It seems like yesterday, though it was actually half a year ago, that I rejoiced in this here blog-space at reaching the halfway point of Torture Garden: Naked City Pastorelles. At the time I'd been working on this 42-poem sequence for a couple of years. Well, I seem to have picked up steam over the last few months, & earlier this evening I drafted the last of them. So the sequence, at least in draft form, is complete, from #1, "Blood Is Thin," to #42, "Gob of Spit." I've been contemplating some prose around the project:
I began with a vast admiration for the music produced by John Zorn's Naked City ensemble – for the record, Zorn on sax, Bill Frisell on guitar, Fred Frith on bass, Joey Baron on drums, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, & Yamatsuka Eye (sometimes) on vocals. The band, like so many of Zorn's projects, was the unholy marriage of beloved genres – in this case noir film music, jazz, surf music, and hardcore thrash.
On one of my stays in Austin, Texas to research the LZ biography, I picked up a copy of the band's double-CD set Black Box. One disk was the half-hour, endlessly deferred volcanic noise ejaculation Leng Tch'e; the other was Torture Garden, a collection of 42 hardcore "miniatures," brief explosions of tightly controlled noise, genre-zagging bursts none of which clocked in over 1.18 (one of which is a mere 11 seconds). I listened to Torture Garden over & over, & more & more it struck me that these pieces appealed to me as models for poems: short, tightly controlled, aggressive, free of all padding & discursive structure.
The form at which I arrived for these "pastorelles" was what I think of as an "emaciated" sonnet – 7 lines to the sonnet's 14. The 5-words line is obviously borrowed from LZ's late work, "A"-21, "A"-22 & -23, and 80 Flowers. The poems make great & entirely unsystematic use of found language, usually from whatever I was reading at the moment, tho often from what I was (half) listening to: at least one derives from the simultaneously earnest, enraging, & inane discourse of a department meeting, & there are a run of pastorelles "dedicated" to various people whose talks & readings I've attended – not necessarily as gestures of admiration or affection (tho I'd stipulate that I do admire & like most of them) but because I've stolen their language.
The pastorelles are not meant in any measure to mime or reproduce the sea of interfering & overlapping discourse in which we swim, nor to provide some shorthand rendition of contemporary attention-deficit-disorder. They are as carefully composed as I could compose them. I did not want mere noise, but controlled noise.
Here's a recent example: