Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Two Great Young Poets at the Trinity Commons

Today was the first day it felt like fall to me in more than 5 years. After an extended summer -- mid-October and still the anti-global warming buffoons persist -- today the temperature finally dipped below 75. By mid-afternoon there was even a cold drizzle!

As is the norm on MWF, I spent the morning talking about politics, and the afternoon avoiding doing so. I did get some work done, today, though, including the composition of what ended up being a pretty good little paper proposal about presidential transitions for a conference in Chicago next spring.

After that, a mentally exhausting meeting with a student, and a really crappy piece of pizza for lunch, I headed over to the Trinity Commons for a poetry reading by Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Noah Eli Gordon. I picked up a small coffee at Cafe Ah-Roma, where I inadvertantly insulted the barrista. Apparently, she was greatly offended when I laughed and told her how hip and edgy it was for her to shout out "drip with room" to another barrista at a different stage of the process, thus indicating to cafe chick #2 to pour me a drip coffee with room for milk. Whatever.

As I was exiting through the back, making my way to the Trinity Commons, I semi-recognized a tall, mildly bearded fellow standing at the door. I said, quite impressively, "Uh, you're the poetry dude, right?" He smiled and agreed that he was, and then pointed at his companion and said, "This is Noah, the other poetry guy." We actually stood out there for a good 10 minutes, chatting about the Midwest, the disparate fortunes of the Cubs and Indians in this year's MLB playoffs, the surprisingly rich poetry community in Cleveland, shared experiences on the academic job market, and cool neighborhoods in the northern reaches of Chicago.

Eventually, it was time for them to perform, and we entered the room where the reading was to be held, joking about bodyguards and academic standing.

The reading itself was impressive. Wilkinson, whose work I was somewhat more familiar with, performed with an interesting air, sincere, measured, and passionately humble. Noah was more humorous, making jokes both between and during poems; the wit in his work was both more pronounced and, occasionally, honestly, a little distracting. I guess. But what do I know. Not enough to be bitchy about poetry, that's for sure. Especially not from two of the leading poets of my generation.

After the reading, I picked up a copy of their just-released co-authored book-length poem, Figures for a Darkroom Voice. The book itself is the end-product of an interesting poetry game the two created one day, during a three-hour flight home from a reading. It started off trading a notebook back and forth, sentence for sentence, the expanded to finishing one another's sentences, playing with one another's sentence structures and twisting one another's logic. The game itself seems gimmicky, almost affected, but the end result is laudable and clever in the very best way.

After each poet performed their own individual work, the two performed a few from this book together. If you are interested, here's a youtube clip from a previous performance:

One particularly memorable piece of the poem goes:

"The signal is two women standing side by side before the elephant door. Each time one of them speaks another metric layer of sawdust pours up from the earth. Their teeth, winter; their hands, gauze; eyes, little lions; their jewels, jewels."

A few pages later, another great part:

"Sparrows shoot over the white earth. A candlelit silhouette keeps the prisoner from his loneliness. In an office ten flights above, you badger the investigator's secretary for a date. You say, double feature, mummies & shit, & her cheeks won't blush, she won't even look up from the legalese. What you have is an apology twining through a leash for the dogs in her garden. Winter turns birds to a bird-shaped absence in the air. Summer will harden the light into bricks, as all evening it was afternoon. & the misnamed boy tumbles from the sounds ascribed to his future."

My favorite part of that one? Probably yours, too: "You say, double feature, mummies & shit, & her cheeks won't blush, she won't even look up from the legalese."

There are a hundred Russian novels in that sentence.

1 comment:

Hilary Kimbel said...

This is a great link. Thanks! I have actually been looking at a bell - trinity commons for a while now, and I felt like this has been really helpful for me. Thanks so much again!