Sunday, January 28, 2007

Up is Up but So is Down at the Poetry Project

Maggie Dubris

Richard Hell

Eileen Myles


There were supposed to be 5 readers at this event celebrating the release of the awesome Up is Up anthology. This made the reading unique in and of itself, but even more interesting was that I had seen each of these readers before, and the prospect of seeing all of them again was pretty exciting as they are all pretty incredible, and it still blew the doors off with only three of the five being there. It was a pretty evening all around.

I'm not even going to try and dissect these folk's readings at this point, because they are all so exacting and intricate. Let me just say these cats know what they are doing up there, and if you want to get a good, osmosial lesson in how to give a reading, I'd start looking for where they are going to be next (the Poetry Project is a good place to start). Maybe after I see each of them read a few more times, and can sit long enough to overcome my rapt awe at their coolness, I'll give a hand to trying to pick apart the mechanics.

As an aside, there appear to be some swell events coming up at Issue Project Room, which you folks likely all know as "The Silo".

Friday, January 26, 2007

Evelyn Reilly and Gregg Biglieri at The Poetry Project

January 22, 2007

Evelyn Reilly

Evelyn opened her reading quoting Queequeg, "We cannibals must help these christians." Pointing toward the consumption of flesh in a tone suggesting its superiority and rationality, attributes to it welcoming finality in her exploration of the ecopoetical. This consumption continued into her first piece, reading, "the word was the part of the body that could change." She articulated both of those lines, savoring the morsels as she spoke them, caring about them as she committed them to voice. Each sound she struck created a gentle nudging to the "bodies body", to the ideas and the thoughts its imaged produced, and those that emanated from them.

As she wound the long lines out she stretched them like taffy, pulling ideas and lines in fluid, flowing snaps like the taffy-man at a fair whipping a long snake of cooling sugar to kneading it to the correct shape and consistency. She thickens the mouthful of these flailing tendrils with her repetition, slapping the strands of similarity together into mass yielding the singular product, "the body was part of the world that the word changed."

With "Broken Waters" Evelyn presented ecopoetics as stirring a pool translating language, idea, context, and thought. She stirred only the surface, here, gliding over the phrases to channel the listener's consciousness toward the meniscus of what she is doing, creating awareness of tension and the depths to which the over-arching structures were driving the concepts by pressing on the surface like a water-bug, and sharing it's condition, it's amnioticity.

Gregg Biglieri

Aliens, elfs, heart monitors, and infarctions are the terra-forming inhabitants of Gregg's reading, and the implications of a world made up solely of genuine absurdity and dismissing cynicism prompt him I would imagine to open most of his readings the way he did, saying, "I'll try to be funny." I respect that simply because I am always trying to be funny and I still haven't managed it. Gregg handles the condition, in the medical sense, of existence and makes it work well with a modulated, genial deadpan tone.

His voice lets the suddenness and motion of the ideas, images, and words happen in a their own arena, like coverage of the Olympics of Thought produced by an avant-garde film-maker, where you see each event in part, always at that moment to which is given weight by its revelation. Every moment is running, sometimes violently, toward you, and it is then cut away to another near collision. The unsettling feeling is not knowing what would have happened had you been left there. Gregg pauses, diligently, giving you the feeling of slowly being removed from the ground and put back down. He places the past and the future before you on a platter covered in velvet cloth, and just when whatever is beneath the cloth moves he pulls the whole ordeal away.

A sample of Gregg's work.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Year, A New Hug

2006 has left us, and with it, the trappings of familiarity. 2007 stands before us, and we will march into it with obstinent, resolute resolve! No more will we be swayed by the cowering entrapments and accoutrements of reaction and larger contexts. NO MORE will the simple assessments of Poetry and Literary readings be drowned out in favor of vehement diatribe and bland satirical mockery. Just hop over to The Angry Hug ( for that.

We admit, we got sorta sidetracked. There were elections, fires, poorly considered book deals, and a whole mess of the world eeking ever closer to possibly just up and quitting. Toothpicks wrapped in plastic with instructions on them were everywhere!

But onward, and maybe a step or two up, but nothing crazy. Just some good old fashioned critique of the reading of poetry.

And, as a, I was lame and could have made it to the Poetry Project's New Year's Reading Marathon but I just putzed around unpacking new stuff, we will repent, we will lay ourselves upon the alter of attrition (because we prefer a sense of guilt and fear induces obligation to simple resolutions), and we will do our darndest to review as many readings as possible this January. We've got 7 that we are planning on making, and hopefully more.

Now, to start things off, the Poetry Project reading given by Joanna Fuhrman and David Shapiro.

Joanna Furman reads glancing up and this makes you wonder what she finds important. If you were standing and watching her the glance would have come over the rim of her glasses while she references Rilke and Apollo and right away the MC's words, how her poetry reveals surfaces and edges, comes in the open.

Prufrock and facial expressions add stress to what she is saying, moving you in a line like you are walking along some invisible barrier. She will speak in a clear, high tone making declarations and stating what is known and absolute, then drop her voice and add a crunching and cracking saturation to her words as she draws out a long, fault-line of comparisons growing in ironic strength and taking everything she has said in a new direction.

The clear and bright remains hopeful, while the real and its reality is given a low, broken end, but her glances cause you to question which side to throw your hat onto. Those hopeful points get both deadpan, straight stares and the second-star-to-the-right, eye-rolling that makes you think she's laughing at you on the behind the round clarity in her voice. Reality comes off as too much of a joke when she's letting it seep out around the seats but occasionally she's glancing up toward the sky asking, rhetorically, "What, this is it?"

Joanna's reading takes you back and forth between the plateau and the plain. He poems are the jeep on the trail letting you see all those edges and how it all stacks up beneath the sky.

David began his reading referencing a song, in remembrance for departed friends, and immediately in contrast to Joanna there is no breaking, no disharmony, in his voice. His reading has only a few edges, and they will be used to great effect, but the entirety of his words become like a snow drift, only because you don't want to say A Wave for so many reasons, but mostly because it feels to easy to use, to cheap and frequently used.

David's lack of restraint is noticeable. He is willing to go all the way, unwilling to let gravity or the limits of the lungs stand in his way. He makes better use of repetition than advertising and marketers do, dropping sameness purposefully so that his poems can climb higher, like sandbags from a hot air balloon. He brings his voice back down, lower but just as clear, to add weight to his descriptions.

His words ring out of the front of his mouth, keeping everything up front, and again you think of the wave. You have to see the front of it to see it all. You think of water in a Buddhist sense, of its serenity and softness, and its potential for strength. His voice rocks from side to side like winding river, surprising you with the turns his words take.