Adeena Karasick, Bowery Poetry Club, 3.14.09
Adeena Karasick provided sustained tonal variation and a broad sense of overall contour with more fun, funny, exuberant, "performatively-oriented" giving-a-shit about the audience than I was prepared for. It was the best reading I've seen her give. This is not a situation where you show up to listen and prove you care about poetry despite the lack of aptitude or interest the poet shows in getting the material over to you. Karasick cares enough to put on a good show and she wants to be loved and is going to damn well prove to you that you should love her, at least for as long as she's on the stage.
Clearly she gives slam poets a run for their money, and I don't consider slam performance anything to sneeze at. She's a sometimes compelling and explosive ham on the same level of talent as say, Edwin Torres, and she has the dangers and challenges that come along with this fact. I could feel her fighting to not fall into a formula, which I've seen her do, and the energy this fight released infused the room with a kind of humming expectant warmth that destroyed any trace of the lingering dread which sometimes creeps upon me at a poetry reading that I might be facing new variations on the old tune of fatigue-inducement as indicator of poetic seriousness and value. Not a bit of it, folks.
There were two highlights. One a flarfy search and replaced dating advice poetics repurposing of The Rules. So much of Flarfiness is sustainability, cultural repurposing, recycling, and finding alternate poetic energy sources. A kind of eco-poetry. (cue John Latta tantrum!) The prose rhythm of this new piece shows that Karasick can deploy tonal effects keyed directly to placement and shifts in content, even though much of her work is pitched from a place where the performance insists on it's modulations despite or against variations in material the way someone might insist you join them for a drink after work tomorrow and you know they might or might not show up, leaving you with plenty to think about either way. Mixing these approaches broadened the performance horizon considerably. The other high point, and the outro, was also a detournment, this time of the Dance Pop Obama Girl, pulled from the landfill and remade into a hilarious love song "I've got a crush on Osama," as good as anything on John Stewart or the Kootenay channel. It's amazing what one word change can lead to.