COLORS MORE COLORS

COLORS MORE COLORS, my second short collection of writings – this time just six poems and one short story- will be available for purchase and perusal in September. You will be able to buy it at the usual spots- Needles N’ Pens, Dog Eared Books, and Modern Times in the Mission, or Spectators, Owl & Company, Issues, and EM Wolfman in the East Bay.- as well as a select few new spots (which I will make known as they happen), as well as on the internets.

photo

Also keep an eye out for up and coming readings, both of the selfsame work as well as a few classics from MY FIST IS A BOOK OF ETHICS and selections from my current project- slated for release in the spring- WATCH AS I BRING IT TO THE SURFACE WITH A BASEBALL BAT, a memoir in long-poem form.

A Review By Way Of An Introduction

Last spring I had the honor of opening for Claudia Rankine at the Holloway Reading Series at UC Berkeley, and was lucky to have had poet, professor and series co-curator Geoffrey G. O’Brien introduce me and my work. What follows is the transcript of said introduction, obtained and published with his permission:

“Joshua Anderson’s poetry is explicitly about poetry, about what it can know and do, if it can be said to do anything, about where and when it takes place, if it does, and about the temporality and body English of reading it. It is therefore often inexplicitly about everything else and relies heavily on words like something, somewhere, what, that, this, and on other kinds of disappearance, marked by terms like gone, dissolution, and, most frequently, away, deictic pronouns come unmoored from their context and then are going, going, gone. This can sound a lot like Ashbery, say the spiritualized vagueness of Three Poems or “Clepsydra,” in which lines mostly record the time passing through them:

It is only when one realizes that this occurs

that when, somewhere along the way, it has become

But what happens in poetry’s carefully established vagueness does not stay in vagueness for Anderson, often it reaches out to touch what then feel like hyper-particularities—liquor stores and Augusts—moving from somewhere’s “ether” to a tongue on a body; but even this “oscillation” between the poem and the world it has “farawayed” has to be traced:

to touch a particular crack is to trace it

or to fight the urge to trace it and to

call into question the propriety of that

point at which one feels one should stop

touching it, touch it with something else,

or jump to another crack; it depends on

what or if you are looking for and what, and

whether or not you can trace over it in

something like the reverse,

Anderson calls this a “Critique of the Surface,” a parody of logic, of collision mechanics, of desire and fetish that ends up exceeding parody or stopping well short of it. Ashbery, reviewing Stein’s Stanzas in Meditation, would describe Anderson’s language as “made up almost entirely of colorless connecting words such as “where,” “which,” “these,” “of,” “not,” “have,” “about,” and so on, though now and then Miss Stein throws in an orange, a lilac, or an Albert to remind us that it really is the world, our world, that she has been talking about.” This “way of happening” Ashbery praises in Stein while describing his own practice is also why, must be why Anderson can write a line as colorless as “this must be why” and follow it with “I so often address / the world.””

To learn more first hand, you can purchase MY FIST IS A BOOK OF ETHICS online here, or offline at the places listed here, under “II.”.

The Last Honest Place In America OR Some Of The Ways In Which Something Is Not That Thing

Recently I asked Facebook what it thought of when it thought of Las Vegas. One answer, in particular, struck me:

“THE LAST HONEST PLACE IN AMERICA”

Which is perfect because Las Vegas isn’t even Las Vegas. The world famous Las Vegas Strip isn’t actually in Las Vegas. In fact, it begins immediately on the outside of the city limits; is explicitly not Las Vegas. It runs for about four miles, first through Winchester (formerly Paradise “A”), and then (and this for its vast majority) through Paradise (proper, formerly known as Paradise “B”), Nevada- neither of which are actually cities. They’re places, designated as such by the census and that liminal space that comprises the interface between criminality and business, and administered by the county.

Four miles outside of town stands a sign that has been famously welcoming people to Las Vegas as they enter a place called Paradise for over 50 years. Half a century ago Paradise was mostly desert; today the sign- an icon of Googie aesthetics– stands in the median at 5200 Las Vegas Boulevard, next to a parking lot built specifically for its visitors, rising like old desert wisdom out of decorative artificial turf, the backdrop to a perpetually proliferating virtual archive of tourist selfies.

