Thursday, March 30, 2006

Last night's Nameless Poetry Festival at Beijing University was a success. The event also marked the 50th anniversary of the May Fourth Literature Society, which seemed to add something more to the proceedings.

Zhou, Jorge, Josh, and myself (the four of us who were billed as the Subterranean Poets), Sarah, and Seth (handling our video) met at Lush, and we all ate burgers before catching cabs to Beijing University. We were about 30 minutes late and made our way through the campus quickly. We arrived at the Centenary Memorial Hall and were a little surprised as no lights were on either outside or inside the building. It seemed like we were in the wrong place, although there were a number of people crowded around what appeared to be the entrance.

We approached and learned that none of us would be allowed admittance as the auditorium was already full. Fortunately, Zhou had a nice connection with the event organizer and, after a brief phone conversation, we found ourselves being shoved through a small space between the doors. All of us had invited a number of people and could only hope that, if they were not already inside, they would somehow get in before we performed.

The lobby, empty aside from a few giant marble pillars and shadowy plants along the wall, was quite dark. The event was being held on the second floor and we ascended the wide marble staircase in front of us, which seemed the only way to go, toward the light and the few people we could see at the top of the stairs.

There were some people selling Chinese poetry books at a small table at the top. We turned to our right, walked down a short hallway lined with people having quiet conversations, and entered the crowded auditorium. Standing room only. The room was quite modern and the stage was impressively wide and spacious. It was the most high-tech poetry reading I had ever attended. There was a huge screen behind the stage showing various images and ambient sounds playing in the background as poets read their work. I was blown away.

We watched a handful of poets read before a drama troupe took the stage. The group presented a piece, scripts in hand and otherwise somewhat lacking in movement, which lasted nigh an hour and seemed to kill any enthusiasm for the event. This dramatic intrigue finally came to a close and, after a brief intermission which consisted of the viewing of a sound/image collage and a few interviews on the video screen, a few more poets presented poems. At last, The Subterranean Poets were announced.

We had spent about ten hours together, writing, arranging and practicing our performance. We also recorded all of our conversation surrounding the creation of this piece. The poem revolved around the contrasting ideas of LOVE/HATE and FUTURE/PAST. It was our suggestion that these things together represented the PRESENT. We called the poem Nameless and, after a brief introduction in Chinese, we proceeded to do our thing.

Everything really went as we had planned. We hadn't rehearsed in such a large space, which we could have done more to use, and we hadn't been prepared for the ambient background sounds, which seemed to drown us out at times, but we all felt good and positive afterwards. Certainly, we learned a great deal from the experience. It was our first time working together as a group on a project of this kind, but we have been performing with each other for the past eight months and we seemed to know each other well. We're all anxious to watch the video to see how we looked and then, hopefully, we will make it available to all of you far far away folk.

I think all of us are excited to continue with another project and see how far we can develop and sustain our efforts. We're scheduled to give another performance with the Beijing Actor's Workshop, a group with which we've worked in the past, on Friday evening at another venue...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Beijing - Elettroshock - Amalia Gré2006 is the year of Italy in China so there are many Italian events happening around Beijing. We went to the first day of the Elettroshock Festival, yesterday, at the Central Academy of fine Arts. The festival celebrates video in Italy from the 1970s to the present day. The festival will run through next weekend featuring different material on each of the four days.

I had a great time. We watched three segments, each about one hour in length. The videos were grouped categorically: Video, dunque sono - video about video, Città elettroniche - Electronic Cities, & Dall'Analogico al digitale - from analog to digital) skipping thie final set simply called Racconti - stories. Particularly noteworthy videos by Michele Sambin, made in the late 70s, were excellent. It was also nice to see some of the landmark music videos from Italy, including one by Michelangelo Antonioni filmed in 1984. This is a nice still of Amalia Gré who had a particularly wonderful and jazzy style of singing. I was excited to also see Good Griefies by Roberto Cuoghi which was a brief kind of bastard amalgamation of many famous cartoon characters. We also saw the first computer animated video called Pixnocchio, by Guido Vanzetti and Giuseppe Laganà. One of the most stylishly done videos was an animated short called Spiritual Healing, by Davide Catraro and Marvin Milanese, about a man or a king who had a strange tree, which he would cut off, growing out of his stomach.

