Saturday night, I went to Sara Larsen's Earthworm series to hear Erica Lewis and Jason Morris. Larsen lives in an apartment in the Lower Haight that has windows on both sides, giving it a cool, airy feeling. I was curious about Erica Lewis, whose work was new to me, but about whom I had heard good things. She read first, spreading at her feet a number of large pictures on paper done by her husband in oil crayon, lots of black, lots of tangled abstractions to accompany her poems. She read from a pair of long sequences (some of the poems featured in a recent issue of Try, the bi-weekly magazine Sara Larsen co-edits), and as I listened I imagined I heard all kinds of "Millsisms," the attention to lyric detail, the kind of seriality I associate with Leslie Scalapino and Laura Moriarty, and an insistent strain of observing. Afterwards she said she had lived through an intense period of addiction to Mei-Mei Bersenbrugge.
Here's Erica, graciously consenting to pose for my camera:
Jason Morris I've known longer, ever since he helped Kevin and Peter Gizzi as an unpaid intern on their work on Spicer's collected poetry. He went to San Francisco State, where he studied with Maxine Chernoff, Paul Hoover, and Judith Goldman. Now he works as a bartender in the Haight, and runs a interesting magazine called Big Bell, as well as a curious online venture The Highest Number, in which he asked poets and artists to give up their "worst" poems or drawings, their failures in fact, and he would publish them without comment. Jason read from recent work, work which has absorbed the influences of Paul Blackburn, Spicer, Ted Berrigan, but perhaps has not yet totally absorbed a recent fascination with Bernadette Mayer, complete with sonnets. He had the whole crowd in his hands, a crowd that included David Petrelli, Lauren Levin, John Sakkis, Cedar Sigo, Patrick Dunagan, Lauren Kohne, Michael Slosek, Robin Demers, Micah Ballard and Sunnylyn Thibodeaux, David Highsmith, Francois Luong, Sean Labrador and many more whose names I didn't catch. It was a champagne sort of evening.
Here's Sara Larsen, Jason, and David Brazil performing engaged conversation, per my instructions. Jason quipped, "We're lying to the future."
During a break David Brazil gave me a copy of his book, The Book Called Spring, just out from Brenda Iijima's Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs. From the Yo-Yo website:
"The writing in this book was typed in a house next to a creek in Ithaca, NY, in the spring of 2005, as part of an evolving project of daily writing which is ongoing at the time of this writing (July 2008)."
Everything about The Book Called Spring announces its marginality--its brown paper bag cover, its stapled binding, its edition of 100 copies, its blurry, at times illegible, typewritten contents. The text is miserably too light, with lines from the reverse side bleeding through. Faint bands of smeary gray obscure Brazil's already faint words. It would be nearly impossible to make a photocopy from this book, as the book itself is resting on the final frontier of reproducibility.
The text is single space, no margins, words break in the middle, lines get crooked near the bottom of each page as it slips about in the typewriter, overtypings abound, and wholes punched at the edges eradicate letters. It has the aura of a text that one would find in a secret room with newspaper clippings pinned to the wall and some kind of frightening altar in the corner. Brazil: "I'll tease the law from tangles and suck the strength from angles."
Brazil's diaristic excesses are a fascinating addition to the canon of abject confessionalism. TBCS is degraded on many levels. My first impression upon opening to this solid mass of crummy looking type was that it was too exhausting to tackle. But then the words "take it up the ass" popped out at me, and all day I've found myself dipping into the book, then putting it down, then dipping again. The lines are so long that when you get to the right margin, it's hard to find your place when your eyes sweep to the left. More Brazil: "Overtyping produces an illegible jungle effect. The eye does not know where to rest." One doesn't so much read the book as voyeuristically struggle with Brazil's onrush of mental static/desire/doubt/hangover/fucked up irresistible engagement with the world around himself.
The Book Called Spring is perverse and smart and touching--and sometimes surprisingly funny. "None of my friends/write back to me, I must not be that interesting, & all my houseplants die." Reading it left me with a mood of tragic evanescence.
Jason pouring David a glass of champagne: