Thursday, June 23, 2005

Poems Equal Promises 

The other night in West Philly’s Rotunda, I had Moscow Conceptualism & Lev Rubinstein on my brain. In “What Can I Say”, LR locates the difference between the traditional & avant-garde (his term- though he uses “untraditional” in the same spirit) not in style, but center of gravity. Poems that don’t simply function as language, but a consciousness- can’t be found snug within the boundaries of text. The gravity centered somewhere between author & reader makes for environments of dialogical possibility.

Well, there was Rubinstein on my mind, but also those great sword-fighting films from the forties & fifties. The chandelier over the stage was tied to the balcony as if in mid-swing. The gravity center was “untraditional” & inviting participation. I was expecting Errol Flynn or a Musketeer to jump from the balcony & swing across the room on the light fixture, saber in hand. That didn’t happen. But what did occur was one of the more interesting readings I’d attended in awhile.

This was the launch party for Poems Equal Promises Magazine, founded by Laura Goldstein. Its intention is to be a journal of poets & artists from Philadelphia & Chicago (Goldstein’s present & future home cities), to share space & communicate with each other in the publication. Laura commissioned poem-collages from four Philadelphia poets to be included for the first issue.

Each writer read from (or discussed) their collage during the group reading. Amira Hanafi read a brilliant, layered piece engaging movement, witness & methods of movement. The layering is visual as well, printed on transparencies. Each page has a different “center” & allows for the transparencies to be rearranged for alternative readings of the reiterative poem. I actually took the collage home for an incredible deal- 7 bucks in a silent auction! Amira is leaving Philly for Mills, which is a shame since Tuesday night was the first time I’d ever encountered her work. Keep an ear out for her in the future.

Laura Goldstein has taken to an interesting examination of the alphabet. Her collage work is a scramble of multi-colored letters that tempt for a read, but instead suggest new textual creations. She read an interesting epistolary piece, correspondence between the letters P & W. The stylings of the two letters are distinct & identifiable. W is concerned w/ the smoke & opacity of relationships & relationship environments. P responds in numbered list poems. It’s an intriguing piece that I sense is an ongoing project

VJ Large Marge (Rich Wexler) screened a number of shorts, including some material culled from the Post Secret blog. Some of the postcard art brought me back to the ongoing Buck Downs mail art project, as well as Brett Evans’ After School Sessions. The shorts were concerned with a conceptual cultural consciousness engaging text as object & object as text.

Susan Brownmiller was channeled into a long work-in-progress by Cathleen Miller. The piece appropriates Brownmiller’s text on a young woman’s development in relation to a bullying culture around her. Miller’s collage was one of script, omissions & marked erasure. The process expositions hint at the shifting boundaries of the work that has yet to settle.

A short film which was originally shown on Sesame Street would have made Mayakovsky proud. The alphabet lesson found each letter from street & store signs around the streets of New York. My favorite was “D”, as in DRUGS.

CAConrad took the stage beneath his PhillySound collage to announce the premiere of “I Want to be a Hilton”, a reality TV show was airing as he read. He dedicated a poem to the Hiltons called “It Will Roll” In the poem, he asks “Who will make/ Paris Hilton/ a pink & shiny/ guillotine?” The poem contains the unforgettable assertion that “If you can forgive/ Martha Stewart/ You can forgive/ Ramona Africa.”

The reading ended with no musketeers, but the premise of Poems Equal Promises certainly takes the center of gravity away from the poem-product of fixed textual framework that too many magazines are content to offer. I’m looking forward to more of the inter-regional, inter-textual dialogue that PEP can offer. The event was a fundraiser, so if you’d like to contribute to getting the first issue off the ground, email Laura Goldstein at nickelgirl13@yahoo.com

- Frank Sherlock

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