In May, the Bay Area was graced with a visit from the fab four from Philly: Emily Abendroth, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Jenn McCreary, and Frank Sherlock, all Pew Fellowship Awardees.
I caught their Thursday, May 8th, Poetry Center reading at San Francisco State though they also read on Friday evening at Ruth's Table. It is difficult to make it to Poetry Center readings since they happen on late afternoon week days, but there are particular rewards for heading out into the fog. For one, San Francisco State is such a changed campus compared to what it was like when I arrived there in the mid-1980s. There are new library, arts, and humanities buildings, and probably other recently added spaces as well; the place is a multicultural crossroads brimming with energy. Another reason for attending one of these afternoon Poetry Center gigs is that there's always a question and answer period. Some writers probably dread this, but it is often such a rich way to end a reading.
This particular afternoon flew by as each poet read for about 15 minutes; each included some new work.
Emily read from a new collaborative index/postcard piece and excerpts from
]exclosures[, Juliette selections from her forthcoming Solar Maximum and some from Underground National, Jenn from : ab ovo : and work in collaboration with visual artist SJ Hart, and Frank a longer piece with the repeating refrain : "you can feel good."
|Four from Philly:
Emily Abendroth, Frank Sherlock, Jenn McCreary, Sueyeun Juliette Lee
During the question and answer period we got the opportunity to hear from these writers how they attend to sound and linguistic registers. Here's what they had to say:
Emily noted that she conducts linguistic and sound research, collecting materials for a robust sound palette with attention to how words work both in the ear and in the mouth.
These auditory and buccal pleasures characterize Abendroth's poety as here from one of the poems in ]exclosures[:
Despite our trepidations, we were repeatedly duped into believing that the mere spaces between words could wholly preserve their discretion and their order. We relished the crisp columnar indents which supposedly meant that any two nouns or compounds or persons or regions could always remain perfectly self-contained, censored from one another. As if all cross-pollination was a shameful occurrence, its practitioners either bereft or left permanently undiscovered across the zealously governed zones of regulated distance and the lofty stances of enhanced retaining walls (19).
Abendroth's prose is equally pleasing in its kinetic stretch and strain as here in a review of Miranda Mellis' The Spokes. Abendroth is an amazing writer. You want her book and you can get it here.
Frank spoke of reading things that aren't poetry, keeping an ear open to social media, the streets, drunks.
You can read an excerpt from Sherlock's The City, Real and Imagined: Philadelphia Poems here.
Jen spoke of how we each have our personal clichés which she seeks to get around. Like Emily, she's interested in and uses research. She spoke of how it puts you in a different vernacular. She also relies on readers of her early drafts who "flag the familiar."
You can read her poem ":cleave:" here.
Juliette said she has no regular writing practice other than a diary and Facebook posts. She too, however, finds that she is motivated by a set of interests in her reading. For example, she mentioned recently reading in a variety of subjects and material types, including astrophysics, cryogenics, the environment, government documents. She said, "when I feel full, this writing comes out."
Here's a small section from Underground National:
Isn't that the home we tend
garden of split teeth
the wordy dialects we send underground?
And by dialect, to indicate that very thing
both home and foreign
what marks you safe but also alien--
All porous confines confound, perhaps.
A ray of light. A sting (51).
I particularly loved hearing Juliette's new work and I eagerly await Solar Maximum.