Experimental Dada Theater:
A 1978 Austin Memoir about neo-verse drama
Long Poem for Voices & Bodies
Intoxication: Heathcliff on Powell Street is a perfect bound paperback, 132 pages of text, black and white photographs by award winning photographer, Lauren Piperno, ISBN: 1427604754. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com in print and as an Ebook. The Ebook is available for $ 4.99 via email delivery.
THE BOOK INTOXICATION: HEATHCLIFF ON POWELL STREET PAINTS A PICTURE OF AUSTIN THAT IS FAR FROM
THE TEXAS OF GEORGE BUSH!
Notes from underground
ABOUT THE BOOK: From NeoVerse Drama to Performance Poetry
Slough Press, a decades old Texas small press known for taking risks, published a new
book that has been in the works since the mid 1980s. Intoxication: Heathcliff on
Powell Street documents the experimental poetry theater of Hedwig Gorski. The book
includes memoirs and photographs from the five months during which the events
surrounding one production took place in 1978.
The conceptual art process behind Hedwig Gorski’s 1978 avant garde literary art, the verse drama Booby, Mama!, seems impossible to pull off. There was no money, and it used “found” text and “street” actors who were drunk, stoned, or filled with existential angst living on the fringes of society. The troupe members spent spring and summer in an abandoned house on Powell Street near Spellman’s Bar, a local hamburger joint where Lucinda Williams and other gravel road stars performed.
Joy Cole, embodying the performance poem’s character Red Light, became artistic soul-mate, nemesis, and, eventually, Gorski’s dearest departed friend. Portions of inebriated Cole’s epistolary journal document with candor and compassion how such mythic creations materialize and survive. Images by award winning photographer, Lauren Piperno, letters, and other texts complete a performance artwork that stunned even the infamous world weary bohemians and individualists engaged with Austin’s anything goes Romantic Period. Altogether, it paints an atmospheric landscape of the town that summoned and intoxicated so
many beloved dreamers and artists of the time toward intense self actualization.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR’S UNUSUAL TRANSFORMATION
Hedwig Gorski’s story can fall into a social rags-to-riches category. The problem with that analogy is that the riches have nothing to do with money. Her wealth is more like a wealth of knowledge and experience. In 1978, she lived with her troupe of actors in an abandoned house near West Lynn and West Fifth streets.
At age 28, she gave up everything to direct her experimental verse drama. She divorced her husband, sold her white Dodge van for $ 100, moved in with a troupe of pedestrian “found” actors, and directed them to embody the unique symbolic characters she wrote into being. The dialogue is abstract and poetic, and the movements are a pedestrian choreography written into the script.
The found actors are real characters themselves who are misfits and rebels, ahead of their time, and as surreal as the scripted ones. They challenge gender stereotypes, exploit feminine wiles, reject traditional theater, and rely on each other for everything. Together, they define an avant-garde theater for a rather sleepy but open-minded Texas capital city in 1978.
“I tried to create a real, not necessarily realistic, context for theater with the type of intensity Jerzy Grotowski required of his Poor Theater actors,” Gorski, the director and author of Booby, Mama!, states. The troupe would often perform the verse drama in the streets or in bars, together, or they would recite their lines individually. “I loved listening to them burst forth with my lines,” she adds. “You have to judge for yourself whether we succeeded or not.”
Here comes the riches part. Many who knew Gorski then would not have predicted that she would become an academic and scholar. She explains her philosophies and background well in the book’s prologue and afterword. After earning a Ph.D. in creative writing at the age of 51, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to lecture at the University of Wroclaw in Poland.
Gorski explains the unusual transformation in this way: “There are two different types of self actualization. The first is raw life intensified by self inflicted art. The second is learning the canon of masters from experts and becoming an expert oneself. I did not want yet am both sides of the coin. My imagination makes life possible.”
The Austin this book’s memoir portrays is unknown to most, but there was a time when these types of attitudes and lifestyles prevailed there. Gorski labels this period from 1978 to 1993 as Austin’s Romantic Period. “It is a time when nothing was more important than self discovery through any means possible,” she states.
