Cami Park

Awesome Machine Press: Say, Poem by Adam Robinson

In Poetry, Prose, Religion on September 15, 2010 at 8:46 pm

How can poetry compete with error, in this economy of attention?
Adam Robinson, from SAY, POEM

Say, Poem by Adam Robinson

Say, Poem is divided into two sections– the first, Say, Poem, is a larger, sort of stream of consciousness patter-type poem constructed around a series of other poems/prose pieces. The second section, Say, Joke, is a series of smaller poems in the form of ironic, off-center jokes.

The patter-type poem in Say, Poem takes the form of a poet’s monologue at a poetry reading– both interior and exterior, it seems, as in Say, Thank you–/Thank you–/Then say,/I’m not reading a single line/until I know how much/this is going to get me.

It’s an interesting concept, and got me thinking about context regarding poetry– how differently we see it depending on presentation, as at poetry readings, or what we may have heard beforehand about the poem or the poet. For instance, our appreciation of this particular poem can’t not be affected when it’s presented to us this way:

Say, Ahem
Say, This next poem I’ve got
is called
“I’ll Be Wearing a Red Jacket”

At 4:50 PM meet me at the SE corner of Lombard and
Charles as discussed. It is a short hop to 2955 from there.

We will turn right onto Greene Street.
I love you.

Open for discussion the concern
that that one there is not a poem
Say, forget that dude
Life is hard enough and
there are all these trees and air
So I don’t know, I don’t know. Love.

But that’s part of the exercise– to test expectations– we read the initial quaint, surprising poem, and our impression of it is immediately challenged. Wait, is it a poem? Do we feel the right way about it? Is everything cool? Okay, relax.  Forget it. It’s a nice touch that, in this case, the poem, and the meta (?) poem surrounding it, both conclude with love.

Say, Joke is a series of vignettes, of a few unbroken lines a page. Again, Robinson plays with expectations, such as here, where he reworks one meme into something both oddball and modern:

A Jewish one, and Baptist one and the one who refrained from subscription were in a boat. The boat sprung a leak. The First Black President appeared. Suddenly the boat sank. They all drowned. That is, except for the First Black President, who found a lily pad and rose.

When Adam Robinson sent me this book, I read somewhere that he had done this for his MFA thesis, which is why you can get it here, from Awesome Machine Press, which he made just for it, instead of using Publishing Genius. They also have Orange Juice by Timothy Willis Sanders forthcoming, and they say they’re the most fun, and I believe them.

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