Saturday, June 20, 2009
farewell to Gerry Gilbert 1936-2009, the great poet of Vancouver in the second half of the twentieth century. When David Bromige died last week I remembered that I'd had a number of conversations with him & Gerry in the kitchen of Gerry's place, called the "New Era Social Club", which consisted of a small two story house with warehouse space above, in a narrowish alley in the Japanese section of the Downtown Eastside, a couple of blocks off the water. This was in the early 80's, when Rob Johnson took the above portrait. The other photo is of how it looked last winter. Gone is the pear tree and the ivy-covered fence, gone too the hole through which one had very carefully to retrieve the key on a string. I stayed there a lot during that period, helping & hindering his work on his own poetry, his magazine BC Monthly & radiofreerainforest, his show on Co-op Radio. Whatever literary community I've ever been a serious part of had him at its center. I remember little (tennis? Ava Gardner? ) of the content of the conversations with David & Gerry but recall with great clarity David opposite me at the table, still-longish hair, a patterned shirt under a patterned vest, Gerry making pancakes, a pony-tailed short order cook, his vest limp pinstripe with a little bit of satin in the back. I forget thin men need that little extra warmth. Both men had bright, translucent eyes & used a lot of neat quick motions to both do & describe things & their exchanges had a musical, bantering, ping-pong lightness to them, a quality I used to call "zen", but with their neat beards & underlying toughness of wit it could sometimes be a bit Jacobean too...
The land’s a pocket mirror; you like to hold it down
and catch flashes of yourself.
It’s teeming. Greenpoint burns off its relations.
It’s a rimless procession: the sun, unbound but forced to sphere,
tentacles marble, an absorptive French blue, with particles
rising and falling in tandems, lolling in arcs.
Walking past the plant on Meserole, foot
blanket tangles and lips come down, calcium white.
Steam comes out the windows. It smells of perc...
(above right, in Bangor, Maine with Kevin Davies)
Though this might look like apocalypse fiction, it will in fact be not about any implied catastrophe, but about scobbing together of culture from the refuse (and implying that all culture is and always has been so scobbed). An art of making-do, tool-use and ingenuity. A fiction infused with a militant amnesiac uninterest about cultural memes' origins and 'pure' 'original' 'purposes' - which chimeras its adherents will derisively and polysemically render 'pUr(e)poses' - this will be literature that celebrates reclamation, and/but forgets that prefix 're-': so, clamation fiction, ignoring the fact that ruins are ruined, were ever anything else.
If Benjamin warns that history is a buffeted angel staring at a giant pile of debris, Salvagepunk ignores the angel and roots around in the debris looking for a car to hotwire.