine with lines in our piece, but could he read it if she can’t? and he agrees.

Then it’s time to moot and we walk (talking of course), the first of many times, with others or by ourselves, the short mile or less to Peabody Hall, keeping in mind Cathy’s vague but accurate directions (“off that way,” hand held toward trees, dark buildings and night). But we have maps and determination and the expedition begins.

Note on housing. There were many options according to one’s desires and budget. The post moot organizers – cris cheek, Cathy Wagner, William Howe (along with many others including Lisa Howe, Tammy Brown and infinity interns) -- here comes the first of many paens to them -- were entirely hospitable in their efforts to make sure that if one really wanted to moot, one could.

Note on volcanoes: Eyjafjallajökull kept all of the Britons, and several others, in Britain, and it was a sad day when we were not able to moot with these fine folks. They were there in spirit, however, and I hope will engage in whatever ways are available with whatever comes out of the convocation, if there is such and that seems possible. And, if anything like the longed-for future moots occur – well, you can see where I am going with this. Suffice it to say, they were much missed.

Note on logistics: “Amateurs talk about theory/ Professionals about logistics” from “A Tonalist War” (quoting military strategists) in the long essay poem A Tonalist. I will admit that part of the thrill of this convocation for me and part of the reason I liked it a lot was the swarming, physical presence of the “community” which is one of the main focuses of A Tonalist both as a book and as an idea (movement).

So it’s Thursday morning and we find ourselves on the first floor of Peabody Hall, a big, brick school building with nice meeting or seminar rooms with overstuffed chairs etc, classes which seemed somewhat less nice, but you know, fine, and an old theater space called the Leonard Theater where many of the events occurred. The bookateria is to be set up in an adjoining room with a wall of windows looking out onto the green, woodsy and apparently endless campus. Five boxes of books sent from SPD have been brought from cris’s house by him and a helper and we also help (me by asking the boys to help) carry the boxes to the bookateria room where there will be an SPD, Slack Buddha, Miami University Press and other books display, along with a wall of laptops with multimedia art and texts on them. This room serves as sometime lunch room and a sort of living room for the convocation where you can often wander, look at and buy books, chat with other mootists and look at the multimedia flashing away there. I have to admit really frankly here that I was not able to hone my attention down to these no doubt extremely interesting displays though I usually like this kind of thing. I seemed caught up in human interaction almost every moment I was in that building and just couldn’t settle myself down to look through them, though I tried several times. Hopefully there will be a thorough report on these from more focused multimedia enthusiasts who were there.

After signing in and getting our badges and post moot folders there was immediately lunch, normative sandwich fixings, nicely laid out and personally prepared by moot organizers, in this case cris cheek was helping William Howe and Lisa Howe but mostly, all the way through, it was Bill who made the food with Lisa’s assistance. He wore his cook’s jacket from his pre-professorial cook life and put the food on the table for the entire moot the entire time.

The first panel ended up not being in the Leonard Theater but up a floor or so to a classroom which could accommodate a large number of students and us but was a bit noisy with a loud overhead fan. The venue had a lot of impact on how one experienced each of the panels , some being better than others for the purpose. I quickly learned that I wanted to be as close as possible so as not to miss anything but had to compromise due to Standard’s antipathy to being right out in front and our wanting to sit together so as to exchange comments about the proceedings. As with many things, the details of one’s physical situation became crucial in the moment of experiencing or performing the work. The amount of sleep one had had (often very damn little), personal health, whether the outfit was working -- one felt them all acutely. Again, the logistics were important and you could tell that our hosts had thought about it and tried their best to provide a good experience.

Unlike any others, so far as I can remember, this panel had a name, “The Poetics of Failure.” I was good with it, friendly as I am to doubt, failure etc. However I thought it rather successful so am not sure it worked. Tammy Brown, who teaches at Miami University and who helped in the organizing, gave the intro which was rousing. (Tammy was present and I had and overheard interesting conversations with her throughout the moot.) I think then Daniel Citro began by reading a paper on Harry Smith, eventually comparing him to Samuel Beckett. I knew about Smith but had forgotten him so that was interesting. Ryan Downey talked about Kamau Bathwaite who is in my top five favorite writers so I enjoyed that one. These presentations were actually papers, which was the exception rather than the rule at post moot. I should say that the effect of the various presentations on me is only just beginning to sink in so I will be enumerating more than evaluating here. Monica Mody gave a talk on Namdeo Dhasal. Happily I found her useful handout and I think I am right in remembering that her talk had to do with the forbidden and that the poet could be found in all walks of life in sometimes compromising situations. Monica quotes Nandeo Dhasal: "I am a veneral sore in the private part of language." I am reminded by her handout that the title of the panel is actually "[INSERTAMASHUPWORDHERE]: The Poetics of Failure." I was quite interested, though the fan overhead made it difficult to hear and I resolve to get closer for future talks. Then Holly Bass performs and her piece is a nice introduction to the physically performative aspect of the convocation. She refers to what she is doing as “vocallage” and says that the poetics come in through the movement, by which she meant actual body movements. She seemed possibly trained as a dancer as her movements were precise and very compelling. I liked the bio approach she took which she said she thought less confrontational which is perhaps true but I like the presence of confrontation in her work and think it seems essential. I find her whole approach intensely engaging. She sprinkles baby powder on herself to slide better (this old carpeted classroom is clearly imperfect for her but she completely deals with it) and says it is also reminiscent of ash which, having had some experience with ash, I take to mean from dead people, rather than from a volcano though I suppose, thinking back, it was both. I notice that performers sometimes privilege performing over the book and it is more immediate and memorable in this kind of situation but you are not always here (there) and there is the ephemeral problem. Holly is very good and her level of movement serves as a high water mark to the other performances. I wonder if, with new book technology, this kind of movement could be incorporated into something like a "moving text."

