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

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Last Eve with Evie

Evie Shockley has been my North Carolina poet friend for longer than anyone else here, and she's a great one, and I'm lucky to have a lot of great ones here. We met in the spring of 2002, a few months before the Desert City began. So seeing her read last night and holding her book in my hands, it was like watching a family member get well deserved success. And to top it off -- Evie smoked it. She read with a confidence that was compelling -- here was an artist communing with their work, making a third thing from the dyad of writer and artifact.

An excellent after party hosted by Leigh & Tony Tost in their sweet little house on Duke street (complete with a pair of rockers on the porch (plus a couple of nice chairs to sit in.)) Tony's got a study I immediately started to covet. He's also got several pairs of hand weights (dumb bells) in the corner. Is the Tost beefing up for a rematch with the reigning king of all competitive physical contests? (meaning me.) He may write better poems, publish more books, leave a larger mark on the history of literature, have less BO, and lack my hideous growths -- but goddammit, I'll put his wrist on the table or pop an eyeball trying.

Talking, eating cheesecake with our bare hands, singing along to The Magnetic Fields and Randy Newman (don't want to hurt no kangaroos), we ended the evening with a round robin reading by David Need, Tony, Brad, Tim Earley, and myself. What a wealth of poetry -- woke up with lines in my head miles long.

Sweet, sweet. So the 2006/2007 Desert City schedule will be coming out soon; the start's been slow around here, but we've got some good stuff in the works.

Here are my intros for Evie and Linda:
Evie Shockley & Linda Pennisi Intro

1. Announcements
a. Reception & Booksigning after the reading
b. After Party at the home of Leigh & Tony Tost.

2. Linda Pennisi writes, “Soon they were having coffee / and she was telling him about the guy / who kept brining her down. / No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t / get away for good.” And stories like this – of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship or a girl abducted from the woods and, on the surface, less traumatic events like playing Mary in a church nativity play – these stories form the backbone of many of the poems in her latest collection, Suddenly, Fruit.
3. The ribcage of these poems, however, is illustrated by the title of the poem I just quoted: “Persephone Meets Christ.”
4. So, along with threads of domesticity, art, faith, sex, and age, the myth of Persephone embroiders these poems as in “Form,” a poem about watching a poetry reading, “Tonight / Persephone is the forsythia. / She comes in yellow bursts / from tongue-tip and fingertip; / a million pores zing open / to birth a star-blossom each.”
5. Pennisi writes, in these poems, the gaps between the sentences in the myths; she writes the story that lies between the period and the following capital letter, and we can see that our lives are myths and the myths are our lives.
6. William Pitt Root writes of Suddenly, Fruit, “[it has an] attentive languor and a spell of authenticity that is intoxicating and sobering in the same draught. [It is] an impassioned elixir.”
7. Please welcome Linda Tomol Pennisi.

8. It’s hard to resist reading you the entirety of Evie Shockley’s opening poem from her new book, half-red sea; it’s a poem the grabs your coat’s lapels and pulls you in fast, close, and rough; the book doesn’t let go until it’s closed. I’ll quote just a few lines, though, from “possibilities of poetry, upon her death”: “ars poetica, rough ship, drag / me from world to brutal word, / mental passage. (write.) be / a wail of a sound, surfacing / to fountain dark water found / in valleys of the shadow of breath.”
9. And these poems breath in and with the rarified air of such greats as Gwendolyn Brooks, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Phyllis Wheatley, and the mysterious woman “e” about whom Evie writes, “I am named for a poet who never in her lifetime / published…her / poems read like grocery lists. I need—a dozen eggs / --a tub of lard—loaf bread—fatback—and rat poison / for the rat who sleeps in my bed.”
10. And as Shockley’s poems work around and within this framework of her literal and figurative ancestors, her poems enact hallucinatory forms like the way a grocery list can become a death threat.
11. In her poem “A Thousand Words”, the word “torture” forms a frame around words that make up the subtext of the current administration: “torture shower camp station ghetto inner city tenement project projectile target practice black brown beige torture.”
12. Sonnets spice the mix but sonnets turned from their European roots to the service of the ones who were once enslaved. As in “blue-ing green: the sonobiography of miles davis”, she writes “blue flame the first thing he knew :: / st. louis blues with dizzying rules :: / blue devil makes his pointed debut”
13. And then a sales pitch that sounds startlingly possible: “martin luther king, jr. day / getaways! // need a tan? try our white flights! / ride first-class on a one-way ticket out / of the city!”
14. Along with these sharp social critiques, encomia for the ancestors, and whip-smart satires, half-red sea presents “simple”, and lovely, love poems.
15. In “apples and oranges: an allegory,” Shockley writes, “so I’m on the lookout for a good apple, okay, / a really good one, / a you-ain’t-had-no-apple-like-this apple. // and find myself with an orange. // now it’s not what you’re thinking…. I had not given up all hope of ever putting my hands / on a good apple / some of my friends had damn good apples … I’m still an apple person, myself / an apple person who knows that // all oranges are not alike. / there’s some / like apples.”
16. Please welcome my dear friend Evie Shockley.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shockley & Pennisi, This Saturday, Oct. 28, 8pm, Durham Arts Council!

