Spoken word artist León De la Rosa and videojockey Gabriela Duran recorded Todo Esta Siempre Bien and then It Ain't on three occasions at three locations—The 2010 Humanities Education and Research Association Conference, The Rubin Center at the University of Texas in El Paso, and their home in Cuidad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. They then took the three recordings and mixed them together to produce this, the definitive published version of this videorant. Please note that Todo Esta Siempre Bien and then It Ain't is 23 minutes and 279 megabytes, and will require a high-speed connection. It's an Apple .mp4 file, so if you have difficulty playing it, try installing QuickTime.
Todo Esta Siempre Bien and then It Ain't is the first chapter of So Solo Palabras but Wish to Be a City, León De la Rosa's forthcoming longpoem from Unlikely Books. So Solo Palabras but Wish to Be a City is about the possibility of heroism in Juárez, and as such, is presented as a new genre: the graphic poem, illustrated in a comic style by Guiraga7 as a graphic novel might be, but formatted for the pecularities of verse, rather than text. Staffers Belinda Subraman and Jonathan Penton recently discussed the book with León:
And as long as you're here, check out León's work at The Gun Gallery, in Cuidad Juárez. Recently, he curated a multimedia show, Espokenwordando, starring Nancy Lachuga, Logan Phillips, and Jen Shugert, three U.S. poets. Belinda filmed it for us:
leon de la rosa is gaby's husband, laura & gustavo's son, alejo, paola & ardilla's brother; a videomaker and a espokenwordist; a researcher and faculty member at Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez and a Free Holé Slammer. You can check out his web site here: www.LeonDelaRosa.org.
Yes, we do. Yes, we are choking everyone. And, also, therefore, we are responsible for the suffering condition of our species.
Goodness, all this guilt tends to make someone not want to go back to work on Monday in order to total their 65 hours per week, and now feeling guilty for the global condition, the urban condition, the immigrant condition, and wait, wait, yes, the human condition.
Now that it's been said for the 2,000th time, I am starting to understand. So, wait, things aren't good for everyone on earth? No way. That's not what this pamphlet says.
Don't undress an umbrella. The gopher will choke you.
In the meantime, how about some revision, some magic, and some poetry that isn't a poor didactic lecture with semi-rhyme thrown in to the mix.
This is for the thought, and for the record. We can all do better. Those poets willing to spit, those hearing the spit, and those spit upon.
Leon De la Rosa
Hi David, I don't mean to be fastidious, though i guess that means i am, but i do have to ask a few questions:
Are you reacting to the WHOLE of the works published in this page or to bits and pieces of them? if so, could you maybe point out which ones are you refereeing to?
What's the deal with the umbrella and the gopher?
Can revision, or the lack-there-of, be recognized without being witness to the process of such endeavor?
What is magic?
Is poetry monolithic enough to recognize its presence and/or absence? (i always worry when i hear the term poetry as if it should be capitalized (or any other for that matter))
I only asks these because i am truly curious, not in an effort to defend anything that has been published under my name(s) but really just in an effort to "do better".
btw. LOVED the spit image.
Nice to hear back.
Okay, let me think. Magic is when the rabbit is pulled out of the hat and everyone wonders "Where'd that rabbit come from?" And then suddenly everyone realizes that they are the rabbit.
This is different than when a rabbit is set before the audience and the message delivered is that we should feel pity for the rabbit, or different from the rabbit, as though we are not at all rabbits ourselves.
I was responding to the video post above, and I definitely don't doubt that there are more legitimate forms of poetry than I'd ever recognize. I saw that there was a comments section, and so I thought I'd comment, and I'm more than happy to have this conversation, so long as we set off with the knowledge that I understand my own reaction to work is not perfect, and that I definitely don't have some political-poetical agenda. I'm commenting, which is what I think comment sections are useful for. In this process, maybe I can learn a thing or two to help me more properly digest work that feels very situated in the lecture-essay mode.
I really liked the shadow over the top of the images and the videos, but both pieces felt constrained by their own subject matter. Plenty of great images at work, but what is the result of the images and the language if the message remains deliberate, and oriented in the thesis realm? I really don't know. This is why I'm asking.
The first poem (was it yours?) had an awesome delivery, but it was hard for me to chew on the "you"/"they" structure of the work. I mean, it's very likely that a work like this could not only enact a change in perception but further a change in political action. But then... hmmm... it's also a bit preachy to the choir-esque.
