May 8, 2017

Yes! a Reading Series, May 6

The last of the season (which seem to coincide with the academic year), at the new location of the Albany Center Gallery, Matthew Klane our solo host tonight.

Emily Barton Altman was the 1st of the 3 readers & she began with “Disassemblage” a long poem with ghosts, based loosely on fairy tales, then immediately into pieces titled “Of the Body” & “You Are Not in California.” These were short poems, read without any intro or seque, my first impression was that she doesn’t go to many poetry readings. A piece titled “A Performance” was unintentionally ironic, since her poems are definitely not performances — no gestures, no modulation of her voice, no engagement with the audience. She let the work stand for itself, but that is difficult when the poems fly by & the listener (as opposed to a reader) has no way to go back to it. It seemed to me that “Composition” was an elegy, & her poem “Bodies of Water” was like a conversation. She ended with a sonnet which was more intricate linguistically than her shorter pieces & although I liked it best I could’ve used to a guide to what I was hearing.

Both Emily & her partner Toby Altman are from Chicago, passing thru on a mini-tour it seems. Toby began from his book, Arcadia, Indiana (Plays Inverse, 2017), poems with Oedipus & the Sphinx as characters, more like short plays or linked monologues. From there on to a long poem full of wordplay & sex “Theory of Tragedy at the Crossroads of America” then from a new project on mid-century urban utopian projects, he also had a poem as a performance outline “Idea for Performance.”

Alifair Skebe read from each of her poetry collections, beginning with her 2004 Post Card: Les Lettres d’Amour/Love Letters: Les Cartes Postales, then a little from her long poem El Aqua Es la Sangre de la Tierra (Finishing Line Press, 2008). But mostly she read from the recent FootHills Publishing collection Thin Matter. Speaking of performance, Alifair is a good example of how to make a reading a performance without the bombast of a Slam, with her expressive gestures, modulation of her voice, eye contact with the audience, even stomping her feet a couple times, as well as odd printed signs glossing/foot-noting her poems at times. She included one of my favorites, “Desire,” a poem whose lines can be read in any order. Ironically, she offered a broadside of the poem for sale, freezing the lines into (one) order.

I do hope that Yes! will be back in the Fall with more intriguing, experimental poets from near & far.

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