Thursday, September 10, 2015

Part 2 - The Poetry Reading Haptic

Haptic: Joseph Noble reading at Books & Bookshelves, San Francisco, 11.18.08

One of my first ever poetry readings took place in 1957 at the Gull Bookshop in Point Richmond on the northeast edge of San Francisco Bay. Hand in hand with the media coverage of Beatnik Life in North Beach, paperbacks, including City Lights Pocketbooks were the rage. One Friday night the Gull hosted a two poet reading. One was tall and one was David Meltzer, a young Beat, who is still with us. In my then 17 year-old head, I remember a large gallon bottle of Red Gallo on the floor with a stack of little white paper cups. I don’t remember the poetry much other than a certain lyric pleasure spliced with anger at “The Bomb” as well as “Square People.” I liked the poets’ sense of permission, to be able to say do that. But most of all I remember the tall poet going behind a thin curtain back to a bathroom with no door. For what seemed a long time he pissed with the intensity of a horse. To this very day, almost 60 years later, I remember the fierce, whistling durability of that sound.

Haptic: Beverly Dahlen reading at her "Tribute Celebration", Small Press Traffic, 12.04.2008

Which brings me to a point about the way I listen and make these haptic drawings during readings. Simply put, I listen and let my pens register whatever sound may be occurring in whatever might be in the space including foot-steps, creating chairs, the heating system, etc., as well as the poet’s voice; its rhythms,  the way he or she breathes, or sighs, or laughs or moves their arms and body. When the ‘room moves’, immersed in whatever the vibration(s), the pens move; every thing counts.

Haptic: Roberto Vargas, poet, at San Francisco State University, 40th Anniversary of the Student & Faculty Strike of 1968; 11.29.2008

Yet, there is another level to the work; the drawing becomes much more than a visual improvisation of marks made by this usually unacknowledged artist at the party. I want the drawing to be an implicit part of the entire play of the reading event. But more than that, as this drawing process has evolved over some years now, the pens enter a writer’s spoken work to become a visual manifestation of the shared psychic space and dynamic weave between the  poems and their audience.  
Haptic: Renee Gladman, poet/novelist reading for the San Francisco State Poetry Center, 9.24.2009

The drawing surface is a playground where the pens may “fly or fall." Without any pre-ordained intention, at their best the works become a fabric, if not a forest, of revelatory signs implicating everyone, including this maker.  

Ned Sublette, Composer/Writer, reading from The Year Before The Flood (Katrina) San Francisco State Poetry Center at the Green Arcade Bookstore, 10.29.2009

Stay 'tuned', the truck will be soon loading up with more!

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