Saturday, October 14, 2006

GOOD AFTERNOON EVERYTHING: Dirk Rowntree reports on Stan Apps and Kim Rosenfield

It was a gorgeous, if not a little too warm, October 7th, 2006. The Bowery's upper reaches were bathed in Indian summer gold with shards of reflected sun streaking from the windows of new condos across the shady boulevard. Inside Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club glowing and refracted light continued. On this particular Saturday the Segue on-the-Bowery experimental reading series featured Kim Rosenfield and Stan Apps. This section of the series is curated by Gary Sullivan and Nada Gordon and shrewd curatorial acumen was displayed by the pairing of these two writers.

Each poet read for the customarily amorphous block of time except for Ms. Rosenfield, who had to almost battle with an intrusive and insistent stage manager for her last few minutes of showtime. The poet, not surprisingly, remained focused and composed and finished a colorful and multi-textured bolt of a reading that, at times, had young, already jaded, big city children singing out loud and much older former teenagers wrenching their eyes in disbelief.

Ms. Rosenfield is the author of a number of volumes of poetry including Good Morning Midnight and Trama. She maintains a bustling psychotherapy practice in Soho and can smell an underpriced second-hand Mark Jacobs bag on the other side of town. "I think I'm just naturally making my writing more performative as I go," she once confessed.

Holding forth last Saturday Ms. Rosenfield embodied her typical combination of humility, championship style, and grace and as she led us through territory that felt familiar, but somehow disrupted. Growing up in the spidery edges of Los Angeles might have something to do with fomenting a sensibility that wires together advanced physics and lipstick etiquette, dank juvenile folklore and blank-faced medical procedure.

Grandmother Rose was briefly channeled when Ms. Rosefield credited the departed seamstress with the design and production of the stunning black sweater the poet choose for her reading. Densely encrusted with countless sequins, it dazzled under Bob Holman's stage lights sending off a faithful metaphor for and premonition of the theatrics to come. "I'm acutely aware of how the language of beauty and perfection under the guise of guidance marks and reformulates culture. Beware of anyone offering solutions is really what I mean. Science can work in much the same way. Both genders are affected by fashion although women are more targeted and men are more part of the fallout."

At this reading, everyone was part of the fallout.

Stan Apps, who's favorite American poem is "I've Been Working on the Railroad," lived in Waco, Texas, for several years before taking up residence in Los Angeles, where he now maintains a college teaching position and keeps up an active life in the local new writing scene. Among his recent publications is a small chapbook, the title of which commands us to "enjoy your everything." Other pieces include "soft hands" and the upcoming "Info Ration."

Mr. Apps, when encouraged by Nada Gordon, made this poignant observation about feminism. "feminism made my wife a worthy companion and adversary, a person who has flowered into a genius of free-will and intellectual curiosity (so I can imitate what she says and sound smarter)."

It was his reading that kicked things off on this sunny Saturday. On the black stage, Mr. Apps displayed an easy congeniality and the calm exuberance of a slightly demented Jimmy Stewart. Associated at times with the "cult" of Flarf, the poet delivered a notable lesson to this observer. It's clear now that a charismatic reader with an audience in his\ hand can take the "arf" out of Flarf. For instance, the poem "I (heart) Melinda Gates" as presented that afternoon, on reflection seems openly narrative with smooth rides across bumpy emotional and representational terrain. The poem sounds almost placid, with heartfelt giddiness and spite rolled together with generous elocution and humble body language. Its performance was a hit drawing audibles from all ages. On the other foot, reading the poem in the slim printed volume entitled "enjoy your everything," produces a different array of tones. The dirty bleeding toes of the Flarfian are far more evident in the cracked contextual windshields and spilt milk of the printed poem. The printed subject, gone now and then, is dispersed into a post punk architecture of glare and redirection while grazing and scraping everything. On-rushing corners of reference are suddenly invisible, replaced by blinding free falls and hilarious blankness.

Mr. Apps has made this observation about advanced poetry of the last 5 years. "Poets study the work of pornographers, economists, and real-estate developers. They know a poem must satisfy the needs of a consumer, and that the needs of a consumer must be defined in an abstract and generalized manner, without too much reference to specific persons, in order to facilitate the production cycle. Every poem is a new tax-free anal McMansion for that reason."

All the workers on the railroad had their consumer needs satisfied this black Saturday on the Bowery.


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