By the end of the day, the crowd had thinned considerably. We have tickets for next weekend and we will probably return to see some of the videos then, as well, assuming we have the time. I would have gone today if I had not stayed home to nurse this cold...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The heater has been off and on for the past week. We think it's too hot. We think it's too cold.

We can feel the cold draft blowing across the living room floor when we sit on the couch.

The fan in the bathroom now makes strange squeaking-moaning-rattling noises like it's rusting to it's labored death. The sounds change on a daily basis.

We can often smell what our neighbors are cooking, which can be both pleasant or otherwise. Sometimes there is a strange inhuman smell in our bathroom.

Our DVD player was resisting us, skipping about, pausing or refusing to even recognize disks we'd inserted, and simply needed to be cleaned.

Before I moved to Beijing, I read about how loudly Chinese people like to enjoy watching television, but I can't say that I've ever noticed it.

We almost never receive anything in our mailbox.

The hallway is dark and dirty. A flickering yellow light like a tiny UFO glued to the ceiling pops on and off, sensitive to every echoing sound. Years of shoe-prints and spit-circles mark the flat white walls and blackened cement floors. A melty hole has been burned into the plastic down elevator button.

I can always hear the whir of the elevator going up and down, ding! when it reaches a destination and the doors rumble open, and I can always hear people talking through the walls or moving their possessions about at all hours.

Occasionally, karaoke tears it's way through the hallway outside our front door, our neighbor's passion. They have a row of cabbages (the closest vegetable to which I can identify it) outside the entrance to their apartment.

The elevator attendants always want to know where we're going or from where we're coming. My lack of comprehension of Chinese helps in this instance as no one can directly speak with me, and people just do their best to understand for themselves by looking at my plastic bags or whatever else I may be holding in my hands. I try to hide my belongings behind my legs, standing on sunflower seed shells and cigarette butts.

There is a film on all of our windows which cannot be cleaned off.

Every morning, there are a number of people going through the dumpsters in the parking lot.

It looks like there is a camera or multiple cameras in the balcony across from our apartment. I've taken pictures of it on my little digital jobber, but I'm afraid to post them for no reason other than my own paranoia. They're not very clear, anyway. We observe the nemesis balcony on a daily basis for changes. Someone must be conducting an experiment, but we have never seen anyone over there. Only the little red lights staring back at us at all hours and the suspicious lace curtain on a window in the next room.

We've been meaning to buy a lamp or two, as we dislike the overhead white which glares at us constantly.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Great Wall - Grandma MarcacciMy grandmother came and went. Angela and me spent nearly every waking minute this weekend with her. We waited for her at the airport Friday evening. Her flight was almost two hours late and then it took a little over an hour to clear customs and whatall before she emerged. She was pretty spent after arriving and the three of us took a taxi to her hotel. We didn't tell her tour group and they waited 15 minutes at the airport for her. Oops.

We met Ruth the next morning, picking her up at her hotel, and went on to Tiananmen Square. She was ditching her tour group again, but this time they knew about it. The weather was windy and crisp outside, but not too cold, clear and beautifully perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better day for sightseeing. Fortunately, Chairman Mao's Mausoleum was open (it's only open on certain days and at certain times) so both her and Angela took a peek inside while I waited at the exit with their stuff. Visitors are not allowed to enter with bags or electronic equipment, such as cameras. Afterwards, we walked through the square and made our way to The Forbidden City, now known as The Palace Museum, which overlooks the square. We walked along the newly restored west side of the city, which had been closed during my previous two visits and enjoyed the sparklingly fresh appearance of the famous ancient city.

