Revisions and rain – a poem-post

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 23, 2012 by matthewhinton

Palimpsest

I was reading this poem
by Pablo Neruda
when you walked in to ask me
why I was sitting alone.

I wanted to be heroic,
I wanted to play the part of the hero-poet,
to be Virgil for that hour,
and with a glimmer of broadpen
cry out:
“Loneliness is next to godliness!”
And bring
the deadly instrument
down

or fire off ink in six rounds
like the outlaw authors
that every good boy reads in college
Jones, Olds, Salinger
bangbangbang!
Mailer, Thompson, Mencken
Bang!bang!BANG!
and emerge covered in the dust of pages past

(Meanwhile
My prayer list
of artistic chores
grows
as
the
unworked
muscle
contracts,
curls
into itself
with the pain and paralysis
of an arthritic hand,
crooked
at the sight of blank pages,
the howl
they hurricane in on)

I wanted to make something
that didn’t exist before I made it 

I wanted to be lifted out of myself
by PattiSmithUmbrellas
and let that bright shaman
spin my soul into a furious peace 

I wanted to tell you that
this is why I don’t read my poems at coffee houses
or bookstores tortured by the banshee scream of a barista
This is why I don’t search the room of tired and tiring faces
and decrypt their wrinkles,
translate pupil-cuneiform,
spread the sagging skin under everyone’s eyes
trying to find the poetry editor in the room
This is why I don’t send pages to the magazines,
to be propped up like crooked bones above slick cartoons.

But I am a coward
And I lost my pen to the Lazy Boy
a few weeks ago

I am a coward
disarmed
by an armchair

and these paper hearts
they are for me
-strung together
because they are my pulpy whispers
because they are secrets that I need
And if this poem, say,
should escape from my lock-box moleskin
or leap off of the back of my 4th notice electric bill envelope
and break for the border like a refugee
and into some uncharted publication

well then

I won’t admit that it was once mine.

                                      ~Matthew S. Hinton

TOPOGRAPHY … the CITY is a SLUMBERING BEAST … and a RETURN to STAGE …

Posted in Theatre with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by matthewhinton

I awaken to an angry earth and humming walls.  The work on the street below begins early and shows no signs of stopping.  Weeks pass, and the morning haze doggedly refuses to lift.  Concrete chips off the corners of the sidewalk and into the street, which cracks, melts itself into tar, and slips into gutters and overflow drains where it blends with rotting tree bark and abandoned cardstock containers from Crown Fried Chicken.  The city is remapping itself.  Streets dissolve into the parchment, unmake themselves, and leave only outlines of manhole covers and the stench that small cities make when they contract and expand slowly – an animal conserving its breath.  I feel the blacktop stretch and crumble and shrink; I pilot around the worst, or else discover brittle edges and new potholes.  I awake to more humming and jackhammers and trucks – through the haze I can make out the hardhats trying to shore up the whole place with transplanted dirt.

The cold is settling in.  Early frost hunkers down and lives in the shadows of withered brick buildings.

Some psychic debris at my door

There is life and psychic debris at my door.

Bad as Me (the latest LP by Tom Waits) grinds away at my weekend from the turntable.  It sharpens the mornings, palming time like a blacksmith with a dull axe blade.  The edges are lined with soot and vinyl shavings.

Lo-Fi Microphone ((made from a telephone handset - I'm always looking to convert these)): I’ve been working, too, but not against the asphalt

The parking lot has splintered in places and the sidewalks along the way have pressed up against each other like tectonic plates, forming rough canyons and dull valleys.  I wind my way to the car, losing count of how many times I’ve broken my mother’s back.

A year ago, I was driving north for the premiere of one of my plays.  I was the author then.  This winter, I play the part of Happy Loman in -Arthur Miller’s seminal work, Death of a Salesman.  The journey to Lackawanna College’s Mellow Theatre is the same: trucks bear down and lick tailpipes, and the rest of the vehicles seem to move en masse, a great metal hive of breakneck speed and exhaust.

Rare cities exist more in the mind than in person, at once emulated and full of exiles.  As inRome, visitors to Scranton can stand in one place and exchange old buildings for the newer, faceless facades, to see entirely different views of the city.  It is not unlike the geography of the mind.  From any street corner, broken colonnades denote abandoned banks; brick and mortar crumbles in places, but somehow congeals under its own pressure and makes a secure keystone above entryways to vintage theatres and side-street storefronts.  A slight turn on the heels or a flick of the eyes in either direction reveals bright, flat brick devoid of gargoyles or other reliefs, devoid of character.  The Electric City itself is no different from coke-dusted Wilkes-Barre, or Paris after a great fire, or Jerusalem at any time.  Their hearts hum like tube-amp televisions 30 minutes after they’ve been turned off and are topped by domes and spires, their bellies are dirty and empty.

Onstage, the culm of one world gives way to the grit of another – the dialogue of lies traded from Loman to Loman has the potential to choke a person like so many towering apartments.  It’s full of the creaking swings of the past and stolen cement and invented memories.  It is crowded with ghosts.

I feel folded into this theatre.  The heat from the stage lights warms me to the core, and the edges of the world go fuzzy with darkness.  If there are spectators beyond that – voyeurs to tragedy – I do not know it.  If they laugh or cry they might as well be in seats at the end of the universe.  I smoke decks of Luckys here – lit with kitchen matches that sputter to life – and find new comfort in a used suit and fedora that match my blue breath.  Here, the plastic flowers are more authentic than sales numbers; towns with names like Providence and Waterbury and Yonkers seem like distant dreams.

Here, too, the cities are remapping themselves and the streets unravel from a spindle.  The only thing missing this year is the snowstorm.

