Nature is a language – can anybody read?

Originally uploaded by bruce grant

Got to hear Lyn Hejinian and Cathy Park Hong read yesterday at Poetry Flash up in Berkeley. Lyn read all new work that included excerpts of a project she just finished and a group of elegies that revolved around non-sequiturs. All of her work revolved around a wonderful intersection of common vernacular mixed with a specific poetic vision and my joy, as a listener, was trying to find a clear line between the two and being constantly confounded in the way she eased and out between them. A great reading fueled by the momentum of language and craft and a minimum of theatrics which isn’t to say that the poems weren’t rich with persona just that she let the poems do all the talking. Another high point was when Lyn looked over a poem, check the clocked for time and then opted for a different poem, leaving me wondering why she didn’t read it… a sure sign that I was hooked on her reading.

While Lyn’s work seemed firmly rooted in daily language Cathy’s new book Dance Dance Revolution takes the English we know and throws it into a pressure cooker to produce a startling preview of a future dialect that may or may not be connected to the language spoken in the United States. As Cathy was describing this patois we were about to hear I felt sure that I was going to understand very little of the dialogue but I did have a trust in the writer that the situations and emotional resonance would come through clearly. I was very happy to find that I could keep up with the whole narrative as well as the setting in what appeared to be a taxing physical reading of the work.

I am mos def lookin forward to reading more from both these poets.

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  1. Hi Oscar:
    I read this after reading Barbara’s piece on the same reading. I appreciated them both as a pair, though I think they both stand on their own as well. If you or Barbara ever find yourself writing up a piece like this about a poetry reading in the Bay Area featuring a Latino/a poet, please consider letting me know as I would like to link it to Letras Latinas’ blog.

  2. Great write up, Oscar! :) Sounds like it was a very engaging reading, and I’ll definitely check out more of their work …

  3. francisco : thanks for the invite. am currently workin on a reflection of aracelis girmay’s recent reading to compliment the post on barb’s blog.

    bryan: thanks for the encouragement. still tryin to figure out how to transfer all my thoughts on a particular reading to the blog.

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