Posted by Ken Edwards on Sunday, May 24, 2009 Under: writing
The textmusic symposium at Birkbeck College yesterday (Saturday) was a stimulating day of discussion about theory and poetic/musical practice. It's just the kind of area that interests me, and so I was sorry I wasn't able to get to London in time to hear Will Montgomery on the connection between Frank O'Hara and Morton Feldman and Steve Dickison (over from San Francisco) on reggae. I did enjoy David Grubbs (Brooklyn College) on his musical collaboration with Susan Howe, Frances Kruk on her collaboration with Sean Bonney, and Ed Nesbit on his collaboration with Steve Willey.

I was asked during the lunch break (by Johan de Wit) how I managed to collaborate with myself. Geez, that's a tough one. Actually, quite frequently the two halves of my brain don't speak to each other, and getting them to do so results in most of my artistic breakthroughs, but how it happens is a mystery.

My part in the proceedings was organising a four-voice performance of my poem "The Glory Boxes", originally composed in 2000. (I am grateful to Tim Atkins for putting the text online.) This was the first time the entire piece had been performed as intended in public. It was recorded - maybe that sound file will be put online too?

On this occasion I must give my profound thanks to Harry Gilonis, Elizabeth James and Carol Watts for performing Voices 2, 3 and 4 - and what a superb job they did. The only fluffs on the day came from me.

We performed the poem (or suite of six poems) without the framing dialogues. The piece is designed so that the last line of each of the six sections (I call them Boxes) flows back into their first line. Each last line also flows into the first line of the subsequent Box; and the last line of #6 flows back into the first line of #1. Thus there is the potential for the poem to loop endlessly in various ways. On this occasion we were very conventional and performed 1-6 once in order.

It is odd revisiting a piece done a few years ago. It seems to crystallise out of the flux. I can see now in reverse perspective, and as though high-lit, the themes that emerge from the poem: my struggles with compositional technique, the bay window at the back of my old flat in Peckham Rye with its view of the bird feeder and its attendant visitors (mainly great tits and bluetits), and that strange, sad week in April when both my dad and the poet Doug Oliver died.

My newly objective view of my poem also increases the enjoyment in performing it. It's not really "my" poem any more, I need feel no personal embarrassment on that score, and I can do what I like with it. And what a joy it is to perform with other people. Writing is at best a solitary pleasure - sometimes a pain - but the social aspect of performing is something else. Doing "The Glory Boxes", participating in Zukofsky's "A"-24 at Sussex University back in January (more about this in Jacket soon, I'm told) and performing with The Moors have been for me the highlights of the year so far.

In : writing 

Tags: "writing & music" 
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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at http://www.kenedwardsonline.co.uk