Simply walking through The Palace Museum was an exhausting ordeal for all of us and, as it was getting late in the afternoon, we were ready to eat. We took a cab to Hou Hai and sat down for lunch at the Hakka restaurant I mentioned a few posts ago. We ordered carefully, taking into consideration my grandmother's dietary restrictions, and enjoyed an abundant meal. My grandmother thought everything was wonderful and kept pace with me at the table. Many of the dishes and their ingredients were unfamiliar to her. After lunch, Angela and Ruth took a ride through the old city streets on a rickshaw. We were all pretty tired, but took Ruth to our apartment, where we chatted for a few hours before returning her to her hotel.

Yesterday morning, Sunday, we met Ruth and boarded the tour bus with her. We were going to escort her to The Great Wall. We stopped at a jade factory along the way, which wasn't very impressive. She was worn out from the day before so we really just spent the day riding the bus around and talking with her, which was fine with us. We were pretty worn out ourselves. This morning we went to her hotel for the last time and wished her well as she continued along on her tour to other Chinese cities. We were thrilled that we had this chance to visit with her, especially as she has so many years under her belt. She's an amazing woman and we can't wait to see her again this summer in Italy!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Time's passing too quickly these days. I can't give you all the time you deserve. New poem in Moria, if you want to take a look.

My grandmother is arriving tonight. Going to the airport to surprise her. That will be a fun trip at rush hour (Friday nights on the ring roads in Beijing are lengthy), but nothing can stave my excitement. She's topping 90 now and, well, I hope I can do the same when I reach that mark. It's nice that she's arriving on Friday, too, as we will be able to spend the entire weekend together. I believe her last day in Beijing will be on Monday. I'm anticipating a sick-day then before she heads off with her tour-group to further Chinese wonders...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Beijing - Chinese Man & Red DoorDual-rejection day. They weren't especially cold e-mails. I'm not sad about it. Shots in the dark. I did receive a third message from another editor with whom I had inquired which was playfully promising. After three hours in front of this swallower of gazes, this flat-screened beast emitting mp3s and other tones, my right arm, my neck and my bottom cry mercy. Still waiting for Angela to get home to get our dinner going, and eating's always, thankfully, something pleasant. Even the worst meal. Especially with good company.

So windy outside today you just breathe and get sand and dirt in your mouth and, no, I'm not walking around breathing out of my mouth. I need one of those masks. I suppose we're approaching that season.

Our apartment is drafty enough, but these days we can really feel the current blowing in from the crack under the front door. It leaves a nice film of dust over everything. Dust-bunnies come out of nowhere...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poetry Dies: Part II

I belong to a number of North American (one Canadian) e-mail groups related to poetry. They inform me about contests, new books & periodicals, projects, readings and other things less focused than what I just listed here. Many of the groups contain members from around the globe, so it's not strictly a North American audience. I just mention that as an indication of where the e-mail lists originated. More or less discussion and exchange of writing occurs in the different groups depending upon a number of random factors: blog chatter, current events, scope of a particular group, etc. While I don't have the time, generally, to follow each thread in detail, and I receive dozens of e-mails on any given day from these groups, it's a nice way to both stay informed and spread my gospel, however slight, when I feel like getting involved in the on-going conversations.

And not all of the participants in these various groups are poets. Some folks are just interested in the conversation. Members bring their personalities and personal obsessions to the table. I find myself interacting with people who I may never have considered before. I'm almost fearless...

As an American poet living abroad, it's an easy way for me to feel a part of the events and discussions which are happening around the US and around the world, especially as I can't be in most of those places in person. As much as I like this kind of interaction, which is, at least, simply convenient (and sometimes frustrating), it's still a little too fragmentary. There seems to be an e-mail group for every special interest. That seems to be the old method, wherein folks from a certain region or a particular school of thought were assembled or lumped together under some banner. A bit limiting.

Nonetheless, these groups have been inspiring and motivating. I'm part of the ever-widening e-community. I get new ideas! I have made friends!! Those are good things. I can't help but think that they make me better. They bring things to my attention. Even if they are fragmentary, they still bring people from around the world together, and that can't be bad. Greater awareness of an international presence combined with a seamless way to share information and ideas via e-mail, via the internet, makes for a beautiful marriage.

