Tuesday, November 15, 2016

John Giorno, Performance Poet

I think the last 50 years have been the golden age of poetry.
~ Poet John Giorno

A poet since he was 14, the colorful John Giorno (b. 1936) finds poetry writing "exhilarating". An originator of innovative performance poetry, which he has been recording since the 1960s, Giorno has published a number of collections, including Subduing Demons in America: Selected Poems 1962-2007 (Soft Skull Press, 2008), Everyone Gets Lighter (2007), You Got to Burn to Shine (High Risk Books, 1993), and Poems (Mother Press, 1967).

Still giving readings, the New York-based Giorno is the founder of the nonprofit artist collective Giorno Poetry Systems, publisher of scores of spoken word LPs with Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, and many other artists. Smith, William S. Burroughs, and Frank O'Hara were among the poets who recorded for Giorno's "Dial-a-Poem"* project, which he started in the late 1960s to establish new audiences for poetry. (Listen to the UbuWeb Sound recordings and, at Poetry Foundation, "Telephone Is So Retro It's Cool".) Other collaborators include Laurie Anderson, Anne Waldman, and Philip Glass.

In the 14:23-minute video below, Giorno, who is a visual artist, talks about his early introduction to poetry, his influences, including Pop Art, and his thoughts on spoken word performance as well as the future of traditional poetry. He enthusiastically performs a number of poems during his conversation.

The Louisiana Channel interview was conducted by Kasper Bech Dyg in June 2014.

* The Palais de Tokyo is host to a "Dial-a-Poem" exhibition, which continues through December 18. See Palais de Tokyo's Palais 22: Ugo Rondinone: I Love John Giorno (2016), devoted to the retrospective of Giorno's life and work.  

Selections from Giorno's artworks may be seen at ArtSy and Elizabeth Dee. His exhibition "Space Forgets You" took place at the Dee gallery in 2015. Giorno's Welcoming the Flowers, a portfolio of 18 screenprinted poems ("picture poems") may be seen at Durham Press.

Giorno Poetry Systems recordings can be found at Discogs.

Selected Interviews and Profiles with John Giorno: ArtNewsBOMB Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Interview Magazine, Miami New TimesPoetry Foundation, and T Magazine (The New York Times)

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