Zale Writer-In-Residence







Although it's arbitrary and overly dignified, I like the title of the course I teach: Performance Composition. I like to say it, I enjoy the syntactical formality of it with my tongue and teeth. I like the word "composition"; it makes me think of high school and of those black-and-white notebooks with the lines, waiting for words....

Since I have defined performance for myself as both personal and inherently political, a perfect Theater for One, and since I have claimed for myself the right to talk in the theater about my own tiny life as though it were final and monumental and to layer myself in transparent veils, I try to take on performance composition as a chance to put the word out that we all have this right, and should seize it. Performance Comp is a journey into the provinces of this terrible liberation. It's gross. Although I have neither the scholarship nor the interest to pursue the analogy too far, I must say that this journey has about it similar qualities to psychotherapy, in that the material it calls upon comes from the inside, is old, remembered, semiotic, filamentous, and sometimes disgusting, and that it is most successfully approached without judgment and without regard for its literal sense. There is something terribly radical about believing that one's own experiences and images are important enough to speak about, much less to write about and to perfom (the analogy to therapy returns again, in that one of the curative aspects of "the talking cure" is the feeling of acknowledgement that comes from being asked to talk; from being listened to, a feeling which is a distant cousin to that of feeling unequivocally loved). Achievement of this realization, which I consider to be my sacred obligation to each student, changes people for good and ever. One of my jobs as a teacher of Performance is to elevate students' conciousness to the burgeoning existence of a level in themselves where a constant stream of fresh, deeply individual imagery resides, and to the beauty and viability of this imagery as art. It's my job to create a class atmosphere in which such conciousness can best be evoked and maintained (an atmosphere of neutrality, respect, and clinical love), and to teach methods for converting that conciousness into theater.


Pleased to meet you...I'm silent N...I'm the letter N in the word CONDEMN...NNNNN... Jesus! A man said me the other was strange...First I was floating on the lips of a French woman who was using a lot of plural verbs...PLEUR...Elles pleur...ENT...I was stuck all day between E and T, and wishing they would just phone home...when a strange man said me...he said me so beautifully...he tongued me...He said, This painting of a woman looks like it's all one stroke...just one line...I feel that I could pick the line up off the canvas at her fingertips and pull 'til she's completely dislimNed. He was a handsome and sexy man...I turned to smoke on his soft palate, perched on the tip of his tongue, and I floated out his nostrils and around to where his hair touched his collar. I love that area of a person...the Nape of the Neck...I spend a lot of time in people's know, people with colds, that kind of thing...I figure prominently in the sneeze...I come roaring out like one of Bob Fosse's dancers split right down the middle in a crash of jazz....

But this man...mmmmmmmmNNNNNNNN...I wanted to get him mad enough to curse because I wanted him to say me really I went through his nostrils into his sinus cavity and created a rite-of-spring sort of distrubance...the kind bees make in honeysuckle...He was flirting with someone at the museum. And he was this pretentious remark about the nude painting being so DISLIMNable...I think he was about to kiss her... he was about to kiss her when I altered his senses completely...his eyes filled with water and he said it, O, he said it. O, he said, GODDAMNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!

I flew back to his uvula and shook with the air...and the woman left...she was too good for him anyway...she didn't buy that saved her slapping his face...

When I'm silent, I'm undressed, y'know...but when I get voiced I get dressed...when the going gets tough, the tough get going...SOLEMN becomes SOLEMNNNITY...And I go from nude to dressed in a that woman in the painting...I bet she wanted to grab a bathrobe real fast in front of a lech like that...

You know, when letters meet in words it's not a simple time...a word is a whole show made up of active letters...and the energy between letters is...physical, you actors on a stage. When you say a word you see it, don't you? lick it...and when you write a word down you paint portraits of these actors...for example, the word MISOGYNIST is like a Chekov play because all the letters just stand around wondering how to relate to each other, the Greek roots stick out all over the place, and when it's said and done, the meaning is very sad...

So. I was in a relationship...that didn't work out. You see me at a depressed and unfocused moment in my life, rushing around people's mouths and nostrils...I didn't used to do that so much...and I...I had everything I ever wanted but I didn't know may have already heard...I was living with silent G. When he's lower case he is so well HUNGNG, down below the baseline, the floor of the letter, and when he's upper case his form is so beautiful, curving around and back in toward himself like GUILT!

I first met him when we were both in the word IMPUGN, and then we started hanging around together in formal words like CONDIGN...or in words where I was voiced, and cuddled myself on either side of him while he stayed silent...women do that shit for men all the time...

Then we moved toward a more mutal relationship...we were INDIGNANT! both voiced and full of bristle...and I love, I think...and I found out I was body was changing...then things deepened...we became POIGNANT...

I had baby YYY and he went silent again...I don't know...he took a traveling job...he's a lug nut on the wheel of a truck that's moving, moving, moving all night...the way he used to move me...I feel it when he gets knocked out of of the places where we lived together for so long...

So what's left for me? The ballet of my upper case, the yoga of my lower case, my little place in the dictionary upstate. Come visit me there, if you want, unvoiced, on the tip of some word. Whoever you are, we'll find a way to be together, or at least on either side of a vowel.

Or, if you want, just write me a letter...


The car. It's a church. It's a church in there, man. It's got midnight mass. Eighty thousands pounds of metal and plastic and destiny. It's where you go to go, just go, just get the fuck out. It's like the afterlife, the judgement day. I get in and music plays and i'm alone. It starts to rain, a big storm. I roll down the window, it's like my own personal hurricane. And I cry. I cry in there. I always cry. I cry because I can. I have feelings. I have fast-food feelings. I wolf down my feelings like somebody wolfing down a Burger King punched out on a half-hour lunch break. I can feel the raw movement of time, rubbing against my nipples as it passes. Raw time, blubbering with life and all its waste products and its night light.