So things are changing. It's measurable. Things are coming together from various places and colliding to great effect. People don't know what to make of it. Is that a revolution? Hell, yes! Aren't you reading poetry? Our language is changing even more drastically as the language and form of the electronic world begins to emerge as commonplace. Have you googled anything? Ever backchanneled someone? Do you know what a LangPo is? What about a blog? How could any writer not be excited about the possibilities of an even more creative language? And how does poetry fit into all of this? These are our tools. TTYL.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Poetry Dies: Part I

Some have said that poetry is a dead form, although there are, perhaps, an astronomical number of people writing it now or writing something that can fall into the category. Some seemingly erudite folks have even implemented pet names for these different categories/groups/styles/movements, but this post isn't concerned with terminology.

It's not surprising that any number of people are bringing their writing forward with the internet. The relative ease with which anyone can publish anything on the web allows for a wondrous array of work to present itself. We're burying ourselves on the internet. Take a click around the web, and you will find the number of places to read poetry overwhelming. I did when I first began to take notice of poetry in this medium more than a few years ago. The number of e-zines which spring up all the time is fantastic, but how many will last? On the internet, they will, conceivably, last forever, but where do you begin? Is any of it good? Is anyone making anything new? How do you judge it?

What makes people think that poetry a dead form? The fact that there are no more innovations? I find that hard to believe. People are still doing it. I'd like to think I was making something new and, I'm sure, the rest of the fools (and I use fools in an entirely complimentary way) who are doing it, for the most part, feel the same. People don't read it or do they? How do you get people to read more poetry? We must find a way to feed them. They don't know what they're missing.

Listening to one of Amy King's interviews for MiPoesias radio, she mentioned someone trying to drum up ways to spread the news of poetry, something that, personally, I've been pondering since my earliest college days. As a poet, how can anyone not consider this issue? How do we get poetry out there? How can I get people to read my poetry and the poetry of my peers? Blogging it and updating online periodicals may only reach so many, although it's beginning to reach more folks than the old-fashioned hard-copy stuff. I base this remark on my own practice, which revolves around the internet. After all, it's much easier to point my friends and family to my poetry with a hyperlink, and they're more likely to take a look, however brief. It's virtually impossible to find the other, especially if you're not as motivated as the poets who whore themselves out to those old college-try rags.

This inaccessibility, hiding poetry in relatively obscure print journals, is one of the reasons that many consider poetry a dead form. It's easy to find poetry on the web, thought, even if you aren't looking for it. Take, for example, a list of searches which produced this blog as a match:
7 marcacci bob
1 pino marcacci
1 pink narcissus*photos
1 fake roasted pig
1 financial castration
1 doorway decor
1 back of throat painful after scratching off white patch
1 kang ping - yao / pigeons
1 how to say hanami
1 fought a losing battle cigarette
1 taoist stautes
1 blog simona putignano
1 moon hill yangshuo killed tourist
1 bansai sports
1 hutong pizza
1 link:
1 askar uighur singer china
Obviously, if you're specifically looking for me, as the first item shows the number of times that search was performed, then you can find me easily enough. If you're looking for something else, you might find me, as well, and I couldn't have dreamed up a better list if I thought of one myself. Apparently, I've written about these things at one point in time or another.

I think the only way to do it, to expand the reach of poetry, is just to keep talking about it, writing it, sharing it with friends and family, and simply making it a part of our daily lives. Do we want a poetry revolution? I don't know. Is it happening? I think so, but I'll leave that for my next post.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Beijing - 798 District - Rebirth of VenusWent to Beijing's Art District, 798, on Saturday afternoon with Angela and we walked around. After one hour on the bus and another thirty or so walking, we arrived. It's an old industrial area with many former factories that have been restored and turned into art galleries, shops and restaurants. The weather was splendid this past weekend, which made for comfortable walking conditions. I have heard of this place since I moved to Beijing but, after eighteen months, find myself finally getting out there for the first time. It's literally on the other side of the city and quite a trek to do some adventuring there.

