Monday, January 29, 2007

“Working My Way Toward the Groove"

Vincent Craig Wright and Kasey Mohammad read together at Powell’s on Hawthorne Saturday night, under a large psychedelic portrait of Phil Lesh (lysergically captioned “Searching for the Sound”) and flanked by a spinner rack of Monster Manuals, which felt weirdly right.

Craig read a new piece, “Methford,” set in the Oregon town of the same nickname and at the Sonic Drive-Thru within it, along with the remarkable title story from his new book, Redemption Center. Both take place in a sharply observed world of Camel unfiltereds, punchclock employment, “carrying” Bibles, and the painful wait for the noontime beer. “Redemption Center” especially struck me for the way it doesn’t let the particulars of the setting—or the double meaning of the title—overwhelm the characters, a boy and his estranged parents in a subtle struggle over whether or not to get a computer with their redemption coupons. The story touches on class, opportunity, religion, technology, and labor in a direct and affecting way that avoids bracketing any of these as “issues,” just treats them as normal, like born again in-laws or asthma. Craig read fast in a warm Louisiana accent that gave a conversational immediacy to his richly detailed tales.

Kasey read a sampling from A Thousand Devils, Deer Head Nation, Monsters, and his forthcoming Breathalyzer, due this spring from Edge Books. I’m always astonished at the way Kasey’s poems manage to indulge in the intricate vowel music you get with more formal, ‘crafted’ verse, but with all this absurd 21st century detritus draped around it, so that you recognize it right away as poetry but can also forget it’s a poem and enjoy it more like you would a brilliant pop song or video or stand-up routine. I get a similar feeling sometimes reading Ashbery, where the skill is in diverting your attention from the fact that the writing’s so skilled, until the ‘finish’ feels purely reflective: no poem, all world. Kasey’s world is a wildly fractured and familiar one that draws as much from Elizabethan English as it does from the culture of the RSS feed. Maybe that’s the magic: his poems make information overload feel like artful intricacy.

Kasey and Craig were asked last-minute to do intros for each other, which no host of any reading should ever do. (Hosts of future readings: don’t ever do this.) They pulled it off though to an appreciative audience that left wishing Ashland was a lot closer to Portland.

1 comment:

jess said...

thanks for the report, rodney.

also: your post seems to be coming from the future. curious.