John M. Bennett
A Flattened Face Fogs Through
Editions Basilic
Incl. full color 21-page 8.5"x11" booklet
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1Cake 1:04
2Wire / Forcefeet / Looming Down 3:37
3The Transmission 1:25
4Autophagia 19 2:54
5No Sax 1:31
6The Drive / The Discharge / The Roof Ripped Off - Stone with a Hole 5:09
7Garbage at Sea 1:55
8Bag Talk 1:05
9Pod King 6 1:34
10Last In Line 1:37
11After The Crown 0:45
12Cranial Pain 1:15
13Shirt 1:01
14Pants 1:04
15The Blur 1:50
16Rorrim 1:02
17The Blur 1:32
18The Radius 1:43
19Snuffling It Off 2:20
20The Shirt The Sheet 1:31
21Evird Eht 6:20

First-ever archival collection of otherwise impossible to find sound poetry recordings by the prolific avant-garde writer and mail-artist John M. Bennett, who was part of a fertile underground network of poets, artists and musicians corresponding through mail-art throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Two of Bennett’s children have grown to become known figures in the experimental music world - the percussionist and performance artist Benjamin Bennett, and the composer and musician John Also Bennett. RIYL: William S. Burroughs, Tellus, Jaap Blonk, Joan La Barbara, Charlie Morrow, Henri Chopin, Robert Ashley, Captain Beefheart.

Dr. John M. Bennett (Chicago, 1942) has been a prolific contributor on the absolute fringes of the American poetry, mail-art, and underground music worlds throughout his career, while working as a scholar and archivist of Latin American literature and avant-garde writing. One of two sons to prominent cultural anthropologist John W. Bennett, he was born in Chicago and spent his childhood years living across Saint Louis, Post-War Japan, and Columbus, Ohio, often traveling with his father to archeological sites. After living and studying in Mexico and Southern California across the 1960s, he emerged from UCLA in 1970 with a PhD in Latin American literature. He then re- settled in one-time childhood home of Columbus with a job as a Spanish and literature professor (and later archivist) at OSU, and began self-publishing his works at a prolific rate. His poetry explored the minutia of a seemingly bland existence in the corn walled, strip mall infested landscape of Middle America, using a unique and heady strain of word-mangling steeped in the surrounding monotony.

In terms of pure bizarreness, Bennett’s poetry perhaps has precedent in some of the work of William S. Burroughs (whose manuscripts Bennett has edited), though there is a visual expression and concrete commitment that places him in the realm of early sound poet and dada artist Kurt Kurt Schwitters or Bennet's contemporary Richard Kostelanetz. There are also elements of the grotesque and absurd on display in much of Bennett’s early work, in league with one-time correspondent Genesis P. Orridge and frequent collaborator Blaster Al Ackerman. John M. Bennett cut a notorious figure in the avant poetry world, prolifically contributing to underground literature magazines along with publishing and encouraging the work of others, nurturing an independent culture of experimentation and disregard for literary norms.

During the 1980’s, Bennett began to experiment with newly available home recording technology and electronics. After 1985’s The Spitter, which featured Bennett reading his poems alone, he began pairing performances of his poems with improvised music and vocal processing to create immersive sound worlds for his surreal explorations of the mundane. From his home studio in Columbus, Ohio, these recordings were released via self-dubbed cassettes alongside formidable chapbooks of visual poetry and traded through the postal service via his already prolific poetry imprint Luna Bisonte Prods (also home to the venerable Lost and Found Times periodical). These cassettes often featured unique artwork and calligraphy by Bennett himself, amounting to handmade art objects in the tradition of Fluxus Mail Art.

»A Flattened Face Fogs Through« was selected and sequenced by John Also Bennett from perhaps some fifteen hours of material, taken from cassettes spanning from 1986 to 1995. Concrete experiments with voice and tape manipulation, FM synthesis, early sampling keyboards, experimental percussion, flutes, and saxophones create a phantasmagorical backdrop for Bennett’s panting and gurgling poetry performances, spinning a sputtering picture of a quaking domestic void, at times evoking an almost Lynchian existential dread emanating from the shopping center parking lot. Flattened Face includes recordings of classic Bennett poems like “The Shirt The Sheet”, “Last In Line”, “The Transmission”, and “The Blur”, all newly re-mastered by Jack Callahan. LP and CD formats are presented alongside an extensive booklet containing photographs, poetry, visual art and other ephemera, as well as Blaster Al Ackerman’s original introduction to the sought-after 1986 release »Ax Tongue«.

The sound works presented here were made with a spirited cast of collaborators and conspirators - Byron D. Smith, Ficus Strangulensis, Mike Hovancsek, and Jack Wright to name a few (not to mention JMB’s oldest son William E. Bennett, then a child). They represent a fraction of John M. Bennett’s massive output in this marginal but fertile artistic community, and should stand as a testament both to it and to the underlying strangeness of language, the American Midwest, and of being itself.