READING: CLARK COOLIDGE

Poet Clark Coolidge will read from his work, which has been appearing publicly since the early 1960s. Strong as it may sound, in books like Polaroid, Own Face, and Ing, Coolidge established new ground for American poetry and poetics. It's decidedly particular work which most people consider difficult. Perhaps this quote, from one of the few passages in Coolidge's body of work that is conventionally syntactical, will provide some sense of the standards involved here:

The worst danger for an artist’s work:assimilation. And this is a country of highly refined assimilation mechanisms.To make like (how I hate that trait),to leaven, make digestible, democratize,ultimately strip of individuation.Art is isolate. Its obduration is unacceptable. At its deepest levels, art is an attribute of nothing else. It may not be defused in attribution to. I would prefer hatred, obscurity, misunderstanding. In fact it is my right to be ignored, maltreated,discomfited.

The history of 20th century art is so much one of assimilation, that art itself is finally becoming inseparable from the main mechanisms of society: business, education, government, the church.Therefore the artist must reject art to keep clear

I, for one, can definitely dig that intransigence, especially in a world where art and poetry must fight against what are arguably even more advanced forms of assimilation (and administration) than they faced in the mid 70s when Coolidge wrote this. The following is a far more representative passage. It's from a book called Own Face, published in the 90s, and demonstrates Coolidge's debt to Samuel Beckett, one of several artists, along with Morton Feldman and Jack Kerouac, whose work is involved in what Coolidge has done:

But it says nothing.  And one is as quiet As if to say nothing moves me.  Then there is the chair.  And one speaks of the chair sitting at the table.Scraping against surfaces, opening the mouth.The object is a piece of thing before.  One shifts in a chair and opens the talk.And the time its says nothing one moves.The table is too long as the wall.  Not a thing but it stays and one opens as a mouth will begin.  Speaking of the table, nothing but to avoid that of the wall.  One could return over and over to the chair, the wall one is sitting at.Least ways it says nothing. And the thing is, it stays still before speaking of.  The object of nothing, even speech.


Erm... The herms in Plato's garden are speechless.