portrait of the artist as a young %@?*!

The Fall 2006 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review included a special thematic section titled "The Holocaust: Remembrance and Forgetting." This included Tony Kushner's essay on Hans Krasa's opera for children, Brundibar, Lawrence Wechsler's "A Berlin Epiphany: On Peter Eisenman's Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe," and an except from Michael Chabon's novel in which Israel does not exist. And Art Spiegelman's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*!: The Origin of MAUS," which Spiegelman introduces (through a blurb on the contents page): "It all started bakc in '71, when my pal, Justin Green, invited me to do a short strip for an underground comic called Funny Aminals. I had some notion for a story about a cartoon mouse caught in a mouse trap drawn in a 50s horror comic style, but it didn't pan out. I was totally stuck til I sat in one of Ken Jacobs' film classes at Harpur College."


New York in the Fifties

A film was made of Dan Wakefield's book New York in the Fifties, the film (2001) bearing the same title, made by Betsey Blankenbaker who directed it and produced it. These were people who knew that their collective intellect, and their artistic passion, would change the world. The film is dedicated to "James," presumably James Baldwin. Among the people interviewed was Lynn Sharon Schwartz. Others include Gay Talese, Ted Steeg, Helen Weaver, David Amram, Mary Ann Dewees McCoy, Jane Wylie Genth, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Robert Redford, Nat Hentoff, William F. Buckley, Ray Grist, Calvin Trillin, Norman Podhoretz, Harvey Shapiro, Bruce Jay Friedman, Ed Fancher, Steve Allen, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, along with old footage of Jack Kerouac, Mark Van Doren, and C. Wright Mills.

Above, Arthur Leipzig's 1950 photo of the Lower East Side.


a hidden master of our poetry

At a recent benefit, Rothenberg read a short poem by Will Alexander. Alexander (see left) is a poet revered among experimental poets, although not otherwise well known. He has recently become ill and has no insurance--is incurring huge medical costs he can't pay. The Bowery Poetry Club organized the benefit--raising funds that went directly to Alexander in Los Angeles. Among the poets who read, as I say, was Jerry Rothenberg, who had just the day before arrived himself from the west coast. Rothenberg and his wife Diane are taking up several months' re-residence in Brooklyn, R's old haunts - seeing old friends, giving readings, taking in the old neighborhood.

After reading from Alexander's work, Rothenberg read a poem he had, I think, written on the plane ride crossing eastward across the country: it is a "variation," using all the nouns in Alexander's poem (I think the one R had just read) and the writing his own words and lines around these. Here is an mp3 audio recording of Rothenberg's 7-minute presentation.

leaving Brooklyn

Here's a link to Schwartz's own web page on her recent novel, Leaving Brooklyn, a novel with and about double vision: "This is the story of an eye, and how it came into its own," is how it opens. The book travels along the boundaries between the visible and the hidden, between conformity and subversion, between fiction and memoir.

Russell Banks has written: ""I read the book in one sitting, and it has stayed with me... This is Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s best-written book and, to me, her most moving. The blend of lyricism and history, of memory and the imagination—-all shot through with the female erotic-—is wonderful."


how we came into performance

Rothenberg on his relationship to performance art. It's his 2005 essay, "How We Came Into Performance: A Personal Accounting," and it's available as a PDF document on Kenny Goldsmith's invaluable archive of concrete, visual, and sound poetry and poetics, UbuWeb. Here's the essay: PDF.

Of course Rothenberg mentions the performative one-time-only gotta-be-there-art "happenings" of the late Alan Kaprow. As well as Beck and Malina's Living Theatre. Above right: a Kaprow happening.