Running language lightly over the sensorium
One fun poet out of three - not bad.
This week's Reading Between A and B made less of an impression than the last one I went to - maybe because I didn't have a nice chat afterwards to preserve it for later musing - but worthwhile nonetheless. Kathleen Ossip read from two thematic collections. The first, Cinephrastics, a book of movie poems, were at their best epigrammatic; at times I felt lost, because I don't know much about movies -- my fault, obviously. Another collection is set in the period of the Cold War. (So long ago!) It relied on an easy cliché, superficial suburban complacency beneath which roils a turbid undertow. (The work on the web site is more complicated and interesting than what she chose to read.)
Mary Jo Bang is well known and highly regarded, two risk factors for the Great Poet Syndrome: a tendency to orotund truisms (death is all around us, George Bush is a bad president), and an even more dreaded complication, the Great Poet Voice. (Imagine your most boring high school teacher. Then subtract intonation.) She also read from a thematic collection (these seem to be de rigueur), based on the letters of the alphabet. The most successful of these goes like this, in its entirety:
B is for Beckett
There is so little to say.
Here's another nice line of hers, plucked from context. It's about doctors. [I don't know where the line breaks go.] "How little else they know unless you tell them. I tell them I wish I could lie under the summer."
Chris Nealon, the middle poet, was entertainingly arch - qualities helped by his natural, fluid reading style. I appreciate poets that bring a persona to the microphone, and he was a jokester. Maybe his reading, his wit, his sexual jokes, can be identified with a "gay jester" type (Merrill, Powell). (If he's gay, that is. Maybe I'm wrong.) I wish I had more to quote, but he was reading pretty fast and I had had a bourbon to start the reading off (which I was well into by the time Nealon read. Maybe that's why I liked him the most?). A favorite line, again context-free: "She said: I want a tattoo. / She said, I want a thigh wound." Or the image of the city full of "instructible sparks." Or the title of this post, taken from a poem of his.
I would have bought his book, but the bourbon took up my free cash. I won't make that mistake again.