While the Jury is ‘out’ I thought to anticipate the next stage of the trial ( inappropriate language) by giving you an introduction to ‘said’ language!
This five minute reading illustrates and invites. Rather than board Tardis ( as previously suggested) this is a short journey on a tall ship. A taster of the journey you might wish to take? This reading might clarify ‘symphonic prose’ and a book more intimate than Magnum Octopus, really a bedside companion with which to go skinny dipping.
Recording kindly provided by Dmitry Selemir and taken at Scriggler Live Event on 17th April.at The Harrison Pub’s underground theatre.
18 thoughts on “An Invitation from the Serpent of Eden (DNA)”
How lovely and articulate and smiling. It looks like you have the words by heart (i.e. memorized).
More or less Joe. I was disappointed to realise I had looked at the book quite so often, but it presents a reasoned invitation, leave anything out and it makes no sense. I was talking into a black void, I could see nothing and no-one the lights were so bright! Odd laughter reached me but leaving the stage presented a hazard!
It’s rewarding to hear your reading once again and twice more – echoes remain in the after air.
I saw myself walking in a blackberry grove, as I recalled this morning dew blackberry moment … a thousand and one shiny soft globes, in each a synopsis of me now and the far sky a light point.
That feels good Ashen! Thanks for listening and leaving a footprint here. I have such good friends. That is worth everything!
Beautiful reading, Philippa. The lights on stage are indeed incredibly bright, but you come off just fine in your light indigo which somehow is a fitting color for your reading, the resonance of your spirituality, and the nature of your words, rich and matured to exquisite ferment, words so intimately of yourself that you really are the best reader/performer of your poetry. Nothing forced or stilted, so completely realized and natural are your words, all the subtle cadences in your reading, where to soften, where to strengthen your voice, the placement of accents, are just right. I could listen to you perform the whole work. It’s like listening to someone who has mastered an instrument and truly lifts off from second nature. I interpret the silence that descended on the room as a good thing! It’s deep attention and recognition of the presence of the highest quality.
Thank you John. It was somewhat heart in mouth, but since I do not really consider myself the’author’ ( without the claim of channeling which I did not) it seems the only imperative is to make it as accessible and natural as possible. Other readers ( and I have asked a few) are over respectful of the lines and tend to lose the message. I do not claim to be T.S.Eliot! I am encouraged that you encourage me to record it all! A tall ask but maybe delivered in five minute episodes- a morning constitutional on the way to work? Brian was asking after you?
In relation to your live reading/performance, I do wonder how Brian George’s work would sound and fare read or performed live. I think there’s a greater chance for his work, if not pulled off in the right way, to sound absurd, a little ridiculous, clothed in a mere human voice. In death metal and black metal music, the vocalizations are wildly exaggerated to compensate for the inadequacy of the mere human voice, attempts to distort and abstract the human voice and give a sense of otherworldliness or alien strangeness of monsters and things of the deep, and gods and other mythological presences. Theatrics are added on top of it, done completely over the top, to move the audience into atmosphere and a feeling of inner circle. But I only mention this in supposition and hypothetical comparison of live readings. Brian mentioned he read in the past an excerpt, about three pages, of his To Akasha (his words) “at an all night Terence McKenna celebration, where about 60 percent of participants were chemically altered. It went over well, and, so far as I could tell, most of the audience seemed to understand it. A number of those who were not already tripping said that they felt that they were after the reading.”
I asked you both not long ago if you had to choose, what kind of music, which pieces, each of you would choose if you had to put your works to music, and you both gave intriguing answers. Along the same lines I wonder who your ideal audience would be for live readings or performances of your works. I assume both of you would prefer, not chemically altered individuals, but fully attentive and present in heart and mind, sober individuals, capable of fine discernment and critique as well as being deeply and naturally moved.
You know already how much I loved this Philippa! I’m happy to report that my FB’ing your recording yielded results in that a few of my virtual good and discerning friends leapt to the opportunity of buying Involution!
I am greatly indebted to you Susan! One finds friends one at a time, and I hope their faith in your judgement (on the book) is rewarded by some pleasures for them. I enjoyed the reading because it goes a little way to making the book less daunting. It really is much easier than people suppose, and a start is to ‘hear’ it. I am very much an ‘auditory’ absorber. I remember what I hear far more, and more easily than what I read. I wonder how many others find that too? I am now thinking of putting short sections with short musical introductions ‘out’ to find out.
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This is a good idea Philippa, I was thinking same i.e. short readings. Adding a little music? Nice, you will see or rather hear!
Since I am an OLD WOMAN with a gravel voice I first need a recording booth…and a microphone…and and and. So that when the crows shut up and go to bed I can venture to read a little at a time! Then I need to learn to edit, buy royalty free music…where is that IT philanthropist who would like to help? Not even the crowdfunding lot responded to an appeal! Still I have overcome bigger problems in the past.
A few readers have said that they found that the book made them see things very clearly, but when they tried to explain what they had understood they could not recall what it was. So rather like a dream?
