Friday, March 18, 2005

Lex

Tuesday night's triple-x Lex had a decidedly raw feel, thanks largely to various circumstances beyond the hosts' control: from the financial collapse of Jetsgo and the resulting stranding of featured reader Jill Hartman, to featured reader Dave Bidini's illness, which caused him to cancel. Bill and Angela were clearly thinking on their feet, and there was something exhilarating and refreshing about the spontaneity of the evening, though of course we felt the lack of the missing readers.

I've been thinking about how Jon Paul Fiorentino seems, in Hello Serotonin at least, to have identified the tendency toward ego staging in contemporary lyric poetry and replaced it with a mythologized poetic self distributed through various currents (linguistic, pharmaceutical, cultural). In his first fiction collection, Asthmatica, from which he read, he seems to have brought this tendency to the fore and to have connected it explicitly to a version of his own past and to a self-conscious projection of a writerly persona (i.e., Asthmatica sounded like a Poppy and somewhat fictionalized memoir that clearly suits and supports Fiorentino's current public self). He began his second excerpt as follows:
My parents sucked. They used to make me mow the lawn despite my lethal allergy to freshly cut grass. On a weekly basis, they made me wear a surgical mask, start up the old gas engine mower and mow the fucking lawn.
It's almost as if Fiorentino has transposed what occurs more quietly in his poetry to the level of public performance with his first book in a more popular genre. (I'm thinking, too, of other poets who employ the strategy of self-mythologization but without the self-consciousness and humour and who therefore, unlike Fiorentino, quickly become obnoxious in their demand that we read their work through their earnest projections.) Anyway, blah blah blah; what the hell am I talking about? Great reading. Fiorentino was joined by a drunken female heckler, who figured prominently in the rest of the evening.

Angela Rawlings read from Jill Hartman's manuscript-in-progress, the title of which I can't remember, that joined frequently somewhat erotic subject matter with an erotics of linguistic play. I've always thought of puns as being entirely unerotic, even goofy, but Hartman (and Rawlings) proved this notion wrong. The audience, of course, was amazing in adjusting to the slightly more serious (at least on the face of it) material, as a hush, with one exception maybe, fell.

Then Bill Kennedy read a Dave Bidini piece about the latter's violent on-ice encounters with Jim Cuddy in the Exclaim hockey league. I remembered an art show I saw this past fall in which the aesthetics and erotics of hockey were played out on a video screen without any sort of reference to competition. I wish I could remember the artist's name. Anyway, as happened during some of the readings at last month's Lex, the incidental music from the theatrical rehearsal in the back room fit perfectly with the Kennedy/Bidini reading. Hilarious and hilarious.

This was followed by a move to said back room (the rehearsal was over, and the back room is Lex's natural habitat), in which people hung out and chatted before the final featured reading of the evening. Saghi Ghahraman treated us to a challenging (and I'd even say iconoclastic) reading. The poems, one of which traced the speaker's desire to fuck her grandmother, were truly brave and beautiful, and I was struck by her use of repetition, which seemed, if such a separation is possible, more psychologically than linguistically motivated (something that startled me, which made me realize how immersed in language I've become). I have no doubt about the hush this time, and I think even the heckler recognized what's at stake in Ghahraman's work.

For a slightly less over-the-top account with beautiful pictures, please click here. Halim's post differs from mine in a few key places (i.e., I seem to have perceived more eroticism than she has), which makes me feel a little self-conscious.

3 Comments:

Blogger Nadia said...

Hi Mark! I'm not sure what element of my Lex report seems alarmingly inconsistent with your memory of the evening, but I'll happily defer to your version, as you were clearly paying much closer, more careful and more literate attention than I was... my experience of the evening was all, "Mmm, beer! Ooo - cowboy boots! Heh - heckler! Tony Danza?!?" etc. :^) I'm glad you were there to offer a more nuanced perspective.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hey Nadia,

I think the key difference was that I saw everything as erotic. (Just kidding with the alarmed tone.)

Enjoying your blog.

Mark

9:49 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I've edited a little to make things a little more clear. Sorry about that.

11:17 PM  

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