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shut it down / lv letter

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Just Buffalo made live a recording of my poem “The Wound,” read in front of Rust Belt Books. Flatsitter recorded it on a day the wind was blowing hard across Lake Erie (and edited the video). Buffalo’s Noah Falck had much to do with making this series (Lit City Voices) happen. It’s a sort of poetic geography of Buffalo, perhaps a counter map to the ones defined by consumptive tourism, that has more to do w/where ppl spend their lives and breath and the places their minds revolve around. The full roster is in the promo video. Poems by Kristianne Meal (that howl!) and Brandon Williams are already up. I believe in a poetics w/one foot in the municipal; this poetics is acutely aware of geography as it is, as its been made, the more just geographies and organizations and use of spaces that have been fought for and won and lost. I’m also interested in the places on these maps that are silent, left blank and how space might be made for them to speak.

When titling this poem, I was recalling the Octavio Paz poem “Dawn.” Which is one I carried w/me for a number of years in my twenties. It references, obliquely, an event a number of ppl I know took part in, singing over Buffalo’s arch-reactionary Carl Paladino, who had captured a school board seat and was pushing forward self-serving, community-harming privatization measures. This was part of a larger effort to shut down BPS board meetings until Paladino was removed. It worked. This poem is really meant to be a bridge between other poems charting, through this poet’s keyhole, on-the-ground organizing and activism in Buffalo between 2016-2018. A lot of ppl were working damn hard to draw the links between Buffalo’s corrupt, patronage driven ruling class (Democrats and Republican alike) and the people and (white-supremacist, settler, necro-capitalist, etc) policies of the Trump administration. I mostly think of these poems as for performance only, particularly for performance in Buffalo. Here, I thought, it might work if it’s a recording in Buffalo. City Hall is lodged in my ear in the still above.


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About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.

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