introductory notes from Jared:
Tonight we welcome Michael Ruby and Jennifer Firestone. We could call tonight’s reading the “Brooklynite-poets-who-are-parents-of-twins-and-who-are-in-the-Dusie-Kollectiv” reading.
These are two deceptively oracular poets of the now family who use private language to create opacities and distortion effects in poems driven by lines & vivid moments.
Michael is the author of 5 books from publishers such as blazeVOX and Ugly Duckling Press. Two Dusie chapbooks and is also the invaluable editor of Bernadette Mayer’s HUNGER JOURNALS.
Jennifer has published two books with Shearsman.
Michael: a poet of intensity, energy in letters, syllables, words. His poems have a uncommon density as if written on a planet w more gravity than earth. They conjure—in a good way—magnetic poetry on refrigerators: words as sticky objects that attract/repel. They are tricky, using madlibsy and conceptual strategies but toward personal ends, such as drafting a list of memories. This list is not like Joe Brainard’s I REMEMBER, though, not driven by quip or wit primarily, but instead something is stripped down, evoking the poignancy of simply being a person, a container of situations mostly fleeting and largely mediated through a secret language. The self as a surrealist archive. His newest AMERICAN SONGBOOK follows this logic further, applying not subtraction (stripping away) but addition (the musician’s riff) to turn memorable pop songs into mutations, like language crystals or fungi growing over something familiar. By extending each line of a song in a surprising, oddball direction and then snapping back to the received lyrics after each line break, these poems foreground the lineated quality of songs. Maybe more aspects of life--memories, sounds, the imagination- take the shape of poems, (lines, fields, phrases) than we regularly notice or know. Perhaps experience is structured like a poem.
Like Ruby, Firestone's work seeks to square the circle of a pathetic fallacy of a poem that has feelings, emotions not just evoked by sentences but somehow Inhere in the words. . "Sadness sits on curves of letters" being Human in the post human context. Michael has written about his creative process in a psychoanalytic, jack spicer-ish way as voices from some inscrutable source beyond - instead of Martian broadcasts and the poet as radio, Jennifer's poems make me think of David Cronenberg and movies like Videodrome, bodies turning into televisions. These poems possess the photographic quality of the fisheye, where distortion blurs the perimeter even as the center snaps into focus. The speaking Pronoun “I” in her poems sometimes transmutes into a vaguely unstable “we” that reminds me of the "they" in Gertrude Stein’s STANZAS IN MEDITATION, the self as horde. In her new book she deploys also "others" a sense that beyond every “they” is another deeper “they”. A ambient quality of menace, as in her line: "Others detect red pink shadows. Others flipped open saw shrunken screen"