Monday, May 31, 2010

6 questions with Mike Maggio

Mike Maggio along with Lauren Bender are the features to our June 4th event. He is presenting something called "cloudism" which figured into my 6 questions :

1) What is “cloudism”?
Cloudism is a conceptual piece which reaches back for its inspiration to the avant-garde art movements of the 20th century, specifically fluxus and dadism. It attempts to expand intellectually on those movements and, hopefully, succeeds in doing so.

Cloudism started as a piece I wrote a couple of years ago but has since become a collaborative effort and, as such, the emphasis is on malleability—on obfuscation – on what is seen and what is not. It is important to mention that Cloudism as it exists right now is much different from its original iteration due to the collaborative effort with Graham Pilato, Allison Clapp and Tina Hughes. And it will be still different once the audience members, who are really participants in the process, become part and parcel of the creative force.

Cloudism can be likened to the happenings of the 60’s in which the lines between audience and artist are blurred. We are creating an atmosphere which will allow participants to explore space and to interpret concept and then contribute to the final piece, a collaborative creation in which the end product – the poem – becomes an anonymous object. Anonymity is key – thus the phrase Cloudism by Cloudism. We hope to expand further on this by taking the poem object and displaying it in galleries where others can continue to respond. Thus, like the clouds in the sky, the possibilities are endless and Cloudism will never end.

What about the space within the Soundry prompted the creation of “cloudism”?
The original piece was created before we were presented with the space. However, the space at the Soundry has definitely influenced it. When you enter the Soundry, four of the five sense are immediately operative: taste, smell, sight and sound. So that as you walk in you, are immediately drawn into a sensual experience – whether it’s indulging in a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, listening to a live band or taking in the various art works that are displayed throughout. To this, we are adding touch, as this will be an essential component of “Cloudism.”

3) When did you start writing poetry? What’s that evolution been like for you?

I started writing poetry when I was in high school – quite a long time ago. At the time, I didn’t’ know what I was doing except that I was imitating the rhythms and rhymes we all grow up with in school. When I got to college, where I majored in English/Creative Writing, I started understanding something more about poetry – the use of imagery, for example, and the use of natural speech rhythms as a unit of measure -- and, in 2008, I completed my MFA at Mason which certainly exposed me to many more aspects of poetry, many of which I knew on an intuitive level had experimented with but which I did not have an intellectual grounding in. My poetry has gone from the explicit use of imagery to the experimental use of language, from the literal to the increasingly abstract.

Who have your influence/heroes been?
The biggest, I would have to say, is Yoko Ono. I have followed her from the beginning: her music, her performances, her art. She is constantly part of the repertoire of work I review constantly. Other influences are also musical: Leonard Cohen, whose lyrics are brilliant, and Joni Mitchell whose use of language, I think, has really raised the bar as far as lyrics are concerned. Poets include e e cummings, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, But I am also interested in the classics: English and Scottish ballads have always been of interest to me and have influenced some of my recent work. There is the whole rich treasure trove of English and American literature and of course the international greats like Gogol and Kafka to name a few. I could also mention film literature which has greatly influence me: directors like Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini and Bergman whose work constantly intrigues me.

5) Tell me a little about your books to date, you have brought out three collections. Is that correct?

Yes, there are three, though in fact a fourth one is actually my first: a collection of poems on cassette called Your Secret Is Safe With Me, released back in 1988 by the now defunct Black Bear Publications. This collection, along with my latest, deMOCKracy, which was released in 2007, represent what most people associate me with: socio-political poems that address war, injustice, etc. deMOCKracy can best be described as viral, though there are some experimental and a couple of rather tame pieces in there as well. Oranges From Palestine is a chapbook which contains my Middle Eastern poems, many of which were written while I was living in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Sifting Through the Madness is a collection of short fiction – both the flash and the longer varieties -- many of which are experimental in nature and which contain a host of what some would consider rather bizarre characters.

6) Is there a “next step” in your creative journey? What might that be?

