Tuesday, February 19, 2008

D.A. Powell- 2/23/08

David Horton wrote up a nice little blurb about January's reading form Kevin Killian here. The event was revelatory, for its intimacy (as Kevin said later, "maybe too much personal information"- but not at all!) and for the dimensions of light it cast on the pandemic (even, horrifically enough, funny sometimes?). One, I think, captivating photo made its was out.

Do come check out the next installment:

Prosody Castle is so pleased to have San Francisco poet D.A. Powell on February 23rd. D. A. Powell's trilogy Tea (1998), Lunch (2000) and Cocktails (2004) has been widely praised as one of the foremost poetry collections written from and about the aids pandemic. Critic John Freeman wrote of Powell's work in the New York Times, "No accessible poet of his generation is half as original, and no poet as original is this accessible." Powell's poems have appeared in New England Review, the Washington Post, Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review and American Letters & Commentary. His awards include fellowships from the James Michener Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, the Lyric Poetry Award from Poetry Society of America and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Having taught at Columbia, University of Iowa and Harvard, Powell has recently returned to the Bay Area, where he teaches full-time at University of San Francisco's English Department.

from Tea

"he has been pioneered: given to the final stump allowing
settlement. slow collapse
these trees stripped and unable. there was no child in him: a land
traversed many times

signs dot the road where he should flourish. could the sparse line on
a sign indicate the forest"

Please join us at the Gallery of Urban Art Reading House
1007 41st St., #442 (Green City Lofts)- punch 11926 at the gate and come upstairs
2 blocks from MacArthur BART

Sat. 2/23
Reading starts at 7pm
$5 suggested donation

(feel free to forward)

Monday, November 12, 2007

3.3- Urban Real(i)ty: 11/18/07

Map of the original art tour:

click "larger map" for the specific locations, not all of which are still up ("Moloch, who eats children!")

View Larger Map

Come check out:

Prosody Castle 3.3-Urban Real(i)ty
a tour of non-commissioned art in Oakland, Ca. (followed by a reading)
Gallery of Urban Art
1746 13th St. (@ Wood St. near Mandela Pkwy/West Oakland BART)

Danny King
Lara Durback
Erika Staiti
Peter SpannagleLink
Aimee Suzara
d scot miller
Ayodele Nzinga
Shawn Taylor
Chris Stroffolino
Phill Weber
Kwan Booth

participate in making public art without permission. a 2pm arrival at the Gallery of Urban Art gets you he first look at a series of new works, as well as a glance at some old ones you may not have noticed, before they all get reclaimed by the city. You will be picked up at the Gallery and promptly returned for a reading and viewing of continued works in the gallery. This promises to be the least legally advisable Prosody Castle event yet!

Prosody Castle 3.2- Urban Distant

Having old friend and former colleague Meg Hamill read from her book Death Notices, and even more excitingly new work on its way to being publishing-shopped, was extra dope. I'm reposting my long introduction below, as an explanation of why I thought she should read in this series on urban spaces, but really I just wanted Meg to come read, and she did, which was dope. Look for any and everything coming from her from now unto eternity.

I feel privileged to have seen the first few pages, the first few entries, of what would become this book-length gaze unto the dead of the Iraq war while Meg and I were both students at Mills, in Walter Lew’s workshop. Immediately I reacted to how brave the work was, both emotionally and intellectually. The former because, as Meg related to me recently, it committed her to a life wherein: “everyday for a year I woke up and thought about dead people and wrote about dead people”. And intellectually because its stance upon the obvious geo-political division between a citizen of the U.S. and either a citizen of Iraq or a member of the U.S. military, is to leap over it in act of imagination that is perhaps as terrifying to read as it surely must have been to write. The leap, both out to the world of occupied Iraq, and then back again to this city, Oakland, where Meg resided for the period in which she wrote Death Notices, is what excited me to include her in part two of this series of poetries of the urban.

Where last month we examined one of the happier realities of cities, that they are, almost without exception, gleefully multi-lingual, this month we examine one of the sadder realities of cities, that they are, almost without exception, war-zones- whether it be class war, police war, ethnic war or, in the case of Iraq, war to secure the markets of a foreign superpower. And in this century, if the U.S. goes to war at all, it goes almost without saying that this war will be urban, and the civilians killed will be legion.

The other reason I am compelled to hear from this work in our current examination takes a little more explaining, and comes by way of a curious pair of questions. The first is, “How does the reader of poetry know about foreign cities?”. Historically, I think, the answers are love and war, and let me give two examples to show what I mean. The first is the Iliad of Homer:

“and each one of our tens chose a man of Troy to pour wine for it,
still there would be many tens of the Achaians left without a wine steward...but there are companions from other cities in their numbers, wielders of the spear, to help them, who drive me hard back again and will not allow me, despite my will, to sack the well-founded stronghold of Ilion. (Book, Line 125)”

The second is Tennyson:

“Last night I wasted hateful hours
Below the city’s eastern towers
I thristed for the brooks, the showers
I roll’d among the tender flowers
I crushed them on my breast, my mouth
I look’d athwart the burning drouth
Of that long desert to the south”

There are obvious historical reasons why wars of conquest might be the impetus for writing about new lands, but the results are no less works of fancy than those of romance- Homer never went to Troy, and I’d be surprised to learn of Lord Tennyson smashing flowers to his lips in any desert, north or south. How poets get to imagining these places has as much or more to do with how they imagine love and war as with the place itself. How poets imagine love is a subject for another series entirely, but how poets imagine war, I want to look at. As a preliminary thesis, before I really go and look into it, I want to submit that the report of the conquering, or even occasionally defeated, warrior would have been the report of the poet in English language poetry up to today had not the twentieth century brought wars to visit the writers themselves. Let me pick a suddenly controversial writer, Charles Simic, followed by a saintly one, H.D.

