Archive for June, 2012

Carlos Cociňa — Guest Poet

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

This is a reminder to you – that we have an extra meeting of Writers Forum Workshop on Saturday.

The Chilean poet Carlos Cociňa will be our guest poet.

That is the beginning and end of it. The focus is upon Carlos and what he and those who come wish to do. Many of our current regulars may not be there, having made plans for the day already.

Nevertheless, I hope it will be an enjoyable day. I expect there will be quite a bit of Spanish spoken!

A new issue of POCKET LITTER will be published. It has been edited by Martin Gubbins and features pages prepared by Carlos together with a performance text by Felipe Cussen in English machine-translation. I shall bring what hard copies I can; but the issue is available by free pdf – just ask.

(The last Pocket Litter is in the post to those who have asked for it.)

I look forward to seeing you there. The next workshop will be 1st September.

Lawrence

Tina Bass reading Gertrude Stein at WFW

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

In the two years and a bit since I started this blog, I have chosen neither to document nor to comment on every presentation at Writers Forum Workshop; and commented on very few.
WFW is not a performance series; it is a meeting at which we learn to perform better. (That we may achieve other things there as well, and perhaps exchange information is another matter.)
I leave the documentation of individual’s work to themselves; and it is inappropriate to comment critically upon what happens at a workshop performance investigating the difficulties of and consequent approaches to performance as if that activity were a final public performance itself. I can imagine comment being made in some way, with mutual consent; but that is not our purpose.
I say all that because the workshop has been misunderstood by some in recent years who wish to rush to the accomplished performance.
The risk I am taking is that I make what we do sound to outsiders cumbersome and boring.
It might be thought, I suppose, that there is a lot of talk and heavy analysis; actually that’s one of the things we’re trying to obviate. Putting it into words makes it wordy!
Now and then, though, something happens which exceeds one’s expectations and suggests new productive processes.
Hopefully, something somewhat unexpected and rejuvenating happens all the time; and that certainly was the case with everything at WFW on 26th May 2012.
I would, however, be pressed to say which was the best presentation. I think it would wrong-headed to try: what was “best” is, as I have said, not the point.
And yet Tina Bass did something rather special, something quite out of the ordinary; and news of it may interest visitors to this blog.
She read the whole of Gertrude Stein’s Rooms.
Interestingly, she had chosen not to listen to any recordings of it which may be available either by Stein or by others in order to…
Well, here I must use my own words. She, Tina, talked about it afterwards; but, as there exists no considered written commentary from her, I can only use and perhaps interpret what I recall hearing at the end of a long day. (NB The workshop itself is just two hours long.)
She had tried the poem out at home on the Friday before. She used the word “rehearse”; but I think it was to be understood that it was not a rehearsal as many might understand the word. She said she prepared herself to read. If I may impose some words of my own, I take it that she investigated, by utterance. the process of the text she had chosen to investigate and to read to us.
What she did on the Friday would have a considerable difference to what she did on the Saturday.
I am picking my words carefully to try to achieve accuracy – if I get it wrong then I get it wrong – so that you have a good chance of knowing what caught my attention.
It was, therefore, an open and inquiring what happens if reading out of the text. And at WFW she tried again with the added pressure of an audience, albeit a benign audience.
She spoke later of the difficulty of reading some often long and barely punctuated linguistic units, reminding us how fluent Stein herself seems to have been with similarly demanding texts.
Was there a difference in the language as manifested by Stein and the language as manifested by Bass? It is not the same language although it is a language they share; is that a difference? Did the one have rhythms the other didn’t? It was interesting. It was certainly interesting hearing the text uttered in a soft East Midlands accent.
Tina was sure that she had mistimed it.
Does it matter if she mistimed reading Rooms. If she mistimed it, then perhaps it wasn’t as rhetorically as it might have been. It might have been rhythmically awry. Compared to a Stein reading, for instance. Might that imply a misreading? :Might it point to it? Might it mean it?
And what does it mean to misread a text, especially when you are investigating it. Ms Bass gave us a practical and demonstrative partial answer to that question that we might have asked.
There was an element of noise in the performance, if we consider it a performance. A noise in the utterance.
In her first (home) utterance of the text, she had stumbled a little (unsurprisingly); and also called out to her children, thereby adding material to the text as utterance, if we define that as what could have been heard.
Then she had emailed me

Subject: RE: wfworkshop

From: Tina Bass

Date: Fri, May 25, 2012 17:34

Talking of Stein I have prepared myself to read _Rooms_. All of it if you think there will be time. I rehearsed this afternoon and it wore me out. My practice version was punctuated with very loud exclamations of _Fuck me!_/_Fuck and bugger!/Fuck!/ and at one point _Ice-cream!_ because Leon and Owen had asked me to tell them when the ice-cream van pulled into the street. I would like to give it a go but do let me know if you think the whole thing would be too much.
and I had replied

Subject: RE: wfworkshop
From: Lawrence Upton
Date: Fri, May 25, 2012 17:44
I could probably get you a gig if you stuck to
Fuck me!
Fuck and bugger!
Fuck!
Ice-cream!
imagine that with viola and sax

By the time she got to WFW on Saturday, she had annotated her copy of Stein’s text with notations of the interpolations upon the Bass house, which she performed as part of the text as she got to them.
I enjoyed that. It was entertaining in a low key way and emphasised that this was not a performance of Stein but more a performance of the attempted performance of Stein.
It did so almost slyly, and probably unintentionally. I am sure Tina won’t mind me saying that, in my words, she has not come to this after first checking The Markets for current valuations of Stein’s literary importance. She has heard that the writer is more than interesting, checked her out and found that to be so. Now she is making her own exploration.
And, to clarify earlier comments, I think that, at WFW, we are interested in how to achieve the most appropriate performance rather than in witnessing the most authentic or the best performance. It may be that sometimes or often these all amount to the same thing; but, I suggest, that a glib judgment is much less likely if we seek for appropriateness rather than best; and glib judgments are surely to be avoided.
And that brings us back to how Stein might have read it. She had said that punctuation is unnecessary or maybe it was largely unnecessary. That needs consideration, and perhaps elaboration.
Differences in accent might justify a modification in reading style. One cannot read as Stein would have read, not without a lot of work anyway. And to what end? Short of rendering her speech idiolectual.
The way people are heard to speak does not change just as we move in geographical space, but with time also.
One might learn from her though (Gertrude Stein or Tina Bass, Tina Bass or Gertrude Stein.) Just as one sees more in many of Stein’s texts with every reading, so a hearing may be revelatory.
It was interesting to have such a long contribution from one person; but our approach is flexible enough to allow that when it’s needed. I think that we all learned a great deal from Tina’s effort, though perhaps not as much as she.


Lawrence Upton