Announcing the publication of PQRS, by Patrick Durgin.
PQRS is a poets theater script with initials for names and functions for characters. It is about linguistic contagion and statist collusion, the fate of labor and play as literary genre (i.e. “essay”), the utility of public art and site-specificity in the post-medium age, the plasticity of gender, the metaphysics of lyric address, and several other topics. It was written between 1998 and 2012, mostly toward the end of that period.
Patrick Durgin is coauthor of The Route (Atelos, 2008, with Jen Hofer) and has published numerous chapbooks, including Imitation Poems (2006) and Color Music (2002). Durgin is also editor of Hannah Weiner’s Open House and The Early and Clairvoyant Journals of Hannah Weiner. He teaches critical theory, literature, and writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
With a genuine sweep and suspense, PQRS up-ends and pats down received ideas of genre, putting its principal characters (the eponymous P, Q, R and my own favorite, S) through their paces on an imaginary stage in an imaginary play. Designed not to be acted or produced, Durgin calls this work a “script,” which I like for its straightfoward modesty. But as I see it, it’s first cousin to something like the 1930s “essay-novels” of Virginia Woolf, Orlando or The Pargiters—books written simultaneously in two veins, each illuminating the other in unexpected, and here thrilling, ways. Like aging stars, P, Q, R, and S upstage each other, disconcert each other, all in the interest of presenting as much enlightenment as we can sit for, within the pages of a single book; so they form a serious quartet with comic overtones, like the lovers and mages of Mozart’s “Non ti fidar, O misera.” Don’t trust him, O sad person!—Kevin Killian
The “performance” “script” Patrick Durgin imagines in PQRS is not so much dramaturgical as sweepingly demiurgical, in the sense that it fashions a world out of the chaos of a twenty-first-century poet’s broad field of experience and association (literary history, music and film, economic theory, sculpture, public art, performance art, and poetics, to name a few examples). This world is inhabitable, if not comfortable: it is a world that resists staging in any conventional sense, but whose very conceptual difficulty supplies a context for new models of dramatic form and provides a vehicle for the kinds of thinking and representing that happen when various avant-garde ideologies collide with the twin crises of postmodern irony and capitalist recuperation. The tidy serialism implied by the title is a feint that dissolves into a frenetic vista of spectacular anxieties and social realities. It would be banal to confine PQRS under the tired rubric of “cross-genre”; rather, it rehearses genre’s continuing usefulness as a category and finds it wanting.—K. Silem Mohammad
Reminiscent of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, albeit in an intensified and wildly fluid twenty-first century context, Patrick Durgin’s essay-as-poetics script releases a discursive energy typically suppressed in theater. This is a theater of compressed time, bursting within the seams of global capital’s themes. A spooky and illuminating work.—Carla Harryman
ISBN: 978-0-9846475-7-6 (2013) $12.95
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