Category Archives: Prose

ART Basil King Martha King Poetry Prose Readings Writing

Black Mountain Songs Round-UP

Contrary to normal blog rules, this one is long as there is so much to tell.

First: What is “Black Mountain Songs”?  A collaborative musical event, inspired by the spirit of Black Mountain College, with songs composed by Jherek Bischoff, Bryce Dessner, Tim Hecker, John King, Nico Muhly, Richard Reed Parry, Caroline Shaw, and Alexsandra Vrebalov, arranged in a seamless stream for the voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The show offered projections of archival and new visuals; two dancers, old Gus Solomons, once a member of the Merce Cunningham company, and young Adam Gauzza most recently of the Caroline Dorfman company; and seated stage left, Basil King, painter, poet, and Black Mountain College alum,  as narrator, reading bits of poetry and prose by Fielding Dawson, Josef Albers, and himself.

On the BAM stage: film projections and the Photo for Brooklyn Youth Chorusby Julieta Cervantes.
On the BAM stage: film projections, the chorus, musicians, and narrator, with Dianne  Berkun-Menaker, conducting. Photo for Brooklyn Youth Chorus by Julieta Cervantes.

The four performances of “Black Mountain Songs” went flawlessly to full houses and enthusiastic audiences at the Harvey Theater—part of the annual Next Wave Festival at BAM.  In fact every performance seemed richer and more exciting than the last.  (This despite Basil battling a vicious upper respiratory infection which emerged as full-scale bronchitis once the shows were over.) Multimedia in elegant restraint:   the amazing kids of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus singing without scores and moving to choreography that balanced their singing.

Here are links and reviews.

Wall Street Journal  (click to slide #8 of 9 for a photo of Baz)

The New York Times

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Muscians - including composers Bryce Dressner, seated with guitar, and Richard Parry, standing with bass. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
The musicians – including composers Caroline Shaw, third from left in orange pants, Bryce Dessner, seated with guitar, and Richard Reed Parry, standing with bass. Projection shows Josef and Anni Albers, at Black Mountain College. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Side by Side --Gus Solomons and Adam Gauzza
Side by Side –Gus Solomons (left) and Adam Gauzza

Some background       Bryce Desser (composer and lead guitar in the indie-rock band The National) found Black Mountain first via composers—John Cage and Lou Harrison particularly.  And he’d been in those mountains as a boy when his parents sent him to a summer camp not far from Black Mountain’s former campus.  Later, Bryce’s sister, who was studying poetry with Larry Fagin and at the New School, began bringing him books he’d never encountered in a straight education:  Charles Olson.  Robert Duncan.  Robert Creeley.  And there was more.   The models of democracy and cross discipline collaboration Black Mountain presented spoke to him. Bryce shared his enthusiasm with friend, collaborator, and fellow composer Richard Reed Parry (instrumentals and vocals for the indie-rock band Arcade Fire).  Both musicians move easily from art rock to composing and performing contemporary concert music. Bryce’s previous collaboration with the Kronos Quartet and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus set his ideas rolling.

Basil accepts applause from chorus and audience.
Basil accepts applause from chorus and audience.

What Baz did   In addition to reading brief excerpts that introduced songs on texts by Fielding Dawson, Charles Olson, and Joseph Albers, he concluded with this piece of his:  

Oh, Black Mountain, wonderful place, desperate place.  I was blown to where light abstracts the smallest thing, into the core of a vernacular, into the heart of the abstract. No wind but the stillness blows me, no reason; no existence blows the shapes that have lost their edges. Oh, Black Mountain, wonderful place, desperate place. Blow your feathers and your worms. Your mulch protrudes the surface. Your bravery blows forgiveness. Your anger blows freedom. Oh, Black Mountain, wonderful place, desperate place. I was blown to where light abstracts the smallest thing, into the core of a vernacular, into the heart of the abstract. No wind but the stillness blows me, no reason; no existence blows the shapes that have lost their edges.

