‘LECTRIC COLLECTIVE: call and response

(Charles Kruger)

The ‘Lectric Collective consists of Jillian Roberts, Kelsa Trom and Sarah Rothberg, friends who attended UC Berkeley together to study creative writing. They live and work together. Their efforts aim to be electrifying, or, as they put it, on the move, like electricity.

Reviewing their website is very exciting. It’s visually striking and full of wonderful projects, ideas and collaborative, multi-media efforts.

Over the past year, the collective has written a chapbook together (One Hundred), a short play (Breadsongs), and created a variety of visual works.

One of their current projects is a tour around the United States, aimed at provoking responses to poetry. They have a number of poetry books donated by Small Press Distribution and they intend to “harangue people until they sit down and read them with us . . . at public reading stations”—a table somewhere in a public place, with a banner, some books and some readers. After the folk read together, everyone will receive a postcard on which they can respond to the poems and then mail it to the collective.  The accumulated cards will eventually be on display. The final project will also include documentation of interviews and other live events, such as bookstore readings, included in the tour.

Clearly, ‘Lectric Collective is both creative and ambitious.

Recently, I attended Ekphrastic! (4), the Collective’s fourth installment of a reading series hosted at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland, which includes artwork created in response to the poems being read.

The reading featured poets Lisa Cattrone, Brian Ang and Gillian Conoley, who each read ambitious poems which were also published in the accompanying written program.

The crowd of graduate students, family and friends were enthusiastic and the quality of the poems and the artwork was outstanding.  I was particularly impressed with David Alpperspach’s remarkable artwork created in response to Gillian Conoley’s  “an oh      a sky       a fabric     an undertow“.

It is impossible not to admire the ambition and commitment of ‘Lectric Collective, and the poetry and artwork at Ekphrastic! (4) were all very impressive. It must be said, however, that the performance element of this collaboration was a weaker component than either the literary or the visual. The readings were, for my taste, too long in duration to keep me engaged with these complex texts; the room was not well suited for performance; the attitude of the crowd was more party than audience; and the art on display was poorly labeled and difficult to access. These problems made it hard to fully appreciate the project.

We can hope that as they continue with their ambitious agenda, the Collective will pay as close attention to the performance aspect of their events as they do to both the literary and visual components. We will be attending, watching and listening with high expectations.

Here are the videos (and photographs of some of the accompanying art).

Brian Ang

Gillian Conoley