Monday, September 20, 2010

An enjoyable pair of readings last Saturday afternoon at ECU’s Charles H. Scott Gallery, where sixty or so turned out for Lisa Robertson and Eileen Myles. Playing host was Kathy Slade, principal architect of the gallery’s remarkable bookstore.

First up was Lisa, who read three poems, two of which were from her latest book, R’s Boat (U of C Press), a collection I am currently dating, impressed with the poet’s musings on the writings of those past (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and those around her (Caroline Bergvall), and more.

In R’s Boat there is no sign of the paragraphic structures or bold proclamations found in XEclogue (1993) and Debbie: An Epic (1997); instead we have single, well-spaced lines that lean left to right like blown grass. The first poem, “Face”, displays an alternating system of the plain and the italicized, with repetitions crossing into opposing formats. The propositions are recognizable and unexpected, jewels in a lyric setting.

R's Boat has a quiet, almost interior insistence, and is capable of intense variegation, proving once again that melancholy is a spectral condition.

Eileen Myles, who has been described as a “rock star of modern poetry” (BUST Magazine), and behaves like a nice one, was her usual bust-a-gut self, giving us New York City in her “No R” BAH-stun accent, making more and less of her queer ID in her ongoing war against norms as expectations. Her new book is Inferno: A Poet’s Novel (Or Books), and she read from the very beginning and the very end. Like much of Eileen’s work, it is not about what happens, but what is happening – as only she can tell it.

Not much I could do after that, except take the long way home. A coffee at Caffee Barney, where I started the weekend crossword.

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