What a thrill to be invited back for our 3rd project at Mass MoCA and 2nd Solid Sound – Wilco’s consistently jaw dropping biennial music and arts festival.
The problem to solve hadn’t changed: how do we bring new expressions of event specific poetry to as many of the 10,000 festivalgoers as possible, in as many different places as possible?
Magnetic Poetry seemed like a great place to start. After our ‘trial run’ at Mass MoCA Free Day, we thought the program was ready to scale up. Our goal was to blanket the entirety of the 13 acre campus with as much custom verse as possible. We printed up almost 200 square feet of poetry - 2500 gorgeously designed words that we installed in 30 unique locations (there is a TON of metal at the museum).
We crafted and posted a lot of new poems for the event - riffing off the art on display, band histories, favorite lyrics, you name it. We also put up ‘word piles’ focusing on a specific band or theme, for the crowds to mangle at will. Quotes pulled from festival band lyrics and comedians could be found at dozens of locations. People had a field day – by the end of the weekend magnets could be found in every nook and cranny of the extensive space, the words morphing and traveling without rest.
Then there were the typewriter poets. The idea is simple – step up to the table, sit with a poet, talk a bit, share your deepest secrets, and the poet types up a one of a kind collaboration. To give things some focus we added a carney twist – spin the word wheel and let the fates choose a starting point. After a full weekend of non-stop typing, countless new poems were born and sent home.
Here’s one of our favorite poems from the weekend – posted in 13 segments scattered through the assent of the Boiler House, one the coolest MASS MoCA factory remnants.
Thirteen Ways of Listening to Terry Riley inspired by Wallace Steven’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Susan Brennan
I inside the mountain only the whisper of a small bell
II the pulse mirrored the mind’s madness the mirror minded the mad bell
III is it the intent of the ear or the intent of the air?
IV electronic Titan women rainbowed (bells) footfalls (bells) starfalls we color your mind cusp of each scale
V cup your ears invite the air to caress your head’s clapper bell be the way bell be the dream
VI the bells sit quiet on velvet in her hand, a folded letter winter slanted light swelling shadows
VII you lay down under Ponderosa Pines the wind chest of their trunks don’t forget the dead a bell from each whorl
VIII alone in a dorm room someone’s boyfriend’s LP grooves ripple beyond turntable campus and hatch in me now wobbling between ears balanced on my spine
IX in C a galaxy rotate tone lay your love across a string free fall of bells
X good lord the suspension! a wicked bell a simpering bell a bell tense with pride I’m floating blush with me Strawberry Moon
XI Chet Baker reduction then Chet clones socially infected loop
raga epidemic plunderphonic democracy sonic anarchist
dinner bell vs darkness why five tape recorders? this is all so weird
XII the entire night jumped into the river a cowbell tied to the end of its renegade black braid
XIII Twilight vs Dusk vs Dawn each bell a sound mirror note baths note oneiric moons refraction shiver magnetic agency edges and ebbs