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INTRODUCTION TO

HIGHWAY EROTICA

The following is an in introduction by Hugh Fox,  Michigan State University,  October 1996

    When you see words by Toby Lurie on a page, always keep in mind that he is a musician, chanter and painter, and that the recordings of his works are electronic variations of Nepalese-Tibetan monastic chants, always "informed" with the same mantric effects and purposes.  The philosophy behind the work is that you transform the world and the rhythms of how you perceive "are" by the mystical manipulations of words.

    Words here are merely a runway for a flight into meditation.  They have to be read that way as you move through their permutations/variations.  And there is also a certain Chagallian Jewish angle to Lurie.  His work is Zen, but Zen Judaism as well as Zen Buddhism.

    Listening to him in concert, words take on sacral, transformative purposes.   It is all language in the service of "focusing," and "focusing," in turn, for the sake of merging with, what shall we call it, the "Oversoul?

    Highway Erotica, then, is really more of a score that demands performance, than merely poems on pages.  Reading becomes an internalized mind-performance, and I find that reading aloud helps, and best of all is to record the whole poem on cassette myself and then sit back and listen to it, letting it audio-visually paint/echo itself across the sky of my mind.

    Contextualized within the poem, then, fulfilling "the prophecy of your proud pudendum," becomes kabalistic sexuality -- the movement of eroticism within the parameters of the male-female/seferoth-shekinah self-contained Godhead.
Reviews

NEW FORMS NEW SPACES:
Toby Lurie's poetry is actually something really new. It is oral and aural poetry for voice and ear. When read silently it is also eye poetry - - - it does the things that concrete poetry does and very successfully. It is semantic poetry, by analysis and juxtaposition and repetition it brings out all the old meanings and all sorts of new meanings from commonplace words that have become worn and frayed and taken for granted.

-Kenneth Rexroth

THE HAIGHT STREET BLUES:
We always knew and waited for the Poet who would come and make religious the terms of our actual woolly life, in our own backyard; especially appropriate, Haight Street Blues, because for better or worse Haight Street has become America's backyard for three decades. Here is the untold, funky story of who didn't live happily ever after the Summer of Love.

-Steve Silberman

QUARTETS:
The relationship between poetry and music is often stated, rarely made clear. In these Quartets of Lurie's, it's inescapable and very strong. Meant to be read aloud, they open up even in a silent reading, to stun the reader's mind with voices sounding and re-sounding in plotted, dizzying exchanges. Shades of Stein, MacLow, Zukofsky - - - to which he adds his own rotating and serial measure, in the service of our ears and mind.

-Jerome Rothenberg

Quintets:
"...with Quintets, Lurie's themes have perhaps become more contemplative -- the puzzling yet amusing contrarieties of life; nothing-something; understanding-not understanding; the moment-eternity; standing silent-not standing silent. And in the 1990s Lurie has pared the multi-voiced form to a purity ; one is tempted to say the QUINT-essence of his developing art"

-Don Salper

TRIOS:
Toby Lurie focuses on performance, on three distinct strands which interplay and juxtapose their meanings counterpointally. Three voices are used, none of which has a constant and predetermined character. The forms allow for the permutation and interaction among repeated fragments, taking on new and kaleidoscopic meanings according to their contexts.

What Lurie has done is to seize upon stones which the builder rejected and make them the cornerstones of his style. A musical parallel might be the work of the “minimalist” composers, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Arvo Part. Listening to the Trios what is striking is how natural they sound. They work.

-Dick Higgins

DUETS:
In this book as with its predecessors, Trios, Quartets and Quintets, my principal focus is to cross that border of separation between language and music, molding those disciplines into a single unified form. A sentence, for me, is like a music scale with which I can create my language compositions, availing myself of the forms of music: fugues, canons, rondos, counterpoint and crab-fugues. (Themes played forward and backward against each other) The publication of this book concludes my quartet of books in this form. I continue to intrude on traditional forms of language, and in that regard I'm looking forward to the publication of my next book, Word-Scales, by Mellen Poetry Press, in which I will make my final argument in defense of language as music. I will explain and demonstrate in detail, my process of creating language-compositions by composing with Word-Scales.

-Toby Lurie

"He seems to give us a working model for meaningful communication. We need only to read these poems aloud. Read them to and with eachother. Indeed, at points, a curious interactivity of the two voices allows us to internalize both as we speak only one. What emerges is something transcendent... The two-part point against point of Duets here expresses a more intimate, and ultimately more revealing interaction."

-from the foreword by Noah Agruss

MIRROR IMAGES:
There is, indeed, a lot of stuff called double counterpoint, not to mention mirror images, silence and syncopation. etc., etc., in these poems. But let’s leave the next generation of doctoral candidates to tease their minds over such matters. Our pleasure as readers/performers, is to delight in the experience of reenactment and realization, and in so doing to speak both with ourselves and to others. And that, I suspect, is exactly what Toby Lurie would like.

-Geoffrey Sommerfield
York, England

HIROSHIMA, a Symphonic Elegy for Spoken Voices
Weep for the mothers, weep for the sons,
weep for the daughters, the dying ones.
Weep for the fathers, they don't know,
weep for humanity, weep for the foe.

