I'm utterly refreshed having returned victorious from a visit to the playground of my late teenage mind, the University of Cambridge. As well as having enjoyed a nostalgic Dolmades Kebab at Gardi's (still standing! still counter-hegemonic!) and a vigorous cycle to Grantchester on a be-basketed bicycle, I had the utmost pleasure in giving a poetry reading to some keen young students who reminded me all too much of myself as a siren of truth circa 2001. The temptation to ink the JCR was quickly dismissed in favour of late talks into the night, over endless bowls of noodles & impossibly weak spliff, concerning Aeschylus, the Utopian potential of renga and the lyrical verse of Kool Keith. I've been so sad since I got back to N1 having left Cambridge's gentle shores that I've returned with a frenzy to the drama I began there as a second year - Put That Woman Down!: the life and times of Meredith Lynchfield, Cambridge Suffragette and Assassin, in three Acts. Emmeline is heartbroken - I promised to take her on a kitty voyage to Eel Pie Island yesterday to throw an effigy of King Charles VII into the Thames to commemorate the capture of Joan of Arc at the Siege of Compiegne, but I told her she'd have to wait until the 30th to commemorate her burning (I thought we'd torch the French Embassy). Needs must when creativity calls.
Here's a nice picture of me in front of a display created by clever techy Mike W-H to accompany a reading from my chapbook, tristanundisolde (Arthur [C]hilling Press (at the moment at least!)) It communicates how I feel better than I ever could do myself in words.
Helpful imp Joe Luna over at All Over the Grid / Fallopianyoutube had this to say about my collaboration that night with shouty-man poet and mere part-time patriarch Jow Lindsay:
"Posie Rider & Jow Lindsay’s reading on Friday night (21st May) assumed much less than it would perhaps be safe to assume a Cambridge Reading Series night of experimental avant-garde poetry would assume, but by this very play was able to open up a space in which the performance of the reading constantly flirted with, insulted, disparaged, castigated, comforted and barely became a means of effecting a communitas based upon what was already there, what we already have, and what we might possibly become. Recent national political discourse was both appropriated and mocked, but also re-constituted into the political space of the reading, tracing a line of constant watchfulness over the machinations universally predicated upon and in the name of the folk whilst at the same time tragically powerless to prevent those machinations from organising/mobilising satirical negations & refutations of constructed collective identity. The creation of the radical experimental "we" through such a gathering was tempered with a dangerously isomorphic "we" of satirical invective and absurdist comedy, the laughter of the audience perhaps the most realistic effect produced by the Wagnerian, mythological, polysemous diatribes flitting between the two barely realistic personas of the poets. The potential for a delineation of a universal WE to be reductive and obscurantist is enormous, and these are the precise means by which corporate advertising and party political affiliation seek to homogenise humanity into demographics and target audiences destined only for differences in the vagaries of their consumption and tactical voting preferences. To say, as I believe I heard Posie Rider say, that "we are the poets laureate" in the midst of an exhausting and increasingly overwhelming dialogic code is a re-appropriation of a political right and the creation of, or at least the exciting image of, a fragile community existing, fleetingly, in the heart of the multi-national flux of assumed identity. What is "assumed", that is, taken as given, a priori, implicit, hereby becomes inverted to be that which is passed over in haste, ignorance or ambivalence, and what must be attested in the act of the reading is the human capacity for engendering caucuses of radical community so that we may attain enough trust to assume in the positive sense once more. The figures of Jow Lindsay and Posie Rider are mythological tricksters, ever playing with our trust in assuming that we are assuming the same thing/s as the poets we heed. We are not simply given to assume that we can all trust each other and can therefore sing together the firmament of the new world, but rather the intimidation and awkwardness these trickster aspects produce in the audience (for example, naming specific people in the audience, something I’ve seen Lindsay do a number of times both in improvised performance and in published work) work to make the sense of place more malleable in order that we may mould new ways of listening to and being with each other. Those moments of joyous augmentation, (self-)plagiarisation and re-organisation result in a mixtape-like quality that presents not only a plurality of voice, but voices of real collective experience and instantaneous memory.
Only by carving difference into the universally reductive notion of humanity itself can we become truly human, and by dint of this, humane. That is the axiom at work on the macro-level of experimental poetry communities and the micro-level of the individual reading.
This is also how readings act theatrically without becoming theatre. The creation of such communitas is contingent upon its only lasting as long as the reading itself, its durational nature perhaps the key to the feeling of common endeavour, even if only articulated negatively. Lindsay’s exhaustive prose performances are, I think, a beautifully doomed attestation of the occasion of the reading as the productive mechanism by which communities are made, defining themselves against both an undifferentiated humanity-at-large replete with built-in sensors to detect love, companionship, truth & beauty as well as by more positivist means declaring a space for the activation of radical subjectivities inexpressible within the nexus of the everyday uses of language. The temporality of the reading as play is therefore the crux of the meaning of the performance in terms of its delineation of our time, our language, our wound, our response. It is the proper occasion of song which frames and therefore reveals the event itself as constitutive of a collective grand narrative forged from the desire of those for whom pre-packaged national, gender, ethnic or sexual identities have become useless and restrictive."
Instructive, n'est pas?
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