Saturday, July 12, 2014

Word for Word Poetry Editions with The Song Cave Press (Week of July 7th)

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

Safia Jama for Word for Word Poetry, July 8, 2014
Featuring The Song Cave Press

Despite dire weather predictions, the clouds parted and the torrential rains held off long enough for four poets to present new work by a relatively new press, The Song Cave.  The reading showcased verse that is in dialogue with both poetic tradition and gritty process.  

Jane Gregory

Jane Gregory began the evening with poems from her collection My Enemies. Gregory balances emotion and rhetoric in unexpected ways: “This is the sound of a sun on a loop.” Her poems remind us that poems are also science experiments.  For example, Gregory employs the conceit of writing a series of poems titled “Book I Will Not Write,” which in turn makes space for some innovative word-play: “I do not write this / book because I see all the applause is just prayer / undecided.” Gregory’s words shape-shift in mid-line, as the speaker follows taut through-lines through mysterious fields.

Nate Klug

A city park seemed the perfect setting for Nate Klug to read Rough Woods, subtitled “Passages of Virgil’s Eclogues. “ Klug’s aesthetic feels both old and new; he embraces tradition and in doing so, insists on a living poetic tradition.  The passages are peopled by shepherd boys who meet Silenus, drunken mainstay of Greek mythology, singing of “burning planets,” “the earth spinning dry,” when “pine forests started popping up.”  Klug’s translation-poems circle around the yearning for a respite in song from angst and psychoses: “This pastoral life can’t cure my madness.” Klug’s clear language leaves the poems free to grapple with deep concerns.

Todd Colby

Todd Colby read poems from his upcoming collection, Splash State, out in September. Known for his humor and wit, Colby read poems both edgy and vulnerable: “I ran my hand along the back of your leopard”; “I want to do with you what rich people do every Sunday morning.”  His background in music and performance showed in a dramatic-monologue-style reading of “Sweetie,” a poem whose discordant music still sticks in my ear.  As Colby read “Love Poem,” he cracked a smile as the wind blew so hard the poet had to use both hands to keep his papers from drifting away.  

Sarah Nicholson
Sara Nicholson, final reader of the evening, reminded us that a poem is made of up lines, and Nicholson’s lines take surprising turns: “I learned nothing from the woods/ but my social security number.”  Her debut collection, The Living Method, is aware of the context of contemporary poems, which is often an academic context: “the humanities help us stomach our myths.” Nicholson also read a number of new poems—those poems delve into greater emotional vulnerability. In a poem titled “Q & A,” the speaker admits: “I’ve embarrassed myself too often / by sleeping with pronouns.”

Alan Felsenthal

All four poets gave the sense of a nurturing and supportive press of auspicious beginnings.  Word for Word curator Paul Romero noted the enviable youth and talent of the poets, and offered congratulations to co-editors Alan Felsenthal and Ben Estes.

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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