Yesterday I tried to go to Andy Gricevich’s play, Great Hymn of Thanksgiving, which was playing as part of the FRIGID Festival. Although I’m slow, easily distracted, and even more easily lost, I managed to get there only a few minutes late. But I wasn’t allowed to go in late. Because unlike poetry readings, plays start on time and cannot be interrupted. So I hung out in the neighborhood, discovering the very dangerous Pageant Print Shop, which reawakened my love for the history of the book. Pageant is mainly a collection of old illustrations torn from books, along with some maps and print ads. I enjoyed hanging out in there and looking at typefaces, printing processes, and illustrations. Reminding myself that for the $10-$40 average price tag of a torn page there, one could buy the entire old book, since it’s not like they were selling very rare things, only ones that normal people wouldn’t necessarily take the time to find for themselves, it was easy to come out of the store empty-handed.
From there I walked to Zinc to see Justin Sirois read with Elizabeth Reddin. Some of my new and old favorite people were there! It was a decent crowd, 20-25, which at Zinc looks like a full house. I’d seen Justin read recently, but I liked the different work he brought out at this reading. I thought his reading in D.C. went more smoothly, but I think I was more entertained by the material at this reading. The poems were from his new book, Secondary Sound. A friend recently described Justin’s work as “very now,” and it is. It’s like a perfect reflection of life in This Age and at This Age (late 20s/early 30s) accounting for the technologies of This Age. I think the other poetry that captures this post-post-modern age is Flarf, but this isn’t Flarf, there’s little or any Oulipo while there’s a lot of narrative. Anyway, that’s to say that if you like Flarf you’ll probably like Justin’s work, although it’s not Flarf.
The second reader, Elizabeth Reddin, has a new book out from Ugly Ducking Presse. UDP is one of my favorite publishers. If I had money, I’d subscribe to them because I love so many of their publishing choices. If I could choose a publisher for my next book, UDP would be in my top five choices. They’re one of the best small presses in the U.S. So why are they wasting time and resources on this puerile nonsense? I don’t understand it. For 40 minutes, I tried to understand it. Because I do really have the utmost respect for UDP as publishers. And I’ve seen bad poetry at the Zinc, but not this bad. So I must just not “get it,” right? These are the solutions I came up with for why this poetry might be interesting:
- It is embarrassing and uncomfortable to listen to. That audience response is interesting, right?
- It’s like high-school poetry written by a late-30s-yr-old woman. That’s weird right? Weird is good?
- A few good lines. A few good lines can almost always save things, in my opinion (un mot et tout est sauvé). Of course to be a really great poet you need to have more than just a few good lines, but how many of us will ever be great poets? The standard for a poetry reading has to be lowered a bit. However, anyone can have a few good lines, so it is hard to make the leap from “thank god for a few good lines” to “that was worth my 40 minutes.”
She expresses self-conscious, even self-hating thoughts about her body, intelligence, sex and men. Thoughts that to some degree, most women probably have. (So it’s poetry that expresses the thoughts and feelings of a particular demographic and that’s good, right?) But even women as psychologically unhealthy as I am, and with such terrible taste in men as I, don’t have these thoughts this much of the time. It makes it difficult to critique the poetry, even, because it sounds very personal and unhealthy and one doesn’t want to upset her. But maybe that’s all an act, and the poetry is just an art(ifice) and she means to make people uncomfortable and to try to make juvenile sob-poetry into high art. I really want to give it the benefit of the doubt on the question of the quality of the concept and its execution, but I really doubt. I tried polling others at the reading about what I should like about this poetry, but I was unable to glean an answer I could wholeheartedly back. Thus I am open to hearing your thoughts if you know her work.