Intoxication: Heathcliff on Powell Street is a perfect bound paperback, 132 pages of text, black and white photographs by Lauren Piperno, ISBN: 1427604754. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“To capture again the magic that is our inherent being . . . wafts in the air of Austin.”
Ric Williams, The Austin Light
Gorski and Cole “share the same ethereal lineage”: “alien, gypsy,” “expressing a spontaneous exchange with the art of living,” “surrealism, outrageousness.”
The Austin Chronicle
“The female muse for another female artist is not something much discussed.
Joy Cole is very much the same kind of muse for Gorski as Neil Cassady was for Kerouac and Ginsberg. For a mostly heterosexual woman, probably, Gorski’s muse/ most powerful influence has been a crazy woman, crazy as good ol' Neil Cassady was crazy. Why would a woman artist pick a muse like that? Beats me!”
Dr. Chuck Taylor, Texas A&M
“All that is left is the chaos and brilliance of Powell Street.”
Pat Littledog, Texas author
Hedwig Gorski, first generation Polish American, is a conceptual literary artist who
believes any medium or style, scholarly, creative, or mundane, can be elevated to art.
She has been a Fulbright Fellow and a Louisiana Media Arts Fellow receiving awards for
poetry and drama. Her career as a performance poet during the 1980s helped to enliven
the literary and art scene in Central Texas. She was also a founding writer for the Austin
Chronicle where she wrote the Litera column. While living in Austin, Texas, from
1977 to 1993, she met her musician husband, D’Jalma Garnier. He wrote original music
for her poetry with the band. They performed the results with East of Eden Band,
considered one of the most successful spoken word bands of the time.
Gorski is credited for coining the term “performance poetry” in the Austin Chronicle
“Litera” column she initiated. She can be called the first and original performance poet.
Author Hedwig Gorski is an artist-poet and underground figure living
on Vermilion Bayou west of New Orleans, Louisiana.
ONLINE PRESS KIT URL
HEDWIG GORSKI VISUAL ART GALLERY AND PHOTOS from Powell Street among others.
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RE: < xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" prefix="st1" namespace="">Slough Press announces the release of a new book.
Intoxication: Heathcliff on Powell Street by Hedwig Gorski rejuvenates the innate optimism within the American spirit.
Is Hedwig Gorski our own American Mayakovsky? She has forsaken all except the inter-disciplinary explorations that make her the American Mayakovsky, an avant-garde artist for invention and social and political change. Like Mayakovsky, her avant-garde audio, visual, and media works are highly accessible, and the artist herself is wonderfully loveable.
Vladimir Mayakovsky was born on July 19, 1893, in Russia. Hedwig Gorski was born on July 18, 1949 in Trenton, New Jersey, not far from Allen Ginsberg’s birthplace. Both writer/artists are characterized by a lifelong enthusiasm for the ordinary person and an unbridled optimism that continues against all odds.
Despite an onslaught of 21st century political propaganda to the contrary, our nation has been dragged behind the bumper of a speeding vehicle stolen by a group of reactionary neo-conservatives. How can we regain courage and pride in American inventiveness, creativity, and freedom for American artists?
The book is a memoir and archive of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants American entrepreneurship from the fringes. Their goal, however, was not to make money but to make real art or, even, to make art out of reality.
The pedestrian theater of Ms. Gorski’s seminal verse drama uses found text and found actors, a human junk collage, to make verse dramatic. The theatrical experiment documented in the memoir is the precursor to her literary approach called “performance poetry,” a popular term she coined during the early 1980s. Her woman-centered cut-up script, titled Booby, Mama!, modernizes verse drama into performance poetry.
The art piece the archive presents is more than a literary drama. It is avant-garde that is distinctively American without isolation from world culture and full of ordinary primal emotions and ambitions by lowly artistic practitioners on the street.
After 1978, Ms .Gorski founded the East of Eden Band, underground radio favorites, to perform her performance poetry with music composed specifically for the poems by her husband D’Jalma Garnier. Please use CONTACT INFO email if you need more information about the book or an author interview. (Don’t believe in the rumors about the death of the author. Ours is alive and well and living in singer Mark Broussard’s Carencro, Louisiana.) Thank you for your interest!
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