The Operating System and Liminal Lab

2nd Annual 30/30/30 Poetry Month Series :: Inspiration, Community, Tradition :: Day 1 :: Overview / Editor Lynne DeSilva-Johnson on Noah Eli Gordon and Anis Mojgani

The fisherman from Anis Mojgani on Vimeo.

HOOOOOOOWOW! Poetry month is upon us once more, and do we ever have a line up for you this year!
Last year we initiated a series that generated such an outpouring of goodwill and gratitude that before it was over we were already taking names to participate in the 2013 effort, which I am honored to kick off today.
If you are new or newish to Exit Strata, and aren’t familiar with the series’ intentions, you can check out the inaugural announcement here, but here’s the basic refresher:
Over the course of Poetry Month Exit Strata brings you 30 poets (+ writers, musicians, and artists) writing on 30 (+ a few extra) poets for 30 days (every day in April). The intention is simple, but crucial: to explode the process of sharing our influences and joys beyond the random. To create a narrative archive around that moment where we excitedly pass on the work of someone who has made a difference in our lives. And so, too, this is an opportunity for Exit Strata to introduce our audience to the work of the people writing — who are invited to share work of their own that demonstrates that influence.
Really, its an exercise in appreciation. When I explain to participants what it’s supposed to feel like, I say, “you know that moment when you realize someone you know hasn’t heard of a poet that blows your mind? It should feel like that: OHMIGOD you don’t know POETNAMEHERE??!!! Wait, wait, I have something of his/hers right here. {reads poem}…oh wow I started reading him/her when I was XYEARSOLD and in THISPLACE ohmigod this happened and oh yeah and then… and then… and then…and oh yeah here’s something I wrote, inspired by him/her”…
We’ve all been there, and that moment can be life changing for the person receiving that gift of introduction. This series is, well, that moment on steroids, archived so you can experience it again and again like poetry groundhog day…. you’re welcome. 🙂


anis mojgani


noah eli gordon

That being said, let me speak my own piece in gratitude: for this year I returned from AWP with two books that have been in my bag or by my bedside pretty much ever since. Two books that I’ve read to my students from and have continued to pull out at moments both in-and-opportune — of late I am particularly prone to the slightly tipsy poetry-at-the-party-or-bar-reading — and yet, no one minds.
No, no one minds… because together we enter into that heady place of human excitement when we’re just like, oh man, this is just… this is just that good place where someone succeeded in capturing the ineffable… it’s words but it’s more than words. They got it. They got it! And it makes ME get it, and feel more human, and feel excited to be alive and writing and writing poetry and reading and listening to THIS poetry at the same time as these living breathing poets. Exactly.
These books are:
The Area of Sound Called the Subtone, by Noah Eli Gordon (which won the 2004 Sawtooth Poetry Prize; Ahsahta Press)
Songs From Under the River: Early & New Work, by Anis Mojgani (Write Bloody Publishing)
and it’s an extra bonus that they’re on two presses that I couldn’t be more excited to support.
For me, at this moment in particular, my poetic practice is a battle between the frank, subjective-spiritual, objective-observational reactive meanderings of my emotional-sensory body and the dense, linguistic erudition of my critical theoretical background…take that as you will. I guess what it means is that I have spent much of the past few years stripping away and allowing a purity of emotion via language that leaves me vulnerable, and considering this work in its performative, sonic form — of both recording and hearing its sounds in its creation, in engaging proprioceptically, physically as much as intellectually…. and yet this effort remains always in harmonious tension with a deeply academic and intellectual, critically engaged vocabulary of referents. My left and right poetry brain, perhaps?
That being said, the ying-yang of Noah Eli Gordon and Anis Mojgani leaves me, and both sides of that brain, feeling immensely satisfied and balanced… and inspired. And maybe, occasionally, a little awestruck.
When I picked up The Area of Sound Called the Subtone off the Ahsahta Press table and began to read it there was no question it was coming home with me. It begins:
hello the poem says make me a motor
no matter & I’ll go all summer
humid just like the movies & you could do
for laundry walks other ways to kill
afternoon shapes like evening shapes
so marsupial or ginger in the fridge artificial
king of the middle rung getting stepped on
& steaming kale isn’t such a breakthrough
but consider the supermarket bok
gets you out of the house & into an intermittent sense
of what it means if free time dreams
a larger redemptive area & dancing is just that

