Friday, 28 May 2010


"The songs are sung outdoors. They are sung in daylight only. They do not exist in the dark. But it is darkness or absence or lostness or vacancy or deprivation that they are about...The constraints...are the most obvious: the guards, escape, sentence length, geographical places remembered or longed for or heard of, sickness, death, guns, the work itself. The songs concentrate on the devices and forms of control and the manifestations of impotence. The language is...highly concrete, but the themes are not; the themes are negatives: things like unlove and unfreedom and unimportance..."

-Wake Up Dead Man: Afro-American Work Songs from Texas Prisons, collected and edited by Bruce Jackson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), p. xvi. See Rounder Records 2013. As quoted in Rounder Records 1715 Prison Songs: Historical Records from Parchman Farm 1947-48.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

roboc irc universe

not even wholly
part of that
which I might
not yet resemble
is my total point
today, a kinder
setting aside

O arc incessant

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Entropy is a measure of disorder in the universe or of the availability of the energy in a system to do work

Questioner: Now these entities incarnate into a third-density vibratory body. I am trying to understand how this transition takes place from third to fourth-density. I will take the example of one of these entities of which we are speaking who is now in a third-density body. He will grow older and then will it be necessary that he die from the third-density physical body and reincarnate in a fourth-density body for that transition?

Ra: I am Ra. These entities are those incarnating with what you may call a double body in activation. It will be noted that the entities birthing these fourth-density entities experience a great feeling of, shall we say, the connection and the use of spiritual energies during pregnancy. This is due to the necessity for manifesting the double body.

This transitional body is one which will be, shall we say, able to appreciate fourth-density vibratory complexes as the instreaming increases without the accompanying disruption of the third-density body. If a third-density entity were, shall we say, electrically aware of fourth-density in full, the third-density electrical fields would fail due to incompatibility.

To answer your query about death, these entities will die according to third-density necessities.

Questioner: You are saying, then, that for the transition from third to fourth-density for one of the entities with doubly activated bodies, in order to make the transition the third-density body will go through the process of what we call death. Is this correct?

Ra: I am Ra. The third and fourth, combination, density’s body will die according to the necessity of third-density mind/body/spirit complex distortions.

We may respond to the heart of your question by noting that the purpose of such combined activation of mind/body/spirit complexes is that such entities, to some extent, conscientiously are aware of those fourth-density understandings which third-density is unable to remember due to the forgetting. Thus fourth-density experience may be begun with the added attraction to an entity oriented toward service-to-others of dwelling in a troubled third-density environment and offering its love and compassion.

Questioner: Would the purpose in transitioning to Earth prior to the complete changeover then be for the experience to be gained here before the harvesting process?

Ra: I am Ra. This is correct. These entities are not Wanderers in the sense that this planetary sphere is their fourth-density home planet. However, the experience of this service is earned only by those harvested third-density entities which have demonstrated a great deal of orientation towards service-to-others. It is a privilege to be allowed this early an incarnation as there is much experiential catalyst in service to other-selves at this harvesting.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Field Report, CRS vol. 5, 21.5.10

What might a reading do?

What is the scope of our insistence on the plurality of address in contemporary experimental poetry? What are the implications of articulating, either by direct or inverse means, a polis whose basis is the entrainment of a readership into a productive and necessary milieu through which to act, to respond, to engage? How does this process relate to poetry’s designs on the folk, the people of which a community of poets is always a slight but inevitable instance? What are the designs of the people upon the poets? What are the ramifications of the activation of space in a play called The Reading for, in the first instance, the people who were there and for whom that space becomes radically theirs, and in the second instance for everybody else? How much does everybody else even matter, or do they remain a they, a kind of vaguely intimidating, abstractly regressive and unproductively somnambulistic Das Man until entrained into the utopian projection of our superabundance of desire? What, in any given reading or performance, can possibly be said to be assumed?

