Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ART Marches On.

We're all depressed by what we're seeing in the news. Ready for a break? Can I just do a jig because it's National Poetry Month? Am I allowed?

Can I do a roundup of what other people are doing that jazzes me up?

I just took a peek at the Spring issue of FRiGG. This is a harmonic convergence of writers I already dig. Or dug. Check it out! Daphne Buter's language is so idiosyncratic and interesting. I can't read enough of her. And Nadine Darling, and Myfanwy Collins, and Brian Reynolds...some of my favorite voices.

Speaking of writers I dig, I don't think I ever gave a shoutout to the latest issue of Smokelong Quarterly, either. (Or did I? Am I too lazy to check? I meant to, when it came out.) Kudos to guest editor Alicia Gifford. She picked a good crop of breathless, rhythmic prose. I especially fell into the offerings by Rusty Barnes and Tod Goldberg. (And Goldberg should get a medal for inventing the term fucktard, which I don't think he uses here, but is worth mentioning.)

If you feel like plugging in your guitar (or ukulele) and collaborating with Jonathan Lethem, check out his Promiscuous Materials Project. This is free love for art. He offers up his stories for filmmakers and his lyrics for songwriters. You can hear what people have done with his lyrics, including John Linnell of They Might be Giants. And also a choral group! Lethem's song lyrics are good. I hear melodies when I look at them, which is a positive sign. But more than that, I love his courage in putting the stuff out there and letting us participate.

If live art and discussion is what you want, come to Bowery Poetry Club with me on Saturday April 21, for their afternoon mini-symposium, curated by Anne Waldman and Tonya Foster, Pulling it Down: The Aesthetics of Common Ground. Their all-star lineup will talk about the politics of editing, and the implied politics of nontraditional forms. By the way, did you know BPC has a podcast now? For those of you who want a virtual NYC experience. After you listen to the poetry podcast, just imagine walking out the door of the club, seeing CBGB's shuttered, the glittery highrises next to welfare hotels, and the new Whole Foods on Houston, where the robotic female voice says, "Register nine. Register nine," like something out of a seventies sci fi flick. But Walt Whitman lives! In spirit.

(I walked through that Whole Foods on the day they opened, sampling foods offered by out-of-work model/actors, listening to The Pixies full blast on my Ipod Shuffle, filling up my salad bar tray. Oh my god, it was good, but so indie-bourgeois. If only I did not crave their fake chicken salad.)

And if you're in NYC next week, don't ignore the Pen World Voices festival. Many events are free, if you are. (Some are midday....ach! Day job!) Last year they podcast several of them; I'm hoping they do the same this year. Regardless, Pen is an organization worth supporting; they are on the front lines for free speech, which is especially precarious in the current environment, here and abroad. One of the best ways to foster compassion is through literature, especially literature in translation. Why is it treason to publish Iranian poets in the US? This is the crux of many of our problems, in my opinion. OK, soap box done.

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