Monday, August 31, 2009

The Lovejoy Columns

The Peaches and Bats 4 launch party in Portland on Thursday flexed poetry’s ancient muscle as an aide to Mnemosyne. Jesse Morse used sonnet-length anagrams built from the letters in “Eric Chavez” to restore his favorite Oakland ‘A’ from the limbo of the injured list to the Elysium of obsessive fan recall, with the caveat I guess that sports heroes are always just magnified analogues for us. Sam Lohmann evoked broken New Year’s resolutions and landscapes that incessantly negotiate their own disappearance with representation until sky gets remembered as the “gap between smears.” Phoebe Wayne read part of a longer poem made by collaging quotations from articles about Tom E. Stefopoulos, Portland’s small-scale Simon Rodia, who spent his off-hours as watchman in the city’s Northwest rail yards chalking Diogenes and other Greek-like figures onto the columns of the Lovejoy Ramp, which used to thrust Lovejoy Street up over the trains till it was pulled down, in 1999, to make way for the ritzy Pearl. Collage seemed like the perfect technique to make sense of a city continually displacing and replacing its past, so that nothing exactly disappears—all stays somewhere in the akashic cache—but resurfaces in surprising ways, far from its home context. Like blog posts about poetry readings.

1 comment:

mongibeddu said...


So much is compacted here that deserves long commentary, or at least a long conversation (preferably one that involves walking through a quiet neighborhood deep into the night, beer in hand). But this in particular needs to be remarked:

we have so little need right now for generic poems of any kind.... You might even say that poets themselves in our particular moment show a diminished interest in poetry as a genre; that is, as a set of conventions recognized and presumably admired by its audience, even when it’s being tweaked. Genre films and genre passion and rabid affection from their fans. The rote and familiar are virtues, even requirements, and artists who don’t deliver a car crash or two get raked over fanboy coals. The creator is more trustee than genius, and too much originality betrays the shared commitment to the form.

Damn! I've mentally underlined that, with thick pencil, scribbling "yes!!!" in the margin. It gets exactly right the big difference between the poetic cultures of before and after modernism, and does so in a thoroughly original, far-reaching way.

Now I'm going to go off and think about trustees and geniuses.