Fortified Poetry (Living Room, 7P – Dec 20, 2011)

Cocktails Anyone?

Just when the earth reaches maximum axial tilt and dark winter looms, people do a strange thing: they act as if times are flush. Winter solstice celebrations everywhere feature rich food and drink. There were practical reasons for this in herding and agrarian cultures. Grazing livestock were slaughtered so they wouldn’t have to be fed over the winter; at the same time, the alcohol content of wine and beer from the fall harvest was peaking. So on the first day of winter, there was plenty of fresh meat and strong booze.

  • Tonight is the last meeting before our Midwinter break, so please bring a dish or a bottle of something to share.

In modernist poetry, language is at its most spare. Many of us are trained in this wintry style: less is more, focus on the bones—nouns and verbs. That’s too depressing in the dead of winter. Tonight we’ll transform the elitist wine that is the modernist poem into something beefier, trade in that Cab Franc for Mad Dog.

So bring in a favorite modernist poem for the slaughter. We’ll stuff it full of adjectives and adverbs, add characters where there were only images, and indulge pathetic fallacies. Living Room is an open critique circle. We ask for a contribution of $5 to keep the place open. We meet at SPLAB, 3651 S Edmunds in the former Columbia School. We’re close to the Columbia City Light Rail Station and there is parking on site. We will not meet on Dec 27 in honor of Charles Olson’s 101st birthday.

Scot Brannon is your facilitator.

William Carlos Williams slaughtered and fortified
The claims adjustor
couldn’t understand
how a barn
glazed with rain water
could burn down.
Well, yes, he could,
but he urged the little red-
head to talk it through.
So much depended on…
Mom’s not right.
Even these few words taxed
the inert girl
and like a rusted wheel barrow
she seized up.
It had been a bad year—
first a hailstorm snapped
every stalk of corn
like so many wishbones—
with her getting the short
branch every time.
Her father sort of dried up
then he snapped too.
Her older brother said
This life isn’t worth spit
and left for the city.
Pressed, she explained
I thought at seventeen
I’d get to go to prom. Nope.
I’m Queen of these White
Chickens.

Scot Brannon Bio and Picture: Scot Brannon grew up in Thailand, Indonesia and America. Initially home-schooled, he continued his education at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studied science. He left the shelter of his father’s roof at 17 to seek his fortune and has since attended Toastmaster meetings in several states. He is a licensed notary public.

About Splabman

Poet/interviewer Paul Nelson:

Founded: SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival

Wrote: American Sentences (2015), A Time Before Slaughter (2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013). His 2015 interview with José Kozer was published in 2016 (Ranchos Press) as Tiovivo Tres Amigos.

Interviewed: Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Diane di Prima, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Brenda Hillman, among others
and is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia, including the festival, a MOOC (Innovative Cascadia Poetry), interviews with Cascadia poets indigenous elders and activists, and the anthology Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia. Paul is co-editor of that anthology as well as 56 Days of August the poetry postcard anthology and writes an American Sentence daily.

*MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

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