Then there is an hour or so break and Standard and I hoof it back to the hotel where I make tea in my room (I always travel with a pot that heats water) and bring him a cup when we walk back. When we arrive back at Peabody, I discover to my delight that Rodrigo Toscano and possibly the interns have emptied out the SPD boxes onto the tables provided. I am quite intent, in this case, on being a full member of the convocation rather than a bookseller, as I always am at AWP and MLA, so found this to be extremely good. More people are arriving every minute, gradually thickening the moot with familiar poet faces. So we go into the Leonard Theater for out first event there and begin to face the sad fact of the absent participants who are stuck in England or other parts of Europe. Even Stan Apps, inveterate American and Flarfist, is stuck there. It is truly unfortunate but there it is. cris cheek introduces the first group of performers still wearing the apron from his food duties. He laments the loss of the British attendees and introduces Cathy Wagner. Cathy reads for Luke Roberts and for herself. I am very glad to hear Cathy because I missed her reading in the Bay Area and she is really a star. She looked regal in a dark silk tunic whose slight quilting raised the shoulders elegantly. As it happens, after this, she disappears almost entirely into managing the moot and rarely seems to see panels. Mairéad Byrne follows with a fascinating talk on color with slides. In her talk she allows herself to be incredibly obsessed with color, color in typography in particular. She has arranged all of the books in her library by color and photographed them (someone later tells me that books somewhere, I think the library at Naropa, are so arranged). She gives out cards to get our comments and recommendations on color. It is a lively presentation. She is wearing a brightly colored patterned sweater and blue scarf with jeans.

It should be pointed out and everyone probably knows that cris cheek often wears a kilt which gives him a from-here-but-not-of-here look that is perfect for him as master of ceremonies because he doesn’t have to perform to be performative. I am a skirt person myself and appreciate his kilts and matching bags, they are probably called something special, the ornamented shirts and general sense of color coordination or, at least, awareness, because I come from a long line of color coordinators, especially my father who took great pains with it, and color can never be too coordinated for me.

Dinner is graciously served for the first time and I am very happy but already feel tired and we have just started. Said dinner consists of whole parts of enormous chickens and humus from lunch and pasta salad and perhaps this is the night of the couscous. It is all good and homemade. There is stuff for vegetarians and drinks and I hear nothing but appreciation about the food the whole time, except for from Erin Mouré, who is seriously allergic to peanuts, so there went the peanut noodles. Perhaps it is during dinner or just before or maybe during lunch that Barrett Watten and Carla Harryman arrive. Barry surveys the wall of mooters near the window including me, Keith Tuma, Alan Golding, cris cheek, and maybe also Lisa Samuels and says, “Yes, I’ll take it,” meaning the vision of the lot of us and that’s how it was there. Many occasions of spying rows of people you wanted to moot.

Then it is time for the Flarf reading which includes Kasey Mohammad, Rod Smith, Mel Nichols, Maria Damon, Adeena Karasick and K. Lorraine Graham who arrives on stage fresh from the plane and engagingly puts her make-up on up there, looking good for just having gotten off a plane from San Diego. The reading was rousing and much liked. Everyone is dressed to a tee. Mel is ravishing in something short and silky, Rod looks tough in a fedora, Kasey is suave in his suit, Adeena is bangled and sexed up and Maria looks glamorous and a little dangerous, as always. Stan Apps is missed again. Then it’s the end but not really the end and people scatter to their various domiciles. I think I ride back that night with Barry and Carla who happen to have a car with them. And the late night reading is actually at my hotel in a basement room that is too brightly lit and reminiscent of a family wedding you aren’t enjoying. We enliven it, however and I find myself wanting to read and a lot of people also want to and we do and there is much clapping and responding to Bill Howe’s shenanigans at the podium where he reads from a Slack Buddha book I think by Mr. Apps. I escape early, not being able to make it until 2am and manage to sleep adequately with the first day of post moot under my belt.