That said, this same piece delivered via bullhorn during rush hour traffic on a jampacked freeway might more likely yield some converts. So, it's the context here that leaves me wishing for more.
As to revision, and knowing if it's there or not if one hasn't witnessed the process of a work. Of course, I could never know that. But... then...
Hell, who knows?
Just a comment.
David, that's Logan Phillips' poem, "Vancouzy, High As Fuck." I'd type an explanation of what each piece on this page is, but, well, I did that already :)
Yes, that's right.
Ray Motherfuckin Ramos
As a follower of Mr. De La Rosa's poetry (if you can call it that), I am quite fond of his rants, or spits, or long tactile insults to the soul...in fact the motherfucker is a genius at make me react, making me squirm in my seat and making my vagina wet...
don't get me wrong, either you like it or you don't, but just as the poem is concerned, the poet is the same, either you like him or you don't, I myself LOVE the bastard and so I indulge him in his spit-isms!
But when you cut down to the bone, he has made you react and feel something and that in the end is the true purpose of any good writer...
Leon De la Rosa
hey again, i really liked your idea about magic, now i'm getting somewhere... totally agree about the "comment section" stuff, it's actually a cool little exercise we are conducting here... yeah, 'bout logan's piece, that was part of a show i curated where visual art met poetry, you can check out the whole thing (if you'd like here: http://www.leondelarosa.org/exhibiciones/espokenwordeando-2010/
i agree about the preachy-like quality of it, i think it is part of the point though, logan told me a story about him performing that piece in a rehab clinic in NYC and how the patients felt a complete sense of empowerment and empathy... maybe that has a lot more to do with his intentions than converting anyone... on the other hand, it was HIS own account of the events, but I actually trust him to be honest and cool about shit like this...
but i'm actually interested in getting some thoughts on my work above (where it says "download todo esta siempre bien and then it ain't")... if willing and able of course...
To Ray Motherfuckin Ramos:
Okay, but without meeting the poet, it's a bit tricky to say I'd like him or not. And it's the same with poetry too, I think. Immediate reactions are valuable, but so is more discussion of the whys and hows of liking a piece that one might not have liked initially. That's what I'm after. I'm not looking for a fight; I'm looking for discussion.
I don't think much of anything in the world is "either you like it or you don't." If that were true, we'd only like breastmilk and not much else. See what I mean? We grow and develop our appreciations, which is why we don't slather catsup onto steaks, or if not steaks, then our veggie platter, whose liking alone means we've really developed our pallete. There's more than initial reactions, otherwise we'd prefer Mother Goose to Eliot (some do), and Father Fox to Ginsberg, for example.
Just trying to open up a conversation, and Mr De la Rosa's poetry isn't being discussed, though I'll be reading it as soon as I can, especially since he's invited me to do so. (I think I remember some of his work from an earlier issue, about the evolution of an American male or just a male, can't recall the title: flag something?)
I'm curious, really, how long a comment section about poetry can remain civil. So often these conversations implode.
Funny, that doesn't happen on websites discussing rebuilding a carburetor or engine. Maybe it's because there are fewer subjective ways to do those things correctly, and maybe it's also because people care about the opinions of others and listen to the errs of others in order to get shit right when they give it a go. Who knows? Not me.
It's a cool work, I agree, but it shows a fair strain of derivation from for example the beats, but these days urban grit is less gritty since many of us have grown accustomed (not to the reality; reality is its own kinda truth) to poetry that attempts an appeal at logos but predominantly draws its delivery and message strength from pathos. Since there's little to be said for the speaker's "I", there's little to grasp onto in terms of ethos.
Are we, the "you" in the poem, supposed to just nod and say "Yes, that's me" or should/could we better react differently, when "we" are not the (what I consider a mostly useless trickery) "you" in a poem?
And if the preachy quality is part of the point, would it be better if we all just went to church and backed off poetry altogether? Or, would this work be better framed in an essay, where it's preachiness would naturally find purchase.
I suppose I'm getting at the difference between Guernica and, say, religious art. One allows the viewer to react and to contribute, the other just says this is the truth and you better believe me, which is tricky, faulty, and admirable ground for art to pound its foundations upon.
Now to bed with me and away I go.
Hit me back with your thoughts.
Well, speaking of Logan's use of the fictitious "you," I guess that reminds you of a sermon, but to me it decreases the similarities with a sermon. Contemporary poetry, whether performance or neo-formalist or jes' 'bout anything in between, suffers from the assumption that the poem is always autobiographical, no matter how layered in metaphor the statements might be. To me, when Logan creates a fictitious "you," he invites us to consider that we are overhearing someone else's conversation, which invites us to consider the possibility that the poet is not the narrator. It invites us, then, to study the narrator and his/her reactions to his/her environment, and yes, his/her pathos (although I don't find it preachy, I agree that it's pathos-centric, and while I appreciate that's not everyone's cup of tOH MY GOD IS THAT A SPIDER RUN RUN RUN RUN
Where was I? Anyway, so the title is "Vancouzy, High as Fuck," which leads me to wonder if the narrator and/or the "you" in the poem is high. I don't see the poem as something happening between the narrator and audience, but rather as parties on whom we are eavesdropping. The "you" increases the neurotic energy coming from the narrator, and I assume that's intentional, making the question of who is right and who is wrong even less clear cut (and I can find no good guy in the poem). I say this without having ever discussed the piece with Logan, whom I've met twice -- we mostly discussed binding methods.
Leon, I see you are controversial. Cool.
Interesting--"I don't see the poem as something happening between the narrator and audience, but rather as parties on whom we are eavesdropping."
Except, I mean, isn't any piece with a narrator and at least one reader/viewer/listener a work that's happening between a narrator and an audience?
If this were "simple" text on a page (whatever that means), I could see where you're coming from, but there's an audience in the video, and another audience (like me) watching the shadow in the video point at the audience and deliver this text to them. If there were two shadows, and this were... a scene in a play... I could totally view it that way.
But when there's a camera, a performer using "you" and a live audience on the end of the performer's point, I... you know.
I'm interested in how we're both seeing something completely different in this work. I like that.
The problem with spiders is that they don't have six legs. Six legs is okay. Eight is too many. Makes spiders seem greedy.
Leon De la Rosa
but then again, going back to the rehab clinic scenario... who do you think the patients identified with? the "you" o the "they"? i point this out just to bring attention to the fluidity of these kind of roles,
furthermore the gut reaction might be to say "well, of course they related with the "they" after all, they've been the "they" for a large part of their lives!" however aren't they attempting to become the "you", "wearing their hurry on their faces" (as logan puts it, beautifully i might add)...
so at this point the dichotomy becomes much more complex, rich and layered... might not be a dichotomy anymore...
now, is this phenomena entirely dependent on having junkies as an audience? don't know, not sure about it... haven't we all been on the streets with altered states (of any kind, for many reasons) at some point or another? does it even matter?
on another point, please do not take the visual part of the performance as granted and simply as background for the words... the visual sources and elements are in many ways another character, perhaps a multitude of characters, fluid and in constant flux, sometimes complementing, sometimes integrating, sometimes counterbalancing the words...
regarding church v poetry... don't know if the difference resides anywhere else but in that little filthy and ugly word: "faith"... namely, where do you place it? and this goes back to jonathan's point about the idea of inherent autobiographical qualities in poetry... or how we now expect it to be so... if logan talks about this, therefore logan must be one of the "you" or "they"... 'xcept there is no "we" here, no firm ground on where he stands... rather he is also a fluid figure, not unlike the new testament figures who at once become characters then become narrators, then become listeners, then become readers...
i personally don't have a problem with this type of relation... i personally would rather place my "faith" on a traveling story teller, who comes up with the stories he tells as he travels, than a preacher claiming supernatural roots for the stories (s)he tells...
So it's complex, rich and layered, but primarily when heard by recovering addicts who are in the flux of being both "they" and "you"? That makes sense, but that's also imposing one context onto another.
In this case, there a two audiences.
1)those watching the video online.
2)those watching the performance and the art in the video.
And if the poem requires the complex relationship of a person being both a you and a they in the status of conversion from one to the other?
So what makes this work good? Can we go there instead? I think I'd like it more than I'd enjoy addressing why I'm having difficulties seeing this work as anything more than just another semi-interesting rant dividing the world into easy dichotomies and pointing fingers. Why is this poem different than the thousands of others aired in coffee shops and poetry readings on a weekly basis?
Also, I'm not speaking of faith; I'm speaking of art's ability to allow the audience to form some of the meaning vs. having the meaning jammed down their throat, which is what preachers do when they explicate a passage in the bible, and also what poems do (to me) when there is no room for an audience to participate in meaning making, when the audience is limited by the work to doing little more than mandatory intake of the didactic lecture and groundwork on which the poem sits.
Does that make any sense?
