True story: yesterday afternoon, writing at the window table in my favorite café (Caffé Buongiorno in Vancouver) I looked up to see Ted Joans running across the street towards me, and then carrying on, heading west, his eyes alight. I wrote about this visitation:
Ted Joans just ran past the café window,
where I wrestle with a piece on language,
and how poets speak to each other
in a secret code. He was back
from beyond the grave,
his eyes excited, and wild
with bright delight.
He was alive, man;
I tell you he was
I think he had fresh news
from the afterlife to share with us.
He had some Truth to tell us
of his visit there. And he was young
again, he was in his black prime,
his beard the beard of a younger man
again. He wore his poet’s black beret,
and he ran past my window, smiling;
running fast towards another future;
running back towards his birth.
Paris 14 May 2003
I’m still in shock that Ted Joans has, as he would have put it, “gone on to the ancestors.” I don’t know what to say other than that he was like a father to me and I’m going to miss him forever.
These photos were taken at—where else?—the Café Le Rouquet during Ted’s last visit to Paris on March 24, 2003. Ted and I were sitting and talking when the film director Bob Swaim just happened to pass by. As serendipity would have it, Bob was carrying an original screenplay written by James Baldwin himself, an adaptation of his own novel, Giovanni’s Room. Ted reminisced about when he and Baldwin used to hang out at the café together. Bob also happened to have a camera with him. These might very well be the last pictures taken of Ted Joans at his favorite café.
There will be a tribute to Ted during Shakespeare & Company’s Literary Festival in June. I’ll provide more details when I can.
Guy Pierre Buchholtzer
A la mémoire de Ted Joans
Café Bukowski, Commercial Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada
14 may 2003, 9 :00 pm
La vie est bien aimable
Venez à moi, si je vais à vous c’est un jeu,
Les anges des bouquets dont les fleurs changent de couleur.
Paul Eluard, Capitale de la douleur (Gallimard, Paris, 1926)
Sometime ago, I was walking into the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw Ted Joans. I approached him and said: “Excuse-me Sir, are-you André Breton?”. He turned around, looked at me and said very politely: “Yes.”
We met again, and together with Laura Corsiglia we talked about Ted’s life in Paris, my city of origin. It so happened that Ted and me knew many of the same people, many of whom belonged to the Surrealist Movement, like Elisa Breton [the second wife of Breton], Jean Schuster, the “légataire universel du Mouvement surréaliste” [I guess this means the official inheritor of matters concerned with Surrealism, as nominated by Breton], José Pierre, Vincent Bounoure, Joyce Mansour, Jean Benoît, Matta, Robert and Jean-Jacques Lebel. Perhaps he also met Max Ernst, Picasso and a plethora of others, many of whom are not any more of this world.
I am sure that Ted is meeting them right now – in French, I believe, because Ted loved Paris so much, in a nice café in the parallel world. I have discovered, in the meantime, that he had lived in the same Parisian building as I, in a little street chanted by poet Guillaume Apollinaire, namely rue Christine, near Saint-Germain-des-Prés, across from the house where Gertude Stein once lived.
Ted told me about his trips to Western Africa when it was still called Afrique Occidentale Française -French Western [Occidental] Africa. He called it “Afrique Accidentelle Française”: meaning, “Accidental” French Africa. How revealing! In a sense, he knew that he was an out spring of this ‘accidental’ Africa, an Africa once under the former colonial pincers of the French and British. He was trying to re-immerse himself within his distant roots. This is perhaps why he had to travel so much, between people, between countries, to stay here and there, to find himself again in the world.
I certainly do not know very much about the Beat movement and Ted’s affiliations, but my overwhelming feeling has been that Ted was trying to disclose his deep roots, and in doing so, to overcome the split between perception and representation in our daily lives. It is perhaps therefore “tout à fait naturel” – totally natural – that he became involved in Surrealism and, foremost, in poetry.
André Breton declared: “I continue to see nothing in common between literature and poetry. The former, whether it is directed towards the external world or boasts of introspection, in my opinion, entertains us with rubbish; the latter is all internal adventure and this is the only adventure which interests me”. And that is what our friend Ted Joans did when researching, like Breton, the “l'(h)or du temps”, the outside of time, the gold of time.
I first met Ted Joans when I was curating a Beat Art show at NYU in 1994 in connection with a huge celebration of the 50th anniversary of the origins of the Beat Generation. I had tracked Ted down, by telephone, in Paris, after several CIA like attempts to elicit a response. Ted promised to send several of his distinctive collages for inclusion in the exhibition. With his permission a reproduction of one of his works was printed in the exhibition catalogue which was prepared long in advance of showtime. Ted was clearly excited and pleased at the prospect of this planned Beat extravaganza and said he would be in NYC for the event and would deliver his artwork upon arrival a few days before. Well — on the positive side I would note that Ted did arrive in NYC, more or less on time. BUT, to my dismay and his chagrin he had “forgotten” to bring his collages for exhibition. His almost insidious Beat charm and profuse apologies were quite disarming and dissipated any momentary anger on my part, and while the absence of his artwork was a disappointing gap in the show, his presence and participation in poetry readings and panels redeemed him in full.
Five years later–in the summer of 1999–in a moment of pure serendipity, I literally bumped into Ted on the streets of Seattle. He was with his companion Laura Corsiglia. We reintroduced ourselves and promptly agreed to meet the next day at his Chinatown apartment/studio and planned to have lunch together. The next afternoon was truly memorable. We ended up talking for several hours and he and Laura graciously permitted me to photograph them and their fascinating surroundings. With my everlasting gratitude, Ted regaled me with stimulating recollections of his extraordinary Beat history and world travels, but what I remember most was how supportive and attentive he was to Laura and her very powerful and energetic work as a painter. I am happy to share some of my photos from that day and from the earlier Beat conference.
Here are 3 black and white photos of Ted from 1994 when he and David Amram entertained us with a typical Jazz/Poetry reading at an NYU Banquet, and these are followed by a series of images from my visit with Ted and Laura in 1999.