Black Mountain Matrix

Notes & Comments



At Black Mountain College, everybody read books. You had to read about the Old West, you had to read anything D. H. Lawrence wrote, and Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, and detective stories by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. All of those were popular, I read those things and when I saw a word I liked, I’d isolate it, I’d write it down. So I had this collection of words that I liked to look at. It didn’t matter what they meant, I liked the way they looked. I would look at these words and I would put them together and come up with an image that was unlike anything you could achieve if you didn’t do it this way. I remember one line I wrote in which I put together two words: blonde day. I’d never thought of a day being blonde. I still haven’t, but I liked the way that the connection functioned, and it’s a very good example of how I work. I still process stuff in the same way. There is material to be seen around you every day. But one day something-some one thing-pops out at you, and you pick it up, and you take it over, and you put it somewhere else, and it fits, it’s just the right thing at the right moment. You can do the same things with words or with metal. I guess that’s part of my definition of art. Art is a peculiar madness in which you use other means of communication, means that are recognizeable to other people to say something that they haven’t yet heard, or haven’t perceived, or had repressed. I get the feeling that I didn’t repress what I should have. If I had, I would be a saloon keeper today. But I was constantly dissatisfied; I didn’t follow suit when I was told, “You’ve got to do this, because that’s what’s required.” I walked away. It was very easy. I had a great sense that somewhere out there, there must be some place that I could be, godammit.

Conversations with John Chamberlain
by Julie Sylvester

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