Peter Gizzi, talk on Jack Spicer. Poet's House 5/6/04
I came in late to this talk as Peter was discussing After Lorca. It occurred to me that having Lorca introduce you is a great deflationary comical rearrangement of Whitman's "stealing" his introduction from a private letter of Emerson's without asking him for permission. Could Spicer be considered a negative or reversed transcendentalist? My mind kept going back to the arena of poetic social manifestation were the poet attempts to associate their work with artistic status figures…. what is this process? What does it reveal?
Gizzi in this talk made a pitch to see Spicer as a traditional poet in the good sense, that is -- keeping basic poetic gestures alive (by morphing them) in one's time and according to the demands one's experiences in the world call for. Great to have Spicer described not as some magically depressed hermeticly private crank, but as a reflection of the larger history happening around him.
Discussion of basic Spicer moves -- puns, degraded sources, etc., leading up to a comparison of Spicer with California funk art and assemblage, and, in particular, Bruce Connor.
Gizzi showed the Connor film Report, which was totally riviting. Repeated (sampled you could say) news images of the Kennedy assassination that never get to the actual moment of violence, but seem to be infinitely approaching it. Against this disorienting permanent deferment of the moment of truth a news voiceover continues uninterrupted, the temporal continuity of public language seeming to flow and change even as historical meaning is frozen. I thought more than once of Sept. 11th, and the nightmarish media repetition than followed.
I felt in the audience a fascinating rift between the older audience members who had lived through the assassination and the younger ones to whom it is all more distanced media and myth. The older man sitting in front of me kept shaking his head and quietly saying, "why…why…" not understanding what this has to do with Spicer or why a filmmaker would do such a thing.
More than once I thought of JG Ballard during the course of this film, and I realized there may be strong connections between Ballard and Spicer… the use of repeated media/myth images and their fetishistic aspects, the deflationary use of this material which also invokes the dynamics of individual fixation that these myth/history/image systems involve.
Talking with Steve Evans afterwards we both agreed that the deflationary power of Spicer's work is one it's most valuable qualities.
The poetic movement not from unknowing to knowing, but from believing to not knowing? Not art that destabilizes myth but art that reveals an unstable reality from beneath a myth, or, one could say, a wish for stability.