Archive for the ‘Zsolt Sőrés’ Tag

Ye good old days

A friend brought to mind today his meeting a now-mutual friend, musician Zsolt Sőrés. I Trabant_P_601_S,_Bj._1986_(Foto_Sp_2016-06-05)had the luck to collaborate with Sőrés and his co-musician Zsolt Kovacs in Budapest, an aspect of which is memorialized in the first part of the poem I share below, from Ladonian Magnitudes. (As usual, the formatting here messes up the lineation: the original is written in tercets).

 

Pisces

“If our child is born in February or March it will be a Fish.”

 

Laszlo told us Tibor’d invited us to either his place or The Fish Restaurant

& Laszlo consistent with our unanimous consensus told him The Fish Restaurant

which miffed him a little but then why offer us the choice?—“You don’t do that!”

 

Besides he has a Stammtisch there

there’s always a table for him

“Of course, sir, just this way!”

 

So that day Kovács is supposed to arrive around five to record “Trabant” on DAT in his Trabant

because Tuesday after a solid three quarters of a litre of Tokaj, some beers before, innumerable Unicums, and even a little hash? then two big double vodkas

after the rehearsal for Wednesday night I spouted Marinneti glossolalia driving back to Laszlo’s in Kovàcs’s Trabant no one could stop me

 

So we went to the Tokaj bar Laszlo and I where they ladled half a deci of sweet and half a deci of dry into a glass for each of us drunk down in one go for the effect of a double martini

Then back up to Laszlo’s for a little more hash, no beer! vodka palinka Unicum whiskey two generic Gravol

Kovács an hour and a half late so I’m lying on the front balcony when the Two Zsolts arrive

 

Petra tells me she and Laszlo looked at each other knowingly as I swayed pale out the door

I remember raving the way I did the night before and arriving at The Fish Restaurant by surprise before seven

Sitting with Tibor and Laszlo who looked at each other and in Hungarian agreed I couldn’t eat with them

 

Ordering me a mineral water and putting me out on the balcony

Where I got up telling Petra I just need some air

And wander out into Buda’s streets looking for a bench

 

I remember Petra coming up and seeing how I was sitting tilting back and forth on a little wall over the Duna

The taxi arriving and Petra and Laszlo helping me up supporting me on each arm the taxi driver saying “Later.”

“Get up before they call the police!”

 

“Should I get an ambulance?”—“No, no, he’s just had too much to drink.”

And Kovács coming in his Trabant, me reeling beside him

Rolling down the window on the way and puking a great orange arc

 

Kovács tells me it was as if as he made the U-turn in front of The Fish Restaurant

everything I’d drunk sloshed out

One waiter pointed “Look! He’s doing it again!”

 


 

From Bremervörde we drove north to Otterndorf at the Elbe’s mouth

In the sun Matjes with raw onion on a bun and a plate of crispy gold Pommes with a big dab of mayonnaise

On the picnic table outside the strand café landside of the dike

 

Seaside a briny brown tide covered the sand and washed up cold over and drained through honeycombed red bricks enforcing the shore we walked on

Two black-suited windsurfers rode out fast crazy as the two boys splashing in the swimming pond just left of lunch

The sky painterly with grey-rain and sun-bleached clouds framing low sea daisy yellow mist and high blue

 

The Gasthaus we aimed at for an early supper closed so we drove in to Otterndorf

Brick houses cool sienna tomato rusted in early dusk

Even cobbled clean streets narrow as in Hamburg or Holland

 

A sample of Italian absinth and a flask of Grobmuter’s Apfelsaft in a gift shop just around the corner from the Ratskellar—“Danke, Mutti!” (Danke, Renate, for the absinthe spoon!)

A Norwegian acquavit before a litre of German beer and three rich Matjes filets Hausfrauen Art with a creamy apple onion celery relish and Bratkartoffeln punctuated by a bitter

A soft chocolate-dipped Eis eaten up quickly melting out the bottom of the cone

 

The way back musculature uncomfortable on bone-rack, aching joints, and threatening cramps

In bed sweat wet uncontrollable shivers chatter teeth and fingertips tingle numb

Every joint sore unable to lie still three seconds

 

Eyes rolling in a reeling lolling head

Delirious poetic prayers to Apollo in the name of his son Asclepius to shake from a leafy laurel branch drops blessed by Morpheus to cool my head and just let me sleep

Finally making myself puke three times about three in the morning

Zsolt Sőrés: Everything that interests me has its essence in sound

a-2521498-1476023467-6781.jpegIf you’ve read the poem “Get Real” I’ve shared here and wondered just who Ahad Master is, you can read an interview with him, here!

Carmina non grata & divination

What prompts this post is a long-simmering irritation brought to a boil that prompts me to splash the following scalding aspersions on the naked Emperors and Empresses who preside as comptrollers of the means of literary (re)production.

