[This event took place on Wednesday, October 28, 2009]
Body language is useful. We submit and control through this – our tongues caught in the spin cycle. Yet the larynx seems to have the spotlight when it comes to text and sometimes the work can go to our heads – literally. In order to speak about connectivity and community, Robert Glück and Eileen Myles used text as body language. Each gesture they made was used to say something about our bodies and how we see our anatomies at work.
Robert Glück opened with a story from About Ed. The narrator says he was “made of glass”.
Not fragile, but that everyone could see inside of him – they knew just how badly he needed to be touched.
“We were the center”, he says, telling the story of Ed’s first sexual experience through Ed’s voice. His partner asking him (with his tongue still nestled in Ed’s anus) to “slit on ma ace.” Ed didn’t understand him until his partner paused, enunciated, “shit on my face”. Ed’s body followed as if to a “master”.
The room laughed.
The laughter wasn’t nervous, but joyous, reveling in what’s left of our bodies after wearing them down for so long with language – the common thread of a first.
We were in safe hands.
Glück smiled and continued. He moved into the next piece “The Moon is Brighter than the Sun.”
What happens when a body we knew is gone? What happens when a new body takes shape? The narrator’s body seems as if a stranger with the loss of Ed and the birth of his child. What is to be done with what’s left of us in his place, the ones in the middle of life?
Even earth seems suspect: “Earth does not mean our world, Planet Earth, it means dirt, burial – as death is full.” Glück becomes obsessed with a quote from Frank O’ Hara after Ed’s death, trying to parse out why it only comes to him now. He repeats to himself “Is the earth as full, as life was full, of them?” He grapples with what life means in this absence and how to write about it: “If language is alienating, that familiar alienation is who I am.”
This time the room was silent.
“You have to bear silence in the 21st century,” Eileen Myles said during her reading of “How to Write an Avant Garde Poem” from her newest book The Importance of Being Iceland.
After reading Freud’s essay “The Uncanny” I always think about how he compares death and silence, only the thought didn’t last long because with every jerk of the knee, foot swing, and hand gesture, Eileen Myles brought my focus back to movement, the body living. She spoke of the importance of reading with friends, but I don’t think she was only referring to Glück in the front row, although she did nod in his direction. She moved beyond the physical, in a similar way to Glück, also calling to O’Hara (he “sounded queer”), Andy Warhol (who “sounded dumb, and that was good”) and John Cage (the importance of “making a map for your piece”).
The New York City outside as well as the city of Myles’ work seemed like more than just an elaborate grid of klaxons and iridescent lounges – it was a community and it felt alive. The city, pulsating and transparent, needed to be touched.
Both poets made it seem like death might be just another change and that love is the concern here, but that both need to be written about. Together and at all times, if you can swing it.
It shocked me when death came through Myles’ poem. The young couple just out for a drive, then
the wood came off the truck. The coma. Then gone. And just as it came it left, quickly, but kept me in my seat feeling, but the city requires that you just keep going. She moved through her work and on to other subjects: grease, poetry, women, haircuts.
Life is in the stories we tell. We are made of narrative, or at least we live them every day. Our voices, accents, the flip of our hair, nudge of our glasses. We’re speaking and trying to tell each other something.
Before one poem Myles said, “You don’t need to know anything. I didn’t even need to say that, in fact.”