“My mother was a braid of black smoke.
She bore me swaddled over the burning cities.
The sky was a vast and windy place for a child
to play.
We met many others who were just like us.
They were trying to put on their overcoats with
arms made of smoke.
The high heavens were full of little shrunken
deaf ears instead of stars.”

“Still the walls do not fall,
I do not know why;

there is a zrr-hiss,
lightning in a not-known,

unregistered dimension;
we are powerless

dust and powder fill our lungs
our bodies blunder

through doors twisted on hinges,
and the lintels slant

we walk continually”

Now that the war becomes the territory of the writer herself, the lyric I seems appropriate, though it’s a troubled I. The city, even one’s home city, becomes instantly strange, mangled, disembodied, unreliable- such a strong phenomenology of what we are occasionally allowed to glimpse as watchers of our foreign wars. This movement from reporting deeds of warriors to reporting the effects of war on the self, certainly informs what we are seeing currently in poetry about war. Knowing, from our literature that these effects are there and are getting worse with every new ingenious war, we are frustrated by their absence from what is formally called “reporting”, and thus take up again the attempt to report these atrocities. But, as so many poetries take note and even impetus, being there and being here are extraordinarily different circumstances, and it is a troubling thing indeed to devise how to navigate this distance. Recently, much interesting writing has come from the distance itself. Here are two approaches found in the Volume 1 of Leslie Scalapino’s War and Peace collection. The first is Juliana Spahr:

“When we speak of Lisa Marie Presley having sex with Michael Jackson we speak of JDAM and JSOW air-to-surface missiles... We speak of the stinger anti-aircraft missiles and the massive ordinance air blast bombs when we speak of SAP AG and the Microsoft RPC hole and the Denial of Service attacks.”

The second is Etel Adnan:

“To go to the dentist early morning then drive back and come home. To lie down, waiting for the news at noon. To have a headache. To be impatient. To vomit the war. To greet the fog with joy, with tears. To find tenderness in stones. To greet Sarah Miles, with tea, with cakes. To miss the news. To chat. To say goodbye. To start a valise. To forget the war. To never stop thinking about it...”

These innovative forms of being here with a consciousness both of that fact and of the facts abroad fulfill, exactly as best they can, the task of not letting the report be one-sided. But the uniqueness of Meg’s form, though situated in precisely the same circumstance as these other forms, is to yearn so badly for the person there dying or dead in that carnage that it instantiates them, however fleetingly, in something more than an obituary. In this way the love poem and the war poem have found a slender space to co-exist.

Monday, September 17, 2007

3.1- Urban Lyric/Urban Song

Prosody Castle blog is having interminable difficulty posting audio, hence the long delay in posting anything, but will create an archive, possibly at a new address, by next year. Do check back, as we're sitting on some amazing recordings, like the one featuring Erika Staiti and Chris Stroffolino translated into multiple languages live (I love typing that)!

I can't thank enough the people who came through, many at the last minute, with simultaneous translation of work from Erika Staiti and Chris Stroffolino. Mandy Lou provided translation to Mandarin, Tonette Mendoza provided Spanish, Matthew Montgomery provided German, Jackqueline Frost provided French and, via recording, Filomena Borges provided Portugese, while new baby Lexi provided translation to baby.

While I'm sure we fell short of the goal of representing the modern metropolis in all its linguistic diversity, we did create a rich texture. We got a fairly important cross section of languages relevant to this fair section but our original hope of getting every language spoken in Oakland was not to be reached, in part because there are something like 140 of them (no joke, someone quoted that to me recently), and in part because this whole series is pulled off by the seat of its pants. Thanks again for everyone participating in this bit of tailoring.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Snippets of Prosody Castle II

Prosody Castle II
featuring poems for multiple voices/persons by:
JD Mitchell-Lumsden
Bruce Andrews
Elizabeth Anderson
Jeremy Thompson
William Moor

Wondering if I get to start nick-naming this young series yet, as I'm getting tired of writing out "Prosody Castle" every time I want to refer to it (kudos to New Yipes for choosing two one-syllable words)- maybe ProCast, though that sounds like some kind of database software for talent agencies (do they still exist?).

At any rate, the second installment of this burgeoning reading series was really fun to participate in, which was the majority opinion, as the majority of the audience were also participants. I guess I can't complain that no "audience" shows up when I called half the poets I know to help read these polyphonic (cheers to Elizabeth Anderson or usage of that word) poems.

As you can hear, they bordered on the chaotic din of a party, but were also often beautiful and cathartic in having multiple voices aware of each other, something that happens all too rarely in the current party system.

Want to send big thanks to Daniel Coffman and The Gallery of Urban Art for generous and undemanding use of the serene and lovely gallery space.