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.