Archive for Arts

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KDo

Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Social Justice Film festival gets better every year. I’m very lucky the films will be shown just down the street from my home.

“Big Drive”

I utterly love this animated short. Reminds me of my families and where we were and went.

The Chandelier

When I passed this last week, I had to blink a couple of times to realize that this gigantic chandelier was indeed there, beneath the Granville Street Bridge. This is a permanent installation by a B.C. artist named Rodney Graham, who was inspired by an Isaac Newton experiment. It lights up and spins.

Vancouver’s such a trip.

Friendships, my own + Ginsberg & Kerouac’s

I received a note from a dear old family friend the other day.

I wouldn’t have noted it, but one of the sites I peruse (“LitHub”) had a piece that last Monday was the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s death. Which means he’s been gone longer than he was here.  Apparently, the town of Lowell had a small ceremony. I saw a photo of the grave where some folks had thoughtfully left a couple of bottles of booze. (Or thoughtlessly?  He died of alcoholism.)  I suppose they should also have a left a copy of [the conservative magazine] National Review.  

I am reminded, once again, of the beautiful song “Box of Rain,” by Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter (RIP):  “Such a long, long time to be gone; but a short time to be there.”

I replied:

I believe he and [National Review publisher] William Buckley were friends, actually. (One thing about both of them – they had gifts for friendship, Buckley getting an extra bonus point for being friends with his antagonists, too, for the most part.)

My feelings toward Kerouac have gone up and down over the years. He is unique in the Robert Basil pantheon in that respect, where once you’re in, you’re in for good (Barthes, Henry James, Flannery O’Connor, William Carlos Williams …). I once made a disparaging remark about Kerouac’s poetry to a close friend of mine (a Garcia-Lorca scholar and a poet himself), and he gently chided me, taking me through some of Kerouac’s poems phrase by phrase, waking me back up. Kerouac’s prose, it must be said, relies on some vocabulary crutches in ways his poetry doesn’t – but so many of his books are nonetheless absolutely splendid. (I taught Dharma Bums while I was at Stanford.) 

And finally, he really really inspired me as a writer. The first Kerouac book I owned was a copy of The Dharma Bums that [my brother] Chris gave me – I must have been 19 or 20. I read about half of it sitting in the back of a pick-up truck zooming down route 17 to Manhattan, surrounded by fall foliage. One of my happiest memories.

To celebrate my graduation from university – this was a solitary activity, because literally *nobody* other than my girlfriend believed I had somehow graduated from college, having dropped out so often and, when actually enrolled, having spent almost as much time hitching around the country as attending classes – I read “On the Road” for the fourth or fifth time, cover to cover, back to front (how I read novels), drinking Miller Beer “ponies” and lying in bed, finishing at dawn. Another one of my happiest memories.

I want to share with you a quite moving piece from the New Yorker: “Allen Ginsberg: The Day After Kerouac Died.” It annotates some journal entries and a poem from “The Fall of America.” (My friend and teacher Robert Creeley makes a few appearances.)

The New Yorker / Allen Ginsberg piece brought some tears.

Memory Gardens

Covered with yellow leaves

     in morning rain …

He threw up his hands

& wrote the universe don’t exist

      & died to prove it. …

 

… Jack thru whose eyes I

    saw

    smog glory light

    gold over Manhattan’s spires

will never see these

    chimneys smoking

anymore over statues of Mary

            in the graveyard …

 

Well, while I’m here I’ll

      do the work –

and what’s the work?

      To ease the pain of living.

Everything else, drunken

      dumbshow.

“Good for pictures”

The Vancouver Art Gallery solo exhibition of photographs by Fred Herzog, who died a few days ago, was perhaps the biggest art event of 2007 in my city. It was a revelation, nothing less. Christopher Cheung’s retrospective essay in The Tyee is a wonderful introduction as well as memorial to Herzog’s work.

This passage struck me:

“I don’t think we can have a photographer like Fred Herzog now,” wrote photographer Jeff Wall in Vancouver Magazine. “In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist. Or if they do exist, they are just vestiges of what they were in 1957 or 1961, when he captured them perfectly.”

[David] Campany [in his book Modern Color] adds that Vancouver “had been physically transformed in ways that were unconsciously cynical and dispiriting. The kinds of architecture, informal social spaces, and layer of material history to which Fred Herzog was drawn had been swept aside. In their place came a dense and homogeneous landscape determined by raw capital, and insensitive to its inhabitants.”

Herzog himself has said that the downtown is boring now, lacking the “disordered vitality” he was used to. But he admits that what might have made for good images could be bad for people. For one, Vancouver used to have a lot more smog, in part from burning garbage, that was good for pictures, but not residents.

“In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist.” This sentence evokes time, so beautifully.

Photograph “Man with Bandage, 1968,” by Fred Herzog, courtesy of The Equinox Gallery.

Used with permission.

Portrait of an artist

“One to a customer.”

At Mercer Street Books and Records in lower Manhattan yesterday, I found this pamphlet Black Sparrow Press published way back when. It filled me with joy. Knowing Robert Creeley was a terrific blessing.

If I could just create the kind of world I’d really like to live in … *I* wouldn’t be there. “I” is an experience of creation, which puts up with it no matter. There’s a lot to get done. You’ve been born and that’s the first and last ticket. Already he changes his mind, makes the necessary adjustments, picks up his suitcase and getting into his car, drives slowly home. He lives with people whom he has the experience of loving. It all works out. He says. It has to. One to a customer. It’s late. But they’ll be there. He relaxes. He has an active mind.