There are two things, I think, to come to terms with before attempting to untangle this deafening masque. The first is that in order to bridge the void between subjectivities the social space which subtends, contains and often undermines those subjectivities must be addressed holistically as well as fractally, preferably at the same time, or at least in the same breath. The second is that the notion of “preaching to the converted” is nonsensical when applied to the Arts, and poetry in particular, first because it assumes that there are only two possible states of play at stake, those of pre- and post-conversion, after which the infinite variety and radical potential of language slides like dribbles of iced latté down the polyethylene meniscus of the initiate's perception; second because “preaching” re-enforces a performer/audience dichotomy that is far less interesting than the active listening which is the axis of social space and of which both speaking and remaining silent are variegated articulations. This is to say that the potential for “creating culture” as opposed to, or perhaps parallel with, “reproducing it”, in Marianne Morris’ terms, are not diminished or somehow reduced in power or scope because the same people go to the same readings all the time. This is not a memorandum to my friends in the business, and I am not advocating an insular and reductive micro-dystopia of writers and performers selected for their collective genome’s compatibility with the esoteric knowledge of experimental poetic technique. Rather, I mean that the very cognizance of friendship, our ability to know each other and to express that knowledge, to work and thrive in the sun of it, is what could be at stake at readings and performances that enact certain desires and put such forces into play. The important question is not how to get more people interested in experimental poetry, but what to do with the ones that already are. In any case, I don’t believe that the same people do go to the same readings all the time; but I do believe that it is a certain quality of poetic disclosure that enables access to that “we” I want to talk about, as well as to its constituting subjectivities, whoever comprises and constitutes “us”, all of whom “I” desire to know as far and as productively as possible.

This then, is a political activation, however we qualify the instance of polis. What we can do to activate the space we inhabit. “My true readers”, says Dorn in the foreword to his Collected Poems, “have known exactly what I have assumed”, and Morris makes a similar, collectively appropriate point:

“a poetry like ours – that’s mine and my poetic colleagues’ – in fact relies on shared experience, both in criticism and engagement with performance as well as in a tacit understanding that a way must be found in poetry of speaking with more than one voice. This is why you see the first person plural pronoun in so much of this poetry – my own included: the ‘we’ that creates community, even where there is none…”

Morris, writing in the face of a deeply cynical, throw-away attack on the Infinite Difference anthology in the TLS, is keenly aware that the views expressed in the “review” were not meant to engage in debate or productive discourse, but simply blank and irreproachable, a derisive snort in the direction of a casual public whose proxy nostrils are cleared by the chummy, hairless tone of arrogant condescension, and as such her comments on the work to be done are directed to her poetic colleagues – Know your enemy is less useful didactic knowledge here than Know your friends, and less important. What then, should we assume? I said just now that it is a certain quality of poetic disclosure that enables access to this “we”, and stopped short of defining poetry as a constitutive force of the reflexively defining first person plural as Morris does. This is because I believe that whilst poetry can give ourselves to each other more truthfully than the static notion of self could bear, the skin-line not a burr thrown up against the world but finally a series of valves or ultra-porous access points through which we contain, refute, are filled and desired by the world, the potential for affinity must surely be pre-requisite for a community to come together and to effect that constitutive “we” in the first place. Community cannot just be created “even where there is none”, but only where “we” desire it to come into being by knowing each other more profoundly than we could by merely having similar preferences for original modes of language use? First of all, we must desire it. We must desire the dialectics of difference to be put to the use of poetic knowledge in order for our capacity for love to be more fully realised. The point is perhaps pedantic and in any case may be elucidatory instead of contradictive. And the first person plural pronoun can of course be put to other uses than those of highlighting our particular historical and collective endeavour, not least to worry that conception and keep us wary of complacency, to indicate other, perhaps more subtly mendacious and illusory methods of collective identity that the widest “we”, the human race, are constantly compartmentalised into, whether productively (not to mention usefully, willingly, falsely or painfully) or not.

