Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Jacob Lawrence in BMCM+AC’s New Space Highlights Annual Conference

The 10th annual BMC conference takes place September 28-30, 2018 at the Reuters Center on UNC-A’s campus. A show of work examining his work and life at BMC opens September 28th in the BMC museum’s new space. This will be the 8th out of 10 I have attended; in recent years I have started creating a printed hand-laid paper object to give out. Above is this year’s, using a quote from the website of the Jacob and Gwen Knight Lawrence Center. Looking forward to it!

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September 27, 2018 Posted by | art, Black Mountain | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sally Buckner, A Writer’s Writer That Championed North Carolina

Sally Buckner, 1931-2018

The first time I met Sally Buckner was through Sam Ragan, and she came to seem, in my eyes, as important a North Carolina literary figure as that wonderful man. I was in tenth grade, and my mother, dying of brain cancer and desperate to do something for her lost creative son, talked Mr. Ragan into letting me into an evening writing seminar he was conducting at the Hill Library at State College. All the other students were college age or older, but everyone was very kind to me and I learned a lot. Sally was one of the students, but I put that together in retrospect after many years.

Sally taught a writing class to M.Ed students at NCSU in the 90’s and her class was one of my last in getting my degree in Special Education. Her approach to this course was perfect for me and I was re-invigorated, newly aware of the possibilities for creative non-fiction, and moved by the memoirs she had stimulated me to write. It was clear to me she was a great teacher, and as we got to know each other I discovered our only previous meeting, in spite of close brushes through the years. I also came to know and greatly respect her own writings, as well as all she had done to promote North Carolina literary culture.

Sally was a very good writer, and I believe she was a great teacher of writing. These skills culminated in my favorite work of her, Our Words, Our Ways, a teaching anthology of NC writing through history. She taught in many venues at all age levels, but her 28 year career at Peace College took her into retirement. When she retired, I printed the poem below for her retirement dinner. As shown on her Facebook page and elsewhere, she was beloved and will be greatly missed.

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Sally Buckner papers at UNC

Losing My Father, a poem by Sally Buckner

 

January 8, 2018 Posted by | literary, Raleigh history, reflection | , | 1 Comment

BMC Conference – time for being locally articulate!*

Above is  the bookmark I will be giving away at the 9th Annual ReViewing BMC Conference. The quote from Dewey is appropriate for the work/technique/process theme detectable in this year’s offerings, and I’m really excited about going, but the printing of this quote is just as much about the new book published by Brian Butler, who is the UNC-A philosophy professor who helps run the BMCM+AC and who practically invented the wonderful annual conference. I have missed only two of the nine and been blessed with many new friendships through it, Brian not the least. Dewey, whose philosophy infused Black Mountain College, was an early pragmatist, as was Charles Pierce, someone I’ve tried to study over the years. Brian’s tangible and personable promotion of pragmatism, his willingness to interact with a layman such as myself, and reading his new book have given me a healthy dose of mental stimulation and a lot to ponder as we all face the task of finding a workable world view from which we can operate as a world community.

Democratic experimentalism as expressed by John Dewey involves lots of individual, indeed radically local, input about how things are working in the trenches of regular people – a kind of populism. Dewey is perfectly aware it only works if the populace, for the most part, has a reasonable degree of broad and liberal education, so that we can use a logical AND humanistic perspective to examine how social processes are operating. The only way to build a society is to be sociable – personally connected in governmental processes that are democratic all the way down, allowing, again, for constant LOCAL and empirical feedback on the successes and failures of social and commercial processes.

Brian takes the ideas of democratic experimentalism and applies them to jurisprudence, showing that the formalist and strictly literal interpretation of the Constitution pursued by many jurists (and the current majority of the Supreme Court) takes far too little account of the empirical, demonstrable effects of their rulings and literally and purposely exclude non-legal information from their reasonings. Constitutional law needs to be flexible enough to respond to the real workings of the world. Court decisions need to be made in an information-rich context and judges should be acting collaboratively with all parties involved to create a just and good outcome. How can we transform our proud but creaky governmental institutions to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world? Brian Butler has a few very well reasoned ideas.

