Inside My Wife’s First Husband
This one had a blunt outward put foot and,
peeking out of its hide, a rubber-gloved hand.
A flimsy sexual rim worked a vexing on its collar.
It’s upper groin a sound asleep toy
where rock music clopped.
It let out an oil and a puff.
Its meat was disciplined and delayed on the brink;
its meat floated clearly.
The art of cooking was mastered in its heat sacs.
Ripped colognes sent gingery whiffs up to the smell hoops.
It drank whatever it was moving through,
the translations, the watered necks.
At the end some showy pecking
and a spray through the sound caverns.
Josh and Benny Safdie talk about their latest film, a story of heroic failure, the documentary Lenny Cooke.
I met with Josh and Benny Safdie in late October to talk about Lenny Cooke, which is currently playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and will open in LA on Friday, December 13. It is the first documentary feature by these young but prolific brothers whose 2009 fiction feature Daddy Longlegs was a highpoint in the history of scrappy New York films. In 2001, Lenny Cooke was a high school basketball megastar ranked above LeBron James. The film takes us from those giddy days of hope to the present, seeking not so much to explain why Lenny never made it to the NBA, but to share the impact of a manufactured dream gone wrong. Mixing footage shot in Lenny’s prime by Adam Shopkorn (one of the film’s producers) and contemporary footage shot by Josh Safdie, Lenny Cooke is a basketball movie for basketball lovers and haters alike, going beyond the sport to offer a sobering account of failure on the superhighway to fame and fortune. The brothers’ palpable belief in film’s ability to be poetic and transformative allows them to transcend time, breaking every rule of documentary filmmaking with an unforgettable sequence in which the 30 year-old Lenny shares the frame with the 17 year-old Lenny. It is a moment that gives Lenny a chance to turn failure into triumph and become a hero on a human scale.
Nicholas Elliott This project originated with a documentary Adam Shopkorn was shooting over a decade ago?
Josh Safdie I was 16 and Benny was 14 and Adam was older—just out of college. He was doing this project on Lenny Cooke and there was nothing I liked more at this time than film and basketball. This project was like the nexus of these two strong passions for me and all I wanted to do was work on it. Not only that, but Adam had this camera that just came out—the Canon X1—and I was like, Oh my God.He showed me footage of Lenny dunking in Virginia, on this small concrete court and I remember being as impressed with Lenny as I was with this camera. Adam told us that he was making this film about the new Michael Jordan and we thought it was so awesome—
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Robert Beatty discusses his visual art, his collaborative partnership with filmmaker Takeshi Murata, and his projects Hair Police and Three Legged Race.
Robert Beatty might be best known as one third of the seminal noise band Hair Police, whose Mercurial Rites album from earlier this year is easily one of the best in their deep, decade-plus discography. Or he might be best known for his solo work as Three Legged Race—his Persuasive Barrier record, released on Spectrum Spools at the tail end of last year, is pure psychedelic, Radiophonic-via-Cochin Moon bliss. Or he might be best known as a prolific graphic artist, with his signature work appearing regularly on a genre-spanning swath of record covers. Or Robert Beatty might be best known for his art installations, his zonked videos, his various shadowy audio/visual sub-outlets, or from his presence on the Lexington, KY weirdo scene.
I called Beatty the week before the release of his excellent new solo record, the first under his own name, Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata. Released on Jason Lescalleet’s choice Glistening Examples label, the record gathers pieces that Beatty had originally composed to accompany a range of video work by Murata, the innovative digital artist. Coincidentally, at the very moment I called, he was putting the finishing touches on sounds for Murata’s newest show, Midnight, which opened at Ratio 3 in San Francisco a few days before the record hit the streets.
Matthew Erickson So you’re making something right now for Takeshi’s new project?
Robert Beatty Yeah, I’m kind of down to the wire, trying to get everything done before this weekend. He’s going out to San Francisco early next week, and we’re trying to get everything done before that. But that’s kind of how it always is, working on stuff with him. He always stays up days at a time during the week before a show, then I end up having to play catch up.
Laura Van Den Berg on The Isle of Youth, culpable characters, and rewriting the stories of ourselves.
I first came across Laura Van Den Berg’s fiction last year in One Teen Story, which published “The Greatest Escape,” a story about a teenage magician whose father pulled a Houdini-like escape on her family. I was struck by the gritty beauty of the narrative—the velvet curtains and great escapes combined with the seedy world of professional magic.
In her latest collection, The Isle of Youth, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Van Den Berg creates a noir-inspired world populated with undercover detectives, unexplained disappearances, mistaken identities, teenage robbers, and terrible secrets. The electric prose and emotional rawness of these narratives, combined with their dark themes, made the experience of reading Isle akin to that of a great mystery novel—except that in its wake I was often left with more questions than answers.
AF In both of your collections, I was struck by your examination of the intersection between loss and mystery—how narrative can be used as a tool to reconstruct the people in your life who have left or eluded you. How did you come upon this theme? Was it something that happened subconsciously while writing story after story? Do you think your approach to it changed in The Isle of Youth?
LVB I don’t think about theme explicitly. Themes emerge subconsciously, at least at first—at a certain point, I’d have to be really inattentive not to notice that I am writing stories with an inordinate amount of crime and disappearances and detectives. I’m not sure my process changed with Isle in terms of writing the individual stories, but I did a lot more work revising the collection as a whole; at that stage, I gave a lot of thought to the central preoccupations and how they might be shaped.
