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Paul Tracy DANISON
Paris, France
Coach humanist
Interests: Human potential
Recent Activity
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The wave is the primary choreographic trope of Lisbeth Gruwez’s exciting new dance piece. Photo©dannywillems18 THE SEA WITHIN • Lisbeth Gruwez, choreographer • Maarten Van Cauwenberghe, sound creation, with Elko Blijweert & Bjorn Eriksson • company Voetvolk vzw • Belgium Ω Performers, New Théâtre de Montreuil, May 2018: Ariadna Gironès Mata, Charlotte Petersen, Cherish Menzo, Dani Escarleth Pozo, Francesca Chiodi Latini, Jennifer Dubreuil, Liadain Herriott, Natalia Pieczuro, Sarah Klenes, Sophia Mage, Wei-Wei Lee / Lighting: Harry Cole / Scenography: Marie Szersnovicz / Costumes: Alexandra Sebbag Artist performance calendar From the sustained applause and the large number of folk lingering in the foyer to get a look at the Voetvolk troupe, it’s safe to say Lisbeth Gruwez’s The Sea Within is a public success. Sea, which premiered at the Nouveau théâtre de Montreuil as part of the Rencontres choréographiques internationales festival, is the Belgian choreographer’s first piece in which she doesn’t herself figure as performer, and remarkable for an especially intimate, sustained interplay of sound and choreography – an interplay for which her pieces are always notable. For Sea, Gruwez challenges herself to transmit through, essentially, words and looks, a very personal – very corporal – sense-vision without benefit of body. For me, thinking here in particular of It’s going to get worse and worse my friends, Gruwez is always reaching to use dance to transmit sense, a seamless mix of mind and body. So as Sea challenges Gruwez to get her sense-vision across by, as it were, talking and flailing her arms a lot, the 11 performers (10 women and Maarten Van Cauwenberghe’s Sound) are challenged to dance sense: force and passion enough, but also moral conviction enough, to deny the mind-body split. This is only a slight exaggeration. Gruwez is systematic as well as abstract in her thinking. In her note on The Sea Within, for instance, she writes that she is expressing the “tribal individual” – a concept borne out of her experience of zooming in on the pure individual in her recent Penelope piece (which she says has her turning round and round for 20 minutes), which then determined her to work on “human-scapes” rather than individuals. As I understand it, the “tribal individual” is a sort of e-pluribus unum psychic structure within each person and within which each person lives with others, a “tribality of being”, if you will. To put her sense-vision in motion, Gruwez’s choreography launches a pulse… something like a Fibonacci series which shapes as it swells along the course of the performance. The 10 performers in casual, individualizing postures and spread in the shadows around the three sides of the stage mat represent the condition in which a “prime mover” “just moves”. This “just movement” is visually tagged by the performer being the only person in a cast of strongly-built, expressive women to enjoy a milk-chocolate skin, a striking contrast that also suggests a distinctive warmth and sensuality; black is the color of the unknown unexplorable. Her movement – at first tentative,... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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"And-and" – performance and dance, high and low, side by side, up and down, back and front, blue and red – is as much part of Rencontres' tradition as of its esthetic mission: Lisbeth Gruwez and Paula Pi and Daniel Eveillée and Oona Doherty and Yu-Ju Lin and Ashley Chen and Marco Berrettini and Mylène Benoit and Giuseppe Chico & Barbara Matijević and... Spotlight on mission and tradition and esthetics and politics For May, June & July, the first entries of Paris Performance Calendar feature selected billings from Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis, an annual festival of international contemporary choreography making the international scene. Rencontres sees itself carrying on an avant garde esthetic mission and contemporary social engagement – “cultivating fresh contemporary choreography that presents a sharp, poetic look at the world around” – and a tradition – it’s been nearly 50 years since Jaque Chaurand founded a show-case for la nouvelle danse française with the Concours de Bagnolet/Les Ballets Pour Demain, which Rencontres claims as its organizational forerunner. And it’s true. Despite profound social, political and cultural change in France, in dance and in Rencontres' own organization since Les Ballets started up in 1969, Rencontres still has the noos – the sense of theory, practice and trending themes – that enables dance and performance lovers to accept and then to enjoy – to unblushingly and-and – the very different performance fare of deeply individual choreographic expression. … And Lisbeth Gruwez and Paula Pi and Daniel Eveillée and Oona Doherty and Yu-Ju Lin and Ashley Chen and Marco Berrettini and Mylène Benoit and Giuseppe Chico & Barbara Matijević and... And-and is as much part of the tradition as of the mission. Among the better-known winners of Chaurand’s Concours de Bagnolet, are choregrapher’s like Maguy Marin, who premiered an agitprop modern-dance performance, deux-mille-dix-sept, this past December, Philippe Decouflé, who founded his Cie DCA – Diversity, Comradeship, Agility –troupe in Bagnolet in 1983) and whose technically-recherché Nouvelles Pièces Courtes is featured in May at the Palais de Chaillot and Angelin Preljocaj, whose classy Blanche Neige ballet opens on to summer at La Villette at the end of June. "And-and" is as much about Rencontres' liberal values as of left-wing politics: Among the better-known winners of Chaurand’s Concours de Bagnolet, were Maguy Marin, who premiered an agitprop modern-dance performance, "deux-mille-dix-sept", this past December, 2017 With performances, in principle, only in the Seine Saint Denis department, Rencontres embodies the one time marriage of liberal, internationalist and progressive culture values with illiberal leftist politics and an ongoing tendency to express its politics in left-wing terms. Though it is hard to imagine, let alone properly describe, the ins and outs of a politics that allies an essentially hyper-aesthetic, individualist, expressionist dance movement with a concrete-obsessed, rough and tough communist leadership struggling to house and feed succeeding waves of workers from Europe, then from across the world, this alliance happened and continues to have consequences. It enabled Chaurand to find a home for his “future... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy. There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, Sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” - Pride & Prejudice, Sir William Lucas & Fitzwilliam Darcy (Chapter 6, the ball at Netherfield) BEYOND WORDS As for Darcy, as for Paris Performance Calendar “Dance” is the only art that is both intimately local and infinitely global. In this new creation, Totemic Studies, Matthieu Barbin explores totems and the psycho-cultural challenges that face the developed countries. Photo: Totemic studies, Matthieu Barbin © Tourgueniev Paris Performance Calendar is a regularly updated work-in-progress “dance syllabus”, complemented by essays, articles and interviews from The Best American Poetry and other publications. The first Paris Performance Calendar, scheduled for the week of 7 May and covering May, June & July, will feature selected performances from the dance & performance festival Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis 2018, in addition to two contemporary ballet offerings recommended by my friends at DanseAujourdhui. VENUES & AGENDA Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis, which runs from 16 May to 16 June over 13 venues in the Seine Saint Denis department this year, sees itself as a “festival défricheur”, cultivating fresh contemporary choreography that takes a sharp, poetic look at the world around – whether the perspective is that of a young woman from France experimenting Japanese dance forms, established European performers presenting a new creation, or choreographic newbys trying their hands or esthetic-professional-cultural-geographical points in between: Mylène Benoit, Marco Berrettini, Yu-Ju Lin, Oona Doherty, Daniel Léveillé... Photo: My soul is my visa © Marco Berrettini Paris Performance Calendar is called a “syllabus” because it is an informed, if selective, listing of live visual performance in Paris, intended as a tool to help my fellow poets better understand and follow (and participate in) the living arts scene. In its Agenda, Performers, Performances and Venues sections Calendar features live (non-word based) dance, performance and visual works, their creators, performers and contributors, along with the management and expertise of local venues or sponsoring events organizations that are associated with these. PERFORMANCE AGENDA BLANCHE NEIGE • Angelin Preljocaj (2008) • Grande Halle de La Villette • 5, 6, 7 July, 2018, 20.30h – 8 July, 16h • 90 min Λ “Schneewittchen” to the Grimm Bros., “Snow White” to you, partner, Preljocaj told L’Express that his Blanche Neige reflects contemporary problems of older women having difficulties to leave the way open to the mädchens: “...You just have to look at women between 50 and 60 to see it.