Then it’s up betimes and to our first event at 9:30 at the Miami Art Museum. cris is in a striped light colored suit with a nice shirt with writing on it. He regrets the lack of the British again sadly and reads two great emails from Lawrence Upton while Upton’s images wrap around him in slide light. I am not familiar with this wonderfully rich work and resolve to know much more about it. This event is a nice beginning to the day. While he is constantly introducing and stage-managing, this is the only time cris performs and then it is entirely at the service of Lawrence’s work. He provides a nice introduction to Upton, who seems to be a longtime friend and mentor. Mark Wallace follows, reading a piece about Southern California and then some poems with a similar focus. He is creditably attired in jeans and shirt in I think a light California blue and reads extremely well. I have a note here that seems to say “butt buoy,” a planned product of kind that generates a lot of enthisiasm. He is followed by Adeena Karasick and Maria Damon who level us with a very intense sexy reading having to do with sexuality and textuality. There is a lot of fast back and forth. They are fast talking women. They are both dressed to the nines. Adeena in one her erotic but professional looking ensembles and Maria in an amazing turquoise tunic, a sort of traditional Chinese style jacket , but tunic length. She wears turquoise earrings and black leggings with it and a serape over it all with a red wool scarf, adding to the textuality. They are both powerful readers. I write in my notebook “schemata schma’ata,” which I see on the screen next to them and I believe it is the title. On the screen, I now remember, I see much other text and many textiles. Funny how the bodies and voices make a much greater impression on me than the moving image or series of stills though I was staring into those images much of the time. There are good questions for all of them but now I am mixing the responses with the talk in my memory and I think this the moment when cris calls Brian Whitner a “chap” in chosing him to ask a question, which I can remember, is a key question though I can’t remember the details. I believe the idea of noise came up as in information overload and how to use it or be used by it. In retrospect, I feel a bit jealous of those who performed in the museum because it seems by far the best venue, but I realize it’s important to let go of such negativity and let a thousand flowers moot, etc. I recall also, from my time on a campus, that any campus venue, and this must be particularly true at the end of the semester, is difficult to get hold of. I will say that the places provided for all events were all good, some great.

We hike back to the Peabody, just up the hill, past the pond, to that classroom on the 4th floor. First in this session there is Ric Royer. Behind him on a screen is a drawing of a prone body, black line drawing on a white screen. He starts with a ukulele which, as a uke enthusiast, I find promising. He sings and reminds me a bit of Beirut, the guy, not the city, because his singing is sweet and not over-determined. He turns on what he describes as a high end white noise machine. At some point while all this is happening cris turns off the large overhead fan that makes it hard to hear but Ric asks that it be turned back on again because he seems to like machine noise, interruptions and other chance additions to his performance which is something like a lullaby with its initial song and then addressing as it does canceled sound and sleeping or not sleeping in quiet tones. Instead of taking notes, I dreamily respond. Next is Jaime Robles who hails from my part of the world but who was in England has managed to be the only person to somehow get back. Her piece is silent. There are slides that have to do with printing, bookmaking and writing. These include those familiar handprints made in caves which, Jaime notes, when she talks during the question period, were apparently mostly made by women. In her piece, she spreads out a long scroll of paper that already has some things written or painted on it, adds what seems like ink to it with a brush, folds it, smoothing out the folds with a bone tool, adds a cover and, at the end, points out laconically that “it’s a book.” The demonstration is a nice corollary to the bookateria downstairs. The resulting book is passed around but, interestingly, stops when it gets to Jamie who notes later, when this is discovered, that it is a bit uneven, though it looked quite even to my non-bookmaker eyes (though I see a zillion of them.) Linda Russo opens things on the next session with work about the place where she lives now in western Washington state. She particularly focuses on her yard, the ecological, historical and personal implications of a yard in a rural town which is about to get its first Walmart. It rhymes nicely with Mark Wallace’s thinking about suburban Southern California. There is an essay part and then poetry I believe and the whole things is quite effective.

There is a longish lunch and then, at this point, the rule that there is always something kicks in and, arriving back at the hotel in the rain in one of the lovely free vans provided by the college, Standard and I discover that the scripts for our presentation have disappeared. At first I blame the room cleaner but the cleaners there are super professional so it eventually dawns on me that I have thrown out the scripts in a fit of madness, thinking they were the old ones. We easily print out new ones but I discover that losing the scripts a few hours before the performance is a migraine trigger and proceed to get one. Standard is patient through this whole exercise which partly involve late changes he added (but yes it was insane of me to throw away the scripts) and we get back to the Peabody, reprinted scripts in hand, as, Bonnie Jones, the first person in the next panel, is getting toward the end of her set. I regret missing it because she is producing text on a screen while making sounds with her computer and that is just my sort of thing. I mean I listen to stuff just like this on my Ipod while I write. Her piece adds to the thinking about noise, begun in the discussion after the last session. In the comments, she thinks aloud about what can be done with the texts that are created during the performance. She notes that some are interesting and might be usefully published in some way, but that some are not. I like her questioning, experienced relationship to her practice.

