Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aimless Reading: The R's, Part 20.1 (Stephen Rodefer)

Rodefer, Stephen (Jean Calais)

Given to me by the author, inscribed:


04 09 ought from


I'd say this is probably my favorite book by Rodefer. It's a Spicerian translation of Villon, a al After Lorca, with translations on the top half of the page and commentary on the lower half. Of the many attempts to follow Spicer down this road, Rodefer's comes the closest to matching the brilliance of Spicer's original.

Stephen gave it to me after giving what was probably the most disturbing, upsetting, and awful reading I have ever hosted. We'd spent the afternoon in the Just Buffalo offices at the Tri-Main Center, where I'd set him up on a computer and then was promptly made into his administrative assistant. My first task was to find a video projector, which he insisted we needed for the reading.

Having accomplished this, he asked could I print out a four-page prose work to hand out to the audience as a broadside. He wanted to reduce the pages so that all four fit on an 11" x 17" sheet. When I showed him the proof he drew a set of quadrants around the four pages and then proceeded to scribble symbols over the words contained in each quadrant, including in one of them a swastika. He handed it back and asked me to make enough copies to hand out to the audience.

It turned out that this important "prose work" was a job letter he had sent to the Gray Chair search committee at UB, which had rejected it out of hand.

Anyhow, the day wore one. Stephen discovered the Just Buffalo wine stash, helped himself to many liberal helpings of cheap white wine. Later, he pilfered our office snack box, which ended up being $7 short when the candyman came to refill it that week, either because Stephen ate $7 worth of candy or because he pocketed the contents of the change box.

As the evening approached, Stephen decided that this reading would be so important it needed to be video-recorded and that we should hire a professional videographer to handle the occasion. I drew the line at that point, as there was no money for such an expense.

The reading took place in the Hibiscus room at Just Buffalo. By the time it began, Stephen was in pretty bad shape, having polished off much of our wine stash. His speech was quite slurred. We handed out his offensive broadside and then turned on the projector, which projected soft-porn images of Tanya Roberts over Stephen as he began to read.

He began the reading by telling us all we ever wanted to know about Tanya Roberts, including that her work in soft-porn was actually fine acting that went unnoticed because no one imagined a porn actress could really act. All this while Tanya's spread legs bounced up and down on the wall, with Stephen's head, a dark shadow, an erect stump between them.

He followed this by attempting to read his broadside aloud. Two obstacles stood in his way. First, because the four pages had been reduced to 1/4 their original size, the font was so small that he had trouble deciphering the words. Much of the reading was taken up with him pushing the broadside away, then pulling it close, muttering to himself as he attempted to decipher its contents.

The second obstacle was his inebriation. He could no longer speak coherently at this pont, so when he actually did manage to make out a word or two from the piece he was reading, no one could understand what he said.

My strongest image from the reading, though, came afterwards, when I stood in the hall watching people leave the room, most with facial expressions ranging from bewilderment to rage. Isabelle Pelissier emerged with Bill Sylvester on her arm.

Bill was in his late eighties, possibly even his early nineties at that point. He'd been in the English Department at UB since Stephen was a grad student in the early sixties.

I approached to say hello, when I noticed that Bill had tears streaming down his face. He was weeping almost uncontrollably. I asked if he were alright. He said, "It's terrible, terrible. That was the most beautiful, brilliant student I've had in fifty years of teaching."

from Villon

Mon Corps

Item: my body.
I grant and leave it
to our great mother
the earth.

The worms that turn it
won't find much to munch on
that hunger hasn't already
ferociously consumed.

Let it be quickly delivered
to her from whom
it came and thus
to whom it goes.

Everything if I am not
badly mistaken,
has this agreement
to fill the grave.

If you try hard you can hear the sound of the earth turning. To some it's a whirring sort of noise, to other it sounds more grinding. No one has been able to explain this difference to but some scientists speculate it may have something to do with breakfast cereal.

Death of course is nothing if not dizzy.

The maggots here are either unformed flies or fully evolved revolutionaries we don't know which.

Poetry is the thing in the poem that is not biodegradable.

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