(L-R) Linda, Happy, Biff, & Willy Loman in Miller's DEATH OF A SALESMAN; Jan. 2012 - Gaslight Theatre Co. production (photo: A. Grega)

A RETURN (to ART / PACK MENTALITY) … SARAH RUHL PROSELYTIZES at the UofS … and ECHOES in SOUND and LIGHT

Posted in Theatre with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by matthewhinton
… welcome back …

Until very recently, I was having a quiet and angry falling out with art.  By “art” I do not mean the audiences, the patrons, the gallery owner, myself-as-artist, the pay (I like getting paid for art; I accept all currencies) – I simpy mean art.  Nothing was coming of it, of our little flirtations, our nuzzling in public, our waking up curled in the cold of autumn in the positions of the coyote: ass to nose and panting morning steam.  It felt instead like we had been fighting over the same scraps for months.

Every time I took up the pen, I felt my wheels spin in the gravel shoulder but never felt the road.  Dirt that looked suspiciously like ink caked my pocket-sized biblical leather notebook.  There were many small ideas.  Small ideas that were supposed to somehow be stacked and shuffled and restacked to somehow resemble a play (at least one, maybe more); ideas shaped like titles for one-acts and characters with science fiction eyes or who were born out of garbage dumps or repeat the sentences of others (I’ve been obsessed with echolalia and echopraxia lately, I’ve been obsessed with echolalia…), chanting and barking them to the mountains.  Small ideas about people who howl and clutch their fates close to their chests like stolen diamonds.  Small ideas that read like bad poetry and, somehow, worse playwriting.  A notebook full of small ideas, and yips and yelps, and nigh-invisible words.

Living in this recurring dream that we still call America has diverted my attention – I scurry to each new paycheck … I can smell them now; the watermarks stink of blood and with automatic hands I snap open the mailbox and tear at the necks of envelopes … after filling up my car I guzzle bottom-shelf unleaded straight from the tap, I sleep little, I consume and consume and so fill my recurring America with nightmarish scenes and funhouse shapes.

Dan Waber cites/likes bpNichol

bpNichol plays on my brainpan today.  “Theory comes only after the fact of creation.”  Dan Waber told me that.  bpNichol said it, but Dan Waber said it to me, which felt just as profound.  The words repeat themselves.  Theory only.  The words repeat.  The fact of creation.  The words.  I’ve been obsessed with echolalia and echopraxia lately.

I see and hear Sarah Ruhl at the Universityof Scranton (Friday, 10/21/11).  She is ushered in by a young professor in

Sarah Ruhl - Playwright extraordinaire. Click the photo for Paula Vogel's inteview with Ruhl in BOMB Magazine

jeans and sweater; flanked by a small gaggle of youngbloods.  A shaky-voiced freshman, well prepared but nervous just the same, introduces her.  She reads for nearly an hour from her forthcoming book, ”75 Essays I Don’t have the Time to Write” [some of them can be read HERE] and the pervert in the back who writes rape-plays (or plays about rapists or plays about girls getting raped) keeps snarfing out chuckles of appreciation. 

Ruhl must lean over an enormous Jesuit podium to even register on the microphone.  It is like the church scene from Moby Dick, except that the John Carradine who climbs the pulpit is a five-foot tall woman who must lean with her elbows atop the flat shelf of it and balance atip-toe in her boots.  Her sermons (we hear some 25 of 75 that couldn’t be written) are on present participles and how Hamlet keeps dying, is always and will always be in a perpetual state of death, on the linear infinity of digital clocks and on plays populated with people and how twins are dual protagonists.  She does not speak of fire and brimstone from a distant shore, but of farce and the importance of doors that lead to the unknown and the to-be-known cliffs.  She calls for more bad plays.  The parish laughs.  She reads the last rites for the age of experience, announces the age of commentary (texting/tweeting).  The parish is quiet.  She asks the audience for help with Latin names.  The parish says “Your-RID-S-E” and “AGGA-MEM-NON”.  I forget to take a picture, even though she leans on her forearms like a little girl reading at a tall kitchen counter.  My only notes are in short spurts from early on – small ideas that nip at my hindquarters – and look to have been written in hieroglyphics: “’Waiting for Godot’ … ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ … Hamlet keeps dying …” and then something about fairies and furies and kingmakers.

When it is all over there is no talkback session/no questions taken.  She steps down from the podium, then off of the front of the shallow stage.  The small band of humbled host-students and the prof who arranged the appearance have abandoned her bag at a front row aisle seat.  She pauses; they are nowhere to be found.  The parish is too quiet now.  She gathers the cloth handles and ascends up and out the back of the small auditorium-cum-chapel.  Exeunt Sarah Ruhl.  It is an uncomfortable exit, and it works – even without a door.  The audience stretches themselves until they are upright and follow her out for handshakes, signatures, and the street-theatre of meet and greet.  I watch from afar and think about staying.  I think about asking her for advice for the young playwright with recurring nightmares and a penchant for word-theft.  I think about giving her my business card on a book of matches.  I think about how much money she made for the appearance and in what currency and if she ever tore open envelopes in search of checks. 

But it is too late.  She has given me permission to write tonight and that is enough.  She has patched up my relationship with the blank page – the god of my idolatry.  It is funny to me that I should worship something empty, something blank, and find satisfaction in filling it up.  I think of how some people expect it to work the other way.  I wonder how many wait for a god to fill them and if such a diety finds the same satisfaction with the act as I do.

Also, I see the rape-writer stealing her time.  The crowd of eager minds piles up behind him with ravenous eyes.  They are locked in the pack mentality and salavating, and I remember her decree: We need more bad plays.

From Sarah Ruhl's "In the Next Room, or the 'Vibrator Play'" at the Wilma Theatre

I go home.

I have been obsessed with echolalia.