The Green Integer Blog supplements our Green Integer website with essays on various cultural topics by editor/publisher Douglas Messerli, along with a listing of Green Integer titles and information on our new books. Please note that all essays and commentary are copyrighted by the author, Douglas Messerli, and may not be republished without permission.
Contradictions and Communication (on poetry readings by Nick Piombino and Doug Kearney)
contradictions and communication
Piombino and Toni Simon, Doug Kearney Poetry
readings / Otis College of Art + Design, M.F.A. Program, September 5, 2012
the evening of September 5, 2012 I attended poetry readings for poet Doug
Kearney and friends Nicholas Piombino and artist Toni Simon.
I had never before read or heard Doug
Kearney’s work, which is heavily performance-based, centered in his own
theatricality and the various collage of voices he brings to his work. On the
page, some of his works seem vaguely concretist-conceived, with numerous ways
of approaching the text when reading. There is an excitement in the numerous
possibilities to read down, across, up, or to read certain passages, inserting
them into others. And the theatricality of the work gives it an energy than the
often tone-deaf poetry readings (numerous poets seem determined to not read any
of meaning or intentions into their work) that one too often must suffer at
poetry readings. The fact that his work also embraces collaborative
possibilities, operatic, performance, etc., adds weight to each particular
poem. Unfortunately, the subjects of his poems are rather obvious and work
against his clear delight in finding various voices in which to express it. His
themes are primarily about race and racism, confining his work, at times, to
categories or genres that have been brilliantly mined already by writers as
diverse as Amiri Baraka, Suzan
Lori-Parks and lesser figures such as Lucille Clifton and Toni Morrison.
Piombino and Simon read from their
collaborative work, Contradita: Aphorisms,
which consist each of two aphoristic sentences that set up a kind of subtle,
occasionally more obvious series of head on oppositional phrases. Several of
these are accompanied by the quirky collages (reconstructed for the purposes of
the tour into well-drafted drawings) that sometimes skew the “contradicta” in
yet new ways. Below are a couple of examples:
All that titters is
Listen to the
whispers—all the bold voices have had their say.
The mean teach the kind how to hide
their pain so as to corrupt
and enlist them in
disappointments revive the child in us, which would be an equal recompense if
we could by see it so.
as I mentioned to the students, had also just published her own book of
drawings and poetical works, Earth After
Earth, published by Lunar Chandelier Press in Brooklyn,
Although, I prefer Piombino’s masterwork, Theoretical Objects, I very much love
this work. But then, I am a close friend of Nick’s and Toni’s and, I must
reveal, am the publisher of both the books I mention, as well as Piombino’s
was perhaps most interesting about the event was that during question time,
both poets answered audience questions, but also created an interchange between
themselves, at moments almost developing an interview-like atmosphere, during
which they ruminated as fellow authors, shared concerns. The kindness of their
observations of each other’s work—so rare when such poets of radically
different sentiments read together—perhaps also reveals the fact that when he
is not writing poetry or poetics, Piombino works as a psychologist, a man very
used to listening to others.
Later, Piombino, Simon, Kearney, and I
joined poets Dennis Phillips, Paul Vangelisti and an old friend Toni’s at Deck
33, a pleasant out-door bar and restaurant overlooking the pool of the Custom
Hotel, where the poets were staying.
A couple of days later, I met them for
lunch at Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art were Toni had freshly
made gazpacho (it is high tomato season in Los Angeles), Nick had their always
excellent hamburger, and I truly enjoyed their fresh pasta with crumbled fennel
sausage and kale.
Afterwards, we joined Howard for a brief
tour of Los Angeles from the heights of Mulholland Drive, where they could look
into both the San Fernando Valley and into the LA Basin. Making our way downtown,
we pointed out the Los Angeles Cathedral, the Mark Taper Forum, the Dorothy
Chandler Pavilion, MOCA, and the always impressive Frank Gehry-created Disney
Hall. We also took them on a tour of the marvelously well-kept Union Station
and Howard dropped us off, for what seemed to be the highlight of the
trip—since both Toni and Nick are avid science fiction fans and love Ridley
Scott’s Blade Runner where scenes
were filmed—of the marvelous Bradbury building. After a renewal of wine and
cheese at our house, they crossed the street again to spend hours at the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art.