Poetry News

Performa Presents Two of the Best of the 'Net

By Harriet Staff

Sophia Le Fraga

Second to final event of the new What if someone told u you were significant? reading series, sponsored by the epic performance art festival, Performa, featured readings by two of the internet's most thought-provoking poets: Ben Fama and Sophia Le Fraga. At A&E Studios, Fama and Le Fraga read from their work, in the process sharing anecdotes about their relationships to the world wide web: Fama, “The Internet is my home / Where it’s easy to be beautiful / And seen and new,” Le Fraga, "guys i can hear all / yr thoughts / in my internet." More, by way of Hyperallergic:

Poetry readings aren’t popular, or easy. I recently learned that in some European countries, poets and writers have actors read their work for them in public to make the experience more accessible and appealing. At A&E Studios, for the new Performa Poetry Series, titled What if someone told u you were significant?, there were beach chairs and free beer — and the added environment of an art installation by Heather Phillipson, whose videos channeling the experience of online shopping were apt for a reading dedicated to poets “whose works borrow the distinct and peculiar motifs of language online.”

Standing before an enormous print closing in on a man’s bulging boxers, Ben Fama and Sophia Le Fraga read poems about celebrity culture, broken relationships, email exchanges, and the mundane. Both New York–based poets find comfort in the internet — “The Internet is my home / Where it’s easy to be beautiful / And seen and new,” Fama writes — but also express a sense of unease and insecurity with it. Le Fraga started by reading her “throwback” poetry, a series of works in email or online comment form in which the speaker attacks the poet: “Dear Sophia … I find your poetry offensive”; “Do you understand what it means to be a poet, Ms. Le Fraga?”; “who tagged this as poetry?” Both poets write about the lonely, voyeuristic, and amusing nature of online relationships — Le Fraga: “guys i can hear all / yr thoughts / in my internet”; Fama: “I found you / on Gothtrash.com / and saved your picture / to my computer desktop” and “I look through all your pictures / I don’t really want to know you / but you have a cute cat.” Both poets are forward and personal — in introducing a poem, Fama cited a friend as an inspiration but added, “It’s not about her, but about me, because it’s poetry.”

Fama and Le Fraga also share a love of lists, as they seem dazed by the internet and its constant flow of information. Fama began his incantatory reading: “MIRANDA LAMBERT / KIM KARDASHIAN / CAITLYN JENNER / THE HAMPTONS / CELEBRITY BREAKUPS.” Le Fraga, whose poetry captures the moods and inflections of internet language and how it affects us subconsciously, read a series of alternative names for famous movies and books: “A Street Food Cart Named Desire / Tinder Buttons … The Old Man and the Siri.” Le Fraga’s work shows how online language sounds strange when spoken (“you have a hashtag contradiction”), whereas Fama’s poems jump back and forth between online and offline worlds, rendering them as one fluid experience. His language moves from ambiguous, internet lingo (“dash/cam/attack”) to the physical and concrete (“wet/coke/summer”). [...]

Read more at Hyperallergic.