Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three Reviews (in the form of plays) of "50 American Plays" by Matthew and Michael Dickman

 The Fourth of July

          Wonder twins--power of absurdity.

          Wonder twins--power of brevity.

           Wonder twins-- power of vaguely political leftist polemics.

          And fun, wonder twin.  Don't forget it was fun to write.

          Activate wonder twin power!

          Activate wonder twin power!

(They touch power rings and immediately explode into a finale of Fourth of July fireworks)

Castor and Pollux Consider the Moon

          Wasn't there an oil named after me?

          We are boxers, and horsemen.  And sailors.

           Do I get to be the immortal one this time?

          We are twins, and so share our immortality.

          (Having just arrived from Idaho)
          I'll box both of you at once. Greek pussies.

          He thinks he's the immortal one.

          Maybe he is.  But we are the divine twins, born of the silver moon!

          That was an egg.

           No, no, I'm sure it was the moon.  Our glittery mother!

          Our mother was a princess who was raped by a swan.

          Are we going to talk about the past or are we going to drink like men?
          It's like they are going to start making out at any minute.

          You so badly want to see that.  But we are talking about our mother.
           Isn't there some tradition where people thought she was the moon?

          In at least one tradition Ernest Hemingway is actually Zeus.

            Yes, Hemingway's tradition. Listen, we will box you if you take the form of a swan.


(Two men walk in to a bar. Allen Ginsberg and Gertrude Stein are drinking there in silence, companionably.)

MAN #1.
          Hey, aren't you Gertrude Stein?  What are you doing back in America?

          America is not in America.  America is an idea kept under a gentleman's cap. America is a cupful of brass tacks, in a lady's handbag.
(She sips her creme de menthe, and coughs)
          America, go touch yourself with your atom bomb.

MAN #2.
          Allen Ginsberg--that woman is stealing your line.  And she isn't even saying it right!

          (Taking his head off the pillow of his arms)
          That's no woman, that's my wife!

(Frank O'Hara walks briskly across the stage in search of a martini)

MAN #1.
          Frank O'Hara in the bar too?  What are the chances?

MAN #2.
          Frank O'Hara is on stage in all of these plays. Or sometimes behind the scenery, prompting our lines. That reminds me.  (He goes over to the jukebox and selects a song)

          (When "Chances Are" begins playing, the two men look at Stein and Ginsberg, now deep in quiet conversation.  They shrug, and begin to dance with each other.)


Monday, May 7, 2012

I remember "I Remember" and now I remember reading "The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard"

I just got done reading The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard.  (With a lovely introduction by Paul Auster) Which led me to re-read Ron Padgett's warm and touching memoir of his friendship with artist and writer Brainard, called Joe, which led me to pull out a coffee table book, Joe Brainard: A Retrospective, so I could look again at his wonderful work.  I am particularly drawn to collage, and Brainard did tons of work in collage--in his amphetamine-fueled years he produced thousands of works.

I think what attracts me to the art, as well as to his writing, is its sheer likability. Brainard talks a lot in his written work about wanting to be liked.  In the writing this doesn't come off as preciousness, or over-eagerness. The reason I Remember has become such a classic is because of the works' humor and lack of pretension or artifice--each statement starts with the plain-spoken and practical "I remember," followed by an image or memory that might be mundane, or it might be touching in its vulnerability:
I remember running  for vice-president and giving a campaign speech wearing my baby blue garbardine pants. I lost. That was junior high school.

I remember that nobody ever knew what to give Aunt Ruby on special occasions so everyone always gave her some stationary or scarves or handkerchiefs or boxes of fancy soap.

I remember daydreams of being a girl and the beautiful formals I would have.

The beauty of the Collected Writings is that there's so much more to see.  I Remember is what Brainard will be remembered for, at least in the realm of the written word, but this collection of journals, jottings, collaborations, and experiments shows he was more than a one-hit wonder.  Here, in its entirety, is "No Story."

I hope you have enjoyed not reading this story as much as I have enjoyed not writing it.

He reminds me, sometimes, of Gertrude Stein.  Here are three of the "Twenty-three Mini Essays":

He was at the airport when his ship came in.

Poetry is that certain something we so often find missing.

                   INSTANT DIVORCE 
The marriage was so brief they had nothing to fight over but the cake.


Here's a three minute introduction to Joe Brainard, courtesy of YouTube: