Introductions for Peter Lamborn Wilson & Rob Halpern – 11 March 09

Peter Lamborn Wilson is a political writer, essayist, and poet, known for first proposing the influential concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), based on a historical review of pirate utopias, and now translated into 14 languages. His latest books are Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology (with Christopher Bamford and Kevin Townley, Lindisfarne Books) and Black Fez Manifesto (Autonomedia).

What I love about Peter Lamborn Wilson’s, or in the case of Black Fez Manifesto Hakim Bey’s, poems is that they want living over survival, and they manage to open up our awareness of space – “calendrical interstices” – that the economic totalitarian structure driving our lives tries to deaden us to. Think of him as a time zone revanchist offering us empty days to be re-inscribed, perhaps we are also given a special agent kit and the sage advice: “Basing the / project on Nothing doesn’t mean no project” or “As you move backward thru time / you gain dark powers.” Anne Waldman notes that we need his salient wisdom and bite and that essentially he is a poet of civil delights. Please welcome him to the Poetry Project.

Rob Halpern is the author of Rumored Place (Krupskaya Books), Imaginary Politics (TapRoot Editions), Snow Sensitive Skin (a collaboration with Taylor Brady, Atticus/Finch Chapbooks), and Disaster Suites (Palm Press). Music for Porn is forthcoming from Factory School. He’s currently co-editing the poems of the late Frances Jaffer together with Kathleen Fraser, and translating the early essays of Georges Perec, the first which, “For a Realist Literature,” appears in Chicago Review. An active participant in the Nonsite Collective, Rob lives in San Francisco.

Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites opens with four lines from George Oppen’s poem “Alpine”: “Bodies dream selves / For themselves / From the substance / Of the cold” – There aren’t many of my peers who I would compare to Oppen, but Halpern is one of them, with his profound integrity and economy of language that activates the tension between the “shipwreck of the singular,” and the collective future. His work actually reminds me of most of a filmmaker, Claire Denis, especially in her “Beau Travail” (which incidentally means “Good Work”) where we see an outfit of men, French legionnaires, move, gesture, be habitual, train, and ceremoniously commune in desolate, harsh, self-eroding landscapes. The focus is on the movement of their bodies, impeccably scored, near balletic – yet always menaced, hyper-aware of war, empire and its despots. In Imaginary Politics Halpern writes: “I’ve counted at least one truly achieved identity, and its shape resembles nothing of my flesh. Can’t we just release ourselves from this incomprehensible work, slough it off, I mean, workers of the world, relax.” Halpern engages in a continual process of erasing and compounding identity that is haunted by utopic possibility. Please welcome him to the Poetry Project.

-Stacy Szymaszek

Note – Go here to read Joshua Lovelace’s reading report for Peter Lamborn Wilson.