Poetry News

Jamie Townsend Interviews Ted Rees at Entropy

By Harriet Staff
Ted Rees, In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame, cover

Jamie Townsend is in conversation with Ted Rees about the latter's new book, In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), at Entropy: "I said to a friend of mine recently, 'I care more about garbage and the discarded than I do about most things,' and I think that sort of gets at the formation of the poetry that makes up In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame," says Rees. More:

I like to think of parts of the book as a type of “documentary poetics,” a narrativizing of subjective experience and recognition of objective material conditions and histories. While vastly different from all the brilliant recent examples of documentary-oriented poetic work— Mercedes Eng’s Prison Industrial Complex Explodes comes to mind— one of the major concerns of In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame is the way in which people interact with these material conditions that surround them, which brings us back to the third landscape, in some ways. I guess that what separates the book from more explicit examples of documentary poetry is that there is little naming of these conditions and histories, and more a dwelling within them and describing them as a method towards understanding them. For example, the final poem of “Drains to Bay” and the first page of the book’s titular long poem appear next to each other, and are actually about the same stretch of city street— namely, 7th Street in West Oakland, where the BART emerges from the Transbay tube and comes to its first East Bay station stop. This area, more than the Fillmore District in San Francisco, was the Harlem of the west coast before the urban renewal efforts and racist disinvestment of the post-WWII years, and the material remains of that history are negligible— plaques commemorating the musical history of the area, the shuttered Esther’s Orbit Room, the original West Oakland branch library. The postal facility, the BART tracks, and the Cypress Street Viaduct (the latter now gone, thankfully) erased a great deal of the physical history of the area’s cultural import. One of my aims in the book is to interrogate this history of devastation and its reasoning, while also extending that interrogation into more recent gentrification and development efforts, thus connecting finance vampyrics over time. 

The voices in the poems about Oakland, then, are very much attempting to be in concert with the environment, giving aural space to the interstices, the histories, and the present interpretations of the urban scape. There are a lot of rhythms and tones that are somewhat easier to suss out— hyphy music and older rhythm and blues tracks make a number of appearances— and some that are more obscure, but what connects them is that they are situated in a location that is roughly fifteen blocks by twenty-five blocks.

The other poems in the book are more geographically dispersed, but I think share something of the wailing of disaster...

Read on at Entropy.

Originally Published: July 12th, 2018