Sunday, November 8, 2009

Philly Poets: Gil Ott. PAPP

Today, Sunday, November 8, 2009, at the second PAPP symposium,  I remembered a tribute I recently read--to Gil Ott,  whose spirit--as caught in this memorial-- infused this afternoon's free wheeling situational improvised trackless and fascinating conversation. It was in the almost two decades I had withdrawn from the literary scene that Gil most made his presence known in Philly. The worst sort of timing on my part.
That spirit was alive and well this afternoon: contentious, perverse, subversive, funny, sometimes loud but never hostile--driven by the kind of Philly Soul you see on Broad Street after a Phillies win, or on New Years day. I am so damn grateful that so many of those who knew him as friend, poet, inspiration have carried on in their own way his vision of a community based alternative arts movement, and that I'm able to not only witness, but to feel--however marginally--a part of this.

in memoriam, Gil Ott. Posted on the web by Al Filreis, February 6, 2004.

"If you take an expansive definition of what poetry is, poetry is all around us. Rap music is poetry, advertising is full of poetry.... I do consider the many, many branches and streams of poetry that exist as legitimate."--Gil Ott

Gil Ott once told Kristen Gallagher that "there are no forms of language that have not contributed to some abuse of power. This realization set me out early on, looking for incorruptible forms." Put together Gil's deeply felt concern about the abuse of power with his search, in writing, for incorruptible forms and you have a view of a community-based "alternative arts movement" that is remarkably clear-eyed. Gil saw an analogy between poetry and community-development organizations. Both, he said, are small. Both are capable of responding quickly to changing conditions. Both are inherently decentralized. Both can defy interposed categories, rules that come from outside. "It is time," he once declared, "to consider the potential in such linkages." Notwithstanding the stump-speech rhetoric, which was rare for him ("It is time to..."), Gil was actually being characteristically modest when he said this, because, for him, it was long past the time he had begun such projects. That a community of poets lived alongside and in connection with people passionate about community development in Philadelphia was and is largely owing to Gil's efforts. We who care about the fate of the "small" arts here owe him more than we often know. He is in the air we breathe. I know I expand every time I take in his "expansive definition of what poetry is."

Gil Ott reading on PennSound

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