Monday, March 2, 2009

My Beautiful Monster

No one agreed with me when I said this at Korean Karaoke night a few years back, but a person's hands reveal what he or she plays. It is very easy to tell when someone plays the piano--flat yet round tipped fingers and stretchy webs. My former cello teacher's fingers hold nearly everything as though it were a cello neck or bow--tea, chalk, my coat. Most cellists have a very defined C shape in which they grip everything. Guitar players have this to a certain degree and if you don't believe me, ask one you know to hold a flashlight. During grad school at Columbia, I used to sit on a bench somewhere in the middle of what I thought was the visual arts floor of Dodge Hall. There I noticed for the first time that when painters talk with their hands, their hands tend to make air squares. Many poets I know emphasize what they say with air circles. All of this is very general, of course, but very specific to my newest obsession: Francis Picabia, dada painter and poet. His collected book of poetry, I Am a Beautiful Monster (MIT Press) is so astoundingly astounding. This book accompanied me to all of the cities I recently traveled and I am lucky to pair my reading with the paintings; this is a kind of sex. He says, "A dangerous and enticing wind of sublime nihilism," and he says, "in my authentic life/ if it's possible/ I am sure/ material necessity/ brings good luck." Is the laughter mine alone? I found myself the only one snickering next to his paintings. (It's okay, this happens in movie theaters, too.) Anyway, I wonder what I would know by Francis Picabia's hands, if he did the circle thing or the square thing or something of both.

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