Posie Rider & Jow Lindsay’s reading on Friday night assumed much less than it would perhaps be safe to assume a Cambridge Reading Series night of experimental avant-garde poetry would assume, but by this very play was able to open up a space in which the performance of the reading constantly flirted with, insulted, disparaged, castigated, comforted and barely became a means of effecting a communitas based upon what was already there, what we already have, and what we might possibly become. Recent national political discourse was both appropriated and mocked, but also re-constituted into the political space of the reading, tracing a line of constant watchfulness over the machinations universally predicated upon and in the name of the folk whilst at the same time tragically powerless to prevent those machinations from organising/mobilising satirical negations & refutations of constructed collective identity. The creation of the radical experimental “we” through such a gathering was tempered with a dangerously isomorphic “we” of satirical invective and absurdist comedy, the laughter of the audience perhaps the most realistic effect produced by the Wagnerian, mythological, polysemous diatribes flitting between the two barely realistic personas of the poets. The potential for a delineation of a universal WE to be reductive and obscurantist is enormous, and these are the precise means by which corporate advertising and party political affiliation seek to homogenise humanity into demographics and target audiences destined only for differences in the vagaries of their consumption and tactical voting preferences. To say, as I believe I heard Posie Rider say, that “we are the poets laureate” in the midst of an exhausting and increasingly overwhelming dialogic code is a re-appropriation of a political right and the creation of, or at least the exciting image of, a fragile community existing, fleetingly, in the heart of the multi-national flux of assumed identity. What is “assumed”, that is, taken as given, a priori, implicit, hereby becomes inverted to be that which is passed over in haste, ignorance or ambivalence, and what must be attested in the act of the reading is the (newly) human capacity for engendering caucuses of radical community so that we may attain enough trust to assume in the positive sense once more. The figures of Jow Lindsay and Posie Rider are mythological tricksters, ever playing with our trust in assuming that we are assuming the same thing/s as the poets we heed. We are not simply given to assume that we can all trust each other and can therefore sing together the firmament of the new world, but rather the intimidation and awkwardness these trickster aspects produce in the audience (for example, naming specific people in the audience, something I’ve seen Lindsay do a number of times both in improvised performance and in published work) work to make the sense of place more malleable in order that we may mould new ways of listening to and being with each other. Those moments of joyous augmentation, (self-)plagiarisation and re-organisation result in a mixtape-like quality that presents not only a plurality of voice, but voices of real collective experience and instantaneous memory.

Only by carving difference into the universally reductive notion of humanity itself can we become truly human, and by dint of this, humane. That is the axiom at work on the macro-level of experimental poetry communities and the micro-level of the individual reading.

This is also how readings act theatrically without becoming theatre. The creation of such communitas is contingent upon its only lasting as long as the reading itself, its durational nature perhaps the key to the feeling of common endeavour, even if only articulated negatively. Lindsay’s exhaustive prose performances are, I think, a beautifully doomed attestation of the occasion of the reading as the productive mechanism by which communities are made, defining themselves against both an undifferentiated humanity-at-large replete with built-in sensors to detect love, companionship, truth & beauty as well as by more positivist means declaring a space for the activation of radical subjectivities inexpressible within the nexus of the everyday uses of language. The temporality of the reading as play is therefore the crux of the meaning of the performance in terms of its delineation of our time, our language, our wound, our response. It is the proper occasion of song which frames and therefore reveals the event itself as constitutive of a collective grand narrative forged from the desire of those for whom pre-packaged national, gender, ethnic or sexual identities have become useless and restrictive.

How might all this relate to wider conceptions of the people, the folk, the inhabitants of Universe City? I’m as yet unconvinced that it does, or even has to. I am convinced, however, that these trousers somehow contain the answers we all seek.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Dante & the music of the spheres

"...when Dante insists on describing the quality of the musical performances of damned, penitent and blessed souls, he does not do so out of mere aesthetic interest. Music is an agent of divine grace and its use is consistent: Dante employs music in Paradiso as a rain to bless the souls and as a mystical means of expression in order to circumvent the engulfment of poetic language, while in Purgatorio plainchant provides a means for purging sins. By the same token, music in Inferno mocks the damned and reminds them of the salvation they will never reach, in a consistent parody of sacred music. Ironically, the same tool is therefore employed both to fulfill the desire of eternal happiness and to frustrate it.

Dante introduces into his poem the different styles of music of his time, showing an impressive knowledge, if not of the compositional techniques, at least of the repertory and its liturgical uses. He makes music the language of the spirit and incorporates this art into the monumental construction of his other world. References to polyphony are neither accidental nor decorative, but constitute a complex architecture, whose inherently musical meaning mirrors the reconciliation of multiplicity and unity. It is Dante's solution to the age-old problem, of reconciling the multiplicity of individuals with the unity of the Creator. The chants of the Commedia are therefore not a mere accompaniment to the pilgrim's voyage, but an essential component of it. Harmony, in a political, spiritual and musical sense, becomes the end of Dante's journey to polyphony.

The transition from monophony to polyphony accompanies a cathartic progress toward the spiritual union with the Creator. There is a specifically musical quality to this purification process: for the penitents, monophonic singing is the tool of purification as the individual struggles for harmony. The songs in Purgatorio therefore constitute a pharmakon, a remedy to heal the soul from sin, which seems to revive the Pythagorean notion of music as medicine. The change to polyphony in Paradiso reflects the harmony with the Supreme Being, realized, spiritually as well as musically, through the simultaneous resonance of the souls' melodies within the music of God."

