Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics, wrote that, "poetry often conveys in a few sentences more of lasting value than a whole volume of scientific analysis" (Science and Sanity, p. 437). He understood that poetic language provides us with a set of tools for understanding, evaluating, and relating to our environment in ways that are different from and complementary to scientific language. Not surprisingly, then, since the start of its publication 75 years ago, the general semantics journal ETC has often featured poetry along with articles on language, perception, communication, and consciousness of abstracting.
Twice before we have offered programs featuring readings and performance of original work by local poets. For this, our third in an irregular series, held on November 20, 2019, we were pleased to include three poets from the "upper north side"—aka, Ontario, Canada—including the legendary bill bissett, celebrating his 80th birthday and the launch of his new book, breth: th treez uv lunaria: selektid rare n nu pomes n drawings, 1957–2019. As a poet, artist, and performer, bissett’s innovations have shaped poetry, music, painting, and publishing and have stimulated, provoked, influenced, shocked, and delighted audiences for half a century. In the words of bill bisset, this new collection “shows sew manee threds thru poetree n langwage btween n thru lyrik sound song vizual narrativ non narrativ his her storikal naytur humour sexual romantik politikul metaphysikal spiritual fuseyun th pickshur image in th lettr th shape uv th lettr in th drawing line orchestrating … th manee ways [thru] art langwage n poetree… we join with ourselvs n each other.”
The full line-up for this evening of poetic performance was:
Adeena Karasick is a New York based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of ten books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) "a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick's signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “one long dithyramb of desire, a seven-veiled dance of seduction that celebrates the tangles, convolutions, and ecstacies of unbridled sexuality… demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Most recently is Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera co-created with Grammy award winning composer, Sir Frank London. She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, is a 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” has been established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University.
Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN, the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. president of the Institute of General Semantics and Treasurer of the New York Society for General Semantics. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems.
Lance Strate is President of the New York Society for General Semantics, a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics, a founder and past president of the Media Ecology Association, and Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. His book of poetry, Thunder at Darwin Station, was published by NeoPoiesis Press, as was the anthology of poetry and creative work he co-edited with Adeena Karasick, The Medium is the Muse: Channeling Marshall McLuhan. He is the co-editor of several scholarly anthologies, including Korzybski And..., and Taking Up McLuhan's Cause: Perspectives on Media and Formal Causality, and the author of Echoes and Reflections: On Media Ecology as a Field of Study; On the Binding Biases of Time and Other Essay on General Semantics and Media Ecology; Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World Revisited; and Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition.
Kathleen Reichelt is a performer, visual artist and word arranger. Her work has been published by Arteidolia, Bone Bouquet, great weather for MEDIA, and Three Rooms Press, NYC, and is part of the permanent collection of the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea. Reichelt performs solo and with Wes Rickert as Burning Iceberg. She is co-founder of the 1000 Islands Film & Stage Artist Residency and co-creator of 253469.
Wes Rickert is an absurdist sound poet, film maker, visual artist and philosopher. His films have received official selection for film festivals in Chicago, Copenhagen and Moscow with an honorable mention for contribution to cinema from the LA Underground Film Forum. His absurdist writing & photographs are published in Maintenant #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, "A Journal of Contemporary Dada", Three Rooms Press, NYC. He is one half of the noise band Burning Iceberg, co-founder of the 1000 Islands Film & Stage Artist Residency and co-founder of the 253469 Institute.
bill bissett is a legendary sound, visual and performance artist, and author of over 80 books of poetry. He garnered international attention in the 1960s as a pre-eminent figure of the counterculture movement in Canada and the U.K. As a a pioneer of sound, visual and performance poetry—eschewing the artificial hierarchies of meaning and the privileging of things (“proper” nouns) over actions imposed on language by capital letters; the metric limitations imposed on the possibilities of expression by punctuation; and the illusion of formal transparency imposed on the written word by standard (rather than phonetic) spelling—bissett extends the boundaries of language, whose charged readings, which never fail to amaze his audiences, incorporate sound poetry, chanting and singing. Whether paying tribute to his hometown lunaria or exercising his native tongue dissent, bissett continues to dance upon upon the cutting edge of poetics and performance works. Among bissett’s many awards are: The George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award (2007); BC Book Prizes Dorothy Livesay Prize (2003) peter among th towring boxes /text bites; BC Book Prizes Dorothy Livesay Prize (1993) inkorrect thots. Most recently is his new Collected Works: breth: th treez uv lunaria: selektid rare n nu pomes n drawings, 1957-2019, Talonbooks, 2019.
Our evening of poetry was moderated by Michael Plugh, Assistant Professor of Communication at Manhattan College and a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Society for General Semantics.
It was a series of readings and performances that was explosive and ecstatic!