"Same as it ever was, same as it ever was..." -- Talking Heads
Often after reading the worst of the day's news in the morning (to give just a few examples, the state of the war in Iraq; the attack on the young Black woman by members of the Duke lacrosse team; the increasing social and political marginalization of African-American men; the utterly simplistic, nativist, racist rhetoric in which the discussions around immigration are couched; the newest twist in the Abramoff scandals and anything having to do with the Republicans in Congress or with the Bush administration; the most recent, dire predictions about global warming and the environmental crisis that the earth faces; the political crises in Uganda and Belarus; and on and on), I almost feel incapable of typing a word. I rarely think my responses are adequate...and then I resolve I'll return to posting about more personal things, and then I realize I have other things to do, and the day progresses, and...
Earlier this morning I'd thought about a longish post that took up the themes of writing and displacement, from a personal perspective, but it's the end of the day and I don't really remember all the interesting stuff (or fluff) that was floating in my head. I had thought about writing about my desire for a certain level of continuity and stability, particularly in terms of spaces and place, particularly when I'm writing, but how I've had to work around it because of the peripatetic nature of my adult working life, which has often required creating contingent, temporary spaces (on trains, planes, in different rooms, etc.) in which to dream, think and create, but also how the themes of mobility and portability, of transition, translation and transportation have appeared again and again in my work, in various forms--as subject matter (I actually wrote a genre-mobile piece years ago called "Transits"), as different formal strategies, as necessary aesthetic and ethical approach, and so on. But now I'm talking around what I'd hoped to write, so I'll break of here and talk about something more practical, and perhaps try to reconstruct the earlier projected thought for an upcoming post.
Today I sent off something approaching the final version of the text of a book I've been working on for three years, a collaboration with the artist Christopher Stackhouse, which now has a publisher (who hopes to bring it out by May or June), and will have an introduction, we believe, by a fellow writer/scholar. Reading this text still startles me at times, because I cannot believe I wrote some of the pieces, which approach a lyrical and formal strangeness that I'd always wanted to achieve but couldn't in some of my past poetic work. (I usually experience this more with poetry than with fiction, where a word, phrase, sentence or two may have this effect, but not an entire piece.) The project itself still startles me as well, because neither Christopher, an excellent poet in his own right, nor I initially had sat down together and decided to work on it. Its genesis lies in the hand and eyes of another poet, Veronica Corpuz, who had, without our knowledge, combined poems of mine with drawings of Christopher's, to create an impromptu textual conversation. As things go, it was a daring gesture on her part, because neither of us knew about it at first, but we both quickly agreed that it was a good idea, and though the work has changed substantially and though she's no longer associated with the work, I will always appreciate the initiatory role she played. Another poet and artist will be bringing it to bookstores, so I'll say more about this when the time approaches
I still have not finished watching parts two (Un Couple Épatant/An Amazing Couple) and three (Après la vie/After the Life) of Belgian director Lucas Belvaux's Trilogy, which are out on Netflix. When the films first appeared in the US at festivals, I wanted to catch them but couldn't, though my friend Tisa B. did and described their very interesting thematic architecture to me. Belvaux filmed a thriller (Part 1), a comedy (Part 2), and a drama (Part 3), in which six main characters, or two sets of male-female pairs, reappear, though each work focuses on a different pair. I chose to watch the films in the order Belvaux suggests, beginning with the thriller, Cavale (On the Run), which stars Belvaux himself as an escaped, violent former revolutionary who eventually makes his way to a chalet, and then.... Well, you have to see the unexpected ending, which is the high point of the film. I've been watching (or trying to watch) the comedy for months, but I end up watching a little bit and then going on to something else. It's not bad; it's actually a tighter movie in acting and formal terms than the thriller, but for whatever reason I can't seem to finish it. Then there's the drama, which looks interesting enough, but I want to finish the comedy before I watch it. As I've been watching these movies, I started to wonder why more independent filmmakers don't try things of this sort, or why writers don't. Usually writers will continue with one protagonist over a series of works, but not utilize different, sometimes marginal characters in one work and then elevate them to chief status in another, while shuttling the protagonist from one work to the background of another. Faulkner is one example of someone who did this with both novels and stories (I'm thinking of Quentin Compson, for example, in Absalom, Absalom versus The Sound and Fury versus his minor role in a story like "That Evening Sun"), though sometimes the different, related narratives don't fit together exactly. It takes a certain obsessive, multidimensional--not in spatial terms, that is, but in narrative terms--imagination to pull it off, I think, with great attention to details, which is probably why it happens so rarely. But the possibilities are fascinating.
Here's a photograph I took today in Greenwich Village with my cellphone (click on it to enlarge it):