Saturday, October 4, 2014

Concrete Formalist Poetry: the Readings

I have for some time found conventional poetry readings (and the writing itself) to be somehow at odds with whatever it is I have made myself into, by a decidedly non-linear series of fits, starts, gaps, self-recriminations, glowing insights, etc. I have gone, I have listened, uncomfortable. With the set-up, the milieu. The niceties, real or not. The mike. The beer. The cheese.

The givens. The accepted this and that. The soft realities.

Anyway, I have no use for complaint when the creature itself is beautifully suited to its environs. Many are the brilliant souls who attend and support these events. Great are the experiences to be had. I too, in my youth (my youth! lol!) got much from that.

But now (via the afore-mentioned twists and turns) am something else, if not someone. What (feet to the fire) do I do about this?

So, it has been years. I gave a reading a couple years ago, well set up, that went all right, but the internal conflict was strong. It has gotten stronger.

I attended a great reading several months ago, including Kasey Mohammed and Rodney Koenicke, and this kid from NYC who was great. The reading had kismet. Close to our house, heard last minute. Maybe the best it could be.

I go to readings by my friend, John Beer, which are always wonderful for me. I go to readings by my wife, Endi, where my heart is too full to know what is going on around me.

For the past couple, it has sufficed, for me, to be a reader at church. But, that's kind of a cop-out. I mean, it's not presenting my work the way a poet needs to. Because a poet needs to engage, somehow, at least to engage the property, the quality, the institution of public interface. To invite, to perform. To read at church, before the altar of God, you must remove yourself from the conversation except to say, I will.

Then, I had this idea, which occurred after mentioning this dilemma to my son, Jackson. I explained the outline to Jackson and Endi while reclining on the cool wood floor of our kitchen after a run. Jackson remarked it was a concrete formalist reading idea, and so it is.

I offer a reading series, as a model for reading.

  1. I will pick a spot in Portland, Oregon to read my poems for 15 minutes, give or take, and announce the place and time (likely, on Sunday) on Facebook (on Friday). I will read my poems to myself, if no one else is there. If someone shows up, I will read aloud if they wish. Otherwise, we can read quietly, together. I will pick this spot on whim or impulse, but it will be only the first of a four-part reading series, to occur once a week over four weeks.
  2. The second reading will be announced in the same manner as the first. This will establish one border.
  3. The third reading, announced as the other, will establish the third geographical corner.
  4. With the fourth reading (where people may or may not have appeared. To be frank, it hardly matters to me if they do.) the block will have been established.

The reading series, occurring in four-reading sets, will establish a rectangle pattern when the sites are viewed on a map. In this way, the readings will echo the block form of my writing. I will enact read as I have written, in the form I commit to the page. I will, in a concrete and formal manner, enact, in my reading, as I write.

Should this plan work out, if I find I can carry it out, and believe it is productive, I will have more to say. For now, all I can reasonably say is that the first reading will be tomorrow, around noon, in Mt. Tabor Park, at a clearing to the East of the upper reservoir.

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