Jason Stoneking 17. 12. 2017

17. 12. 2017 Jason Stoneking will read new works and perhaps some of his older books as well.

Jason Stoneking is an American poet, essayist, and performing artist based primarily in Paris. He has authored two volumes of poetry and four collections of essays. He has also written screenplays and rock music, moonlighted as a chess commentator, and staged numerous performance art pieces. He has been performing his art and writing for more than 25 years, at venues ranging from the main stage at Lollapalooza to the Pont Neuf in Paris and the rooftops of Cairo. He is currently working on a series of unique, handwritten, bespoke books. He is awestruck by the sky, but skeptical of authority.

Nocturne

I was sitting on the quai the other day, in the sunshine of a summer afternoon, watching the beautiful Parisians arrive along the Seine with their picnic baskets and bottles of wine. I was basking, feeling peaceful, digging the warmth of the sun on my face and the magic sensation of being sustained and nurtured by the universe. But then it hit me. The light of day itself is the blinding illusion, the thing that fosters all our silly, self-important human arrogance. When darkness falls, it may be harder to see some things, but it’s easier to see the great big truth in the sky: how small we all really are in the grand scheme of things. In the daytime, it looks very much like there is one tremendous sun that hovers in the sky just for us, keeping an eye on our health by making sure we have just enough warmth and light, like the keeper of a delicate flower bed. But at night, we become tiny, helpless, insignificant. We can suddenly see that there are hundreds of thousands of suns, that the entirety of what we know about accounts for a submicroscopic portion of what’s really going on out there. Most of us don’t like the sound of that, so we simply try to pretend it’s not happening. We devise euphemistic ways to discuss the majesty of the night sky. We think of stars as objects of romantic mystery, and we charge the poets with dreaming about what they mean and turning them into inspirational lyrics about the greatness of the little human thoughts that flutter around down here on earth. But then we must try not to notice that this task is actually killing the fucking poets. It’s making them dive screaming from the bridges and drown themselves in absinthe. It’s making them thrust their weary heads into ovens and pray for the refreshing disorientation of syphilis. It’s making them convert to disgustingly small comforts on their deathbeds just to assuage the ferocious terror of cosmic irrelevance. When the sun comes up again, it’s like a momentary reprieve, a phone call from the governor that comes just as we’re being marched down the windowless hallway of time. It whitewashes all the insinuations that had danced so cruelly between the constellations just hours before. It gives us another day to erect the pretension that we’re all in the middle of amounting to something. But then, in the evening, it’s time to get a drink, time to close the curtains, time to take your psych-meds and curl up with a book. Prepare yourself for what’s coming. Stare at the tv and convince yourself it’s still daytime if you can. Luckily, if you’ve got a halfway decent job, they usually don’t expect you to work at night. Most people aren’t expected to even function. They are expected to sleep. And those who are up and about are traditionally found in the nightclubs and bars, busy with the work of steeping themselves in cheaply distilled intoxicants.

It is said that depression and suicide rates soar in the arctic winter, when there are months of uninterrupted darkness, and that makes perfect sense to me. How could there not be an outbreak of existential panic? What with everybody getting such a good long look at the uncomfortable size and scope of things. Maybe that’s why most of us prefer to close up shop at night and go to sleep until the daylight returns. We can’t stand too much exposure to that thing of which the night gives us a vague but harrowing sense. It’s the thing that sends the bears into slumber for the darkest months, the thing that the crickets are crying about, the thing that blinded the bats, the wisdom that the wise old owl knows: that we are all tumbling headlong through space, and the light keeps going on and off, and nobody’s controlling the switch.

 

 

Dimitris Lyacos 17. 12. 2017

Dimitris Lyacos is the author of the Poena Damni trilogy (Z213: EXIT, With the People from the Bridge, The First Death). The text in its current form developed as a work-in-progress over the course of thirty years with subsequent editions and excerpts appearing in journals around the world, as well as in dialogue with a diverse range of sister projects it inspired—drama, contemporary dance, video art, sculpture installations, photography, opera, and contemporary music. So far translated into seven languages and performed worldwide, Poena Damni is one of the major examples of postmodern literature in the new millennium and the most widely reviewed and best-selling Greek literary work in translation of the past decades. The second English edition of Z213: EXIT appeared last year while the second English edition of The First Death and a new French translation came out last month.

 


Excerpt from  Z213: EXIT (Poena Damni vol. 1) 

Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Second Revised Edition, Shoestring Press 2016.

A few hours more, station, deserted, a dirt road leading into the town, mud, mud, blankets outside, mouldering corrugated houses, the shattered pylon further behind, not even a car, rubbish, two children setting fire to a heap, two or three other fires on the horizon, houses, the smell even more acid, tarmac pieces and pieces, concrete block houses, few people, half-open doors, half-light, the mattress as if it were soaked, that milk, the cramp in the stomach and dizziness, when I awoke, I hurried to make it before it got dark, a little by chance and from what I remembered, asked questions, the other side, back to the bridge, murmur of water, trees turning black but I could still see, it was in front of me almost as soon as I entered. What are you doing here, sit for a while beside you, if you could also back then, did someone bend over, hear you while still you were heard, your eyes that were gleaming, eyes growing dim, pain growing dim, with how many more did they bring you, the bell, silence as they lowered you down, stifled song and a pause, murmur of water. I am cold, I walk away through other names, photos that look at you and yet they cannot, the sun now again at its end. On the road back, on the plain, a tepid, breath, like the last, and a gleam, the river falling behind, the town mute as before, with some wine on the end of a table, the Bible being erased, between its pages the words of a stranger, among his pieces I write wherever I find a no-man’s land.

[…]