Hughes, Wintz, & Friedlander

So far, I’ve gone to two poetry readings this week: Andrew Hughes and Sara Wintz at Zinc and Ben Friedlander and Anselm Berrigan at St. Mark’s.

My aesthetics did not align with Andrew’s in such a way that I could get a lot out of his reading. I don’t have anything against Andrew personally or even against the poetry, I just wasn’t taken, although every now and then a word pair drew my attention. The tiny publishing industry would have supported the publication of these mere word pairs, which I would have liked. My roommate, Eric, loved the whole poems. He said, “It was wonderful! It was so musical!” So there you go. Consult Eric for further analysis, or check out Andrew’s book forthcoming from Book Thug, which has yet to make a bad editorial decision.

I’d recently seen Sara read in Buffalo at the Small Press Book Fair, so I thought I knew what to expect. But the poetry reading in Buffalo was a marathon where everyone got only 5 minutes, and I was wrong to think that Wintz could be properly represented in 5 minutes. At the Zinc reading she also read short of her time, but in such a way that I craved more–something that rarely happens to me at a poetry reading. My favorite of her reading strategies was a technique in which she (a very small person) seemed to contort her body with the effort of stopping and starting the poem so that one heard only fragments. The sonic effect was like changing t.v. channels rapidly, but the performative/visual effect was mesmerizing. Here is one of the poems she read like that.

Ben Friedlander was like a big brother to my generation at Buffalo, so I must like him, according to my friend. In actuality I do like Ben’s work most of the time, as well as Carla’s and as well as Ben’s editorial and scholarly production. He’s one of those good all-around poets who not only writes but maintains the community. I liked most of last third of his set, but in the first part of the set there were many poems referencing people in the audience, namely Flarf people in one quadrant of the audience, a technique that while very entertaining to those named, sometimes alienates others in the audience who aren’t “in” the in jokes. I was seated between two people who weren’t “in” and who were trying hard to pay attention but, I think, felt left out. So that is a hazard to reading poems like that– it’s hard to win over a new audience. That said, there was quite a good poem about Nada Gordon that really captured something about her– I think this was my favorite piece. I like Ben’s voice. I would like to put it on my iPod and fall asleep to it. His reading style is very much like his personality– happy, with a ready grin, but calming, fatherly, instructional like a bedtime story.

After Ben’s reading, I met some cool people so I left.


About Jessica Smith
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5 Responses to Hughes, Wintz, & Friedlander

  1. Piroozian says:

    Meeting cool people is nice.

  2. françois says:

    I like that you equate voice to something very material, whatever comes out of the mouth, rather than some weird construct of the touch.

  3. @pirooz, yes, i met a handful of cool people but the particular one i ran off with was mr. kevin davies (work here) — i hadn’t realized he lived in nyc, and it was kind of a small but intense mutual admiration factory when we met.

    @françois material vs. construct vs. touch? is that a comment or a poem? 😉

  4. françois says:

    i meant ‘text’ rather than ‘touch.’ not quite how i wrote ‘touch.’

  5. @francois… If i’d meant Voice (as a textual construct) i probably would have capitalized it, but i’ve always found that a rather unsophisticated way of describing work (poetry or prose). I remember high school teachers stressing “voice” and then I thought, “we all have different ways of writing by virtue of being individuals, isn’t that ‘voice’?” the whole concept, the threshold at which one “has a voice,” seems very silly to me, a pale/vague way of describing writing, since even if one is copying (the high school teacher’s worst fear– that you are not exercising your own Voice), one is adopting another voice and thus has a voice. Even those who use the Poetry Voice, thus losing their voices to the Voice, voice their own thoughts in their own Voice and voice. But in the poetry reading there is a texture of voice (a literal texture– what would create physical impressions on a recording) that seems worth discussing. For instance, I never find my poetry reading voice to sound anything like my internal voice. My voice, the timbre of how I speak, doesn’t correspond to the register of my inner ear, so there’s always discord when I read. I don’t understand how this is not true for most people, since even when one hears oneself speak aloud, it sounds different to one’s own ear than to other people’s, and there are thus so many instances where the voice (the Author’s Breath, the inner ear, or whatever) can become nonsynonymous with the way one vocalizes (quite literally) the poem. My own poems are, if anything, mutes– they are for listeners but not for speakers.

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