Will Alexander, Bowery Poetry Club, 4.3.04

Missed Harryette Mullen, but arrived in time to see Will Alexander's whole set. He read with an electric guitar player, who improvised with loops and textures.

Alexander read with the same style and pacing as he normally would without the music, so the overall arrangement was in the free jazz tradition of streams of separate things happening at the same time in phenomenological polyphony. The poetry was read blastissimo, without breaks or pauses, and the guitar player essentially took a supportive role. The music added a lot to the overall performance energy, and I thought there could easily have been a whole band here, at least bass and drums in addition to guitar.

Alexander's poetry is thought provoking and extremely vertical, with vocabularies building and massing into color areas. You could think of this performance a duet for two harmonic instruments. I experienced it as a movement through space, with cloud and particle formations of vocabulary spiraling past. The guitar player also implied movement through a sound space that could have been considered very small or very large, esp. in his loop sequencing.

Alexander's syntax is fairly static, with constructions that fall into an elevated surrealist argument / description voicing. This static syntactical element is a stable structure around which the vocabulary structures are built dynamically (though this dynamic quality happens within a fairly controlled set of registers). The word groups tend to fall within several sets of concerns -- environments, animals, minerals, elements, and mental states. The words pile up with only ostensible syntactical exchange. The vocabulary sequences, and their implied subject matter, linger way past anything suggested by the actual sentence structures, like:

levels / vertigo / hummingbird / omniscience / nostalgia.

Almost any of the words from these concern-sets can be and are plugged into the syntax grid, and this comes off almost as a proposition about ranges freedom within agreed-upon formal arraignments.

It is impossible to even scratch a doodle onto a scrap of paper without invoking the question of what identifiable parts of the past still have a claim upon us. Alexander addresses this question by actively joining in dialogue with the works of Aime Cesaire. I guess it could be argued that anything identifiable as a claim from the past that one could pick to attend to on the basis of one's own tropisms is already more of a function of what we think of as the present, and the more crucial aspect of the past are those things which also have some kind of claim on us but which we are incapable of seeing at present.

Alexander's work also operates as a perpetual motion machine whose function it is to reject any external definition or limitation of identity or experience while refusing to posit an alternative except the ambient motion and particle phenomenon that seem to go along with and exist as the very substance of this rejection. It felt like the embodiment of the wish to be completely uncontained, hence the impact of the work feels ambiant and spatial. The rebellious, speculative, and of course, impossible quality of this embodiment are so obviously related to the work of Sun Ra that I won't belabor the obvious here.

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