Well, I have lots of plans. I am planning another performance piece called “Big Black Reversal.” I have completed a novel, In the Valley of Granite and Steel, which I’m desperately seeking a publisher for and a new collection of collage/visual/concrete poems called I Flew a Kite which I’m also looking to publish. There are a couple of unpublished chapbooks – "Biodegradable" and "Haunted Garden" – as well. I’m also thinking of editing a volume of poems about computers, the internet and the influence the digital age has had on our lives. I’m currently working on short fiction more than poetry but it’s the performance arena that is drawing me in the most.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

6 questions with Lauren Bender

1) When did it occur to you as a budding poet that you felt compelled to be more “performative” than others?

I don't think I ever thought to be more of something than someone else. Part of it was probably insecurity in my writing as just writing. Also, I didn't start writing creatively until I was out of college. I was a painter, and was seeing a lot of "performance art" work, and so I don't think it was possible for me to move in a binary way from a completely visual world to a completely verbal one. I had tried to work text into painting but felt disappointed and limited probably by virtue of the object. It made more intuitive sense in my mind to "perform" a text--I think there's more subtlety to be explored there--than to be an illustrator.

2) Who were your influences as you started to write?

My influences were my friends! I started going to readings not knowing anyone, but then little by little I found myself amongst some amazing artists and writers. Here are some names of folks who were instrumental in me feeling more comfortable and finding my way: Justin Sirois, Aaron Cohick, Rupert Wondolowski, Ric Royer. Now there are so many more, which is great.

3) It seems that you make a point of avoiding the traditional “coffeehouse and bookstore” reading circuits, any validity to that? If so, why?

Validity to your question, or to my avoidance? There is probably more validity to your question. I'm actually at a point with my work where I'm trying to reconcile this intentional obscurity, or conceptual veiling, in a way, with unencumbered appreciation for overtly traditional forms. I'll let you know how that works out. In the meantime, I see any reading as a performance (how can it not be)--and I don't mean that in an "all the world's a stage" way, I mean it in a "there is so much tension" way--so to not comment on that by reading in a more performative way and add some context seems like it's missing something to me. That said, there is something comforting or maybe just necessary in bringing it all the way back around to a straight-up reading, in terms of ultimately subverting my own personal...stuff.

4) How has Baltimore itself affected your development as an artist? (Support systems, interesting artists, etc.)

Baltimore is so great. Of course, I have no context--I've lived here all of my adult life. But when I travel and meet other artists and writers, I realize how lucky I am. I think Baltimore's scene is at a really interesting place--so much truly interdisciplinary and collaborative work, so much crossover between little pockets and hives of people making interesting things. I think the artistic culture here has really allowed me to explore in a more profoundly fun way than I might have elsewhere.

5) To you, what is “the ideal audience”?

I've never really thought about that. I like a reactive audience, a human audience. I don't like forced collaboration, and it's really difficult to ask your audience to participate. There's always this imposition. Conceptually I get it but it hardly ever works well. I like an audience of like-minded folks but realize that this is somewhat unhealthy and incestuous, but it kind of goes back to #3, above (feeling out of place or misunderstood, or like a weirdo). The ideal audience realizes their fundamental necessity, and is critical, and forgiving. They are there with me.

6) Can you name the book of poetry that have graced your bookshelf the longest?

Leaves of Grass, probably. To be honest, I really don't read a lot of poetry. I've been working on that reconciliation thing (again, #3) and so have been reading Walden for the past couple of weeks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poetry Lab #5 : May 7, 2010

Five minutes before leaving his house, Tommy Tavenner, our techie, decided he was going to attempt to stream the event live that evening, so he did - it's available to be viewed here : Poetry Lab streams. What a great night to capture as well. Tony Mancus began the night some deep work, Paul Siegell explored his inner Phish, and Daniel Collins was brilliant as well.
Tony is co-founder of Flying Guillotine Press, Paul has three books out in three years (each a little more visual/concrete poetry than the previous), and Daniel is working his tail off getting his filmmaking, music gigging, and poetry off the ground. Ah, the internet. Here's a link to Daniel Collins Music. He is also the author of of go & why.

The open reading contacted the likes and work of Bernadette Geyer, Ann Forstater, and a handful of first timers.