Passages culled from recent readings

—Laura Moriarty, "Missing," from Self-Destruction | reread 20 August 2004

And yet Cage tells us that, even though Schoenberg paid zero attention to his own compositions, "I worshipped him like a god." No doubt he had never before come across the single-mindedness, devotion, and pure genius that Schoenberg manifested—a devotion to Art, whatever its costs, that became a model to be adapted for use on the very different, high diversified, decentered, and multiplex American scene. Different because Schoenberg's problems—particularly the anti-Semitism that almost destroyed his life—were hardly Cage's, but then Cage had to work at odd jobs that Schoenberg would have found hopelessly demeaning. Gentlemen in Vienna, after all, did not perform the work of 'laborers' or vice versa. Then, too, Cage regarded himself as essentially 'free' to do whatever he liked (even if few people seemed to care what that was), provided he could scrape together enough money to get by, whereas Schoenberg could earn a living in Vienna as a composer/teacher but had none of the freedom that Cage too for granted. Schoenberg's musical world—rigid, hierarchical, and opinionated—was a world always deeply engaged. Cage's world was fluid and sometimes fortuitous but, in the end, just as engaged, although in the United States it is bad form to make the sort of fuss the Viennese composer was making.

—Marjorie Perloff, The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir | read 4-8 June 2004

In the midst of this incredibly austere music, this music of bare and quiet sounds, the crisp flap of a page being turned. Clearly a page of the score, but in this picture-free environment, it could be any page—Everypage—and its occurrence has the weight of stagecraft, drama, a twist in the story.

—George Albon, from Brief Capital of Disturbances | read 2 June 2004

—Pierre Alferi, three "cubes" of Oxo, translated by Cole Swensen | read 29 May 2004

—Marjorie Welish, "Word and Object," from Word Group | read 27 May 2004

I don't think of a reader in terms of audience. Millennia of creative and creatively intellectual products are in the public domain. We are late in this conversation. Does that mean that anyone who comes along must recapitulate in some remedial fashion that which has preceded them? I hope not, though The New York Times and nearly every art magazine suggests that remedial irrelevant chatter suffices. I would maintain that, if we are charged with anything, it's the charge to be interesting to our antecedents, and the people who will come afterwards who will be worthy of them. I'm not writing to speak to Dante and no one else; I'm trying to do my best work, that's all. And I'm speaking to anyone who can put up with the stuff. And when I read someone else's poems it's my responsibility to learn the language that this person's work is engaged in, to learn the textual context-literature in the broadest possible sense.

—Marjorie Welish, from an interview published in Jubilat 7 | read 26 May 2004

—Marjorie Welish, third and fourth stanzas of "Detained by Rest," from Word Group | read 24 May 2004

—Jack Kimball, stanzas five through nine of "Congress in Duct Tape, from Art in America | read 24 May 2004

—Ben Friedlander, "Mortgage Policy," from Adult Contemporary | read 23 May 2004

—Jeff Clark, "First Pastoral," from Music & Suicide | read 22 May 2004

—Dan Bouchard, opening stanzas from "Fenestra Vestibuli" in Sound Swarms & Other Poems | read 20 May 2004

Early morning brings a different light. It is revolting. As a word itself is revolting. She understands that even though life changes around a little bit, it's not really changing. And not now either as she gets up and moves silent out of bed. His penis is stuck stupidly between his legs. What manner of day is it?

—Sara Veglahn, from Falling Forward | read 19 May 2004

To keep working, getting no response, feeling more and more baffled. Nevertheless, I would say this, that if we can only hang on to this patient, find something to help her, we'll be able to like her better. The sacred tourniquet.... The halls are painted colors judged soothing, yet battleship grey railings and metal skid guards skirt the concrete steps. The brick building, built in the '20s, has holes for the wind to pass through. Green diamonds in blocks of yellow stucco. I thought of a story about a boy who won the lottery and ran away, afraid of money and what he thought it would do. Then a hospital scene and a girl in a cold car; a sibling rivalry wobbling from looping sexuality; a conventional road trip—floating and framed by each footfall as I run past the old school.

—David Perry, from New Years | read 18 May 2004

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