WTM #1097: Words Ain’t Birds

wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3


Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies

17 Mei 2010 // 16.30-18.30

“Poetry is the struggle to take back language”
• Michael Rothenberg

Chameleon-Easy > Trentemøller vs Dennis Hopper
The Flying Dutchman > Spinvis vs Simon Vinkenoog
Angels Sleep in Peace [1995] > Michael Rothenberg/ Thomas
Mijn Vader Speelt Geen Instrument > Godfried Bomans [Bomans met een Glimlach / BASF]
Sterile [Part 2] > Black Sifichi vs Brain Damage [Short Cuts Live / Jarring Effects]
Blood Donor > Tony Hancock [The Blood Donor / Pye]
Anti-Rules > Mankind [Ice Machine / Ambiances Magnetiques]
The Barn [1980s] > Michael Rothenberg/Thomas
Hanoi > Myra Davies [Cities & Girls / Moabit Muzik]
Take [1990] > Michael Rothenberg/Thomas
Radio Ham > Tony Hancock [The Blood Donor / Pye]
Gnomen Dans > Spinvis vs Simon Vinkenoog
Vier Katers en een Poes > Godfried Bomans [Bomans met een Glimlach / BASF]
Radio Ham > Tony Hancock [The Blood Donor / Pye]
Unhurried Vision [1999] > Michael Rothenberg/Thomas

When It Dies He Dies [Apocalpyse Now] > Dennis Hopper
My Friend Sherry > Myra Davies
Dangerous Precipice > Eddie Woods [Dangerous Precipice / Ins & Outs]
Dreamachine [exc] > Brion Gysin [Self-Portrait / ]
Radio Ham > Tony Hancock [The Blood Donor / Pye]
They Call It Existential Monday > [Poor, On Tour, & Over 54 / No Help Here]
Radio Ham > Tony Hancock [The Blood Donor / Pye]
CSP > Black Sifichi vs 2Kilos& more [Entre3villes >> Optical Sound]
Stuff > Myra Davies
Dialogue: Jersey’s Where It’s At > Belle & Sebastian
Burroughs Bunker > Myra Davies
Stop Smoking > Brion Gysin – Self-Portrait lp
BDR Ginsberg > Fake Ginsberg

I used to do a spoken word show on WFMU. “Word is the Bird” was a word ghetto inside my show Wreck This Mess. Many live guests came by despite being in a nearly inaccessible by public transport area – East Orange, NJ, carjack capital of the US beck in the late 1980s-1990s. Taking the 44 Bus from Newark was a sociological journey into how the other half survives. It was 20 years after the riots of 1967 still a pile of inelegant rubble. Still is now 43 years since the riots. Live spoken word is fine or even some spoken tracks in a mix but always had my doubts about spoken word CDs, when do you listen to them? Hardly ever, I’m afraid. And yet in all those 25 years or so I keep coming back to the magic of words especially as poems in a bigger mix, as a libretto of mixage.

Well, after doing some general shows or theme shows my physical being sometimes coerces me into doing a spoken word-based show. Words bringing us back to some consciousness that music rarely touches.

Not long ago I met Michael Rothenberg, poet, performer, editor and ecological activist, online and MR sent me some of his older audio material, which showed evidence of the Beats and/or Black Mountain Poets. I was struck by how musical they were like spoken songs almost. What I also noticed was how tender they were without being sentimental, political without polemic. Urgent without hysteria.

It was shortly after Dennis Hopper died and so I decided to create a kind of atmospheric tapestry – nothing too artful, don’t worry – that was ruled by the musical quality of words featuring Rothenberg, Simon Vinkenoog, Holland’s truest and last beatnik, who could do battle with Run DMC and Gil Scot-Heron any day. I found some of the choicest Hopper monologues from Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now and blended them into some minimal electronica dub. Myra Davies spoken word material continues to impress as she deals with globalization, stuff, abortion in a personal way while keeping an idea of the distant horizon. Of course, I remain a sizable admirer of the work of Eddie Woods, outcast ex-pat author and editor of the legendary Ins&Outs, while Black Sifichi, with the voice of Ken Nordine and the mind of a plastic explosive device continues to make something visceral and elegant out of words. Rothenberg’s Big Bridge is also one of the host sites of the BEER MYSTIC GLOBAL PUB CRAWL. If you have a lit or beer or eco site and would like to be a host of a Beer Mystic excerpt please contact this blog. I interviewed MR recently…

MR vs WTM >>> 9 October 2010 19:01:51 >>>

WTM: How do you hear your older poems today? especially in relation to words as effective or evocative and in the current climate of politics / environmental disaster and social activism.

