Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dial-a-Poem

New York Times writer Sarah Boxer drives me nuts, but I thank her today for bringing my attention to UbuWeb and Dial-A-Poem (see the full text of the article below). How did it take me so long to find it? It just goes to show you what's buried there in the deep web, away from the spying eyes of search engines. UbuWeb include some recordings from the 1960s and 1970s by Beat generation women Diane di Prima, Lenore Kandel, Anne Waldman, Helen Adam, and Joanne Kyger.

April 30, 2005

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
Dial-A-Poem Enters the Internet AgeBy SARAH BOXER

It's 1969; the phone is the medium and the poem is the message. Dial-A-Poem is brand-new. You pick up your phone, dial (212) 628-0400 and hear one of a dozen recorded poems by William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Joe Brainard, Anne Waldman, John Cage or who knows who. The next day there's a fresh dozen. Some are dirty. Some are radical. A lot are about guns. Some really aren't poems at all but songs or rants or sermons.

Millions called. "The busiest time was 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so one figured that all those people sitting at desks in New York office buildings spend a lot of time on the telephone," wrote John Giorno, the founder of Dial-A-Poem. "The second busiest time was 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. ... then the California calls and those tripping on acid or couldn't sleep, 2 a.m. to 6 a.m."

The phones are now long gone, but Dial-A-Poem is still out there waiting for you day and night on the Web. Though it isn't exactly what it used to be, it is as close as you can get.

Dial-A-Poem was first set up at the Architectural League on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. "It was one room and 10 phone lines," said Bill Berkson, one of the Dial-A-Poem poets who occasionally minded the store, noting that "the will to subversion was intense."

What callers got was not just three-minute hits of poetry. They got Black Panther speeches, and they got Buddhist mantras. Dial-A-Poem was part of the downtown scene, the antiwar movement and the sexual revolution. "It was agitprop," Ms. Waldman said.

In its brief existence, the phones moved from place to place, off again, on again. By 1971 they were gone.

Now you get Dial-A-Poem by clicking on www.ubu.com/sound/dial_index.html, one of the subdivisions of UbuWeb, a huge online archive of avant-garde poetry. There you'll see a menu of a dozen Dial-A-Poem albums put out by Giorno Poetry Systems.

One warning (which the site does not provide): many of the poems labeled "Dial-A-Poem" were never on Dial-A-Poem. Those recorded after 1971 were too late for the phone lineup.

You can rip through the early albums, picking and choosing the poets you like or have always wanted to hear.

Burroughs in his dry cackle describes an old Mexican assassin "with eyes the color of a faded gray flannel suit." Diane di Prima talks calmly about the proper use of knives and Molotov cocktails. Clark Coolidge drags out every four-letter word he can think of: taps, buns, keys, cans, arms. Taylor Mead sputters like a motorcycle. Bobby Seale charismatically hates white people, while people cheer. Ms. Waldman singsongs about her sagging spirit at age 26. Jim Carroll coolly reports how he took off his shirt, then his pants, for his coach, when he was 12, to try on a new uniform. "He told me it fit perfectly over my body."

And there's Ginsberg, cheerfully raging against the machine that carries his voice: "I'm a victim of telephone. ... Ring, ring. ... Always a telephone link to all the hearts of the world beating at once, crying, my husband's gone, my boyfriend's busted forever, my poetry was rejected. ... And I lay down back on my pallet ... drowsy, anxious, my heart fearful of the fingers dialing. The deaths, the singing of the telephone bells, ringing at dawn, ringing all afternoon, ringing up midnight, ringing now forever."

Ah, you think to yourself, I can swallow this whole movement in a day. If you don't like a poem or, hey, you get the point already, just click on another selection.
Click. Click. Click. You're in control, and there's the rub. You're not waiting on the telephone to see who in the world is going to whisper or shout in your ear. You're not looking nervously over your shoulder to see if your mother is going to walk in while you're listening.

It's just you now, the gray zip of your QuickTime player and a whole lot of choices. You can listen through headphones or speakers. You can fold laundry while you're at it. You can make a poem repeat over and over. You're the consumer, and you know best.

Was this what Mr. Giorno intended when he created Dial-A-Poem? He would like to think so. He credits Dial-A-Poem with inspiring "dial-for-stock-market-info and dial-for-sports-info services, the explosion of 1-900 telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone lines."

In short, if you believe Mr. Giorno, Dial-A-Poem helped spark the world of the Internet. Now the Internet has given Dial-A-Poem back to us. But it's changed, changed utterly.

Every now and then, you get a hint of what the old Dial-A-Poem must have been, a sudden jolt, a vibration in the ear. Brainard sounds like an altar boy: "I remember when girls wore cardigan sweaters on backwards. ... I remember shirt collars turned up in back." He stumbles over the word "mouth," pronouncing it "bouth," and then corrects himself. Brion Gysin's recitation of "I am that I am" makes the Bible sound like Dr. Seuss. Frank O'Hara's voice is crisp and clean, with the hint of a lisp.

So what if it isn't 1969 anymore? So what if browsing your way through the Dial-A-Poem movement isn't radical or chic anymore? It's better than nothing. Three lines from John Cage's "Silence" says it all: "It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else. Here we are now." But then, going somewhere else is what the Internet is all about.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi !!!
Today has bought mangosteen and has understood that knowingly in Asia, the [url=http://mangosteen.9999mb.com]mangosteen[/url] fruit is known as the " Queen of Fruits. " It is really tasty fruit which possesses set useful qualities. [url=http://mangosteen.9999mb.com]Mangosteen Fruit and Juice[/url] - scientific research and info about the anti-inflamatory anti-oxidant power of Xanthone-rich mangosteen fruit. I recommend all! Who wishes to buy or learn more address in [url=http://mangosteen.9999mb.com]mangosteen shop[/url]!

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Magnificent items from you, man. I have be mindful your stuff
previous to and you're simply too great. I really like what you've acquired
right here, certainly like what you're stating and the best way wherein you say it. You are making it entertaining and you continue to care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to learn much more from you. This is really a tremendous site.
Here is my web site get your ex back

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you
really recognise what you're talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please additionally talk over with my site =). We could have a hyperlink alternate contract between us
Here is my web blog : get rid of acne overnight

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about apartments for sale in turkey.
Regards
Also visit my web-site : propertyinturkeyforsale.net

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about apartments for
sale in turkey. Regards
My site: propertyinturkeyforsale.net

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very easy to find out any topic on web as compared to books, as I found this piece of writing at this site.
my web site :: try to

10:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home