What dialed up the heat was actually the lucky and all-too-rare chance of having been provided some insight into the responses of a publisher’s editorial board to a manuscript I submitted and that in the end it chose to refuse. Just to be clear that the spleen I’m venting here isn’t a dyspeptic symptom brought on by chewing on a bunch of bitterly sour grapes, I hold absolutely no resentment against the editors:  they’re liking or disliking the manuscript, their electing to accept or reject it is their prerogative and theirs alone. Rather, this occasion provides me with the opportunity to call out and call up a dogmatic, blinkered, squinting aesthetic that strikes me as being at odds with (in this case) the editors’ presiding over a press explicitly devoted to what today gets called innovative poetry, an attitude, if not universal, then met with more often than not, among members of the self-styled avant-garde. I find myself, therefore, weirdly, in the position of too many other “innovative” artists, who have had to don the pedagogue’s mortarboard and undertake to educate their potential audience. Happily, a quick survey reveals my fellow faculty members include William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and John Cage, among many, many others, living and dead.

The manuscript in question was composed of two texts, Swim or Sear and Seventh Column, samples of the first being readable here. In Summer 2001, a friend made me a gift of an anarchic text,  FEHHLEHHE (Magyar Műhely, 2001) by the Hungarian musician, archivist, editor, writer, and cultural worker Zsolt Sőrés. FEHHLEHHE deploys a wide, wild range of linguistic disruption: disjunctive syntax, polyglottism, collage, sampling, homophony, and a delirious lexicon of portmanteau words, among other means. I began writing what eventually became Swim or Sear in an attempt to engage Sőrés’ text in kind, wrighting an English that would imaginably answer his Hungarian, what Erin Moure might term a gesture of echolation.

I am told the board found, essentially, that these texts repulsed more than invited the reader. Serendipitously, earning, as I do, my bread as an English instructor at a Quebec Cegep, tomorrow I am teaching a class on structuralism; our text is the most basic and introductory, Raman Selden’s Practicing Theory and Reading Literature, and what do I read on page 50?

…throughout literary history … writers have produced works which have been regarded as nonsense by readers unfamiliar with the developed reading practices demanded by innovative texts. However, the assumption remains that all literary works should be readable in principle, and that, if a work resists the reader’s efforts to make sense of it, the writer is at fault. A more sophisticated response to this problem is to say that the readers have to be patient with innovative writings and try to discover the mode of reading which the texts demand.

Now, I’d hazard a guess that my imagined interlocutors are familiar with the more canonical engagements with the hermeneutic challenges posed by the modernist or innovative work, Julia Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language, Roland Barthes’ “From Work to Text,” The Pleasure of the Text, or S/Z, or even Charles Bernstein’s “Artifice of Absorption” or Steve McCaffrey’s “Diminished Reference and the Model Reader” among many other possibilities. All these works might be said to argue that those works that resist “the reader’s efforts to make sense of” them do so, paradoxically, as a way to invite or require the reader’s active participation in the production of sense rather than a passive reception along lines so well-known as to be subliminal or reflexive. What is required of the reader is what the German Romantic philosopher and theologian Schleiermacher called (in English translation) “divination,” that positing of meaning that is a kind of educated guess or salto mortale, precisely the playful risk the infant takes to learn its mother tongue or that conversation partners take constantly in the fluid, open-ended back-and-forth of their dialogue.

But, in all seriousness, how could anyone oriented in the tradition of literary innovation be stumped by the compositional gestures of Swim or Sear? Admittedly, the waters of the text are choppy, moving between crests of writerly opacity and troughs of readerly transparency. Compositional attention varies in focus, from the word to the sentence to the passage, these units joined along a paratactic vector, arguably an archaic mode of composition (c.f. many examples in Jerome Rothenberg’s assemblage Technicians of the Sacred). In other words, the reader is asked to “swim in language” (c.f. the imperative in the text’s title) as Kerouac so famously advised the writer of spontaneous prose to do, an image played on, often, metapoetically, throughout Swim or Sear. Does the reader get out of breath, fear drowning? A distorted echo of Beethoven answers this anxiety:  “You think I care about your lousy hermeneutic when the language is speaking to me?!” But Swim or Sear is no mere paddling on the surface of textual semiosis, but, like the sea or ocean constantly evoked, it possesses a depth—of reference, to both a personal and world history, overflowing the word into the world in a gambit to overwhelm the necessary but too-often perversely scrupulous vigilance of language characteristic of much innovative poetry of the past four decades for the sake of a poetry that without a loss of reflection comes to grip with, for lack of a better word, life, the dizzying maelstrom of experience where there is no bottom to plant our feet, where “All answers will be questioned…”.

That a reader might not find this writing to his or her taste is understandable and allowed for:  perhaps the reflexive acceptance or rejection of a piece of writing based in the first instance on taste is a reflex the very compositional gestures of the text might imaginably challenge. But that a text should be rejected by “the present knowers” because it indulges, explores, retools, and complicates, if not exceeds and escapes, precisely the compositional means developed since the early, heady days of literary Modernism (among others), means whose end is to challenge,  and demand the collaborative labour of, the reader out of  social, political, and, yes, even aesthetic concerns is, frankly, jaw-dropping.