not too anxious for immortality

Christian Asplund, a composer, performer, and professor of music occasionally hosts a kind of salon he calls Avant GaRAWge. Last night’s event featured a performance piece by Christian on guitar and voice and body interacting with another guitarist/vox/corpus. There were readings by poet laureate Lance Larson and by the Sonosopher Alex Caldiero.

Alex read last, and after the applause I gave him a hug and told him he was my prophet. What made me say that?  I don’t believe in prophets. What does the word prophet mean? Why didn’t I just say you’re my sonosopher?

Sonosopher would have described the profound sounds. Alex’s deep voice, so resonant that at times it awakened strings on the grand piano behind him, overwhelmed me.


The experience was profound in ways that included the aural dimension and expanded it. Alex has produced a remarkable series of chapbooks in the last year, one of which contained the work he read last night.


He told me that in the foreseeable future he was only going to perform work that had never been performed. Last night he chose a section from TAKE THE RAP FOR GOD. In this fat little book Alex reproduces the contents of a notebook he filled early in 2007. Images of actual pages are often followed by a typed version on the facing page. Sometimes the reproductions stand alone and a reader needs patience and a magnifying glass.


Alex read about an old friend (and while he read I replaced the Frenchman with my old Sicilian friend):

my old friend Mallarme / open his book and he’s there

the patterns on the page / read him into existence

if I say the words just so / he returns and tells me more

Alex turned the pages from poem to poem, turning to tell me more, pausing at times, as he notes at the end of the Mallarme poem, for an “indeterminate length.”

He read about creation:

This ability to shape alter and produce it / is too much a case of mistaken abilities / or should I’ve said identities.

The poem is about shapeshifting makers, about poets, and ends like this:

We recognize / each other as fellow makers, humans, & not / too anxious for immortality.

Alex reads in short bursts, a single word, two words, the words that make up a line. His emphasis breaks up the meaning. I have to wait for memory to reassemble the thought. These poems are themselves fragments of meaning, often written before dawn, bordering on the subconscious. They remind me a bit of John Ashbery’s work in the way they make me agree to forego clear and sustained meaning in favor of accumulated meaning. But while Ashbery’s poems are assembled from fragments of overheard or (over)read speech, while they are arranged and rearranged, Alex’s poems have simply happened. There he is in the night. There is his notebook. There is his pen. He writes. He draws. And he turns to the next page. His is improvised poetry, fixed on the page the way a recording fixes an improvised jazz performance .

You are too present / Or you don’t exist.

Alex is too present. It is a difficult existence. It produces poetry. And he is my prophet.


About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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6 Responses to not too anxious for immortality

  1. I miss hearing him live so much.


  2. Crap – I don’t know how to get them! Ken Sanders doesn’t have them listed in their inventory. I’ve got pretty much all of the ones they have listed there.


  3. I need a dealer. Who sends me Alex’s stuff when it comes out. To feed my addiction.


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