Anselm Berrigan, Matt Hart, Ron Silliman, 11th Street Bar, 5/9/05
Showed up too late to hear Hart or Anselm. I only knew Anselm, Karen Weiser, John Coletti and Murat Nemet-Nejat in the audience. The room was otherwise totally packed with a 20-something crowd, so I hovered at the bar/backroom no man's land, separated only by a curtain.
Silliman was accompanied by a jukebox and loud talk from the front of the bar. This combination reminded me a little of the old Ear Inn series, where the frying bacon and football game would provide distraction/ambience accompaniment. There was lack of oxygen in the room (Anselm would later emerge drenched in sweat), so I fell into a rhythm were I would listen for five minutes, go get some fresh air, listen for another five, repeat.
All these elements combined would normally create an impossible atmosphere for hearing poetry: lack of seating, bad PA, no air/too hot, loud conversation and a jukebox playing. To my amazement, this turned out to be an interesting way to hear Silliman's work.
Hearing this poetry separated into several disconnected five-minutes chunks didn't change the way it worked, or its effectiveness. It actually enhanced a quality of it: the fact that it is composed of sequenced autonomous units which operate by accrual. If you pull a chunk out, even skipping across poems, the poetry still works. The resolution just changes. Despite it's sharp and odd particulars, there is an ambient quality to this poetry. It's values are distributed with an environmental equality through it's extent. You're not going to miss a crucial punch line or plot twist.
This ambient quality was enhanced by the sound-bed of conversation and jukebox in the background -- after a period of mental adjustment, the poetry co-existed with it rather than competing. People talking about their credit cards and bosses, a John Mayer tune, and Silliman's atomized paratactic non-hierarchical sensory description, puns and recountings all formed into an interesting poetic/sound/social ecosystem.