Monday, February 27, 2012
I've been thinking about subject verb object. My cells. My cognition. Grammar. My relationship to...well, once when I went to a doctor of internal medicine, my son joked that every doctor who wasn't a dermatologist should be called a doctor of internal medicine. But what part of what's outside me is me andor what's my relationship to it?
The above is a little setting of a poem exploring this and the grammatical assumptions behind Sam-am-I-ty
Posted by gary barwin at 11:17 AM
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I'm working on a setting of this Rilke poem for a dance performance. Here is the work in progress. The recipe? Some piano, some spoken voice, some tin whistle, a saxophone hybrid that sounds like an Armenian duduk, the ocean, some synthesized strings, some drums, and some cricket samples.
The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my sense, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
and in the ponds broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Robert Bly)
Posted by gary barwin at 6:05 PM
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I should begin by saying that I had a lovely Valentine's Day and that the feelings expressed by the robotic voice in the recording in no way reflect the opinions of its author.
What happens when you read a long list of words with negative emotional connotation? What happens when a synthesized voice reads the list? What happens if it is to a dance beat?
To me, it is remarkable how a personality emerges, or, perhaps, two personalities: the speaker and the spoken of. A relationship.
And let's just say this. It isn't good.
I'm intrigued by the effect created by the unrelenting nature of this dance rant. My response to it changes over time. There's also a strange semi-teleological drama to it. I know that the list is alphabetical so I know where it is going, but I'm also waiting for the emotional release, a grammatical release, a formal release. I want it to end but yet I can't turn away. Just like many bad relationships...
Posted by gary barwin at 1:44 PM
I was invited to perform at a fundraiser for GritLit, the Hamilton Literary Festival. The fundraiser is at the Edgar Allan Poe-themed Baltimore House. I wrote this story to read at the event. It is a retelling of Poe's "The Tell-tale Heart," but from the perspective of the heart.
THE TELL-TALE HEART RETOLD: A TALE TOLD BY HEART
We live with the old man in a rented room on the ground floor of our landlord’s house. We did not know the landlord was mad until it was too late.
The old man sleeps. Wakes. Stays in bed gathering warmth like a pile of old leaves. Sometimes he moves to the chair by the fire. The landlord brings him tea in the late afternoon. The newspaper. A book. We are in the closing chapters when the adventure is over. We are the four red chambers of the old man’s heart, a drum down a dark well. A drum tolling over distant hills.
We did not know that the landlord was mad. Not until it was too late. But a heart lives in darkness. Our world is a cave. Outside we hear murmurs only. Voices. His voice. The muffled bell of a tram. An axe striking wood, a thump like a heartbeat. And inside, the old man’s ribs are a cage, an alternation of light and dark, dark and light, like the lines of shadow and sun deep in a forest of leafless trees.
We beat steadily. We do not stop. It is a persistent march into night, then day, then night again. A trudging alternation of dark and light. We keep on. We do not relent. A heart beats because we know what we must do. A heart beats so we move forward. A heart beats. We know what we must do. A heart beats and now that we are old, we feel it more intensely. We hear each beat and remember. When we were young, we did not count each dance step, each footfall, each pump of the heart, the warm blood creeping around inside the flesh. Now each beat is measured and deliberate. It is a deep sounding like a tomb door closing. And so we keep on before it closes forever.
We did not know that the landlord was mad. At least, not until it was too late.
For seven nights, each night after the chiming of midnight, he creeps toward our room. The latch lifted, he opens the door a head’s width only. We hear him muttering. His weaselly breathing, his obsequious mewling. There is a faint flickering of lantern-light as he listens to the old man’s sighs. A heart beats. He believes that we are asleep. But inside, we are beating. The slow clock ticking, the hours of a life.
We did not know that the landlord was mad. Seven long nights, he creeps into our room to watch and listen. The old man’s eye. It is nothing but the eye of an old man but, still, it frightens him as he watches, though it remains closed as the old man sleeps. The old man’s old eye, staring out as the landlord greets us pleasantly in the morning, asks the old man how he slept. How he slept indeed. The old man’s eye is vulture blue, the colour one might imagine a mystic third eye. But age needs no such mystic folderol. It is its own third eye, understanding time and the slow supernatural unfolding of the body. The third eye of age which knows the beating of the subterranean heart. The heart in the body beating like a hammer on an anvil. A heart beats and we temper the days with such beating.
