Thursday, August 29, 2013

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Etruscan Press

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC. 

Anne Lovering Rounds for Word for Word Poetry, September 10th, 2013
Featuring Etruscan Press
This past Tuesday, an unseasonably warm night, brought a triptych of Etruscan Press authors to the Reading Room’s Word for Word Poetry series: Renée D’Aoust, Carol Moldaw, and Diane Raptosh.  
  Renée D’Aoust opened with an invocation for peace, and with her poem “Pearl Street.” On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the poem’s vivid downtown snapshot was a poignant reminder that we may always be, in some sense, “looking up,” “look[ing] for the tops of the World Trade towers.” D’Aoust continued by reading from her creative nonfiction memoir, Body of a Dancer. Her prose is infused with lyric, even as it describes the marks dance leaves on its practitioners and its practice spaces— “the sweat in the air and blood on the floor”—and the price the art form exacts from the body. D’Aoust spoke to the visceral and mesmerizing rhythms of the dancer’s life: “You breathe. Then stop breathing. This is how you start every day. For blood. For art.” The pacing of D’Aoust’s language, especially as she performed it for the listeners in the Reading Room, compellingly reflected the corporeal tensions and releases she had taken as her subject. 
    
Carol Moldaw’s poems captured the counterpoint, in the act of artistic making, between the exact and the mysterious. In works like “Quilted Pantoum,” and sections from the long poem “The Lightning Field,” Moldaw dwells on the act of putting art together: how it may be, for example, “pieced and layered, a little bit off the square,” or how “the grids of the layers overlap like voices.” At the same time as they address the complexities of creation, representation, and reception, these poems never become burdened by the abstract. Moldaw’s attention is equally trained on the smallest particulars and measurements of art: the horsehair that ties together layers of a quilt; the heights, angles, planes, and perimeters of sculpture. Moldaw’s deep reverence for landscape and vista also emerged from her poems, in striking images of “a stand of yellow irises / ris[ing] from the pond muck,” “mudcurls,” a “rust ring of cloud.” Again and again, her poems underscored the alluring ways in which “composition,” whether of nature or of art, “is an absolute mystery.” 
Diane Raptosh, the final reader of the evening, shared a swath of her novella in verse, American Amnesiac. In this account of what she called “the state of the United States” circa 2008, a John Doe (or is he Cal?) awakes in a respite home in Denver, Colorado, with nothing but one box of his possessions. Raptosh’s lines seemed both to multiply and flash by as she took us inside the crevices of John/Cal’s mind. As the poem questions whether a single or genuine identity is even possible for its protagonist, it simultaneously partakes of and cuts through a world of projections, corporatespeak, and onscreen, online chatter. “Please keep calling me John Doe”: Raptosh causes us to recognize the contrast between the many names we may be called, the persona on an “ID card,” or the “entities invented by the state,” and the potentially unattainable authentic self. And yet “I thank my nurse for each kind turn,” Cal says—a brief moment of plainspoken tetrameter, perhaps Raptosh’s reminder that even as sinister simulacra threaten to obscure personhood, succor and respite should not be out of reach.  
 

Anne Lovering Rounds is Assistant Professor of English at Hostos Community College, City University of New York.

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