Video reading of three love-like poems

Thanks again to the organizers of the London Open Mic Poetry Night for recording each performance. My reading from this November is a trio of lovish, loveqsue poems. The third of these is forthcoming in a special issue of BafterC (spring 2016). The second is excerpted from a chapbook manuscript, Tower, which I’m very happy to announce has been adopted by Anstruther Press for release in the summer of 2016. The first poem’s not that bad.

 

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Video reading: “Figure with Pressurized Hose,” “Ascension,” and “Last Bastion”

Another video, this time from the June 3rd edition (and season closer) of the London Poetry Open Mic Night. My thanks again to the organizers and to videographer Sebastian Rydzewski.

At the beginning, I’m responding to an earlier reader who mentioned a line famously misattributed to Valéry: “A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.” Open mic host Joan Clayton polled the crowd on whether they finish or abandon poems. I ‘think too much,’ so I abstained and then, in this video, point out that the line is a gloss of Valéry from Auden’s Collected Poems foreword.

Valéry wrote roughly this: “A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.” Valéry’s examples of “accident” do suggest abandonment, but I prefer the ambiguity of “accident” itself. I like to think my poems exile me for causes beyond my control.

Here’s also Kelly Creighton reading “Day One” and, hilariously, refusing to parse it afterward. Unfortunately, this video’s audio dampens the hypnotism (which is Creighton’s forté), so have a drink first, I suppose, then watch it with your eyes closed.

Video reading of “Counting Half The World”

Although I’ve only just glimpsed into the windows of London’s poetry community, I think it’s a testament to that community’s seriousness (and its generosity toward less acclaimed poets) that the organizers of the London Open Mic Poetry Night record each performance and post the videos online. My thanks to them.

Here’s me reading “Counting Half The World” on Feb 4th (with stuttering preamble). (Note I’m reading directly out of the Hart House Review’s Winter Supplement, where “CHTW” was published last month.)

It was an impressive night, so check out the other videos on the account–particularly Poetry London blogger Kevin Heslop‘s “On the difficulty of describing bill bissett”:

Current Western University Writer-in-Residence Gary Barwin was the evening’s featured reader, and his first poem, “inside,” got me thinking about political poetry (and the politics of the politics of literature, and the politics of aesthetic prescriptivism in the guise of anti-prescriptivism) in a way that informs an upcoming post of mine on the Town Crier. The video below is cued up to (just before) Barwin performing “inside.”

Raúl Zurita: ‘I am that which my poetry dictates I am’

Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, speaking with Forrest Gander:

05.12.2007 Entrevista al Escritor nacional Raul Zurita.  Foto: Patricio Fuentes

 

“I don’t feel like I have an ethical duty. I think that if you have a poem or a work of art and you give it a duty to be something, you impose something upon it. And I think that is the beginning of all fascisms: that poetry should be this or that poetry should be that. I think that the poem itself grounds its own ethical commitment, not the person who writes that poem.”

“Since Homer, poetry has consisted in placing oneself in the place of another. If that supplanting does not exist—in other words, to say, ‘I was there’—there’s no language. There’s not poetry, there’s not civilization, there’s nothing. To use language is to put oneself in the place of another.”

“The problem isn’t to say that literature is a product of capitalism. And, of course, a book doesn’t change history, at least not in that immediate moment. Poetry doesn’t have any power. However, if all those who do write poetry were to stop writing poetry, humanity would disappear in the following five seconds. Because that would mean that all of the possibility, all of the dream of the possibility of change, were over. And no one survives five minutes without that.”

“The poet goes with his dead poems, carrying them to the sea, and waits to see if the tide rises to take those works to another shore, in hopes that another poet will take those works for that poetry to be reborn. It is the situation of today’s poetry that great poems continue to be written, but its sphere of influence, its limit, is two thousand copies. It’s incomparable with an effort of Nike. And nonetheless, in those poems all of the keys are contained of the possibilities of a different world.”


Ellipses are omitted in the above quotations. Listen to the whole conversation here, including the ridiculously lovely voices of Zurita, Gander, and translator Anna Deeny.

“Telemachy” on Soundcloud

For someone with limited publication experience, there’s little better than an editor asking you to submit a particular poem. It’s not exactly an ego boost (“submit that poem now thanks” doesn’t mean “you’re amazing” so much as it means “that poem won’t make my journal look bad”). But as a near miss it also prevents the extreme discomfort brought on by direct praise.

I read “Telemachy” at the floorshow, held by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, back in January 2011. Someone sat through it thinking, “Well, this isn’t entirely shit.” I’m probably being overgenerous—’not shit’ is high praise coming from an Irish mind—but the poem appeared in the inaugural issue of Bare Hands Poetry last October and is now available in audio on the Bare Hands Soundcloud collection.

I have an ambivalent relationship with readings. My preparation usually includes (1) looking up pronunciations for those words I foolishly used without having heard them muttered by another human, which should serve as an indication that my diction needs work but which I usually ignore; and (2) frantically getting drunk before it’s my turn to read. I also have an ambivalent relationship with recordings, which I use exclusively as a revision aid to defamiliarize a poem so I can better hear its rhythms, stresses, and other sound patterns you could classify blobularly as ‘assliteration.’ Yes, this involves sitting by myself listening to a recording of myself reading my own poems. Yes, that’s extremely masturbatory, which is precisely why I do it alone and delete the sound files afterward as if they were a sordid internet history.

(Poetry as a quasi-sexual experience? More on this here.)