Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bellephemera* Found Intros

by Emily Skillings

please welcome her...

Introducing an artist is no easy task. Do you go for the minimalist intro lite, only reading a few terse impressions of their latest work with some carefully placed biographical tidbits, or do you do the personal intro and talk about your amazing time with so-and-so in Cairo or give a portrait of yourself (much younger) reading their work for the first time and having a profound experience (these intros always seem to be more about the introducer than the introduced)?

Perhaps you try the intro-poem, in which you cannibalize one of their own poems to make a kind of nonsensical hybrid intro. I assume that we do all these things because, at the core of the moment when we are asked to present someone to a body of people, there is a definite awkwardness to the introduction. It has to be interesting, but not distracting, respectful but not boring. It has to present the artist's particular genius without being adulatory. It has to make the artist feel good, while, like a mini-review, illuminating some point or connection that the artist herself might not have noticed. I agonize over these little paragraphs, sometimes for weeks, only to realize that I haven't really written anything that makes sense.

Maybe the introduction is a performance of gratitude.

So you bring this little slip of paper and you give your introduction and then you put it down and listen to the brilliant reading. The little half-sheet of paper gets drinks spilled on it (It wasn't even saved in your computer). Your handwritten notes run. The introduction is very often a lost text, a discarded moment of nerves.

I will say this now: introductions are a community document of great importance. They are a textual representation of a complex moment where a person (introducing) interacts simultaneously with the physical presence of the artist about to read, the work of that artist and the momentary micro-community present at the reading. Imagine if, in social situations, we introduced each other with this amount of care and detail :

"This is Krystal Languell. She writes powerful, ass-kicking poems of great intelligence and clarity. She has an orange cat named Buddy. She is really smart and a great friend."

So introductions are important. In fact--send us your introductions! Send them to belladonnaseries@gmail.com with some information about the event (introducer, introduced, venue, date etc.). If selected, they will be posted on this very blog.

...and now some found intros from the Belladonna* archive!

August 2010--BookThug Nation Bookstore: The Summer Reading--Dusie Collectiv and Belladonna*.

By Krystal Languell

Kate Zambreno's novel O Fallen Angel is a triptych built around three characters: Mommy, Maggie and Malachi. It takes cues from Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and, according to Adam Novy at Dossier Journal:

"It doesn't give us tools to build a better world so much as show us how the tools we do have suck."

Interestingly, Kate Zambreno has this to say about O Fallen Angel in her review at We Who Are About To Die. She has just shared an anecdote about people-watching at Radio Shack.

"My novel O Fallen Angel is that woman holding the little hot dog in her hands who you want to vomit all over and punch. Or, my novel O Fallen Angel is the vomiting all over and the punching the woman holding the little hot dog in her hands, the woman who is society and Midwestern suburbia. My novel O Fallen Angel is both of these things. It is the vomiting and the punching."

This book is available for purchase tonight.

Kate Zambreno is an editor at Night Boat Books and writes the blog Frances Farmer is my Sister, which has spawned an essay collection to be published in 2011 by Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents series. She lives in Akron, Ohio.

Please welcome her.

By Emily Skillings:

I am very honored to introduce our next reader, Eileen Myles. I first met Eileen when she came to talk in my poetry class in college. In college you get all these guest speakers (usually men) who come in and talk to you about their poetry (or whatever they’re doing) and the projects they are working on, followed usually by a lot of advice. Eileen was different. She came into my class and talked about being a poet, and what that meant. This idea of being a poet was new to me, this identity outside of writing the poem itself. It was like a coat you could put on. Then she read some poems and I felt like all the grossness around poetry, all that sticky sludge I had all over me from going to bad readings was washed off with ice water. Even her voice was subversive, the way her poems tumbled out casually like natural speech but were so much more than that.

Aren’t we all excited about Inferno? This poet’s novel about life and art? After we were told about the cheapness of “I” and of self and didn’t really ever buy it it, this book comes to inflate our sense of I, to give it some fresh air. Myles Writes:

Before I could write before I even knew how to spell I went out with my best friend Billy LeBlanc and we created a bunch of letters out of symbols we knew: sun, wave, stick— we made letters. We had so much to say to everyone and we pronounced our ideas carefully with crayons on paper and we folded them up and placed them in one mailbox on a house on our street. We were so excited because the silence of our childhood was over…that sun, the first tiny symbol still sits there in my head.

This gorgeous impetus, sending the self into the world with words is what drives this work. The audacious verbalization of self, as Poet, as Lesbian, as Queer, as Female is portrayed as both simple and complex, ordinary and deeply important.

The only additional thing I want to say about Inferno is that it made me thirsty. I had to keep tearing myself away to down huge jars of water. I think that says a lot.

Please welcome Eileen Myles.

By Krystal Languell:

Cara Benson warns against gatherings of groups like this one tonight in her new book, (made). She writes:

Everybody walked in the room I mean everybody in the same room then walking around that room to sniff the walls as a type of appraisal of that room. The room. All the people in the room looked at the other people in the room to be looking at the people in the room and then the walls. Bowties. Nobody had on a bowtie.

We behave strangely in groups, and Benson points this out:

"It was as if every person in that room knew there was this apple and yet none of them would mention it."

She calls us out of our common, unspoken thoughts, our herd mentality and our reluctance to be uncomfortable, and she does so through uniquely designed prose poems. The titles, if they are titles, often appear at the bottom of the page or are otherwise set apart from the text.

(made) is Benson's first full-length poetry collection, and is available for purchase tonight. It's a collection that knows all about your:

"False testimony hand over one eye but peeking at the horrorshow."

Cara Benson is a Dusier, Black Radish, Belladonna* and BookThug. She edits the online magazine Sous Rature and teaches poetry in a NY State Correctional Facility. Please welcome her.

July 26, 2011: HOT TEXTS @ The Way Station

By Emily Skillings

Paul Foster Johnson's first collection of poetry, Refrains/Unworkings, was published by Apostrophe Books, and his second, Study in Pavilions and Safe Rooms, was recently published by Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs. With E. Tracy Grinnell, he is the author of the g-o-n-g press chapbook Quadriga. His poems have appeared in The Awl, Cannot Exist, GAM, EOAGH, Fence and Octopus. From 2003 to 2006 he curated the Experiments and Disorders reading series at Dixon Place. He is an editor at Litmus Press and lives in New York.

In Johnson's Study in Pavilions and Safe Rooms, memories and words become boxes, structures, carrels, rooms in which we are kept and released--almost poured. In this superhuman, Arendtian "study," we are hurled through a tour of places (institutional, private, political, places of desire). We throw ourselves against the walls only to realize a secret door was there all along. Johnson writes in "Study in Pavilions": I would rather make my own ether/than have to explain again/that I don't work with images." This comically taut artist's statement is validated by Johnson's attention to trajectory, space, phenomenology and movement--there is nothing static in this book.

Please help me to welcome him.

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