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Anny Ballardini’s Response to Jake Berry’s Poetry Wide Open: The Otherstream (Fragments In Motion)


(Jake Berry’s interview where he responds to the responses can be found here)



Let me try to give you the big picture as I see it in this moment with its micro- and macrocosmic projections and reflections. I have been translating for a while some material on Gordon Matta-Clark for the niece of a friend who is working on her final thesis. We are talking of the sixties and the seventies in New York and I understand Gordon’s language, as much as I understand my father’s, we lived in Manhattan at the time. The former cuts, splits, removes chunks of buildings, my father, fresh from a Europe destroyed by the war—he entered Berlin on frost-bitten feet as the American winner—re-builds. Gordon is the alternative who in his soliloquy states: “More than a call for preservation, this work reacts against a hygienic obsession in the name of redevelopment which sweeps away what little there is of an American past, to be cleansed by pavement and parking.” While my father, although he does not cut nor split, tries to preserve in his own way by joining families, the same relatives who would kill him in the moment in which he would not be able to speak up for them anymore. Their portrait, although apparently contradictory, is similar to the Christly sacrifice, each one in his own way. How come that I can understand both while they probably, would not have shared the same ideal? My father was umpteenth times smarter than me, as I am sure that Gordon Matta-Clark has put much more at stake than my miserable fingers in typing. I was given the possibility of refining an artistic language which makes it easy for me to grasp the artist’s essence. While my father was endlessly reconfiguring—which does echo in me —but in terms of a ‘home,’ family relationships, ties, with the never-ending riddle: forgive and forget. I will never. You see my position?  


Now let’s go to the macrocosm. Mainstream and Otherstream. My father is the Mainstream, the person I have loved, and Matta-Clark is the Otherstream, the artist I am involved with now. Gordon says, talking of architects and artists that produce drawings, sculptures and buildings, “They anyhow end up making a living.” Which is more or less what I can read through the lines every time the present topic comes up. How can those who do not belong to Academia make a living out of writing? That is quite a tough question. Not the one that puts the two streams one against the other, because they are not. Even from an historical standpoint, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire who were once Otherstream are included in the Lagard et Michard, The Anthology par excellence, severely criticized but anyhow still studied at school. Their texture has become cohesive and has built up our knowledge together with Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, Dostoyevsky, in a discourse that right for the fact that it goes beyond itself, finds its own reason for being. This, its only coherence.  


Bill Lavender is the publisher of Lavender Ink, the press that has published the long poem by Jake Berry and Jeffrey Side: “Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes.” He is also the Managing Editor of UNO Press at the University of New Orleans, besides being the Director of the MFA studies at UNO and an accomplished poet and critic. As one of the Editors of UNO Press, I’d say that Academia reads, works, writes, and tries, within our [undoubtedly limited] human faculties, to promote what we think is best. On the other side, having often directed my choices also and often along the lines of the Otherstream, once again I try to promote the poetry I get in contact with through the my website Poets’ Corner, although I will never refuse a Mainstream poet if I think s/he has written good poetry. For my own publications I select people whom I view as being intellectually committed, I could mention Karl Young, Mark Young, Eileen Tabios, Peter Ganick, Carol Novack, Bill Lavender and several other serious Editors. Which is more or less your position, and the one of many around us.  


I think the questions you are implicitly asking revolve rather around the historical obsession of the Artistic Self: “Will I be able to succeed?” where success means, “will I be able to live off my writings [sculptures, paintings, creations] or should I look for a position that grants me a steady income?” A position that would require a further sacrifice, i.e. work a day job and then go back home to start the other job, the artistic one.  


With reference to Jake Berry’s The Collapse of Time, I would like to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan’s masterpiece with the following: The Art is The Medium. Within this context rather than an art critic we need a philosopher like Derrida, or a psychotherapist like Guattari or another philosopher like Deleuze, and finally someone like Slavoj Zizek and his underlining the schizophrenic ‘safe distance’ which is needed each time you get in contact with the other. Or we could simply stick to Philip Dick, and plunge into his ghostly world populated by ‘different’ psychological entities [– although Dick, in his infinite sharing, saves us always at the end of the story].   


There where, and through whom, we could easily put into question the same desire to create—a term rationally vivisected by Deleuze and Guattari, the distortion in believing that by creating we are reaching —(you can fill in with what you think is best): the Pantagruelic paradox in which we have been engulfed, and the related quest into the past to find out when such misleading notion came into being, but especially why. The Naked Truth. Here again Gordon Matta-Clark is the undisputed leader.  


As far as I am concerned, I will go on nourishing my thirst for knowledge in a comparison of the arts, with their distinct refined perceptions and renditions in their not yet fully attained aim to develop and unveil whichever truth is given us, probably the few truths we are still able to face without being irreversibly overwhelmed.  




copyright © Anny Ballardini  




Anny Ballardini lives in Bolzano, Italy, grew up in New York, and spent several years in New Orleans, Buenos Aires, Florence. A poet, translator and interpreter, she recently won a scholarship for a PhD in English at the University of Verona, teaches high school; edits Poet’s Corner, an online poetry site; and writes a blog: Narcissus Works. She has translated several contemporary poets into Italian and English. Her collections of poetry: Opening and Closing Numbers, was published by Moria Press in 2005; Ghost Dance in 33 Movements by Otoliths appeared in print in 2009. Among her online books: Instruments of Change, Architecting Fate: Arakawa and Gins, and Architecture and Philosophy. She received her MFA at the University of New Orleans, and is a certified interpreter and translator from the homonymous Superior School in Florence, Italy.