Saturday, June 14, 2008
Eileen Myles had her own theories of the 1970s that she delivered in a rapidfire pace, without notes, and she flavored her theories with memories of her own New York City life during that time. She sketched a 1970s New York of many facets, the one that sticks in my mind is the world she encountered of important older gay men halfway in the closet and resentful if you pulled them out: the only out ones, she said, were the crazy ones who couldn’t help but be out, guys like James Schuyler.
Dodie delivered a talk she had written on the Feminist Writers Guild, her own memoir of belonging to this largely artisanal, dopey and yet at bottom ultimately inspiring group of women writers and artists banding together with vague notions of Bloomsbury floating in their heads. The Marin library of one member was grandly dubbed, “The Virginia Woolf Reading Room.” Dodie's talk has a wonderful epigraph from Acker's My Mother: Demonology: “I don’t know whether we were feminists. We did establish political positions in our class by picking best friends.”
My paper wound up the panel, half cribbed from Andrea Brady’s Paideuma articles summarizing her chase after Wieners in the libraries of several dozen UK and US speciual collections department, and half from Wayne Koestenbaum’s article “The Rape of Rusty,” which traces his own boyhood fascination with the cruel figure of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge. Around the meat of these essays I tried to place the sandwich bread of John Wieners’ “Three Carols for Myra Breckinridge" written in March, 1974. Here's one, called "The Future." By the by I appeal to other Wieners scholars U R G E N T!!!, have these poems ever been collected anywhere, or do they just exist in the original Mitzel/Steven Abbott book that commissioned them, "Myra & Gore"?
without death, resurrection only regeneration
leaves no question literary remains prose nation.
If you only take care of yourself, your country will take care
of you, dearest selection of all races, any stipulation.
Doorknobs remain brass, despite golden valuation
outside the city, or within its private stations.
over vast condotteries: they go any which
way the wind blows. Trying to guide us as bitch
49 years less coffin limitation de vie, medication,
outside prescription’s law, an omission
I made, many times myself, as youth run-
ning narcotics, under the impression a goof turn
for my friends would yield credence, an experience
necessary, in their faces belying anything else
except drugs’ betrayal. smacking dead lips this
Evening, beside the bennies, the cotton’s, the hypo’s kiss.
And also, can anyone tell me what or who is in charge of the John Wieners estate? I want permission to print these poems—and other unpublished material—but who do I go to? Please, please, please respond!
The reception to the queer panel was everything we hoped it would be! I was so exhilarated and relieved. I got to meet one of my favorite Oppen scholars, Eric Hoffman, he's the man who looked through Oppen's FBI files and pieced together more of the mysterious Mexican interlude than anybody else—and found himself in hot water from other Oppen critics I gather, it's only human nature to want to deny that your man was an active Stalinist. My own talk I gave on George Oppen many years back annoyed some Oppenologists for a very different reason, and as I told Eric two of the big ones haven't spoken to me since the day after I delivered it.
A week or so later Patrick Pritchett sent me a postcard from Cambridge, of Wieners at Walden Pond in 1973, with Lee Harwood, Lewis Warsh, both looking wraithlike, with Victoria Beckham’s haircut, and William Corbett, dapper in sneakers. I can’t really think of explaining what Wieners is wearing in this shot, but I can see why Pat thought of it when listening to my talk. I guess it’s like a wool football jacket in a way, except accessorized with pockets, collar and long chevrons of a violently weird fabric, perhaps silver satin, perhaps crushed velvet, but what it really looks like is the helium-filled mylar pillows of Warhol’s famous 1966 show at Leo Castelli. Thanks, Patrick!