This Week in the Mercury

I, Anonymous
Fashion Porn

Film

Fashion Porn

Blake Lively Never Dies, But You Might Wish This Movie Would



Friday, May 2, 2014

This Weekend at Powell's: Wave Books

Posted by Thomas Ross on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Screen_shot_2014-05-02_at_12.06.25_PM.png

Recently, Seattle’s Wave Books has released some killer collections by Northwest poets. Three of those poets—John Beer, Rodney Koeneke, and Cedar Sigo—will read this Sunday at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne). Koeneke and Beer are Portland poets (though Beer will likely read from the collection of Robert Lax poems he compiled for Wave) and Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in Washington.

In stark editions with black type on rough, flecked, unbleached paper covers, Wave’s recent books are distinctive. There’s a kind of attitude on display there, a small press saying: Fuck colors, fuck pictures, fuck heavy design elements... This is poetry.

Koeneke’s book, Etruria, features its title in towering letters on the cover. The collection is deeply historical, tracing ideas through references from the ancient Etruscans to mid-century American poets like Frank O’Hara (Koeneke’s “Poem” is an incredible riff on O’Hara’s poem of the same name; another in Etruria is called “Jack Spicer”) to the modern internet (“don’t tell me . . . how frequently in love I resemble/a lapsed blog or a model train enthusiast”).

The historical takes a back seat to the personal in Sigo’s Language Arts. More likely to spend a few lines cursing at some element of his life than examine O’Hara or Spicer, Sigo does spend a good amount of time writing about other poets. He just tends to write about them as people—as his friends and mentors and lovers. Sigo’s poetry is personal without being confessional, and his sense of humor and impulsive playfulness is clear on the page.

The star of this reading, though, should be a dead poet, Robert Lax. John Beer spent a few years as Lax’s assistant on the island of Patmos, and he’s put his unfettered access to Lax’s poetry to good use in Wave’s enormous collection, poems 1962—1997.

Lax’s poems are famously simple, fitting well into Wave’s recent design aesthetics. Their columnar, repetitive forms can be alienating at first, but they quickly come to resemble waves on the beach, crashing heavily on the page. Their simplicity and repetition belie not a hidden complexity, but a meditative expansiveness, and while their look on the page is important (Lax was upheld as a new classic by the early concrete and visual poets), nothing drives the point home like hearing Beer read the poems out loud.
Some of the Lax poems follow a concept, like “The Brand New City,” which is a fairly simple allegorical tale told in Lax’s trademark columns of short lines. Others, like “light”, are simply exhaustive:
dark

out
of

dark

light

out
of

light

light

out
of

dark

dark

out
of

light

That poem goes on for 20 pages. They’re beautiful, austere poems on the page, and an intense, interior experience when read aloud. They’ll offer a counterpoint to Sigo’s burning conversational energy and Koeneke’s intricate phonetic and conceptual work. It’s one of Wave’s best possible combinations, and we’re lucky to get to see it.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Comments are closed.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC

115 SW Ash St. Suite 600
Portland, OR 97204

Contact Info | Privacy Policy | Production Guidelines | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy