Thursday, January 08, 2009

America's spatial incompetence

We at PennSound are pleased to release our newest author page - that of Marcella Durand. The earliest recording we have is her Segue series reading at Double Happiness, dated February 12, 2000 - when she read with John Yau. Among the others is "A Night of New Translations" at the Writers House in 2003. The most recent recording is from the benefit reading for Will Alexander at the Bowery Poetry Club in November '07.

Here's Marcella Durand speaking with Anselm Berrigan: Well, the most basic root of America's spatial incompetence is that they/we stole the land in the most brutal, unfair, low-down ways possible. But the U.S. also has a tradition of ecological awareness and appreciation of "encounters with the wilderness" that definitely comes from both the overwhelming physicality of the land and influence of the native tribes. Cabeza de Vaca, Willa Cather, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Black Elk, Aldo Leopold are some earlier American writers who wrote with a particularly interesting spatial consciousness. I just finished Cape Cod by Thoreau where he experiences nature in a full-frontal (literally at times!) way that I just don’t think is possible anymore, at least, not where I live! Douglas gave me this book about the Grand Canyon which talks about how the early Spanish conquistadors who first saw it were unable to perceive it; their previous experience did not allow them to really see the magnificence and enormity of it. We’ve become able to perceive nature — Thoreau looks and looks into the darkness until his pupil becomes large enough to see — and what’s happened after that moment of perception? I’m being rather retro in my poetical aims by trying to drag back a sense of unpredictability, but I’m also trying to encompass, or maybe perceive, the industrial, genetic, and silicon revolutions.