Saturday, December 14, 2013

Text Event (with Water) #3

I've been thinking about how to do this for a while: send a long poem down a Catskills stream.  I knew the perfect spot - when we hike to Huckleberry Point in the Platte Clove, we follow the stream that bisects the U-shaped trail.  There are several beguiling points along the stream that are wide and flat and shallow, so shallow you can walk up it, and I thought these would be perfect environments for a floating, moving poem.  This floating world.

I floated (ouch!) this idea past my husband Peter Genovese and our friend, poet Nancy Huth a couple of weeks prior, wondering if they'd provide technical assistance, as well as document the event (as it turns out, I couldn't do much of the latter as I ran around the stream bank trying to keep everything moving).  One outcome I didn't foresee was that I couldn't keep the poem face up all the time and it twirled in the currents.  So the stream bed got to "read" the poem.  Plus there was the chaos of our dog Einstein, who at one point fortuitously stepped on one end of the poetic "line" and kept the poem in place for a moment in the rushing water.  And as pieces of the poem began to de-story (a typo I always make from the word "destroy") and tatter and float and cling to rocks, interesting moments presented themselves for us "read" the work.

 As I wrote to poet David Caddy a few weeks ago - "I like when things are very destroyed by the elements, forms of micro-ruinporn.  When the actual world has some kind of physical interaction with my work, it's pleasurable, because it's impossible to gauge any sense of "audience" in the electronic ether.  My questions lately center around how can my work actually touch the world?  How can it exist beyond the page?  Can the natural world be audience?"

So, I made a bunch of copies of my poem based on the perfume Patchouli 24 (made by Le Labo), liking the idea of a richly sensibilitied poem traveling in water.  Three copies were unbound.  The other three copies were "bound" serially with fishing line (to keep the work in its original "narrative" order).  I used regular photocopier paper, realizing that its short fibers would come part pretty quickly. 

We chose the day for this text event based on a wishful (and thus fabricated) idea of good weather.  Which was dashed by sleet.  Nancy got lost and was late, which worked to our great advantage - the bad weather moving past us.  We started our hike in rain ponchos, but were able to ditch them in about a half an hour.  All of our gear colors vibrant against the wintering hemlock forest.

As we gathered up the resulting detritus, and crushed the paper in our hands, we discovered it could look like this:

(photo by Nancy Huth)

Peter and Nancy videoed the Text Event and some of the footage is here with cameo appearances from our dog Einstein (aka, "Tiny").  And many, many additional photos on Facebook here and here.

In some ways this was a mediation between monumentality and intimacy, the longterm and the short, tiny pieces of paper wrecked on rocks, and the eversearch for new ways of reading and looking.