Carla Harryman, up next, begins powerfully, as she always does, by occupying the side of the stage, dramatically lamplit, wearing an interesting coat of something like stiff satin in a dark bronze color that has dramatic shape and an operatic feeling to it. She starts with the question “Where are you from?” but then the audio fails. There is some scampering around trying this and that. cris is the center of this activity and there are other helpers. It doesn’t last that long but feels long enough to increase my headache and worry everyone. Then the audio seems fine and Carla starts again and it fails again -- but I think the following time is fine. She has taken texts from her many collaborations, including a passage from The Grand Piano, a multi-volume experiment in group autobiography by ten language writers. It is both individual and highly collaborative so makes a lot of sense here. She also reads from her book of essays and other texts, Adorno’s Noise. She performs a Neo–Benshi piece to scenes from Antonioni’s La notte, a collaboration with Konrad Steiner. These readings are various, effective, entertaining and quite soothing to the deteriorating state of my head.

Providentially Lisa Samuels then performs a piece which also asks, “Where are you from?” in one of many fortunate rhymes that occur among pieces, particularly among those given in the same session. Lisa’s work is investigates her writing of a memoir that she then seems to dismantle. Fragments of the original work appear on a screen before us. I feel like it goes through a number of procedures. This produces a sort of commentary on a commentary and I find myself longing to read the missing work, but liking the present one a lot. Lisa has an elegant way of framing things that shows up in her piece as well as in her comments to others. Later when we happen to discuss suitcases Lisa questions my need to have taken enough stuff to worry about the 50 lb limit when she has packed lightly all the way from New Zealand, leaving room for the books she knows she will buy. We won’t examine my tendency to overpack, though we will allow that I take a pot in which to boil water and stuff to make tea and oatmeal, including boxed milk. But the thing is, and my point here, is that she has brought lovely sheer, nylony or silk looking items to wear which are very light and in which she looks great the whole time. The post moot award for best packing of most flattering and appropriate outfits goes to Lisa. In general post moot clothes here were a joy because members of our community dress up really well when you take them out. Bonnie, Lisa and Carla go up to the stage to respond to questions which are quite lively but I can’t remember them imperfectly. However, I do believe that Carla speaks interestingly to the idea of things being “live.”

Then there is a break and I am unable to look at the installation by Lara Glenum, Josef Horacek and Jordan Dalton (very regretfully) though this is a perfect time, because the piece, which fills a room, is a bit thunderous and the migraine is getting worse. With some difficulty, I will the headache into abeyance and remain strangely cheerful because this is not the first or second time I have worked or read or performed in such a state. Standard seems calm also. Then Cathy admits she can’t read the part of the Buddha Box in our piece because she has to man the moot in some way and luckily, the understudy, Kasey, is right there and agrees to do it and we are back in the Leonard Theater and cris is setting up the tech. Fiddling with everything takes twenty somewhat excruciating minutes or so, but then he has set up three mics without actually being asked to do that but he figures it out and they work. We read and the presentation goes fine. The response is good and I note a number of things I would do a bit differently as we are performing. The work we read is not really a performance text though we have written it more or less as a playand we find later that performing it has added a dimension to our understanding of our project (a poetic, more or less epistolary novel called Detectif). Kasey does a good job, hamming it up a bit.

After us, Lisa Howe reads poetry (in place of a missing British poet) and is good and powerful and it’s the longest I have ever heard her read (only having heard her at maybe MLA group readings) so I am glad. Jonathan Skinner then reads a piece with slides about the tagging of bears in Maine, using the trope of alien abduction to think about how it might seem from the bear perspective. The tagging is intrusive and sometimes violent, separating mothers from cubs etc. The words offset the images in a non-illustrative way and I find the work entirely to my taste. One thing to say here is that I had my various reactions to presentations good or bad, but often observed that ones I didn’t respondas much to were the favorites of others and there was a good reception for each one. The audience was appreciative, encouraging and given to wild clapping and occasional hooting. With Jonathan’s piece, I discover that being lulled by an absorbing bear story is good for migraine but realize also that I am too far gone for a drugless recovery at this point. There are a few questions at the end, though inexplicably we don’t go to the front for them. Our project is based on an alternate reality game called the Jejune Institute that one can play (and that Standard and I did play) in San Francisco and I have assumed that once we mention the game the questions will be about that, which occurs, but there’s nothing for it but to try to answer them. We both reply to some of the questions, occasionally contradicting each other in a way that would be interesting to include in the presentation if we ever do it again (as Carla points out). In the moment, however, I find I am unable to respond at length to anything as my thinking has become truncated by migraine speechlessness.

