February 25, 2011

Frequency North, February 24

This is the on-going, occasional series at the College of St. Rose that brings in mainly younger writers doing interesting work, or, as host & series coordinator, Daniel Nester, described tonight's writers, showing "some of the possibilities of what modern poets can do." Of course that can be good, bad, or indifferent. For tonight's poets Melissa Broder & Aaron Belz that meant over-reaching cleverness.

Melissa Broder jumped right into reading her poems with nary a word of introduction or chatter, & so we never knew where these poems came from, certainly not from her book, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, 2010) (see what I mean about "clever") as I found out. The staples of her poems are pop culture references, some quite dated (e.g., "Ringo," "Sharon Tate Man Up," "Fugazi Trains"); seemingly random leaps from titillating image to next exhuburant image, & the aforementioned cleverness (the title of one of her new poems is "De Forest Station"). God made frequent appearances in her poems, more as a character than a spiritual/religious concept ("Lonesome Cowgirls," "Waterfall," "Championship"), as did vomiting ("H1-N1," "Waterfall," "Such Beautiful Clothes"), & occasionally horses &/or unicorns. Other than saying, "this is a new poem" or "I never read this out loud" she offered no context for any of the poems, which made it a struggle for me to figure out what most of them were about, even those with obvious sex references.

Nester introduced Aaron Belz as "a poet's poet" but half-way through his reading I thought he should have said "a stand-up comic's poet." What Belz read was the kind of remarks one usually hears at cocktail parties with lots of smart people: one-liners based on TV show titles ("Disparate Housewives"), or puns ("Ice Cream," "Hippy Slang"), or playing with clich├ęs. Literally, some of the poems were one-liners, perhaps broken up on the page, but essentially just a smart-ass remark. A few poems, notably "Either/Or," seemed like the kind that come out of a list of prompts (& suggested similar projects to me), & I was moved by the love poem meditation on Beauty, "Movement." So people laughed at the many jokes, as we should, & Belz was thus more "entertaining" (& accessible) than Broder, but ultimately just as disappointing.

Neither poet connected with the audience in a human, personal way & neither gave us any sense of where these poems came out of their lives, as if we are about to experience the Zombie re-birth of New Criticism. & even with Belz's jokes & the laughter there was no applause until the end of each reading. What is this with college readings & no clapping? Although tonight that was probably a good thing, saving time so we could get out of there sooner.

Check out the St. Rose website for more information on this series.


Anonymous said...

I knew I should have read more anti-war poems!

Is there any way to get a hold of these fine photos of yours in high resolution?

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Dan Wilcox said...
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