Monday, May 28, 2007

Laura Elrick and Rodrigo Toscano read at Woodland Pattern today, with an appearance by Toscano's "Collapsable Poetics Theater" (the two poets plus guests from the WP gang). A fine reading at a fine place on a lovely day.

I'd read Toscano's Partisans and much of The Disparities, seen him read in San Diego, and paged around in his other work, and it's heartening to hear a poet whose aesthetic prevents settling on a "voice." The work in The Disparities seems like a critical mimicry of the channels of information we're surrounded by--dense and chaotic writing. The newer work retains some of that quality in its vocabulary, but seems more talky, if the talk of people "on the street" involved the direct juxtaposition of slang, internet jargon and the vocabulary of cultural theory. Often funny stuff that, when it's hip, outdoes hipness by quoting it--the ironic distancing of ironic distance. Toscano's poetics theater pieces (ranging from pieces that are basically poems for multiple voices to vaguely Beckett-esque radio plays) take this a step further in their polyvocal rendering of scrambled vocabularies.

I'd leafed through Laura Elrick's Fantasies in Permeable Structures a number of times as I contemplated whether to immediately buy everything published by Factory School (which, with Krupskaya, is the press I most universally trust to put out work I have to read). I hadn't been able to decide what I thought about it, but Elrick's reading certainly convinced me that I needed to read more. It's sonically rich and lovely to hear (especially given her clear diction and her thoughtfulness regarding tempo and pitch). Where Toscano's work is concerned with talk and multiple voices, Elrick's inhabits a fascinating set of blurred regions--between speech and language for which the category of "voice" makes no sense, between description and enactment... this is hard to describe without becoming vague, and what's wonderful about her work is this blurring that's always quite precise; when I don't know where I am as a listener, it's a very definite way of being lost ("I don't know where I'm going, but I know I haven't been here before").

And I hope I'm not blowing a secret by saying that both these poets are lovely people and great to talk to, and that everyone around Woodland Pattern (Roberto, Chuck, plenty of others whose names have characteristically slipped my mind) also seems enthusiastic and friendly--something I don't expect from art scenes, which are too often jaded, protective, and suspicious. I need to make it over to Milwaukee more often.

(Incidentally, I'll go back soon, since the Nonsense Company will perform "Great Hymn of Thanksgiving" and "Conversation Storm" at Darling Hall next Sunday).


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