Introductions for Will Alexander & Edwin Torres – 11/4/09

Will Alexander is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and visual artist who lives in Los Angeles, the city where he was born in 1948. He was the recipient of a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry in 2001 and a California Arts Council Fellowship in 2002. Over the years he has worked several jobs (including the LA Lakers box office), has taught at various institutions, and has been associated with the non-profit organization Theatre of Hearts/Youth First, working with underserved, at-risk youth. His books include Asia & Haiti, Above the Human Nerve Domain and The Stratospheric Cantacles. Exobiology As Goddess was published in 2005. The greatly anticipated and recently published The Sri Lankan Loxodrome is his first book since then and his first book with New Directions Press.

Will Alexander’s poems are “alphabetically living.” Clayton Eshleman evokes a comparison to Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers. Indeed, accretion through unprecedented structure gives us a place to start our “upper and lower world[s]” sprawl. We must also be prepared for form to obliterate, “where the body of the captain reappears & disappears.”  In The Sri Lankan Loxodrome, the 70 page title poem/dramatic monologue in the book of the same name, the sailor Loxodrome sails the Indian Ocean on a trawler, on a mission to catch and de-poison sea snakes. Unlike Pessoa’s Maritime Ode, where the story ends with a heart that won’t heal and a narrator who cries out to be saved from what is within him, Alexander’s story charts “a trajectory of potentia” through strife to being lifted from it – to arrive and find existence at the “source of the instantaneous”.  His gift is to bring his readers into this subnormal virtual body to feel perpetual in his burning love of verbs. I’ve never meant it more than I mean it tonight when I say it is a total honor to be hosting Will at the Project. Will Alexander.

Edwin Torres has collaborated with a wide range of artists, creating performances that intermingle poetry with vocal & physical improvisation, sound-elements and visual theater. His work has been published in many anthologies, and his CD “Holy Kid,” (Kill Rock Stars Records) was part of The Whitney Museum’s exhibition, The American Century Pt. II. He’s inventor of a noh-boricua inspired non-movement called NORICUA, and has performed its non-ideologies with Spanic Attack in the Bronx, Berlin and Loisaida. He is co-editor of the poetry journal/DVD “Rattapallax.” His books include, Fractured Humorous, The All-Union Day Of The Shock Worker and The PoPedology Of An Ambient Language. This reading launches his new book, In The Function of External Circumstances, from Nightboat Books.

In an interview awhile ago, Edwin Torres, answers a question about what he wants to communicate in his work with: “Sincerity, I guess. Being sincere in my weirdness.” His hyper-awareness of the world inside him and how it effects his being in the world is likely the tendency in Torres’ work that Rodrigo Toscano calls the Deep Emotional, as opposed the Surface Emotional. In the poem “Do Not Be Swayed By External Circumstances,” from his new book, the narrator and his beloved companion face the danger of an incoming tide, escape being impaired by mud – hardly a poem where we would expect to meet a “Mrs. Ladybug” but there she, a partner in peril, till she remembers her wings. He writes: “When you’re pulled by something unexpected, what you know / gets replaced by what you feel…” And what Torres feels, and what we feel, is not always comfort, or rather, we feel the question in comfort, set down the travel guide, and learn to see with feelers. Please welcome Edwin back to the Poetry Project.