On Monday, September 28 from 7 to 9 PM EST, the renowned NYC Lower East Side literary gathering space KGB Bar will host my dear compatriot Paolo Javier and me in a two-person poetry reading and film screening. Of course, we both wish we were gathering together in the historic environment of the actual KGB Bar, but pandemic times as they are, this is not to happen. We accept the virtual world of Zoom, acknowledging the fact that in this particular cosmos, we can invite friends from around the country and world to join us. If you are in the midst of Yom Kippur that evening, please join us while you break your fast.
This will be my first poetry reading in pandemic times. I will be reading from my new (and first) collection Year by Year Poems (Tender Buttons Press) along with some recent writing fresh from our shared, daunting now. In addition to reading from my book, I will screen a couple of film-poem collaborations, including Starfish Aorta Colossus (made with Paolo Javier, 2015), Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home (2020), and Girl is Presence (made with poet Anne Lesley Selcer, 2020)
We are grateful to KGB poetry programmer Jason Schneiderman who invited us to do this reading more than eight months ago.
Introduction by Jason Schneiderman
So we’re a poetry series—we call ourselves Monday Night Poetry at KGB—and Lynne Sachs is a poet, so you’ll be hearing her poems—but inside of Lynne’s work is also a challenge to the boundaries that have been drawn around poetry, and if we think about poetry as something distinct from other genres (not from other media, but from other genres), that definition of poetry emerged in two significant moments for me. One is the early modern period (or the renaissance if you like) when the sonnet entered English, and words for spoken voice became poetry and words intended to be sung to a melody became song—“lyric” having a claim to both of these genres, hence our continued use of “song lyrics” and “lyric poetry.” And then second is Modernism, when during the roughly forty year period from 1890 to 1920, poetry, like some sort of giant octopus began to absorb everything written that wasn’t obviously something else, like a novel, or a cookbook, or a bomb making manual—even though it was Amiri Baraka’s poem on how to make bombs that got Dial-a-Poem shut down in the 1960s. Poetry’s genre boundaries have always struck me as useful, I like them very much, but I also see how they can constrict as well as instruct. And one of the trends I see in contemporary letters is a move away from genre specialization. Rachel Zucker on a podcast confirmed my memory that in the 00’s, it was not cool for a poet to do anything but poetry, but now poets are reaching out past our boundaries, with notable moments like Warsan Shire collaborating with Beyonce. So how lucky we are to have Lynne Sachs, who for decades has been working at the boundary between poetry and film, and who will be presenting her own work, which engages the questions of medium, genre, image, and text, giving us a powerful sense of what art may look like going forward.
Please welcome Lynne Sachs.
And here’s some info on who we are and our poems:
Paolo Javier was born in the Philippines and grew up in Las Piñas, Metro Manila; Katonah, New York; Cairo, Egypt; and Vancouver, British Columbia. After working as a freelance journalist and running an experimental theater company in Canada, he returned to New York City, where he lives with his family. From 2010 to 2014, Javier was poet laureate of Queens, New York. His collections of poetry include: The Feeling Is Actual (2011); 60 lv bo(e)mbs (2005); the time at the end of this writing (2004), recipient of a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year Award; and, Court of the Dragon (2015), which Publisher’s Weekly called “a linguistic time machine.”
When Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she dedicated herself to writing a poem for every year of her life, so far. Each of the fifty poems investigates the relationship between a singular event in Sachs’ life and the swirl of events beyond her domestic universe. Published by Tender Buttons Press, Year by Year Poems juxtaposes Sachs’ finished poems, which move from her birth in 1961 to her half-century marker in 2011, with her original handwritten first drafts. Paolo Javier wrote the introduction, and artist Abby Goldstein did the design. On Sept. 28 at KGB, Lynne will read poems from her book as well as new texts written very recently.
“Lynne Sachs wrote one of 2019’s best books of poetry. The graceful, diaristic poems … successfully distill events and themes in the poet’s life and simultaneously, magically, reflect larger movements of history and culture. Intimate and imagistic, the poems unfold a series of miniature stories with sensuous rhythms, telling visual detail, and gentle humor. This beautifully designed book includes facsimiles of many of the poetry’s initial drafts, which subtly illumine this artist’s creative process.” – 2019 Staff Pick, San Francisco Public Library
“These poems are innovative. They invite us in, encouraging us to play along. They give us a structure to enter into our own retrospective lives, our own distillations of time, our own superimpositions of the newsworthy world onto our most intimate moments.” – Sharon Harrigan, Cleaver: Philadelphia’s International Literary Magazine
In case you would like a book, you can find Year by Year Poems here:
Small Press Distribution: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9780927920209/year-by-year-poems.aspx