In the San Francisco Bay Area we are fortunate to suffer an embarrassment of poetry reading riches.
There's always more happening than I can possibly attend. This past Saturday, December 1st, Jim Brashear and I trudged up Franklin from Hayes Valley in a light rain to arrive just in time as Alice Notley took the microphone for her reading held at the Unitarian Center and jointly sponsored by The Poetry Center and Small Press Traffic.
photo courtesy of Alan Bernheimer
The reading was incantatory, Notley with her long gray locks, a dark jacket, her slender body under the light up front. We in the darkness in the back. More than a hundred people in the audience, surely.
She began with this poem:
The Unsliced Orator
Marie paints a little girl with three eyes--two in the regular
places and one smaller eye in the center of her forehead, a
perfect little eye, blue like the others, and it blinks. I
can't make the page blink: she writes "blinks" on the
page with an arrow pointing towards the third eye.
Her father doesn't like her very much, Marie thinks,
she's a freak. I don't know who she is, Marie thinks. I
like not knowing; the desert is blooming--spring--desert
lilies, white with pale olive stripes on Lily Hill. She--
the girl--might be a lily. What does that mean? nothing
Marie paints a lily near the girl, with an eye on it. This
letter is called "Lily." I don't mean letter. I don't mean
anything. I never did. A side-blotched lizards runs past.
The sky is bluer than paint; a cactus wrens tinkling call
I've never been alive before, or since. Honey mesquite.
On Sunday, December 2nd, at ATA on Valencia, Small Press Traffic (SPT) hosted Tim Trace Peterson, Monica/Nico Peck, and j/j hastain as part of SPT's season focus on Genders/Bodies/Hybrids.
|Camille Roy and Trace Peterson
Trace read first, including some work read directly from Trace's phone and from the new book, Violet Speech, published by 2nd Avenue Poetry. The reading included an impromptu song, belted out by Trace who was in a blonde bob, aqua tights, and silver/white pumps; the song was followed by an encore reading.
Here's a snippet from Violet Speech:
The violets in the mixed perennial border, plump, with lacy edges, come in a variety of purples.
The violets providing orally answered please rise please stand.
The undertenant of said premises, stem to petiole to leaf, voiced several stipulations drooping after rain, sweet craolo vortex stain.
A cross-examination: How do you answer the stigma style petal ovary?
I speak an unlisted option, anther stigma.
An argument ensues
and I'm insisting, now shouting at the clerk behind the desk. Like a buzzing bee he gathers drones, hardons.
I am his receptacle, discretion.
Perennial violets spread by creeping roots and rhizomes, duly sworn before a plaque that reads "In God We Trust."
The entire garden bed, a court, a caption for that plaque we saw behind the violet's head, low-slung ceilings miracle-gro, cheap nametag font cotyledens.
Nico/ Monica Peck read next from the chapbook entitled Welter or an atlas of lies. First, Peck noted that Peck's genitals would be passed around, and then Nico pulled out a large, white, bulbous and fluffy pillow-object, encouraging people to keep it moving.
|Nico/Monica Peck and Evan Kennedy
photo courtesy of Camille Roy
Welter owes a debt to the flâneur, some of its materials, perhaps all, found "in the trash" while Peck strolled about in the world.
Here's a piece called
you sd, "i'm feeling less blurred today," but i hear
"less bird," as if the connexion can last across diffi-
culties. it can't. it doesn't. it's cut out.
as permission = per + mittere=through + send, as in
r. duncan: "often i have been permitted to return..."
meadow as field as page as day as window as sky as
standing w/ legs wide, feet turned, arms outstretched.
vimana asana (skt: aircraft/bird pose, lit. vi = out,
mana = measure) vimana = an elaborate time analogy or
a hover craft powered by ionized mercury.
meeting the origin as "past," what it comes out of,
not with silence, but absence, so that it implies
something could be said, but isn't.
my gesture never makes it into a stance. somehow pa-
sive. arms always a situation, as much "in" my mind as
"of" it. asana as forbidden mirror, tho "i" /it doesn't
speak the truth so much as quagmire it.
you might say that i am acting the part, that i assume
an "acculturated person" role.
sky and mind are always mirrors. eudoxus' lost book
enopira (gk: mirror, to look at, wonders, as miracle)
is a descriptive list of constellations.
in order to map sky relationships, italian made brass
the horse constellation, mistakenly called pegasus,
is actually mellanipe: chiron's daughter. cursed for
disclosing secrets of the gods, she was punished and
turned into a mare. mirror.
repaving desire = de + siderae: that the beloved is
also a mirror. that wd be "you"
In typing this here, I realize how much I like the etymological pleasures of the piece, something for some reason that was harder to appreciate while listening.
photo courtesy of Camille Roy
Then, sadly, the reading was running beyond 7 pm and I had a previous commitment and needed to leave, so I missed j/j hastain's reading. So, I've borrowed one of j/ j's poems from E* Ratio:
by j/j hastain
Waking one morning on the daybed, with a huge, ragged leaf covering my hands, I shook my head hard. Feeling like I was floating and that my hands were bound within, being bitten by the triptych leaf that covered them, I was not sure if I was dreaming.
The pervasive sunlight that had been pouring through the lace strands hanging down over the window, during all of the other times I had been sitting on the daybed, was gone. A strong gray in its place. This gray did not feel like non-sun nor like any version of an opposite. It felt like stunning-ly other. An exposed gland. Like viewing from inside of it, an excessively large Adam’s apple.
Were xems expanding clits cosmic Adam’s apples? Were xems glued-in pages a brink-based, masculine, limitless speaking that came from those expansions? From synonym regarding or from a mélange between dick and clit? I added this question to the list of notes I had been gathering in my journal.
Below an oil-smear on the last page in my journal:
The image of xems crying into their book. Crying with grief and crying with what they were able to turn grief into. Their opera of grief and its back pages soaked in the particular and shared salts of their bodies.
How that winter night before they found each other in form, xe walked up to the base of the mountain during the blizzard and poured the sopping red wax xe had been carrying in the form of a burning candle, into the gathering snow.
There are new and necessary elegances. Landscapes of ample lambs.
Sweet phonograph attending to and demanding. Their hope was that together they could play through, without need for any striking. Oh, these reoccurringly vanishing and reappearing princes. Making evermore tactile the anarchic act.
What a weekend!