The landlord returns each midnight for seven nights. We did not know that he was mad. His breathing faster, anxious, irregular. An animal trapped by its own fear. The old man sleeps and yet we march on, a sentry pacing the parapet of blood and ribs. Then the landlord’s finger slips and the lantern knocks against the door frame. The old man starts. Sits up. “Who is it?” he calls. “Who is there?” But the landlord remains silent with the lantern closed. The old man strains to see in the darkness. “Who is there?” he says again. Heartbeat. Heartbeat. Heartbeat. We are as a bass drum in this parade of fear and dread. The old man does not lie back but remains staring, his eyes blind, but open.
Hours pass. We did not know that the landlord was mad. One o’clock. We mark them with our dull but quickening tolling. Two o’clock. The door moves slowly, opening almost imperceptibly. Three o’clock. The landlord enters our room. Heartbeat. The light from his lantern a single beam and all is dark but the old man’s eye. Heartbeat. The eye does not move but fixes on the man in the doorway. The old man’s eye fixes the man in the doorway with the unforgiving gaze of a hawk. The breath is held. Nothing moves. Heartbeat. Time itself is marked only by the crescendo of our beating. It is as if this beating would burst the old man’s chest and fill the room with his beating. His chest the dark room around us, and our pumping shaking its walls. Heartbeat. A red knot of muscle unfurling, pressing the landlord and his lantern against the door. Our beating the raging of a giant’s fist. Our beating, as if the endless bell of heaven were sounding. As if time itself and Death’s infinite axe were ringing.
The landlord leaps into the room with a banshee wail. He is upon us. And in a moment, the heavy bed is overturned, the old man trapped beneath. A gasp. A sigh. A last breath. The old man asleep forever.
But we keep beating because a heart must keep beating. A heart knows what it must do. The landlord takes the old man—the dead weight of his body—from under the bed and drags him across the floor. With his axe, he cuts the body to pieces, like a tree turned to firewood. He lifts three floorboards and drops the severed body into darkness. Replaces the boards. Heartbeat. We keep beating. A heart inside the torso of a corpse inside a narrow cave beneath the floor. Heartbeat. We keep beating. There are sounds above us. The bed moving. We know what we must do. Heartbeat. Men’s voices. Police. There is nothing here, the landlord says. We are alone, he says The policemen mutter. We keep beating. We know what we must do. Beneath the floor. His heart, beating. Nothing here, the landlord says. His heart, beating. Beneath the floor, beating. Beneath the floor, we know what we must do. There is nothing, the landlord shouts. His heart, beating. Beneath the floor, we keep beating. It is clean here, the landlord wails. There is nothing. We keep beating. We know what we must do. His heart, beating. We know what we must do. We keep beating. Beneath the floor, the landlord wails. His heart, beating. Beneath the floor, the landlord wails. His heart, beating. Beneath the floor, the landlord wails. We know what we must do. We keep beating. We know what we must do. Beneath the floor, his heart, beating, the landlord wails. Beneath the floor, we know what we must do. His heart, beating, the landlord wails. We know what we must do.
Monday, February 13, 2012
An excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Yiddish for Pirates is now online at Joyland Magazine. I'm thrilled to have some of this very large thing that I've been working on out in the world. Thanks to editor Emily Schultz for including it. If you don't know it, Joyland is a great online site for fiction and, just announced, poetry.
Posted by gary barwin at 10:01 PM
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Last night, I performed at the Society for the Preservation of Wild Culture New Vaudeville show at the Rivoli in Toronto, last night. It's a great concept -- a series of interesting performances, short demonstrations, and talks for the audience. Performers included Paul Dutton, Jim Shedden, and the chef d'affaires, Whitney Smith. The whole thing was framed in a kind of Prairie Home Companion for the Post Modern age feel there were voice-over radio hosts and announcements and transitional music played from old records playing on neolithic record players.
Posted by gary barwin at 12:03 PM