This week’s pick is the juxtaposition of Bucky Sinister’s “The Gray Side of the Moon” and Jonathan Siegel’s “The Seven(teen) Deadly American Sins,” a sequence from Quiet Lightning’s Neighborhood Heroes show this past Tuesday.
If it was happening and you weren’t there, you missed it
No matter how large a view you take, whether a slice of pizza or a civil war, shared experience is the denominator that defines who we are as a people.
Narrative vs. Language
Poetry is that moment when narrative stops. When a room becomes silent with the communal release of story and the voice on the microphone replaces our constantly ticking meters with the eternal hum of a rickety fan holding the room together we are a people. When we get beyond the many selves that got dressed up and prepped to walk into a room we find ourselves looking into the only mirror that does not lie to us. Moment spent with expression instead of consciousness as a cause for action—dance is thought plus dimension.
The true value of poetry is to transcend logic, which comes from consciousness. There are two very different approaches to this: either to leverage emotions to overflow the self into a primal state of awareness or to push the confines of language which, when rightfully wrestled, will declare on its own terms to be void of limitation except in our minds. He or she who in the budding frenzy of youth proclaims to be limitless is in the midst of a poetry we all recognize for what it is: beyond human, a body constrained by time but not by story, born of dreams and devoted to possibility.
Just Me + the Swirl
“I was no longer coming from or going to anywhere, it was just me and the swirl.” Bucky’s poetry is so powerful because it is at once personal and even based on true story but composed of episodes from his life that he has so thoroughly dealt with as to render them essentially removed from his self. They will not control his life anymore. He has conquered them, and moved on. But because he respects his experience he becomes a selfless conduit of the emotive states he lived through. The audience becomes as some bobbing thing in the ocean, waves of feeling coursing through them. Emotion is time.
I did something this week I’ve never done: I announced this pick ahead of time and asked if anyone wanted to share their thoughts. One Francisco Solano Lopez, who I can only assume is not the late president of Paraguay, had this to say:
None of us chose this. Not one of us woke up one morning and thought, ‘I want to be a poet.’ We couldn’t stand the banal misuse of language any longer. Poetry happened to us. Charlie is right: Poetry is an affliction, and those of us who’ve got it bad know who we are.
No one grows up to be a poet. Poetry is for those who will never grow up. Poetry is a brief moment in time. It ends just as unreasonably as it begins.
We poets are not problem solvers. We’re artists. We can’t paint, except w/ words. This doesn’t mean our art can’t exist in the world struggling alongside it. M. McClure doesn’t need to interrupt yr poem w/ the word ‘Afghanistan’ for it to be political. Both Bucky and Jonathan’s poems gave evidence to the still revolutionary quality of poetry. Each poem is in the world w/ the world. Is political. An intensely personal painting of being human made public so as to examine the world alongside it, and in the case of QL, alongside the most profound of friends, ‘those who’ve got it bad.’
Only for the poet is everything possible. Only within the poem is language capable of all things. The surplus suffering manifest in the general unawareness of our ubiquitous everyday misuse of language is something that can only be lessened through active aesthetics. Through sublimating the incomprehensible, immoral, unspeakable, shameful, into paint. When I hear a really phenomenal poem, color comes back into my life too. If only for a moment.
I agree with a lot of this. “Only within the poem is language capable of all things.” Yes. And from poetry we are able to borrow from language that feeling we get when we hear it: that anything is possible, that we have made all rules for ourselves and can rightfully break them right now if we want to.
Jonathan’s poem has the feeling of completely objective experience. There is no story. In fact, as it develops, the poem shoots off in many directions, is sometimes vague or ambiguous and therefore open to interpretation. Particularly as performance, this poem moves at a speed that asks us not to make complete sense of everything so much as to listen and become absorbed by its substance. The gamut of human experience is mish-mashed in iambic pentameter; you’re not supposed to identify personally with the poet or even, necessarily, with the poem—but with the world.
Both poems get there. It’s just a matter of preference. The reason I had to put these together for the show, and present them here for you as one pick, is that the contrast makes this evident. When Jonathan starts, the mind begins to process language in an entirely different way. This jarring, speed-changing, rapid alteration in ways of thinking can give birth to a new spontaneous music in your own head. Identity comes from our use of language every bit as much as it does from our narratives.
Where do you start: by walking out the door, or by facing your chair to the wall?
This coming week » Catch K’vetch tonight and see Lynn Breedlove and Amos Mac. Check out our recent feature on K’Vetch. Tomorrow night, catch Hollie Hardy featuring at Ink. Reviewed. Tuesday, get The Rub. Wednesday you can catch Bucky as part of The Business, or, check out Perfume & Smoke (this will be no joke, folx), with Kate Abarbanel, Dusty Rose, Nic Alea, Andrew Paul Nelson, Baruch-Porras-Hernandez and Jason Whitacre. Thursday you probably want to head North: Why There Are Words returns with Caitlin Myer, Peter Orner, and Andrew Sean Greer, to name but a few. Friday’s Literary Death Match promises to be special: Sarah Fran Wisby, Steven Gray and Guinevere Q are all writers you have to see … again and again. And all very strong readers. I’m also very excited to see Jamie DeWolf, who runs the esteemed Tourettes Without Regrets series.