This dabbling in contemporary philosophy reflects a life-long, if little shared, thread of my reading. After attending Brian’s small UNC-A conference on neuro-pragmatism, I ordered The Essential William James, edited by a conference leader, John Shook, who offers critical praise for The Democratic Constitution. And I’m truly curious to read a philosophy book, quoted in Brian’s book, whose subtitle is “emerson, jazz and experimental writing.” Expanding those mental horizons! Important for us aging furry freak brothers. Peace.

*post title: About the concern that “localized deliberation…risks domination by the articulate”, Brian quips “at least it would be domination of the locally articulate rather than the professionalized articulate.” I like the phrase very much.  PS the image on the jacket of Brian Butler’s book is Wage Map No.1 – Polk St to Twelfth, Halstead St to Jefferson, Chicago.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Black Mountain, reflection | , , | Leave a comment

Jonathan Williams The Lord of Orchards: an anthology

Jeffery Beam is an old friend and a wonderful poet whose work is often celebrated here. In 2009, a year after the passing of Jonathan Williams, he and Richard Owens published online a “festschrift” of remembrances and appreciations in honor of Williams and his accomplishments as small press publisher (especially of The Black Mountain School poets), photographer, writer and cultural bloodhound in a lifelong pursuit of a “poetics of gathering.” The print version, with many excellent additions, has now been published.

The image above is my copy of the book, from Prospecta Press,  and my copy of a postcard*, pictured on the back of the book, which I received in 1980 from a dear artist friend who purchased it at the Gotham Bookshop. I met Jonathan Williams at a small press fair in Carrboro where we each had a table. Over the years, Jargon Society titles and broadsides of JW’s poetry have come my way and kept me intrigued with the noble, eclectic, Epicurean curmudgeon of Highlands.

The title of the book comes from a JW poem:

the Lord of Orchards

selects his fruit

in the Firmament’s

breast

JW had many titles, most of his own epistolary stylings: Lord Nose, the Colonel, J Jeeter Swampwater, Big Enis. He was also called, by Hugh Kenner, Custodian of Snowflakes and Truffle-Hound of American Poetry, in honor of his indefatigable efforts to find and preserve culture, some found in the oddest places. He was a champion of Outsider artists, a curator of obscure literary references and a model for all those who shared or admired his “deep affection for the strange.” With Jargon Society Press, he presented the world with much important writing, well after his heyday of publishing cohorts at BMC, where JW enrolled in 1951 in order to study photography with Harry Callahan.

The BMC connections are strong but complicated,as described in Ross Hair’s essay in this book, entitled “Hemi-Demi-Semi Barbaric Yawps” – Jonathan Williams and Black Mountain College. He came late in the existence of this doomed educational icon, and immediately developed a strong but somewhat antagonistic relationship with Charles Olson, who JW found to be “an extremely enkindling sort of man.” As publisher, JW helped establish some BMC reputations but also applied his always broad skills as book designer and editor to create a unique body of published work that celebrates the visionary creativity to be found in the South. Mr. Hair well describes the way JW’s absolutely wide-open close attention and curiosity regarding all cultural phenomenon, in his poetry and publishing, provides a balance to the hyper-masculine and exclusionary influences of Olson’s BMC era.

The anthology, like the original online feature, contains four sections: Remembering (memorial writings), Responding (literary analysis), Reviewing (his photography), and Recollecting (appreciations of Jargon Society Press). Additions included in the print version include letters between JW and his first partner, Ronald Johnson, a recounting of the publication of White Trash Cooking, and transcripts of interview/film sessions with Neal Hutcheson. Congratulations to Jeffery and long live the memory of Jonathan Williams, a true original. My favorite JW broadside, reprinted from Pairadaeza for a reading at NC Wesleyan College, reads thus:

*Poet’s Silhouette (1951): Looking Forward to a Lifetime of meditation on a Text by R.B. Kitaj. NYC 1978, Artists Postcards.

original online feature at Jacket Magazine

Jargon Society Press is now part of the BMCM+AC

 

September 25, 2017 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, literary | , , | 1 Comment

