Information about the Desert City Poetry Series, contemporary poetry & poetics, and poetry readings & events in central North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ron's Review of Selah's Book

A nice write up of Selah's book over at Ron's place here today. As I Lay Dying and Dodie Bellamy -- yup, sounds right.

Thanks, Ron!

Umm, let's see....some other good things:

Just saw that Jordan put one (? maybe it was the whole section?) of my poems (I think from the 2nd issue of Wherever We Put Our Hats (thanks, Jon, and congrats)) on his best of 2005 list, some of the Key Bridge stuff -- thanks, Jordan. The next issue of Typo is going to have some of it too and the next issue of Coconut -- thanks, Adam & Bruce. And some stuff from another manuscript is in the second issue of the tiny recently out (and it's a real hot issue) -- thanks, Gina & Gabrielle. And Zach put some in the most recent issue of Octopus -- kick ass in the Koos class, Zach! And there's some stuff from St. Apples, A Monologue for Voices & President Letters, and another manuscript over at the new (ish) Fascicle -- thanks Tony.

And and and hmmmm, well I'm happy.

Happy trails, cowpokes.

ps: part of the reason I haven't posted anything about the Rankine & Davis reading (which was great) is that my computer exploded the day before the reading. Threw me off a bit, but all's well, so I'll post a wrap-up pretty soon. Late....sorry.....

pps: speaking of Jon Leon, the former Wherever We Put Our Hats blog (and speaking of WWPOH) that blog has been one of the best blogs I've seen for going on a month or two now. I hope he keeps going -- it isn't archived, so you just have to check and maybe you'll get a nice little something and maybe you won't....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Silliman & Saterstrom: A Reflection

The second to last reading of a terrific year of readings has come and gone. What a reading too -- wow.

Selah, who I'd seen read a few months before, read work from her latest project, Slab which arose from her trips to Mississippi after Katrina to visit family. As with her book The Pink Institution, the sections Selah read moved through several different styles: some she introduced as poems (in conversation with her she usually describes herself as a writer of prose), others were first person narrations from various people (including a stripper lost in the aftermath of Katrina who decides not to go dance for the soldiers who could help her because she ~doesn't have time to be raped~), and others were pieces in the grey area of the Venn diagram between poetry and fiction (non-traditional use of grammar/syntax, repetitive, & non-character centered narrative.) She's an excellent reader of her work as well: clear, slow, and dynamic.

Ron, with whom Chris V. and I spent the morning looking at the exhibit described here, read the entirety of Xing. It was really just incredible -- before he started, he invited folks with the book to read along (which some did.) Xing is one of my favorites of his books (I'd read it twice and a half in the last week: ~when I reads / I reads.~) Ron reads with a great deal of dynamism and speed; his left hand sort of flutters as he reads accenting the rise and fall of words. I thought more than once of conductor trying to lead a bebop band. He's a great reader and poet and very personable as well. A real treat to meet him.

I introduced Selah, but Tony Tost introduced Ron; his excellent introduction can be found here.

At the Blue Door, we got a triple treat (or I should say: quadruple): poems by Carl Martin, Patrick Herron, and Lester Oracle and visual work by Noah Saterstrom (Selah's equally talented visual artist partner.) Carl read work from his new collection, Rogue Hemlocks, and smoked the crowd as usual. Patrick freaked us all out with computer generated voice modulations and good renditions of some of my favorites from the Herron arsenal -- one, "Junkie Eagle...", which he lead off with a little jig to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel." Then Lester Oracle, who is really much more polite in person than I ever imagined, closed out the poetry for the evening with a reading of his poem that recently appeared in Talisman. Noah's work consisted of maybe a dozen or so pencil sketches of scenes from the aftermath of Katrina (he'd gone down with Selah to visit his family.) He said he'd tried to capture things with the digital camera he'd brought along but that the digital images just missed something about the scenes. The pencil sketches got it, in my opinion -- the pathos, the horror, the simplicity of it all. He also showed three (?) large layered collage pieces that had some light touches of Henry Darger's work.

Todd & Laura laid out a spread, fun was had, Jack (who I haven't seen in ten years and just a few months ago got back in touch with) and Jenni showed up, and then we all went home. Ahh, sweet fun.

