Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HARRIS SCHIFF'S ONE MORE BEAT

Harris Schiff is a poet whose work I dug before we became friends back in the 1970s. He's considered part of the second generation "New York School" poets, in which Ted Berrigan, another old and sadly now departed, friend, was often seen as a major force. That's Ted with the beard and glasses on the cover of Harris's book up there (photo by Monica Claire Antonie—of which there are many more in this book—design by artist Clark V. Fox, but for some reason my scan of it doesn't capture the vibrant color etc.).

This book is a reflection of not just who Harris is as a poet, but as a force himself in what used to be called the world of what used to be called "alternative" poetry, a term like "indie" movies and music, i.e. we know what it means even if in the end it's a pretty arbitrary category. But basically for purposes of trying to give a sense of the poetry, it means Harris Schiff's poetry doesn't really read or come over like anyone else's. That's a pretty trick in an age where there are more poets writing now then in all of previous history taken together!

ONE MORE BEAT is also uniquely Schiffian, if I can coin a term, in its use of an intro by Harris that reads often like a prose poem setting the scene that Schiff came up in, in late '60s and '70s downtown Manhattan and The St. Mark's Poetry Project world, that was shimmeringly vibrant then in ways Harris evokes in his intro and the poems. 

The photos by Monica Claire Antonie capture many of the poets in that scene back then (and some still) and add to the sense that ONE MORE BEAT isn't just a selection of tough and honest and lyrically "political" poems but a necessary historical artifact, evidence of a civilization more gutsy and lively and fun than what mainly passes for that now, but ONE MORE BEAT reads more like music then document.

Anyway, here's three examples of some of his shorter poems from ONE MORE BEAT:


FOOTNOTE TO YESTERDAY

Bleat of the pavement beaters
carbon eaters
smoke dust

memory
is in the outer bank

chase manhattan right outta town

the pot of gold
sold
old
hat

Angola sez
Ouch!
Kinshasa highway
seethes



NEW YORK

If you are going to
         
            jump out the window

                                             please


                                                         please

            lemme go through your pockets first



ABSTRACT DEPRESSIONISM

among aristocrats
the large banking houses
perfected the concept
of the oblique hit-man

they called it
noblesse disoblige

it's one of the few lessons
we can learn today from
the spurious collection of data
we so blithely call
History

History also teaches us that
language changes constantly
women remain gracefully
beautiful
men continue to be
brutal
it does not explain when that started
or why

5 comments:

tom said...

Here is a link to Harris' reading at one of last year's 100 Thousand Poets for Change.
http://bambuser.com/node/2050883

It takes a while to get the reading going. I organized a reading for this last year, but it was a bit of a bust. We are taking part again this year and I hope to have more participation.

Lally said...

Tom, thanks for the link, but it may be way too slow getting started for most folks. Wonder why whoever put it up couldn't edit it?

tom said...

I know - it is close to 10 minutes in before it gets started. I have watched some of the 100 TPC on Youtube last year. They were edited. I hope I can get our event together earlier this year. Hopefully the two universities up here will take part as well as local musicians.

Regina Dubin said...

Dear Lally,

I am writing to you on behalf of BOMB Magazine in order to get in touch with Harris Schiff who translated work by Daisy Zamora, Leonel Rugama, Vidaluz Meneses, and others for us.

We are currently digitizing our archive and are requesting to obtain permission from each contributor in order to use their content on the internet.

Do you have any suggestions on how to contact Mr. Schiff, as I am unable to locate any information regarding him.


Thank you

Best Regards,
Regina Dubin, BOMB Magazine

Lally said...

Regina, I tried contacting you on Facebook but haven't heard back. Best to reach me at lallyjmf@comcast.net