Please spread far & wide...

Who: Evie Shockley, author of just published a half-red sea, scholar of African American and Gothic literature, a dear friend, give her three words and she brings back a six-course feast.

Who: Linda Pennisi, author of just published Suddenly, Fruit, director of the Creative Writing Program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, threw a hook into a book and pulled out all the stops.

What: Desert City Poetry Series & Carolina Wren Book Launch, together again, the way we were, for old time's sake, just like yesterday.

When: This Saturday, October 28th, 8pm!

Where: Durham Arts Council, PSI Theatre, 120 Morris Street, Downtown Durham!

Why: "A ballerina will not stop / inserting her foot / into a pink shoe" "I'll stone you from the heart out"

How Much: Free & open to the public!

See you there....

Evie Shockley
More Poems.

Linda Pennisi

"elocation (or, exit us)"
by Evie Shockley

the city is american, so she
can map it. train tracks, highways slice through, bleed
only to one side. like a half-red sea
permanently parted, the middle she'd

pass through, like the rest, in a wheeling rush,
afraid the divide would not hold and all
would drown – city as almighty ambush –
beneath the crashing waves of human hell.

the city's infra(red)structure sweats her,
a land(e)scape she can't make, though she knows
the way. she's got great heart, but that gets her where?
egypt's always on her right (it goes

where she goes), canaan's always just a-head,
and to her left, land of the bloodless dead.

"Somewhere in a Dark Auditorium"
by Linda Pennisi

A ballerina will not stop
inserting her small foot
into a slim pink shoe,
criscrossing silk ribbons
over the bone of ankle.
Sometimes I slip into the inside
of her body, where the soul
wells into the walls of that cup
the music, quivering there
like a diver in a swarm
of tropical fishes, her shape brushed
with undulations of hunger
and wonder, a hundred bodies
of tremulous light. The dancer's shoes
fill with flesh; her flesh
brims with music. What can she do
with such hunger, such sadness?
What can her body do
but tremble and spill
into dance?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Evie Shockley, Durham Arts Center, Saturday, October 28th

Local favorite Evie Shockley will be returning to our GPS coordinates in just a few short weeks to celebrate the publication of her first book, A Half Red Sea. Stay tuned right here for more details. And perhaps something from our newsroom....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anybook Review Blog

Okay folks,

So I'm getting ready to make good on a promise I made awhile back: my Anybook review blog will be live sometime in the next two weeks (I'll make an announcement.) I'll be reviewing poetry books, individual poems, magazine issues, novels, short stories, some music maybe, nonfiction, scholarly work, readings, I'll leave the movies and tv shows to Silliman, and I'll review whatever else I want to. I won't be reviewing strictly contemporary stuff; it'll just be what I'm reading which lately has been a lot of fiction: Conrad, Tolstoy, Lydia Davis, and others.

The reason for the delay is that I'm working on compiling a back log of stuff. I'd like to put up three new pieces a week, so if I have six or so ready to go, I can keep that pace in those hectic times.

If folks want to send me books to review, I'll take a look and try, at the least, to review a poem from the book, but I can't make any promises.

A few things that I've been working on include the following:

Farid Matuk's Is It the King?
Lisa Jarnot's "Ye White Antarctic Birds"
Is It the King? in relation to Conrad's Lord Jim
Lakoff & Johnson's Metaphors We Live By
A longitudinal study of Juliana Spahr's work
Tony Tost's World Jelly
Stacy Szymaszek's book & work
Mark McMorris's work
A longitudinal study of C. S. Giscombe's work
Poetry books's opening poems

Be there soon....

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Your Carrboro Poetry Report
with Todd Sandvik

You saw it here first, folks:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Poetry Bus October 6th
7 PM, in Durham!!
This Friday!!!

What: Poetry Bus!

Where: Baldwin Lofts, 107 W. Main Street, Durham!!

When: This Friday! October 6th! 7pm!!!

Who: Joshua Beckman, Matthew Zapruder, Carrie St. George Comer, David Roderick, Valzhyna Mort, Bob Hicok, Lee Ann Brown, Mark McMorris, Ken Rumble, and other local poets!!!

What else: Bring a beverage!!

What else X 2: Thanks to Carolina Wren for providing some beverages!!

Why: It's a bus!! Full of poets!!!