Alex Young and Nick Bredie are facilitating the blog to accompany this year's Segue Reading Series. Looks like they're doing a great job so far...I'm especially looking forward to hearing Bill Luoma and Juliana Spahr read next week.
Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Foster Johnson read at the Poetry Project. There is the sense in this work of taking further some of the ambient ellipses of Ashbery into a territory both poised and slightly disgusted. Though Paul read a range of different work from his forthcoming book, I was particularly taken with the long poem, “Art of the Cities.”
…Unable to parlay analogies into a living document we sent instead drunken messages as in the general agreement on the substance of gay hell.
Sure, the lyric “we” here sounds distant and intent and somewhat official, until you hit the wryly explosive phrase “gay hell.” The answers to other, more specific questions such as “which analogies” and “which drunken messages” are replaced by a slightly nudge-nudge personalized objective correlative that appears only in the plural, as if events aspire to be always already a reproduction, stated imperfectly. Many of the larger, public poems Paul read that night tended to conjure up a fogged, distanced speaker who somehow manages to get across a tender, feint signal of sincerity:
A woman wanted to decorate with nooks and handcranks the garret where butch queen realness died, going at it with a peg and awl, a lost cause. Her city was made of her adoptive family of peers, allegiances that turned into a substrate, arabesques on a plain ground.
The dry, poignant feeling of matter-of-factness in that last gesture is characteristic of the way that Paul maps the more severe aspects of Frankfurt School-derived discourse onto queer identity. But there's a kind of tenderness in that manner of pausing to examine the detail of the vaguely futile pathos particular to "arabesques on a plain ground." I hesitate to interpret further the work of someone so well-read (who has just recently returned from Leningrad to boot), but this post is just to note that I enjoyed the reading very much, and I look forward to reading more of this work soon.