The BMCMAC Fires All Cylinders for Ray J’s Paper Snake Show

Paper Snake promos - Edited

Something Else Entirely

Ray Johnson, Dick Higgins + the making of The Paper Snake

The summer 2015 show at the Black Mountain College Museum in Asheville presented newly re-discovered archives of publication material for Ray Johnson’s The Paper Snake, designed and published by Ray’s good friend Dick Higgins in 1965 as the second title from Higgins’ Something Else Press. Curator Michael Von Uchtrup found the production material in a large brown paper envelope among the many items in William S. Wilson’s Ray Johnson archive. The envelope lay unopened for 50 years. The exhibit displays original collages, design proofs, an autographed copy of the very rare first printing, and various related material, including hilarious “promotion flyers” produced by Ray for the book. The show came on the heels of the reprinting of The Paper Snake by Siglio Press in 2014.

“The show is full of mysteries,” stated Von Uchtrup at the opening reception on June 5, 2015. The Paper Snake is nearly as much about Dick Higgins’ “translation” of Ray Johnson’s ideas as it is a record of one stream of Ray’s voluminous sendings. Higgins selected and sometimes altered the material, often to Ray’s dismay. Many of the proof pages and original art for the book showed significant differences from the final book, and a few bits of the text seemed to be written by Higgins. Still, the book and the show are filled with lists, tiny plays, letters, quotes from reading, and all the other unique fusions of art, communication and humor found in Ray Johnson’s work.

This was a show to read more than to view. Though greatly enhanced by several early collages on loan from Bill Wilson, the bulk of the show was devoted to images directly related to The Paper Snake. Large proofs sequenced on the wall enabled one to actually stand and read the book in proof form.The display tables held much dense typescript that usually rewarded closer inspection. A special treat was the audio-visuals: three audio-cassette records of performance works by Ray Johnson, a Dick Higgins poem recitation, and 1965 8mm films of Ray. Even the book selection on the sales shelf offered a wide and valuable range of titles relevant to the show, including of course, the book itself. The reprint was issued in the same print run as the original, 1840 copies. Siglio Press calls it a “vertiginous,mind-bending artist’s book … far ahead of its time.”

postcard from Lightworks # 22, dedicated to Ray Johnson

The events surrounding the show not only illuminated the book but also presented a fine example of the wonderful work done by the BMCMAC staff and its presenters in providing context and local artistic collaboration to deepen our connection to Black Mountain College. The day after the reception, the curator was joined by Julie J. Thomson for a freely flowing discussion based on slide images of the career and artistic significance of Ray Johnson. Julie has set herself the task of discovering “how one becomes an artist like Ray Johnson,” and her close reading of resonances within the book and her honest embrace of the ambiguity and occasional frustration of dissecting Ray’s inscrutable processes made for a fascinating sharing.  Michael  Von Uchtrup is working on a biography of Ray, and he emphasized many learnable moments derived from close attention to the materials in his discovery. Julie and Michael’s reminiscences of interviews and anecdotes echoed a strong theme in the documentary film about Ray: no one really knew Ray Johnson, or everyone knew a different side of him. Julie and Michael’s perspectives on the show were offered in full length essays in the large brochure accompanying the show.

On July 3rd, a full audience enjoyed the presentation of “In the Arm of Flowers”, a performance by Megan Ransmeier and Julia Rich. The themes of correspondence, communication over space, and isolation played out in dance movements, readings and evocative vocalizations by the two artists. Their performance was based on three years of correspondence, and was dedicated to Ray’s work. In the exhibit’s final public event Alice Sebrell gave a strong introduction to the screening of “How to Draw a Bunny“, the award-winning 2002 documentary featuring 1995 interviews with Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein and others.

This array of features was capped by the publication of Volume 8 of Black Mountain College Studies, which was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Paper Snake as well as the exhibit under discussion. It includes essays, interviews, and many topics for further exploration. With Sebastian Matthew’s 2010 show on Ray’s early years, the BMCMAC has provided a Ray J fan (and past correspondent) like myself with a rich set of experiences and learning opportunities.  This exhibit provided the general and artistic community with another window into the unique and ground-breaking work that emerged from BMC. It took some fairly esoteric and technical materials and turned them into a show and event schedule that provided for a very enriching summer at the BMCMAC.

all RR posts on Ray Johnson

all RR posts on Black Mountain College

October 27, 2015 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, Ray Johnson | , | Leave a comment