Monday, September 6, 2010

Philly Report: New Philadelphia Poets, CA Conrad's PhillySound Feature, Frank Sherlock's Lounge Act, All Reasons Philly Is the Place to Read

I wrapped up my exhausting but truly lovely & generative 2-month trip to the east coast by reading for the NPP (New Philadelphia Poets) Reading Series; this particular evening was emceed by the awesome Debrah Morkun & Matthew Landis. 

Matt, who wrote a really generous/insightful review of Occultations for the latest & last Jacket Magazine (up online now, also available on the SPD Occultations webpage, which thanks to Clay Banes, keeps in one place links to reviews & features related to or about the book). And Debrah, who will be bringing her awesome poetry over to Olympia and be reading/performing it at The Evergreen State College--as part of my course/program, and, more generally, for the start of the 2010-11 PRESS Cross-Cultural Literary & Politics Series (Morkun's reading is at 7pm on Sept 27th. More details on Debrah's visit and on our PRESS tentative schedule in separate posts--soon!)

As for NPP curating and who gets to do what, I asked about that. All NPPs take turns curating, from what I understand, and the collective is the sponsor of the reading series proper (including special events, collaborative ventures, etc). They work in a very consensus-based way, which I like, and the reading series is just one among several things they do throughout the year.  I'd been looking forward to this reading for several months now, and it was every bit as great as I'd hoped it would be--and more! IF YOU ARE A POET AND HAVEN'T YET THOUGHT OF READING FOR OR ATTENDING AN NPP READING--WHY? Seriously, go. They're gracious, professional (if yr looking for that kind of thing, which if you are, well, ok), kind, & show you a great time afterwards.

(Some A-hole bullshitting between poems. Click to enlarge... if you dare)

This is a dynamic and deeply interesting group of artists--a diverse lot, all risk-not-averse. And all (in my estimation, & unless they're hiding a bunch more poets in a basement somewhere) incredibly talented, young, and, much like, and as overt nod to, an earlier generation of Philly poets (thinking here of PhillySound poets, their mentors [Ott, edwards, Osman, et al], as well as the myriad Kelly Writer's House folks), they have an enlarged politics, don't get caught up in the myopic institutional poetry squabbles very much (if at all). And, perhaps what I admire as much as anything else, these writers not only have little trouble linking "poetry" and "politics" in various and complicating ways, they seem not to be able to think of how to dis-entangle these terms and what they imply--other than arbitrarily. The collective is becoming vital, and it shows: when I left Philly 6 years ago, there was, as always, a good scene, with Conrad, Sherlock & Co. one of very few groups or collectives that was managing to put a city on the map with very little help (no institutional help, if I remember correctly). Now, with NPP forging alliances with PhillySound, curators of the fantastic Emergency Series, and Moles Not Molar, along with other series' one can find on the NPP homepage, and the myriad other poetry scenes in the greater Philly area, the place is popping with performances, rallies, impromptu readings, gatherings, projects, collaborations, presses. Really nightly stuff going on, the energy palpable.

Debrah Morkun, Matthew Landis, Jamie Townsend, and Carlos Soto-Roman were the NPP poets I had sustained interaction with over the weekend. Carlos was one of the readers Friday evening--wow, blew me away. Several friends joined us, including CA Conrad, who I thank SO much, again, for the PhillySound feature he lovingly designed & published with help from community commentators Rob Halpern, J. Townsend, Brenda Iijima, Thom Donovan, & Jules Boykoff--it made me really emotional to feel that kind of love...Ryan Eckles came down, as did Erica Kafuman and Brenda Iijima (both came down from NYC for the day...Erica, who is writing a review of Occultations & finished her PhD oral exams this week!, & Brenda, who wrote a stunning mini-review/reflection of my work for that PhillySound feature--(thanks, wonderful Brenda!). Alongside other Philly stalwarts, I really felt like I was coming home. Surrounded by deep and gender-complicated/ing (not as much "brotherly") love. And felt as welcomed by a community (in the truest sense of that term--its etymological sense, perhaps) as at any time reading or performing work before (the Bay Area & Nonsite Collective, with whom a lot of these folks, especially Frank, Conrad, Erica, & Brenda, are loosely affiliated, come to mind as a constellation/venue/places I've felt this sort of dissensus-driven belonging & community). 

And the reading itself was a blast. I read pieces from Hospitalogy & Occultations, including excerpts from "modular arterial cacophony," a polyvocal piece that needs at least 1 other voice, which Frank was kind enough to help me out with, offering up his baritone (with a hint of lounge jazz in this instance, a rather perfect affect as counter-prosody to the prosody of the work as-written). I also like how he & I move together. If we practice it out some, I think we could do some pretty cool stuff around voice & movement, go on the road, become millionaires.

Erica Kaufman, who has been a 2nd reader before for this piece (for Amy King/Ana Bozicevic's Stain of Poetry Series), video taped this part of my reading, so here it is. Just a 5 min video clip via You Tube. Thanks much, Kafuman, nice camera work!

(Brenda took a "team photo," under this brilliant mural that Brenda used as backdrop to photograph kari edwards during a reading years ago. Thus an honor and a presence during this shot, some good radical energy at that spot. Click to enlarge)

As I mentioned when I hit the mic, Frank Sherlock's reading reminded me that "Frank Sherlock is himself an insurrection." His stopping to note the 5th year anniversary of Katinra, tying it into the Gulf deep water spill, gave us important details about happenings now, & this sort of self-interruption/alt-news flash occurred at regular intervals (between and as poems), became trope & call to action. Really good. Julie Doxsee's poetry continues to instigate in me an ontological pseudo-crisis of some kind (tho I guess I was unaware of how goth her poetry is, and how not-metal, as per Doxsee's in-house reminder, despite the title of her new book). And Carlos-Soto Roman's pulls-no-punches, extraordinary poems reminded me why I SHOULD be wondering (as I am want to do) why since the 1st Internationale poetry (& the arts more broadly) and radical political movements have, by and large, continued to drift farther and farther apart, until by modernism's end, European avant-gardism calls to mind the lone, icy writer at a desk scribbling down works of "genius," as he (yes, HE), working by candlelight, has, somehow, knowledge that he will also die like this: alone and in obscurity, not unlike most people--& unlike The Unibomber (note CAPS), who I also ?strangely? associate with the first part of that normative modernism montage.  

In any case, of all the places I've read & all the series that have generously hosted me, none have been close to bad experiences (ok, save for 2)--(nearly) all have been filled with warmth, excitement, good times. After all, for the most part, we who write & publish/read/share and curate, we're really working towards the same basic things, at least when it comes to live readings: make for an enjoyable evening, well-attended or at least well-attentive, make some new friends, catch up with old friends, experience the unexpected, the inspiring, of other readers' and other work, spark the desire to steal, & thus sometime thereafter, steal. I did all of this with friends @ the NPP reading. But something else & special was in the air as well too. Turns out it was, in part, people I love and who have immense capacity to love & care for. As Brenda noted when taking the photo above, "I can feel kari edwards' presence so strongly tonight." Or something close to that, and with a quiet honesty that I can't capture here. 

So I look forward to the special Issue 10 of Wheelhouse, curated by and made up entirely of NPP contributors--save for some artwork out of Philly and an editorial forward. Speaking of which, our issue 9 is coming to a web host near you in a couple days.

From my new garage in Olympia, dw

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