So as if this wasn't enough: next month: April 22nd: Emmanuel Hocquard & Rosmarie Waldrop.

Here's my intro for Selah:

1. Announcements
a. Blue Door tonight featuring Carl Martin, Patrick Herron and visual works by Noah Saterstrom.
b. April 22nd, Saturday, Desert City with Rosmarie Waldrop & Emmanuel Hocquard

2. Welcome
a. Thanks for coming
b. Introduce yourself
c. non-profit, volunteer run organization
d. buy books to support the Internationalist
e. sign-up sheet in the back for future information

3. Thank yous
a. Internationalist
b. Ron & Selah
c. all of you
d. the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
e. the North Carolina Arts Council
f. the Orange County Arts Commission
g. my parents, Violet, & Lori.

4. Tonight, though, we’re here to see Ron Silliman & Selah Saterstrom

5. “Willie called his daughters into the dining room. He picked up a dining room table chair and threw it into a closed window. The window shattered. He said, “That’s a lesson about virginity. Do you understand?” to which they replied, “Yes sir.””
6. Selah Saterstrom’s first book, The Pink Institution, documents a family history that is grotesque in it’s adherence to a sexual code, both physical and gender, that is conveyed in a series of such lessons which are often far more violent than something like a chair through a window.
7. The narrator describes the “Make out game” she was forced to play with her cousin Ruth which involved a piece of paper meant to keep their lips separate, “Ruth would gather her lips around her teeth so that her lips were hard. She would push the paper with her bone mouth into my swollen lips until they were forced to part. The game ended when I ate the paper. She would not stop until I swallowed it. That was the rule.”
8. And this image, of forced and mediated intimacy, is representative of the work as a whole: familial intimacy, affection, love all transformed into weapons and wielded with pitiless abandon against mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. This is the twisted South of Faulkner and O’Connor, the world that social etiquette, “manners,” sustains, condones, and keeps unseen.
9. “thirteen bottles of liquor thirteen bottles of liquor a .44 a .44 requested strangulation requested strangulation pyre on fire pyre on fire starvation starvation self willed car accident with small child self willed car accident with small child jumping jumping tumor tumor vomit (possibly accidental) vomit (possibly accidental) severe electrolyte imbalance severe electrolyte imbalance in a swamp, alone in a swamp, alone an insane husband an insane husband an insane husband”
10. In passages such as this scattered throughout the book, the matter of fact tone of the book collapses into a howl, a howl that must be lurking beneath the narrator’s adherence to standard forms of grammar and syntax – beneath her writerly manners so to speak.
11. “It was like the moan was mud and the sounds had stepped out of it. With the moan as backdrop, the sound hovered, vibrating above my mother’s lips for probably few seconds, then the sounds folded. The backs of the sounds collapsed. Like chicken spines breaking. In a high-pitched voice, like it had been stuffed and packed with rubber balloons, she woke speaking, saying, I can talk I can talk.”
12. Selah Saterstrom’s work has recently appeared in Tarpaulin Sky, Harness, Monkey Puzzle, 3rd Bed, and in the Seattle Research Institute’s anthology, Experimental Theology. She lives and teaches writing and text/image courses at Warren Wilson College in Asheville.
13. Towards the end of The Pink Institution, Saterstrom attempts to provide some explanation for all this violence – she writes, “It was bodies, what made bodies, and what bodies made. It was illegal separation. It was back-flipping in a five-star padded room. It was the Confederate Memorial Bandstand. It was the sound of birds pecking glass.”
14. Please welcome Selah Saterstrom.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This Saturday, March 25th: Ron Silliman & Selah Saterstrom -- 8:30pm, Internationalist Books

Who: Ron Silliman; author of Under Albany, Xing, Tjanting, and many others; mind behind the popular Silliman's Blog; gave them the idea to put cod genes in garden tomatoes.

Who: Selah Saterstrom; author of The Pink Institution; artist in residence at Warren Wilson College; can two-handed reverse jam blindfolded from half court with only one sneaker on.

What: Desert City Poetry Series: a very serious series. Seriously.

When: This Saturday, March 25th, 8:30pm -- **Note the new time: 8:30pm!!

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, where Roy really means King.

How much: A $2 donation requested to support the readers and series.