Veronika Vogler and Adam Stennett talk, via text message, about his live-in performance piece, the influence of nature and how we are all capable of being an artist.
In 2008, after the crash of the art market, Adam Stennett found himself in a quandary that many were facing at the time of how to continue as an artist while sustaining an income. The Artist Survival Shack is designed as a performance piece, equipped with everything needed to live and paint, from an antique camp stove that uses kerosene to a biodegradable toilet that creates fertilizer. In preparation for his solo show at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. this fall, Adam spent over a month living and working on 12 works for the show including object related pieces.
In late August, I had a chance to visit Adam at his remote Artist Survival Shack hidden in the brush of a Bridge Hampton golf course. He taught me to shoot Zen archery, a Japanese martial art that focuses not on the violent outcome but rather on the meditative process of movement. Weeks later, within the course of two days, Adam and I engaged in a 6 hour long text message conversation sifting through Heidegger, meditation and the tectonics of preparing for an exhibition while living in a 6.5 by 9.5 shack.
VERONIKA VOGLER How was painting under the blue moon the other day?
ADAM STENNETT The moon was insane. I could walk around in the field in the middle of the night, like it was twilight. Could have done without a light inside the shack. I think it made me a little restless ,but in a good way. I ended up exploring the woods and perimeters in the time right around the full blue moon. It cleared my head and I felt like I can go back to the painting interacting with it more clearly. Nature is powerful, and I have been much more attuned to it with this project.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Two Planes in Love” by Annie Liontas.
In this story,
1. I save the girl.
2. To get the girl.
In this story,
1. I lose the girl.
2. I find the girl.
I am racing to the field where they will launch so I can save her one more time. She is on a vessel and will pull a trigger and fire will shoot out, and she will cease to be what she is. She will become, instead, herself in flight. This is similar to the difference between batter and cake—with wet, clumpy batter being life and the risen, sugary cake being afterlife. Once in flight, she becomes approximate, not exact, and that much farther from me, and that much closer to death.
Poet Deborah Woodard on capturing, repairing, and reincarnating lives both real and imagined.
Deborah Woodard’s Borrowed Tales (Stockport Flats, 2012) traces love, disability, and incarceration while toying with our understanding of various historical figures like artist Gordon Matta-Clark and education-pioneer/social worker Catherine Ferguson. This past summer, we corresponded about poetic debt, found objects, Vermont childhoods, and ruin.
Caitie Moore At first, I read the eleven different sections in Borrowed Tales as autonomous and the discrete poems as angles of light shed on a particular tale. By the end, I felt the sections were more interdependent. How do these sections work?
Deborah Woodard Each section is a character’s name, and each name leads to a tale or tales. I like my publisher’s idea that the characters congregate, that they somehow traverse time and space to entwine and germinate collectively. In other words, that they have a collective identity of some kind, even as they range from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to a friend’s son (Vince), and from a former student of mine (Elaine) to a camellia bush (Camellia). That last one was my friend Don Mee Choi’s idea. She has such wonderful instincts. And she helped me organize the names on a little piece of paper. I can still visualize this paper with the founding names, to which I added others as the collection developed. I felt very free to explore in this book, and so poems about the Catherine Ferguson Academy—a school for pregnant and parenting teens—led to a poem about Catherine Ferguson herself. After I wrote the Lorna section, I added a section about Lorna’s children, the Gordon and Martha section (loosely a tribute to the artist Gordon Matta-Clark). Beyond the tendrils extending and entwining, I would say that my old theme of orphanhood unifies the book. Ultimately, all the characters congregate and give me the courage to stand newly bereft, in a wet bathing suit in junior high school in the Deborah section at the end.
Katherine Cooper speaks to playwright Adriano Shaplin about baffled audiences, favoring amateurism over professionalism, and what The Crucible got wrong.
While I was living in Philadelphia, I encountered Adriano Shaplin’s piece “Freedom Club” as part of the Fringe. His theatrical work disturbed and perplexed me. Not in a bad way—it was uncomfortable and I liked it. I was nervous to speak with Adriano. He is famously candid in interviews. I had heard he was “out there,” “political,” “kooky.” The frontality and alienation of his work reflects an incisive point of view on theatrical convention—one that I wasn’t sure I shared but that I was extremely curious about. I’m drawn to art and artists that are defiant and sensitive and I sensed that in Adriano and his work.
Adriano’s young, but maturing career has already taken many twists and turns which he commented on very honestly as we spoke. He has found a home of sorts at the Flea Theater in SoHo and recently premiered his latest show Sarah Flood in Salem Mass there. The play muses on topics near and dear to my heart—witches, morals, and New England. I had seen it the night before—a cacophony of movement, razor sharp language and moments of beautiful sensuality. Who was the guy who conceived of this world? Where did he live?
When I arrived at the apartment in Jersey City at noon on Saturday I walked down a long dimly lit corridor with about five closed doors all along one side. The image that came to mind was of an underfunded mental institution or an abandoned beach hotel circa 1940. The floor creaked. It smelled like sleep.
I emerged into a sunlit living room with a wingback chair. I found myself falling into it with ease—the frayed arms, the brown stain where a thousand times a woman with an Aqua-netted bouffant must have rested her head. My apprehension dissipated. The place felt lived in—that wing back chair, a half drunk beer, a pair of antlers on the blood red walls entangled with green ribbon from a party that had ended days (weeks?) ago. Like Adriano himself, the apartment was not afraid of its own mess.