Sunday, May 14, 2006

Peace on A presents: Alan Gilbert & Cathy Park Hong (Events Series)*

“A divergence without combat, or a peace with neither conquered or conquerors.”
--Emmanuel Levinas

*Peace On A* series


Alan Gilbert & Cathy Park Hong

Friday May 12th, 8PM

hosted by Thom Donovan at

166 Avenue A, Apartment #2
New York, NY 10009

Alan Gilbert’s poems have appeared in various magazines and journals including The Baffler, Chicago Review, and First Intensity; in the anthology *Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books*; and online at The Poetry Project website. His writings on poetry, art, culture, and politics have appeared in publications such as Artforum, Bomb, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and the website Jacket. A collection of critical writings entitled *Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight* was recently published by Wesleyan University Press. He has a Ph.D. in English literature from the University at Buffalo, and has worked as an art editor for the New York Foundation for the Arts and the College Art Association. He lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Cathy Hong’s *Translating Mo'um* was published in 2002. Her second book, *Dance Dance Revolution*, has been chosen for the Barnard New Women's Poetry Series and will be published by WW Norton in 2007. She is the recipient of NEA and NYFA grants, and spent last year in South Korea on a Fulbright Grant. Her poems have appeared in Volt, Denver Quarterly, Chain, American Letters, Commentary, and other journals. Currently, she lives in New York City, splitting time teaching at Eugene Lang college and working as a freelance journalist.

Peace On A intends an events series for work by emergent writers, artists, performers and scholars.

for inquiries and feedback please write:


Alan Gilbert:
*Form is never more than an extension of culture*. So goes Alan Gilbert’s telling play on Robert Creeley and Charles Olson’s famous proclamation: *Form is never more than an extension of content*. Reading Gilbert’s *Another Future: poetry and art in a postmodern twilight* the past few weeks has made me more hopeful about the future of poetry and art criticism in general, and proved to me that this future is far from foreclosed or prescribed. Perhaps the most sizeable aporia Gilbert has found his way out of with grace and reasonability through his collection of essays, addresses, and scholarly meditations is that after Language Writing -- what may remain the single most important literary generation prceding Gilbert’s and my own. If Language has made a thorough, if not effective, assault on linguistic representation what is left having faced this central dillemma? Beyond polysemy, transcendentalist "active reader" theories, beyond an ecstasy of (non-)communication Gilbert returns us to various sense-makings of context, history, agency, discourse, cultural and economic analysis too often lost in the projects of many writers associated with Language -- projects Gilbert has sited as self-assured in their "assured sense[s] of not making sense." If not making sense alone will not suffice for another future what will? For Gilbert we have acts of witness and a recuperation of the subject, however abject, in Benjamin Friedlander’s verse; we have micro-historical emergencies in the post-Olsonian work of G.S. Giscombe, Susan Howe, and Mark Nowak; we have an original way of writing history through a poetics of archivalism by way of Ed Sanders’ verse experiments. The list of important names, works of art, and ideas Gilbert has redirected our attention goes on… I look forward to listening to him read tonight to hear how his critical work translates into that other praxis: poetry.

Cathy Park Hong:
Part ethnography, part philological science fiction, largely a tour de force of witz… Cathy Park Hong’s forthcoming *Dance Dance Revolution*, from which I hope she will read tonight, imagines a future or ”alternative universe” through the soliloquies of a tour guide whose *lingua franca* encompasses Korean, German, West Indian, “Spanglish,” “Black English” and the English of Geoffrey Chaucer – the problems of whose work perhaps most resemble Park Hong’s own, however across the centuries. To read the work aloud, which I have had the pleasure of doing the past few months, is to sound what I believe Robert Duncan called “muthos” (of course punning on myth and mouth), and Nathaniel Mackey after Duncan language’s “discrepant engagement". In such engagements, it is language itself -- language as a multiplicitous expression of cultural desire -- which is ultimate master over the speaker/author. The singular voice we hear in *Dance Dance Revolution*, beyond Park Hong’s capacious imagination, is a voice of present necessity as cultural confluences and conflict become articulate in an uncanny glossolalia ventriloquizing us –- the reader! -- to make us mouthpieces for histories micro and macro, disastrous and joyful, wondrous and all-too-familiar. If the language of *Dance Dance Revolution* also risks hyper-codification or an elaborate language game it does so in a spirit of experiment and inquiry which can only benefit its eventual readers and critics, not to mention a larger poetic discourse addressing cultural forces at large.

--Thom Donovan


Every window contains
the memory of a body
seen through it,
along with a shadow that momentarily
erases its reflection,
because there are no
universal symbols,
such as sun and moon,
or loving the landlubbers,
and it’s hard not to take pleasure
in witnessing authority disgraced,
even if we internalize punishment
long before doing
anything wrong,
or are fearful of loss
and lacquer everything
with an opaque coat,
then tie it all down
as if it were a portable shelter
that might blow
from its rocky ledge
in the middle of the night,
which is why “sometimes”
is as close as it gets to “absolute.”
And so I’m not nostalgic
for Jimmy Carter;
I’m not nostalgic
for TV dinners
while watching allegories
unravel over a lifetime
in a staggered parabola,
asking: “Where’s mama?”
“Where’s papa?”
since there’s not just one
language to contest,
and the word “poetry”
is the lightest of beach balls
and the heaviest of boulders;
it’s running a standing start mile
with hurdles, high jump,
and a whole floor routine thrown in.
Therefore, I don’t mind
if you go ahead and shrug
your shoulders and smile
in that endearing way;
for a while I was addicted
to no longer being lonely;
in other words, I knew then
what I don’t know now:
Wings separate from the bodies
of most creatures,
and I’m burnt at the root
picking one small blueberry
staining the teeth scraping
the inside of a bowl,
similar to filling empty boxes
with more empty boxes
—all ones and zeroes—
and then pretending
it got lost in the mail.

--Alan Gilbert

1. Services

See radish turrets stuck wit tumor lights around de hotel
like glassblown Russki kestle wit’out Pinko plight,
only Epsolute voodka fountains. Gaggle for drink?

Twenty rooboolas, kesh only . Step up y molest
Hammer y chicklets studded in ruby y seppire almost
bling badda bling. Question? No question! Prick ear.

Coroner diagnose hotel as king of hotels ‘cos
luxury es eberyting. Hear da sound speaker sing ‘I get laid in
me Escalade/but I first sip gless of Crystal/den I whip out me pistol.’

No worry. No pistol in hotel, only best surgeon feesh y beluga
bedtime special. Deelicious. But before you tuck in king o’
water bed, befo you watch papa-view,

Be peripatetic y see snow bears merry on a ball or go
Be roused by molten sauna where Babushkas bap your tush
wit boar bristle switch. No childs allowed here. Mo mo?

De blood rust hes been Windexed to amber shine,
de insurrecta's marauding soul wetted into papa-machetes,
de looted radio back in de propa municipal hands.

Here be city of ebening calm, da fire-rilers gone.
If you want true heestory, go watch tailor
maki magic. He more revolutionary den artist.

If you dream only for Paris, dat is right outside de
atrium, beyond de sand dunes, which form y disappear
like mekkinations of human digestion. Sand swirl

to otherworld land where blankets da weight of human
bodies tatter y pill. No tatting, no pilling here. Da sand will
be in your eye, only sometime.

--Cathy Park Hong

* The above image is a detail from Anton Van Dalen's *81 Birds*.

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