Information about the Desert City Poetry Series, contemporary poetry & poetics, and poetry readings & events in central North Carolina.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Seeing Seattle

Hot damn -- I'm going out to Seattle this Saturday to see Lori; she's been at the Hedgebrook Retreat Center for the last four weeks. So I'm flying up on Saturday, the first, and we're going to hang out in and around Seattle till we return on the 7th. I'm very excited.

So what's there to do in Seattle?? I've been to Olympia (the town) and Pullman (where WSU is.) Poetry readings? Freaky museums? Hot restaurants? Can't miss thrift stores? Scenic views?

Oh, and the other thing about 24 Hour Breakfast -- it's not all funny. Some parts of it strike me as funny, but some parts are intentionally meant to be uncomfortable. I've been thinking a lot about making readers (when I imagine that I have some) uncomfortable -- somewhere in the vicinity of offended, but much more subtle and disturbing. Offensiveness always seemed like a shallow version of something that was really important. Like this Nirvana shirt that I used to see around (no slight on Nirvana, just don't dig the shirt), the shirt said: "Nirvana: Fudge Packin', crack smokin', satan worshipin' motherfucker." On one level it's fairly funny -- I imagine the boys had a good laugh when they decided to put that shirt together, and I can appreciate that laugh (after all I was in a band for a year or so called Groovey Hate Fuckers (loved that band and the band name -- whut's up, Brian Howell?!?! Kevin Harrison?!?! Josh Kirby?!?!))

And I imagine that some people might find the shirt "offensive", but what is the effect of that feeling the shirt/phrase causes in people? I imagine someone seeing it would just think "goddamn punks, fucking kids are all going to hell" (except without the expletives.) The person might not ever think about it again; the shirt hasn't done much other than reinforce the prejudices that the viewer already had.

And maybe it's too much for me to expect that something like a band's tour t-shirt should aim to change the world.

So the Nirvana shirt is an example of something I'd guess some people might call offensive.

The sort of thing I'm aiming for is, I hope, something more insidious, something that makes one uncomfortable because it doesn't fit into an easily dismissable category.

I really love Scorsese's Dylan documentary (and Dylan generally (I revel in my uniquity.)) There's this part where Dylan is talking about writing "Like a Rolling Stone," and he talks about how strange and uncomfortable he was writing something he calls "a piece of bile," a piece of bile that went on to linger in the top 40. Then later he's talking about getting booed after he went electric, and he says (approximately) "I had a way of thinking about all that, it was okay, because sometimes you can kill them with kindness too."

The combination of those two explanations really has hit home with what I'm looking for in my own work these days; Dylan was fucking shit up, pushing his audience's tolerance in a way that made people uncomfortable.

So that's what I'm after these days: the uncomfortable. Sometimes the uncomfortable is really funny, but I hope it's also sometimes more than merely offensive.