• Poetry Press Week

On Friday and Saturday night, Disjecta was invaded by everyone you know who wears trendy glasses and has a bookstore totebag—or, it seemed that way, anyway. Liz Mehl and Justin Rigamonti's two-day extravaganza of live readings before an audience of publishers, editors, press, and people who just enjoy readings, Poetry Press Week, delivered its usual mash-up of language and performance.

Performances at Poetry Press Week have a dual purpose—to draw in potential publishers to the work, and to entertain. Occasionally, these purposes seem at odds. For example, Zachary Cosby's performance presented some challenges: Read in the round by audience plants, it was difficult to hear his piece in its entirety. As a performance, it was interesting, and made good use of audio-visual components, but if I were a publisher in the audience, I'm not sure I would have gotten a strong sense of the piece. When I bumped into a publisher friend, he had the same concern.

But in some cases, the performances at Poetry Press Week can really add to the work at hand (I will forever be sad that I had not yet moved to Portland the year Zachary Schomburg enlisted a child dressed as a ghost to read on his behalf). One highlight was Alicia Jo Rabins' piece, a suite of poems called Fruit Geode, performed by Kate Sanderson Holly, who, visibly pregnant, delivered Rabins' text with ease and clarity (if I were a publisher, I would have gone after that sequence!) as an attendant held up a mini-ultrasound machine to her belly and chest, the effect an in-utero soundtrack for poems that address, among other things, motherhood.

In another case where performance built on poetry, Tyler Brewington presented a piece read by other people as they recorded themselves in short bursts. This was well suited to his piece, which was already fractured in style—handing it off to not one but many performers made sense, and brought out its strange qualities, to interesting—not to say straight-up goofy—effect. It transformed a poem into an exquisite corpse, but a good one (it turns out reading by committee is less lethal to poetry than writing by committee).

Here's a recording from a section of that performance, captured by Roland Dawhen Wu, who filmed both nights:

Poetry Press Week - Tyler Brewington from Patua Films on Vimeo.

The next Poetry Press Week arrives for Fall/Winter. It'll be interesting to see this performance series as it continues to evolve, working hard to make poetry readings something you actually want to go to.