[From Learning to Draw/A History Basil King]

The Youth Chorus responded with hope for their Black Mountain and a marvelous final song, “Their Passing in Time,”  words and music  by Richard Reed Parry.

Will there be more?  Possibly.  Visit Bryce Dessner’s website for news and updates.

ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) News Poetry Prose Prose Pros series Readings Writing

NEWS: Events, Publications, and a Show — November 2014

November 6 at 6:30.   Basil will read from his new book, The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand (Marsh Hawk Press, 20l4*) and his old friend Hettie Jones will read some of her not-yet published short fictions.  They are both being presented by Prose Pros at Side Walk Café, Avenue A @ 6th Street. (Free, donations requested.)

Front cover of King's The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand
Front cover of King’s The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand

 

November 16 at 3:00Martha King and Basil King will read from new work published in Local Knowledge, Fall 2014, a biannual literary magazine featuring art, photographs, poetry, and prose of many kinds and variations. Basil is represented by “Basil’s Lifeboat” from his “Learning to Draw” series. Martha appears twice: in a note on dead cats and in “It Starts to Drizzle,” a history of her zine Giants Play Well in the Drizzle. Gala magazine launch & reading at Swift Hibernian, 34 East 4th Street, between Bowery and Lafayette.(Free, purchase of magazine requested.)

Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014
Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014

 

November 20, 21, 22, and 23.  Three evening performances at 7:30 and one final matinee at 3:00.   Basil will be the Narrator in “Black Mountain Songs” – a program of music by seven young composers, inspired by artists associated with Black Mountain College.  The Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings. Part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual NEXT WAVE festival. Tickets sell out quickly. If you want to attend, please connect with BAM.

http://www.bam.org/BlackMountainSongs

A painting by Basil King (from his “Looking for the Green Man” series) will be in the BAM lobby exhibition until January 2015.

*There will be a reading and book launch for Marsh Hawk Press’s full fall list in December. http://www.marshhawkpress.org/BKing3.html

 

 

 

Critique Martha King Prose

Perils of Archiving, Part 2

Found: Notes on Gentility  (date unknown)

I’ve never understood women in expensive restaurants who whip out lipsticks to remake their faces right at the table. Inspections in the compact mirror.  Baring teeth to check for crumbs of lipstick or food. A dab. A fingernail.  Powder over the nose. I don’t use makeup; I suppose I might, but I’d never do that.

from Getty Images
from Getty Images

And yet I use language that offends even my family.  After flushing the toilet three times I’m slamming out of the door to say: “The turd that would not say goodbye.”  Daughter Hetty who should be used to me by now says, “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

I was hurt. I thought what I said was funny, and besides I was, truly, frustrated, and besides why not say anything I want? Anything with the capacity to derail, defrock,vent hostility, expose discontinuity, especially anything to make someone laugh?  No?

ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Green Man Martha King Prose Writing

Old files! Fielding Dawson on Basil King

Cleaning closet and old files, and here emerges a pamphlet with text on Basil’s art by Fielding Dawson, written twenty-five years ago. The pamphlet accompanied  “Paintings from the Cards,” an exhibition of Basil King’s work at Steve Clay’s first New York City shop, Granary Books, 636 Broadway—September 21-October 20, 1989.

There were eleven paintings in the show, all oil on canvas, all done between 1985 and 89, and none captured by digital photographs. There are slides. And the paintings themselves are in storage at Crozier Newark.

Twenty-five years ago, Fielding (and Basil) attributed his angle of vision to a birth accident – as once again we’re doing in re Baz’s spinal-fluid gap (aka salt water ocean) in his right brain – and the amazing overgrowth of  his left brain.

Good to know that today’s neuroscientists have debunked the old left brain/right brain dichotomy. (Left being intuitive, inventive, open to the subconscious and Right being bookkeeper, analyst, grammarian, mathematician.) Instead it’s rosy grey all over with many ways and means to cross talk.

