April 4, 2016

Peter Lamborn Wilson & Charles Stein, April 3

I have been a fan of Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) ever since I discovered his book T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Autonomedia, 1991) by Hakim Bey, & kept my eventually well-worn copy on my desk at work. Chuck Stein was one of the readers Tom Nattell had brought to the QE2 many years ago, where I remember him reading poems in a language he had invented (so he said). Both have wide reputations among the literati &, since they live in the Hudson Valley, have many friends here. It was a nice day to take the scenic route down 9J to Hudson & the Hudson Opera House.

I grabbed a seat in the second row with a good angle for photos, but poet Robert Kelly, who is a big man, sat right in front of me. Also in the audience was one-time Albany resident, poet, student at SUNY, Christopher Funkhouser.

Peter Lamborn Wilson read first, from a series of poems he is calling “Hydrographicon,” about bodies of water in Ulster County, from the Hudson River down to puddles. The pieces he read included poems on the Jukes family, who lived in Ulster County & were studied by eugenics researchers in the late 19th century. Then on to poems about Plutarch Swamp, a couple of swimming holes, the Wallkill (dedicated to Robert Kelly), & ended with, of course, a poem on the Hudson River. Included was one poem titled “Temporary Autonomous Puddle,” with a reference to the legendary Irish character, Mad Sweeney. His language is exotic, particularly his adjectives, his lines mostly complete sentences sounding sometimes like he was delivering a lecture. As could be expected from such an audience, nobody clapped until the end — regrettably, I resisted the temptation to perform a bit of “poetic terrorism” myself & clap after each poem.

Chuck Stein’s reading was much more difficult. His own introduction to his work, read from his AirBook, was no help; it was dense, stuffy, & quite pretentious. He read a series (too many, in my opinion) of pieces from a volume titled The Mouse Eats the Cats Food But the Cat’s Bowl is Broken from his 13-Volume as-yet unpublished poetic epic, Views From Tornado Island. There was some sort of narrative, broken up by conversations & dialogue among characters named Wrench Boy, Jaguar, Hammer Head, Wrench Girl, Crystal, & others. The pages appeared to be written in short, poetic lines, but it read like the densest of tedious prose, like a humorless Lewis Carroll writing about “obliquity.” Only after did he explain that the whole project uses some sort of shifting algorithm to establish the first letter of each line, that he then improvises on, & explained that the title of the pieces he read from today was a Korean koan.  All that would have been helpful up front, & a little goes a long way.

The Hudson Opera House apparently has some sort of sporadic reading series & this was a part of that. I did get my copy of T.A.Z. signed with Hakim Bey’s hieroglyphic signature.

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