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I second with Susan that this is a good idea. I like seeing you read live and sincerely enjoy the clip you’ve provided of you performing the excerpt of your work. Your particular voice is great, its distinct accent, the command of language which is clearly in it. (You hardly have a gravel voice. So self-deprecating you are.) You also have a unique presence, totally individual, light and nimble in spirit but also with gravitas. I wonder how you would do this. Performers usually feed off the energy of an audience, which helps to elevate and focus the performance. It would be different if you were all alone and read to a recording camera or device. Something might be lost, then again, something may be gained. It really depends on how you do it. How you might introduce music, well… I’m not as sure about that. You might end up sounding like some NPR broadcast which brackets its human interest pieces in incidental music. I brought up music correspondences to your poetry as a hypothetical, as something I’ve wondered about. I think your poetry is inherently musical.
I completely agree that hearing you read adds considerable pleasure to what you’ve accomplished. The words stick in one’s mind better. I opened my copy of Involution and replayed your clip a second time, and followed along. Then without the clip one can return to the words, and hear your voice in memory enunciating the words as they should be, in their natural rhythm, and it makes the whole experience come more alive. I admit I’m like you have confessed of yourself, that I get a lot from what I hear, maybe more than from what I only read alone. To hear words read aloud – performed – enlivens them. The tone and accents are there. It’s the difference between reading musical notation on a page and hearing the music actually played. The human voice here is the instrument. It brings up interesting questions, of descent from the oral tradition of poetry and story-telling, and when it broke off into reading alone, a solitary activity. I do think, on the other hand, that there are kinds of writing, which should remain purely writing and read as such, not heard, but strictly read.
It would be fascinating if Brian George read or performed some of his work aloud and posted it on-line or made it accessible to his friends and admirers. I’d love that, and I’d certainly find it helpful. One wonders how he would do it exactly, what he’d take under consideration for presentation, what kind of background he’d use or environment he’d do it in, if he’d use a slightly amped up microphone, or just do it plain voiced. What he’s written, I sincerely wonder how it would sound read aloud – performed – in not just anyway, but in the right and best way. I don’t think just anyone could effectively read either your work or his aloud and do it justice. His work brings up some different considerations from your own work, Philippa. Funny this makes me think of silent movies, and certain movie stars it has been said whose careers despite their attractive appearances became threatened when sound was first introduced.
Heavens John, you give equal gravitas to your comment! So much good and clear thinking to attend to. I accept that I probably have to buckle up and read it myself. I did try asking one or two professional actors, and both with lovely voices, but since the words had not sprung from their uncensoring brains, they were very over-respectful of the lines. That is always the legacy…what came earlier which everything after cannot help evoke. T.S Eliot wooden and dry or Dylan Thomas, florid with Welsh rolling seas and nostalgia. With regard to music, I did not see it as ‘introductory, but perhaps complementary, not to the music already present (and thank you for noticing!) but to accompany the message. The two first Cantos would begin with natural sound, birds, waves, wind and with the emergence of Man in the third the single pipe or drum or beaten sticks , gradually acquiring harmonic structure through the Mediaeval and instrumental in the Renaissance, until we get to full Romanticism after the enlightenment, and fading back into the unidimensionality of Modernism, starting with Stravinsky and ending with John Cage?
It would convey the progress of thought’s complexity, and the recovery of simplicity by the end? In itself evidence supporting Involution’s hypothesis- the recovery of evolutionary memory. But these could only be offered in snatches not set against the words, but perhaps offering relief from the human voice? A sort of warp and weft through which words are woven in colour.
I too would like to hear Brian read his incredibly rich incantations, though in his case I wonder whether visual abstract images, filmic, would not complement better? His is a different kind of music and filmic imagery would convey the dimensions.
I agree about the importance of an audience. Difficult to maintain concentration without one. Perhaps I need a film panning across an audience to look at! Not impossible but Oh how wonderful a IT ninja would be. I’d feed him for a year or more.
The Greek tradition was very much in mind when I wrote it- a sort of Song. Ever since visiting the Theatre of Epidaurus I see words as approximating drama.
I now must part with my sick computer for a span, so if I do not respond to comments I will when it is restored to health. Thank you for deep thought and attention.
Check this out, Philippa: the great John Berryman reading a couple of his poems. He’s drunk, but so intense and full of conviction. This goes to show that a poet should read his or her own work. Berryman is inimitable. He even makes slight mistakes in places, but still compelling, even the better for it. Hearing him I don’t read his words on the page the same way, ever again. It’s hard not to hear his singular voice after one has heard it, its expressive and jagged rhythm. I can see you doing your own poetry in a similar, unpretentious setting. Simply a camera set up, maybe one or two friends sitting out of camera as your audience, to provide your elevation and focus, and, the camera up close framing your torso, hands and face, performing sections of your poetry, just letting go and doing it as it comes naturally to you, striking that balance between Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. No sound effects or background accompaniment necessary. Everything is provided by the poetry itself.
