Review of McNally Jackson Reading June 7th 2019 by Allen Brafman
I will begin with Jill Hoffman, the self in The Gates of Pearl is a complex of mother and daughter in three modulations or modalities: a mother’s no-holds-barred, shamelessly honest, pained journal entries; an extraordinary history of mother-daughter intimate, barrier disrupting telephone conversation; the fierce/sensitive voice of the daughter as it is born into a poetry of hard biting bursts of rich language that speak sometimes with image, sometimes with direct statement, but always distinctly, seeking to come to terms with the mother’s journal disclosures, with the shockingly frank ongoing telephone conversation and with the poet-daughter’s self. (I hope I am not mistaken here, but it seems to me that the intensity of the daughter’s writing both counterbalances and parallels the intensity of the mother’s journal, while the phone conversations mediate between, or perhaps amplify the mother’s and daughter’s individual writings. I say this even though the chronology of the various “compositions” might suggest otherwise.) I think of “The Gates of Pearl” as a “poem,” for I believe this work is a single long poem made up of individual pieces that easily stand on their own. the language throughout is tight, lyric and revelatory. from a writing point of view, the undertaking is conceptually ambitious—three very different, very powerful voices being compelled by the circumstance of the book to engage with one another. from a reading or listening point of view, the execution is haunting and enriching
Dell Lemmon read next. characterized by a deceptive, seeming artless writing style, her poems discover startling connections between elements of the everyday. hers is a sensibility that offers up a primer on the remarkable that resides in the unremarkable. the individual poems seem to inadvertently come upon hidden complexities in the details and routines of ordinary life, complexities that are not typically recognized as bearing upon one another. layer is peeled from layer and gratifying revelation is the reward. I think I had the sense that as the writing, wends its way through the commonplace, discovering unexpected links, the poet is as much surprised and delighted as the listener. from a listener’s point of view, that is, in and of itself, an uncommon delight. and, again, a delight that is very much enhanced by straightforward language spoken in the matter-of-fact tone of everyday talk—which, now that I think of it, is the most appropriate way to say what these poems have to say. from beginning to end, what they say and how well they say what they say are a happy surprise
next to read, E.J. Evans. I think I have never experienced writing that is so unrelentingly hell bent on creating distance by impersonalizing that which is most personal. the logic of the undertaking is subtle and courageous. the language, while mostly “technical,” strays just often enough into the lyric and the personal as to hold breathlessly the reader’s/listener’s attention, so validating the paradox of a seeming emotionless study of emotion. the writing diagrams experience in such meticulous detail that the experience, or exploration, being described seems to transcend the description, perhaps a paradox within a paradox. the tech-writing style of the work pushes the impersonal into a most surprising personal place. while it may seem counter intuitive to describe the style of writing as abstract, I think that it may fairly be said that the writing in its determination to get to the core of some particular want or desire so finely parses it, deconstructing it down to its tiniest elements, that the language and the sensibility break want and desire down into abstractions of themselves. truly fascinating. truly remarkable. truly satisfying
in short, I had a great time listening at the time; and later, in my recollection of the evening, revisiting the experience and coming to a fuller appreciation of what had taken place for me that evening. to go out on one more limb, I might say that the first reader gave us poetry as a work of art; the second reader gave us poetry as philosophical ruminations; the third reader gave us poetry as scientific treatise. in all instances, however, a study in connections. and, as I said, the three “styles” of connecting connecting with one another.
Mudfish 20 Launch Reading Photos (2018)
Paul Wuensche Review
Thank you to all of you who have received your copies and have written words of praise. As Paul Wuensche (p.174 Mudfish 20) wrote, “I wish all books were as good as Mudfish.” Everyone we’ve heard from has said how riveting and “unputdownable” Mudfish 20 is. Thanks to your work, which we hope to continue to share with the world. We write to urge you to buy copies for your friends and family, and also to buy The Gates of Pearl, “a mother/daughter saga unlike any other.”
Launch Reading of The Gates of Pearl and Single Woman
Don’t miss Jill Hoffman’s launch reading of The Gates of Pearl at McNally Jackson Books (April 16th at 7pm) with Dell Lemmon reading from Single Woman!