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.
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.