Friday, June 18, 2010

6 questions with Natalie Lyalin

1) Like a number of poets who have participated in the Poetry Lab, I notice that you are also an editor. What led you to the role of editor, and is there a bit of DIY in that decision? Taking control of the "means of production"?

I really wanted to create spaces for the poems and poets that I loved. That is the inspiration for both of my editing projects - GlitterPony Magazine and Agnes Fox Press.

2) You are on a "book tour" currently - how did that come about?

On the suggestion of my friend Heather Christle, I contacted Mike Young and Rachel B Glaser. Their books are coming out from Publishing Genius this fall, and we all decided to do this tour/road trip together. Mike and Rachel and amazing, so I knew that going on the road with them would be super great. And it has been!

3) Recently you spent time in Jerusalem, how did that affect your writing? Is PLACE important in your work?

Place is definitely important to my work, but not in a geographical sense. I mean that I don't necessarily want to write about a location, but more so my impression of the location. I make things up a lot and superimpose my own sense on geography. Jerusalem allowed me a lot of time to write, but I did not write about Jerusalem. I did write about Moses, so maybe Jerusalem did have some influence on me.

4) I saw an altered Gucci ad - (text provided by you?) Are you drawn to ad copy as an inspiration or as a reaction? Or was the specific image that led to the piece?

The text is mine. That piece was a reaction and a bit of inspiration. I like the absurdity of fashion advertisement. The bigger the brand, the more insane the add -- like the Marc Jacobs ads with Victoria Beckham. But the add you are asking about, in that case I felt like the image was so odd that something had to be said other than "buy these clothes."

5) We left the Philly for DC area in 2004. My understanding is that there has been a great deal of poetic prowess happening in Philadelphia since, What has your experience been like living in Philadelphia?

I love philadelphia. There are some supremely exciting poets living there -- CA Conrad, Michelle Taransky, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Ish Klein, and many many others. I think it is a special poetry place. There are new venues and reading series popping up. You should come visit!

6) When did you start writing and what was the first book of poetry you bought for yourself?

I would say that college, my junior and senior year, was when the "real" poems started surfacing. And my first book? I can't recall. But I remember being fascinated by Edna St.Vincent Millay's "Not In A Silver Casket." I think that's on

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6 questions with Reb Livingston

1) How long have you been writing poetry? When did you realize it was something you "couldn't avoid"?

Since college, so almost 20 years. I could avoid writing poems, but I'd have to find something else to make in its place. I become depressed when I'm not creating something.

2) Have dreams always been central to your writing? Is it the imagery or the surrealist nature of dreams that most affect you?

I only occasionally incorporate dreams into my poetry. In my most recent book, God Damsel, I think there are two phrases that come directly from dreams and there's only one poem in Your Ten Favorite Words, "No Bra Required," that's influenced by a dream. I'm trying to incorporate more dream material into my current project, but I'm not so sure how well that's working. Perhaps it's because dreams are much more than "writing material." I get a lot of advice and guidance from my dreams, in writing and in everyday life. Dreams are our connection with our oracle. I take them very seriously.

3) What was your motivation in starting No Tell Motel?

I always wanted to edit a magazine. Seven years ago I noticed poets my age or younger launching their own publications and I felt both jealous and smug (because I thought they were "doing it wrong.") Finally it occurred to me that I didn't have to be jealous or smug, I could start my own magazine and show everyone how it's done.

4) Who have been your influences along the way?

Anne Sexton was my first major influence as an undergrad. Later Nicholas Christopher, Amy Gerstler, Federico Garcia Lorca. Now, I don't know, I feel lost. Maybe there's some influence from Alice Notely and Fanny Howe? I'm influenced by C.G. Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, fairy tales, tarot and certainly dreams.

5) How has parenthood affected your writing?

Time. What happened to it? I also find that I tend to repeat things in my poems like I repeat myself in daily life. "What did I just say?!?"

6) What was the first book of poetry you bought for yourself?

