[-empyre-] Starting the Fourth Week: Chris Funkhauser, Sally Silvers and Bruce Andrews

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Wed Nov 23 00:58:41 AEDT 2016

I have known these week's guest participants or been familiar with their works for years. They have all been, directly or indirectly,  part of the Poetry Project poetry and art community. A spirit of adventure exploring the outer limits and possibilities each of his or her own media that has been the characteristic of the place since 1960's for fifty years permeates all of them.

I met Chris Funkhauser first in 1994 during a Poetry Project symposium on "Revolutionary Poetry." He and his friend Belle Gironde --both University of Albany students at the time-- along with three other young people had organized an "unofficial" workshop on "Poetry and Technology" that, if I remember correctly, had set up its tent out in the garden of the church. I was a member of the final panel that presented overviews of the symposium. As part of my preparation, I visited the workshop. I was so struck by what they were doing, by the spirit of Dada in their manifesto of the virtual --yes, the possibilities of a virtual poetry was infused with Dada mojo at the time-- that I spent a final, significant portion of my talk on that workshop. I felt what the workshop was saying contained a significant portion of the revolutionary spirit the symposium was searching for. Chris and I remained friends ever since. Interestingly, Bruce Andrews, the second guest participant this week, was another member of that panel also.

Here are two passages from "Takes or Mis-takes from the Revolutionary Symposium, The Poetry Project, May 5-8, 1994," the second being its ending. The talk consisted of quotations from the symposium (peppered with my reactions):

"What's the difference between God and virtual God?"
"Virtual God is real." It's the software programer.

"From The Poetry and Technology workshop: 'Give free shit to lure them…. Commodity lives," Eric Swensen, the 'Enema' of Necro Enema Amalgamated, producers of the manifesto BLAM!"

Bruce Andrew was with Charles Bernstein the co-editor of the ground breaking poetry magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E which, as the "=" signs in the title implies, ushered a new attitude towards poetry and language. Letters, words relate more to each other than to a referential point outside. The result was the transforming (and influential on younger poets) poetry movement Language School of which Bruce is a key member. As a poet, I have had serious disagreements with strict (in my view, almost fundementalist) take on language the movement embodies. I come from the East (Turkey). Though equally exploring, my view of language is different, more sensual, based on movement than logic. I tried to bring these qualities to English language and American poetry though my concept of Eda. On the other, I must admit the poetry of my friends in the States inevitably bent the direction of my work. I believe Eda will do, and is already doing, the same even though though the effect is not totally visible yet.

There is one question I  would like very much Bruce to explore, if at all possible, among many others. The computer seems to create its own linguistic/communicative system. If verbal language also is basically a self-referential system, how do you see the possibility of exchange between these two entities? Is it at all, possible? If so, what has to bend to accommodate the other? In other words, is the relationship towards synthesis or always dialectical?

I saw Sally Silvers dance for the first time years ago during a Poetry Project New Years' Day Marathon. I was immediate struck by the uniqueness and originality of her dance. Over the years I tried to answer that question because I felt it said something important, not only about but beyond dance. Gradually, a picture emerged. Even watching avant-garde or "experimental" dancers, I always feel that their movements are rehashed, coming out of a repertoire of established avant grade movements. There was nothing of that in Sally Silver's dancing. Every movement was itself, nothing  more, nothing less. The movements had a solidity, embodying the reality of gravity that run through them and shaped them. That earth bound clarity was a thrilling thing to see. I am looking forward to what she has to say about dance or anything else.

All the Empyre members, welcome to the fourth week.


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