“I tend to like art that does more than what’s necessary, goes further, exceeds; but that keeps its contours sharp, holds its shape. I think of the way huge flocks of pigeons reverse and catch the light in a synchrony that doesn’t eradicate the oneness of each particular bird. This isn’t to say that I can’t turn it down for a slow jam when I feel it, or that I can’t build a poem around a single gesture rather than a whole array of them. I can and have. But I’m a relatively excitable person by nature, and when I try to write calm, tranquil poems, I usually feel more or less like an impostor, like I’m assuming someone else’s sensibility, or worse, like I’m trying to modify my work to make it behave more sensibly, or generically — to make it appeal to as many palettes as possible.”
- Timothy Donnelly, author of “The Cloud Corporation”
read the rest of the Harper.org”6 Questions” interview here.
Lots to update you on but first wanted to post about this event coming up that I am very excited about. Going to be reading in Seattle with three wonderful poet friends Rachel Rose, Jen Currin and Renée Sarojini Saklikar and an American poet, Susan Rich, whom I am looking forward to meeting. Rachel will have two amazing musicians, Jefferson Rose and Tobi Stone of The Jefferson Rose Band accompanying her reading. Thank you very much Rachel for inviting me to read at this.
Date & Time: February 2nd, at 7 p.m.
Location: The Elliot Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle WA.
Rachel Rose (http://www.rachelrose.ca) has won national awards for her poetry, her fiction, and her non-fiction. She is the author of three books of poetry, Song & Spectacle, Notes on Arrival and Departure, and Giving My Body to Science. In 2011 she was commissioned to write a libretto, working with composer Leslie Uyeda, which will be performed as an opera in summer 2013.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle (http://firstname.lastname@example.org) Work from thecanadaproject appears in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies. Renée is at work on a sequence of elegies, about Canada and the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
Susan Rich (http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com) is the author of three collections of poetry, The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel (2006), and The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World (2000) winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry. Rich has received awards from The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Her poems appear in the Harvard Review, New England Review, and Poetry Ireland. Her fourth book, House of Sky, has recently been accepted for publication by White Pine Press.
Jen Currin has published three books of poetry: The Sleep of Four Cities (2005), Hagiography (2008), and The Inquisition Yours (2010), which was a finalist for four awards and won the Audre Lorde Poetry Award. She teaches writing at Kwantlen University, Vancouver Community College, and for The Writer’s Studio at SFU.
Raoul Fernandes lives and writes in East Vancouver, B.C. His poems have been previously published in Event, CV2, and Poetry Is Dead and The Malahat Review. In 2010 he was a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award. He is currently assembling his first poetry manuscript.
Jefferson Rose (www.jeffersonroseband.com) is a bass player and composer. He has toured Europe and and regionally with groups such as The Jefferson Rose Band, Lasarose, Diego Paqué and many others. His 2012 full-length release, “Seismic” and single, “Cruzando el Atlántico” are currently being distributed worldwide.
Tobi Stone (tobistone.com) plays saxophone, clarinet and flute and has performed with many jazz greats. She won numerous regional awards and toured internationally with The Tiptons and Reptet. Tobi is currently a member of several bands including The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, The Jefferson Rose Band and Thione Diop & Afro Groove.
“I’m associative by nature, so it’s inevitable that many of my poems will oscillate on both large and small scales, swing from one thing to another around a core that is often not articulated until later in the poem. Probably a lot of my poems are records of me discovering why a particular set of stimuli hold my attention. But the process itself, the process of making, really any process of making, because it leads to some kind of output, will convey a sense of order. What I like about poems is they can also carry a feeling of the disorder that leads to order, or leads to a desire for order.”
If you were to ask me who is my favourite poet this week, I’d probably say Reggie Watts, who is not a poet but an improv comedian/musician. If you haven’t heard of him, there are a few things he does in his act: One is layering loops of his own beatboxy rhythms, vocal bits and soulful improvisational singing / rapping. He is really really good at this. Another is a wry deadpan standup routine that plays with meaninglessness (but delivered as if it were meaningful). He code-switches, sometimes mid-sentence, into a few different voices and languages. If he only did one of these things, it would be cool and impressive, but somehow the combination of these things with no clear transition from one to the other, makes it profound and artful, to me. And super hilarious. I kind of feel new patterns forming my brain as I watch him. He also seems like a totally decent and wonderful human being. Check him out.
“…So I kept writing through the summer, and in August the baby was born and I’d cradle him in my left arm while writing melodies at the piano with my right, and I said, let Osiris the keeper of the gates be my witness, other songwriters may go soft when they get to be parents but I am going to keep going all the way down into the inner darkness, it will set a good example for the baby, and besides, what am I going to do, suddenly start writing songs about cute things instead of songs about how to wrest cries of triumph from the screaming places? Please. May the baby grow up to spit in my face if I should pose that hard.”
- John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats
(it’s ridiculously late to be posting this, and a bit long, but wanted it for the archive, and also for Elee, cuz she asked and we missed her there)
Driving in to a sleepy quiet flower-print sort of town with my poet friend Adrienne. Have lunch in a cafe. Jericho Brown wanders in and we invite him to sit with us. When I tell him where I’m staying he goes “You’re sleeping in a tent?” His laugh has enough energy to power all the flowers of this town.
Don’t have a ticket for the “Poet’s Dinner” event so I drink a beer in a bar overlooking the water and write some sentences.
