Monday, April 02, 2007

Subways & Om Cakes (1)

K. Lorraine Graham and Mark Wallace came to read at Spare Room last Sunday, with sun and a good chunk of the local Buffalo diaspora in tow.

Graham’s reading mixed two manuscripts that in turn mixed poetry and prose, so that fragments of what sounded like memoir or freestanding sections of a connected narrative piece took on a lot of the disjunctive play and connotative looseness I associate more often with contemporary poetics. Food and the predatory advances of strange men seemed to anchor a purposively abstract, non-linear travelogue that carried a cast of nameless “hes,” “shes,” “theys” and “yous” across California (vegan OM cakes), Southeast Asia (banana dhosas), China (“Dunkin Donuts at the foot of the Temple of Heaven”) and a shifting global zone thick with ‘internationals’—sunburned British travelers, Bhutanese economists, and carriers of official EU umbrellas—whose relationship to their environments felt as provisional and exploratory as the language Graham used to get us there. “The weather is nice here in Bucharest, and tonight I am taking a train north.”

The work she read was full of memorable lines that had me scribbling when I should have been listening; the ones that stuck with me most combined the kind of declarative sharpness you find in, say, tourist phrasebooks or language learning tapes with a wry detachment from the authority their diction implied. Phrases like “of course,” “obviously,” “usually,” “I have found” set up sentences that slipped away from the certainties they’d prepared us for (sort of like the women in the story who keep gracefully eluding overly 'friendly' men). Not sure how well the lines below capture this, but they’re the ones I was able to get down whole:

“birds fly away and come back”
“we’re usually being fucked while men found cities”
“of course when alone one has no love either”
“the breath sings when it is supported on speech”

No comments: