Poetry News

Jim Fletcher Discusses Bernadette Corporation's The Complete Poem

By Harriet Staff


New York-based performer Jim Fletcher has a great interview over at Sex Magazine, talking a bit about his involvement with art collective Bernadette Corporation, which you might know for their piece The Complete Poem, "a witty, handsome and epic poem for New York." Fletcher, who recently participated in Triple Canopy's Automatic Reading seminar, also speaks about his involvement with downtown theater director Richard Maxwell, and his dual creative relationships with both the art and theater worlds. As for the poetry:

What about The Complete Poem?

The Complete Poem is at a later point in the timeline. The text benefited from a focused energy of composition that was a kind of modeled warfare of defined elements.

There were only 4 people working on that one, right? That’s a lot less than Reena Spaulings. You could get into an argument.

You could argue in the writing. Some of the writing forms we devised were rather exigent--it was hard work. Plus you could cut or add...it was complex. I love that because it gets you out of a lot of the problems of being "the poet." In the gallery, people would sometimes ask “is this a real poem?” Which is good! It’s good if something can have the possibility of not being real. Often when searching for the author(s), I naturally resort to the photographs. This poem is something that in its finished form exists in space, and includes images.

What were the goals when writing The Complete Poem?

Everybody had their own goals. The poem itself had its own goal. One of the goals that we may have sort of shared was... you know, poetry can be so great, but it can also be really awful. We had gotten to a point in our life where it’s like, we have to go to war. When it comes to poetry or something like that you’ve got to ask yourself: what’s good about it? What’s the problem with it? Go for what’s great. I think a big problem with poetry now is the poet. It wasn’t always, but now, it’s a problem, man, one of the things that ruins the thing is the poet. ‘Cause his name is always gonna be there either at the top or at the bottom or in the table of contents, but why? For his benefit? I mean, who’s it for at this point? And so, here was a way, it’s not like you’re not taking responsibility for it, but honestly the author is someone else. The author is not dead, but the author is someone else. The poem has its own reasons. The reader, too, has their own reasons for being there.

So it’s like part of it is like breaking down what defines poetry?

Well, it wasn't about deconstruction. It was trying to do the best. It’s important. It’s important to us. It’s like music, it’s kick-ass! It's the best thing. So do it. It helps to have people who you’re with to do it, it’s like, that’s what I mean by, it’s sort of like going into battle, and with the highest possible stakes, and so do it. We're not trying to outsmart anybody. Far from it. If only we could outsmart whoever, but we can't. It takes everything you've got just to break even. More than everything you've got. You need help.

Read it all here! Image above: Jim Fletcher and Chris Kraus, Summer of Hate Reading, 2012.

Originally Published: March 20th, 2013