Leon De la Rosa
so my point on my last post was precisely that not only recovering junkies are on a constant flux between the "you" and the "they", now the subject of the piece (junkies v non-junkies) is somewhat inescapable... i.e. that is the point of the piece itself, so i guess the closer you are to being a junky or non-junky (in the terms described) the better and stronger the empathy you will develop...
What makes this work good? I think i've been covering this topic on my posts... the unreliable narrator who does not stand on a firm ground of the "I" or the "we" but rather basis his entire experience on the "they" and the "you"... I enjoy this.. although we have a basic difference here in that i don't see it as a simplified dichotomy but rather a fluid and layered one.
I also enjoy the vibrant and very much lively tour through yet another underbelly, interchangeable perhaps, but vibrant nonetheless...
I like the fact that the performance is able to bring it alive like no printed page ever could (this speaks highly of a piece designed to work on an oral tradition rather than a printed one)
I also very much the way it lends itself to incorporate the different media being used in this specific instance... the symbiosis it creates astonishing to me... that also speaks very highly of the VJ and the Analogue Image Jockeys working very hard to achieve this...
as a producer of both linguistic and audiovisual content myself , as is Logan, i tend to view poetry pieces on a multimedia level by default... what and how can this be worked into a larger, multilayered context... in this sense the piece is perfect.... not all are... trust me, I've tried many that don't work...
as to the difference between this piece and "the thousands of others aired in coffee shops and poetry readings on a weekly basis"... I don't know why there needs to be a difference in order to be good... again, i view this attitude as dangerously close to the whole "poetry with a capital P" thing, which makes me nervous regarding "art's ability to allow the audience to form some of the meaning"... isn't that what we've been doing collectively over the last couple of days? what does that say about logan's piece in collaboration with VJ and Image Jockeys?
This is great, and I am listening. Ears and eyes wide.
I'm still trying to understand a few of your points:
"i guess the closer you are to being a junky or non-junky (in the terms described) the better and stronger the empathy you will develop..."
Well, I'm pretty close to be a junky and a non-junky and I think that's a frail reason for a work of art to be good: If only I either were or were not a user this work would register differently(?). That's a given, right? We're all in flux all the time, so I don't know if this is an accurate line of thinking of art and poetry. Likely, some reader-response critic could chime in and put us both to shame.
I suppose the fault is mine on the next claim. What you see as an unreliable narrator, I see as a lecturer. I can't see what's unreliable about the narrator. He says X, and x is what he says. No swerve or choke in the narration (which I like, believe me).
Underbelly tour. Ditto. Always time for one of those. I agree.
You wrote, "I like the fact that the performance is able to bring it alive like no printed page ever could (this speaks highly of a piece designed to work on an oral tradition rather than a printed one)"
But isn't all poetry performance poetry, in the same way that music printed on the page is brought to life via a human being's voice? You could be right though. Maybe there's even an underbelly to the poetry world where readers don't perform the poem outloud, or at least outloud inside their own minds. That would be horrible reading by a less than ideal reader.
"I don't know there needs to be a difference in order to be good..." I want to agree with this, and I'm totally avoiding the poetry with a capital "P" thing, but if we accept that everything the same as everything has significant value, then aren't we accepting mediocrity (not that I'm saying this poem is mediocre)?
Shouldn't we, if not as artists, then as purveyors and curators, seek out the work which is different than that which mirrors or derives in comfortable familiarity?
To your last point--"isn't that what we've been doing collectively over the last couple of days?"--I completely agree. And in this activity, I'm very grateful you've been willing to engage in this discussion with me.
I loved many parts of the piece. Especially the visual aspect and how it merged with the aural; in fact, there are one or two moments in here where the eye and the ear trick the brain into thinking the face that's on the screen is saying the words that Phillips presents.
In all, it's cool, and I do like it. I think there's an incredible aspect to encountering and discussing and encountering again which enables appreciation.
I'm not one willing to write off something that I don't quite "get" the first time around. Because, well, with that would come the sinking feeling that I didn't reject the work, but that the work rejected me, which is why I really appreciate this to and fro, and also why I appreciate Mr. Philips' poem.
This multimedia presentation caused me to question both how and why I experience a work the way I do, and for that anyone should be grateful. Few poems, in any format and accompaniment, stir me to question "Why/what was that? Why's that different from poem X? And if it is different, what's the distinction."
And hey, Phillips, if you're watching this discussion unfold, please view this more as a "learning moment" for me more than an appraisal of your work, though in the appraisal I'm learning.
Now back to rebuilding this carb.