which even now makes me sort of need to shake my brain a little after and want to read it again and again.
There is an appealing, disarming simplicity here which masks the density of language and imagery that persists throughout this book, allows it to slip by and into you before you’ve realized how much is being said and alluded to. It’s tricky, language that makes me feel like I just got taken advantage of and enjoyed it very much, thank you. And yet, naturally so — like a person who inhabits their intelligence or beauty truly, these poems are comfortable in their own mysterious, sphinxlike skin, making you somehow so comfortable in their presence that you didn’t notice yourself falling in love as they were talking, but you knew it happened when silence came again.
The Area of Sound is in fact made up of three extended poems, “Whatever Belongs in the Circle,” “Jaywalking the Is,” and the titular “The Area of Sound Called the Subtone,” and as a volume includes a healthy spate of sonnets, these then reworked and reconsidered, as well as eight dream sequences in response to the eight sections of Akira Kurosawa’s film, Dreams (which needn’t be familiar to you)… and every time I try to explain this work to you further it loses some of the magic. Suffice it to say after many readings cover to cover I am quite certain I have only begun to read this book. It’s sort of a revelation. And I haven’t even touched on where he goes with sound…another major theme in my life right now as I consider translation via tonal/atonal composition more and more. I couldn’t have hoped for more.
To say in dreams wanting redemption the dead return, to say an upturned collar against the wind retracing the same weather patterns, to say the same reluctance to call the landscape anything but consistent, to say consistency is a virtue, to claim a kinship to what one can’t control, to call the clouds themselves an outline of their own possibilities, to posit anything as fact, as the fiction of a self-subsistent egalitarian peach orchard, to organize a blizzard from the blossoms, to boast about a ray of sun from the rain, to leave it just left of the lens, to call elision an inevitability, a lack of crows in the foreground, to feign composure when someone’s weeping, to call it fine weather whether or not one’s left the house, the hill, the hand that couldn’t help pulling the strings a little tighter, to say a taut line’s sure to turn up ample fish forgetting one’s already eaten, to find the tunnel leading from the sublime to the stasis of countless layers of oil paint, to call in the crows, the crying stranger, the dead & their dancing party, partly to pull the lens a little left of the landscape, partly to latch onto the larger motifs, Mount Fuji, my free hand, my finite sense of closure already spinning in the waterwheels, wearing its brightest white costume, sure to soak up all the blood you’d ever need. 
Can it be possible that I’ve only just begun? That I’ve not only just begun reading that book, but only just now am getting to telling you about the phenomenon that is Anis Mojgani? …do you know him?
See, the funny thing is, maybe a year or so ago the lovely and amazing poet Angel Nafis posted the nearly viral Shake the Dust video and I loved loved loved and reposted it, but then it fell back into the sea. Why? For more reasons than I can know or have realized at the time. But I didn’t know his work then, and part of this is perhaps due to the fact that he is a spoken word champion, and there can be oceans of not knowing between that world and the printed word – readings world, an issue for another time.
And so it came to pass that the Write Bloody table was not far from our table at the bookfair, and it just so happens that Anis passed by and we got to talking about a million things, in particular the ecstatic Poetry Revival tour, me having a naivete moment of blissful unawareness of his identity which I am happy to own here — because it is so telling of this world and its possibilities for lacunae, even for those of us who strive to be engaged and aware. And then it came to pass that Taylor and I spent our final night in Boston at the Write Bloody All Star Ridiculous Super Reading at the Church of Boston, where I was blown away, again, by Anis — this time, performing This is How She Makes Me Feel, which goodgoddamn left the whole room in love, like the poetry version of food in Like Water for Chocolate. 
And you know what? I’m going to share that whole damn poem with you. Because Mojgani leaves me in love. Because he performs and knows every word of these, because humanity and decency and honesty and life spill out of everything he writes, because he’s working like a dog and being humble and kind and bringing poetry to the masses and because I want you, too, to be in love. Because he’s a little bit of a prophet, and he reminds me that readings like this are spiritual events for me and so many others, because they encourage and allow us to be soft even as we are strong, but not in a way that makes us leave our every day, or become weak or self-involved or confessional… in a way that celebrates and mirrors it all, and somehow refracts even our frailties as beautiful facets of a complex but ultimately incredible journey. Because he reminds me of what we, as poets in the public sphere, have the power to do. And that makes me want to cheer. For reals.
Suffice it to say, before I do, that I left the Write Bloody reading not only with Songs from Under the Bridge, but also Jon Sands’ terrific The New Clean (worthy of its own write up) and a t-shirt for Joe, supported by Taylor’s purchases (CD’s of Mojgani and the astounding Buddy Wakefield, which we listened to on the drive back), some videos shot onsite, an exploding heart and a grin wider than I can remember, reaching almost across the dry tear tracks on my cheeks.
The gratitude I feel to this stable of poets, and to Derrick Brown for publishing and promoting them continues to grow. Mojgani’s talent needs no more introduction — but like I was unaware, so too do I know many in our community have not yet opened this particular Pandora’s box… so again, I get to say, with great glee: you’re welcome.
this is how she makes me feel 
like a nuclear reactor power plant 
that harnesses not any strange harmful energy
but rather the energy of the sun
of daisies, of golden marbles
filled up past my brim 
behind me, there is a rainbow
the nuclear reactor that i am 
harnesses the power of the rainbow
capturing the whole spectrum
of color and light
this is how she makes me feel
like a great grey stoned tall tower 
rising up out of the ocean 
from my room at the top of that tower
i watch the world
there is nothing but ocean for so far 
from up here the ocean looks like it is
the biggest thing in the universe
from up here, it is the universe 
from my window sitting 
atop the top of the universe
watching its waves of water 
move in unison together
i feel like maybe 
i am bigger
this is how she makes me feel
like i was 17, running
in slow motion through a field
lit with light particles of dust 
moving through the air, 
the sun burning their bodies 
perhaps it is dust 
perhaps it is magic dust 
perhaps this magical dust is 
what i am made from 
i open my eyes and 
everything i see floats
i am on a boat 
it is night 
the world has calmed itself
just to hold me inside all that is dark
just to rock me gently
this is how she makes me feel 
the subway chambers of moscow
i am vaulted, i have giant chandeliers
hanging from my underground ceilings
i glow with so much light
i am a ballroom for the trains of russia
if you happen to be a child
that has climbed down my steps
to yell into my body
those echoes will bounce their way 
across those vaulted underground ceilings
this happens all the time 
my dark tunnels are filled with these sounds
this is how she makes me feel
like i will live forever
like there is nothing that could possibly harm me 
like this body will somehow stay so young, so perfect
there are cities growing inside my chest 
the cities all look like new york in the fifties 
every building is tall enough to touch a cloud
every automobile is a convertible
all the men wear hats and neckties
the women all have beautiful 
shapes of color upon them
someone has saved a baby
there is a parade
someone has saved every baby 
there is the biggest parade
moving through my streets 
the skies explode with ticker tape 
strangers kiss on every corner
their kisses are what make me live forever
this is how she makes me feel
like honey and trombones
like honey and trombones
[watch it]

2nd Annual 30/30/30 Poetry Month Series:



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