Catching Up! Simone White's Holloway Reading and Ariel Goldberg's The Estrangement Principle at Alley Cat Books

The World is Too Much....

sometimes for staying on top of everything, including poetry. So, I'm tardy reporting on these two thrilling Bay Area readings/talks.

First, on February 15th, Simone White, recent Whiting Award winner, gave a talk as part of the UC Berkeley Holloway Reading Series which I missed since it was in the afternoon (sadly the recording is not available!), though I did make the reading later that night. Tonya Foster and I barted over to Berkeley from Bernal Heights arriving just in time for Simone's reading. What can I say? I've always loved Simone's work and it just keeps getting better and better, dazzling in its opacity, its warp and woof of linguistic registers, beauty, and surprise. Every time I read or hear her work, it makes me want to write.

Simone read not from her recent amazing book Of Being Dispersed, but rather from new work, work written since the birth of her son, Isaac. These poems include lines like this which I recorded in my notebook: "the great shock of suck" and "grammatical properties of the pronoun motherfucker."  Simone read from an amazing piece entitled "MESSENGER." I can't wait to see it in print. 

photo from Harper's Magazine

Here's an excerpt from it that appeared In Harper's Magazine, February 2017:

ευάγγελος addresses the mother with no mate the mother who panics the mother who watches with dread and wonder the careless pleasure of other mothers in the presence of their children the hours spent in fear the isolation of motherhood the metempsychotic deprivation of sleep nothing you have is yours not even deposits of fat you are the nothing toward which the man nods in acknowledgment of your motherhood which is grand which is prostration which is the deactivation of all known powers which is the evacuation of power your share in the speechless condition of your baby speech rushes you freeze in the weakness of joint potentiality you cannot share yet you share you have no faith yet you must have faith this is a test this is not a test everything that was has been evacuated in your arms someone has fainted someone's got a mote in her eye someone is pricked by ευάγγελος, hunter (Harper's, February 2017 36)

Another difficult and lyrical piece can be found here at the Boston Review. This is a poem called "Stingray," a must read.

Photo from SFSU's The Poetry Center

Then in March, on the 11th, Ariel Goldberg returned to the Bay to read from their new book: The Estrangement Principle. Again, Tonya and I headed out for another special event. Ariel read at Alley Cat Books, at an event organized by Kevin Killian. Ariel read from two sections of the book: "To Project Presence and Risk Absence" about New Narrative and "Full Umph," a playful thinking and writing through Kay Ryan whose work contains few if any traces of her lesbian life.  Goldberg writes:

Kay Ryan interrupted her poem at the 92nd Street Y o say something like, 'These lines have been engraved in the Central Park Zoo.' The audience mustered a collective ooh and ahh that registered on my back like an itchy blanket. Laryssa and I were in the front row, as close to Ryan as possible for my character study. I kept turning around to watch how the teenagers were reacting. Each 92nd Street Y reader also visits a public school English class and the students receive free books by the author. Ryan interrupted another poem, "that one was just published in The New Yorker.' Ugh, I thought. I waited in the Barnes & Noble-sponsored book signing line without a book to sign. When it was my turn, I gave Ryan the pamphlet loosely containing the first two chapters of this book. I write about your work in this, I said. 'Are you a student?' 'No, I'm an artist.' I didn't know how to explain to Ryan that I constructed, with the help of Jess, an alter ego named May Lion to satiate my hunger for traces of lesbian life in Ryan's poetry.

May Lion gave her premier reading to a crowd of fifteen or so friends and friends of friends at the now shuttered Uncanny Valley in Long Island City in spring 2012. May went on after the cellist Meaner Pencil, as seen on the NYC subway. The poems 'Are My Sneakers Frumpy,' 'I Got a Butt Plug and Neti Pot for My Birthday,' 'Cheese Puff Dust Under Your Nails,' 'Tattoos Remind me of My Relationship to the Holocaust,' and 'The Height of Floss,' had their first airing. I used that gel with air bubbles to slick my hair back into the shape of a bike helmet. After May's reading, I was greeted by a lengthy manologue from an audience member about how he edited his high school literary magazine (and therefore has a special relationship to poetry). This confession was just his icebreaker before divulging that May's poem about hand sanitizer, potato chips, and latex gloves had expanded his idea of what sexual intercourse even is (186-187).

Ariel responded to audience questions from respondents organized by Kevin Killian--Syd Staiti, Evan Kennedy,Matt Sussman, Zoe Tuck, and yours truly--and others. More readings should proceed like this I think. Conversation proves so engaging and powerful.

Ariel's book is an exploration of "queer art," a thinking-through of naming, categorizing and the work it does and doesn't do, the legibility it provides or obscures. This work strikes me as a form of New Narrative criticism, an ethical criticism that engages the location of the writer writing, a writing that names names, takes risks, reflects and attempts to narrate the text and its emergence. Exciting stuff!

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