Wednesday, May 23, 2007

La Perruque, Fin

Quick rundown of the Wig launch reading in Portland last week:

Kristen Gallagher opened with a project she started when she first moved to NYC: asking people for directions and making poems from their responses. The pieces evoke the transient but touching social relationships between the person who’s lost and the someone who helps you find your way. Simple declarative sentences take on surprising philosophic and ethical shadings—“I think I was wrong about where we are;” “So this is that … what is that?”—detached from their original contexts; Gallagher heightened the effect by blending her source material with quotes about geographical questions regarding Iraq.

“Our Family Activities” culled phrases from cable news shows that sounded like TV critiquing itself, confronting the pundits with their own grammatically slipshod pomposity. Some of the lines reminded me of Rob Fitterman’s work, where the language of advertising and the CNN ticker radiates a weird vernacular American energy: “When Ginny and I retire, we’re going to take a lot of trips like this.”

Chris Alexander
, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a crossed hammer and wrench above the slogan FIX SHIT UP, read a hilarious set that blended zombies, Jesus talk, heavy metal fan chat, pop-up ads and Skeletor into a ramped-up adolescent boyspeak that implied a connection between the interests which turn this particular demographic on and the state of the nation we’re currently stuck in. Huge points to Chris too for a poem that referenced Voltron.

Kit Robinson read from The Crave and from a new manuscript called “Omegaville.” I’ve had the chance to see Kit read a few times and I’ve never heard him deliver a boring poem. It’s hard to account for the particular magic of his work, which is understated to the point of being laconic, never seems to worry much about presenting itself as “poetic,” and slips without any apparent effort from puns to joky asides to densely rhymed wordplay to philosophical quiddities to emotionally open “truth statements” in a way that doesn’t privilege any one tone over another: they’re all treated as natural parts of the poem, which in turn gets treated less like a precious verbal object than as a heightened perception of the everyday, as easy (and inevitable) as talking or breathing. Some lines that stood out:

“Light is coming from the sky./Flip burgers.”
“As soon as there are things/they are in relation.”
“I think maybe we have Bill S. speaking at your show in England or something like that”
“trying to say it all in one compressed blurtation.”
“writing as running,/an exercise for the breath.”
“we are made of water/the tongue is a boat in our head.”

Tim Shaner read from a series of poems he told us were written while walking with his daughter on Spencer’s Butte in Eugene, and a few chapters from I Hate Fiction, the metafictional account of a grad student sloughing off his dissertation written while he was a grad student sloughing off his dissertation. I remember laughing a lot during “I Hate Fiction,” then laughing a lot less when Lesley came in to pick me up and we found out our car had been towed, which led to a sprint over the Burnside Bridge in Maryrose Larkin and Eric Matchett’s car, who got us to the yard just as our car was pulling into the gates and had us home in time to relieve the babysitter, laughing a little more, before midnight. Thank you, Eric!

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