“ Well. At least it’s not Disney and, despite the casual pop-psych misogyny, good choreography is good dancing. Ω This production features costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier, such as a leather-bound wicked stepmother, prowling the inflamed airs of Gustav Mahler along with an honest-to-goodness Paris-Opéra-quality set by Thierry Leproust. Photo: Blanche... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Author Olivia Burton & illustrator Mahi Grand move Algeria’s beauty beyond wide open spaces The other day the charm of a poster beguiled me into visiting Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac for an exhibition called Peintures du lointain, paintings of exotic subjugated people and places by Europeans of the colonial era. It’s an odd truth that everything turns to metaphor as time goes on. Also, many things advertised as one thing just turn out to be quite another, no metaphors involved: Peintures, for instance, is about colonialism, mostly in North or West Africa – places like Algeria or Senegal, as rendered, mostly, in paint, charcoal and encre de Chine. And though it may, much, much later, turn out to be a handsome metaphor, for now the exhibition is definitely just a squib. Worse than mere esthetic disappointment, Peintures provoked vague moral depression in me – as my late brother used to say, there was the whiff of brimstone but no devil in the damned thing. As I wandered through, I could just smell, off-stage, the sickly night-sweat of Rimbaud beguiled into gun-running and slave dealing by the urge to respectability, hear the revolver’s echo just out of earshot, but, though respectability did, has done, does so much to propel cruel and bootless enterprise, there was no actual reference to it and its relation to the notion of exotic in the exhibition… Luckily, synchronicity is at work in my life. Yours, too, maybe. When I got home from Peintures, I was cheered up to find a package in the mailbox. I took it on upstairs and while anxiously tearing off the tough plastic stuff the sender had wrapped it in, I banged into the bookshelf. The resulting jiggle caused Ferdinand the Bull, a book that reminds me of the delight of reading to my young son, to tumble to the floor, along with Algérie, c’est beau comme l’Amérique, a graphic novel by Olivia Burton very charmingly illustrated by Mahi Grand, which will be published in a few days in the US as Algeria is Beautiful like America. I keep Algérie around because it moves me; I love the character of Djalla, the guide. A photo of Jacques Chirac – former mayor of Paris, former President of the Republic – which I cut out of a newspaper long ago now, fluttered from between the pages of Ferdinand, preternaturally settled on the coffee table. I pick it up. Despite all manner of earthly honors, titles and rewards, and ‘though he died at home in bed, respectability, as for Rimbaud, always eluded Chirac. I can’t really say and, as far as I know, Chirac never rudely went at a photographer with his sword-cane, but I believe responsibility for this lies in a combination of the odd look on wife Bernadette’s face and a certain slouch he seemed to bear as he strolled through life. Chirac is the very image of mensch in the photo, lolling in a chair, pinching a fattish cigarette. No... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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“Rencontres internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis” from 16 May to 16 June 2018, will feature, among other outstanding choreographers and performers from across Europe, Lisbeth Gruwez, Oona Doherty, and new talent Matthieu Barbin in the Castel San’Angelo of radical contemporary dance A Paris live performance festival smooths out culture conflicts, supports creative endeavor, and helps live dance and performance lovers get their heads around the scene. When wandering to and from, having forgotten both paperback and Mp3, I generally spend some time puzzling the words written on the subway walls. Sometimes, too, I find myself in what you might call a Mene, mene, tekel, parsin situation – and have, over the years, been called to prophecy. One of these situations was the transport agency’s “Paris Patchwork” marketing campaign, which against all sense and reason, seemed to preen itself on its “patchwork-ness” and vaunt the “hodgepodge-ness” of its services. Call me “Daniel.” Here’s the interpretation. “Patchwork”, applies, and is a virtue, only when it comes to dance, dance performance or performance. And then, while many in other fields may try, only Creative Endeavor in live performance may, proudly, “hodgepodge”, or be “hodgepodge”. Forcement, therefore, “patchwork” written on the subway wall is a sign we are talking of Paris dance & performance, not of Paris transport. This comes to me from above. Forcement, therefore, the Word must be “festival” when it comes to dance performance “patchworks”, and or “hodgepodging”, in Paris. This comes to me from beyond. It is an evidence, then, that a Paris live performance festival patches up then smooths out geographical, historical and culture hodgepodges, supports creative endeavors at home, in Europe and beyond, carries forward culture policy and, we can suppose, uses limited marketing resources more effectively than might otherwise be true. Since each festival focuses on a different aspect of French and European creative ventures, aligning to a festival is also a way for live dance and performance lovers to get their heads around the scene and its venues – the interesting fund of theaters and culture centers to be found across the city and region. “Festival d’automne”, whose program N°47 for Fall 2018, will put the focus on Japan, includes prestige Paris venues such as Atelier de Paris- Carolyn Carlson, but also places like Maison des arts de Créteil, the sponsor of the Kalypso hip-hop festival, and Nanterre-Amandiers one of the first theaters in the image of '68, mixing classic contemporary and contemporary, popular, and conceptual dance and dance performance, as well as a wide variety of other live performance forms ‘Though they are certainly not the only live performance festivals – at institutional venues such as La Villette or Théâtre Monfort doing circus, for instance – Festival d’automne & Festival Kalypso, Faits d’hiver & Rencontres internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis do embody all the principles that make a Paris festival a good tool for organizing creative patchwork and negotiating esthetic hodgepodge. Festival d’automne covers the spectrum of live music and live or visual performance (including classical dance or ballet... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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A remarkably rare candid moment in the world's behavior, "La Femme et l'oiseau" by Parisian engraver and illustrator France Dumas captures a bird in her bird mask, perchance to chatter, perchance to take wing I’ve learned from the throwaway newspaper – as well as from personal observation – that the Seine has once again risen high. But the grumpy lady with the big rough-plastic sack between her knees, sleep-deprived brats dossed either side, knows as well as we all do that the rise is not because it’s been just pissing rain these long, hopelessly wintry, days. – You! Close those curtains! I’ve already said it once: The relentlessly grey sky has nothing to do with it! Those dull, dull, dull heavens are, in fact, a prime example of the pathetic fallacy. Anywhere else you’d have to pay for such a perfect illustration of a literary trope, but not here, not in Paris, not now, not me. It's emotions, not the rain, makes the Seine rise. Let’s prove it. Whenever anybody was upset by one of his actions, Marc, my former brother-in-law and a pocket Everyguy if ever there were one, used to cry, pathetically, fallaciously and quite sincerely, Pourquoi tant d'emotions? – “Why so many emotions?”