Sunday, May 18, 2008

Paolo Javier read his poems on Saturday at Segue

Paolo Javier (editor of 2nd Avenue) & Samuel R. Delaney (renown lit critic & sci-fi writer) read yesterday at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the ongoing Segue Series facilitated by Tim Peterson. 

I've been wanting to go to the series for some time, but couldn't conjure up the initiative until Paolo invited me. Added incentive was Walter Lew being in town & all of us going out for drinks afterward. 

I arrived immediately after the reading began, just as Tim Peterson finished up his introduction of Paolo. Despite still having my bag slung over my shoulder, my jacket on, and not yet having found a seat, I felt comfortable and at east as Paolo's voice and presence filled the stage. He is speaks causally, not so differently than he does in person, but in both cases he manages to maintain an intelligent tone. His language is informal, but not colloquial; it is relaxed, but not unstructured. 

The work he presented was culled from a diverse set of projects, some in progress, some complete. He mentioned his regret that he wouldn't be able to share much of his recent work, as it involved multiple mediums (& presumably technology he did not currently have at his disposal). One such project I had the pleasure of experiencing in progress and completion, when several months ago he performed as part of shadoWord productions, a kind of improvised reworking of written text in response to real time drawings being produced by Ernest Concepcion and Mike Estabrook on overhead projectors. 

This kind of formalist dynamism is also present in Paolo's unaccompanied readings. After informing us that he'd become interested in the practice(s) of private languages, he read a long poem utilizing his adaptation of "baby talk." It sounds terribly obnoxious, and it would be if he chose not to stop short of complicating the possibilities of otherwise generally dismissed utterances. A later poem somehow brought together Bill Murray and Hans Arp, though I think Hans Arp was used primarily as some kind of adjective or verb.

He often addresses a kind of Beloved in his poem, which lends itself (as well as continues to define) his casual tone(s). He is also aware of his romantic  (i.e. Blake/Shelley &/or a dozen red roses) tendencies, but never sinks into smarmy sentiment or saccharine schmaltz. 

He does sometimes use profanity. Mainly shit, and the occasional fuck. They aren't excessive in quantity, but whether it's Paolo's work, or anyone else's, I still can't reconcile the use of profanity with its various poetic applications. I suppose the argument might follow, if you are a writer who adopts a conversational tone (or creates a conversation in your poem), it follows that the language of your conversations could ostensibly be sustainably practiced in your conversational renderings of thoughts and things. I understand the logic, I think. But never the less, whether I'm reading alone or being read to, I'm often disoriented by casual profanity. I sometimes miss the following three lines because I'm still trying to reconcile what that 'shit' means. I want to emphasize "casual" profanity. In cases where the poem itself addresses, or is in some spirit of, the profane, the 'rules' must be very different. 

That said, Paolo's reading wasn't at all disrupted by his minimal use of casual profanity, so perhaps my point is null. 

After the reading, I met Jill Magi, editor of Sona Books, who recently published a chapbook written and drawn by Paolo and Ernest Concepcion. I bought the book & have read it. The Cut-&-Paste poetry/imagery combo reminds me of the Bee & Bernstein books put out by Granary Books. As with Paolo & Ernest's shadoWord collaboration, it is difficult to determine which came first, the picture or the text. The text is minimal, never much more than 12 words on a page. They read more like captions, headlining or underlining Ernest's comically and sexually surreal urban aquatic line drawings. They are available at SonaWeb

Afterward, a group of us walked to whatever the name of the rather nondescript restaurant at 9 Stanton is. It was a fine group of people. All of them intelligent, but not pretending toward anything. Everyone was comfortable, each of us exchanging ideas and questions, occasionally toasting to health and Paolo's success. 

Anne Tardos, who a previous mentor of mine spoke highly of, sat to my left. I payed her end of the tab in exchange for a copy of the Dik-dik's Solitude, which she has promised to send me. It is a very large book and well worth a meal. 

Walter Lew, up from the University of Miami, broke his eyeglasses for the first time in his life. I fixed them. He's currently working on a unique and complicated project called The Ga-Guhm Poems. 

I also met Cecilia Wu who co-edits critiphoria, a new online journal with an ambitious statement of purpose. Their first issue is Very Big, and includes work by more than FIVE writers I've enjoyed reading. This is a good journal to watch (& read).  

This was an excellent night. My wife even thought so, & she is a fierce critic of gatherings with academic undertones (overtones). And we should all be, since they're generally intimidating and tense, all those inflated skulls smacking against each other. Such a racket.

I felt as if I'd stumbled into a community, though a reading series isn't necessarily a community. It is, at heart, a stage. Still, I intend to go to readings more often after a success like this one.  

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