I wrote this a while back to a friend in a fit of praise: “John Berryman. Something so moving about this man to me. He’s broken and far beyond repair, but he still fights with everything he has in him, fights for the right of every one of his lines, every single word, to exist. His inebriation is beside the point. The shards, the fragments, in his verses, don’t flow, are not smooth and elegant. Everything is broken, but still pulled together somehow by his incredible fight. He’ll never be popular. He’ll never be assimilated, watered down, caricatured. Each and every line is on fire with the passion of his being, even unto madness. He seems crazy, but he feels so deeply that in one’s own depths one is moved without knowing precisely why. This is a poetry – his poetry – which cannot move just anyone. One must understand what it is to be broken and beyond repair, lost and so alone, with no one to help one, and to keep fighting with such passion that the fragments catch fire and light up the night. In some of his poems, each line is like a star, so distant from other lines. They have that much space between them, wildly expressive and bursting with energy, but precise, under the control of a master mind. John Berryman has moved me to tears privately, touching me in a way I’ve only rarely been touched. God, what a poet!”
“I like Bukowski, but as an artist he is far inferior to Berryman. Berryman was a shattered genius, profoundly intelligent, capable of great things. In relation to Berryman, Bukowksi appears as he really is, entertaining in his misanthropy, a kind of ham actor of himself in reality, his manner a delight to those of us who see through sham and pretense, but only rarely moving the soul.”
“Berryman was an alcoholic and ended up committing suicide by jumping off a bridge. He had a tremendous intellect, the finest sensitivity. He was a Scholar in the truest sense, no schools or ideology ascribed to, just a potent, objective literary mind. Incredible honesty and integrity. I think his tremendous personal suffering, his attempt to get clear, fighting tooth and nail for his Voice, no matter how odd or awkward it left him – with the shadow of Death ever near, falling across him, this is part of why I’m so attracted to him. There’s a humble rudeness about him which goes straight to the heart. The kind of humbleness he had is only found in those who have been to the heights and have returned transformed in ways beyond words. This poet moves in a very personal way. Nothing glamorous, nothing pretended, totally Real. He poured his whole soul into every word. Incredible passion. He’s the true descendent of Hephaestus, the crippled god, the god of craft, who originally belonged on Mount Olympus before being kicked out. This man is the essence of Art to me in these fucked up Contemporary times. I see this man if he was born in ancient times sitting with Homer and listening to him with rapt attention. He cuts lines further back than many a lesser poet. In my humble opinion it was part of Berryman’s misfortune as a true Poet to be born into these sorry times we ourselves are being slowly killed in. Nothing is soulful and true anymore, and then Berryman came crashing in, divinely rude and transcendent, fighting to get us back to our Humanity. God bless John Berryman!”
Here are the two poems, each one followed by the recording of Berryman reading – performing – it:
Dream Song 29
There sat down, once, a thing on Henry’s heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry’s ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.
And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;
But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.
Dream Song 14
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
No I can see why his voice makes sense of the dislocation of the line, the dislocation of the image as though it broke before it could join the other, or the next. Broken poet writing broken poems searingly honest, not comfortable. It has the natural rebuke of the tramp who asks for nothing, but calls into question everything else. Thank you for putting it here.
Not much one can say to follow that.
Interesting critical remark, Philippa. Berryman contains all kinds of unexpected transitions, breaks, leaps across chasms, in joining and binding and melding into poems. His poetry isn’t a garden of eden, or a pleasant path through the woods, but a battlefield. For me, it highlights the gift that Involution wrote itself through you. Berryman is an example of one who was not chosen, or perhaps he was chosen, earlier, to have poems written through him, but he threw any easier way, any notion of inspiration, to hell. Full force of contradiction collides in him. A tramp, but a divine: opposites collide in him. I like that Berryman isn’t easy, but is still meaty in his passion. Each of his fragments are huge chunks, like asteroids, not breadcrumbs for mice. Maybe I find in him the Diogenes the Cynic archetype again, the one who rudely illuminates and reveals things we’d rather not see and acknowledge, rudeness being a necessity because people just don’t listen. For all that he’s still accurate, his poems contain a curious logic, not being just stream-of-consciousness lines thrown together. They’re not poems of chance, or games, or word-plays merely. There’s something about him which also goes back to the ancients, a kind of feeling in its tragic energy, which makes me think of Euripides and Sophocles, or at least a character out of one of their plays. Indeed Berryman doesn’t exist in an ivory tower, and thank goodness for that.
But maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to introduce this here. Pardon me if it seems out of place. Initially I just wanted to share the clips of a poet reading his own poetry, and how effective it can be just stripped down to basic presentation.
No reason why it was not appropriate. I welcome this kind of wide ranging debate and it developed from your encouragement that a writer reading his own wok added another dimension. He was an illustration of exactly that.I am grateful for any animation of a blog that has been characterised by, shall we say, languor until recently!