If you’re in the Asheville, North Carolina, area, check out the exhibit of his work at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center. It will be up until May 7.
My name is Hazel Smith. I am not a talk-show host, poetry’s answer to
Oprah Winfrey. I don’t like public speaking and I can’t crack jokes. I
am probably not even your idea of a poet, since I can’t hang onto
metaphors or hold a monolithic voice.
was born in Britain but I am not quite British, I have sojourned in
Australia but I am not quite Australian. My grandparents left Lithuania
in a hurry and I am often in a rush, but that doesn’t make me
Lithuanian. I am not a violinist though my violin sleeps in a cupboard,
I am not an academic though I have a PhD, and I am not a poet though I
am often held to ransom by the metonymic. But there have to be some
putative commitments, some concessions to containment, some
gatecrashing of normality. And so it seems I am Hazel Smith,
British-Australian, a search term on the internet, a candidate for
lunacy, no more, no less.
My grandfather was one of the first Zionists, which probably makes me a Palestinian.
who have served their time sometimes have their biographies managed for
them. Their address books rubbed out, their photo albums morphed. Your
memories turned to manure, imagine that! And there you are, a prisoner
of alien fantasies, a swerve on the ice-rink of identities, a winter
born on someone else’s summery breath.The
Brits usually send their reinvented killers to Australia because they
think Australia is a convict colony. So much for the British grasp on
forgot to add a few more notes to my list of not ams. I’m not David
Antin though I might like to be, nor Spalding Gray who tragically but
This is my elegy.
when I’m buying a washing machine, or booking a hotel I’m known
fleetingly as Hazel Dean. I’m not ashamed of it either. It takes more
than marriage to wash away a face
therefore I am
Smith. I was born somewhere in the middle of the last century, and ever
since I have been bobbing and berating at the interfaces of massacre,
violence and exclusion. You can smell me in the smoke at Auschwitz,
hear me in the voices of the Taliban, find me amongst stolen Aboriginal
children. But I am as much predator as prey. Everywhere I see fires I
have carelessly lighted, evictions I have callously condoned. In these
contexts I would rather not be than be, but I am terrified of dying and
would like to postpone it for as long as possible, so mostly I would
rather be than not.
If I could be a witness without eyes, a listener without ears. If I could be, as I have said before, a poet without language.
continue — My name is Hazel Smith and I have written a script that I
can speak from. And as you can see I am reading from it, which you are
not supposed to do if you want to be successful in the theatre. So I am
already a poet who has lost her way, a performer without a stage, a
has-been that never could act.In fact it is impossible to keep to what is written on my piece of paper. The more I still the words the more they relocate.
see there are two types of improvisation pure and applied, and there
are two types of talk primary and secondary, and any poem worth talking
about has multiple addressers and addressees
reminds me: I’m Hazel Smith. I am your lecturer for today. I am from
the School of Creative Communication and my topic is the erotics of the
inexact. It is hoped that you will learn something however intangible,
however crass, however profane, however illegal. You will learn but by
the most round about of routes, I will hang myself with academic ropes,
and we will talk and laugh and shout and shit until at last we swoop on
the ultimate and life-defying question
know the one: whether or not I am what I pretend to be or whether I am
simply a landfill of fallen states, the bone of irrelevant contentions.
Despite my initials, my hold on history has slipped. I do not know why
I am speaking to you, and it seems like a senseless exercise in
such moments I am unlikely to be myself, which in these days of
audience participation and writerly intent begs another salient
I am not, who is Hazel Smith, since she is definitely down to speak on
this occasion. Are you Hazel? Or you? Or you? Or you? Come on my dear
audience, own up. Despite all our claims neither of us is what we deny
or seem. No, I am not Hazel Smith, I am not Hazel Smith,
but I can spot all the Hazel Smiths amongst you.
written by (yes) Hazel Smith
The poet Kari Edwards passed away on Saturday. In memory of Kari, here is one of her poems.
read my lips: subtitled
take off your coat
that was the illusion
take off your coat
that was a short trick
containing three kilograms of space
with the mice
with the rats
with deranged imagination
against a slimy wall
at the door
with folded arms
a thousand eyes
like birds that have died
double locked clumps
of cold laid steel
remember how you use to say
and cooling secrets
at the back of my hands
I would stop imprisoned in smoke
imprisoned in a cage saying
take a little sip
take a sip
take another day
a pair of unlovely smudges
the telephone rings
fizzy mental chain
past present imitating names
neat with the word thief
switchboard and silence
orchestration and armored skepticism
I drown in tallow
drown in the sounds of lilacs
rubbed out telephones lines
I fuse an adjective into a van gogh
how could I fuse a week into a clover?
or maybe just wait
for the dew to settle on the sea
© kari edwards
1954 – 2006
When I was a grad student at the Iowa Writers Workshop in the late 80s, I consumed Paul Klee’s notebooks, staying up late studying them, becoming them. I left Klee behind me in the 90s for no reason at all, as far as I can tell. Seeing the Klee exhibit transported me back to that time, when art was pretty much everything to me.
The Paul Klee exhibit at The Menil Collection in Houston is one of the largest (this is Texas being Texas, y’all) ever amassed before. The show is nothing short of enchanting. Personally I would have omitted the walls of black and white photographs of Americans connected to Klee (placards explain the ties), but I can see how they clarify the thesis suggested by the title of the show, Klee and America. However conventional this strategy might be for most art museums, it is a very unusual tactic for The Menil. The show is curated by Menil Collection director Josef Helfenstein.
