Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Weekly Burn Out Reading Series, for 3/24

Thursday, March 24th, 9:30pm
@ The Red Room, 320 E Colfax Ave

Richard Greenfield and Michael Peirson


This reading isn't one to miss. Though the content and presentation of their work is different, both Greenfield and Peirson explore their identities as writers and the many ways identity shapes their work.

Peirson not only sings of himself in his writing and performances, he manipulates himself, transforms himself, and in language, mutilates himself, and us. His work is directed at us, and through us against himself. The spirit of his work reminds me of the play between author, narrator, and reader that occurs after Spencer Brydon's opening remarks in Henry James's "The Jolly Corner". Brydon comments that not only is it impossible for him to say anything meaningful about what he thinks about everything, but that anything he could say approaching the meaning of anything at all can only be something that concerns himself. He arrives at his conclusion in response to people always asking what he thinks about everything. James's point, I think, is that we talk about ourselves when we talk about the world. Brydon, on the other hand, makes the point a self-centered excuse for not speaking about the world and his place in it at all. Readers, as they read James writing about Brydon, are in fact reading about Brydon's thoughts about everything and James's representation of IT. Peirson's self-concerned writing implicates his audience in this manner. If Peirson is not accusing us, he is illustrating himself: both approaches to public performance are often certain death, both turn most audiences off. However, Peirson turns his audiences on. We can celebrate himself and ourselves during his performance.

Greenfield will read, I presume, from his new manuscript. If it is as well-crafted as his first book, A Carnage in the Lovetrees, we are in for a treat. I find A Carnage a Romantic trainwreck of an individual in search of meaning and identity; therefore, a poetry of emerging personalities. At the same time, his book is a sharp and self-aware look at an emerging poetic ethics. Greenfield has been writing about politics, lately. Actually, he has been writing about the approach. Is it possible? What can be accomplished? How does one write about war, for example, without turning the crisis itself into a cheap metaphor, or worse a time-consuming spectacle? I haven't read his new manuscript, but I have spent a bit of time listening to his ideas. I am interested to hear the results of his reflections; I know he has been hard at work. Most often, I cringe when the Holocaust, Hiroshima, tsunamis, genocides, slavery, etc, appear in verse. Most often, poets who use such historical artifacts merely exploit the image. They tend to squeeze it dry and move on to the next spectacle. But war is tragic not for image, for use, for exploitation, for the market. It changes us. The one-sided, Empire-driven, state-approved, or by-popular-demand histories that we do have are bad enough; poetry that stoops to such mechanisms and machinery is really too much to bear. I know Greenfield's work will address not only the political but the problem with adressing the political as well. The results should be engaging.

Both Peirson and Greenfield are poets we can rightly call oppositional poets. Come celebrate a forming poetics of opposition, then, tomorrow night. And stick around for some great music afterwards.

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