I went over to my friend Annabelle’s home recording studio back in February 2010 with a folder of poems to record. I’d picked them from a wide range of files – some pieces were written recently, others go all the way back to 1992. I recorded about 35 poems that day in a marathon session, then took the results home to play with on my home computer.
I’ve been making home-recorded poetry and audio art since about 1983. My approach to the latest set of recordings was similar, although this time I’m using an eMac with SoundStudio software to build my tracks, along with a Radio Shack Disco Mixer, Hondo Electric Guitar, Sansui Stereo Receiver, Marantz digital recorder borrowed from CKUT, and whatever else I could think of. Track 4, ‘How Can I Help’, uses a home recording by Hugh Orr recorded in June 1985.
The first two tracks of the set I’ve posted on Soundcloud are the most ‘industrial’-sounding. They mellow out after that …
I”ve included some of the texts I recorded on this blog post (below). ‘The Star Who Never Was’ can be found here.
Here’s my midget love for you, my boring infatuation turned sour and stupid with time. You so big with drugs and money and nonsense and I so tiny and so wet, so wet I sizzled on the grill of your indifference. Your hot dry mid-eighties war machine muscle, your little dot of fem in the thick of skinny boy anger. This is no war on drugs, I’m nothing like those former sexcrazed hippies of the sixties turned seventies biblethumping childbeating bearded patriarchal paranoiacs my past is littered with narcotic dreams, narcotic nightmares, narcotic obsessions and narcotic love affairs, I’ve learned you can smoke enough dope to refloat the battleship Potemkin but turn down one joint and your a CSIS suspect, you’re a Preston Manning recruit you’re making room for prolifer conventions in your storage shed and selling souls to Coca Cola. Returning such sentiments I declare the counterculture ossified, a fascist state, braindead and staggering through the wreckage of past glories, its children reduced to repeating the same old stories, old boomers continually mating dope consumption with materialism, pot video daydreams, LSD jet holidays to exotic places, coke stardust glitter on the Hollywood sign and smooth heroin rides down endless shopping mall escalators. And booze, let’s not forget booze, we always forget booze, it’s what makes everything forgettable enough to repeat every day so each day’s a plastic supermarket bag, each day’s a blank tape, each day’s more landfill. Drunken bastards in Chechnya and Bosnia, drunken shits in political office, revolution in a bottle and religion on a blotter, love comes in pill form over prescription counters. Midget love crouching and slipping along under tables in every tavern, slithering through every soundtrack, greasing the gears of a fabulously trashy and pointless culture. Because we can’t go on if we aren’t blinddrunk and we can’t resist unless we’re stoned silly. You want your preachers hard left or hard right because you want to be told exactly what to do, because your mind is mush and you can’t recall the last time you did exactly what you wanted to do, it’s been so long you don’t know what you really want. Just a reassuring voice to tell you it’s okay. Well, it’s okay, it’s okay. It’s okay. Okay? Whatever you think you’ve done wrong in your life the next person thinks is trivial. So just accept this my midget love for you. I’ve done worse and I’ve done better, I’ve run wet and I’ve run dry and every war is stupid. Every war is stupid, every war is stupid, every war is stupid and every war is stupid.
It was the beginning of the twenty-first century. Everyone was acting as if the entire twentieth century didn’t happen, because they were doing exactly the same things they had always done. They were acting as if the rubber plantations in the Belgian Congo never happened, and as if World War One didn’t happen. They were acting like the stock market crash of 1929 never happened, and neither did the Great Depression, which didn’t go on for ten years. It didn’t go on until World War Two didn’t happen. Thirty million people didn’t die in that war that never happened, and even though people talked the holocaust to death, they acted as if Jews and homosexuals and Gypsies weren’t murdered because they were different. Anyway, the harp seals did it, and the harp seals dropped atomic bombs on people in Japan. And then there wasn’t an arms race that turned the world into a paranoid hell in the fifties. The Beat writers were wrong and anyway nobody read books anymore. The sixties never happened and if they ever did it was to provide the advertising industry with an endless supply of emotional ammunition. The seventies almost happened, except Vietnam won the war. A peasant army whipped The United States of America, except it never happened. There were no terrorists in Ireland and France and Germany and Italy and Quebec and all of Latin America, and Iran didn’t have a revolution and Yassar Arafat was never a terrorist because the seventies didn’t happen. If anything happened in the twentieth century it was the eighties, because that’s when everyone was on cocaine and Ronald Reagan made profits a holy pursuit. The evil empire threw in its cards and the world was free, free at last! But the nineties didn’t really happen because if the nineties really happened Russia would be a rich capitalist paradise, and if the nineties really happened there wouldn’t be any talk about global warming and ozone holes and ecological collapse, so much talk that some people began to think it might really be happening.
