Postmodern American Poetry Anthology Reading Review

Reviewer: Connor Fisher

1. In her introduction to Tan Lin’s Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking, Laura Riding Jackson writes:

“What are the forms of non-reading and what are the non-forms a reading might take? Poetry = wallpaper.  . . . It would be nice to create works of literature that didn’t have to be read but could be looked at, like placemats. The most exasperating thing at a poetry reading is always the sound of a poet reading.”

2. The reading held to celebrate the release of the second edition of Norton’s Postmodern American Poetry Anthology (held at Counterpath Bookstore in Denver on March 17th) was not necessarily a non-reading, nor was it a non-form of a reading. The event was simultaneously a fulfillment of Jackson’s utopic prophesy/warning—poetry turned to wallpaper and placement-artifact through its anthologization—and a glorification of elements which resist poetry’s status as wallpaper and placemat—the human voice, and the renewed occurrence and manifestation of any poem with each new reading.

3. Six anthologized poets from Denver and Boulder read, and Paul Hoover (the anthology editor) moderated a brief Q&A session following the reading.

4. Eleni Sikilianos’s poems have enough visceral energy to read themselves—yet listening to the poems works like Coltrane’s famous description of playing jazz with Thelonious Monk: one misstep and you’re falling down an elevator shaft.

5. Graham Faust reads each of his poems as if it were an oyster; after every conclusion, the poem snaps shut behind him.

6. Noah Eli Gordon read from an alleged developing project titled “An Index to 800 Works by Noah Eli Gordon”; as in any self-aware cataloging of a subject, the bits that slipped away were more important than the indexed “titles” that he read.

7. Julie Carr’s final poem included the line—delivered both as ars poetica and in defiance of any containing sentiment—: “I don’t care who likes or understands my method.”

8. Bin Ramke succeeds in inspiring and uplifting through the generosity of his writing—where his own poetic voice might falter or fail, he turns to an-other to fill the silence.

9. Anne Waldman represents the antithesis of Laura Riding Jackson’s dry caution; she reads until no space is left unoccupied or unaltered by her voice, and then stands upon her own voice, using it as a space, as a tool from which to speak what is already being spoken.  

10. If a poetry reading is exasperating, then exasperation is a necessity; if a reading is a commodity, then sound and community are also commodities; if poetry should only be looked at, then conversely it should only be heard, and the sound of Jackson’s wallpaper, the sound of a Jackson’s placemat can be captured in no other way.