10.21.2005

My favorite moment of Juliana Spahr's reading at St. Mark's was a lovely, compelling list piece using all manner of species native to the area of Ohio where she grew up. These things were plugged into set phrases like "I let the (raccoon) into my heart, and "(crabapple), don't add to heartache." This localized, highly diffuse environmental information about Ohio (and really much of the northeast US) included poisons as well, "I let the (chloride) into my heart."

Another set phrase was "I didn't even say goodbye to (pumpkin)," where the implication is that a childhood connection to natural environment is gradually and unconsciously replaced by an adult social and sexual environment. The piece would almost fit into Technicians of the Sacred.

She introduced the poems as "sappy." This work did activate a simple, and, in a way, traditional mechanism of sentiment -- feelings associated with connection to the natural environment, but not at all of sentimentality -- displacing actual feelings with formalized, strategic clich├ęs of feeling based on a projection of audience expectation. The poem was a kind of retrospective coming of age poem and environmental protest piece.

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