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Elizabeth Metzger created a playlist • a day ago
In "Letters from Max", Sarah Ruhl refers to Virginia Woolf’s idea of “the voice answering the voice” and applies it to Max: “For most poets, the voice answering the voice is an internal dialogue. Max had the gift of an internal voice, and also the gift of answering back to so many other poets.” As I was one of the poets lucky enough to be answered by Max, I wanted to compile and share a playlist of ten of the poems I most answer to from "Four Reincarnations" and "The Final Voicemails". I also wanted to include (in Part II, forthcoming) an accompanying playlist of poems Max answered to—the poems of his mentors and masters—as these were not only the poems that colored his voice but also the poems he offered me and many of his poet-peers for inspiration or solace, challenge or solidarity. The second list directly and indirectly shapes the first.
The poems I’ve selected from "Four Reincarnations" are love poems from the border between life and death—spiritual, erotic, sage, and sometimes child-wise. The poems I’ve selected from "The Final Voicemails" have the new dark of first waking in the middle of the night—the poems are woken in the middle of a body that is disappearing and they are written with the gift of unfinishedness. As the playlist goes on, the speaker finds paternal affection for lab mice that are injected with his cancer, romance becomes a metaphysical transaction, time becomes a mode of empathy, doctors and patient reverse roles in a hilarious cringeworthy gymnastics, and the body hungers only for itself.
Ugly Duckling Presse created a playlist • 10 days ago
'No Budu Please' emerges in the voice of “an artificial boy in some sort of plastic prairie,” as he zeroes in on desire, spirit, and diversion. A diversion for all those forgotten and on the outskirts, impenetrable. Wingston González has carved out a distinctive way of creating beats with words, a spiritual questioning of godliness, and a space of immersion in a Garifuna history marked by the 1797 expulsion from St. Vincent and subsequent exile to the coast of Central America. One of the most prolific Garifuna writers today, González has built a window into contemporary Black indigeneity in Mesoamerica, but also closed that same window in a sidelong attack on colonialist language and syntax, rewriting Spanish as he goes. Urayoán Noel’s translation moves the ludic experimentation with Spanish into an English that also tears at the colonial heart of Occidental imaginings. Both books insist that colonial fantasies are not to be stomached, that there is no easy way in or out of reality or dream, rather a series of glacial contradictions and bloody yearnings.
These poems are primarily meant to reflect my ongoing interest in how black writers have navigated the end of the world, the ends of worlds, cataclysms and shifts in the landscape. How over and against that utter lack of safety or security, they have dared to imagine a future. And what’s more, a global vision in which the present social hierarchies and arrangements do not carry the day. In the midst of storms, hurricanes, political upheaval and nuclear threats, these writers, and the tradition in which they work, assert an alternate, unflinchingly optimistic story of humankind. They dare us to dream of other ways that things could be, count that dreaming as praxis, and build with our most radical visions in mind. Every apocalypse is also a revelation, an opening, another chance. These poems are rooted in that long-standing, fundamental truth. They are preparation for the earth that is yet to come.
Milkweed Editions created a playlist • 24 days ago
Poet-songwriter Brian Laidlaw’s second collection The Mirrormaker overlays the boom-and-bust cycle of young love – based in part on Bob Dylan’s high-school romance with his “Girl From the North Country” – atop the boom-and-bust cycle of mining economics in Dylan’s hometown on Minnesota’s Iron Range. The book includes a companion album of original music written and performed by the author; together, these poems and songs explore the ways in which, in a certain extractive mindset, the beloved and the landscape become nothing more than mirrors in which the beholder sees himself.
“Laidlaw is a poet, a singer, and a musician of our time. He brews a discordancy into the harmony. His masterful Mirrormaker takes as part of its subject Echo, the strangely prescient name of Bob Dylan’s high school sweetheart (and also the mythological Echo, doomed to repeat only what Narcissus said as he stared into his own reflection). Laidlaw is a futuristic country poet singer in the other side of the century’s mirror, where consumption, celebritifying, and commodification rule as the earth rots from the inside out. Calling “what is killing what” and “the sick of the fields,” Laidlaw is singing the trails and singeing the words as he hears “an alternate gospel.” When he writes, “the replica me heartbreaking the replica you,” one wonders at the possibilities of love, of sincerity in simulacra. Brian Laidlaw is living proof that the bard is still with us.” – Gillian Conoley
“Brian Laidlaw reinvented the moon and he didn't even have to go to outer space to do it. He is an inner space man. A stargazer, vagabond, singer and poet cut from the American grain, dreamswept like a prairie at night and fiery as a smelting stack. His words resonate with the homespun echo of a cigarbox guitar, and report with a crack of thunder. How lucky to have this new collection of his poems.” – D. A. Powell
It’s interesting being asked to make a playlist of my book when I had my own playlist while creating it. While writing this book I was reading "Black Marxism", "Heroes" and "Everything You Could Be If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother". I was also listening to stream of doom metal like Electric Wizard & Sleep but also the oldies like Black Sabbath or Alice Coltrane. People often ask me what my book is about or what it means for the moment. My answer is my book and work can speak for itself, don’t ask me, ask it, it can speak for itself. Maybe this is comes across as a flamboyant refusal of my work to being package as a commodity, and that is partly the truth, but also an encouragement for readers to make up their own mind about what it means for them. My book carries its own mood and weight in the world and it doesn’t even answer to me anymore. I think I’ve most appreciated my work when I’ve seen it on my mother’s bed, tucked in my sister’s purse, a friend’s mother telling me “man, you’re heavy” after a reading or on my friend’s instagram story. That is how this book has developed meaning for me. That it's become a love language between those I love the most. I think I wrote and completed this book to spite many people. But ultimately, in the end the people who I love welcomed it the most and everyone I wanted to spite just fell away.
Of course the book works with current events that have happened and lead me to question my own existential being. Reading the news, being involved in protests and other political actions can often lead you to a psychosis like state. However, in these moments, in the middle of a march, getting kettled or whatever things that are better left unsaid, I felt like I had seen a glimmer of what it truly means to be a part of collective. A (love) supreme ego death.
During the day, I work as a mental health professional, and when I have moments I am a poet and writer. But in totality I am a Black communist, hungering for freedom and deliciousness, and that is how you should read these poems.