. As if we were permitted, for example, fear, but not surprise or fury. With the Seine now bulking large up and down stream every year and with more than 30 years of hindsight, I can answer Marc without the help of a baseball bat. So many emotions, Everyguy, because most of us now realize that, without any shadow of doubt, this world here-below is more of feeling and emotion than of fact and reason. It is no accident, then, that the famous fleuve is now poised, has always in fact been poised, to engulf then sweep away the Academie française, the Assemblée nationale & the Musée du Louvre – Reason, Law, Science – along with the three pillars of capitalism, Punishment, Charity & Hard Cash: the Conciergerie, Hôtel Dieu and les Touristes. Though sturdily built on deep foundations, can reason, law and science hold steadfast against such repeated assaults? Dark thoughts aside, that we’ve finally noticed and that feeling and emotion are finally getting due recognition is not a bad thing. It’s just that feeling and emotion are not what anybody wants to deal with. And what nobody wants to deal with is always portentous, laden with doom, an excuse for one drink too many. Maybe the Seine’s pathetic fallasizing is partly a result of #metoo (or as they say here, using imagery that suggests a splash, #balancetonporc, “#givethebrutetheheaveho”). After all, haven’t women always been mocked and spurned for entertaining useless feeling and senseless emotion? Ha! No-account hysterical females! It turns out that the girls, anyhow, those of them such as have been mocked and spurned for feeling and emoting, have been telling the truth all along. All this truth, wanted or unwanted, and all this literary figuring, pathetic or fallacious or not, can... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Jann Gallois’ choreography focuses on precision in the expression of movement. Maria Fonseca, Jann Gallois, Erik Lobelius, Amaury Réot, Aure Wachter search synchrony (and synchronicity) in “Quintette”. Photo©2017Patrick Berger Seeing the premiere of Jann Gallois’ Quintette – "Quintet" – at the Atelier de Paris – Carolyn Carlson this past December put me in mind of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels for kids. That’s because, one summer day, on the way out to play, my son idly plucked up a dusty copy of one of the adventures from a musty shelf, opened the cover and immediately plopped down on the floor, utterly absorbed. His absorption pretty much represents my reaction to the piece, which will feature at the end of March, beginning of April 2018, at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. My appreciation comes down to this: the emotions raised by Gallois’ choreographic argument become, in effect, the choreography of the piece. She aligns choreography closely to ordinary relational movement (the fruit, I guess, of being literate in hip-hop and contemporary dance performance). Her approach holds together as performance because it focuses on the precision of the expression of movement rather than on the movement itself. The five performers use a sort of gestural tool kit – desire (for the other/for recognition by the other), power, position, trust, affection – to build firm symmetries of emotional call & response. Just as soon as any of a symmetry’s facets push too hard on any other or the negative or positive distance between one body and another slips out of sync, the whole symmetry dissolves into a fluid of searching bodies. So, technically, Quintette does exactly what Gallois told me it would during an interview summer last, when she was creating it. In the image of the 2016 trio-performance Carte Blanche, Quintette tests the capacity of human bodies to synchronize. But, much more to the point for me, like Compact, the piece that brought Gallois to my notice, Quintette opens up emotions that sweep the spectator along and, at the end, leaves him or her wondering about the nature of people rather than of the bricks and mortar of choreography. I am not the only one to feel more than see Gallois’ choreography. I first saw Compact in the course of the month-long Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis dance-performance festival a couple of years ago. The guy squinched up against me on the hard concrete bleacher-like seat in the steam-cooker of a performance space we were parked in nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. He asked, hoarsely, I swear, whether I’d ever seen Gallois perform. When I said I hadn’t, he slapped his forehead and said the equivalent of Golly! Are you in for a treat! “This crazy man is surely a relative,” is what I told myself at the time. He was so rigidly attentive as the piece opened that I thought I had every reason to believe I was in for a little neighborly crazy-man catalepsy. But, no. I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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We are in a former state, in a principality, of the Holy Roman Empire – it seems lost Etruscan is the way of speech here, filled with short sibilance and long silent vowels. Like soaring gothic; I can’t be sure; you are asleep. The quilts are separate; you are under yours; I am awake; there are watery streaks of light – in them I see a pale flash of breath as it catches and is carried off into uncertain dark. Neither one of us speaks the language; I am cold. The quilt doesn't quite cover me all, my chest is bared – my foot juts out, it rests on your thigh, which is warm; it feels good. The line of your jaw, your ear, your scent of sleep is balm to me; you turn on your side, face me, think, “he fucks me nice”; I think I fuck you good; I do it as often as I can, as well as good; you smile as you do in your sleep; you mutter something; you pull me toward you. I know. You are sick of me, with me. I note the he; I can feel it in your fingertips on my palm, when I squeeze them, make us fists. On your back, too, as you search through the closet, rifle the drawers, looking for something, what? I reach under the quilt, scoop up your head and all its lines in my hand. Christ, your hair is rough; bleaching has dried it, bled it, frightened vanity has brittled it; the tight curls are spongy, though, and soft in your way; your idea of beauty is tough on you; all silk to cherish between my fingers. God, I'm so lucky to love you; I am a restless male; my jerky sleeps are filled with encrypted passion, perilous, unremembered moments – a world subtly strange, pregnant with motions and colors and fracturing constellations; so close to crazy in the sinews as makes no difference. Go ahead; I can take you, your body, person, your need, habits: you, you easily feel your delicious dreams punctuated by pleasure while I, stretched as if to break, I push the temple crashing down and fail thereby to break the iron chains that bear me down, Christ. In another state, one not so enduring as the Holy Roman Empire, where the day and night through words fill the air, you once said, when once I could hear, you said, “you fuck me nice”. You open your eyes just for a moment now, smile into my wide-open eyes; uneasy, hard to control, I am strong and insistent – you are nowhere there; you have always felt that, haven't you? You have and put it aside: that it isn't about just you; my need’s for she, it’s power, it’s possession, it’s for a woman, my need’s penetration, her, a scent, a touch; having, holding, never letting go. Now, you reach for me; I am he. Ahh, Early Bird, you whisper, hoarse.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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all that About two million people live in the 40 square miles of Paris intramuros, each enjoying an average annual share of national income of 75K €. Five million people, each getting along OK and sometimes not on an annual average 40K share of national income, live in the very rich, very poor and middling communes just beyond the congested ring-road called the "boulevard Périphérique," which was built along the line of the city walls of 1871 between 1956 and 1973. ©2017 Sarah Meunier If you’ve been to Paris, you’ve seen the urban tableaus. The miscellany of blue-jeaned and be-suited, be-skirted individus hustling from métro station to a host of previously unremarked glass, wood or steel doors of every shape and size, all of which, surely, must lead to some form of, more or less obscure, money-generating activity … You’ve seen them. The bustlers and moppers in the hotels, the stork-standing servers armed with brown trays haunting the restaurants and cafés, security guys in cheap suits, usually cheerful-seeming, shelf-stockers and cashiers… And firemen! And I’ve only ever seen fire “men”: well-filled, clingy, muscle shirts and pants, discretely streaked with a glisten of attractively trickled sweat, jogging and jiggling hither and yon as the working day clatters open… You’ve seen them, usually in white or blue pants and lab-style cotton jackets: plumbers, heat and lighting technicians, deliverers, mail-people on yellow bikes saluting concierges, those who gesticulate in the ubiquitous pharmacies and medical-test laboratoires. Finally, perhaps most especially, you’ve noticed the drivers and passengers of the little white utility trucks that bear mysterious names – the raisons sociales, as they say, of enterprise –“Socranil” or “Cefelec”, “Sofrapup”, “Pippubli” or “Acrosoc”. At home, many of the above-mentioned tableau thems are my neighbors. As such, they go back and forth to jobs, have children, pastimes, apartments, taxes to pay, errands to run, points of view, tastes, quiet thoughts, bref, as Robert Graves once famously summed up the routine of life, “all that”. back and forth The nearest suburbs, north & south, east & west, are linked to Paris’ social fabric by metro termini. ©2017 Sarah Meunier Sarah Meunier, also a neighbor – also a photographer of "street art" who works closely with the Lavo // Matic “graffiti” gallery in the thirteenth arrondissement – has made “street portraits” of many of these, our mutual thems, our mutual neighbors, hors tableau, as they go about their lives. As if for study, an outsize proof sheet of her portraits was hung above the drinks table during the open house of La Fabrique Bagnolet arts center this past Fall. Meunier has managed to pull forth a certain, almost Hollywoodian, glamor in the familiar, most-often anonymous, human beings whom I run across every day in the stairwell, on the street, at the market, in the stores, in the bus, in the metro: those who animate the thems we see in the Paris tableaus. I offer these eight Sarah Meunier street portraits as my end-of-year-begin-the-year gift. I offer them as... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Behind the tree, the battle of the nations, the battle of Königgrätz, the fall of communism Can you feel it? / Must be real. / It feels so good. / It feels so good. / Well I never been to heaven. / But I been to Oklahoma. / Well they tell me I was born there. / But I really don't remember. / In Oklahoma, not Arizona. / What does it matter? /What does it matter? Never been to Spain, Three Dog Night (1971) When I hear Never Been to Spain, I can feel the choreography of dressing for combat: the weights of shoulder, back, butt packs and pouches, my M-16. I can smell the confusion of others; hear everybody’s thoughtful silence. I can see the utter dismay of my sergeant, a truly kind, refined, sensitive man, a decorated Vietnam veteran – he had hoped himself well out of war; here he was, now, in peaceful Germany, mobilizing for battle in the Sinai peninsula, as part of Nixon’s grand Soviet containment policy. The poor man just wasn’t sure he could face it all again. Karine and I walked back to where the old tank park was. We found no rusty tanks no fatally ruptured armored troop carriers. We did find an elephant Face it? Face what? More than anything, that it-what was scaring me. I was holding my breath. Luckily for me, for us, for Sergeant Joly, nothing came of all this suiting up for shoot-‘em-up, although… as we say for everything else, nothing is as nothing does and that’s just as good as it should be. No? “Nothing” can be, I think, for instance, a being like Ohad Naharin, dance hero, director of the Batsheva Dance Theater. He claims in Mr Gaga, a documentary about himself and his work, that his experience in the ’73 Sinai war made him a serious fellow. That’s not nothing. Is it? It’s true, when the Batsheva dances, it dances serious, not a nerve out of place, not a thought elsewhere. I like it for that, for dancing as if for life’s sake, using all available air. Did the determination to breathe all the air available really come from that time or am I or Naharin making a trick of memory so that in remembering it, it seems to have done? A propos of breath held and breath breathed in pursuit of life, I recently read a novel called N’oublie pas de respirer (“Don’t forget to breathe”) that deals with remembrance by the senses. N’oublie pas starts with a good title and goes on to please a reader by both content and construction. The author, Hélène Frappat, uses the remembrance of odor to construct a novel about a childhood in Corsica. She makes a good story from it; her ability to use sense remembrance to make memory intrigues me a lot because I am not able to. The complexity of my life experience beats all memory out of me. That's all I can say,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Maroussia Diaz Verbrèke tries to go through an old playbook with Le Troisième cirque. Photo©Erwan Soyer How is circus different from other “live performance,” or, as you say in French, from other types of spectacle vivant? Why are acrobats not dancers but dancers acrobats? Why are artistes performers but performers not (generally) artists? Are circus scenarists choreographers who use little animal icons instead of ballerina foot-prints and soda water to do choreography I am not the only person to wonder. And, though I’ve seen a lot of performance that has called itself “circus” rather than “dance” or, generically, “art”, over the last 40 years, and I can’t remember having once complained about how a performance had labeled itself, still, for me, the distinctions are a question. Perhaps only because, often enough, the question is the propos of a scenario or a choreography or a production or an occasion for thinking how the art in question might be improved. But then, again, there can be deeper reasons, even reasons that go beyond performance and art to what hominin is or is becoming. Not long ago, at the Théâtre Monfort, Maroussia Diaz Verbrèke acrobatically danced a one-woman show called Le troisième cirque: Circus Remix (“The third circus”). The scenario was built, so says the synopsis, around what “circus” comes from and where and how it might be going. Le troisième cirque reflects Diaz Verbrèke earlier work as a performer on De nos jours (Notes on the circus) – “Today” – produced by Ivan Mosjoukine, a circus scenarist and director, in 2012, both in perspective as well as in production particulars, such as signposting. Le troisième cirque begins when a spectator walks under the big top; spectators become Diaz Verbrèke’s body energy draws attention beyond the derring-do, to the thrill in balance and gesture, to the organic mécanique that is now so often hidden by the ether of the electronic aware of the start of the show when Diaz Verbrèke starts a pillow-fight ceremony with them. I understood from this, that, going forward, then, circus, like other performance, is fated to become a “participative,” at the least, an “interactive,” affair, a sort of VR without goggles. The idea behind “participative” and “interactive” is to blur the distinction between performer and spectator, not to make the performance more fun or stressing, although I have noticed that most spectators see it as the latter, not the former. And then, the future circus will tell truths about now: be “relevant.” Since “relevance” is as relative as the realities we collectively create, being relevant requires words, signposts. Le troisième cirque is signposted from the git-go: joie, audace, aventure: “gaiety, daring, adventure.” The pillow fight is only the first in a slew of signposts, sometimes words, sometimes gestures, sometimes bits of technology, that create anecdotes punctuated by moments of choreographed physical prowess: walking upside down, for instance. Sometimes, the signpost signals a combination prouesse et histoire, body art with story. In advance of one particularly touching riff, for... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Kaori Ito’s objective is to talk about the body, to talk about her own body through her body. “As a filmmaker, I became, I am, an accomplice of Kaori Ito’s artistic project,” says Tatjana Jankovic Photo©TatjanaJankovic Tatjana Jankovic, a professional film editor, spent better than four years of her own time and money making her documentary film Kaori Ito un corps impatient (“Kaori Ito: an impatient body”). Kaori Ito has danced with most of France’s better-known choreographers, including Angelin Preljocaj, James Thierrée, Philippe Decouflé or Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and, especially, Alain Platel; Ito is today a strengthening choreographic presence as well as performer. Including 19 full days filming in 17 different settings, an unknown number of nights and weekends cutting, splicing and synthesizing video, Jankovic’s Un corps follows the twists and turns of what might be called Ito’s “body about life” performance into 2017. So, Un corps impatient must be a labor of love, mustn't it? Of “a labor of love” the OED says, “a task done for pleasure, not reward,” pleasure and reward being apparently mutually exclusive. After spending part of an evening and an afternoon talking with Jankovic, I’m inclined to believe that her labor, like Ito’s dance, is rather an affair of the magic of life, which is its own reward. Jankovic and I met at a screening of another documentary about one of Ito’s more recent performances, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots (“I dance because I don’t trust words”). In that first conversation, she began telling me that she fell in love with Ito – “Ito” being “Ito’s dance” – through a short film, just a long clip really, called quagma. – My attention began wandering as, listening to Jankovic tell me about Ito’s oeuvre, I realized I hadn’t at all understood Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots. Kaori Ito (left) performs with Jann Gallois (right center), another rising choreographic star, in Ito’s ASOBI (jeu adulte) performed with Alain Patel’s Ballets C de la B, 2008–Photo©TatjanaJankovic About Je me méfie. In a fit of displaced paternal pique – or just plain projection? – I had turned around and told Ito, who just happened to be sitting behind me during the screening – smiling broadly of course; something we all learn early in Ohio – that she deserved a spanking for impertinence. I said something Lou Grant-growly like: Let’s let the dads do a dance and call it “Impertinent Pups plus”. I found myself muttering responses to the questions Ito fires across the stage at her Dad: “Of course, girlie, of course I took money from your mother – she’s my woman-friend, after all – of course I looked sideways at your brother – he’s my son, after all; if I don’t look askance on his grandeur, who will ever again dare? – of course, girlie, I have my quirks and crannies, I was me once, myself, before my woman-friend got fat from that crazy idea we had… Kaori Ito... