1. FUTURE/KANYE WEST/VINCE STAPLES/FRANK OCEAN
This is a yearlong sequence formed by Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06, Future’s DS2. Kanye West’s Life of Pablo, and Frank Ocean’s Blond.
Within Blond, the “Nikes/Ivy” sequence: for considering (con)sequence, sequencing, sequential.
To begin, “these bitches want Nike” lays down the basis of a writing for the present which is barely separate from the long silence [how long] and errant booth soundings that precede the release of the voice that is not natural or naturalistic but stretched out, flattened out by the vocabulary that expresses/frames out the original position to which we are to learn to listen and from which we assume, at the beginning, that we are to progress. One-two-three-four:
which is a prosody, counting, an accounting and a poetics of being in it and not in it. One …
When we think about sequence or think serially we are thinking, simultaneously, the drop as it drops, the instant before the drop (we are anticipating revelation or decloaking), anticipating the composition of the next ‘thought’ unit, composing roundly beyond the possibilities of gratification or resolution. In terms of composition, the sequence or serial is a modality of deep time, a modality of being unresolved.
2) JACE CLAYTON, Room 21 (at The Barnes Museum)
I couldn’t understand what Jace Clayton was talking about when he said he was working on a sound piece for The Barnes Foundation’s museum in Philadelphia. I understood independently all the words: “Philadelphia” “Barnes” “atrium” “performance” “response.” An ekphrastic? What Jace caused to occur in that space was unimaginable prior to its actual taking place. My favorite artwork of 2016.
3) ST. PAUL. Romans I:1-7
Paul slave of the Messiah Jesus called emissary separated unto the announcement of God, which he promised beforehand through the prophets of him in holy writings concerning the son of him the [one] having come from [the] seed of David according to the flesh, marked out as son of God in power according to [the] spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead, of Jesus Messiah the Lord of us, through whom we received grace and the mandate unto obedience of the faith among all the people for the name of him, among whom are also you called by Jesus Messiah, to all those being in Rome beloved of God, called saints; grace to you and peace from God the father of us and the Lord Jesus Messiah.
Obsessed with Giorgio Agamben’s The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, I have listened to the music of this passage from Romans many times this year. (See #1, above, Kanye West, The Life of Pablo), What is messianic time? What is “now”? What is a calling? What is fulfillment? What is a high calling, a spiritual calling that is not delusion or escapism? How to embody the message? What is gospel?
4) ARLO QUINT / THE POETRY PROJECT
Arlo Quint’s new book is Wires and Lights. Arlo is a great great poet whose lines never cease to lift me out of the mundane use of words. At the end of a section of the long poem “180,” he slides into quotation of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “whatsoever things are true, think on them,” like it’s the easiest thing in the world to pick up biblical diction without pretense or irony and drop it like a pin. I learn from him.
The Poetry Project is a place and an imaginary place that art comes from and goes out into the world from. It is where I met Arlo and many of the poets I know and admire. It is a joy matrix.
5) ANNE WALDMAN, “Fast Speaking Woman”
Anne Waldman recently read briefly from Fast Speaking Woman at a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of City Lights’ Pocket Poets Series at The Poetry Project. I thought I knew and understood this work. (This is a theme, here, repeating.) But Anne’s performance instantly transformed my sense of that book and provided a model in sound and intensity for a poem of my own, MESSENGER, that needed to come from some other place. Anne has been to that place.
6) MARSHALL / HAMMONS / HUFFMAN
a. “Still-life with Wedding Portrait,” Kerry James Marshall, 2015.
b. “African American Flag,” David Hammons, 1990.
c. “Stanza,” Khalil Huffman, 2016.
Khalil talked to me a little about this work while it was in progress, and I felt its charge; that is, Khalil transferred in conversation something of the excitement of what “Stanza” might be. The broken windshield / as shattered lens / is a key figure in his work, and I love the recuperation of trash, generally…I love what he makes here, with a license plate, of the government name. But I couldn’t have anticipated the impact of this piece, once complete, on me as a viewer. Maybe this is a limitation of my own literalism or reluctance to enter into the imagination of another artist — the beauty of showing respect for the mystery of process; that which cannot be said about the idea or ideas.
7) SANTI WHITE is my sister.
She is professionally known as Santigold. Having a sister is the center from which many other loving and encouraging relationships spread. My sister’s courage and ferocity as an artist make me feel part of something bigger than my own gifts or work; something bigger than time or the span of our lives. Santi doesn’t know this. I haven’t told her.
She is, incidentally, imho, one of the best pop songwriters working today. “…I’m on an island / Watching through a window, the flashing light on the bed / Neon sign goes red / ‘You are here’ it says / Well, at least someone knows where I am.”
8) JERRY GAFIO WATTS, CLAUDIA RANKINE, FRED MOTEN and STEFANO HARNEY, IMANI PERRY, CHERYL JONES WALKER, HERMAN BENNETT, COLIN DAYAN and the many others I don’t know and may never know, SAIDIYA HARTMAN, HORTENSE SPILLERS, JARED SEXTON, FRANK WILDERSON, and others whose names I don’t know or can’t remember or will never come across…
9) MICHEL FOUCAULT, “What is Critique?”
“There is something in critique which is akin to virtue.” This is one of the most giving lines of philosophy I know. In these remarks, Foucault asserts the centrality of the “decision-making will not to be governed”: “A question of attitude.” This is an incredibly thorny and radical claim in terms of thinking about the role of culture, of intellectuals, the role of works as political instruments and of our persons as political agents. It is a thing I return to.
10) W.E.B. DU BOIS
CORRESPONDENT: A report from the field, in the form of recommendations.