Karen Weiser was born in Nyack, New York, in August, 1975. She has an MFA from The New School and a PhD from CUNY's Graduate Center. Last month she defended her dissertation, entitled "'Self-begot, Self-Rais'd': Elective Orphans in American Novels, 1790-1852."
Karen’s publications include the chapbooks Eight Positive Trees (Pressed Wafer, 2002), Placefullness (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2004), Pitching Woo (Cy Press, 2006), and Dear Pierre (Well Greased Press, 2012). Her first full-length collection, To Light Out, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2010. She has had poems published in the journals Aufgabe, Boog, The Brooklyn Rail, The Poetry Project Newsletter, and The Recluse, as well as in several anthologies. She lives in New York City and teaches English at Queens College.
I like to linger on the precision of Karen Weiser’s choices. In “Out The Body There Are Planned Things,” published in 2002, there are numerous examples:
“Was the third as the forth” makes you hear “fourth” though she has written “forth.”
When you read, “Blind these occasions as wed minutes/of proxy” you hear “wet minutes of proxy” though she has written “wed minutes.” What is going on here?
“Black lakes, say” makes you want to hear “Blake lacks” but it is “Black lakes,” referring back to “Beginning with many dark lakes” from the couplet “Was the third as the forth/Beginning with many dark lakes”.
So she is shifting consciousness in these poems, in language that flows together so smoothly you might not notice the harsh shifts in syntax and sense she enacts.
The same is true of the title of her collection, To Light Out, as well as the poems inside. Here, though, her poetry has picked up steam, and the varying sizes of poems are geared towards specific effects. Her cuts and swerves, at first off-putting, gradually become understood, and then we jump inside a new language, Karen Weiser’s language. It all suddenly makes jarring sense, not one we could simplify or synopsize.
“a theorem fades forward into the room” from Weiser’s poem “To Touch Inhabited Creatures,” seems strange, as something fading is usually going away, but here the thing is fading forward, and the thing in question is not tangible but an idea.
Just as we have mastered this way of Weiser’s of thinking and writing, she is already moving on. Her recently-published poem “Dear Pierre,” written in response to Melville’s novel Pierre, or The Ambiguities, requires a different approach. It is a visual poem, a sound poem, reminiscent of work by Jackson MacLow and John Cage. Has she moved to a more traditional approach, or does she have something new in store? Let’s see and hear. Please help me welcome Karen Weiser.
Jim Dine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1935. In the mid 1960s he moved to London, where he lived from 1966 to 1971. He became friends with the poets Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Ron Padgett, Tom Raworth. He did readings of his poems and collaborations with poets. In 1969, Trigram Press and Asa Benveniste, in London, published Dine's first book of poems, Welcome Home Lovebirds. More recently, Dine has published his own poems in artist’s books. In 2008, Gerhard Steidl printed and published Dine’s 52 Books, for which Dine created a book a week for one year. Dine lives in Walla Walla, Washington, and Göttingen, Germany, touching down occasionally in New York City and Paris.
Jim Dine is formidable — and also approachable — in person and in his work. He is known for being prolific, a lover of the possibilities of energy in creating challenges in the diversity of mediums he literally attacks, fondles, moistens, tears, and ultimately transforms. Whether making paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, poetry, photography, or books, it's always personal with Dine — personal about himself but also the other, his many friends and acquaintances, and the condition itself.
“Play the game existence to the end...” sang John Lennon, “Of the beginning of the beginning of the beginning….” Dine would probably agree with that, and he may have even discussed it with Lennon, as Dine’s London world included friendships with Beatles and Stones, as well as artists Rory McEwen and RB Kitaj.
Performance has always been part of Dine’s modus operandi. One of the originators of Happenings in New York in the early 1960s, Dine brought movement, text, color, dramatic timing and personal presence to those seminal performances.
Today, his poetry readings partake of similar senses of timing and drama, modulated into a more meditative key. Sometimes.
Dine’s early poems throb with the energy of a man living a 20th century urban existence. Not that his poems describe, but they give the aura of New York and London, with sprinklings of the Midwest, Cincinnati, where he grew up, in particular. These poems are also starkly sexual, and funny, and have a lot to do with being in the studio. Here’s the beginning of his poem “Jokes”:
It just came into my trusty old line of fantasies, you know,
the space where I’ve had a hammer lock on foolish, on childish,
on ridiculous, on perfect ideas, about not coming up to some
laid down punishment laden job for me
Leaving that fertile poetry-art-music incubator that was London, Dine moved to Putney, Vermont, moving into other modes of expression, drawing in particular, and he stopped writing poetry from about 1971 to 1991. Drawn to it again in the early ‘90s, Dine seemed to be discovering new horizons, with poetry leading the way. He began making photographs for the first time in 1994, and soon after that began photographing his poems, sometimes in elaborate, layered set-ups.
Dine’s later poems are culled from his own photo works, artist’s books, and numerous manuscripts, sometimes written in script on large sheets of paper tacked to his studio walls. The poems themselves present a direct consciousness of time’s passage and loss, but they also find themselves afloat on the same sea of love, emotion, and alcohol that gave life to the early work. The poem “Memory,” published in the artist’s book Kali (1999), is in two columns:
i ride ALCOHOL, LOVER. . . . .
on the sits right
double in front of my brain
HIGHWAY so don’t
going in the middle
main street of my forehead
soaring with gray
into the my index
Ether finger paints it
(also) TONIGHT! VODKA ELECTRIC!
WHO’S THE LILY of the VALLEY?
WHO’S THE BITTER-SWEET
Tonight, Jim Dine will be joined by bassist Marc Marder.
Marc Marder studied the bass with Alvin Brehm in the first graduating class at Purchase College, SUNY, and began playing professionally with three seasons at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont, the Casals Festival Orchestra in Mexico City, and as principal with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in New York. After moving to Paris in 1978 to become soloist with Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble InterContemporain, he then played with the French National Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein and taught at the National Conservatory in Lyon. While performing contemporary and classical chamber music during this time, Marder also began composing for live performance and film. In 1991, he won the Deutsches Schallplatten Preis for his score for Charles Lane’s silent feature Sidewalk Stories. Marder has been in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival five times with Cambodian director Rithy Panh, for whom he has scored all 18 of his films. This October, his score for Yesim Ustaolglu’s film Araf—Somewhere in Between premiered at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center.
Please welcome Jim Dine, who will be joined by Marc Marder!