Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 22 (Philip Whalen)

Goof Book
Whalen, Philip

Given to me by the editor, Michael Rothenberg, when he visited Buffalo a few years back.

That was a really fun event, actually. We had just started the Big Night series when Michael contacted me about coming to town along with David Meltzer and Terri Carrión. I decided to pair them with my next door neighbor at the time, Doug Dreishpoon, who, in addition to being the chief curator at the Albright-Knox, is a jazz drummer.

He brought along a trio he played with called Other Side. We had initially planned on them performing separately, but David and Michael and Doug and everyone got to talking before the event and decided it would be much more fun to have the trio play solo first, and then back up the three readers. It was all improvised.

It started off a little awkward, I recall, but then it all began to come together as first Terri found her feet, then Michael burst onto the stage spinning his Dionysian rhythms. Finally, David finished off the evening. He, of course, was an old pro at working with jazz musicians -- many of his poems are even about jazz or use jazz rhythms. Other Side found a nice groove behind him.

The highlight, though, was the last piece he read, which was an extended tribute to Lester Young. At first, the musicians listened as he read, plucking at the bass here and there, giving a quick tap to the drums. Simultaneously they all seemed to realize that this poem needed no accompaniment, it had a rhythm all its own too strong to play behind, so they just stopped playing and listened.

It was kind of magical.

We went out to dinner at Pano's afterwards. David and I talked philosophy through much of the meal. I drove them back to their hotel. They were reading in Toronto the next day and wanted to get rid of some weed they were carrying before crossing the border. They handed me an envelope with several joints in it. Not being a smoker, I promised to place the package in good hands, of which there are no shortage in the Buffalo writing community.

Note the first: for those keeping score, you may have noticed that WH comes before WI and not after. When I unpacked this box of books last night, I discovered that I had skipped over WH back at the apartment, where I must have had the books out of order on the shelf. This is what happens when you move around so much.

Note the second: for those keeping score, the green background you see this morning is the wall in my new office, which I started unpacking last night.

Note the third: yes, I am wearing a white tie with a gray shirt to work this morning.

from Goofbook 

(Note: Jack is Jack Kerouac)

A book, for Jack, saying whatever I want to say, whatever I feel like saying (I just steped on a tack-- luckily it was lying on edge-- in my sock feet & swore "God fuck us all!") a pretty bouquet of parsnips for Lord Mountjoy herald to the King as any I know or hope to meet. But now Rick and Les are shouting from one end of the house to the other about some professor Rick saw at Vesuvio's for the first time in 10,000 years, since Rick was a student at Berkeley, that is.

               Under water, & drip through my skylight, rag in the bottom of mountain cookpot silences rain.

               I lie in sleepingbag writing on clipboard arm/shoulder crease fine hairs, naked in feather sack.

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