Category: Archive

Waking the spirit of Joyce

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Paul Harris Zulkowitz, a self-described poet, sculptor and activist, has been reading Joyce’s last work each Saturday and Sunday since early October and has reached page 205 in the centennial edition of the novel.
Apart from a few bemused visitors, Zulkowitz’s voice, high and harsh, rang out to an impassive Battery Park City, and he did not seem to mind the lack of attention at all.
On his flyers advertising his readings and the times and dates, Zulkowitz, or “Zool,” as he calls himself, quotes a coherent couple of lines from “Finnegans Wake” that could refer back to his own performance:
“It was life but was it fair? It was free but was it art?”
“Garonne, garonne!” cried Zool, ending about half way down page 205 last Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I have been an artist all my life,” he said as he was packing away the flask of tea and honey that he uses to keep warm. A bitter wind lashed in off the Hudson, but Zool seemed oblivious.
He said that he felt that at most monuments people would stand and have their photo taken and then go away, “completely missing the experience.”
The Irish Hunger Memorial, is different, however. With its sloping quarter-acre representation of an Irish field and cottage, it is, he said, “one of the truly great memorials of the world.”
“I even think it surpasses Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
But why read from “Finnegans Wake”? And why out loud in a freezing November wind?
“The ‘Wake’ is constantly metamorphisizing, reiterating, redeveloping, reforming,” he said. “It is astounding to read something that is forming before your eyes. It is not a novel, it is a book.”
Something of that reforming and reiterating exists in the Hunger Memorial itself, which, its artist Brian Tolle has said, is a living, changing memorial. And, said Zulkowitz, “The first four paragraphs of the book are so well understood in that setting, next to the Hudson and the bay.”
Joyce’s last masterpiece opens with the words: “Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”
“In some ways,” Zulkowitz said, “the memorial picked me.”
Two visitors to the memorial stood and watched Zool for a few moments, then took a flyer and wandered down the path to ground level again, without comment.
When Zulkowitz started his readings, security guards at the memorial tried to stop him, but he successfully argued that he did not need a permit to read there.
Artist Brian Tolle who created the site said that he thought Zulkowitz’s performance was “somewhat unusual. Some people seem to listen to him, others seem to walk away.”
The Irish Hunger Memorial is at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in Battery Park City.
Zulkowitz said that he would be performing each Saturday and Sunday until Nov. 17 from noon to 2 p.m.

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