Tag Archives: David Antin

Delayed Memorial (for David Antin)

My mother, age 95, in her current residence, April, 2017

My mother, age 95, in her current residence, April, 2017

FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2017

David Antin (February 1, 1932 – October 11, 2017)

I not only had the pleasure of hearing some of David Antin’s talks during the last quarter century of his life, but I also had the honor of transcribing them. One summer, towards the end of working on my dissertation at UCSD, I spent a couple weeks listening to his tapes and typing up his talks, thereby providing him with the material he would shape into a finished text.

Antin’s ability to enter a self-generated labyrinth of spontaneous logic and keep his neo-Socratic inquiry one step ahead of the audience’s expectations was truly uncanny, though I did detect one fairly predictable move. I suppose a dependency on – well, why not call it a preference for – a certain pivot halfway through a game can be spotted even in the greatest of the chess grandmasters. In Antin’s case, it was the “Je me souviens” moment. Antin appeared to have had a huge number of intellectually ambidextrous aunts and uncles. After attending several of his talks, I began to notice how a reminiscence of some member of his extended family would glide into his musings and slowly but deftly enable him to come “full circle,” by which I mean not some “closure” as might be employed by a poet featured on Garrison Keillor’s radio program, but an extended consideration of the poetics of Happenings and Hans Reichenbach’s theory of probability.

I was fortunate enough to take two seminars with David when I was a student at UCSD, and enrolled in yet another with Eleanor Antin. David ended up being the outside reader for my Ph.D. dissertation, in fact, though he was rather disgruntled at my final draft. The last time I saw him was at the PAMLA conference in San Diego two years ago. He had grown frail, it seemed to Linda and me, and we had a hard time talking about it on the drive back to Long Beach. At UCSD, he had still seemed like a man who was in his late 50s, physically and intellectually ebullient.

Last week, when I was in Xalapa, Mexico, Rachel Levitsky mentioned that the impact that David’s death had on those who knew him, and I felt myself halt mid-step. “David died?” I asked her. I hadn’t known, and I immediately began to wonder why I hadn’t heard.

The photograph of my mother, Sylvia Mohr, age 95, at the start of today’s post is certainly part of the explanation for how I managed to not know about David Antin’s death. A year ago, my mother was living in an assisted care facility with no proximity to any relative other than a niece, who lived a three hour drive away. Her granddaughter, who had been living nearby, had moved to another state, and my mother’s situation at this residence was becoming untenable. The staff seemed incapable of making certain that her regular routine of prescribed drugs was administered to her. After I spent ten days with her in July, 2016, I began to make preparations for her move to a place near where I live, and in late August she arrived at LAX with my sister as a companion passenger.

Fortunately, my mother had not been disruptive on the flight, but after landing she became cantankerous. It required four hours to get her to move from the airplane seat to the back seat of a taxi. I finally delivered her into the care of a place in Stanton, run by the Quakers, but within less than a week they had sent her by ambulance to a psychiatric institution in Newport Beach. I was not consulted in advance about her institutionalization. I was called by the facility after the ambulance had already delivered her to the wards. It took me two weeks of constant effort to get her released, after which she spent a month in a hell-hole that refused to give her solid food, could not remember to put a pillow case on her pillow, and played loud rock music as she sat in a room with people who were mentally afflicted. Towards the end of that month, she came very close to succumbing to pneumonia, after which I moved her to a place about five miles south of me, where she has received much better care and has managed to stabilize.

In the meantime, beginning in early October, I had to begin the process of getting one of my brothers out of her house, which he had completely and totally trashed. I am not the only person who has had to endure the consequences of a sibling addicted to hoarding, but it took the next four months to get the place cleaned out and ready for sale. Without my brother Jim’s help, it would never have happened. I was, of course, teaching at CSU Long Beach the entire time. To say that I felt as if I had two full-time jobs is understating the case.

I am currently the only one of my mother’s six children who lives in her vicinity. One sister lives in Israel; another in Tennessee. Three brothers live in San Diego County. The picture in this blog post was taken when I visited her a few days ago, bringing along some clothes that Linda bought in a used clothes store. Linda herself is having to address the crisis of her own mother’s aging. Noreen is in her mid-80s, and is still capable of getting around with the aid of a walker, whereas my mother’s mobility is limited to getting in and out of a wheelchair.

At this point, coming to the end of the spring semester, I am completely and utterly exhausted. There was no break between semesters. I spent New Year’s Day at my mother’s former residence in Imperial Beach, for instance, filling bag after bag with disgusting, slimy trash. I didn’t have any good memories of living in that house 50 years ago. The whole experience of rescuing my mother from her own willful refusal to adjust to the circumstances of aging left me having my face rubbed ever more vigorously in my childhood humiliations. New Year’s Day was just the start of weeks and weeks of making round-trip drives and overnight stays in San Diego that broke me physically and financially.

I have not written of any of the above details in my blog during the past year because it would have distracted the blog from its main concerns. I bring it up now because it turned out that I missed David’s memorial service at the Getty. In early February, I was completely absorbed by the combination of teaching and trying to provide for my mother’s care. All I can say is that I hold David’s memory more tightly in my heart at this moment than I would have had I been there that day.

How Long Is the Present: RIP, David Antin (1932–2016)

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/poet-david-antin-dies-701612

http://jacket2.org/commentary/david-antin-obit

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/david-antin-poet-and-critic-known-for-his-talk-poems-dies-at-84/2016/10/18/a7cade68-9546-11e6-bb29-bf2701dbe0a3_story.html?utm_term=.18f39267c8e6

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/books/david-antin-dead.html?_r=0