- Francesco Ciabattoni, Dante's Journey to Polyphony, (University of Toronto Press, 2010)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

I'll never get out of this world alive

Now you're lookin' at a man that's gettin' kinda mad
I had lot's of luck but it's all been bad
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world a live.

My fishin' pole's broke the creek is full of sand
My woman run away with another man
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

A distant uncle passed away and left me quite a batch
And I was livin'g high until that fatal day
A lawyer proved I wasn't born
I was only hatched.

Ev'rything's agin' me and it's got me down
If I jumped in the river I would prob'ly drown
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

These shabby shoes I'm wearin' all the time
Are full of holes and nails
And brother if I stepped on a worn out dime
I bet a nickel I could tell you if it was heads or tails.

I'm not gonna worry wrinkles in my brow
'Cause nothin's ever gonna be alright nohow
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

I could buy a Sunday suit and it would leave me broke
If it had two pair of pants I would burn the coat
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

If it was rainin' gold I wouldn't stand a chance
I wouldn't have a pocket in my patched up pants
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

Hank Williams, 1952

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Some letters in the meantime, to be sent

Containing some scattered and some more delineated thoughts on failure, O'Hara, theatre, folk song & the faux-pas. The continuation of our grand narrative. On the way back from a Chinese traditional music concert in Oxford at the weekend I mentioned to my housemate that I could quite easily have sat through two hours of solo qin music without the modern recapitulations of sung poetry, to which he responded tetchily "not everyone's you, Joe"; a valid point, but doesn't my desire to expand my self into everything subtend and undermine that protest? I love harder than you, I will encompass your desire and you will see. Love as the great colonizer; the reflexive machinations of Wilkinson's Proud Flesh attempt to dislodge these anxieties but ultimately reinforce and re-inscribe them. Do I drown in this gross superfluity of desire or revel in it?

Letter to Luke Roberts, 14.5.10

Dear Luke,

Great to hear back from you, and glad to hear you're having a hectic, if not entirely healthy trip. I recently read your Terraform Lecture Notes (long overdue, I know) and was particularly struck by your: 

"What fails but this, the failures I love, into the earthquake shortened day where for milliseconds we might have done something special"

Which at the moment of writing, shot-through with totally contingent personal lyric from where I sit in the computer room of the Taylorian library on a lunch break, sounds like the fallout from a rebuff, and then after the comma, the interrogation of the validity even of THAT as feeling or (responsible) response. I was looking at Yves Klein's Leap into the Void again for the first time in a long while, and reveling in the pathos and awfulness of the whole endeavour - Klein in some dirty Parisian back street wide-eyed and flapping around, it's all so utterly tragi-comic, leaping into the great Void whilst a disinterested lady cycles down the street with her groceries, completely oblivious, the sincerity of Klein's action just segues into ridiculousness. His imaginary "architecture of the air" becomes a vaguely phallic gesture of pre-failure into which he can throw himself but nothing else. Perhaps, finally, that's where his personal vision of transcendence fails, but fails beautifully. The world accepts and absorbs his passion but then immediately and imperceptibly becomes brittle and dry, leaving him hanging in photo-montaged air, a idiot grinning in the face of the love that he loves.

That's the discrepancy in perception when desire falls short, that the primary result is a feeling of being incommensurable with the world, discontinuous and dis-contemporaneous. This is true whether the subject is a particularly unobtainable Laura or Beatrice (longing - distending - stretching), or video footage of an American helicopter killing Iraqi civilians (impotence - weakness - horror). It's the time dilation involved in the inevitable alienation from the common ground of language, which is possible only thanks to love's greivious machinations. And through that alienation we desire all the more, we're then able to produce the necessary superfluity of desire that could subtend a poetics of the impossible made, if not possible, then at least (mostly) manifest.

Failing beautifully is something I know a few people in our ambit are interested in - Chris Goode is the primum mobile here, who got a lot out of a blog-piece that Matt Trueman wrote, and I've talked with both of them about notions of failure in performance, or perfomative failure, or performing failure, which I think for Chris always needs to orbit an axis of vulnerability and weakness (see his blog post on the matter, which you have probably already done). I wanted to ask you what ARE the failures that you love, and why? Is there something bigger going on here? I mean Keston's working through his tripartite thesis comprising the cardinal points of WRONGNESS, BATHOS and STUPIDITY, which seems to have some parallels with Chris' aesthetics of failure. I don't for a minute want to suggest that Failure and Wrongness are isomorphic, because they're patently not, and anyway Keston and Chris have massively different praxes. But I think there is a more general thrust here towards embracing these antitheses of literature and performance and re-appropriating them in order to re-infuse them with the passionate arguments needed to keep us all afloat.