Even the Las Vegas that is Las Vegas isn’t Las Vegas. The part of Las Vegas that you might think of when you think of Las Vegas and that you probably think of as being on the Las Vegas Strip, but isn’t, is in downtown Las Vegas, on Fremont Street.

But it isn’t even a street. At least, not any more- not the westernmost five blocks anyway. A pedestrian mall / “attraction” has been built over where one used to be able to- up until 1995 – experience Fremont Street as such, a pedestrian mall / “attraction” known as The Fremont Street Experience.

newyears81lasvegas
The Fremont Street Experience Before the Fremont Street Experience was The Fremont Street Experience: Fireworks on New Year’s Eve, 1981, courtesy of VintageLasVegas.Tumblr.Com

Where the experience of a thing becomes something other than that thing: Las Vegas institutions and symbols still line the walkway, some of them in their original locations, others relocated to the experience, where something like an essence of Las Vegas is distilled and displayed by fabricating itself. But none of this is particularly ironic: “original location” is very much a problematic term for a city that is comprised of a constant rise and fall, building up and tearing down and starting over, buying and selling and renaming and re-branding and re-theming; there is nothing therefore new or singular to (The) Fremont Street (Experience)’s act of duplicative re-fabrication: what it displays when it displays itself isn’t necessarily itself, but the way it’s itself.

90 feet above the walkway stretches a massive four-block-long video canopy, beneath which a zip-line runs, whizzing tourists from one end of the experience to the other, high above the heads of the crowd. There are outdoor stages featuring bands playing hits of the 90’s, outdoor bars featuring scantily clad tenders dancing on them, grandmas and babies, Ultimate Avengers impersonators, a white middle age Midwestern couple bumping and grinding to Alanis Morissette while sipping warm Bud Light from 3-foot plastic beer mugs, and every hour- on the hour- it all stops. The lights go out, the bands take a break, and the canopy explodes with snippets of highly edited videos of live Bon Jovi performances accentuated with graphics and effects not unlike what I imagine an apocalyptic Guitar Hero orgy might look like. Everyone stops and looks up, mouths agape, smartphones held aloft in the act of recording, the act of adding to whatever it is another layer of displaying what is being displayed, of experience.

 

Free Aspirin & Tender Sympathy

PlazaFremont
The Plaza, at the Western Terminus of Fremont Street, in the early 90’s

An old photograph of Las Vegas is somehow not a representation of Las Vegas; is somehow coextensive, perfect for the job of disclosing whatever it- Las Vegas- is. Scanned and posted onto Vintage Las Vegas [dot] Tumblr [dot] com, the suggestion -or reminder of the fact that- of an actual photograph’s materiality is inescapable: one can almost feel it on the tips of one’s fingers. The fact that it is (was?) a photograph creates a second surface that emerges and effaces here and there, reminding you (whether you realize it or not) what it is.

endofthedunes
The end of the Dunes. Las Vegas, 1993. Photo: William Mercer McLeod.

Old photographs of Las Vegas are texture comprised of texture like fabric. Something synthetic, smelling of stale cigarette smoke, made to be a backdrop in a photograph, a snapshot, the location of a flash glare, a pale angel that photobombs everyone’s memories. Like fabric because the smallest elements, the lights, are so close together, comprise so much of the surface and therefore the object. The surface is the object but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing on the other side, the inside, but that’s the problem: Las Vegas is an hermeneutic that claims to be impenetrable: what happens there stays there. The problem is that it is a claim that can’t negate, but only supports, its own tentative truth (as a claim): one can never really know what’s in there. And what’s more: the surface is enough. A spectacle, what matters is what it does and/ or does not disclose, what it can disclose, what is able to be disclosed about what is on the other side, about the nature of the other side, about the process of traversing the space the surface-spectacle divides, whether or not divide is a suitable verb for what it is doing, something about a double-sided mirror, etc.

freeaspirin
Free Aspirin & Tender Sympathy. Las Vegas Strip c.1970s.