The Rebirth of the Poet | 7 February 2023

‘Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker’ is a book by Jason McBride published in 2022, that sheds light on the life of Kathy Acker (1947-1997). It is the first full-scale authorized biography of the pioneering, experimental writer Kathy Acker. In addition to paying detailed attention to her other work, this biography also dedicates several pages to the theatrical performance: ‘The Birth of the Poet’. What a pleasure to finally read something about the background and creation of this ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ by Kathy Acker, Richard Foreman, Peter Gordon and David Salle!

Here is what I wrote in 2017 about ‘The Birth of the Poet’ in response to the publication of the biography ‘After Kathy Acker’ by Chris Kraus, in which the piece was conspicuous by its absence:

‘The Rebirth of the Poet’

In 2007 I created the artwork ‘If These Walls Could Speak’ on the side of the Public Library lift shafts, OBA Amsterdam. The artwork consists of a typographic figuration of titles I selected from the library’s collection.
The lift cabin with visitor journeys through darkness as it were, past an endless story composed of ‘stolen’ and ‘borrowed’ titles, such as ‘The Art of Writing’, ‘The Murmuring of the Muse’, ‘Elevator Madness’, ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘The Birth of the Poet’.

‘The Birth of the Poet’ (‘De Geboorte van de Dichter’) is a stage piece by Richard Foreman, for which Kathy Acker wrote the libretto, with a set design by artist David Salle and music by Peter Gordon. Staged in America in 1985, it had its premiere in the RO Theater in Rotterdam in 1984, where I was in the audience.
Incorporating ‘The Birth of the Poet’ title in the ‘If These Walls Could Speak’ artwork many years later, is my covert little ode to this intriguing Gesamtkunstwerk, and at the same time a reminder of Kathy Acker’s oeuvre.

A biography of Kathy Acker (1947-1997) was published recently in 2017, written by Chris Kraus. Remarkably, not a single word is devoted to the preparations and performance of ‘The Birth of The Poet’ in the biography, ‘After Kathy Acker’. The key piece is conspicuously absent, an omission in the biography.

Meanwhile, the public is still waiting for a special reissue of ‘The Birth of the Poet’, with original recordings of the Zeitgeist document in vision and sound. Moreover, the time is ripe for a reprise, a re-enactment, for which I already have the title: ‘The Rebirth of the Poet’.

Martijn Sandberg, 7 November 2017

Click here for text in Dutch, as PDF.

‘De Geboorte van de Dichter’ (‘The Birth of the Poet’), 1984. (photo: Martijn Sandberg)