--from Car Thieves and Joy Rides


"Sweet are the uses of adversity"
Shakespeare, King Lear

"The soul of sweet delight,
can never be defil'd..."
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

It's that hollow time of the day: five thirty or six o'clock. Perhaps you've just left work. You're drawn like a firefly out into the evening air, mauve in color and slightly sad, carrying sounds of rush-hour traffic and the squawk of an imperious pigeon.

Swiftly, like the final pas de deux in a dramatic ballet, your sweet tooth comes on. In a single, breathtaking stroke it assumes complete control. Your thoughts are preempted, your conscience short-circuited, your diet out the window. You rush posthaste to the nearest candy stand.

Once there, it's front line action. The choices (chocolate bars, chewing gum, licorice, breath mints, candy mints, peanuts, toffees, fru-frus, hoo-has) are arranged in endless rows, and the less guilt-ridden customers are hurling curses and coins, reaching around you to grab the evening paper.


Don't be ashamed if you're one of the 49,000,000 (figure based on my own desire to belong to a mass movement) Americans who regulary crave a candy bar. The teatime ritual of Great Britian, falling in the mid- to late-afternoon, shuts down love affairs and business affairs alike with its fresh scones and aromatic, Bergamot-flavored teas. In countries where no such ritual prevails, that mournful synapse between lunch and dinner is prime territory for a wicked sweet tooth snack.

The names of modern candy bars provide an untapped source of information about candy consumers. As an index of America's hopes, moods, and preoccupations, candy nomenclature is on the cutting edge. Should you ever expatriate and get homesick for news of the Old Country, try to find out the names of the latest candy bars.

Candy nomenclature can be viewed as an American Rorschach test consisting of five obsessive categories:

SPACE-AGE TECHNOLOGY AND THE STAR WARS DEFENSE INITIATIVE: Milky Way, Mars Bars, Star Burst, Atomic Fire Balls, the whole Mars candy constellation.

INFLATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND IMPENDING FISCAL DISATER: Nestle's 100 Grand, Zero Bar, Pay Day, Bounty, Fifth Avenue, Gold Rush (this writer is waiting for a bar called Minimum Wedge).

THE SEARCH FOR LASTING HEROES: Babe Ruth, Three Musketeers, Clark Bar, Peter Paul Mounds, O'Henry, Mr. Goodbar.

THE INDIVIDUAL'S ENDURING CONFLICT BETWEEN FREEDOM AND BELONGING: Lick'EmAid, SweetTarts, Freshen Up, Charms, Chuckles, Snickers, Hula Chews, Charleston Chews, Care-Free Gum, Freedent Gum, Forever Yours, Good and Plenty; and finally

SOCIETY'S OBSESSION WITH HEALTH AND FITNESS: Tiger's Milk Bars, Nature's Warehouse, Betcha Life, Hoffman's Energy Bar, FI-BAR, Gary Null's Nutrition Bar, Bear Valley Bars.

What follows is a brief review of some of the least expensive and most readily accessible remedies for a sweet tooth attack.

Brach's HULA CHEWS--A long bar in two pieces. The standard chocolate coating/coconut center marriage, although each ingredient seems to begrudge the existence of the other. Chocolate is a bit too thick and too sweet for this reviewer's taste.
M&M/Mars KUDOS--Passable milk chocolate with peanutty taste from within. Cross section of bar looks like chaos: chocolate, then a nut layer, then a bunch of stuff that appears to have fallen out of the tooth fairy's pocket.

HEATH BAR--A toffee/chocolate confection in two pieces. Tastes British, aloof. Has a rich subtle flavor bouquet that is gratifying to the toffee lover. Reminiscent of classy butter crunch bars from ye olde candye shoppe.

Hollywood's PAY DAY--Salted nut bar. Looks reptilian. Interesting juxtaposition of sweet and salty, but the salt wins out in the end. One bite is enough.

ZERO BAR--Simply brilliant. A white, squamous outer layer belies the delicious, soft, fleshy malt-and-honeyed chocolate within. Fragments of almond surprise and delight the palate. If it were a movie it would be Cousin Cousine.

Goldenberg's PEANUT CHEWS--May the Lord bless them. They are reliable, flavorful, precise. Come in a package of five chews, each coated with regulation chocolate and perfectly orchestrated commercial peanuts and caramel.

Hershey's MR. GOODBAR--This classic, eponymous candy bar has earned its repuation. Credible milk chocolate, robust and succulent peanuts.
ROLO Caramels--These bite-sized items happen into the mouth with gusto and slide smoothly down the throat. Chocolate is truly respectable; caramel rich and mellow.

CHARLESTON CHEW--Available in one very long bar or in individual bite-size slabs. If you like gentle marshmallow, this one will almost always satisfy. Thin chocolate coating around playful, mild marshmallow within.

KIT KAT--Excellent chocolate and wafer candy bar. Chocolate tastes great, and the wafers have a pleasant neutrality that verges on saltiness without ever getting there. Sits lightly in the stomach.

ALMOND ROCA--The flavor of real old-fashioned, voluptuous butter crunch. Nice, if slightly more expensive, with delicious milk chocolate and dainty shards of alomnds outside.

Linette's BETCHA LIFE--I wouldn't. Chocolate is thick and goood but peanut butter cream center does not stand up to it. Taste is reminiscent of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but lacks Reese's commitment to the combination.

Nestle's O'HENRY BAR--A fiesty and chewy, if not particularly fabulous, confection. Milk chocolate exterior with caramel and peanuts inside. The package says it has fudge in it somewhere, but my buds balked at the idea.

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