Monday, April 16, 2007

Cruelest Month

Is that one or two L's in "cruelest"? My limitations as a cameraman may prevent you from grasping what a great reading we had in Ithaca on Saturday from Kate Greenstreet and Janet Holmes. Kate's reading style is intimate and subtly funny—she draws you into the lyric landscapes of the road trip that is case sensitive. Most of the poems she read were from one of the latter sections of the book, which puts speaker and reader through the paces of a police procedural while the question "where's the body" takes on additional resonances. It was a thrill to have her, and her lovely husband Max too. I picked up a box of greeting cards she made—Kate is a visual as well as verbal artist—and now I have to decide who I like enough to send them to. My favorite has this legend superimposed over an evocatively blurry image of a human figure: "Then we played an intensive game of statues."

Janet delivered her poems with theatricality and flair. The title of her book, F2F is instant messaging talk for "face to face," and a number of its poems take the form of IM exchanges. These are, obviously, difficult to read, so most of the poems she read were those that featured figures from Greek myth, generally referred to by first initial: O for Orpheus, E for Eros, P for Psyche, etc. This might seem tired, but Janet makes it work by using these figures to meditate on the idea of being seen or not being seen—that is, she thinks about the role the mediated image plays in human relationships. All of these mythic figures of course engage the visual: Orpheus looks back at Eurydice and loses her (though in some versions of the myth she does the looking); Psyche is forbidden to see Eros and when she does, he abandons her; Narcissus has only eyes for himself while Echo is bodiless and invisible. Janet's project thinks through these figures, with considerable wit and panache, by placing them in a very recognizable modern mediascape.

Incredible April snow breeding no flowers out of no dead land is dumping down on Ithaca right now, but the roads may be clear enough for me to attempt my drive to New York this afternoon to catch tonight's reading. If you see me there be sure to congratulate me on my foolishness.

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