Sadly, happily, Ugly Duckling is celebrating its 17 years at PS1, a lifetime of stellar, crazy, life-affirming events. I'm especially pissed I can't make Joel Schlemowitz's screening. Joel and I go way back, he and I union organizers together at the turn of the century. I met him as he first began organizing at The New School, his and his colleagues' hard work paying off in a landslide union victory, then a hard-fought and good first contract. Those were tough days, tough even finding other profs. in order to talk to them about joining our union, profs. whose lives included no permanent classroom or office, no real pay, no real health care. All I talked to when I finally found them seemed to ask in one way or another what took us so long? "Management! And also the architecture," I'd say. Hence it was an organizing of nomadic artists, several of us winding thru the halls of all those rundown buildings--the Fashion Institute being the worst, ceiling about to cave on us, each of us asking for a few bucks more and an occasional inspection for asbestos. The New School with the UAW has come a long way, & so has Joel. He's a deeply talented filmmaker, a crazy funny person, hence I'm not surprised that he's created such a stir, focusing in on all the peeps at Ugly Duckling. Ask him to show you his old camera collection. Or don't. But do go. What a warm night that should be. Do go! For me? No. Do go? Not to even begin speaking of the several great readers at various events below--Rachel, Stacey, Rob, Peter Gizzi et al. A good lineup.
And speaking of Rob Fitterman--he too was out there organizing with us in NYC. I met him first not as poet (tho since it's been a different story), but simply as person-standing-on-cold-February-picket line. A good soul, whose work in conceptual poetry--that sort of famously sharp transition--I love for its contiguity with Rob's earlier work in post-Oppen, post-Zukofsky sociopolitical archeology / investigatory surgery. To me the transition hasn't been quite as sharp or drastic as is often talked about, and further, this constant insistence on meeting and taking pleasure in the alterior, pushing oneself outside oneself, to me, speaks to the spirit of risky poetics, a poetics that seeks to re-articulate the subject's position within its found system of choices (or non-choices) and refuses to identify with that (lack). Each inversion, dismantling, set of moves, starting with the serial appropriative re-articulation Metropolis books, excites me--and to be so careful as one adventures thru catastrophe! With Place, NO IDEA ought to be quite some-thing curious. Nice hats too.