Friday, December 31, 2010

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 7 (Jackson Mac Low)

Mac Low, Jackson
From Pearl Harbor Day


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books in 1997.

Jackson Mac Low came to Buffalo for an extended visit during my first semester in the Poetics Program. He gave a talk on Ezra Pound in Charles Bernstein's seminar. He gave a reading in the Center for the Arts screening room. He performed several of his works with Mike Basinski and a group of local musicians at Hallwalls cinema.

I'd seen Jackson at readings in New York, sitting the front row, scribbling away in his notebook during readings, but I'd never met him before, so it was kind of a thrill to meet him when he came.

It was around the time of his seventy-fifth birthday. We threw him a birthday party at a loft in downtown Buffalo. Using the Core-L poetics listserv, I organized the production of a 75th birthday poem along with several of my classmates.

The poem was called "75," and was comprised of 75 lines that alternated in length between seven and five words, which in turn alternated between lines beginning with "j" words and "m" words, signifying the author's initials.

Each poet involved contributed a certain number of lines constructed in this format. The other rule was that these lines had to be derived from some kind of chance operation and the operation had to be described in detail for a kind of appendix we added at the end.

Bill Howe performed all seventy-five lines at the party. He gave each stray or random punctuation mark a different sound value, and I remember that afterwards Jackson approached Bill to discuss the particular sound values Bill assigned each mark. He took issue with several of BIll's choices.

Christian Bök and Darren Wershler (still -Henry at the time) each brought a large stack of Jackson's books to the party and piled them onto the kitchen table for the author to sign after the reading.

While he was signing, I approached and handed him a copy of the entire poem, including the appendix, explaining that we had each used different chance operations to generate our text. He gave me a sort of puzzled look and said, "Oh, I don't use chance operations anymore." And then went back to signing books.

Today's title is perfect for the occasion, as all the poems were composed between 12/7 and 1/30/82. Below is the New Year's poem.

Here's wishing you a happy one this coming year.

from From Pearl Harbor Day to FDR's Birthday

Filial Simples


Arouse disguised inveterate inner sanctions
close heterophony models rollicking sacredly
where designated ions clamber hooked felicity

Triumph scares tendentious proxy phantoms
dense rhinoceroses plead against or please
and thieving lithium drillers crisply randomize

Fascinated unctions canvass awkward pitches
where leashes gloss brittle pinnacle trinities
tabulating silent fish vigil print knobs

Notaries coalesce heavestroke neutrality pluck
knuckling cousin's' cornerstone rotifers notion-stopping
families blank or bland features tourniquet gauntly

Groins or ghost pickle doers straight-talk furniture
flashes partly important doorstep bin comedies
logarithm wheezes flap or give off

Gusts derive and land by perched nurturer tints
glitter-gauzed Sioux floaters predicate
whenever clam bastion frequency punts arouse

                    29-31 December 1981
                    New York

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