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Parisians woke to this elegant celebration of Idiocy on Tuesday morning. The headline reads: “Attacks by ISIS coming one after another: Terror without end.” The legend: “Yesterday in Las Vegas”. Sources say that Fox News has started legal action against CNewsMatin’s joke writers, for plagiarism but the tourism directorates vows to fight for its original copyright. In addition to the 2024 Olympics, Paris is also host to ongoing celebrations of Idiocy. Tuesday morning Gallic strap hangers were greeted with a remarkable tour de force by the free newspaper CNews Matin with an article linking all homicide, as well as the massive arming of American yahoos and, perhaps, affective penile erection dysfunction, with the ISIS terrorist organization. Noting that Idiocy first arose in Africa when Yahweh denied pissing on Lucy's rhododendrons after a particularly lively bout of sousing with boon companion but new-husband Adam, eternal Emeritus Professor of Obscure Studies at Sorbonne Paris I Panthéon Woland praised newspapers in particular but cautioned against overlooking the absurdity potential of institutions, neighbors, friends and close family. In a tour-de-force display of what some are already calling la Nouvelle idiotie (New idiocy) in celebration of Idiocy, this headline box blithely links the murderous sexual frustration of a Florida nightclub shooter, the murderous venting of a 64-year-ol gun nut in Las Vegas, the knife-murder of two women in the Marseille central train station by an apparently deranged man murmuring ‘Allah Akbhar’ and the ISIS terrorist organization in one seamless factoid. “Paris, with its savoir faire in elegant partying and luxurious living is likely to rival even Washington in spectacles of sublime absurdity and, even, in plain ridiculousness,” said Behemoth, a 200-pound black cat with a broken ear, as well as a trusted Woland bodyguard and firearms expert. Woland pointed to the sheer, barely concealed, cynicism of CNews Matin's journalistic dishonesty as an example of professionalism made in France. "It's not even a big newspaper," sneers Behemoth, "But when these French Coqs crow, well, they cock-a-doodle-do-do like the Big Boys." Behemoth, who also serves as sub-director for Climate-Change Application & Utilisation for the Dominant Species Replacement Project Directorate for the Joint Feline-United Planets Commission on Cosmological Housecleaning, celebrated humanity’s unflinching command of basely sinister absurdity, “It's all so convenient! Hominins – hee-hee, ‘homo sapiens’ –is a friend of Idiocy wherever you find it, in Paris and out of it!” Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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The mixed-media painter and sculpteur Emilie Chaix will probably be surprised to learn that a chat with her nearly two years ago shook my verities, showing that my modest hopes for personal evolution were too modest and my own slowness to change has been a measure of nothing but myself. My checkered career of silent desperation has of course been mostly lived by according most space in it to my knot of unplumbable personal fears. The late Bob, the godless engineer-philosopher appointed to dress my infant nakedness in sturdy shoes, wool trousers and button-down shirts, once summed up, as only the Ohio-born can, what have become my views on the possibility of positive change, evolution and creativity. Theatrically wiping his brow, he caught my eye, asked for the crescent wrench and, with casual finality, remarked, “What of Happiness, Trace?” and went back to whatever dreary household task he had in hand. Obviously, since then, mostly, filial piety oblige, I have been – meetings with mixed-media artists notwithstanding, and in the absence of a Messiah promulgating true low-fat ice-cream – very, very modest in my hopes for personal evolution and better, changed, states and skeptical, too. And, according to some, too damnably slow to change intolerable situations, too. All the same, since Chaix succeeds both in expressing creativity as art and in living creatively (keeping in mind that I don’t think all creative expression is art and I do think we all should strive towards living creatively) these fixed views of mine require some revision. As far as I can see, Chaix must be counted of the “Aquarians”, of those who, unlike myself, were born while Yahweh was adjusting his kippah and who then grew to adulthood while Dad was too concentrated on snaking out the toilet to notice the hopeful twittering in the peanut gallery. Chaix and her work came to my attention because I saw two radically different sides to it in two widely separated places on the same day, while walking with Fifi, Karine’s sister and my dear friend. Fifi, for whom only steamed vegetables can maintain the steel-whip muscles that enclose her, who sleeps four hours a night and has apparently made an energy pact with the demonic powers, walked me in under 30 minutes – she was in heels – from the Porte de Champerret, where we met Chaix and her artistic production, to the top of Montmartre, where we encountered, quite by chance, in a shop window, Chaix’s haute couture work. Fifi thought I should look into it, so I did. Chaix’s stand-alone art creations, like her former work on designer accessories, are composed in varied media – including wood, textile, bone, paint, collage – with a heavy use of textures – and featuring much textile. Her art uses mostly natural colorations, striking me, in person, as very much “sea-born…” I want to say “primitive” – but “primitive” could be taken to imply the “naïve” or the “ritual-tribal” art borrowings used in luxury accessories. Chaix’s... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Nadia Vadori-Gauthier’s 60-second micro-political resistance videos open doors, bring out the poetic resonance of everyday life Number. House number. Queue number. Social security number. Numbered bank accounts… What’s in a name, indeed. What’s in a number? Our days are numbered. Here are the numbers for one of our more recent beasts: On 7 January 2015, 2 perps, previously reduced from petty criminality to cruel idiocy by religious fanaticism, shot up the premises of the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, murdering in cold blood the 12 people they found there. They took off and went into hiding. The next day, another perp, presulably working in tandem with the two others, murdered 1 unwary trainee police woman. The next day, 9 January 2015, he went to a specialty supermarket and slaughtered, gangland execution-style, 4 shoppers – taking care to describe them as “Jews” – in the process taking more than 20 hostages. All 3 murderers were killed by special police on 9 January 2017, 2 of them in a building where they had holed-up, 1 at the scene of his crimes, at about 5.15 pm. On 14 January 2015, Charlie Hebdo published as usual, going from its usual 60,000 copies to 7.5 million and Nathalie Vadori-Gauthier started dancing one minute a day, she says, to “resist barbary” with an act of “poetic resistance”, which will continue until 10 October 2017; at the time, she did not envisage an end. Each dance is posted on video and archived on the Une minute de dance par jour site. “Resistance”, if I understand Vadori-Gauthier, means affirming one set of values in the face of another. In my own mind, in face of nihilistic hostility, the only sensible answer is throw yourself at it, fists and feet flailing. Again, Vadori-Gauthier, following Nietzche, believes “the day is lost if one has not danced at least once.” One moment of representation of a representation represented in performance by Nadia Vadori-Gauthier Dancing 1 minute each day, she says, is an act of positive resistance for liberty in two ways, Vadori-Gauthier says. “It affirms the body” in a society that tends to dismiss it in favor of a narrow definition of mind and “it affirms the female body in the face of the patriarchy’s effort to define then control it.” Besides, she says, dancing is something that she has been able do herself, alone, while being with us all: it is a “micro-political gesture”, a tiny drop of water on the stone of Moloch. At any minute the water, against all expectation, will pierce the stone through. Vadori-Gauthier believes “poetry is life living”. The body is always real, like the weather, she says, and “dance is poetry’s port of entry; dancing leads to connection.” Above and beyond the political gesture, she began dancing as a contribution to our co-evolution towards “a sweeter way of living.” “Une minute de dance par jour” will stop at the 1001st minute, at the 16.683rd hour – she says 6 hours of preparation lies behind... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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“Taxi Dancers” makes waiting for … what? watchable, something reminiscent of Delacroix's harem but with a plain sour rather than saccharine – Photo ©Gregory Batardon I've been waiting up all night/But you never show/You said it'd be all right./But I just don't know/Can you teach me how to dance real slow? “Up All Night” – Oliver Tank Tempo is the key, tempo is how the dancer or choreographer control the flicker of consciousness. Acting on “expression” or sensibility, tempo makes a dance in the same way it makes a song of the eight nouns and verbs among the 29 words of “Up All Night”. It’s all relative, of course, and scored with caveat, but, basically, speed up the tempo too much and the sensibility sloshes away into the iffy septic pit of artistic failure. Slow tempo down too much and the spectators will be watching the exits with more restrained anxiety than paratroopers in heavy flak. Get it just right, and people are putting you on their listening lists and Philip Chbeeb and René Kester are using your music as accompaniment for their video fables. Get the tempo just right and you’re Marie-Caroline Hominal and her “Taxi Dancers”. As I’ve indicated previously, it was my unexpected discovery of Céline Le Tixérant, draughtswoman of color and painter of dancing, that set my mental gears rolling and ticking about why I like dance, what I think dance is made of and how it works. Thought, even about something as important as dance, cannot be separated from ordinary life and feeling or experience. That said, I can now offer some explanation for why I so much enjoyed Hominal’s “Taxi Dancers” when I saw it first about two years ago. It had been bothering me because my ex-squeeze, Karine – a very sophisticated admirer of contemporary dance, mind and very often a most welcome companion – spluttered about this piece for an hour together. In waking that memory in me, what Hominal showed me comes down to something much better than learning, to that da-sein thing that is so good in a dance – Photo ©Gregory Batardon She (unjustly) accused me of taking her out to see any dumb ol’ thing because I just can’t sit still at home and just talk, for once. But, ‘though - as there always must be with such trash - there is some truth to all of this, such small truth does not justify one’s turning in one’s seat and hissing that I therefore have no esthetic discernment and that, in a way that no gentleman would ever do, allow Karine, herself, to be bored and uncomfortable because of, ahem, (unnamed) “eccentricities”. Despite all the parentheticality, underlining, italicizing and quotemarking, the plain fact is that Karine just didn’t like “Taxi Dancers”. Because the dancers hardly move for 45 minutes and she’s afraid to be uncool by admitting that she doesn’t bother to distinguish between what she likes in dance and what is good dance. I did/do like “Taxi... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Watercolor, cutaway, mangrove on the Iles de Tristao (Guinea), from a study for a nature reserve, “Moment Suspendu” – Céline Le Tixérant As a boy, I was not yet equipped with the endurance and briskness that today characterize my walking, so my late Father usually had to dupe me into the long, leisurely, philosophizing walks that he liked with promises of ice cream . Neither one of us cared about ice cream, really, but what the hell? it’s a goal and somehow a goal is what was necessary to get me on the road. I used the same motivator on my boy; he’s never cared for ice cream either; but what the hell? it was a goal. My mother needed no perplexing self-deceptions, not to die even, and certainly not for walking. Quite simply, she saw it as a cheap, low-tech, not disagreeable and necessary transport option, especially for kids. Herself the embodiment of what “determined stride” and “brisk and business-like” mean, she was the goal-sought-itself and she could see no rational reason to see walking for what it was in itself, according to herself. Charcoal on paper: Trace de l’interdépendance entre les
 sensations intérieures au corps et le paysage du bocal (“Traces of the interdependence of the body’s inner sensation and the interior of the glass jar”): “In the beginning of the solitary session, the line often corresponds with sensations in the body but the exterior landscape soon comes to influence its tracing. (This sketch as well as the other in the five-sketch series) shows that there is a back and forth of interior and exterior perceptions within me." - ” Corps et paysage (Body & landscape) – Expression singulière (Singular expression) – Céline Le Tixérant That meant that, during my childhood, walk mostly meant walking when walk met the criteria “cheap” and “necessary”, in that order. Dad and I had to put together a self-dupe to get me walking with him because Ma’s perspective meant that I walked a great deal from the moment I got off her tit and on my pins. After all, learning paternal philosophy during long, object-less strolls becomes somewhat of an effort when you spend your day striding dutifully from one dull moment to another. Thus were the two poles that compassed my childhood and make up the two legs on which I am launched in life. It is my affection for contemporary dance that puts me in mind of the contrasting but strangely similar poles on which my life’s legs turn. A landscape architect called Céline Le Tixerant has put me in mind of both childhood and contemporary dance. Céline and I met in Paris during a “5Rhythms dance” course offered by Peter Wilberforce. She lives and works in Nantes but this week she is in Paris, visiting her ailing Dad. As a personal favor, Céline is paying me a professional visit during a time out from her Dad’s care. I need some advice on putting together “a sustainable renewal” proposal for... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Pencil and ink, De la sensation intérieure à l’apparition des voyageurs (“On the sensation within as travelers arrive”). Gare de Rennes, Spring, 2011 - Céline Le Tixérant The baby's sleeping in the crib up top/And baby's sleeping above you/You will lift him to the parking lot…/I would like to see a little more propriety,/Cooperate with me and answer me/I know now, I know now, I know now,/ I'm never gonna tell on you… /The lady's got no clothes she's at the shop./But if she'd knew then she'd kill you./The bugs are out cause they come out at night,/Usually they just bite our hands./Cause normally we have clothes on without a fight…/And baby's sleeping against you./I think he'd pray for an old motor car./Or any bed made without you… “Baby’s Romance” – Chris Garneau It’s not a coincidence that Orpheus embodies music, poetry, prophecy and dance together. Dancing is a natural expansion for a poet who has not ruined herself or himself by poetical excess; dance is a natural topic study when vice has done its work. Not everybody knows that Emily Dickinson had a little secret dancing spot near the left-hand flower pot but she did. Everybody knows that Walt Whitman, as does still Lana Del Ray, sang the body electric; I once saw Alan Ginsberg wriggle his hips on the Berkeley campus midway. I also want to tell readers that contemporary dance works pretty much like Chris Garneau’s lovely “Baby’s Romance” does – parts are cited above. And dance works for pretty much the same reasons and with pretty much the same elements of composition. And I want to say that I like dance a lot, a lot not just because I’m a poet but because dance, especially contemporary dance, always speaks to what concerns me in ways that touch me even when it bores me to tears. This is worth notice because into the end of 2017 and the first part of 2018, I – and I hope others will, too – be writing around, sometimes, on, sometimes about, sometimes, up contemporary performance actors – choreographers, dancers, circassiens (contemporary circus performers) such as Jann Gallois, Oona Doherty or Cécile Mont-Reynaud – as well as variously tinted visual artists, culture creators, actors or facilitators such as Emilie Chaix, Céline Le Tixérant, Pierre Ajavon, Carla Querejeta Roca, Philippe Rillon or Caroline Wei or Tatjana Jankovic. Jann Gallois exploring sharp angles – Photo ©Roger Fusciardi I say writing “around”, “on”, “about”, “up” rather than “commenting” or “critiquing” or “reporting” on them, or on the many others I’ve met these past years because I see myself in ongoing conversation with them, in the same way that I am conversing in thought word and deed with my remembered and unremembered pasts and presents, especially, with songs off the radio. My notion of “conversing with being and perceiving” is what I think Jann Gallois meant when she told me this past summer that every encounter has meaning – she used the word “signification”, which... