Jim Behrle, 6/6/05 Poetry Project
Why I Am Not Post Avant, Pressed Wafer, 2005
Jim Behrle performed this gig reclining on a piano, sporting a shiny blue wig. Three musicians provided scratchy improv accompaniment with processed dulcimer, prepared guitar and sax. Spaces of silence bubbled out from the lines and music, fully interactive. It was fantastic.
Behrle's poetry is funny on the outside, serious on the inside. You don’t have to get too far past the layers of irony and jokey self-deprecation to perceive that the mental and social particle accumulation happening in his work is deftly controlled and directed on the larger scale. The work is gross, beautiful and hilarious by turns. The humor he uses is not just crowd pleasing, it’s also a little window into a potential poetic energy liberation policy. Notice how he can handle fun and dissatisfaction simultaneously? That's difficult. Anyone can do something simplistic, but making something simple work well ain't easy. Behrle handles it with aplomb:
"Everything gets clearer after a kick in the groin"
"We met at the jaws-of-life party"
"Like I'm going to stop walking cuz some red hand tells me to"
He's trying to get the lines to sound like throwaways, but it's obvious he cares desperately about each one. The loosely assembled observations and ironic references operate under the pressure of a massive cultural fact-denial system like a bathysphere with the sea crushing down on it from all sides. You can feel the subtle shifts in scale operating within this pressure of culturally suppressed information. What information is important? Where does it fit? How does it relate to what I have to do and what I need? These shifts between the details are not jump cuts but cognitive glissandos that sound like someone looking for new paths, and not wanting to do it alone: a poetic cry for help. The ironic Lucite dive suit here is not made of the armor of defensive superiority, but of pain in the face of the pervasive cultural denial of fact staring down one's own personal reality-check.
There are audible remixed poetry parts -- Berrigan, Silliman, Padgett etc., certainly, but more importantly they are remixes of all the pathways in the mind that don't connect right when wired with the traditional schematics. These lines, details, jokes, loosened in this way, feel as though they can route the brain's electrons in ten different directions at the same time. There is an openness to searching for new connections. I can't wait to see how Behrle develops this work.