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Desert City

I had a really great time reading/listening/chatting on Saturday.

Great to see close friends from Greensboro (Angie and Jake, Lori, Fay, Ezra) and lots of Lucifers:

I've always been interested in the ritual/chant aspects of language and a few years ago I wrote an MA poetry thesis on Nous, and Greek philosophy in general, which really tried to explore the relationships, and tensions, between the mind and body.

I used a lot of techniques from Jorie Graham's Swarm and Cole Swenson's Try. The language I used to enact this exploration was highly intellectualized and used a lot of abstractions via the specialized discourse of philosophy. I felt something vital was missing. I was very distant from the work.

So I turned my attention to more mainstream work and entered the MFA world and wrote lots of first person, narrative, epiphanic, and quirky narrative poetry. I felt I risked more in these poems, but I still felt unsatisfied with ignoring the intellectual aspects of my being.

It was the tail end of the Desert City Reading two years that turned everything around and helped me renegotiate the abstract/personal, the mind/body. Mark Wallace, Lorianne Graham, and Rod Smith read fast and weaved found language, humor, and speed (among many many other things) and I realized I needed to let go, relearn, and tumble. Velocity was the key.

My passion for more experimental poetry kicked in again and I went on a frantic quest of trading in hundreds of poetry books and really studying poetry from the historical avant garde and reading lots of experimental contemporary poetry. I also read a lot of books/anthologies about experimental poetry such as The World in Time and Space and Telling it Slant, Poetry On and Off the Page, A Poetics. This helped me to contextualize experimental poetry and see its sociohistorical roots etc.

The reading wasn't systematic, but it was one big wave of total immersion.

Tom Raworth, Rod Smith, Mark Wallace, Maggie O'Sullivan, Lyn Hejinian, Clark Coolidge, Geraldine Monk, and Robert Duncan really opened up my field of possibilites unlike anything previously.

During this time Tony Tost, Brian Howe, Patrick Herron, Evie Shockley, Ken Rumble, Joseph Donahue, Brian Howe, Chris Vitiello, Randall Williams, Todd Sandvik, and I started to form a friendship (maybe a few others?) and Joe Donahue suggested a name inspired by a section in Pound's cantos which said Lucifer fell in North Carolina. We had some small meetings that summer and then, more or less, Lucifer Poetics exploded. Lots of local "members," a listserv, and various projects by individual members such as Patrick's amazing Carrboro Poetry Festival, Tony's Fascicle, Todd Sandvik's Blue Door, and Ken's Desert City Reading series all sparked an amazing energy. The energy is still going strong.

All of this energy and support helped me to reformulate my relationship to my intellect and body. It's still a very big tension, but I've found a way to work it.

I've thought about this before, but I am realizing more and more the value of thinking of my self and my work in terms of waves and particles. The waves are a rush of sound mixed with philosophy and the particles are more conscious new sentences constructed via parataxis etc.

So when I started Campanology (now Resident Alien) I tried to immitate Tom Raworth, Clark Coolidge, Maggie O'Sullivan, and Rod Smith. When I read my work I read fast and focused on the qualities of sound (always been an obssession due in part to my lost Irish accent). I wanted to subvert the intellect in favor of sound.

Then on a reading tour with some the Lucifer Poetics Group last summer, I had a good stoned conversation with Rod Smith. He mentioned how quite a few younger poets were immitating the reading style of Tom Raworth and so I began to rethink or question that strategy in terms of my own work.

I realized I needed more subtle modulation. Speeding up, slowing down, luring my readers via waves of new sentences then exploding into sound particles.

I am still reformulating this strategy right now with book two of Resident Alien (currently titled King Gorged).

I suppose another way to get at this tension is the Apollonian and Dionysian on a personal and social level.

But it was the Desert City Reading Series that started this amazing journey. So it was a great honor to read in the series last Saturday with the fabulous Brenda Coultas,

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Another Ireland: Part Two
Maurice Scully, The Basic Colours. Durham, UK: Pig Press, 1994.
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