(my intro for Charles from his terrific reading in February at Zinc Bar, with Tracie Morris)
Charles Alexander is the founder and director of Chax Press, in Tucson. His books include Hopeful Buildings (Chax 1990), Arc of Light / Dark Matter (Segue 1992), Near or Random Acts (Singing Horse 2004), and Certain Slants (Junction 2007), which includes 30 sections of the ongoing work Pushing Water, which is expected to be published in its entirety in 2011. He is currently at work on a book about the pleasures of poetry. Chax Press has published some 120 books over the last two and a half decades.
In a new book of essays about the pleasures of poetry, Charles Alexander is making some long-awaited comments about the relationship between sound and the body that have guided his innovative and original work. At the center of these ideas is the deceptively simple argument that “speech is a physical pleasure,” yet the more closely we look at this claim the more interesting and unusual it becomes. He places emphasis on it as an annex to Zukofsky’s “sight, sound, and intellection,” fleshing out the ghostly materiality of words with that of the body’s connection to them. Whereas Charles Kraitsir in Glossology argued that there was a connection between a phoneme and its meaning, as well as the meaning of the word in which it appeared, Alexander claims that an important meaning of language lies in its tactile quality, its sounds. These sounds call up a kind of motor memory of pleasurable actions for us; they contain the possibility of a kind of deferred or implied body which is recreated, recovered, or reenacted in the process of reading. Poetry is pleasurable for us and it moves us because that basic experience of sounding syllables reminds us of other such experiences that we’ve had, and that we’ve given to others, with our mouths. Writing, reading, and sounding bring together this motor memory of sounds whether the words make sense or nonsense, whether they are a solid or a flowing liquid, whether they are translated from the Greek, greek to us, or simply greeked on the page. Please welcome one of my favorite poets and people, Charles Alexander.