Jack Ross, ed.: brief 32 (July 2005)
Alan Brunton. Grooves of Glory: Three Performance Texts. ISBN 0-9582225-5-X. Wellington: Bumper Books, 2004. RRP $24.99.
Alan Brunton performing Grooves of Glory (September 2001)
It’s fascinating to see, finally, a text of “Grooves of Glory,” the performance piece Alan Brunton was touring through Northern Europe when he died in 2002. I heard it in its earliest form as one of the “Bad Language” Readings organised by Wystan Curnow and Leigh Davis in the Auckland Art Gallery in 2001, and was immensely struck by the effectiveness of tumbling these poems and routines into and over each other in a kind of conceptual spindryer. The final three-person piece is, inevitably, a little less anarchic and way more organised, but it still has that lingering otherworldly atmosphere of Dreamville, “where each day was the memory of the day before” (p.88). Dreamville doubles, of course, with that other imaginary space, “the happening place in the place where the life of the spirit ends, Zee-land,” where “everything is strictly local” (p.80). As the poet so rightly remarks:
You need a bit of the mongrel if you want to participate in our community events. (p.80).
“Grooves of Glory” constantly teeters on the edge of making sense, yet never completely surrenders to the exigencies of autobiography or metaphysics. It has more of the romantic tension of a tango than the rigour of a treatise, and thus pairs up nicely with the dithyrambic “Zarathustra said” (also available on the Bumper CD Nietzsche / Zarathustra).
“Compostela – A Walk” appeared first in brief 25, but (though I say it who shouldn’t) appears to better advantage here, with a rather disturbing set of snapshots taken along the pilgrim route, not to mention Sally Rodwell’s illuminating introduction (a great addition to the utility of the book).
Can these three texts, however adroitly edited, however bolstered up with pictures and reminiscences, ever replace the atmosphere and spontaneity of an Alan Brunton performance? Clearly not. But then neither, really, can videotapes and CDs. In any case, that’s just sour grapes. Best to be grateful for what we have, and in the case of this book that’s something very considerable (and charming) indeed.