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Metaphysical News: Reporter Jocaste L’Allemand caught this rare view of France’s Old Bones en marche for a future state, just minutes after Julie Gayet, a movie actress and the former “Chef d’état”’s inamorata, left a message for him sometime just after his accidental resignation last Fall Just so you know. I am tapping this into my cellphone into a mail to myself from a beat-up easy chair, near the piano, next to the WC, at the Bal perdu, my favorite bistro. As my Mexican pork-roll-size digits tap clumsily away, the keyboard, confused, abused and hopeless, keeps switching between French, German & English. Odd sense anomalies bloom from spellchecker fractals. A gang of workers in orange vests and hard-hats is scraping trowels over granite paving stones, tamping down, then smoothing, a sandy, pale mortar between each of hundreds of foot-long pre-set blocks. It’s a hell of a racket. But it looks good. The barman, who’s standing just outside the barroom, to smoke, suddenly hollers across the green safety fence, “Les amis, c’est très très beau ce que vous faites! He’s a nice guy, Nicholas, handsome in his white apron and black pants, dishcloth dashingly laid over his shoulder… He’s right, too. Les amis in question, on all fours, pause to sit up on their knees, to smile, to wave. The new square, I think, is proof that good workmanship is alive, well and an everyday affair – to hell with the aging grumblers. It will embellish our lives and, with luck, enhance the Bal perdu’s business and the city’s tax base. It comes to me that the dust, detours and noise will have generated a truly universal success. As most things are and must necessarily be, it may be imaginary, but it seems to me that the announcers on BFM, the business-oriented radio, have been taking a positively universal-success tone since the election of Emmanuel Macron and his Chambre sans qualités. Not un-coincidentally, I’m playing here on both on the historical Chambre bleu horizon, the post-Great War Chamber of Deputies which united to make sure German pips squeaked at Versailles and on Robert Musil’s premonitory Man without qualities. I started to say to Jocaste, “Ahh, God, you can expect a hot Fall of debilitating ‘resistance’ to break out when everybody is back from the country … Jojo! How I hate riding a bike!” Several months of shivering fear and trembling as I woofed and weft through frozen columns of exasperated drivers during the transport strikes that broke out over Alain Juppé’s efforts at some piddling economic reform put me off bikes forever… Jocaste is a former best friend of Karine, my ex-inamorata. “It suddenly occurs to me, Jojo,” I continue, “The culture paradigm has (already) shifted.” I shift in my own seat. It all comes, as if in a dream. All the usual levers, buttons, bells and whistles of politics were entirely re-purposed, probably sometime last Fall, when François Hollande’s habit of hemming and hawing led him to accidentally announce he... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Too far from the Métro and with a diabolical entry code, this lawn, this house, are where the world gets remade Here’s an interesting French word: inconséquent. It means something like “frivolous” but implies that the person so-named either doesn’t care about or doesn’t know about the consequences of his actions. It appears to me that there is far too much inconsequence. Only this can explain why I am so cruelly treated, on a daily basis. Of unsettled mind and in almost summer-like sunshine, I busted out of my office chair around three in the afternoon and made my way into the streets, toward home and, possibly, a little nap. Who missed me? Who could have missed me? Can you tell me that? Today the evidence of cruel treatment is the Métro, which, at five minutes walking from my place is quite far, proof of the incompetence of the public transportation system, the RATP, backed up by barely-democratic, wildly corrupt governments. Disdaining the enforced six-minute wait for a two-minute bus ride, I was obliged to pass Mufassa, proprietor of Au Village, who, fedora pulled low on his brow, was leaning against a plate glass window of his establishment, enjoying a spray of yellow sunshine over his body. Though I doubt he knows my name, Mufassa is always so pleasant to me that I can see no reason, not even the prospect of a nap, not stop for a pint and an earful of whatever live music is happening – there seems always to be some sort of live music there. So as not to waste any time – I fret about using my remaining years consequentially – I sat down and almost immediately began thinking about inconsequence and about popularizing a brand-new Theory of Sentiments, based on human moral complexity. I like to think that erecting a Theory of Sentiments for the modern age is a complementary corollary to Karine’s Penis Envy Project, which, despite her misunderstandings in other matters concerning me myself, us and herself, continues to pump along. Some skinny refugee-looking guy – funny how you can spot them – strumed and slapped out some dam’fine geetar while I was brooding it all out and drinking up. By the time I left, the sun was beginning the final leg of its long, long lone descent, which is one of the glories of this part of the world. My figurations, as well as the beer, tipped me toward a less somber view of affairs though trudging up the street, I couldn’t be bothered to curse the inefficiency of the RATP. The entry code to the residence where I live, a diabolical digital security improvement of ten difficult-to-remember digits, has been designed to scare me. I am always afraid I will forget the code and be forced to hang all my groceries by my teeth while I slap all my pockets for the little electronic disk, thus raising, quite unjustly, I think, my general level of anxiety. And for what?... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Beyond words:the piano is tuned and the chair is a sight for sore eyes. At Le Bal perdu bistro, rue Charles Graindorge, Bagnolet It is said that art changes minds and certainly, hearts; maybe that’s true. It certainly can unexpectedly expose the viewer to, literally, another way of looking at a same old, same old trope. For instance, after many years of conscientiously analyzing the Oedipal hamster wheel that constitutes his fruitless, but not disagreeable, life, Italo Svevo’s Zeno concludes that he doesn’t die only because his organs have no common sense of direction to collapse into. Thus, Zeno believes that, in the end, the unexamined part of self rules life’s roost. My intentions, though sometimes gasping now in the rare air of worldly wisdom, as well as my organs, thanks be, are still in good enough shape to take me past the Point Rouge Gallery on the rue de Dahomey. With its 15 participating galleries mostly in the 11th and 4th arrondissements, both stuffed with good cafés, bistros and bars, the Minimenta small format exposition is a treat for walkers and an excellent opportunity to start small to start collecting Dahomey abuts, not incidentally, the rue Faidherbe, where a smiling, preternaturally smooth-mannered barmaid, if told about the injustices inflicted on me (perhaps even on you) by a certain curly-haired woman of a certain age, promotes a complex theory of lies that might seriously shake the moral resolve of such other persons as would need to hear it. Such eyes! But, back at it. I’m with Zeno’s general point that, when all is said and done, there is no elaborable point to action and less factually deliberate direction to its doing. In short, my fanciful or evasive scenarizations apart, I do not generally know why I do things, let alone the initial or final import of such same things in the real world – i.e. what I actually do and what the real outcome of it will be or, rather, how spectators might describe that outcome. If they can perceive it, that is. Largely speaking, I mean. Things do just seem to happen or not and is as does. No? Besides, really looking into all the unconscious muck slopped up by life’s too-rapid progress might be dangerous. Mightn’t it? Given how troublesome all these pesky truthisms are, I prefer to stay with the prejudices I have carefully developed. For example, the comforting prejudice that darkness, allegory for the unconscious mind, is peopled by unfathomable monsters, symbols of unredeemed anguish, and, finally, darkness is usually found, but not strictly so, under the bed, metaphor for the quivering Self. So, back to the Point Rouge gallery on the rue Dahomey. All this desperate previous reflection, including that barmaid's theories and those two pints and unburdening myself, is why Richard Lallier’s paintings there caught my eye. Already in the light: Richard Lallier plays midwife to the emerging light beneath the dark That is, elbowing my way through the gallery and suddenly catching sight... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
The streets of Paris and the country lanes of France’s Southwest are the settings of choice for my personalized coaching walkabouts, designed to give legs to your ideas and decisions, whether these concern your professional or personal life. For me... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2017 at THINKING WALKS IN PARIS
