Veronica was one of eight presenting poets at Poetry Press Week's S/S 2014 show at Disjecta in Portland, Oregon. From PPW:
Poetry Press Week is a showcase of new works of poetry by established and emerging poets before an audience of press, publishers, and the public. The event is modeled after the fashion industry’s biannual showcase “Fashion Week”, wherein designers send their new work down a runway via use of models. Similarly, Poetry Press Week mandates that poets use “models”: instead of reading the work themselves, the poets choose the readers and presentation best suited to the new work. Press and publishers in the audience have the opportunity to hear poems that are available for publication, and the public is encouraged to engage with the work in real-time.
Poetry Press Week Spring/Summer 2014 will showcase the work of Albert Goldbarth, Zachary Schomburg, Carl Adamshick, Julia Claire Tillinghast, KMA Sullivan, Chrys Tobey, Zubair Ahmed, and Veronica Martin. The presenting poets were selected on the basis of their local and national reputations and on the strength of their work.
Veronica answered a handful of questions in advance of the show.
POETRY PRESS WEEK: What’s most appealing to you about the format of Poetry Press Week, and why?
VERONICA MARTIN: What excited me most, initially, about the format of Press Week was the centrality of the visual, the heightened aspect of a poem’s presence. The way Press Week highlights the sheer expanse of what a presentation can become, breaking down the written word into some other symbolic gesture, is so rich an opportunity for pushing ourselves as poets, as creative people. Press Week invites the poet into abstraction, and that abstraction at its best is all about becoming more clear, seeing a thing from all sides, all its fractured parts. As poets, our work exists visually on paper and in the air as a spoken thing. The nature of Press Week draws the poet out of their otherwise occupied realms (one dimensional on the page, or traditionally read aloud) and asks what is at the core of the work. The poet wants people to experience the work in a way that transcends reading or hearing a poem in the traditional sense. Yet it also asks, how is this work dressed? And who is wearing it? I see Press Week as an opportunity for collaboration—between other readers, other kinds of artists—those relationships are endlessly rich. I think Press Week could set the groundwork for some interesting recorded performance, as well as give emerging poets not only an unobstructed voice but one without parameters. And though we should always be thinking in those terms, it’s easy to allow ourselves to be reined in by the nature of the distribution of our medium. Press Week has one looking through the window of a poem, onto some expanse otherwise reserved for the privilege of the poet herself. My window is painted by a Dutch master, with Piccasoian content, Chagall’s arced shadows in Yves Klein blue, Frances Stettheimer’s sense of fanfare and Duchamp’s sense of humor. Words are a byproduct of visual and emotional life. As poets we collect them into a sort of sculpture of detritus and hope.
PPW: What’s your relationship to your poems as you prepare them for presentation by others? What kind of lives are they taking on?
VM: More than anything, as I prepare my work for the particular format of Press Week, I find the soul of my poems is staying the same. Visual art and cinema are prime influences in my work as a poet, and I often use photography as a catalyst for a line or even as a sort of prompt to create a twin image in words. My moods are playful and sarcastic, despairing and hopeful, with little room for middling. A manic plate of moods! Press Week has sparked a sort of presence of the table, of the dinner party, in that I am gathering all branches of my own interests and various genres, putting their legs under the same tablecloth and making a meal to serve all of them well. That meal is poetry, and what you will see on the runway at Press Week are a few of the dinner guests, their feet fidgeting to some spoken beat and their legs grazing the linen edges. Each art form seems like its own being existing in the world, with some human qualities and with some transcendent qualities. The life my poems seem to take on as I prepare them for Press Week mimics the way a person might interact with other artists, other people. It mimics the limitations of our bodies, how we can often only be in ourselves, how our perception begins in our own body, not in that plant or that phone or that slip of paper or that other person; it begins from our own trapped perspective and reaches out from there. That’s how I see the poems acting… they are each their own beings at the center of the presentation, the spine or the body on which we drape these other elements… Image, human voice, choreography, sound, costume… Is poetry, then, the soul and the presentation its body? Perhaps, in this context, yes. There are so many ways to think about it. And those ways are constantly changing. At this moment, I am going with one, mutable truth.
PPW: What can a Poetry Press Week presentation bring to your poems that perhaps you can’t?
VM: The true presence of the Other, perhaps! Besides a myriad of voices, besides echoing around the walls of physical space with an engaged audience, besides the attendance of publishers who have the ability to put any of the presented poems on paper, Press Week’s most valuable gift is the gift of the Other. The pressure of an outside force asks the poet to think about their poems in a new way and to create that performance, create that space. A person can force such expansion on themselves, and take the initiative to incorporate those elements into readings, but it’s always, always different when motivation comes from outside yourself, and in a context where fellow poets are doing and thinking about the same thing. To me, then, Press Week becomes curated and momentary, existing only in its context—one night, one performance—and not outside itself. On the page, the ‘performance’ of a poem can be repeated over and over (in a sense, though we will never be the same person from moment to moment and the world won’t be the same either), but part of performance art is its fleeting nature, and being present for its moment of action is a big deal. Part of the force of live performance is the diminished degree of separation between the audience and the art. Press Week also asks for a different form of control over one’s audience. I think it forces a higher level of self consciousness. Creating a performance around one’s poems gives the poet an opportunity to orchestrate the experience of their poetry in a way that’s impossible on the page or even at a reading, unless one recreates the same sort of expansive, performative event. Usually we present our poems unadorned. Press Week asks us to deepen our engagement with our work, in the way adornment adds weight to a body, and changes its value.
PPW S/S 2014
photo by Stacey Tran
Readers Katy Knowlton and Coleman Stevenson
photo by Noland Bo Chaliha
During the reading of 'Saints'
photo by Devon Pfeiffer
Coleman and Katy Backstage
photo by Ashley Sophia Clark
Coleman and Katy
photo by Ashley Sophia Clark