Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coolidge, Depositions

I recently acquired this interesting Coolidge piece, Smithsonian Depositions & Subject to a Film, a dual book published in 1980 by Vehicle Editions (Annabel Levitt). It is a beautiful, smallish book, noteworthy for several reasons. The most overt being that the second piece, Subject to a Film, is ostensibly a poem about the movie Jaws. While such a concept is pretty interesting in & of itself, it makes for an especially interesting move from Coolidge, given his marked move toward using films as sources in his work from the 90s, mostly collected in the On the Nameways volumes. It is also quite unlike any other of his works I've read, featuring significantly less surface pomp than the major works of the time [between Own Face & Mine: The One That Enters The Stories]. So, where exactly did this Jaws-poem surface from?

I haven't familiarized myself as much with the first section of the book, Smithsonian Depositions, but the interesting thing there is that while the text is more similar to the above-mentioned major works of the era, Coolidge feels compelled to list his sources. The list includes some potentially expected names such as William Carlos Williams, Jack Kerouac, Bernadette Mayer, Alain Robbe-Grillet, JG Ballard, Arthur Conan Doyle. But there are others which perhaps warrant further investigation, including Yvon Chouinard, Don Judd, Raymond Ditmars, Frederick A Lucas, Frederick Law Olmstead. Do all of these writers (& the books listed) even exist?

The copy in & of itself is special as well: it is signed twice by Coolidge, once on the title page, once on the FFEP. Also, there is a notecard laid in with a quote from Beckett, seemingly in Coolidge's hand: "The task of the artist now is to find a form to accommodate the mess." Coolidge in fact uses this quote, though the order of the phrases is reversed, in several of his works. It surfaces in his section (From Notebooks 1976-1982) of the Code of Signals anthology edited by Michael Palmer, & also in his talk "Arrangement" from the Talking Poetics from Naropa Institute (1978) volume.

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