Toscano Reading Report
SDPG kicked off its reading series on Friday night with Rodrigo Toscano setting the tone (and the bar) for future events. Thanks to him and an enthusiastic crowd of students, teachers, writers, scholars, friends, and unidentified hecklers who, together, made this truly a night to remember.
Just now Elena from across the hall stopped by to thank me again for inviting her and to say that this guy Toscano was "just amazing." Similar reports started coming in immediately after Rodrigo concluded his "generous" (says Elena) 35-minute tour-de-force tour through new poems (from the soon-out To Leveling Swerve), including "Postcard to Tacitus" and other mini-missives to the ancients which, as of this writing, remain unanswered.
And I quote (from text now looming large on 2x3 foot copy paper tacked to my office wall): REDUCED THE NAME IS HUMANITY CHIEFLY LOST THE VENERATED BYWORD WHO'S SIDLING UP WHO'S SNORING WHO'S IRRITATING THEIR BEAUTY SLEEP ... LEADERS PRESSED FEARS ONTO FEARS AS LEADERS AS PRESSED LEADERS FEARING FEAR LEADING LEADERS AS LEADERS PRESS LEADERS UNTO THE WORDS THEIR CORRECT POSITION ELUDES ME NOT SO MUCH THE GRAMMAR ...
and other "TONS PER SQUARE CENTIMETER" which will soon be made available in audio form on the Factory School audio poetry page (stay tuned for that announcement). The big print on my wall is evidently a reprint from Rodrigo's Philadelphia "bank" series, explanatory details of which can be found at a website to be posted here [XXX] as soon as he emails me the link.
Discussions after the reading (the one or two I managed to sidle up to) stressed both sentence and argument in Toscano's work -- i.e., that while ostensibly fragmentary, the texts nonetheless cohere toward syntactic weightiness and issue unmistakably grounded political dicta whose larger contexts (and therefore agenda) are hard to miss, even in the obfuscatory shadows of what I dared call the sprightly diaphanous phantasms hovering in the literal wake of the poet's trademark funhouse zeal. At one point the word "didactic" came up and I begged, through a mouthful of tofu-pasta salad, to differ, but then I relaxed and noted that my interlocutors brandished Heidegerrian and Althusserian tendencies respectively, which made the point and the salad go down more smoothly.
In short, bona fide great times were had by all, and documentary evidence will confirm this as soon as I can get some posted to the website (pix as well as mp3). Toscano himself confided that, having long ago survived a near-death experience on Federal Boulevard, he is now ready to help breathe life into this fledgling but potentially worthwhile series. For those brave enough to follow his awesome act, we can offer only a warm reception and, for the next few months, even warmer weather, as well as a glass or two of your favorite beverage, home-made grub, a functioning mic, and a roomful of eager listeners only some of whom, for what it's worth, are poets.
My favorite two moments: Rodrigo mumbling inscrutably into the microphone at the end of one poem, then later glossing the mumble as an exercise in real-time tonal modulation, prefigured if not prescripted in the text of the poem--"Here, I can show you!"--or something to that effect.
As communicative effect, that Toscano is really something.