MR: I have been having a lot of fun reading “Angels” lately. Recently, read it with Terri Carrion backing me on accordion.  I found that when we were out on the road for the Rockpile Tour “Angels” was very adaptable to being read with many different styles of music and easy for musicians to play around at unrehearsed events. I’ve never been exactly sure what it’s about. Is it political or anti-political (which is political)? There’s a lot of anger and frustration out there. Poems that may have seemed “over the top” or too angry and political in previous years seem to be on the mark and measured today! “Take” came out of an environmental battle I was engaged in to protect Mori Point and the San Francisco Garter Snake. “The Barn” appears randomly in my readings whenever I need to establish my cred with rural America!! I try to have a good time.

But you ask the questions about effectiveness. Mainly it seems folks like to know that someone else gives a damn. We complain to each other and it makes us feel better, hopeful, and maybe more motivated to get out and make real change. We can give each other permission.

WTM: How can words save us when they are so often being used [by others] to deceive and plow us under?

MR: How can words save us? You are referring to the “War of Words.” I guess Poetry is the struggle to take back language. That’s why it’s best that the poetry is as much from the heart as possible because ultimately words are meaningless. Poetry should be from the heart, something that can survive and transcend words.

WTM: What are your published works of poetry?

MR: Favorite Songs (Big Bridge Press)
Man/Woman, a collaboration with Joanne Kyger
The Paris Journals (Fish Drum Press)
Monk Daddy (Blue Press)
Unhurried Vision (La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press)
Grown Up Cuba (Il Begatto)
Choose (Big Bridge Press)
My Youth As A Train (Foothills Publishing, 2010)
And the eco-spy thriller Punk Rockwell

WTM: What are you currently working on?

MR: I am working on a poetry manuscript, Head Shed, that has been evolving for the past ten years.

WTM: With the advent of youtube and social media, where does poetry go from here? is everything going to be video and audio with no ‘need’ for chapbooks?

MR: During the Rockpile Tour we filmed a lot of our performances. We posted them on our Rockpile Blog www.bigbridge.org/rockpile and shared them on Facebook. We got quite a few hits, so certainly it expands the audience. I don’t think video and audio eliminates the “need” for chapbooks. I don’t know what will happen when paper is no longer available. I guess we will experience poetry as live or digital. But until we run out of paper I can’t imagine we will do away with hard copy.

WTM: What audio material is available.

MR: You can order Under the Spell from Big Bridge Press, Box 870, Guerneville, CA 94044. Checks payable to Michael Rothenberg–$15.00, shipping included. ISBN: 0966617320.

WTM: Do you see a relationship between leveling and democratization. Everybody thinks they are an expert/critic/dj/poet and does this diy-ism with all its good sides also create a sea of mediocrity where everything is relativized?

MR: Let me see if I understand what you are saying. I think the biggest problem is that poetry writing has turned into a craft alone. A response to an imaginary standard. And the standards for the craft may be high, ask anyone who practices them, but they are after all only standards, meaning in flux, and something of fashion. What are the new standards? Will we ever see the standards evolve? If we stay engrossed and subservient to the old standards poetry will suffocate. We have become relativized by an old standard. Poets should not be too obedient. Poets need to throw out the rules, put down the standard every time they sit down to write. Destroy and create. That is the only way to make a place for inspiration. If there’s no inspiration then it isn’t really the poetry I imagine, it isn’t art, it’s chopped liver or widgets!

some selected shows available at WTMixcloud

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