I had the honor of, before leaving New York, participating in Eileen Myles' Collection of Silence. The Collection of Silence was Eileen Myles wonderful collaboration where artists, poets, performers, monks, and school children would come together to 'perform' simutaniously and in silence. The performance was supposed to take place outside in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society, but rain drove the event (at least temporarily inside).
I was in Charles Bernstein's group with one poet more fabulous than the other - Frank Sherlock, CA Conrad, and Danny Snelson. My first reaction in starting was that I wasn't going to be able to maintain silence without laughing. Charles was so absolutely funny, I couldn't even stand near him - although I did glance him reading a certain point with the lovely drag queen. The task was a little daunting for me, and yet important. I found out so much about my body, my reading style, my poems. I felt so akeward reading silently. The power of the word seemed so tried to the verbal. Reading the poems over and over silently quickly became painful and tedious. Words started to blur. I felt useless. At one point I started reading Charles poem!
I felt much happier as a spectator. I took a break and wondered the rooms. The two events that caught my eye the most were the monks and Monica de la Torre's 'film.' The monks were meditating, but they were facing very funny objects (I can't remember what they were) but I remember thinking 'gee, it must be more difficult to meditate looking at x.' One of the monks charmed me because he was older and appeared to have fallen sound asleep! I, then, followed strange white dots into the library. Monica's 'film' was impeccable. Part of the reason it worked so well is that it fit perfectly into the containment of the small library. Everyone was wearing white. Monica was walking around with headphones and posters that said stuff about language. A performer was playing with a guitar with a large white dot over it. They seemed so focused. The effect was, in that, it was LIKE a real film.
But, the beauty in such an immense event is watching all over little ticks - behaviours or misbehaviours of a mass of people attempting to co-exist silently, for even a short period of time. For better or worse, one of my favorite incidents was a guard TALKING ON A CELL PHONE! I glared at him and he got off. But, I started laughing too because I couldn't believe how oblivious people can be! It definitely didn't harm the performance, in fact it added to it in a fashion because it was so human.
After that, I came to the stairs and all my poet guys were going outside - it was really hot in the building. I thought that everyone was giving up but I realized that I was walking into an outside of silence. It took me awhile to realize that my group was in the bottom of the courtyard, reading from the statues, where I joined them. Slowly, slowly, each group moved outside. Time moved toward that breaking note. Finally, Eileen waved, the opera singer began his one note. It started small and became ear crushingly loud. I can't begin to describe the beauty of it. And the realization that we all talk far too much.