Dinner occurs after this session nearby in a log cabiny building. It’s beans and corn bread and pasta salad and cookies and brownies. Erin banishes the peanut butter cookies before they are even put out. Tom Orange is doing something interesting with an electric banjo on the enclosed front porch that I would have listened to more if not for my current state. I eat and try to chat but then finally give into the migraine and flee. Standard walks me most of the way back in the light rain. We discuss the reception for our piece, which we are happy with, then he returns to the fray and I to my hotel room to take migraine medicine. Very unfortunately, I miss the evening session which includes Rod Smith, Kate Sopko Christine Hume and Chris Mann (unless one of those Chrises is British.) I am told Kate Sopko compares the job of poet to that of maintenance worker. This sounds like it’s right up my tree. Long ago I gave a talk where I suggested that rather than base the job of poet on an academic model, as I felt was beginning to happen in the 80s, we should base it on the service professions like doctor or nurse or waitress. At the time, I got an unusually vexed and defensive response from poets who were becoming or already were academics. I resolve to find a way to know about Kate’s intriguing idea and what the reaction was but have not managed to achieve this as of this writing. However I do get her book, Stewards of the Lost Lands but haven’t read it yet. Late at night, I hear the drunken, melodic voices of poets as they hang out after exiting the second late night poetry reading. I believe this is the night cris ties Bill Howe to the podium with masking tape. This was told to me as an example of one of the many things experienced by our long suffering bar tender.

So now it’s Saturday morning, last full day of post moot. I am up early and am among the slightly sparse but very appreciative audience for the first session. Barrett Watten starts it off. He reads from The Grand Piano in which he asserts, interestingly, that the position of poet ranks higher than the position of professor. He examines his own entry into academia in the piece (BTW, he was not among the vexed reactors in my story above, which took place in New York). The philosopher N and his entry into that same profession comes up. It is a lovely reading and discussion and is followed by Alan Golding’s presentation, I think called “Avant Garde Poetics and Pedagogy,” another of the actual papers that were given. Alan mentions Barry’s work, with quotes some of the same material Barry has read from, making a nice rhyme and context of these presentations with each other. There is no third person to substitute for the usual missing Englese so we launch into a rather lively question period. The word “hegemony” is used by Keith Tuma. He might be referring to the hegemony of style rather than of academia about which he can have few illusions, after all. We don’t really get into the hegemony of style notion which interests me if he means what I think he might mean. Those who are academics furiously point out that they are marginalized within their institutions and I reflect how the “other” can seem monolithic even if, as in this case, the “other” is simply your friends who make their living teaching in colleges. Barry’s study of the German background of our present academic institutions is mentioned and there is a general fear of losing these to the current and endlessly ongoing economic crisis which is having so much effect on writers associated in with schools whether as teachers or students (or booksellers to these folks.) People have a lot to say about all this but we run out of time.

The next session also occurs in the Leonard Theater. John Bennett reads with great emphasis on syllables and sound from a wide array of his many books. I think there is some Spanish in his reading and it turns out he has a world of engagement with poetry and major reputation in Latin America. It is perfect to take a bath in pure poetry after the discursiveness of the last session. Dana Ward is next and I am delighted to finally be able to hear him as he is legendary in the Bay Area where he has read but somehow I missed it. I am mesmerized by this reading and his range in his work from disjunction to linearity with more emphasis I think on the linear but with a sensibility clearly able to respond and work in a very wide continuum of meaning and practice. He reads, “Tell me what else you need from me” and I think he really wants to know and will supply it. Then it’s K. Lorraine Graham, she of the putting on makeup during the Flarf reading. There are slides and, intriguingly, hula hoops in her performance which is delightfully physical and is about suburbia, identity and sexuality. The hoops are nicely used and she adds a lot of suspense to the piece by starting to go down into splits during it. Wisely she decides not to make it the full way, not having warmed up sufficiently, as she later observes. She asserts an unfinishedness to the piece, I think during it, which puts me in mind of Bob Grenier’s long habit of critiquing his poems as he reads them. I like the embodiedness of the addition of movement to reading. I think there is a general appreciation of her athleticism. (One complaint about post moot is that there was no opportunity for wild dancing for the whole group, though I don’t know when this could have occurred since poetry went well into the small hours every night.) There are questions which I don’t actually remember (perhaps much of the critique occurred during them, come to think of it) and then lunch back at the log cabin. The leftovers that were nicely incorporated into each of the meals we were served provided another version or experiences of the leftovers that were in our brains from all of the sessions as we observed the new ones. Presentations were usefully in each other’s context, everything nuancing everything else in a kind of great avant-garde echo chamber.

