Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tangent & Spare Room Century Cento, 1/24-1/25/09

Big poetry weekend for Portland, really for anywhere. On Saturday, Allison Cobb read with Craig Santos Perez for Tangent. Craig took one of his trademark photos of the audience, then read selections from his new book, from unincorporated territory, which I’ve written a tiny bit about here. Some of the students he’d met with at Pacific University the day before were in the audience, along with his parents, who saw him read his own poetry for the first time (Craig joked he had to come all the way to Portland to get them to see him read poems.)

Newly minted Portlander Allison Cobb read from her project Green-Wood, which uses her research and rambles in Brooklyn’s vast Green-Wood cemetery as a flexible armature for suspending botany, gender, public space, parrots, Ralph Waldo Emerson, fertility technologies, political cartooning, Victorian mores, modern libraries, Linnaeus, Greek lamentation, and nearly everything else that bears down on the 21st century as it moves in the form of a person through Brooklyn’s vast Green-Wood cemetery. For all its diversity of interests, the piece seemed to have its gravitational center in the idea of classification, worrying the systems we use to categorize a reality that, considered from the ground, in periplum, insists on always exceeding them.

The Spare Room collective held its 100th reading the next day. Chris Piuma, who flew from Toronto to read 10 of the 100 poems chosen from the last 100 years, mentions some of the highlights here. The reading went nearly 7 hours; for most of the time I was there, a shifting crowd of around 50 came and went, while on the other side of the picture window that formed the gallery’s back wall drivers and joggers and bus passengers and solitary smokers experienced the 20th century by proxy, peering in to wonder what the hell was going on. A reading that long alters the usual meaning of audience, transmuting it from a set of discriminating individual listeners into a collective presence assembled around language moving in time. I broke for dinner, then made it back for the last hour, where 8 or 10 of us were left to hear Schuyler be omega to Stein’s alpha.

I was sorry to miss the poems read by Gale Czerski, Dan Raphael, Patrick Hartigan, and Meredith Blankinship, but here’s a cento made of lines gleaned from the readings I was there for:
Spare Room Century Cento

As I sd to my friend
an assortment of labial farts can brighten discourse
it is so easy to exchange meaning
books handling excitement
giant robot tortoise
Lalu Lalu Lalu Lalu La!

for whatever speaks, finally, transfigures
problems that no one else seemed to have
like that gathering of one of each I planned
and Apollo One cost plenty
Where is that bug going?
there are still songs to sing beyond humanity
So friends! Hold the bloody sponge up! For all to see!
and then I arrived at the powerful green hill.

Robert Creeey, read by Joel Bettridge
Guillame Apollinaire, read by Sam Lohmann
Gertrude Stein, read by Maryrose Larkin
Hannah Weiner, read by Chris Piuma
Ron Silliman, read by Laura Feldman
Hugo Ball, read by Mark Owens, Anna & Leo Daedalus

Gustaf Sobin, read by Rodney Koeneke
Jennifer Crystal Fang-Chien, read by Lindsay Hill
James Schuyler, read by David Abel
Leonel Rugama, read by Jesse Morse
Joseph Ceravolo, read by Joseph Bradshaw
Paul Celan, read by James Yeary
Bernadette Mayer, read by Alicia Cohen
Muriel Rukeyser, read by David Abel

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