Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Aaron Kunin is someone I've enjoyed talking to on several occasions. Back at the Modernist Studies Convention in Long Beach we spent the entire first-night party talking about films and books about films. We share some important traits - cinephilia, and uncontrollabe non-poker-faces. Aaron just sent me his chapbook "Secret Architecture." It's an amazing novel of sorts with everything by the wry conclusions removed (it's from a "notebook"). It made we want to start writing a notebook, only I'm already busy working on something else.

Everybody's got a "project" these days. I think it's just another wellwrought urn - only the circle has been drawn wider in order to control certain energies. So I'm not going to say that Aaron's book is a project or that I am working on a project.

Well, my non-project started back in December. Driving back from the MLA in a state of exchaustion, snowstorm all around me, I smashed my car against the metal rail on the highway. For a minute I only felt my teeth and my body became hollow. When I got out of the car I looked straight at this craggly barren tree; the branches make a clacking sounds like castanettes. My car was somehow smashed both from behind and in front. Then there was a cop car. I walked up to him. He looked shocked: "Are you the person who drove that car? I called the ambulance. I thought you'd be ground meat." But I was fine.

For a few days I was in the Memorial Hospital, flickering in and out of a comatose state (I kept wanting to blog for some reason). There was a nurse there named Ulrika (or Ulrike, can't remember). She had painted her nails black, at least that's the way I remember them. When I was awake I told her stories about my childhood - my father's involvement with the Croatian Underground and Solidarity, the time I had a concussion in Rome, the time I went down in an elevator in East Berlin. Then she said, "Ah, I know what you're doing. You're recreating the Ritual."

At first I thought I had heard the wrong thing. Then I realized she didn't mean "ritual" in the conventional sense. And that she was right. The crash was the first part of "the ritual", the second part was laying around comatose watching documentaries about the 1960s. Then I've added additional parts. For example, staying 24 hours in an abandoned electrical plant in South Bend. Filling out immigration papers. Learning how to use certain instruments.

Based on the bad 1960s documentary they kept showing in my hospital room and the hallucinations I experienced at the time, I wrote a play called "The Widow Party," which will be performed in the Links Hall in Chicago (with Joyelle, Patrick Durgin, Jennifer Karmin, Jacob Knabb and others) in May. It's about assasinations and war orphans. Britney Spears is naked, robotic and disheveled. The Genius Child Orchestra performs. It's a little like Buffalo Bill's Western Show, except it's about a different massacre (though there are native americans in my play, thanks to Hannah Weiner).

Another important part is the shaving machine that was used on my head. And an operation I will soon have on my head. Joyelle is going to document it with our little digital camera. I hope the doctors will let her get really close to the cut.


Blogger Michael Peverett said...

I've been thinking about "projects", too. The way how in our elongated life-times we're encouraged at certain times of the year to get "creative" and start a "project" like a bedroom makeover or an evening class - how this is analogous to the characteristic modern poetic form, the sequence (normally a book) of poems that are connected by clearly all belonging in the author's mind to the same "project" (as opposed to the older idea of a poetry collection as an arrangement of individual well-wrought urns). Obvious analogies with the art world and how artists present their work in themed exhibitions that reassure the visitor that they are getting in-depth access to at least one part of the artist's preoccupations. There are some good and some bad things about this project stuff. The word project is epidemic in business as well; it has a positive valuation, suggests making a measurable change, a dynamic step forward. The domestic project on the other hand is a leisure-fantasy of getting serious about something; the individual is the only judge of their success or failure, can get into something deeply or jack it in whenever they like ("I only went to the class for six weeks, but I'm sure glad I did it..."). This leads perhaps to poetry that can be good in particular kinds of ways (free-ranging, answerable to nobody) while the corresponding possibilities for badness could include... well, etc. This is the thought I've had, anyhow.

1:43 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home