Nicole Peyrafitte and Pierre Joris read Thursday, February 23rd at the Gold Mine Saloon as part of the 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series.
It was a touching reunion of poet and place as last time both poets were here in New Orleans was in 2005 just months after the storm. Scheduled to read in late August '05 with our series, Nicole and Pierre instead came in November of '05 to perform and to document and bear witness to the damage caused to the New Orleans community. Along with their son, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (now an accomplished young film maker) they took to the decimated streets of New Orleans recording and photographing and most importantly talking to people about their experiences in post Katrina New Orleans. They traveled to the "white goods" dump far out in New Orleans east and spoke to workers and captured astonishing video of the mass destruction of a city's appliances. View video here.
Their return to Louisiana marks a continuation of their dedication to interviewing, recording, and doing the work of the poet in the form of giving voice and bearing witness to the trauma in the world. They will be spending the rest of their trip traveling through southern Louisiana speaking to residents affected by the Gulf Oil Spill and BP's clean up efforts. Here in New Orleans they began this task by interviewing Buras activist Kindra Arnesen, mother and wife to a commercial fisherman who was one of the first to speak out about BP's insidious way of handling the spill and the community. Even in the wake of her family's sickness and need to be detoxed, including her two young children, she continues to fight and speak out about BP's blatant destruction of the coast, its waters and animals, and its communities.
As I sat there watching Nicole and Pierre interview Kindra, I remembered the feeling of having someone listen and the urgency of the world outside of our sphere of residents and those affected to be privy to what we knew on the "inside" living as we were in the wake of destruction. This is what poetry does: it is the lifeline that continues to speak up long after the people who fight grow weary. It is the living document that roots itself into consciousness in the wake of seemingly endless lies fueled by corruption and greed. In the end, it thwarts silence and the death of what we seem to be screaming into the abyss.
This is going to be one hell of a text to engage with, hopefully sooner than later!
Nicole's humor shines through as she creates a sacred song in the long tradition of oral poets who sang the glories of the body and celebrated the mysteries of fertility and life. Peyrafitte creates a stage presence that travels from sandy shores to tramp about in Olson's words to refute Freud and then asks the audience to laugh, to poke fun at in the highest gesture of understanding: that we embrace and get comfortable in our skins, that we understand the deep mystery and the long history that we wade into when we use (& misuse) language.
Pierre Joris' long poem weaving a line in the sand across continents and amid questions
from war to the inability to decipher the knowledge that is parceled out via the media
to the empathy sprung from embracing the language and the geography of the "other"
and the mirages we struggle against.
I've been deeply intrigued with a new collection of essays about Joris and his poetry and poetics ever since he put the book in my hand. Cartographies of the In-Between is a comprehensive examination of a life in letters from translator to poet to bridge between various schools of poetry emanating in a Nomadic poetics to anthologist and mentor. I've just finished the first section "Filiations" which includes an essay by Jennifer Moxley which takes a close look at Canto Diurno #1 as well as Joris' relationship with "hearth" and "home" in his poetry. I was moved to return his Canto Diurno in its entirety as I have it in his Selected Poems: Poasis. Instead of looking back at the patriarchal influences as this essay does, (and quite thoroughly), I find myself interested in looking forward to how this poem manifests itself in future poems: the idea of capturing a day of poetry as we see in later works like Bernadette Mayer's Midwinter Day or in an expanded length of time such as the experimental diaryesque prose of Lyn Heijinian's My Life. I wonder how we could trace forward a matrilineal line emerging from Joris' "shaking off the fathers." Franca Bellarsi has an informative essay drawing parallels as well as divergent paths in the works of the Beats, some translated by Joris, and Joris' own work and future poetics practice. Christopher Rizzo examines the use of culture in both Olson and Joris' poems ( and to some degree Duncan, as well) and how Joris' poetics is influenced by, but in many ways not contained by Olson's declarations of projection and "page as field" poetics. Rizzo also examines how his role of translator informs his poetics reinforcing the view of the vernacular and language at any level as the "rhizomatic" force that enters the body and spreads out navigated by experience and place rather than by any steady teleological movement. Dale Smith looks at Joris' book A Single Minded Bestiary: Common Fox using this text as a springboard to examine Joris' use of the totem animal, the function of translation and self in between countries, the influences of Dorn and Creeley, and Joris' role as a "social imaginary." This first section ends with an interview between Joris and editor Peter Cockelbergh which helps to clarify and ground some of the previous essays. In this form, we get to hear from the poet, some of his thoughts on lineage especially in regards to early influences as well as his emphasis on "breath" and how this informs his use of the term "rhizomatic" in terms of his poetics.
Cartographies of the In-Between
Louis Armand, Tony Baker, Franca Bellarsi, Mohammed Bennis, Charles Bernstein, Nicole Brossard, Geert Buelens, Clive Bush, Corina Ciocarlie, Peter Cockelbergh, Clayton Eshleman, Allen Fisher, Christine Hume, Robert Kelly, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Jennifer Moxley, Carrie Noland, Alice Notley, Marjorie Perloff, Nicole Peyrafitte, Jean Portante, Christopher Rizzo, Jerome Rothenberg, Dale Smith, Habib Tengour.
About the editor:
Writer, scholar and translator, Peter Cockelbergh studied at the universities of Antwerp and Leuven (Belgium), at the EHESS in Paris, and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the Technische Universitat Darmstadt (Germany). For a number of years, he has been reading, writing on and translating Pierre Joris's poetry and essays (into Dutch, French & English), and has recently worked on the author's papers and archives.