Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report from Orono, Part III/The Clark Coolidge Experience

The National Poetry Foundation Conference in Orono is one of those experiences where one feels alternately very informed and completely stupid. In that, it is an incredibly stimulating experience, to be among the partisans of various poets and poetries who threaten to inject you with their particular loves--each paper a gateway drug to a new figure and figuration of poetry.

Though I have often read about the poet Clark Coolidge in various accounts of experimental poetry from the 1970s, I admit to having read almost nothing--that, despite the obsessive love demonstrated by poet and scholar Tom Orange. Orange noted Coolidge's connection to Kerouac's bop poetics, as well as his early experiments to bringing language down to the phonemic level.

Hearing Coolidge read poem after poem, utterly without commentary and framing anecdotes, and barely stopping to read the titles, was like being immersed in a steady stream of language. I found myself in it, and then unaware of it, and then completely riding the current. The poems reminded me of the surrealist disjunctive poetics of other poets ("waiter, there's a hole in my soup,") but I found myself thinking of Lev Rubinstein for his humor and use of dialogue speech. Here's a clip from the reading:

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