The Poetry Project

Director’s Letter

Kyle Dacuyan

The passage of the year to be candid brings for me equal parts suspicion of hope and despair, and suspicion of the suspicion, the knowledge that the pendulum of these tendencies is essential to resisting the temptations of inertia. My heart swells (I’m not too proud and dispassionate to admit) when I hear news of loved ones, of many anyones, getting their first and second doses of vaccination. The horizon makes possible the endurance of the season; is it a season? A year, almost now, and we know it will be longer – or maybe it is these artificial hurdles of time we continue to jump that make time in all its mysteries feel apprehensible and passing.

The despair, or I might temper it by saying concern, is the recognition that again and again the conditions of a global pandemic necessitate the longer and more difficult work of compassion – and I fear our susceptibility to quicker, avaricious, and more circumferenced “solutions." We must continue to prioritize care for the most vulnerable and unknown among us – a global us. A virus free from borders, bureaucracy, and capital will continue to outpace sluggish and selfish deployments of vaccine if we cannot commit radically and truly to sustained collectivity.

I think poetry continues to be necessary and continues to reject a neat understanding of function. Of course we need to defy the grammars of our everyday perceptions and conventions. Language is an intervention in our composition and manner of All – who and what All is, and how. This issue of The Poetry Project Newsletter brings together reflections and reviews of writers auguring the speech and spirit of many elsewheres, and the deep accountabilities we must each hold ourselves to in the places where we may be.

Jo Barchi writes on surprising adjacencies of pleasure and the dead in Marie Buck’s Unsolved Mysteries, and how we might be pushed in these attentions to new kinds of solidarity. imogen xtian smith observes in Mohammed Zenia’s Tel Aviv: “The poetics of movement become an act of deep presence & time travel, fantasy blurring with materiality along thresholds of mania, indulgence, excess, & ruin, grounded in the imperative to forget underlying the colonial project’s production of meaning.” In their reading of Taylor Johnson’s Inheritance, Sophia DuRose and Simone White hasten us to recognize the “becoming-object” of an object that resists white, bourgeois, and subjugating impulses of form. A chorus of listeners convened by Kay Gabriel reflect on the multivocal presences radiating from one in the music of Beverly Glenn Copeland. And more, and more.

And we have our news too both bright and grief to share. We’re thrilled to welcome two new Board members to The Poetry Project: Vincent Katz and Deepali Gupta, who in their practices as poet and performance-maker share a dedication to new kinds of community and connectivity. And we are thrilled as well by all of the generosity and surprise of this year’s Marathon. Thank you to the more than 250+ performers who carried us through 25 hours (we needed one extra!) of exaltation in change, chance, and possibility. Thank you to the audience of friends around the world for your warmth of presence. Thank you – all! – for exceeding our expectations of material support to The Project, a deeply moving expression of this work carried forward by the many of us.

Prior to the pandemic, one dimension of time I felt through The Poetry Project was the work of memorial, and I remember that around this time last year we were putting together a celebration for John Giorno. These celebrations of particular life in particular ways continue, even as we can’t gather in physical proximity. This issue of The Poetry Project Newsletter shares again a remembrance from Iris Cushing of Diane di Prima, a celebration of Diane’s faith and determination – “We make our own reality.” As well, we’re sharing again a collective remembrance of Lewis Warsh, a fabric of appreciations from students, collaborators, friends, and peers. In the time this issue of the Newsletter was coming together, we grieved the passing of two other friends to The Project – Dick Gallup and Clayton Eshleman – whose work we will be celebrating and remembering in the months to come.

Soon we will be sharing the announcement for our new season of events. We’ve been so gloriously surprised by the different electricity that happens in our online programming. I am remembering as we crossed into winter listening to Simone White and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, whose work Chloe Zimmerman reviews in this issue. “Look inside when you are struggling;” Berssenbrugge writes, “every cell in your body emits light.”

kd february 2021

#263 — Winter 2021