Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The sense of place that comes from the people who dwell there

It's been quite a busy month of absence, truth be told. I released Book Four by Niina Pollari through Hyacinth Girl Press (and it is beautiful and amazing and you should order a copy and read it now now now), and I am truly pleased with how it turned out. I read and reread the poems and I still cannot get over how much I love them.

Letters From Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel seems to be gathering some love - I'm working on a super secret awesome project for it with a dear poet friend and have gotten a lot of very touching comments about it from other poets and, perhaps more importantly (okay, yes, more importantly - no offense poets. You guys rock), from the friends who helped to inspire the collection itself. Barefoot and Listening did not get nearly as many kind notes, facebook messages, and emails - not because I think it was a weak collection by any means, but perhaps because I have so much emotionally invested in the Letters From Room 27 poems that it spills over to the reader? I'm not sure. The collection also tells a sort of a story (sort of. I mean, I am a poet...). I am deeply humbled by every small note. If you want a copy, they are available at the Blood Pudding Press etsy shop or from me (you know, if we run into each other or you see me at a reading, which is a form of running into each other I suppose) or at Caliban in Oakland.

I was at the hotel this past weekend for what may very well be the last of the filming I'm involved in for Blair Murphy's latest film endeavour, Zombie Dream. I've had what might be described as "more fun than might be legal in some states" being a part of the project. I love watching Blair's mad genius at work. This is definitely not going to be your standard zombie film. At all. As soon as even the smallest smidgen of it is released to the public, you bet your ass it's going to be all over every single social media outlet I'm signed up for.

While we're on this theme of "art that happens at the Grand Midway" I'm going to do a micro review of a chapbook that, in a lot of ways, is quite different from the others I've reviewed here.

Kerouac Fest August 2011 Photopoems by Jason Kirin, according to the copy I have, was printed in a quantity of 20 copies by Jason himself less than two weeks (as I recall) after Kerouac Fest. First, the object itself. Jason binds all of his chapbooks with dental floss, which I think is kind of great (and minty fresh). The cover is dark grey card stock, and the interior is made up of photocopies of typewriter-typed poems with the photographs to accompany them having been taped to the pages themselves before copying. This chapbook owns its DIY-ness and is stronger for it - the object is rugged and lovely and gives a sense of immediacy to the whole collection.
Now onto the poems and photos themselves. Jason wrote the entire chapbook during the three days of Kerouac Fest he attended. I am totally jealous, as I wrote a single, solitary poem. I love projects that capture the immediacy of a space and an event, and, in general, poetry does not tend to do that as often beyond one poem at a time. This collection of poems, however, with its constant frantic meditation, gives that sort of snapshot. By merit of sitting himself down and writing these poems and taking these photographs while fully immersed in all of the insanity and uproar and performance and creation of Kerouac Fest, Jason has achieved something not usually found spanning an entire chapbook, and as someone who experienced the same event, I found it deeply enjoyable to relive it through Jason's eyes.
Each piece of writing is accompanied by at least one photo, most of them portraits of some kind, and sometimes the pieces of writing are an entire page of unbroken typewritten lines, and other times they are five or six words beneath, next to, or above a photo. The writings also alternate between structured poems, quotes, half-quotes, and stream of consciousness, which adds to the feeling of frantic meditation and immediacy. The poems themselves are not necessarily grounded in a sense of place in the traditional way (no lengthy descriptions of hallways or rooms), but in the sense of place that comes from the people who dwell there. As Jason writes, "I am small/enough to be in/my own veins." - the person is the place, and in that is part of the power of these poems. The photographs ground the poems in the human spaces they inhabit and in the Grand Midway Hotel, taking them from a collection that might only be truly loved as it should be by the people who are the creatures the pages soak in, to a collection of poems (or, arguably, a long, feverish, poetic dream) that reaches beyond the impulse of personal 4am reflection. The poems and the photographs know that they need each other - hence the title of "Photopoems".
I'm not sure if Jason still has copies of this chapbook - if you know him (or are a friend/follower on Facebook or Google + - he dwells in both, though much moreso in Google +), you can harass him about it. Otherwise, come by my place and I'll let you page through my copy and talk your ear off about the hotel.

Okay, so that ended up being a lot less micro than I thought it would be. Ha.

I want to write something about Occupy Wallstreet, but I don't think that I am nearly as eloquent about such things as others. So I will link to this blog post instead that my husband found and posted on Facebook. Something to think about next time someone says that the protesters have no focus/need a list of exactly what they want.