05 April 2007

Bonnie Jean Michalski and Karla Kelsey: a contrast in readings

Karla Kelsey and Bonnie Jean Michalski read two nights ago in the Cushing Street readings series, in the terrific patio setting of the Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant, sponsored by POG & Chax Press. The reading was actually in the opposite order, the younger & less published Michalski reading first, reading poems that twirl language, set systems in motion and never lose curiosity about how such systems might proceed. Each word or phrase seems to stand at attention, and our listening follows suit. What is said matters, but it's the lack of preconception about both the what and the how that keep us here, absolutely focused.

Here's the beginning of "Presently an Espousal," where two modes of discourse interact with one another, both enlivening the other and casting a sense of open possibility out to the audience.

ITS CARE EDIFICE FULL BALANCE
FULLY A VERB AGENT-LESS
CONSTRUCT OF FRUIT SUPERLATIVE


“I began this work in hopes of liberating the child-like


TO NEUTRAL SO PATRON AGE THE CLIMB
MOST AIRY ELSE LOVE SUMPS A
VESSEL OFFSPRING PERFECT IN


doubters from being dandled, like infants, on nature’s unruly lap”


AN EXERCIZE USEFULNESS RESERVED
BECOMINGLY THUS APPOINTED A FURNISH
BOTH MAGNATES AND SAVANTES RIPEN


“I began my work not as a beast of burden but due to scarcity

(my apologies that formatting in the poem may not be as in the mss. -- charles)

This work is not worried about whether it is poetry, rather is concerned that it works as structure and system — and it does. How this and other works by Michalski move, how they articulate, moves me. Michalski writes with nothing to prove, and she proves her work to be very special.

By contrast, at this reading, Kelsey, who is the more celebrated poet, presented a quieter reading, one more interested in patterns of loss and elegy that are heard in the very rhythms of her work, with repetitive falling tones.

I know Kelsey's work has lots of fans, and I hope they respond to this post with their understanding of Kelsey's work. I feel more in tune with Bonnie Jean Michalski's word mills, so I'll keep my comments to her work. Michalski's poems are evidence of what, in an essay in a recent book, Andrew Joron has called "lines of force."

. . . poetic "lines of force" point toward uninhabited wildernesses within language, toward removes of irreducible meaning — so that a poetic impulse will cause the system of language to exceed its own boundary conditions, and to undergo a phase transition toward the Unsayable."

This is where I want poetry to take me. I'll end this post with Bonnie Jean Michalski's poem "Bluing."
I’m looking for a synchronized-swim routine that flags to moonlight little bursts of air.
Secretly, I’m looking for storage methods to reduce clutter.

Concerned as I am about obscurity laid waste. My next organizing project:
I’d like to include cat food tins, but shelf space is a rare commodity. These days.

I know it’s all the rage to try to redefine art using the gross anatomy slump,
which reduces the blue in everything. No place to look

without there’s a competing color scheme. And shelving should always
be neutral. Because of all the unpredictable stuff a shelf must hold.

Because it is its job, the noble and ever-streamlined job of the shelf. Next time say
you have many more pets than you have pet-flexible lifestyle space. I’ll tell you

you aren’t the only one rezoning. You are, however, the only one drinking sangria
and thinking hard about which fruits are local. I credit you that. Credit for everything

that was not intended as largesse. It goes on and on the sound that is remodeling.
It goes on and on the sound that is the economy refurbishing itself as a barrio.

Sangria is one part wine to one part fruit juice. Is hard to find. Is baggies.

7 Comments:

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Bonnie Jean's poems in a while now but reading them now gives me a warm feeling like the underside of an arm.

 
At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful poetry, Soothing and calming to my mind. Would enjoy hearing them in person.

 
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