The first poetry books I purchased were for an introductory poetry course, Cornelius Eady's The Gathering of My Name and The Best American Poetry 1990 (edited by Jorie Graham). Eady's poems were probably the first that I ever felt any connection. The first book of poetry I purchased for myself voluntarily was The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 2010 Poetry Lab

(from left: stevenallenmay, Lauren Bender, Allison Clapp, Mike Maggio, Graham Pilato)

I knew what I was getting with Lauren Bender. I have seen her perform/present 3 times previously and each time was completely different from the time before. I say "perform/present" instead of "read" since that's what she does. Reading my interview with her is instructive. Her background in visual arts helped to create her aesthetics as well. Twice I took in Lauren's performance at DCAC in Washington and at that time I had merely a glimpse of an idea to find a space similar where I could also present artists like Ms. Bender. My lucky break was finding The Soundry. The primary difference between DCAC and The Soundry is that The Soundry is an arts incubator while DCAC is a gallery and performance space.

When I started The Poetry Lab, Lauren Bender was one of the first people I contacted. I was put in touch with Mike Maggio through a posting on the George Mason English Dept. listserv. When I contacted him, he readily accepted my invitation. Only afterwards did he mention cloudism which never was clearly defined, nor actually should it have been. What I gleamed from his work I got again from my interview with him and some postings of his work online.

But he said "Happening" and I knew what that was. Not that I ever attended a Happening, but I was very aware of them. Also, Mike Maggio stated that one of his influences is Yoko Ono. 'Okay', I said to myself, 'Fluxus as well.'

When the event itself began, my cohort and myself discovered the perimeters of where a performance at The Soundry could begin; The Front Door! A white cord ran from the edge of the counter in the front of the building and wove its way to the room where the event took place. Past painters working on their canvasses, down hallways, around corners.

We were led to the performance of "cloudism" by a mime in a bowler (hints of "Ghosts Before Breakfast"?), holding onto the cord as we proceeded. Once we entered the room, we found a TV set on white noise. A cellist. A mannequin's torso. A ladder leading into the clouds. Pens dangling from the ceiling. A human sized shadow wearing a T-shirt which would, in short order, be written on (the shadow turned out to be Mike Maggio). The mime pulled members of the "audience", actually witnesses more than audience members as there were no seats. People climbed the ladder to see a large blue eye gazing down on them. People used the dangling pens to write on the shadow and the torso. The cellist began to play, the white noise on the TV rose to annoyance.

Nothing like this had taken place before at the Poetry Lab (all of 5 months old), and it led to some awkward moments as people coming to attend a "poetry reading" found themselves in a much difference space. Some time later the shadow fled the scene, and confused members of the audience followed - outside, into the parking lot and back through the front door. The performance was over, although no one was certain. Unlike a movie, there were no "end credits".

Allow me to offer some here : cloudism is Mike Maggio, Allison Clapp, and Graham Pilato. The cellist is Tina Hughes.

After a brief intermission, Lauren Bender took the stage and presented a new text/video piece called "Epic Ochre
Subverts Other", which was about fear, travel, the desert, and telepathy. While a film was shown on a large screen, Bender read a prepared text. It was completely different from the preceding event yet equally engaging and challenging. Overall, the evening was nearly exactly what I had imagined the Poetry Lab would become back in November 2009 as I dreamt this all into being.

Bravos all around.


Monday, June 7, 2010

dirty laundry

Curating a series is not for the faint of heart. Neither is hosting the series. Any number of things can happen to change one's plans; 2 foot blizzards can cancel events, for example. Features might fail to show up. Sociopaths might come and pretend to be poets in order to slime an audience with their filth - wait, I just had to deal with this one.

When an audience goes from over a dozen women one month to ZERO women the following month, you know there's a problem. I identified the problem right away : a "poet" in the open reading segment of the series was sleazing the audience with his, um, "art". I knew I had to do something. Don't get me wrong : I am a strong believer in freedom of speech. However, one's right to offend doesn't have blanket protection when as a host it drives people out the door. A "poet" screaming about being censored is not protected when he assaults the audience. There are limits. People who attend events at least ought to be warned that they MIGHT be abused - no, actually, no they ought not be subjected to abuse. There is no component within the Poetry Lab FOR abuse. And to heap abuse on women specifically is totally unacceptable.

I have written provocative and sexual material but I would never read these pieces in a room with small children in it. Some people seem to believe that their right to write obscene material trumps a person's right not to be exposed to said material. I have a wife and a daughter, I am sensitive to these sort of woman hating poisonous barbs.

And as host, I won't stand for it. The very nature of the Poetry Lab is to be slightly off-kilter. Granted. But don't attend with your venom towards women, or gays, or afro-americans, or arabs - leave it at home or leave yourself at home. You won't get your 5 minutes here.

curator and host
The Poetry Lab
Vienna, VA