Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Avant-Garde Is Dead So What

for Christopher Shultis
(written in November 1995)
 hear this poem read with improvised piano

Guard God.
Guard God!
Pick up a rock and carry it to the navel of the Earth and drop it in.
Ask three times
      this is twentieth century America ness pa?
      this is?
      twenty-first century madness?
You’re not mad you’re sadder than a bladder.
Breathing in and out practicing Tai Chi
      because he’s not a football star.
Say nothing for three Mahatma Gandhi’s.
Cut a fiddle in half down the middle if it’s not worth anything & and you don’t want it anyway.
Make some chutney. Green tomatoes and apples and raisins and ginger and cinnamon and on and on.
Boil art in it until it tastes good.
The avant-garde is by now well pickled. well heeled, well potatoed, picked over till
not even the carcass is left.
The weight of a dead bird.
A way to not be able to fly into the 21st Century.
      With a ding dong?
      With a merry merry have a canary?
      With a post guard tough love syndrome where character counts?
      With a pillow with moss on it from an endangered tropical bonanza?
      From Campbell’s soup quietly put to rest and never pop-arted again?
      With a giant bang or gross whimper or just a nothing at all not even a sigh
            a whisper or a kissing sound?
      With just the same old thing again but more people, more people
            and a helluva lot more endangered species.
      With a gun in every hand and every man an octopus and
            every woman a hydra-headed Dillenger toting weapon?
With just a little mercy.
With just a little sobriety.
With maybe a good night’s sleep.
With maybe an appreciation of the dawn.
Not hung over
not all drugged
not just so tired
not weirded out or anything just
getting up to greet
Number One.

larry goodell / placitas, new mexico / from Beyond TV, poems from 1995                                            

1 comment:

  1. When John Cage came to Albuquerque in 1988 I asked him about the "death of the Avant Garde"--an idea that was popular in academic circles at at the time. He said the avant garde would never die because someone would always be making something new. I was in my early 30s then and, being an optimist (of course), completely agreed. But this pessimistic poem, (dedicated to me and posted on my office door at UNM for many years), still resonates. Until that "something new" comes along, and speaking for myself I'm trying as hard as I can to make something new enough to merit the designation, this poem stands (today in 2012 more than ever) as an epitaph of the era about which Larry writes. Can we do better? Can we refute the pessimism Larry writes about? If we can the time is NOW. Long overdue for something to create a future worthy to refute the power of this great poem. Creative people (myself included): get to work!