On to the art museum after lunch to hear a paper by Tyrone Williams about Rodrigo Toscan’s work. We have seen little of Rodrigo as he is rehearsing with students whose performance we are to see later the same day. Tyrone’s paper is dense like a poem and he takes his usual monumental and imperturbable stance as he reads it. I like what he is saying about work and labor and art and Rodrigo and resolve to ask him for the piece so that I can take it in more thoroughly. I always know I am going to like Tyrone’s work and I always like it more and find more in it even than I expected to. (To my great satisfaction, Tyrone has allowed himself to be included among the A Tonalists I curated in “A Tonalist Set” in the new Aufgabe.) There is a good audience and, again, the art museum is a nice venue. Tyrone is followed by Erin Mouré and Oana Avasilichioaei who present a collaborative work partly about expedition and translation (they have many languages among themselves) that I really enjoy. They have worked out a sort of routine with questioning, commenting and using the history of the collaboration that is nicely done. It occurs to me that Standard and I could adapt some of their techniques if we present the novel again, though such a piece would be outside the scope of the work as we see it. But anyway, Erin and Oana’s presentation went quite well as a way to experience their text and ideas around translation, which seem less metaphorical than practical in their sense of it and I like that. I also really like their lines and enjoy the exchange between their two sensibilities and presences . Then William Howe is finally able to get away from his cook duties and read from Translanations One a transliteration of Emily Dickinson’s poems as she might have written them if she was dyslexic and incorporated that into her practice. Was this the day he wore his flame shirt, often admired by me at MLAs and AWPs? I think so. Then there were many questions, inexplicably there is one for Tyrone about time travel. I am amused as it is a familiar territory in my own work. Tyrone later says he should have referred the question to me but in the event does not try to respond. Of course, for all of us in the moot, there are cases where you experience a question or comment to which you can’t really react but then do later as the conversation continues to have itself in your mind. There is much engagement with Oona and Erin’s project as more questions pour in and I resolve to buy the book, Expeditions of a Chimaera, but forget to and see now that we don’t have it in stock at SPD but bet I can borrow it in order to continue the expedition (Standard’s and my project started out of a desire to be on an expedition) and the conversation. One of many I hope to keep up.

It is raining a lot now and we pile into vans and cars and are let out briefly at a place on campus where there is a café and a tiny store and I am delighted, like a person in from the wilderness, to be able to buy midday hot tea, energy bars and other luxuries. We arrive next at a new venue called Alumni 1, a big space where performance requiring much tech and placement in among the audience (as opposed to up on the stage) can occur. First up is Rodrigo Toscano’s piece on which he has been working with a half dozen or so students all during the convocation. There is a terrifying wait while one of the students is late, but then he shows up and the show goes on. It includes a lot of interesting movement and repeated speeches much of which are memorized rather than read from scripts or the scripts are incorporated into mini narratives, which is nice. They fill the space and Rodrigo performs with them. The sight line is somewhat low so I wander a bit to take a few pictures as I have been doing throughout. The invasion of our reality by corporate and governmental sensibilities seems to be one of the themes. The students are interesting in their youth and the way they occupy the space and their own bodies. Next there is Mark Jeffrey and Judd Morrissey who I think really are performance artists rather than poets who do performance. Such artists often require a fair amount of tech and so they did and it was set up quite quickly and I change places again in the room, wandering the audience space as Cathy Wagner and cris often do here and as I do at home when I am in charge of something. At some point during all this, Cathy finds a toddler who needs solace and proceeds to hold him or her on her hip while she stands and rocks back and forth during the whole piece. In Mark and Judd’s presentation there is a mic and mic stand, an xmas star and a ladder and a lot of words on the screen which seem to accrue in strips like fortunes which radiate out and form patterns. The mic stand is lifted and pointed like a spear or well like a giant pointer. It is dark and the star changes color and the words change and are presented in phrases on the black strips (which aren't really like fortunes because black) and the performer wanders the stage in a way which absorbs the attention. The lights come up when they are done, there is a quick change of the stage area and Hoa Nguyen reads. It is not easy to follow performance but Hoa does really well with it. She has that way of being incredibly charismatic, using a soft voice to draw us in, and I think maybe everyone is in love with her by the end of the reading or maybe the first poem and there is rapt attention and it does work to have a reading with performance if, you know, it kicks ass, and her’s does. She speaks at length about the poems reminding us that this is not the poem but we think it is sort of because it’s like a performance and she is convincing when she reads the poem and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Dinner is happily next back at the Peabody but in a new elegant location on a top floor and wondrously it is sushi night with endless trays of sushi, buckets of soup, all the pickled ginger you could want, fruit salad and pie. I am sitting at a table with two kids, Josef Horacek and Lara Glenum’s as I later find out, who I have been seeing much and who seem incredibly well-behaved, given everything. I am next to the head of the department to whom I eagerly speak with all praise of the events, Erin and Oana and Standard are also at my table and, along with many groups at many tables in the room, seem to be in mighty discourse. I enjoy wandering the dinner area in extreme mootish satisfaction, replete with art and sushi.


We return to Alumni 1 for the next set. This time I plop down right in front and Standard allows himself to be dragged there. It turns out to be a good move because next up is Black Took Collective. I find their creation of an artful space in which their work occurs to be quite moving and, in fact, coming after the density of the last works, incredibly restful and appealing. It isn’t less dense or less lively than the fast piece or slower than the slower one but is perhaps a bit more permeable and allows the reader/auditor to enter in imaginatively. There are images in a film projected onto the center of three screen, there is text on each of the other screens being generated while the third person, in the initial case Duriel Harris reads while Dawn Lundy-Martin and Ronaldo Wilson write (type). Then Dawn reads and Ronaldo draws on paper, lying on the floor. There are two lines of string taped to pillars in the front part of the space and Duriel begins to hang art made by Ronaldo onto the string. It breaks and she attaches it to a mic stand seamlessly. I like the incorporation of poetry, as opposed to script, in this piece because it seems to implicate and include their entire lives as poets. Their interaction with each other as a collective over time is shown in the moving image part and referred to in their text. The density of the poetry is engaging. The whole things works incredibly well and caps an amazing afternoon of performance the length, breadth and intensity of which are unlikely to occur again in my life as an audience member, unless there is, as we hope, another post moot in our futures.

