Thursday, December 03, 2009

Morton Feldman & A New Poetry Series, David Dodd Lee, editor

First up, Morton Feldman. I’m not sure if I’ve convinced anyone of Feldman’s worth or not, but I’ve convinced myself. So, to close off my reading of his highly interesting Give My Regards to Eight Street, here are a few final shots across the bow:


There is a marvelous story about Duchamp and an art student in San Francisco many years ago. Duchamp goes to this art school and he sees this kind of tough, macho San Francisco painter and Duchamp looks at this picture he doesn’t know. He says to the fellow, “What are you doing?” And the painter says, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” Duchamp pats him on the back and says, “Keep up the good work!”

I remember once I heard a marvelous discussion with very famous abstract painters at the Artists’ Club and the discussion was, when is a work of art finished? Wonderful discussion. And none of them had any formal answer. De Kooning said the last stroke finishes it; Philip Guston said when he walks away from it, that’s when it’s finished; and each one had a different attitude about it. For me it was very influential in my life because what the painters taught me, essentially, was to ask. Oh, I ask many questions when I’m working. If I would have to say which I would put on top, I would say: “What is needed in this piece? How much do I take out? What’s needed? What’s needed?”

[T]he artist has this incredible problem. Especially if they are young and they are growing up because everything is right. Bach is right and his kinder are right. Gluck is right, Palestrina is right, Karlheinz is right, everybody is right. The confusion of a young artist growing up is not the confusion that everybody is wrong and I’m right, the confusion is that everybody is right. Am I wrong? So, you’re intimidated, because every system works . . . . Hegel works, Kierkegaard works.

Craft is something you do in the light, skill is something you do in the dark.

Ideas are given. Concepts are given, everything is given. How do you orchestrate it? That’s not given. That’s not in the books. We must make that decision. That’s the only decision.

Instruments are the answer to the cul-de-sac, not ideas.

[T]he instrument doesn’t have any ideas, the instrument is ready to play . . . . That’s the trouble with my students. They say, “How can you write anything for the piano in 1978? How could you write anything for the piano?” I said, “Leave the piano alone, it’s not the piano’s fault. It’s what people write for the piano. There is nothing wrong with the piano.”

One of the problems with variation in twentieth-century music is that they make the variation too obvious.

[T]hinking . . . with a lot of my students in Buffalo and the postmodernism and things like that which were always indicated by style, not by facility. And I was getting a little upset about that—the whole idea of just identifying things stylistically and not really thinking too much about what goes into it.

I came across this remark by Mies van der Rohe which I agree with completely. It’s really . . . I couldn’t, no one could say it better. He said, “I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good.”

One must distinguish between craft and technique. If a composer talks of craft in his work, it is almost certain he is talking about someone else’s craft.

Music seems to be understood best by its proximity to other music that is more familiar. We do not hear what we hear . . . only what we remember.

The only time an artist gives up his ideas is when a better past comes along.

Some make no journey. We have a word for them. Modernists. They make a virtue of being of their own time. They are content with the fact that while the goals may be remote, the means are always practical.

The irrationality of being an artist is that it’s too rational, art is too rational . . . too rational! All this aura of freedom. Yet it is self-evident that art is the antithesis of freedom.


And second, David Dodd Lee. He a friend of mine, and I’ve admired his work and valued his thinking for several years now. I just got word that fills me with pleasure, and I trust something very good is going to come of it:

Wolfson Press Poetry
Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award Guidelines

Judge: David Dodd Lee, Series Editor

The Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award is being created in an effort to bring fresh and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize will be offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome. The winning poet will receive $1,000 and publication of his or her book. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at Indiana University South Bend as part of the release of the book. Finalists, other than the prize-winning manuscript, will be considered for publication. The final selection will be made by the Series Editor. Current or former students or employees of Indiana University South Bend, as well as friends of the Series Editor or other Wolfson Press staff, are not eligible for the prize. There is a $25, non-refundable, entry fee, made payable to Wolfson Press. There is no limit on the number of entries an author may submit. Simultaneous submissions are fine, in fact they are encouraged, but please withdraw your manuscript if it is taken for publication elsewhere. Please include a SASE with each entry. Please include a self-addressed postage paid postcard if you desire confirmation of manuscript receipt. No manuscripts will be returned. Entries sent by e-mail or fax are not permitted; they will be disqualified. On your cover sheet include name, address, phone number, and e-mail. The manuscript should be paginated and include a table of contents and acknowledgments page. Manuscripts will be accepted starting December 1, 2009, and ending deadline will be March 1, 2010.

Manuscripts received prior to December 1, or postmarked after March 1, will be recycled and the entry fee returned. The winner will receive 50 copies of his or her book. With questions e-mail

Mail manuscripts to:

Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award
Indiana University South Bend
Department of English
1700 Mishawaka Avenue
P. O. Box 7111
South Bend, IN 46634-7111

Manuscripts submitted for the Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award should exhibit an awareness of the contemporary “voice” in American poetry, an awareness of our moment in time as poets. We are excited to receive poetry that is experimental as well as work of a more formalist bent, as long as it reflects a complexity and sophistication of thought and language. Urgency, yes; melodrama, not so much. Winners will be announced via this website, as well as through the mail. We will also announce the winner in major magazines (Poets & Writers) and blogs, including this one. The winning book, and any others chosen from the pool of entries, will be published in 2011.


At 12/03/2009 3:10 PM, Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I'm convinced.

At 12/03/2009 5:05 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Bless you.

At 12/08/2009 10:35 AM, Blogger R. Sanford said...

Many thanks for the Wolfson shoutout.


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