Saturday, May 17, 2014

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Coffee House Press (Week of May 12th)

FWe 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

Safia Jama for Word for Word Poetry, May 13th, 2014
Featuring Coffee House Press

The month of May ushered in the first of 24 Word for Word poetry readings curated by Paul Romero through the end of September. The inaugural outdoor reading featured four diverse voices from Minneapolis-based CoffeeHouse Press

Lightsey Darst
Lightsey Darst read selections from her new collection, Dance, beginning with the phrase: “Remember this.” Darst’s is a poetry of movement through music: “You live in a quarter-turn, pane of glass, a midstep misstep—burn between a mockingbird’s note.” Halfway through, Darst told the audience that she "is writing about paradise.” Although the poems are not about dance, they do seem to bend reality the way a good dancer might. In her crisp delivery Darst emphasized caesura and space, as did her imagery: “Stars for doors”;They have hollowed the trunks with their singing.” As she read her final selection from “Paradisical,” the sounds of the city only seemed to underscore the lush serenity, the “grasspools,” in Darst’s imagined paradise.
Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox’s work makes experimentation appealing in The First Flag, her latest book.  The long poem “Comma” is printed over vintage-looking anatomical drawings, and each poem gels into a larger whole that subverts male-centric science: “Woman and poison share an alliance.” In her poem “Transitional Object,” the speaker is trapped in “the cage made of the bones/ of my mother.” Heard aloud, the "cage" repeats and morphs until the speaker emerges free from hackneyed definitions of self: “And I imagined/ a Yes that birthed out star pour, each bone recomposing.” Fox palms words and then breaks them apart to reveal a linguistic clearing, a “Yes.”  Fox ended her reading with “A Kiss is a Kiss Named Little Apple (After Gertrude Stein),” a poem that shows her speaker to be in dialogue with kindred spirits, evident in the last line she read for the evening: “Don’t stop dancing!”

Sun Yung Shin
Sun Yung Shin braids fairy-tales into Rough, And Savage, making them her own in lines like this: “I made a replacement child of plant matter.”  Between poems, Shin cited Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s Inferno as an important influence; she ended her reading with what she described as “a seven part poem in the voice of Satan.” Did I mention Shin’s poetic swag? Each section of the persona poem has subtitles: “Wanderer,” “the Scapegoat,” and “the Artist.” The poem’s final line seems to loop endlessly, eating its own tail: “Everything I make is unmade, a bed in the morning, your memory of me.”  
Anna Moschovakis


Anna Moschovakis, the last reader of the evening, approached the microphone as the air turned chilly. Moschovakis made an unusual choice and delivered a reading of all-new material, one long poem titled “What it Means To Be Avant-garde." The poem juxtaposes notes on Roma culture, anxiety disorders, depression, and the problem of beauty.  The poem lives up to the title and its tone evokes Dostoevsky: “I am dissatisfied”; “I expect to be punished.” I'm eager--even anxious!--to read this new work by Moschovakis in print.

While the four poets from Coffee House Press could not have been more different, each took imaginative and linguistic risks.  All in all, the reading was an auspicious start to this year's Word for Word poetry series. 
Safia Jama

Safia Jama currently teaches writing and pursues an M.F.A. in poetry at Rutgers-Newark. A Cave Canem fellow and a graduate of Harvard College, her poetry appears in Reverie and The New Sound; her nonfiction appears on NPR's SchoolBook and The Volta

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