Monday, June 8, 2009

The Peanut Butter Cup Concept

Thibeaux Lincecum's series of photographs with their subjects' poems printed on them is pretty transgressive--every photographer I've known has flinched at the mention of running type over the photo, and I've known very few poets who want their pictures taken.

Despite or because of that, it's fascinating; the poems function as self-portraits and the photos like portraits through another's eyes, so there are interesting angles and juxtapositions, who owns the gaze, who interprets, words vs. visuals cage match, you got chocolate in my peanut butter, all that. One nice piece is by isee, who will be reading at the comehearpoets reading June 19.

Lincecum is looking for more subjects to be part of the project--the goal is a book--so if he already has a photo of you, you can write a poem; if you're a poet, check his website for details, and if you want to get involved, he'll take a portrait or similar. He's comfortable to sit for, and for me, who hates getting shot, that's saying something. The work is on display on the second floor, near the elevators.

I'm always suspicious of NPR-induced revelations and discoveries, but there must have been a reason for me to be in the car Sunday, right where 13th turns into Piney Branch, and there they were talking about the poet Constantine Cavafy and a new translation by Daniel Mendelsohn, which I read a review of and thought maybe I should check that out, and then Mendelsohn read his translation of "Nero's Deadline." And I was all "fuck yeah! That's why you're doing this!" Poem made me laugh my head off.

My point being that hearing it made me get it. That's why live readings work. You can hear it here.

Or you can read the following translation, which is available free online. Those Mendelsohn translations I heard really got me because they are so unabashed and balanced about the eroticism of the poems. YMMV, read, hear, see what you think.

Nero's Deadline
Nero wasn’t worried at all when he heard
the utterance of the Delphic Oracle:
“Beware the age of seventy-three.”
Plenty of time to enjoy himself still.
He’s thirty. The deadline
the god has given him is quite enough
to cope with future dangers.

Now, a little tired, he’ll return to Rome—
but wonderfully tired from that journey
devoted entirely to pleasure:
theatres, garden-parties, stadiums...
evenings in the cities of Achaia...
and, above all, the sensual delight of naked bodies...

So much for Nero. And in Spain Galba
secretly musters and drills his army—
Galba, the old man in his seventy-third year.

--Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard, from the official cavafy website.

The really funny part that strikes me now is that I wrote a scene and song for a play where Thibeaux was supposed to play Nero, a stock-character Nero. But the scene got cut cause he had to work and it was too long anyhow. Not that he's Nero-like in any way. I remember as we were talking about it, he was actually trying to school me on some of the history, and I was all, don't confuse me with facts.

But facts make this poem funnier and sadder. One does feel a little foolish remaining devoted to pleasure when Wall Street falls down, but how much sillier must the ones who built it feel? And all we keep hearing is how nobody, but nobody, could have seen it coming.

More synchronicity: I had some of the best peanut-butter-cup cookies ever this just like an hour after hearing that poem. Maybe I'll get the recipe and bring some to one of these readings.

1 comment:

  1. If those were my pbc cookies, feel free to email me for the recipe. Otherwise please let me have it 'cause I like cookies.