BY Patrick Durgin

PQRS Download Sample PDF

ISBN: 9780984647576 (2013)

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. See also, “Prelude to PQRS.”

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. Patrick Durgin @ Pennsound and @ EPC

Brent Cunningham:

It’s one thing to advocate for writing that pushes boundaries, mixes discourses, and transgresses the dominant aesthetic, but it’s quite another to actually write it.  As a play, PQRS is not just unstageable, it is a monumental failure.  That is, it fails with such clarity, indifference, legitimate anger, and abandon that it turns into a kind of monument, marking the point where the intellect’s pessimism collapses into the will’s optimism.  The many models and forerunners for a project this radical include the posthumously published texts of Gertrude Stein, referred to explicitly here as “the most exhaustive syllabic implosion in prose of any language.” But if Stein’s implosion was horizontal, PQRS goes vertical, running up and down the scale of rhetorics: essay, drama, lists of potential performance art projects, lit crit, film crit, music history, autobiography, back to drama, intermission, critique of capital, URL of a Tumblr page of women laughing while holding salads, back to drama (and: scene).  “The text succeeds its own conditions.”  In dire and unsuccessful times, that’s the hope.

Kevin Killian:

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!

K. Silem Mohammad:

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.

Carla Harryman:

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.

Juliana Spahr:

Poet’s theater has always pushed the genre boundaries of what is a play to a far off horizon. And Patrick Durgin’s PQRS is yet another example in this tradition. It is more indebted to the happening, to philosophy, to essay, to scholarship than it might be to the conventions of realist drama. It has demanding, location specific production instructions. It lectures without shame about art, its economies, its global circulations, its powers. And yet it still is full of the powerful exchanges that make drama at moments so provocative.