None of that is as interesting as the insight Fielding had on Baz’s paintings which holds up years after Fee left us.  AND in language with punctuation that uncannily captures Fee’s unique vocal presence. It’s as if Fee himself emerged out of that old filing cabinet.  Scroll down for Fee’s essay!

Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his  "Looking for the Green Man"  paintings, 2012.
Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his “Looking for the Green Man” paintings, 2012.

 

Looking for the Green Man,  80"x 54: mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010
Another “Looking for the Green Man,” 80″x 54″ mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010

 

New work  18" x 24" mixed media on Stonehenge paper, Basil King,  2013
From the “Windows” series – 18″ x 24″ mixed media on Stonehenge paper, c Basil King, 2013

 

On Basil King’s Paintings   –   Fielding Dawson

Early work, in an artist’s life, is predictive.

Later, mature work, is reflective, in particular if it’s original.

It is in retrospect we see first clues to the genius of Pollock in that first, small self portrait…more of the same, but as none other, of Mozart, in his first symphony, written at eight, which we hear throughout the piano concertos and in the final work of work, the unfinished Requiem.

And once in a while we’re lucky to have a mature and original artist whose most recent work reflects not only the entire body of his work, but himself as well.  I’ve known Basil since we met at Black Mountain, 1951 or so, so these words are from experience, as well as ideas.

His work is meant to be seen before it is judged, just like Van Gogh’s. Or Soutine. Look at it, see what you see. This work speaks its own story because it’s involved with style.  The way paint is applied is the style of his visions (not true of dozens of painters, from Hals to Rothko: where paint is the medium toward impact).  Basil’s figures are painted on, they do not emerge through. He’s an illustrator after appearances, illustrating what he wants but we might not want, to see.  This work reflects his point of view his way:  he’s the artist, not the apologist.

The responsibility of seeing art is also in the viewer, and here—perhaps as always—to forget Rembrandt and look at Rembrandt’s work, see what you see, if we forget about who painted these paintings, and concentrate on the work, a good understanding is possible.

These odd diffuse presences, on their flat netherworld surfaces: classical shades near the River Styx, silent in their infinite, in part Surreal elongations and distortions—bodies unlike familiar bodies, heads unlike familiar heads, faces and expressions unlike oh ANYTHING as we know it!   For in our Western world it all becomes subjective, while pretty still lifes and landscape posters from the Met and the Louvre, like advertising not an inherent part of our lives, but like Impressionism in clever hands, are preferred, attractive and recognizable, these even beautiful images we imagine are part, perhaps denied, but part of our lives, in an inner, romantic way.  Beauty as inner experience, preferred and enjoyable we wish—WISH! DREAM it to be imbued in us which thereby we pray it becomes REAL, and we do pray.  A subjective prayer toward what the media and the cultured art world have assumed is proper, and nice.

We don’t know how brainwashed we are until we see original work like this, that reaches in, grabs hold, and gives our senses a good rattle.

No matter what we do with it, art was, is and will never be any one way.  It is the one experience of humankind where all the rules can be broken and it will survive, healthy and of its own, intact. And, like nature, it reflects the artist by casting in its reflective way light on aspects of a potential sphere of action many are not aware of, or are aren’t sure…if all things are taken into consideration—brushstroke, size of canvas—all things (his awareness of the edge of the canvas), open all the doors (all his colors appear mixed no use of the primaries), and the artist—with an interested onlooker only an elbow away—will see the inevitable image or composition that is beyond his control but is yet a great part of his life, which so few artists admit:  this other face, or image—identity, that so few painters confront but is such a part of the dynamo…in his concoction where behind his eyes a blend results in a visual transfer of identity to emerge complete with a point of view not unlike, if we put aside Stevenson’s theatrical lab work, born all over again:  Mister Hyde the artist.