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The Bistro Le Bal perdu, where the arts have the chair, Bagnolet, France Painter Véronique Nérou’s Paris galleries include Le Coin des Arts, Art Aujourd'hui and Peinture Fraiche. She can also be contacted through her site. I met Véronique Nérou through one of her paintings, which mysteriously popped into my consciousness through Googleplus, a web application that I don’t understand and can’t use and have had the pleasure of sorting through canvases one more pre-possessing than the next. Véronique and I had a conversation in the Bal Perdu this past winter. What follows are the things that struck me as I later wrote out notes of our talk. Now living beween Thailand and India, with Paris as her port d’attache, Nérou determined early to become a painter. She made her way through the famous Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux arts de Paris partly by sketching portraits in the street. If nothing else, she told me, her experiences made her aware of market realities. Nérou says she is reaching for the un-storied image her landscape-inspired painting. As a person and artist, Nérou looks to painters René Laubiés and Josef Sima. European by culture but born in Morocco, French by nationality but living a good part of his life in Kerala (India), Laubiès, who began working as a painter in Paris in 1949 and died working as a painter in Mangalore in 2006, is known for “abstract landscapes” and he is promoted as an ascetic, probably because of his strong India connection. Nérou seems to paint warmth, pushing geometry and color to give up their cosmological connections. A friend of poets and poetry, Laubiès also proves that the wide world is made up of small, intimate circles that join together those of us who are apparently strangers. Laubiès, as well as friend and mentor to the painter sitting in front of me, whom I did not know existed sx months ago, was a friend of Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley. Creeley was a professor of mine; he taught me how to love poetry as well as all about William Carlos Williams in the late 1970s. As I sit listening to Nérou, I notice that someone has left two books on the cluttered bookshelf behind her: a guide to Southern India and an idiot’s guide to quantum mechanics. Laubiès was an aesthetic disciple of Prague-born Josef Sima, who worked in Paris from 1921, dying there in 1971. Like Laubiès, Sima was a friend of poets. These, founders of a surrealist-associated review called Le Grand jeu, of which Sima was artistic director, included the French-language poets René Daumal, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte and Roger Vailland. They were, as Sima was, less fascinated by the esthetic impact of the bizarre and more genuinely fascinated by human beings’ sublime connections with the cosmos to which we belong – André Bretton read them all out of surrealism fairly early on. Sima is best known for his painterly interest in the archetypal and symbolic qualities of painterly representation. TD: With... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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None of those boys know the first thing about your fantasy/And if they try they cannot do it just like me – “Come Get It Bae”, Pharrell Williams Trying to break the ice, I said, “You know, Karine, I heard something that sent a chill up my spine…” Marine Le Pen and Dad Jean-Marie at her law-school graduation. The ingratitude of children is sharper than a serpent's tooth but necessary to the witches' brew of French poilitics. A British polling guy, I continued, has said that the demographic of the British protest vote has grown with the aging baby boomers and with this growth of grumpy codgers the tendency is to utter unpredictability in how the protest vote will shape out. He said that it was this tendency to insouciant protest that destroyed Britain’s Liberal Democrats … “Where’s the menu?” Karine said, looking past me, for a waiter. I have always liked to be with Karine, of course. For one thing, she’s so good-looking that I have always felt other men must surely be jealous of me, Mister Tracy-in-luck. That’s balm to me, though this is saying perhaps too much to a passel of strangers. For another thing, I was long besotted with her. A propos of lasting and letting go. When Nicolas Sarkozy got himself nominated for president for the first time – 10 years ago now, is it? – Karine slapped her newspaper down on the table and, literally, vibrating, like a cat’s tail, with indignant disgust, hissed out that she’d never, ever, been able to bear that “nasty little man”, that “slimy little shit”, that, that, that “leetle rooster odieux”! You will have noticed that Karine has properly been cited as using the present perfect, both to express a present distaste for that era’s odious little man and indicating a longstanding basis for said distaste. And well she might have done. For, though his personal odiousness, along with the scandals that spring, tumble and jeer around him like maddened jongleurs wherever he goes, have generally worn down even his hardiest would-supporters, the Sarkozy number is still much in view five long years after merited defeat. The medias brim still with the self-important remarks and empty wisdoms of this little engine that wants to still, a full 30 years after he first started waving frantically at the cameras. Sarkozy is a pattern of a typical French political big stick. He, or, from time to time, she, flails the country’s dead horses for what seem a thousand years and then are dead. This is what the expression “France millénaire” actually refers to: “Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC): thousand-year-old politicians, cheese or eggs.”. Look in the Robert if you don’t believe this. It’s pay-per-view, but it’ll be worth it if you believe me in the first place next time around. Among this cycle’s presidentiables - that is, among those whom elite consensus determines can be president - , this incredible political longevity is not true only for Emmanuel Macron, a leading... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Even the famous place are looking askew. Or is it me? No. Not me. Under winkie-ism, I can sincerely blame you. Right off the bat to reflections à la française: fake news, fake sentiments, fake ideas, alternative realities. I can see the enmisting Invalides, a former military hospital and veteran’s home turned into a rather ironic monument to France’s martial prowess. Following the inevitable rout of France’s incompetently-led armed forces in 1940, the egregious Hitler made an effort to gain support from the country’s strong and anti-democratic National Right – made up, in spirit, and, in fact, of many of the same people whose 100-proof political spite combine with a thorough lack of military nous, mirabile dictu! led to the destruction of their old enemy, la République, la gueuse, that nasty, hoi-polloi-coddling whore, Marianne, as many of them often put it at the time. Hitler felt the French National Right should be made to feel as comfortable with thorough National Socialist German victory as they were with giving the Republican whore and its supporters a thorough fucking over. Hitler’s idea was to bring the ashes of Napoléon’s tragically prematurely-dead boy, his only heir, tragic infant King of Rome, fondly called, in his time, “Little Eagle”, there, to les Invalides, true seat of French racial pride, there to “sleep” eternally beside his doting Father, formerly beloved & feared Emp’reur des français, scourge of Europe, as Hitler himself, a world-historical figure, and model for a certain type of overwritten Romantic Hero. He thought marketing such an alternative reality worthy of at least a small investment of looted resources. But, you cry, What sane person could possibly be struck favorably by such fake language conveying such fake sentiments, such fake history… such, such, such guff? Well. Such persons apparently did exist to be favorably struck, since the next thing you know there were high officials in the French state calling for German victory, blithely sending the cops out to round up, among other Republican hoi-polloi, “racial aliens”. So, fake works. The alternative realities thus constructed have before now been able to work to the catastrophic disadvantage of the few and of the many, without distinction. This is strange for anybody who has the vague belief that people generally seek their self-interest. My eye lights on the Invalides’ sublime cupola. I am put in mind of a pornographic film featuring a fake cheerleader and, if possible, an even more fake “intellectual” nerd, well-hung, however, having vigorous anal sex. The film sticks in my mind because, wincing greatly, the fake cheerleader exclaims, “I love this – I don't know why." Why? Could it be the money? Not likely. The fame, then? Not credible. A friend of mine, whose sexual predilection is “bottoming” with other men, once confided, while pacing feverishly back and forth in front of my bed, that he had anal sex only and uniquely for love. “Otherwise,” he cried, glaring at me as if I were responsible for this unhappy state of his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry