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Poets Live – 6 November 2012

Reviewed by Kate Noakes

Definitely one of the best line-ups of the year in which Alice Notley, long-time Paris resident and American poetry superstar, read with Joe Ross and Amy Hollowell at Le Bal Cafe in the 18eme. It had me running from my office at top speed so as not to miss the start.

I arrived, breathless, to a welcoming glass of vino and in time to see and hear Amy launch her debut collection Giacometrics (Corrupt Press). The book is an extended exercise in ekphrasis, deftly performed as she changed her stance and reading position in the room as one might when looking at a sculpture. Amy works in a long tradition of making poems from fine art. One thinks of Pascal Petite’s recent collection on Kahlo (What the Water Gave Me) as an example of a similar project. Her poems were careful and considered. One line struck me especially ‘one eye remains open to night’. Just so.

Joe, like Amy, is another ex-pat American Paris resident. He read, sometimes at a cracking pace, a series of political and other poems from his several books (Stati and FRACTURED//Connections from La Camera Verde, and the more recent Strata and Wordlick from Green Integer). I enjoyed his use of repetition, words like ‘chit’ and surprising ideas like ‘green coral grief’.

Needing no introduction, Alice Notley held rapt the 50 or so people who’d rammed themselves into the cafe. Lines or phrases of hers that I took away are: ‘there is a poem in the scars on my liver’, ‘what does the witch card look like?’, ‘city, my voice is your city’ and ‘my face water-damaged.’ Brilliant, spellbinding. If you don’t know her work: read it; if you’ve never heard her read: look out for her next performance. A jewel of an evening and much praise to Rufo for organising it.

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