NY Premiere of THE TRANQUILIZED TONGUE by Eric Baus featuring readings by Wendy S. Walters and Karen Weiser

introductory notes on Eric Baus by Jared:

We first met Eric when Farrah and I were on a road trip doing readings across the country. We came to Denver after a long drive and we ate with Julia Cohen and Mathias Svalina and Noah Eli Gordon and after dinner Noah suggested we drop in on Eric – better yet, Noah had a key to the apt building. We wandered over and crashed our way into the hallway, knocking on Eric’s door I’m not sure which side of midnight. After a moment, Eric came to the door, his hair with the scruffy, slightly gravity defying look of someone who’d fallen asleep in a book. He was deep in the throes of cramming for his oral phd exams but he was incredibly kind and welcoming and gracious in inviting us into his home. The apartment was a warren of books stacked in huge piles creating something between a labyrinth and a thicket we wove our way through.

At some point Noah picked up from Eric’s desk a mysterious kind of glossary page in which lists of words were linked together like a rudimentary database. Eric informed us that this was the raw material of his poems and that he began poems by building these lists and then mining word combinations almost by arbitrary yoking to assemble phrases like a kind of Mendelian genetics, husbandry but with nouns instead of animals. I found this insight into his creative process totally revelatory in understanding his work’s allusive strangeness.  I could now understand these qualities as a function of the way he partakes both of a constructivist method and an intuitive magic, producing something full of energy and uncertainty, contingency, relentlessness, and fun.

On one hand the process seems almost mathematical or even clinical and yet both the choice of vocabulary and the recognition of some mystery in certain combinations is deeply personal, idiosyncratic and lyrical. Eric’s aesthetics are certainly potent, as his poetry could be said to be an attempt to produce surrealism through pure grammar.  Eric poems operate on the level of the sentence and the syllogism, whipping up a kind of lather of syntax – they regale us with possibilities of what nouns can do to each other, how an adjective or a possessive can act upon a noun to crush it under its weight or lift it like a helium balloon into the sky.

They remind me of the grammar trees used in junior high to diagram sentences except instead of thinking of this tree as a sort of clinical investigation instead it is a tree in the organic sense, growing in real time as we read. Thus the process of reading is both something explosive and slow, wild and methodical and above all, very graceful.

I’m thrilled about this new volume in Eric’s work – the poems in this book seem to me both alive and timeless and thoroughly achieve one of the great aims of poetry, to have the privilege to experience language once again as something unknown, to be learned from the beginning.

We’re very happy to have him here today.