PASSAGES DISPATCH

All art is of the body.” — Adrian Stokes

Paul Delvaux, La Galerie Bortier (1956). Watercolour and pen and ink on paper, 48.2 x 67.2 cm.

Day 1, 1:00 p.m.:::.. arrival to Passages Bookshop & Gallery. Proprietor, poet, friend David Abel is on a trip to the Bay Area for a reading and book-hunt, and so I shop-sit for a few days. Today is my first day.


1:20 p.m.:::.. silence. Books on shelves ask to be opened. But now they’re, this place is, in my life, to turn a phrase that David had said. Each thing corresponds to each other at will, with various and changing nuances of each, with each of us. There’s active collecting happening, as opposed to hoarding — the latter of which to seeming like an all-American activity (or else affliction). Then there’s that anecdote from Jorge Luis Borges about his having once badly wanted to buy another copy of a book that he’d already read. Who was it that asked what is a book?


3:15 p.m.:::.. pick up SCHOOL OF NEW YORK: Some Younger Artists and flip to random page: Helen Frankenthaler’s Madrid Scape (1959). Oil paintings like this one, from this time period, don’t really have much business in reproduction; they look totally flat and deter. But as a graphic art image, Frankenthaler’s pictures can do the trick of looking good as something else, anything else, on instagram, a temporary tattoo, bathroom wallpaper, or wherever. “Open, extensive, expanding” are words that Sonya Rudikoff uses to describe the painter’s work, which makes sense to me looking at this, but also maybe only in part.

phone image of a spread from SCHOOL OF NEW YORK: Some Younger Artists by B.H. Friedman (1959)
phone image of a Burt Glinn photograph of Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, & Helen Frankenthaler from Tibor de Nagy Gallery Painters & Poets

3:45 p.m.:::.. visit from J. Gordon Faylor, just in from Oakland. Edits SFMOMA’s Open Space and Gauss PDF. Nice guy. Says he hasn’t been back to the Pacific Northwest in over a decade. Place (the city) basically looks unrecognizable. Says that the signs of gentrification are more grossly apparent here, due to commerce. While Oakland is clearly experiencing similar changes, there aren’t as many upscale, high-priced shops and restaurants popping up around there as there are here, he says. It’s a problem you can’t avoid in either place, where the housing crisis spreads out to each nook of the Bay. Leaves with poetry.


4:05 p.m.:::.. need for cosmic nourishment. Mail carrier drops of stack of interesting packages. By interesting, I mean that two look like they’re full of books; one looks like a broadside or oversized print package. “Shipped flat” comes into mind. Is the mail carrier just as thrilled about what’s in these packages? No carrier in there right mind. One of the packages is, sure enough, from Cuneiform Press, some great print shipped flat.


4:30 p.m.:::.. visitor from Bellingham, WA — in town to regroup before “following the sun,” as he’d put it, on down to California to enjoy some surf rock music and all that glorious warmth. “Wiser in my years” he says, “I’ve had enough of the northern cold and wind and rain.” Leaves with William Blake.

William Blake could not attain 
Popeye’s sublimity” 
Allen Ginsberg & Kenneth Koch, from Making it Up


6:05 p.m.:::.. shop’s closed, and as soon as I begin to wheel the sign indoors, a young woman comes walking up the street, stopping to ask if I heard about the stabbing, saying “there are cops and helicopters everywhere, on the hunt for the knifer. Next day, I learn the sad news — just before my neighborhood is put on lockdown, in an “active-shooter” situation that may or may not have involved a toy- or BB-gun. I wonder like others I’m sure what art and poetry can do at times like this, and what it’s supposed to be.

The most natural reaction to an injustice is a physical response.” 
Ed Ruscha, 1970.


Day 2, 2017, 1:30 p.m.:::.. visit from artist Cynthia Lahti. We look at Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (I first thought “brainchildren,” which seems totally fitting); talk about the work of Jon Raymond, surprise as a trait in art, Frank Stella throwing the lead, shock value in art and what happens when too much information is forced into the work. 1985–1990 in Portland, Jagula and the Hell Cows, “Put a Bird on It” and the terrible gaudy frame, Pirates vs. Mummies in performance, the art crisis, Mike King posters. The blurred lines and slippages that make for interesting stuff. “The shit has hit the fan” Cynthia says. As ever.

Cynthia Lahti sculpture currently on view at Passages Bookshop

Day 3, 2017, 1:40 p.m.:::.. Larry Fagin has died; I keep thinking of this delightful, complicated man, alongside many friends. “People ought to get out more, play cards more, fight more, fall down more” he wrote (“Poetry Information”), which reminds me of the sociability of his life and work.

Larry Fagin, Nowhere Mag

3:20 p.m.:::.. no need to mention the American culprit — 83 mayors adopt Paris climate accord after U.S. pulls out. “The world cannot wait — and neither will we” goesThe Climate Mayors” statement.


5:05 p.m.:::.. cars honk in unison. Looking out the shopfront windows, a car has driven up MLK in the wrong direction. There is no end to stupefaction in a world of industrial glut.


The unconscious never takes a vacation” 
— Lynne Tillman

phone image of a spread from UP IS UP BUT SO IS DOWN: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974–1992, poetry reading flyer

Day 4, 1:40 p.m.:::.. “I tried to show in a recent paper¹ that many simple words and clichés contain a corporeal meaning the ages do not stamp out. The effect of even so cursory an examination of popular expressions was, and always will be, whatever the extent of collection and research, the unavoidable corporeal reference. Words are symbols, all our mental constructions are symbols based in the last analysis, as we well know, upon parts of the body.” — Adrian Stokes


Day 5, 7:45 a.m.:::.. “Repulsive and halfwitted that [or this] fine morning.” 
 — Edwin Denby

phone image from Tibor de Nagy Painters & Poets, image of gelatin-silver print (Detail) by Rudy Burckhardt of Edwin Denby on 21st Street (1937)

2:19 p.m.:::.. pick up Jarry’s Caesar Antichrist after having just come from a lecture on the fall of the Roman Empire. Alastair Brotchie explains the connection that the “anitichrist” was associated with the emperors of Rome as with the beast of Revelations — “an ambiguity which Jarry exploits to the full.” I find this all too relevant. It was Constantine who, before the fall of Rome, assimilated christianity in the rotten drive to conquest, and we can see that influence and m.o. today. Trump after all calls himself a christian too, no?

phone image of a spread from Alfred Jarry’s Caesar Antichrist from Atlas Press

FACT OF 2017

Fear is not a fact.

phone image of a still from an Alfred Leslie/Frank O’Hara film ‘The Last Clean Shirt’ — from Tibor de Nagy Painters & Poets

A Spring Lineup

for & after Charles North

“Once he was certain of eventual failure, everything worked out for him en route as in a dream” — Walter Benjamin

“Happiness, it’s a matter or changing problems” — Colette

“All things come with a flourish, a warm southern wind” — Aaron Simon

“I cannot seriously believe that art is the stooge of politics. How can artists, with all their works, compete with the moonshot?” — Ed Ruscha

“Depending on what you believe modernism was, you get the postmodernism you deserve.” — Bill Berkson

“The reader laughs — he gets his moneys worth” — Balzac

“To think, given that we exist, we do not laugh constantly” — Fabian Avenarius Lloyd

“Poetry is, as we shall see, lurking around the corner” — Jorge Luis Borges

“Certain designs rely on not being seen.” — Gillian McCain

“Does anyone familiar with poetry believe that either paraphrase or translation reproduces the original?” — Charles North

With all the lost details, you could have made a new world” — Reverdy

“they came after us, indifferent and discrete. We mustn’t accept” — Lorraine Lupo

“Without us, God would not exist” — Carrie Hunter

“everything that happened and that is still happening influences me” — John Cage

“everything relates to everything else” — John Ciardi

“I am interested in solving an unknown factor of art and an unknown factor of life” — Eva Hesse

“I will participate only in a total revolution simultaneously personal and public.” — Lee Lozano

“Do you think we shall meet again after we’re dead?” — Fran Carlin

“If you were one foot farther away from me, your head would seem four times smaller than it does now.” — Giacometti

“Wanting what you can’t have is weak. It’s a cop out. You might as well chase after Grace Kelly.”— Kreg Hasegawa


Giagometti by Brassai (1934)