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OK If I Never Perform Again. But Would Prefer To Perform Again

I couldn’t ask for a better remediation of my reading of “Fugue 184 | Ekpyrosis” at Silo City (below). Flatsitter orchestrated the video. Using music by Lizzi Bougatsos (I think). Noah Falck planned the event and, along with so many other people, did the work of making it happen. Also, Robin Jordan’s enthusiastic, surreal collage response helped give me the guts to end my set with this poem that sprawls.

Reading at Silo City, July 30, 2022

I wrote Ekpyrosis after reading Samuel Delany’s revolting, cerebral and, ultimately, gorgeous The Mad Man and then Novalis’ Hymn to Night, which the novel points to. I responded to the way Delany stages the collision of the protagonist’s worlds in a vortex of pleasure then violence, excreta and books, page after burning, exacting page. Where the book manages to go from this collision is miraculous.

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What’s it to perform? To vibrate the atmosphere in a gauze of attentions? To signify in a place, in a personal, social, and political time? In July at Silo City it was a gift.

From 2008 through 2013 I hit the road relentlessly to perform. Coast to coast to coast. Over fifty readings. Some in bars, some in squats, a few universities. I had invitations, I asked for the space too.

Other writers fascinated me–I wanted to go out there and meet them. I wanted something from being with them that I can’t exactly describe. It could be camaraderie or recognition or acceptance. But I read too much; it became a kind of job. The people blurred.

Though not entirely. I remember talking to Steven Karl and Dan Magers huddled around a table in some Brooklyn bar and thinking I want to hear them chop it up, forever. An art space in Nebraska(?) — flowing out into conversation, endless conversation. The group going to a bar afterwards, no one wanting to call it quits. Doing a reading on a pile of detritus in a squat in San Francisco, meeting Carleen Tibbetts after. Returning to Denver to find it had accumulated people I love! Feng Sun Chen giving a devastating reading in Minneapolis that had me absolutely plugged in even though I was so tired I started my reading on the floor in a sleeping bag. After reading at Ruthless Grip, Buck Downs and Rod Smith settled into the Black Squirrel in DC, where I came up in poetry, both of them having always seemed larger than life. Then getting into a long conversation with Claire Donato, Ian Hatcher, and Jake Reber. There were many other moments too, some sublime, some graceless on my part.

Anyway, anyway. I was chasing these kinds of conversation. I wanted to melt into them. And I never thought to make a record of my performances. To try to get it down. That seemed beside the point. & maybe it’s for the better. My work changed. There were things that weren’t operating how I thought they were in my first two books. Poems I’d take back, cuts I’d make.

But Covid hit, I stopped performing and found an enormous hole in the pattern of my creative life. I learned to live with it–except I didn’t keep a trace of any of the performances I did. No event flyer, email, or poster. No photos. Nothing.

I got one now. So I’m okay if I don’t perform again. But I’d prefer to perform again.

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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, terrain.org, 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.

2 Comments

  1. rwrite

    Joe – Great reading and video. Really well performed and produced. I’m excited for the book. Super cool Delaney stuff. Best, Tom

    • joescirehall

      Thanks, Tom! I’ll let you know about the book. I’m loving your newsletter.

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