Brandon Downing and Steve Benson
St. Mark's Church, 3.9.05

Brandon Downing

“one of those muppets was feeding on me when I came to”

personality / fantasy / joke / push-pull theater

greedy. I always come in 4th in poetry


Stoned, splintered echos of private jokes.

An odd, tweaked poetic immobilization created by the simultaneous contradictory embrace of wacky, relaxed and likeable / nervous tense and uncomfortable.

Picking odd objects of appropriation (films, cartoons, commercials) and then using them privately to keep the poem in a state of dissociation. The effect a funny and friendly energy bending itself into a pretzel to avoid directly addressing the dirigible-scale questions about failures of communication that the whole thing sets into motion.

Affability with a strong undercurrent of anxiety.

Also, gleaner-mind seeing discarded culture as possible alternate fuel source?

Purina Cat Chow commercial slowed down until it became a nightmare.

The fact that Downing is showing cable access shows or forgotten cartoons about Paul Bunyan means that for him poetry is state of looking at things, not necessarily a sequence of words.

Steve Benson

Benson started with a sequence of questions from a new book. I had heard a version of this material before, when it was being written you could say. He generated it at a performance a few years ago at the Bowery Poetry Club. At the Poetry Project, he started with written questions, but then started to make up answers, and, I think, to make up new questions, departing from text. A method of entering the improvised performance. Pondering riffs, expressions of self doubt riffs . "Is this entire thing fatuous?" Riffing from the vocabulary. Chains of puns. Tense, torturous, hilarious, depressing, amusing. The best sequences were on topics of "insecurity" and "certainty." He crawled from word to word, clearly navigation the energy from individual word to individual word. How they branch in associations. Descriptions of mental states. The mind reeling against an unacceptable environment. Against itself. Against an uncooperative language. This was free association, adapted to the needs of performance art, not exactly free. And it is performance art. Not sure if it would work if he read it straight from the page, but it's great with the wandering around and tortured expression.

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