I saw the listing for a new reading series called “OUR FLOW IS HARD” last week, and was so captivated by the description that I had to check it out. From thier tumblr:
OUR FLOW IS HARD is a collective of girlpoets bent on flooding the place, a small dam of sticks that like to make and hear sounds. would you like to come make and hear sounds too? we have picked out some great and glittery noisemakers for our first inbogural reading. we have made party hats out of the feathery mosses of their teeth. There will be punch!
The “inbogural Pink Swamp Poetry Reading” took place on Thursday, June 21 2012, and featured readings by UM MFA candidates Aaron Apps and Lucas de Lima, as well as visiting poet Natasha Kessler (from Omaha, NE). And it took place in de Lima’s apartment… About thirty people (most of them fellow MFA candidates at the U) crammed into de Lima’s living room and swilled punch (there was indeed punch! And it was delicious), mingling and chit-chatting for about an hour prior to the reading. As such, the event had the feel of a house-party more than a poetry reading: everybody knew each other, it seemed, and was ready to have a good time.
The OUR FLOW crew had donned de Silva’s walls with dozens of plastic dinosaurs, giving the room a prehistoric edge. Contributing to the bog/swamp theme was the fact that de Lima’s living room turned almost instantly to a sweat lodge. Thursday was one of the first not-disgustingly-humid days of the week, but you wouldn’t know it inside the room. I was fortunate, for the first two readers, to have been sitting beside the fan. And speaking of readers…
Natasha Kessler earned her MFA from the University of Nebraska, and now works for a small press and lit journal in Omaha. She read a series of poems from a manuscript titles “Tricks with Creative,” names of some of the characters in the work. (I’m not sure if that’s “Trix” or “Tricks” or something else…) As the first reader, Kessler was the first to try out the grandmotherly rocking chair set up for readers–equipped, of course, with a stuffed dinosaur cushion. Her poems nicely kicked off the OUR FLOW tradition (as I’m sure this will not be their last event) by pushing boundaries of both content and form: her initial poem repeated and reshaped the word “hole/whole” over the course of its lines, driving home some of the central themes to OUR FLOW’s mission. To give a sense of Kessler’s style, she read from one section entitled, “I’d Like to Shave My Head, Pretend I’m a Vulture, and Bury My Head in Your Chest.”
Aaron Apps is a local poet attending the U. His manuscript A Carnal Shitstorm of Affections will be coming out soon on Blazevox, one of our favorite presses around here, so this was an exciting chance to see him read. His immediate and stark poetry captivated the sweltering audience, often leading them to nervous laughter (as when he paused amid a description of the ebola virus to inflate a red balloon to a near-popping degree, then tied it off and let it bounce around the room). His manuscript also included images, which he held up for the crowd as though in show-and-tell: “Somatic Self-Portrait of the Ear,” and “Somatic Self-Portrait of the Penis Tip,” etc. One highlight was his manifesto of a poem, “On Silence,” which read, in full: “Fuck silence.”
Lucas de Lima
The event’s gracious host took up the rocking chair after a ten minute break, allowing everyone to step outside and cool down temporarily. de Lima, a recent graduate of the UM MFA program, read from a manuscript that “orbits around an event” that the poet
went through several years ago: his good friend fell victim to an alligator attack. If there is any proper way to come to terms with a trauma such as this, orbiting around it in poetry seems ideal. As such, de Lima’s work was intense and haunting, violent and yet deeply affecting. Relating to and conflating the experience with natural forms (the speaker taking the shape of a bird, a discussion with an alligator/human hybrid), his poetry approached and acknowledged the event without ever fully confronting it, without ever forgiving it for having happened.
The reading portion of the evening concluded with the Mystery Swampbeast–billed as an additional reader, which it was, of sorts… the founding members of OUR FLOW IS HARD (Carrie, Kristin, Mary, Chrissie, and Amelia) had handed out index cards to attendees as they arrived. Each card bore a madlib-esque prompt. When the time came for the Swampbeast, these five women took the stage and performed, with the audience’s help, an interactive manifesto for the series–calling out a number corresponding to a card, and it was the audience member’s job to contribute to and complete that item of the manifesto. A nice, practical metaphor for the intent behind this new reading series: to generate a community united by poetry, rather than merely a market for poetry.
I slipped out before the dance party started, but it seemed inevitable. The “inbogural” event in OUR FLOW IS HARD’s catalog may have orbited a little closely to the MFA program (this was, more or less, an MFA party with a reading thrown in), but it didn’t keep this outsider from feeling welcome, from having a good time, and from hearing some excellent and exciting poetry. As the series grows, I expect it to keep pushing boundaries–including the scope and breadth of its audience.
Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event? Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at LitSeen.Mpls@gmail.com! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!