"A copy of this composition, book length, along with a videotape of a performance is housed in the Peace Memorial Museum, in Hiroshima. I delivered it there. A most painful and enlightening experience."

-Toby Lurie

WORD-SCALES:
Currently I'm composing my poetry almost exclusively with Word-Scales. Let me define the term. A Word-Scale is a collection of words, usually a theme in short form, which I use in creating my poetry compositions in much the same manner that I would compose music with a music scale. In this process there is little concern with grammar or syntax, in fact, a purposeful effort is often made to avoid traditional grammar, in search of fresh and unusual word linkages. So, dissonance often occurs through this process, in much the same way that it is experienced in music. My Word-Scales represent the distillation of the most valued principals of my life, reduced to their simplest form.

-Toby Lurie

BOOKS:
 

Book

Publisher

Year

New Forms New Spaces

Journeys into Language

1971

Measured Space

Hors Commerce Press

1968

Handbook on Vocal Poetry

Journeys into Language

1974

Mirror Images

Celestial Arts

1974

Word-Music

Journeys into Language

1977

Conversations with the Past

Laughing Bear Press

1977

Conversations and Constructions

Journeys into Language

1977

Serial Poems

Cobbing Press

1978

A Leaf of Voices

Journeys into Language

1980

The Beach at Cleone

Applezabe Press

1983

The Last Rondo in Paris

Laughing Bear Press

1983

The Haight Street Blues

Journeys into Language

1987

Trios

Mellen Poetry Press

1989

Quartets

Mellen Poetry Press

1990

Cliff House Poems

Journeys into Language

1992

Quintets

Mellen Poetry Press

1993</td

Duets

Mellen Poetry Press

1996

Hiroshima

Mellen Poetry Press

1997

Word-Scales

Mellen Poetry Press

2000

Elegy

Mellen Poetry Press

2003


 

UNPUBLISHED BOOKS OF POETRY:

2003
*Songs of New and Otherwise
Three Voices
Chamber Music
Fugues and Variations
Conversations

2004
*Simple Logic
*Exortations
*Themes and Variations

In Present Time
Homages
*Collages and Fugues
Remembrances
Fermata
Before and After
*Serial Poems and Variations
*Fragmentations
Synesthesia
New Poems
Assemblages
Steps to Parnassus
Success and Failure
Trios and Quartets

2005
Collected Journals #1
Collected Journals #2
*Collected Journals #3
Collected Journals #4
Collected Journals #5
*Collected Journals #6
New Beginnings or Endings
As I Approach
*Another Harvest
The Me I Was Born With
Conversations Across Time
Family Portraits
*Zenphonies
Eighty and Beyond

2006
Reconfigurations
     Book 1 & 2
I
*She
*When She Comes
Eighty-One & Beyond (2006-2007)
Poems of Long
*Permutations on We

2007
*Eighty-Two & Beyond (2007-2008)
Reconfigurations ll
*Purloinings

2008
*Trios Plus One
*Eighty-Three and Beyond.
Every Love Poem Destroyed Avoids Another Embarrassment
A Few More Quartets
30-1 Days

2009
*Homage to Beckett (Sucking Stones)
Reconfigurations #4
Reconfigurations #5
*Conversations with Samuel Beckett
Counting
*Eighty-Four and Beyond
*The Me I was Born With (Autobiography)
*Homage to Evelyn
*Homage to Daigan
Reconfigurations 6

2010
*Fragments from Journal #65
*Fragments from Journal #66
*Fragments from Journal #67
*Portraits of the Unknown
*Purloined from Purloining
*The Me I was Born With (Updated)
*Word Music
*Word Plays

2011
Fragments from Journal #58 - Coming Soon!
*Fragments from Journal #60
*Fragments from Journal #61
*Fragments from Journal #62
*Fragments from Journal #63
*Fragments from Journal #64
*Fragments from Journal #68
*First Entry
*Trios
*Trios II
*Again The Blues

2012
*Aphorisms
*Cognative Dissonance
*Deconstructions
*Duets from 86 and Beyond
*Elegy To Shanghai Jerry
*Form over Content
*Fragments from Journal #69
*Homage to Lorna
*Moving On
*My Way
*Quartets from 86 and Beyond
*Reversals
*The Great Debate

2013
*Before and Beyond
*Fragments from 87 and Beyond
*Homage to Beckett II
*Moving On II
*Quartets from 88 and Beyond
*Several Long Poems
*Trios from 88 and Beyond

2014
*Ashes to Ashes
*Beat Museum
*Moving On IV
*Moving On Again
*Several Long Poems

2015
*Geriatric Poems I
*Geriatric Poems II
*Geriatric Poems III
*Homage to EE
*Stoner Poems
*90th Birthday Celebration
*Memoir of 90 Year Old Child

2016
*Form I
*Form II
*Forms III
*Various Forms
*Conversation With God
*Quartets From 90 and Beyond
*Quartets From 90 and Beyond II
*Trios From 91 and Beyond I
*Trios From 91 and Beyond II
*Long Poems From 91 and Beyond
*Three Sheets

All books marked with * can be read by clicking on book name.
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