Sleep that night in the aforementioned tent on a beautiful waterfront lawn at Rachel Rose‘s folks place. Kind and intelligent people. First night alone in a long long while. Miss my baby and wife. A bit of a sleepless night, birdsong in the morning.
At my volunteer shift, hand out program guides to chattery high-schoolers coming in to see the morning’s school-only events. All the poets do well at not talking down to the kids and even amp up the edginess. I introduce myself to Tony Hoagland who is bemused at the ‘squareness’ of the town. In the following `Taking Humor Seriously` panel, he makes a good comparison of poetry to jokes while suggesting how a funny poem can still have complexity and sadness folded into it.
Checked out the “Going Public with Private Feelings” panel (Carolyn Forche, Marie Howe, and Kurtis Lamkin). Each of them spoke openly and beautifully. There was moving discussion when a young girl talked about signing her poem ‘Anonymous’ in a Chapbook anthology because she didn’t want her parents to worry about her. Because of this panel and witnessing the tendency towards more personal and narrative themes in the festival, I start rethinking my tendency to avoid writing about my life directly. More on this later.
Bob Hicok and Lorraine Healy at Poems as “Prayer: Poems as Weapons” both shrug off the idea of poems being weapons, but approach it from a social justice perspective. Hicok reads beautifully. I remark to him how his poems aren’t prayers for personal needs, but go out toward or on behalf of others, sort of like grace before a meal. This leads to good conversation.
Evening closes with Tony Hoagland, Patrick Lane, Carolyn Forche, and Vancouver band, The Fugitives. Hoagland goes sharp, Lane goes heavy, and Forche seems to possess the power to levitate everyone in the room. She also does a funny imitation of her friend, poet Ilya Kaminksy. The Fugitives are great and dynamic, and their energy is a much needed relief from the heavy stuff.
Sleep better the next night. Fish jumping in the morning. A birdcall I later understand is a mourning dove. Still miss my baby like crazy. Then to see Nikki Giovanni, Tony Hoagland, and Patrick Lane at the “What Man has Made Of Man” reading. They speak of their coming into writing and how it was desperately necessary to them as young people. Also go into what it might mean to be a young writer in this time. Really lovely. Giovanni rambles off topic quite a bit but makes a good point about needing to audio/video archive these talks/readings. She said it enough at different times at the festival, I’m sure it will be on the agenda for next year.
Poetry, Music and the Visual Arts with Lorraine Healy, Rachel Rose and Mark Schafer. Poems turned into opera, into rock, Poems in dialogue with photographs, poems as words hanging from a tree. All good ways to see the possibilities outside the book. I mention my poetry phonebooth idea to Schafer who seems excited enough about it to maybe make it real.
Gathering of Poets! Every poet at the festival reads for a minute. I had misgivings about this one, thought it would be too rapidfire and channel-changey. But it was actually very good. I was pretty overwhelmed by the end but in a good way. Rachel and I go for a nice walk to clear our minds after, sit and write at a cafe. See someone with a birdcage backpack (with a real bird inside it).
Rachel is sweet enough to take me as her guest to the dinner with the poets. Feel very honored and a bit weird, like a kid who sneaked backstage. Talk a bit with Simon Ortiz, Elizabeth Austen and Kurtis Lamkin. Tasty tacos and good wine.
Final reading has Giovanni, Hicok, and Howe throw down. Don`t think much of Giovanni`s poetry but boy can she work a room. The poems seem almost incidental to her freewheeling stand-up routine. Marie Howe is good but maybe a bit too straightforward for me. Bob Hicok owns the room in a powerful and quiet way. He is wearing a red t-shirt in front of red curtains which makes him seem to be half disappearing. But yes, easily the most powerful reading I witnessed, and I heard from a number of people that he was their best discovery at the festival. I talk with him a little after and suggest we meet up when he visits Vancouver in a couple weeks. This happens.
Not over yet! Jericho Brown has graciously invited poets and friends to come over to the magical little bed and breakfast he wis staying in, so I go with Rachel and a few others and sit around in the living room with pretty exhausted but glowing writers. People take turns reading. I feel bad that I didn`t bring any writing with me, so I attempt to read something from memory (that loopy Saturn poem) which I have never done before. I can barely remember haiku I have written! Surprisingly, it works, and goes over well. I have this moment of feeling a little less like a fan-boy, and more like one of the writers in the room.
Next morning a workshop with Tony Hoagland that I won`t get into now, because this has been too long a post. and Elee, I should save something to talk about over coffee. Which we should do soon, yes?
Hope all is well and thrumming in your world.
Well, since I did a radio-related post last, I’d just like to talk about the brilliant podcast, Bookworm, on KCRW that features/interviews a new author every week. Host Michael Silverblatt comes across such an in-depth and sensitive reader of books, it must feel like an honor for writers to even know that he read their work. David Foster Wallace, in one of his interviews on the show, seemed giddy and awed that Silverblatt picked up on how the structure of Infinite Jest is based on fractal patterns. (“Can I take you home?” DFW said at some point in the interview). At first listen Silverblatt’s quiet earnestness and insight seemed a little unreal, but a few minutes in, you can see that it is totally genuine. He has mastered the interviewing skill of creating a quiet and trustful space for the writers so they come across as thoughtful and intelligent as they are. Which seems simple, but isn’t.
A lot of great writers have appeared on the show’s 20+ years. Here’s a few of the ones I’ve check out that I’ve enjoyed (though I recommend you search through the archives for your favourities):