Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 From: Ron Silliman
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANNAH!
Simply listing the 30 or so
folks who read or spoke or
showed films, slides or dream hoops
at the 70th birthday memorial celebration
of Hannah Weiner can't possibly convey
what a remarkable and special event took
place at St. Marks Church last Saturday.
The celebration was organized by Andrew
Levy, Lee Ann Brown and Charles Bernstein,
three poets who really get what the word
community suggests, and was framed by
their own contributions, Andrew leading off
with a reading of his piece from the
Poetry Project Newsletter. There were
70 people present at the beginning and
maybe 80 at the very end three and
one-half hours later, as lots of people
came and went over the course of
the event. At one point I counted
over 100. Hearing Hannah's work
read by most of the 30 speakers over
such an extended period of time
(and, I believe, with only one piece
repeated during the entire afternoon)
was itself a total immersion, and it
was evident constantly just how
deeply her work has seeped into so
many of our reading/writing/thinking
styles. Some of the moments that stuck
out for me:
Bruce Andrews' reading of "Bruce Introduces" --
"Hannah can't embarrass me with this anymore
so I'll have to do it myself" -- a fabulous
articulation of tough guy voices in Hannah's work.
Abigail Childs' reading from a correspondence
with Hannah, working out the details of a collaboration
I wish that I'd seen. Both Hannah's style and her total
commitment to craft and detail completely evident.
Tina Darragh getting exactly right how Hannah's voice
would change on the phone in an instant and
become totally business-like if you just asked the right question.
Lewis Warsh's reading of Hannah's birthday poem
from The Fast. And pleading for someone to bring
Clairvoyant Journal back into print.
Phill Niblock's and Henry Hills' films of Hannah.
Hannah seemingly decades younger in Niblock's 1974
version reading from Clairvoyant Journal than in
Henry's 1981 Plagiarism, which however included
very young versions of Charles Bernstein (with an
"Art Garfunkel" afro that made the audience gasp),
James Sherry and Bruce Andrews.
Carolee Schneeman's slideshow of old photos --
her and Paul Blackburn waiting for Hannah at a
Be-In, Hannah cooking dinner "sane as a button"
in the 60s, etc -- and especially Schneeman's dream hoop
that contained several bras designed by Hannah
during her early 1960s careers as a lingerie designer,
to which Carolee added pink Christmas tree lights.
Carolee described meeting Hannah as the result
of a planned performance piece in which, at a very
late moment before the event, the sponsors indicated
that the performers could not, in fact, appear nude,
so that she went to Maidenform to ask about
"experimental underwear" and the folks at Maidenform
said "you must meet Hannah Weiner."
Michael Heller's account of Kenneth Koch's 1964
writing class that included Hannah, Ceravolo, Kathy Fraser,
Heller himself, Towle and about 10 other immediately
recognizable names, as well as a later period in Europe
(Greece?) where Hannah came and worked on what
became the Code Poems. An account of the coast guard's
willing participation in one of the events and of
Hannah's "street events." Sharon Matlin's lengthy
fictional memoir of "Elizabeth." Matlin and
Barbara Rosenthal spoke pointedly about the role
and the problems faced by the isolated woman artist.
Maurice Finegold, Hannah's brother, describing
Hannah at a much earlier age, as a student at the
Rhode Island School of Design, then writing
her honors thesis on Graham Greene at Radcliffe,
how his family reacted to Hannah's psychotic episodes.
How the rabbi at her service was unable to figure
out what to do with her books, how to incorporate
that, but how they then found the memorial material up
on the EPC website and used a lot from that.
Maria Damon's reading of her "belated" reply
to a letter Hannah sent several months before
her death, an account of all the current critical
material now being produced about Hannah.
James Sherry speaking of Hannah's attention to
detail, spending 40 hours going over EVERY
line of Little Books/Indians to make sure it was
exactly correct. Lee Ann Brown and Charles
Bernstein performing Hannah's work in two
voices to complete the occasion.
These notes scribed from material
written in a Square Deal Marble Memo
notebook (80 sheets, 4.5x3.25 inches),
much like the ones in which
Hannah composed Little Books/Indians.
-- Ron Silliman
Hannah Weiner Home Page