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Brakhage and McClure correspondence published

By Harriet Staff

New Directions has pointed us to a new publication that will please fans of friend to poets and legendary filmmaker Stan Brakhage and Beat-era poet Michael McClure—Big Bridge has published their letters. Brakhage was a dutiful correspondent with many people, as evidenced in a recent issue of the Chicago Review, where letters appear between the filmmaker Robert Duncan, Ronald Johnson, and Charles Olson (the issue is in short supply, but if you’ve got $75!).

Entitled The Flame Is Ours: The Letters of Stan Brakhage and Michael McClure 1961–1978, and edited by Christopher Luna, this new publication, which is available for free download, by the by, includes photographs and notations; and the Appendices contain sections on Brakhage and Duncan, Brakhage and Stein, open field composition, interviews with Woody Haut and David Meltzer, as well as comprehensive texts by Luna on poetics and film. Luna makes myriad connections here, particularly in “Moving Visual Thinking and Hypnogogic Vision”:

Brakhage’s remarkably complex editing demonstrates an innate sense of rhythm. It is his understanding that “film is ideally a construction that conveys its maker’s visionary experiences, and vision….he conceives as a somatic activity” (28). This awareness of the body is another aspect of Brakhage’s aesthetics which he shared with several of his contemporaries.

The arts of this Man take Sense as Muse so that poetry arises in direct relationship to the word as a cultural-memory particle (Duncan), the breath of the man writing (Olson), his changes of throat, tongue, lip, etc., in rendering it into sound (Zukofsky) and the tantric reverberations of same in the various areas of his whole body giving utterance (McClure)—so that music orients itself to the emotive ear (all tape music utilizing dramatically evocative sounds) and/or intensities and rhythms of thought (all “purely” electronic music, most “twelve”—and more—”tonic” music) rather than mathematical formulation—so that painting arises out of the physical act out of emotion (Action painting) and/or takes shape according to those mental processes creating “closed-eye vision” (Op Art), etcetera (Brakhage, Scrapbook 35).

The letters themselves are certainly more like candy. From McClure to Brakhage, undated:

Bob Dylan bought me an autoharp & he wants me to sing & sing my new (unwritten) poem-songs. He is beautiful—a Marilyn Monroe of a man—and you would dig him. Ginsberg & I went to 5 of his concerts & sat up all nite talking with him several nites. And I got to meet Joan Baez. Baez is your spiritual female double—though I did not tell her so. I felt so natural & relaxed with her because she reminds me of you. I was able to pat her foot & smile at her. She is all balanced love. Jesus I hope the U.S. does not hit China—Boom! Boom! Then it is the concentration camp for me, us, whoever. When I read “History” I realize such an act is not at all “out of line.” I hope History has ended!!! We have put our queer shoulders to the wheel & there is not much left to do! Shall we become HUMAN Gods? With the human in caps.

Regarding your fainting when you opened [Kenneth Anger’s] Blue Velvet Wipeout—Casey a chick here—friend of mine and Kenneth’s—she fainted first time she saw Fireworks and woke up with Ken reviving her. Claims it was Kenneth made her faint. Though Kenneth denies it she says. Could that be a secret talent of Kenneth’s?


Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.