Two Bones: Pieces for Harry Smith
"We’re born to be bones." --Rimbaud
Harry Smith: Why do you write?
Michael Andre: My writing works out a personal or public or political problem to my temporary satisfaction. If a friend or editor finds it worthy, I am pleased.
Smith: Who particularly influenced your work?
Andre: I prefer the past. At one point I memorized the openings in the original languages of the epics of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe; I studied French in Montreal and Paris. But I also study contemporaries who interest me and, if possible, interview them. John Cage was the best conversationalist I failed to tape. My shortest recorded interview, in the usual sense, was with Andy Warhol. “Yes,” he’d say. Or no. The he interviewed me. I published that years ago in Small Press Review. It was curious how hostile the small press community was to Andy Warhol. The late David Bourdon was the best writer about Warhol. He was a dear friend. Another favorite dead writer friend is Richard Morris.
Smith: Who the fuck is Richard Morris?
Andre: Richard Morris was a widely admired in the small world of alternative presses and daring websites. A witty poet, Morris was the publisher of Camels Coming Press and, more famously and most helpfully, the executive director of COSMEP. The acronym stood for different things in different years but it remained substantially a Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers. Richard edited an invaluable monthly newsletter and answered every query by return mail. Beginning in 1979, Morris became widely known as the author of a series of science books for commercial publishers. At the moment I’m working my way through them.
Smith: Describe your writing process.
Andre: A word strikes me. Then a phrase may evolve. If I’m lucky, I get a line which seems like verse. I’m underway. But if I write it down, the process stops there. But if I hold it in mind and turn it over, and over, my best work appears. Merely jotting little words and phrases however has become a waste of paper.
Smith: What inspired you to write on the subjects you have chosen?
Andre: I try to avoid television or other forms of mass, secondary experience. I stood on the street in Lower Manhattan and watched the World Trade Center collapse. That was two years ago and ancient history. How I Blew Up the World, a play written about twenty years ago, concerns an Arab girl and two friends who set off a nuclear weapon in Lower Manhattan. The play, though performed, has unfortunately never been published.
Smith: Describe any changes in your writing.
Andre: It gets harder and harder.
(Most of Harry’s questions were supplied by Gale Research.)
My subjective bibliography changes constantly. As an occasional art critic, I now work with Betsy Baker, the editor of Art in America. Small Press Review often publishes my “New York Letter.” Exquisite Corpse is my current favorite webzine. Mudfish is my current favorite traditional little magazine.
Experiments in Banal Living was published by Empyreal Press in Montreal; it gathers some earlier chapbooks. Although the book appeared in 1998, almost all the work is from the ’70s and ’80s. Catholicism appears frequently as a theme in that book. My son Benjamin, born in 1990, however, is being raised Jewish. My autobiography is available from Gage Research.
How I Blew Up the World has been collaged into a play I wrote with Daniel Berrigan, King of Prussia. King of Prussia was a kind of Trial of the Plowshares 8.
How I Blew Up the World was performed at the Actors Studio in 1980; it envisions three Moslem artists blowing up Manhattan. I watched the World Trade Center events from the street in front of my office; notes from that day were used by Elodie Lauten for her piece S.O.S. W.T.C. I have also written the libretto for a Lauten opera Orfreo which will be premiered in June 2004.
“John Cage Shoes,” a poem in Studying the Ground for Holes (Release Press, Brooklyn, 1978) has recently received new attention. Letters Home (Cross Country Press, New York and Montreal, 1979) boasted a cover by the founder of Correspondance (sic) Art, the late Ray Johnson. Ray is a character in “John Cage Shoes.”
Jabbing the Asshole is High Comedy (1981) was accepted by a small press which happened to be wholly funded by Commonwealth Edison, the power company. When Con Ed discovered earlier dirty poems I had written, they threatened to cancel all funding. I had it printed at the Print Center.
It as It was first made into a book by Brian Buzcak for Money for Food Press (1980), then reissued after Brian’s death from AIDS as an issue of Unmuzzled OX (1990), the review I edit.
Comden & Green
Maryanne’s name fell apart. Two women, Mary and Anne, now consoled her. They were younger and prettier--blonde, while she was a brunette--and, almost dolls, their expenses were slight. Maryanne thought tenderly of Mary and Anne. The little images were real, they were sent to do the unpleasant things. Poor little Mary was a secretary, though Maryanne, when she worked at all, scrubbed floors. Anne walked the dog, especially when it rained, and the people admired Maryanne for her daughter (or servant, the role varied). Maryanne still walked Lillah occasionally, and complained gently of Anne, her favorite. That way she concealed her pride; why make people jealous?