30 ene 2012


I am going to use these recordings as a baseline. I notice several things: I tend toward a falling intonation that makes my voice sounds overly tired. I sometimes drop small words or syllables. The voice quality is sometimes overly hoarse and raspy. My facial movements are distracting, and I move my eyes to the side to remember what's coming up next.

Minding true things by what their mockeries be

I realized that the last line of a Shakespeare passage I have been reciting to myself in the shower every day applies perfectly to my approach to Lorca. The via negativa of criticism. I can only decide what I think about Lorca but questioning and problematizing everything.

29 ene 2012

More Henry V

This is the last one, I promise. For today.

Another Video

I know it is not my greatest talent. Take it for a first attempt at trying to lose my embarrassment. Hearing it I notice that my interpretation is far too subdued.

Pop Art Shakespeare

I have been trying to get a fragment of video that will work here and not be too embarrassing. Texts I know very well seem to escape me when I am taping myself. Or I make funny faces at the camera. Many times I perform perfectly until the last line.

27 ene 2012

More Self-Promotion

Here's another blog post that mentions my book. Self-promotion is the order to the day.


Just found this through googling myself. It is a nice write-up of my Lorca project in the NEH on-line journal.

24 ene 2012

Memorize the text, not the performance

When I memorize a text for performance I memorize the words, but I don't develop a single reading or performance of it that I repeat every time. Instead, I let the text speak through me each time. My performances are probably more similar than I realize, but at least in principle I want each one to be fresh in where I slow down or speed up. There is also a difference between a performance in front of people, a recording I make for myself, and the mere repetition of words to myself as I am learning. It is hard to be fully "performative" when I am sitting by myself.

I know some actors, like Brando, did not want to know the text too well. By not knowing the text too well, they could keep a certain freshness. Since I am not an actor, I have other interests, but I too want to have a certain freshness. A performance which is too routine can be deadly. I prefer to improvise the performance even if the text is fixed.

17 ene 2012


While I am not a sports fan per se, I totally get why people love sports.

There is an aesthetic appeal, a beauty and elegance of movement. The physicality of sports relates to that of the performing arts, dance, music, theater, poetry, and even the physicality of painting and sculpture.

Another source of appeal is intellectual, if you can call it that. The analytical breaking down of matchups. To speculate on whether Athens or Sparta is going to be the dominant power in the next few decades is not too different from debating the relative chances of the Niners and the Patriots.

The appeal to group identities, to imagined communities, is also strong. This, to me, is the least appealing aspect of sports, but I do understand the power here.

Now aesthetic uselessness and purity, group allegiance, and a physical competition that is basically a simulacrum of warfare, make up a powerful and dangerous combination. The aestheticization of ritualized violence.

Here's what Williams had to say about it:

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—

all to no end save beauty
the eternal—

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied—
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut—

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it—

The Jew gets it straight— it
is deadly, terrifying—

It is the Inquisition, the

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

5 ene 2012


2012 will be about performing for me. Improving my performance skills in the poetry reading, the classroom, the academic conference, or wherever else. I've been taping myself a lot to see where I need improvement. I will consult vocal coaches as needed. I'll improve my drumming and singing skills as well.

I feel I am already adequate. Just not good enough. Why be just as good as I am when I could be even better.

4 ene 2012

Three Kinds of Magic

Literature is a form of magic. What I mean by this is that it enacts transformations approaching a magical effect. So I distinguish three kind of magic.

Narrative magic. Narrative magic makes the room in which the reader is reading disappear. The reader disappears into this other world, parallel to reality but not identical with it.

Theatrical magic The magic of the theater is to represent through spectacle a reality that goes beyond the dimensions of the stage. It is to "cram within this wooden O the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt."

Poetic magic. Poetic magic is to cast a magic spell through the sound of the words themselves.

These three forms of magic do not exclude one another and in fact can be found together. Words on the stage can narrate, or cast a verbal spell, etc... The verbal spell might be a kind of story involving narrative magic.

Literary criticism assumes that this magic has a technology, in other words a series of ways of making this magic occur. There is no conflict between the idea of magic and that of technology. At the wizard school, after all, there are classes on potions and spells. Or if we see magic as mere sleight-of-hand there are props and tools as well as technical skills to be mastered. Either way. A dull approach to literature would be one that failed to remember the magical dimension that makes literature exist in the first place.

A fourth kind of magic, I suppose, is the effect of transforming the reader herself into a different person. This is the cumulative effect of reading, the long-term effect of all those magic spells, all those trips out of the room.

I think it follows that literature belongs to readers and not to authors. I am pretty sure I have spent more time with certain poems by Frank O'Hara than he took to write them, and multiply that by the number of his readers. To think that our aim should be to go back and see what was in his mind on that particular day is pretty ridiculous. The author doesn't have access to all those trips out of the room by all potential readers over decades or centuries after the author is deceased.