Saturday evening, after our walk, we met Dawn and Thomas for dinner at a Hakka restaurant. It's among our favorite places to dine, but there are some strange items on the menu. Here's a sampling:
Sauced Chin of Duck
Wilding Double Bamboo Shoot Plate
Pig's Ear Marinated in Chili Oil
Fresh Aloe with Lemon Sauce
Chicken Paws in Guanzhou Flavor
Cold and Dressed Bracken with Sauce
Mixed Savory Shredded Jelly Fish
Fried Intestines with Tea Leaf
Marinated Soft-Shelled Turtle in Unique Taste
Baked Nine Joints Prawn with Salt
Broiled Bullfrog with Shenhuo Stone Plate
Braised Bean Curd with Chrysanthemum
Delicious Chicken Catilagein Salt and Pepper Plate
Stewed Fish Head with Minced Capiscum
Sauteed Eel Ball with Dry Spice and Garlic
Economic Pawpaw Stewed with Shark's Fin
Pleurotus Nebrodensis in Abalone Juice
Fried Intestine Clay-Pot
Iron Platter Brinjaul Pickled in Thai Sauce
Braised Tuckahoe with Tortoise
Braised Ladybell, Bamboo Shoot and Pigeon
Braised Encommia with Pizzle
Steamed Olive Leaves with Heart of Cabbage
The Wife Cake
I didn't check the spelling of any of these items and, certainly, I can't comprehend everything here, but it's on my list of things to do. Actually, for a restaurant with an English menu, there were surprisingly few errors on the menu.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bob at The BookwormI don't know if I mentioned this, but last weekend I was asked to have my picture taken. It was the second time in the last six months. My celebrity status is on the rise! I don't think I'm particularly photogenic, at least when I'm trying to take pictures of myself, but it's amazing what a more well-trained eye can do.

The first time was for an article written by Stacey Duff for the December issue of TimeOut: Beijing, a local ex-pat magazine, about the International Open Mic, which I host. Although my picture was never printed, my name was printed in the article, which is much as I could hope for out of some publicity for the still young event. I don't think you can read the article online, but I won't stop you from taking a look. I'm sure they'd be happy to count your hit. In any case, it wasn't a very pleasurable experience as everything I was asked to do was a little too staged.

Bob GThe owner of The Bookworm, Alex Pearson, who holds a number of other literary events on a weekly basis, aside from my wonderfully popular event, told me that she wanted to put a portrait of me on the wall along with portraits of all of the other guests who come and read or spoke at her incredibly popular establishment. Anyhow, these photos are two of the four Lucy Cavender, the photographer, sent me this morning. If you want to see the others, you can visit my photosite by clicking here. This experience was much more enjoyable than the previous one as Lucy was wonderful and friendly. She just let me be myself and any nervousness I had about the activity soon dissipated.

Enough yammering. Time to get ready for work...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

When there's nothing to talk about we talk about the weather. Woke up on Tuesday to a snow-dusted world, which was a surprise. I thought we had made it beyond that season. By Wednesday morning, there weren't any signs of the stuff. Yesterday and Today were progressively warmer and bright with a clear skies and now it seems like it's really Spring. It's still cold in the shade, but the fine weather is uplifting, if not promising. Also, since Wednesday, I've only had to work half-days for a variety of reasons, which has been nice. I'm feeling particularly luxuriant. Well, not entirely...

The air is quite dry, almost unbearably so, here in Beijing. Touching anything metallic produces that lovely shock of static electricity. Contact, accidental or otherwise, with other people has the same effect. I've never lived in such a charged environment. Aside from the little shocks of fun which occur endlessly, there is another more irritating side effect of this dry atmosphere: dry skin. The skin around my knuckles was actually beginning to tear and bleed! It itches like no tomorrow, and wearing long-johns all day doesn't help matters. I've learned that my ankles are particularly sensitive. At the end of the day, after taking off all of my clothes and letting my skin breathe again, I have to spend a few minutes scratching my ankles. The dry skin mixed with the scratching has less than pleasant results. Another tale of the dark side of Beijing.

One final item: I added this little ClustrMaps object at the end of the column on the left. It marks the tiny image of the world with a small red circle when someone visits the website from some geographical point. I don't haven't very many bells-and-whistles here, but I think I like this one. Check it out in a few days and see from where some others of you are clicking.