A SMALL PIECE OF GLASS INVISIBLE EXCEPT TO MY THUMB
The currency of any performance is attention, yet attention is not a burden of the audience but of the performer, who must find a way to hold the eyes and ears of those present even when the performance is slow, difficult to watch, or hard to understand. The meaning of the performance must arise through the performance itself. But the artist must act two parts: that of the performer and that of the self. A performance balances between being and pretending.
My performances focus on expanding the definition of poetry to allow it a more expressive range. To gather attention, this performance switched between modes of poetry, beginning with the reading of object poems created from unrelated scraps of found text, which cohered neither internally nor in relation to each other. The attempt here was to create enough order to make language perceptible, even if fragmented, but to allow enough chaos to make impossible the creation of an understandable signal in the listeners’ minds—to allow their minds to finish the poem. Or to discard the entire event as something beyond any need of their consideration.
The performance occurred in pieces, varying in register, so some poems employed standard English grammar and conformed to concepts of prosody. The signal was clear in those parts to allow the audience respite from the difficulty of chaos.
The centerpieces of this performance were two lyrical poems carved, separately, out of the texts of the testimony of Brett M. Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford during Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2018. Each of these I read in the voices of the two witnesses: a loud and angry one for Kavanaugh and a quiet and tentative one for Ford. More than the rest of the performance, these were acted more than read. Each time I finished reading a page in Kavanaugh’s voice, I tried to fling the sheet onto the ground to demonstrate physically his unrighteous anger.
The performance included the speaking of unreadable texts and ended with “A Small Extemporaneous Dramatic Poem for Two Persons and One Voice.” This final poem came with no text beyond its title, only my voice speaking in a glossolalic tongue, me arguing with myself, removing my jacket for one voice but putting it back on for another, making all of the poem’s meaning out of sound and motion, rather than words.