The next performance is by AMJ Crawford and Danny Snelson. This is very lively and involves smacking light switches much as one would a timer in a chess match. A video keyboard is used so that they are able to play images on the screen while each other reads from a set of texts which has been passed out to us in copies. I decide it works, though I don’t really know exactly what a performance should do to be said to “work,” -- though the fact that it pleases me a lot, given my background, is surely something. It is hard to describe the intensity and density of the sound, words and images. It is noisy but then controlled and the limits they work with and resist and yet work within are clear. However, I will say that we are all getting a little weak here, our attentions eager and yet flagging a bit.

The final presentation of the night by Michael Basinski is thankfully a showstopper. I have heard of his performances and been familiar with his texts for decades and am very glad to finally get to experience one. I am not disappointed as Michael uses a round flat dot on a plain white page to stand for, let’s see what does it stand for? imagination, improvisation, not sure but it worked! He makes his way through an amazing display of sound and words, all coming only from his mouth, utilizing the mic expertly, and interaction with the audience that is quite riveting, even dazzling, in spite of being about as weary as any audience could be, we are really wildly enthusiastic in our reaction, clapping and hooting even slightly more than usual.

Then there is the final late poetry night back at my hotel. This time cris officiates with a minimalist approach designed to get us up there and out so we can all go home and to bed, though the wild eagerness of the crowd belies the fact that we must all be very tired. The readings are legendary, the response epic, the drinking of hard stuff instead of just beer and wine, tremendous by those who do that, not including me, but I along with other teetotalers get a contact high. Jade Hudson shows an excellent animation. Many people read really well. Mel reads and is sizzlingly hot. Rod Smith reads in his gravelly way and I think maybe he is the Clint Eastwood of poetry (Clint in the 70s). Cathy lets loose with some stuff that has them gasping in their chairs. I read a piece about community from A Tonalist and , to my delight, get a better response than I have almost ever gotten to a reading, partly owing to the zeal of Dana Ward, who reigns drunkenly in the front row. I am determined to hear Standard read which goes really well but doesn’t happen until 2am, after which I steal away exhausted but glad.

Thankfully, the last morning doesn’t begin until 10am. I don’t even have to pack because I am staying an extra day to visit family nearby in Kentucky. The day opens with those of us who are left gathered in the hall in front of the good old Leonard Theater, eating bagels and drinking coffee (except for me having had my tea and oatmeal in my room). Erin has also brought a tea pot, a larger, better one than mine which allows for heating hot water and making tea, which isn’t always available from the moot. It should be repeated, however, that you can’t fault them for their hospitality in any way – not once you‘ve seen Cathy washing out the giant coffee pot in the bathroom sink or looked into the black sleepless depths of Bill Howe’s eyes. The penultimate session is next and we are ready for it. First Brian Whitener gives a paper on Dolores Dorantes’ amazing array of works and projects. I am already a big fan of Dolores and am thrilled finally to hear Brian who took the Bay Area by storm a while back but I somehow missed him. Steve Lansky then shows an animation called Exit Strategy which I like so much I forget to take pictures of it. It’s what I would call a poetic detective science fiction so it is right up my alley. In the question and answer part, Steve mentions the unbelievable amount of work it takes to do these things and the improvisatory way he has created the plot, which actually seems more or less linear to him and to us, though it probably wouldn’t to anyone else. At this point there is a short break and then final session begins. Tom Orange give a heartfelt talk about Cincinnati (or when I think about it must have been Cleveland) and community which seems to reflect back on a lot that has happened here though it’s not about that. It is during the discussion after this talk that Dana Ward utters the opinion that the time we are in might be the “twilight of administered value,” referring, I believe , to fame cultivated within the harrowed hallows of academia, which now seem destined to be broken down and used for capitalist firewood sooner than later. Gloriously, now it is the turn of Jen Hofer who I have contantly seen and spoken with during all of the meals and some of the sessions of the moot but whose project, the escritorio público, took place in a café in Oxford a mile or so from campus so she was often there instead of here. In her presentation she briefly introduces and then demonstrates this public letter writing practice. Nick Demski, omnipresent poet & videographer of all events and incipient librarian from Racine, volunteers to be the client. He choses his girlfriend, whose name I think is Andrea, as the person to whom he wants to have the letter written and selects the “illicit letter” option from among the three available, the others being, I think, “letter in Spanish” and “letter in English.” Jen asks a few key questions and then types the letter with incredible speed, adding just the right racy bits and ending it sweetly. Nick is offered his choice of envelope and stamp and then there it is -- the perfect letter. Jen has offered her escritorio público in various places including in Union Square in New York. There is a slide on the screen above the stage showing this. The endless lovely spotted and striped clothes I have seen her wear during the moot (full disclosure: she gave me a pair of striped socks)are apparently not what she wears while writing because the writing practice seems to require a sort of 40s outfit, a suit or matching blouse skirt combo, with butterfly glasses, that give Jen the correct studious air for this activity. This all works really well and I can see that she might write an essay or essay poem about it all because the letters are incredible but the people buy them for $5 or so and there is no record of the letters but only the record of the kind of letter entered in a notebook Jen keeps for the purpose. I think it would make an interesting film. But now we need to forge ahead and the final performer is José Luna who announces that he is not a poet and I am probably not the only person in the audience who is relieved. He uses a laptop to produce sounds and there are Josef Albers-esque square on a screen that gradually change color as he plays. Then he get out the saxophone and turns his back playing in a way that fixes the attention and makes me remember everything all over again. It is the perfect end to a perfect post moot. But it isn’t quite over. Those of us who are left go to lunch and then there is a roundtable for an hour or maybe half and hour wherein we, the participants, long for more moots and they, the organizers, tell us it was really hard to do it. At a certain point or maybe this is later I assert that we are all married now and I think it is Nick Demske who quickly agrees. The vicissitudes of making such a convocation in an academic environment are discussed in the roundtable and I find myself giving advice though lord knows I know little enough about surviving within academe. It should be said again, however, and is said there with much clapping and the wildest hooting ever, that we are all hugely grateful that cris, Cathy and William and their intrepid helpers were able to pull this one off.

