The Poetry Project

Editor’s Note

John Rufo

Peering around the corner into 2020's rooms, the Poetry Project Newsletter steals into the new year with a host of reviews, interviews, and new poems. Now prepared by an editorial collective, this issue of the Newsletter assembles and re-assembles introductions that don't make for quick visits, but invite readers to stay a while, to lounge, to argue, to fight together, to luxuriate in language, to reflect on lineage, to posit soundscapes as political arenas, and much more. I've been tasked with making a preface attending to this sort of everything, at least for now. Under our tried-and-true quarterly format, the four members of the Poetry Project Newsletter editorial collective will compose a single editor's note for the upcoming issues as the year unfolds. Really, you should just read and indulge in it all, skipping past this foreword and reading backwards back into it, with anything that catches your eye and ear.

In this issue, "linguistic excesses" abound, coming through "stolen lines on stolen time," as Dagan Allen Brown describes Cam Scott's Romans Snowmare. As with most items placed under the pressure of poetics, we find the oozy weeds of language entangling every which way, both rapturously and brutally in our present moments, all while the future keeps getting mixed up with the past, as Rebecca Teich describes Caroline Bergvall's disruptive poetic trilogy: "sift[ing] through the archaeology of the present, these heaps of language...yearn toward another way of being." This reminder of "language [as] a living, ongoing performance" puts each reviewer and essayist featured in the issue close to the texts being read without mere skimming, by also embarking on a genealogical tour of poetic communities. Bergvall's poetry, recognized by Teich as nearly "il/legible," and definitely not fit for neat summary in a useful sense, keeps us moving toward other forms and theoretical/poetical texts in attendant family trees. Carolina Ebeid, interviewed by Mayra Rodríguez Castro, calls our attention to how "the barely audible has a relationship to the barely legible." Sound, never not in the room, resounds, even at a whisper's vibratory pace. 

We might keep asking, after Benjamin Krusling's essay on Matana Roberts, "What's going on with jazz and its influence now?" Black music -- which is tangibly related to but not completely without or within Black archives -- finds a probing set of poetic attentions given to it in commentary by Krusling, which are then intimately connected to the ecological, the oceanic, and Dionne Brand's Blue Clerk duties by Sarah Jane Cervenak, in an essay that can only be ever "to be continued..." This issue's work finds fascinations with art-making's relationship to political and social futures -- not as an object-in-themselves, constrained -- but as a moving and workable sets of circumstances electrified by the here-and-now. Or, as Krusling writes with, after, and before Matana Roberts: "This is music with life on its mind."

I don't necessarily have an interest in calling everything performative (except that, truly, everything might or can be), but Andrea Abi-Karam tunes us into Cecila Vicuña's New and Selected Poems, work which always emerges from the necessary interplays of live performance and oral poetry. Abi-Karam hears Vicuña's hearing of the world's "ambient material" as potential spaces for "participatory" performance, continually global in socio-political maneuvers, and ready to re-prepare a stage for overturning that order. And who else but Sean Bonney, for whom Ted Rees has penned a gorgeous and philosophical memoriam, who wished, sang, and fiercely wrote for such an overturning. These make up one such overture for a kind of liberation opera: doubling back in shout and sight, performance and play, politics and almost imperceptible perceptibility. 

Finally, taking up the Poetry Project's own archive, Nick Sturm strums into Anselm Berrigan's Something for Everybody, making good on the promise of that title. Our local sites, our geographies, this projected light which we dub a poetry project, sometimes summoning the definite but thankfully wobbly article "The," all hum along too, and we do our best to keep a weather eye open, ears anywhere, intoning back where we may make a space. That is, at least, one kind of New Year's resolution.

#260 — Feb/March/April 2020