Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Poetics in Time and Place: Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand at the Wooden Shoe

I went to a READING Friday at The Wooden Shoe (for more than 30 years, a collectively run anarchist bookstore, now in relatively new space on South Street): two Other-Coast poets, Kaia Sand and Jules Boykoff.  What they read weren't stand-alone poems, but excerts from books—diverse compilations using a variety of forms composed as a single work. In each case, the structure straddled the margins of the text, an exoskeleton of references, quotations from media, signs, visual images (photos, drawings)… public references. Poetry as responses to public signifiers which remain visible for the reader—both inside and outside the text. At this reading, projected images on a screen.
Kaia's poem, Remember to Wave, written in the form of a long walk, a circumlocution of a site in Portland, an area once used as a holding center for Japanese-Americans interred in 1942, waiting for transport to detention camps. The walk borders the Columbia River on the north with associations that go back to prehistory. Much of it is now an industrial waste with storage pods and toxic slues. She read this with slides behind her, illustrations included in the book—and a map of the walk we could follow as she read.

Boykoff’s Hegemonic Love Potion, riffs off quotations from public documents, government, media--broadcast and print. For both these poets, the interior structure develops as a reflection and response to references that remain exposed outside the text. I was reminded of CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock’s collaborative work: The City Real and Imagined, where they took walks through the city and wrote about what they found, a conversation with each other and with the places they visited.
An aesthetics that embraces the realia of provocation, allowing for free flights of imagination and reflection while sharing between reader and text, fragments of the real world, stitched and patched together–resisting the temptation to assimilate those references altogether into the text, refusing to digest and erase them in an idealist poetical miasma. A poetry (and poetics) that is at once, collage, assemblage, lyrical response, and critical commentary: where politics and aesthetics are complimentary, not competitive.

I came away with a sharpened sense of a Poetics in (not ‘of) Space and Time, a feeling of deep pleasure—for all that’s wrong with this world—to be living among such poets and such poetry—and grateful to have wakened within me a joyful lust to get on with the seriously playful work of making poems.

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