I've come to think that the tragic is the only true, or perhaps the truest, measure of life. That we have to come at it from that angle. How the tragic opens up a wound in perception that is productive and powerful, both alienating and universal at the same time. I love how "tragic" in common parlance has become a byword for social or artistic failure or faux pas, marking the instances of our descent. On the other hand, how foreign death is immeasurably more powerful when couched in indignation, as opposed to tragedy - "a tragic loss of life" now sounds the hollow apolitical horn of cowardly complicity. Here the tragic is co-opted into the foul and evil-smelling mouth of Brigadier Major Sir Jock Stirrup as a means to dodge & obscure a measure of human life in fact brutally defined by SMART bombs and surgical strikes; this he has to do, because to admit of an adversary's humanity is the first step towards pacification and negotiation, obviously anathema not only to military operations in general but also to the language employed to present such operations as necessary and urgent.

Letter to Y.S., 5.5.10

Dear Y,  

I hope you don't mind my writing to you - I'm sorry I had to rush off after the seminar & I would've liked to talk more about O'Hara and your paper, which I really enjoyed. It was rather depressing, in one sense, to encounter a rather regressive streak in the audience that still clung to the idea of art for Art's sake as some kind of tautological and self-referential institution that runs like a parallel line alongside life, culture and politics, as if such a discourse hadn't worn itself out over the course of the entire gamut of twentieth-century acts of embedded, contextual, engaged and active art & performance. Still, I don't want to get bogged down in refuting such a concept - we might just quote Oscar Wilde or Guy Debord and be done with it - but at the same time it mirrors an argument that still to some extent plagues any work, particularly poetry that is self-avowedly or even critically referred to as "political"...You were totally right to say that everything is political - at least any art that engages with human relationships, as all human experience is conducted & mediated in liminal zones whose boundaries and limits are themselves defined by the given cultural and political rules of engagement. Of course a poem is not a sit-in, or a march - and I wondered what exactly was the point of labouring this issue, especially given the fact that the questioner had already decided that art is to be referred to and thought about Artistically in light of the Canon. A manifesto is as inert as a poem on the page if it is not taken up and given a social role, and surely readerly practice has as much to do with how far a work can be "politically effective" as the agency, or lack thereof, of the (debased and outmoded idea of) "art in itself". What I find striking about O'Hara's work, and this is inevitably coloured by the kind of criticism I read around him, especially Malcolm Phillips', is the the fact that the interstices and rivulets of interaction and time that he works in create fragile and transient occasions for being together, moments of engagement that are not transcendental or escapist (the major difference for me between O'Hara and Ginsberg) but actually fully committed to working in the gaps and fissures of the urban consumerist absurdity that characterises New York in so many of his poems. Now, that kind of work is political on a more complex and deep level than the gapingly large definition I provided just now because it figures out the various spaces in which thought and love and motion can be processed in the glaring mass of the city - these moments of extreme and often all-too-tender intimacy are conditioned by the melee that goes on around them, the flux that is constantly tearing O'Hara from one party to the next. I think there's a reason that O'Hara and Berrigan talked about Coke and pills all the time, and I think it has a dark side to it, that it reflects negatively the positions these poets had to adopt to stay both committed to lived reality and create instances of new forms of engagement within that reality - to whit, they must have gotten pretty tired being so various. The tone of quiet resignation that pervades poems like Having a coke with you and Aus Einem April I think bears this out.

But to be more specific, I think a poem can be politically just as much, if not more than, it can mean politically; the latter category segues all too easily into a position of reflection and critique, which is not what O'Hara does to my mind - or if he does, it's constantly his self that is being critiqued for staying in the same place for too long, and thus missing out on something going on down the street. The denial of national identity in Grand Central is a wound almost protected by the breezy tone of the way "love" is bandied about immediately following this statement (even that I find slightly disturbing - as if he didn't quite trust love enough and felt more comfortable using it as a kind of human shield, using a part of himself to defend another, wayward part that won't play along), but finally left open to the machinations of the reader - the self from which the poetic voice is reconstructed is ALWAYS to some extent created by the readerly act, and that's a kind of political manoeuvre that bleeds out frequently from O'Hara's more naked poems. What is more political than manipulation at the hands of a distant other? This is what I mean by the poem acting, or being political more than meaning someTHING political, in that narrow sense that politics sets up for itself when being referenced in those terms. Is the faux pas in O'Hara a radical wound through which the poet allows the reader a glimpse into their own manipulative designs upon the body of the other?

Letter to Jonny Liron, 9.5.10 

Dear Jonny,  

So, the terms of engagement. After spending the last couple of days with some sort of letter sploshing around in my head, I'm not even sure any more of the points I was supposed to make, or even if they need to be made. What am I trying to do comparing Poetry and Theatre when what I should be doing is getting on with making poems? I remember reading about Yves Klein and his entourage, that Klein was approaching Art through his painting, one of his friends through poetry, another through music, etc, but the point seemed to be that they were all looking for the same essential fix, they just differed on their respective ways in. I don't think that sets up our terms very satisfactorily, because I wouldn't presume to want the same thing that you do, and I think to assume that is arrogant and stupid. There isn't just some great big Art that we're traveling towards through our different praxes, no point at which we can all say - we've arrived, Jonny get here through theatre, Joe through poetry, that's just too universalist and ultimately bland and reductive.

Nor do I want to "defend" poetry - it's failures and limitations are what interest me most. Have you seen the recent discussions on the List about sestina form and wrong poetry?

But I am interested in the form an event takes. The liveness of any art is contingent on the act of its occurrence - any given performance of a composed piece of music or a written poem is an instance of a singular thing that acts to transform that thing - it is no longer inert but performative. In some musical cultures the idea that there is no such thing as a piece of music outside of the act of its being played is more explicit than in others, and only relatively recently have Western musicologists questioned the superiority of the idea of the "Great Work" that exists before and after any of its articulations in performance, and subtends those individual instances within some grand structure of meaning. That's obviously not how we encounter art in our lives - meaning is totally contextual, delineated by the subjective and the communal, and tied up with culturally ingrained responses. Theatre brings these things to the forefront of the stage, as it were, as it is. The continuing and responsive present moment of being, distended indefinitely. The ultimate mode would of course be Chris's utopia of ever-on-going theatre that the public would and could encounter at any point - the never-ending present distended indefinitely in actual praxis. I don't know, maybe this stuff is just so totally intuitive it doesn't need pointing out, and the dialectic between a work and its articulations in lived experience is just something that hovers at varying radii from any practice. This is why I'm so fascinated by folk song - it is constantly dealing with this dialectic (or what in the essay on Dorn which I attach I call a trialectic, because you have to take the singer into account as well) at the forefront of its practice. That discrepancy between the artwork and its articulation in performance, whether what is being performed is the same essential THING or whether it becomes a new phenomenon each time, and the discrepancy between the artist and the historical context out of which she arises, are isomorphic. I'm building patterns of reality in the hope that they'll break down and split. An act of tuning. The history of temperament.

From a letter to Neil Pattison, 1.5.10

So, enough quotation. I want to address folk song in Olsonian terms, especially the sense of the phylogenetic in the ontogenetic, which is something I reference above when talking about Jonathan P. Stock's response to Victor Grauer's article on the evolution of musical forms in the journal World of Music, and then move onto talking about the use of song in modern poetry, specifically with reference to Ed Dorn's Geography. One of the key elements of folk song, as I mentioned at the very beginning, is the position of the singer within the song. When a folk singer sings, is she singing "the song", her "version" of the song, or something else entirely? Cecil Sharp tries to pin down the question of the authorship of folk songs in his English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, rejecting both the idea that the folk song has no author and simply arises out of an anonymous collective tradition, and the super-relativistic conception of there being no such thing as "a song" and that each interpretation of such a phenomena is a new song in itself. His compromise is to cite a constant development of the body of song in which the songs are transformed over the course of generations to mean the particular version that is sung at any given time - in other words, that each articulation of the body of song will occur in an environment in which that song's status is always already assumed. The divergences and discrepancies between "different" versions of the "same" song is a paradox that is contained within the legitimacy allowed to such "versions" within their communities. Nonetheless, always with folk song there is the looming sense of the singer coming out of and returning to a wider tradition that both authenticates and subtends her voice - that determines its variation and encompasses its scope. Always in folk song there seems to me that essential ontology of being one amongst many, how to determine the scope of one's voice. The dialectic can be disturbing - folk song, in any culture, is a closed system, or cosmology. It prescribes and determines the limits of one's capacity for love.

Photograph from the Brighton Poetry Festival by Marianne Morris

Saturday, 1 May 2010