It’s the beginning of the twenty-first century, and it might really be happening.
I need the people I fear to need – these people fitted with eyes, who seem to see me, look to me, know me as someone and remind me I am not transparent, a wraith fading in the day’s light. As for a core, conviction, certainty of self, all I find is a body in natural decline, a consciousnessness that can turn and turn on itself, finding nothing to feed on. This emptiness is terror. The brief thaw falls back under the onslaught of heavy snow and brusque wind, I wish I was like the warehouse up the street, brick indifference with a jaunty water tower crown.
My self-confidence in company withers to a whine in solitude.
I’ve glanced through these old notebooks, I’ve seen the sterility of independence.
No wonder the homeless wander – the streets knit them a train of thought,
Passing windows, store fronts, doors,
Motley and cheerfully indifferent to whose head they occupy.
The mind’s a shark swimming sleepless through the city.
The old man’s painting, his cats and dogs and little bicycle cart defy reason.
There’s nothing to think about, it’s all been thought out.
All solutions exist, there, under that bushel.
Damn it, the music’s gone again – the music of my life – the syncopated beat and insouciant step of it, wasted. We’ve foundered on the rocks of a hard life and she scrambles for a twig while I drift, eyeing the joker sky. Not a cloud, every day is a mystery to me. I like having no great plan in mind. I like a future of surprise. There’s a flotilla of projects pulling me along, this way then that, random, beautiful things built with love. If this is drowning then let the tides take me, I feel at home here, this is my faith, my church, my calling. I can see where schemes get us – the world of human schemes. There’s no plan to paradise but hell is a development designed down to zero.
Suture together the split, the dark and light, trace the line of half-light, the uncertainty of dusks and dawns, stay still for as long as it takes for all your incarnations to march in review, glue the shards of shattered kinships, conspiracies, collusions, desires, unspoken – make demon and angel wheel and tumble together like sex mad adolescents, give murder and childbirth adjacent hospital beds, marry indiscriminate fucking with the highest form of platonic love, shower yourself with lottery millions today and become penniless overnight, binge and purge, only spiritually – walk the tightrope without a net and only a single hour of sleep, let the changing seasons linger, let them turn as slowly as an old wooden wagon wheel, let us forget our speed and our bright power, let us find time, and bank the embers of something deeper, and more lasting.
Have I forgotten how to write poems ? The paper crackles in protest – we near the end of the book, me, my pen and paper – I wonder what I’ve said that bears repeating. The space of her gaze, my gestures – handful of screws, laughter at her sex games, I’m really indifferent and that’s sad – maybe dangerous too but certainly sad. I lose sleep to anger, free-floating like a shark adrift on a current – warm Bahamas waters – lose sleep to fear, to doubt, to worry … to frustration … to ‘no exit’, to another day of nothing, to the sloshing about of fragmented factoids, old communal noises, no charity, to no end, eternal war and intrigues, pointless conflicts, selfishness and greed, geopolitics, the pettiest gossip, the grind of work and the fear of lost work, dull films or no films, the fifties or the seventies, eighties, or right now, small needs to fill while huge desires go wanting, people coming and going, all this feeling of being apart, of isolation, of lack of communication, of fragmentation, of no direction, of futility, of why not blow my brains out, of everyone plodding forward with nothing but platitudes to offer, of depthlessness, of hunger beyond any physical need, of thirst deeper than any reservoir, total surrender to my own futility, my emptiness, my bullshit stance, my need, my fears, my illusions, my deep hopelessness, my utter lack of hope, the loss I worship as the pure sign of my honesty with myself, all I have left, all I have.