The Grand Piano

San Francisco 1975–80

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Barrett Watten begins:


On 1 May 1975, I attended a public meeting of a communist organization. The Fall of Saigon, of course, did not simply coincide with that date; it had been taking place for weeks. The meeting was in a rented hall on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Two million people, according to mass media, had been forced to evacuate Phnom Penh. The speaker interpreted this report in a positive light: Khmer Rouge authorities were simply trying to prevent disease and panic. Half the people in the room read revolutionary newspapers as the speaker addressed them, while the other half listened attentively. He went on: now is the time the movement for revolutionary change must commence. There can be no going back. By the next year the organization's size must double. We have a simple choice before us.

It was a tremendous risk to be a poet at that time and place. The culture we lived in was fragmented, ugly, and incoherent. Telegraph Avenue in Oakland seemed its perfect correlative....

The Grand Piano is an experiment in collective autobiography. Subscribe to all ten volumes or a partial subscription beginning with any volume.