Last week Houston waved hello and goodbye to the Poetry Bus (sponsored by Wave Books) as it swung through the lone star state.
I saw their poetry "happening" at The Menil Collection on Thursday.
It was billed as a Surrealist Lunch so it happened at noon, naturally. The event drew a big crowd of non-poets and poets alike.
Like other "happenings" that I’ve seen in the past, it was considerably more amusing than profound. But I will say that for that kind of thing, it was very well done.
I borrowed these photos from Andrea of The Aurora Picture Show.
A walk through the Menil’s
world-renowned Surrealist Galleries;
followed by selections from Surrealist poems
read by poets
1515 Sul Ross, Houston 77006
Thursday, October 12, 2006 ∙ Noon
Free & Open to the Public
Last month I mentioned that the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour was gearing up for its cross-country jaunt. Next week that said-same bus will be in Houston.
You can catch it Wednesday night, October 11th at the Aurora Picture Show (8 p.m.). Or Thursday October 12, you can join the poets for a surrealist lunch at The Menil Collection. That will be at noon. What would you serve a surrealist for lunch? Be clever. I dare you.
For the coolest possible house of cards….
Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)
is the place to see art of many genres by Kiki Smith spanning the past
25 years. Here’s the official description, from the CAM website:
Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980 – 2005 is the first full-scale major museum presentation of Kiki Smith’s work over the past 25 years. Smith’s art explores the human condition, the body, mythology, and spirituality through a diverse array of materials and methods ranging from traditional craftwork to contemporary multimedia installations. The exhibition
presents a “gathering,” as Smith describes it, of approximately 230 works in a broad variety of media, including sculpture in plaster,
bronze, paper, glass, porcelain, and other materials; installations; prints, artist’s books, and other multiples; photographs; works
on paper; and film
and video projects.
Urban Networks features five interactive art projects that
examine social encounters and explorations in urban places. The works
in this exhibition employ a range of technological devices that create
urban community connections and offer insights into how emerging
technologies might play an alternative role in our experience of
everyday urban life.
Finishing School presents two projects Meet/Greet and Write/Send
from the Public Interaction Objects (PIO) series. Engineered to create
meaningful interaction with individuals in various public contexts,
each object is informed by varying cultural customs, market economies,
lifestyle, entertainment and commercial technologies. www.finishing-school.net
Imaging Place by John (Craig) Freeman is a site-specific
installation that consists of an interactive, location-based, virtual
reality environment. The Imaging Place method uses a combination of
panoramic photography, digital video, and three-dimensional
technologies to investigate, document, and map locations. www.imagingplace.net
Objects of Wonderment created by Urban Atmospheres is the
first in a series of new public artifacts that are designed to expand
our expectations of mobile phones as they transcend beyond personal
connections and begin to interface directly with locations. Combining
Bluetooth sensing technology with a newly fabricated public object,
this work dynamically generates new urban sonic experiences. www.wonderment.org
Primarily operating outside of the gallery La rue c’est mise a nu par ses orielles, partout
(the street is stripped bare by her ears, everywhere) by URBANtells, is
comprised of numerous, micro am transmitters tuned to the same
frequency and placed within the Central Square neighborhood. www.urbantells.net
Disembodied Voices by Jody Zellen is a multi-sensory
interactive installation that explores the differences between public
and private life and how the global phenomenon of public cell-phone
conversations have become a ubiquitous irritant in contemporary
Hidden Love Song, by Arlete Castelo and Melissa Mongiat (who had previously created Gamelan Playtime)
is an 18m long silver rub-off fresque. As passers-by scratch it, they
uncover musical and visual love messages hidden through a world
inspired by Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s concerto Hidden Love Song.
sound collage is made of scratching noises, extracts of Turnage’s
musical piece and children voice speaking of their impression of the
theme. People can create their own piece as they play with the
Londoners could play with the installation in January but the Royal Festival Hall is to propose a new interactive piece from 18 April to 25 May: 16 Frames are giant flip books and zeotropes that are animated as you pass by them.
Houston is not known for cool, but here is an exception. The Art League has inverted a bungalow and this is what they got. For those of you in the vicinity, drive up Montrose toward the Heights (north); the cross street is Willard. The house–slated for demolition, apparently–was altered by Dean Ruck and Dan Havel. You can read more about the installation here and here.
As I’ve mentioned before, I work for Writers in the Schools (WITS). In addition to the obvious mission of teaching writing to kids in schools, we also provide outreach to similar programs across the country. Tomorrow we begin our 4th conclave in Houston for the leaders of seven different creative writing programs that work primarily with children. Here are the groups participating:
Literary Arts, Inc., Portland, OR
Log Cabin Literary Center, Boise
Wick Poetry Center, Ohio
Writers in the Schools, Houston
Most of our programs are one-of-a-kind in our respective geographical regions. Because none of us are competing against one another, the WITSLink group has provided a perfect eureka community in which everyone shares freely and fully with one another. This unofficial loose-knit group has been instrumental to the success of most of us involved.
For anyone who is interested in learning more, the WITSLink conversation will continue at the AWP Conference in Vancouver later this spring.
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or a winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.