Who might regard these paintings as the result of a collective Eyes Closed effort, a stylized pictorial range of human shapes and configurations ignored, if not avoided, but which are with us still and in great numbers there, in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, so near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in the blood of Agent Orange children painted through, not from, right through Ethan Allen interiors: through the false color of color television: on opaque backgrounds, foreground image-figures, cartoons, alive by a will greater than their own.

The artist possessor of that will discovered of recent (how old is Basil, fifty-four?), and in conversation in his studio this summer, said that after lifelong upper back problems—causing a slight difference in posture—he saw yet one more in an endless chain of doctors who, with his hands on Basil’s back, asked, had Basil been born in Caesarian birth?  Yes.  Well, this medical gentleman said, he had been lifted out at the wrong angle, causing the spine…on the first day in the world, of the man who painted these paintings.

Fielding Dawson,well-known for his superb short stories, novels and memoirs, is an artist as well, whose collages and drawings have been widely published.

 

 

 

Martha King News Prose Readings

Martha King published in new anthology

 

Wreckage of Reason: Back to the Drawing Board
Wreckage of Reason: Back to the Drawing Board

I’m one of 29 contributors to Wreckage of Reason II subtitled “Back to the Drawing Board.”  (I appear in the original 2008 volume as well.)   The editors say these stories “use different style and genres … to illustrate moments of conflict, amusement, bafflement and joy that make up a day, a year, an individual life or a collective history. Held up to the light or inspected under a microscope, set in locales real, virtual, mythic, and imaginary, characters bump into and move through events, leaving readers with the humorous, sad, sexy and playful ambiguities of what it means to be alive.”

I hope so!  You can hear for yourself if you are in New York City on April 22, when a number of us – I’ll be one of them – read at the book launch:  KGB, 85 East 4th Street 7 – 9pm.

$20. Spuyten Duyvil Press.  Order from the Spuyten Duyvil Storefront:    https://www.createspace.com/4576201

On Amazon you can check out the whole table of contents with all the contributors’ names and order a Kindle edition for $8.

Prose Prose Pros series Readings Writing

Prose Pros presents Lynne Tillman and Lynn Crawford

Literary mischief, bravado inventions from two dazzling writers:  Prose Pros presents Lynne Tillman and Lynn Crawford at SideWalk Café, March 6, at 6:30.  

Lynne Tillman
Lynne Tillman
Lynn Crawford
Lynn Crawford

Lynne Tillman’s fourth collection of stories Someday This Will Be Funny, was published in May 2011. And her second collection of essays, What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, is due this April.

Lynn Crawford of the Green Garage in Detroit wrote Simply Separate People, Two, in 2011. Two new books—a selection of sestinas, The Stubborn Aunt, and a novel, Shankus & Kitto—are due this spring.

Free, but we pass a hat for generous contributions to the readers — Martha King and Elinor Nauen

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Our UK Tour – Final installment

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October 17:  Sussex University;  October 24: Brookes Oxford

First of all, Brookes Oxford is a new university in Oxford, not the ancient dreaming spires establishment.  It was named in 1992 to honor its first principal … but was previously known as Oxford Polytechnic and before that as the Oxford School of Art.  A hundred years old and today quite new. Today’s university is exploding with students from less than privileged England and from all over the post-colonial world. They are taking high-tec courses in architecture, engineering, research, computer sciences, web design and, as ever, art.

But a multimedia sculptor on the faculty told me he hears students say they’ve chosen to study art because they didn’t know what else to do.  Almost a diagnostic of  contemporary discontent.  (What are we doing? Why?)

Sussex is older and younger than Brookes.  It was the first of a wave of British universities that opened in the 1960s, full of enthusiasm for exploring new relationships among teachers, learners, and the materials they might choose to draw from.  Fifty years on, it still attracts left-leaning politically progressive students, many of them readers and writers of poetry, but it is very very far from operating with a disseminated power structure, and for being a face of changed possibilities.

We presented Black Mountain Trace:  Martha King and Basil King at these two campuses in addition to our events at Kent University and Veg Box/Free Range. (See earlier post.)

We both read from our work, we screened Basil King:MIRAGE, Baz spoke about Olson’s classes and read his introduction to Charles Olson at Goddard College (from Cuineform Press, documenting a three-day Olson class in Olson’s own words).  And we screened the 10-minute version of  George Quasha’s tape, Basil King: A speaking portraitAt Sussex we had two hours in a dauntingly enormous amphitheater.  But it filled with 75 or 80 students, many of them already familiar with Black Mountain writers.

A titter ran across the audience when I broke from my reading to recommend John Wieners’ work.  Later, I was told the school has a corps of Wieners admirers, some of whom know all the Hotel Wentley poems by heart.

We had two hours – and then the event repaired to an on-campus pub.  We were mobbed.   Finally Daniel Kane, head of American studies and our host, pulled us away, stuffed us into a cab, and took us for a wonderful but much quieter dinner at a pub in Brighton.

At Brookes Oxford we had three hours, and could present all of that, with longer readings by us both, and a 30-minute excerpt from Cathryn Davis’s film Fully Awake: Black Mountain College which we’d shown at Kent.  (For more about this film, visit http://fullyawake.org/    Not only are we among the interviewees, but the focus of the film is the school as school, what it was like to be a student there in the several Black Mountains that made up its short history, and what was carried away by students as memory and personal process. )

When the Brookes bell rang signaling 4pm, the end of our session, only some of the audience got up to go, apologizing several of them. They nailed us for telling them that Black Mountain had no set end times for classes. At BMC if something was happening, everyone stayed, stayed until the subject  -or the people-  were depleted. Or until a natural end.  We couldn’t quite do that at Brookes…in part because our energy ends before subjects do, and in part because the room we occupied was assigned to something else at 5pm.  Our host whisked us away for hot coffee and Panini, which we badly needed.

The bigger question from all this is why U.K. students in three different institutions (and others elsewhere?) are looking with such interest at poetry written 60-some years ago – and expressing instant enthusiasm for Basil’s current work which was totally new to almost all of  them –  as well as responding to our BMC recollections.

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Our UK Tour–VEG BOX aka Free Range

October 10, 2013:  A train from London to Canterbury where Elaine Randall and Ian Rose met us, stashed our heavy bags in their car, and took us over (in the rain) to The Good Shed –a marvelous combo of farmer’s market and locavore food restaurant. Also possessing good parking, a rarity in Canterbury.

At Veg Bpx, Elaine Randall and Ian Rose (Ian Brinton, right background
At Veg Bpx, Elaine Randall and Ian Rose (Ian Brinton, right background) before the performance began

We had daunting directions to our reading that night at The Veg Box, aka Free Range.  Something about walking through parking lots to the back fire escape.  So I thought NYC with a ladder-like set of very steep narrow iron steps. How in the hell will Baz get his gamy leg up?

Turned out to be normal enough, just metal and concrete. “Fireproof.” And about six steps in all.

There we met Sam Bailey…who very shyly asked if we’d mind his opening the evening with some piano playing by him.  We are guests. Of course we said yes. But had sinking feelings. What music would he play?   He’d already done yeoman’s service running back & forth to his apartment for the right cables and computer attachments to make showing the Basil King film possible.

Our doubts justified?  Not at all!   Give a listen:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXxsApcxB-c

We were surprised too how many people showed up:  some were BMC fans (Ian Brinton, e.g.) but many others crowded in.  From Kent University, Christ Church University, University College. Townspeople too.  From their attention and the questions asked, the audience was full of readers.  Per David Herd, who heads modern literature at Kent, this is one place where multiple streams can gather.  We need such in New York City!

Baz at the Veg Box
Baz at the Veg Box
Martha King at Veg Box, answering questions
Martha at Veg Box, answering questions