Friends of Alice

March 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

I learned the notion of celebrity like shoe-tying, like praying.  I learned distance.  Names, not people, create what we imbibe, construct what we consume.  Let’s take poet Kenneth Koch.  The name Kenneth Koch is two disembodied words made of poems and essays arbitrarily dubbed Kenneth Koch.  Can one speak to a Kenneth Koch?  Just as DaVinci = Mona Lisa and Edison = light bulb, Kenneth Koch = “One Train May Hide Another.” Intangible Kenneth Koch does not tie his shoes.  He sits on a cloud, sleeping with women.

Or rather, in my reverence, I mythologize these individuals, sculpting the equivalent of Greek gods or Catholic saints.  Kerouac as Dionysus.  Brautigan as St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes.  Or I ascribe these creators with the abstract concepts they embody.  Nick Flynn is childhood pain.  Ann Carson is intellectual experiment.  Philip Levine is blue collar work.  Frank O’Hara is an afternoon carefree.

Conversely, I am a shoe-tier, the people I know: shoe-tiers.  Take Gabe Kruis.  Though he creates, he ties his shoes.  I’ve seen it, and my ideology leads to this problem: the work of those I know or could feasibly meet seems intrinsically of a lesser quality.  There are no living saints.  They’re either dead or holed up in Greenwich Village lofts.

This weekend, following a reading hosted by the Poetry Society of America at The 2011 Chapbook Festival, one of these intangible beings, Alice Quinn, struck up a conversation with Gabe and I.  She’s the Executive Director of the Poetry Society, editor at The New Yorker for twenty years.  Alice, this graying spry accomplished little woman in black, neck knotted in a pink scarf.  And maybe she’d stolen a bottle of red for herself or maybe she enjoyed the company of young men, but she spoke with us.  We said little.  She touched my arm.  She gushed over award recipients.  We nodded.

I veered the conversation towards an exhibition on The New York School running at Tibor De Nagy Gallery.  She’d seen it, of course.  She knew them.  Each one personally.  I mentioned a farcical collage by Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch about beds, which sparked her to speak of Kenneth’s delicate soul, how he was jealous of not receiving the recognition bestowed on his cohorts Frank (O’Hara) and John (Ashberry), how he contracted leukemia suddenly, as if one day he awoke with his life in two halves, how during his weeks in the hospital he collected poetry to critique from neighboring patients.  “Always teaching, always a sweetheart,” said Alice, little lips maroon with wine.

Alice doesn’t know my taxonomies, the line delineating my world and that of idols, how sometimes I aspire to write great work not for its own sake, but to someday be mythologized by the young and aspiring.  She also doesn’t know that she knelt before me and fiddled her laces to a bow.  She was not ghostly, and her friends and their illustrious poems seemed a step away from their assembly in ether by gods and elves, and a step closer to the honest labor of jealous sweethearts.

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§ One Response to Friends of Alice

  • Ronnie says:

    I truly thought of mlysef as a beginner, because I’m still horrible at playing and don’t know many songs at all. But this book made me realize that I was very much beyond beginner status. I had lessons about 15 years ago for 4-5 years, but trust me, I’m still learning, and very much a beginner. By reading this book, with my limited, very limited experience, I felt like the equivalent of a college-grad returning to school to fine-tune his math skills, only to realize he was enlisted in Kindergarten-block-counting 101. Again, I’m not advanced, not even intermediate, and I found this book was the equivalent of what I learned back when I took lessons and my teacher probably taught me all of this material in the first month or two. Given this, perhaps this was the intent of this book to really start you off. However, one thing sticks out to me is the headline which states: Books 1, 2 and 3. The chapters are seperated into three sections there are no differentiations between these chapters, and a book. Sort of misleading. For the money I read through the entire book, played every single page re-learned (or verified) everything in about 2 hours. I am planning to return this. Not impressed with the Hal Leonard line after this one. I read all the reviews here on amazon, and was duped. I’m not sure where everyone is coming from with the raving reviews. I think many are teachers who just agree with the teaching method- not necessarily intersted in giving amazon customers a look into value’. I wonder how many raving reviewers actually bought and used the book to learn. Probably few.This book is not for people who have the slightest bit of experience with guitars of any kind. Think of it like sitting in on the first three classes of grade 9 math. You will NOT augment your skills in any way by using this book if you know anything whatsoever. Though it is difficult for me to be in your shoes, if you are a beginner, (please, if you have some experience, don’t count yourself), but if you really are new to guitars, and don’t even know what a whole note is, maybe this book will help you. I’m only giving it the low rating because too many have given this a rave review, and because of the joke in the title (3 books, give me a break!). How can you just group chapters, and call it three books? Outrageous.The book is physically good in the sense that it is durable, and printed nicely very clear, and readable from a distance. Also very informative, and doesn’t leave much out, but again, the material is very basic.I hope this was helpful and good luck finding the right method for you.

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