Then there is the boxing of SPD books in the usual whirlwind of such tasks, helped thankfully by Jen Hofer, who really has a knack for hand eye related activities connected with books and writing. I hear of a student who has run out of gas on the way back from dropping mootists at the airport and see cris take off to the rescue. Nick, Jen and I are driven to a café in Oxford by Meghan Prichard who offers to take us anywhere in the true spirit of moot volunteerism. Nick, Jen and I have a lovely talk about librarianship and what just happened and we wonder what did just happen. Jen is picked up for the drive to the airport by Lisa and Bill and Nick and I call Cathy to ask how to get back to my hotel and then we do get back and he waits in the fancy lounge while I call Cathy from my room and say what now? because we are so used to asking her this and she brings us and Rodrigo, who is also among the last mooters, to cris’s house for the final meal of divine leftovers and conversation and Keith Tuma comes with pie after dinner and at about 10 we are completely done in, but bonded. Cathy drives us back to our domiciles and she and I madly plan to meet the next morning, knowing this won’t work and then, next day, call each other to say we have overslept and will see each other along the main line, sooner or later, and I hope it’s sooner. Under the heading of it’s never over I read Dana Ward’s Typing Wild Speech on the way home on the plane and am totally blown away, as they say. So post moot is not really a movement but it did move and continues to dance through our thoughts and anticipations, generating interest, new works and longings for new occasions to moot.

Laura Moriarty

P.S. Two sets of photos here and here

Apologies to anyone I didn't photograph (including me) or photographed badly or identified inaccurately. Let me know any changes to make.

12 Comments:

Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

I will add links to more books and to a set of photos presently!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Laura, how typical that of the three poets discussed in the "poetics of failure" panel, only the Indian poet remains unnamed/anonymous. This is exactly the kind of asymmetric ignorance that Dipesh Chakrabarty has written about, and that the literary complex of the West just cannot seem to stop professing. Didn't you email me that you had found the handout I had passed around? And I think I'd reminded you in my reply that the poet's name was Namdeo Dhasal.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

Monica,

Huge apologies! I did find your handout and thought I had made that change. Working on it now!

Again, sorry.

Laura

5:45 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Thanks and sorry for jumping the gun, Laura! Enjoyed reading your report, especially your insights into postmoot logistics and fashion.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Jaime Robles said...

Nice blog, Laura. Reads like a Frank O'Hara poem.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Steven Fama said...


Following the last comment I will say that yes, this sort of reads like a Frank O'Hara poem, but more than that reads like a Laura Moriarty report. Which is why it's especially beautiful.

Thanks for sharing. That which I read, I greatly enjoyed.

I love short paragraphs on the computer screen. Actually believe they are vital to sustain readers' attention.

Especially when using the narrow-frame Blogger template.

I think it necessary even if it means breaking up text-blocks that on paper or in the mind would constitute a single paragraph in any other medium.

And thank you again.

For sharing!

10:31 AM  
Blogger Laura Moriarty said...

You are welcome! I have to say I miss my fellow mootists a bit.

& true I should have broken up the paragraphs more. I know of one case where the report was actually read on a phone.

11:29 AM  
Blogger 俊冠樺宇 said...

人類最大的悲劇不是死亡,而是沒有掌握有意義的人生........................................

7:32 AM  
Blogger 淑合 said...

責人之心責己,恕己之心恕人。

3:39 PM  
Blogger 皮皮 said...

動不一定每一次都成功,但坐而不行,絕無任何成功可言.............................................

7:02 PM  
Blogger Pierre Cassi said...

thank you

11:02 PM  
Blogger Hem said...

thanks

8:39 PM  

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