Why: "The meaning of medicine. Three boys fishing by a small dam, right by the polluted water sign. Blue thread enters the skull under the hair line, pulling the red wound shut." "Once during the war Azalea sent Willie a photograph. / It was not Easter but she was wearing her Easter best. / It was an effort, for the war."

See you there.....

Upcoming reading:

April 22nd, 8pm: Emmanuel Hocquard & Rosmarie Waldrop -- Final Reading of the Season!!

*Internationalist Books

*Ron Silliman
and more.

*Selah Saterstrom
and more
and more.

The Desert City is supported by grants from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Orange County Arts Commission and generous donations from anonymous individuals.

from Demo
by Ron Silliman

This is a test.

The hammer of birds (rabbits) secure in the deficit garden, fog along the coast.

Water hammer, rock board -- recurrence as key in phlegmatic analysis (fellaheen hurdling custard pie into the face of Bette Midler).

Friends are perpetually "going to get it together," jobwise: the coast is altered one quarter inch.

Just like that.

The window conceived as a form of torture, through which a century is expressed (blue hands, the chartreuse of a tennis ball): dobermans of delight crowd the sun.

Met against metaphor (I want white rooms): the cast is clear.

Up against the woolite, desire for narrative condemns millions -- French bread hard as a rock.

Nouns aver facts (pinched nerve at base of neck): a terrycloth sweatband is an insufficient monument (dress for excess), specific as the smell of chalk.

Words row.

The sun, backlighting your blouse, reveals all, newlyweds at a Grateful Dead concert, birthmark of the surgeon general.

Birthright of way: foghorns and a rooster counterpoint hazy morning.

The outer wall of the prison is yellow, the inner one green (old paperback bought at a garage sale).

Verb is the eye of the sentence (world stylized for efficiency's sake): dogs bark.

Dog barks -- there is another way to compute the tides.

Eminent ptomaine.

Poets propose sky, only to fall back on cannibalism (downhill on a skateboard).

Crudley mechanical, an adjective grinds meaning from a noun forming the perfect countenance of Elvis on black velvet.

My pockets are a jungle.

High heels grind pavement into paste (memory of color scheme popular in past war) -- the construction is not parallel (taster's choice), pruned tree's new sprouts.

My hand on your thigh in a dream (not expected): if critics had ethics...a suburb without sidewalks.

Flat country with clear conscience.

from The Pink Institution
by Selah Saterstrom

Willie lay in bed. Through darkness he made out a figure standing in the doorway. Willie realized it was Death. Death entered the room in long, swooping strides. He walked past Willie's bed and entered the adjoining children's room. Willie followed. Death picked up a child at which point Willie began to assault Death. The two entered a wrestling match. Willie won with child in arms and Death defeated, got up to leave, but he brought his mouth close and said, "You'll see me again." Death looked like the popular renderings.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Baus, Gordon, & Wilkinson @ Ibooks, Sunday, March 19th: 4pm

As part of their east coast tour, Eric Baus, Noah Eli Gordon, & Joshua Marie Wilkinson will be reading their poems at Internationalist Books, Sunday, March 19th, at 4pm -- we'll be passing the hat to get some gas money for the boys.

So come one, come all, and spread the word....

***And don't forget the next Desert City reading: Saturday, March 25th, 8pm, Ibooks: Ron Silliman & Selah Saterstrom

About the poets:

Eric Baus is the author of The To Sound (Verse Press) as well as a new chapbook, Something Else The Music Was (Braincase Press). His poems have appeared in Hambone, Verse, 26, Conjunctions Web, and other journals.

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of The Frequencies (Tougher Disguises, 2003) and The Area of Sound Called the Subtone (Ahsahta Press, 2004) as well as numerous chapbooks, reviews, collaborations & other itinerant writings. Recent work can be found in Your Black Eye and Weird Deer. After a decade in Massachusetts, he has recently relocated to Denver, CO.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson earned an MFA in poetry from University of Arizona and an MA in Film Studies from University College Dublin. He won both the Academy of American Poets Prize and the Rella Lossy Chapbook Prize from the San Francisco Poetry Center in 2003. He is the co-director, with Solan Jensen, of the forthcoming film Made a Machine by Describing the Landscape about the band Califone. Currently living in Colorado, he is completing a doctorate in literature and creative writing.

Some links: