Monday, December 15, 2014

December 7: Laura Moriarty Live!

Poet, novelist, teacher, and Deputy Director of Small Press DistributionLaura Moriarty joined us on Sunday, 12/7, for our final in studio live show at Light Rail. Laura's recent Nightboat Books' collection, Who That Divines  was our focus, followed by her soon to be published Volcanik--and divinely Laura presented, enlivening the studio with her richly layered and sound-driven poetry, her signature bracelets dangling along to the pace of her rhythm. She opened with three poems: "Who That Divines" (the title poem opening the first of five sections, Divination), "Who That Speaks" (from Destination), and "Two Modes" (from Blood Subject), which opens with a Luce Irigaray quote (as does the entire book), "Two modes of representation are tearing time apart." The titles of these poems (like many of her poems) are active and jumpstart what follows; once inside, the reader becomes active participant navigating through the poem in a maze of sounds, compact and columnar lines, sudden shifts, riddled with multiple meanings. The conjunction "or" offering possibility is ever present and "you" and "I" as readers/listeners become co-conspirators in the play of poetry. "Hunter haunted/" with "you as reader," we move forward in a "waltz," "In the Game," where to "play is an assertion or a decision" and to "play is to ply or capture,"--as in the making of a poem!

We started the first half discussing the book's general five-section structure, which includes a Prelimn and Notes. Responding to Delia's comment on the "diversity of tone," Laura referred to visual artist R.H. Quaytman's show at SFMOMA, citing how varied the work was and how that inspired her to be "multiple" while putting together her collection. To "sustain a particular impulse," as she did in A Tonalist Laura added, comes with age and time. Taking "different approaches" which have a "lack of consistency of form" and combining them in "thematic ways or other ways that aren't usual" helped Laura construct several parts of the book; the poem "Departures 1-11/War in Heaven" and the section An Air Force (also a Hooke Press chapbook) are older pieces and Laura noted how the book functions like a "2nd Selected" collection, covering a ten-year range. Who That Divines, however, as Jay pointed out, overall has an immediate voice whose tone, despite time travel to the past event, is set in the present Right Now!--a kind of chronesthesia that, in regard to her writing, Laura described as the "immediate expression of those thoughts in that moment in relation to whatever material you're deciding to deal with." A "real nostalgia hater," Laura's ability to traverse back to her past (including past lives) while keeping us stirred in the rhapsodic present all in one single line is in itself: divine. Next, Laura read "Green Lady" with words from Elizabeth Robinson from the Lady Bug section (also a chapbook), which was written during Laura's lady bug fascination. We then discussed the book's "playful" approach, its use of rhymes and Laura's interest in "fairy tales" deepened with a "passionate felt feminism." After declaring herself a fan of "Schoenberg," Laura talked about her interest in Tonalism (in art) and how, for her, that would become A Tonalist in writing. Call it anti-lyric or experimental lyric, Laura called her preceding Nightboat Books collection (A Tonalist), "a conceptual gesture of group formation," and that similar style of collaborative writing is  also celebrated in Who That Divines. Originally entitled Divination, Laura shared how the book's opening quote by Luce Irigaray, "Divinity is what we need to become free, autonomous, sovereign," prompted the project, making her reflect on "gamesmanship" and "magic" (tarot cards) and "divining" in general--attracted to it all, she admitted, "in a sleazy way!" Sleazy or not we're happy that Laura has "divining projects" which create "chance constraints" that make her poetry exciting (she often has "five feeds" going on at once while writing), as well as give her the insight to teach a "Vampire Poetics" course at the Bay Area Public School collective.

We began our second half with the Schoenberg quote-driven poem "Non Tonal," followed by discussion on Laura's use of quotes (to "indicate a different level of speech"), italics, and names--often included when attributing the poem to someone. Biographical in its approach, an online text generator helped create the poem "Waltz of Memory and Doubt" which Laura read next, calling it "an avalanche" that falls forward and forward in time: "It's 1968. It's 1969./There's a war on./Waltz is bored." Concluding our discussion of Who That Divines, Laura described her Air Force family growing up and how that, along with her interest in memoir, fueled the poem An Air Force. While listening to her read a few pages from it, we appreciated the poem's "linearity and plain language" and mix of poetry/prose--furthering our understanding of atonal writing a bit more. Ending with a sampling from her forthcoming Volcanik--from the notes of her travels to volcanic sites with husband Nick Robinson--Laura shared raw work in its making and you could hear the poem rise up, stretch out, and overflow off the page. Some lines form volcano-like silhouettes on the page; some words in all caps (SPACE) float over the page, while others ascend domelike. Having traveled to various places during various times (including somewhere near Mt. Pelée), we were thrilled that Laura took time out to fly into Poet as Radio on "wind driving flames" and grace us with her poetic divinity on our last day at the studio! Click here to listen.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

November 23: Kevin Killian Live!

On 11/23 Kevin Killian, one of the original "New Narrative" writers, dropped by the studio to share his Tweaky Village with us, a recent prize-winning collection (The Wonder Prize) of poetry published by Wonder books. Tweaky Village contains 7 sections whose serial poems were written during the recession, the spiraling economy, and President Obama's ascendancy to power.

Kevin began with "Speak Right," the book's final piece, set on the "enchanted forest floor at Barbara Gladstone" (gallery), reading the poem and interrupting himself to share asides about the poem (i.e. written while he was experiencing a "stroke-like" condition). "Words fall down" or "words drop out" of the poem as a result; "Frankenstein" even drops into the poem for a visit! Kevin calls his collection "an anti-gentrification rant" or a "war between bohemians and plutocrats." Tweaky Village takes its name after S.F.'s Castro district and Kevin employs the use of appropriation (from George Kuchar films, but also from a chorus line in a Kylie Minogue song, "Wow Wow Wow Wow"--the title of the chapbook/section in the book), repetition, and the series poem--contents of one poem enter into the next quite seamlessly. Kevin is the Master of Segues!

Next, we performed a poem (scene) from the 1956 film Autumn Leaves with Kevin playing Joan Crawford, naturally. We discussed the effects of screenplay dialogue in poetry; and then Kevin jumped into his history as a "New Narrative" writer, when he first took a course taught by Robert Glück in the early '80's. Named by Steve Abbott, the new narrative movement sought to place a poem in "non-objective language," using the insights of contemporary poetry (at the time, Language Poetry). A "radical reclaiming" of the personal narrative (esp. of Queer voices) which celebrated little distinction between the poem, the screenplay, or the novel (all in one "mass expression") was/is the result.

After reading "I Lost Me to Meth," which Kevin explained is an "informercial" poem whose title comes from the old anti-drug billboard slogan, we moved into Jack Spicer's poetics and Kevin gave us his take on opening up the mind to reception like a "radio," picking up on the voices of the living and the dead. Poetry, indeed, is one way of "bringing back the dead." Kevin next shared, "Fetish Photography," a photograph installation and poem was installed in NYC (2012) that incorporates images of mostly male nudes with poems printed on wax paper placed over the images. Toward the end of our show, Kevin confessed that he has written over 2500 Amazon reviews, which spawned from a period of illness (inspired to do so by Dody Bellamy) in an attempt to get back into writing and to "find a new vocabulary." One just has to Google "Kevin Killian" and "Amazon" to enjoy some of these reviews--and to find out more on Kevin and his writing! Click here to listen.