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(Soma)tic Reading Enhancements INSTALLMENT #2

A thousand different readers of a poem make a thousand different poems. The creativity in the reading percolates through the same membrane as the writing.

(Soma)tic reading enhancements like (Soma)tic poetry rituals create an extreme present, a unique space to force time to come home to the body for the pleasures of the poems. Here, it is all about being here. These are four new books that itch my ear and it is my wish as a poet to encourage readers to not be passive and to take the initiative to break open the idea of the poem’s absorption. Below are four titles, with samples I read aloud, and the things I did when reading.

1 Book cover

Dawn Lundy Martin
Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2014)

Aaron and I first read the book aloud with the tops of our skulls pressed together, kneeling on the floor, both facing the book. Feeling the poems through the skull while the other read, I found myself closing my eyes to fully absorb the vibration. Reading from this extraordinary new book:

We labor in our attempts at rebirth. Remain inside enclosure, wood box.

Felt mostly in legs becoming sausage pipes.

We stand, again, with our heads hanging outside apartment windows, hope to catch breath, to redo trained breath, heavy quick work.

We expect the baby deer to die before a certain age. Who---

Then Aaron and I undressed and sat naked on the floor, back-to-back, arms locked, our backs, asses and heads pressed together. We took turns reading aloud “LOUDER, LOUDER T,” I would say. “LOUDER, LOUDER CA,” Aaron would say. These poems show and then disrupt shown boundaries. Now quiet, quieter, even quieter Aaron, and we would hum-HUM between poems, clearing the channel for the next lines:

To be liberated from the wakefulness state itself.

Unwritings as unravelings or unwindings as in to become undone, to reach the edge of sleep, and balance there, not noticing but loosening.

I want to happen past a tree. Happen past to find the souls of the dead there, trembling, the obliterated selves I once thought were locked inside the imagined body’s miniature vaults.

2 Book cover

Elizabeth Willis
Alive: New & Selected Poems (New York Review of Books Press, 2015)

Utah, June 23 at dawn I walked across the long, salt encrusted flats. I read the poems aloud with the crunching of salt underfoot. Deep, loud breaths between poems, reading, crunch-chrunch-chrunch-crunching, and reading as the sun came up over the horizon, instantly filling the poems and my face with heat.

What I know was divided

by the weather of others

There’s a kind of electricity

a fire in the first snow

A mine from the perspective of an owner

a mine as labor

I found a spot behind a hill to strip naked and lie on the salt, much more comfortable than you might imagine. I dripped water on different parts of my flesh to feel dry in the sun while reading aloud. The water dried quickly, then more drops on forehead, then shins, then stomach, reading, feeling the sun drink the water from my body while my thoracic diaphragm pushed the poems forward. How can we not live differently after experiencing these poems:

I worry the neck was broken
but the body lived
I worry Union Street
is a dead end
I worry moss grows
on both sides of the tree
that we are headed into slavery

3 Book cover

Filip Marinovich
Wolfman Librarian (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015)

In the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza across from city hall in Oakland, California I read these poems aloud for passersby, one man stopping to read with me. With a compass I found east, facing New York on the other side of the continent. Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street and the voice of a poet who was one of the librarians of The People's Library at Occupy Wall Street. Where I stood and read the poems was the site of Occupy Oakland at the same time.

Don’t you know I felt a spirit
of the unburied Twin Towers dead
walking inside me on Wall Street

The peripheral greenery wolverines
are eating me and vomiting me up
onto a mound where pieces of me
are sucking each other and sticking together
to form a new man with power to heal
everybody even with my trembling actor hands

Marinovich is a queer poet for the ages. Channeling him, I read ferociously, facing New York City from a park named after a man who was incarcerated as a young person with his family in a Japanese internment camp. Oscar Grant Plaza is what the Occupy Oakland protestors renamed the park. Oscar Grant was an unarmed young African American man shot to death by police at the nearby train station. I read these poems for both these men, for Occupy Oakland and Wall Street.

Never separate a couple
American’s one spiritual rule
every time you let
someone separate you
you lose one pint of spiritual love

4 Book cover

Laura Wetherington
A Map Predetermined and Chance (Fence Books, 2014)

On thick grass I walked barefoot, drawing a map of the route I walked, meandering around benches, trees, and patches of daisies. I would then read the poems while following the map, but inside, retracing the map barefoot on carpet while reading.

there is no narrator, no barrier.
I know how to see my cells.
oscillate does not mean vacillate. both could mean
my vagina is an electrical engineer.

On the bed I drew the map on my body, starting on my forehead, pausing to read. Mapping the body, the poems following the map, the map inside the poems. I would then use a paintbrush with warm water mixed with cinnamon and lemon, painting the map on my body while reading. These amazing poems sensed anew through water, maps, spice and citrus aromas.

As long as my right hand is connected to me
my name is made like clouds.
My encountered will follow, the birds
will follow I will develop into
trouble, my name is legal
who would retain me?

The wingspan lengthens.
All around me are fields
and the clouds cross my non-sight.

Originally Published: June 25th, 2015

Poet CAConrad grew up in Pennsylvania, where they helped to support their single mother during Conrad's difficult youth. Influenced by Eileen Myles, Audre Lorde, Alice Notley, and Emily Dickinson, Conrad writes poems in which stark images of sex, violence, and defiance build a bridge between fable and confession. In a 2010...