Sunday, August 25, 2013

Poetry is Not Dead!

I studied English in college, read a lot of poetry, analyzed it, discussed it, wrote about it, tried to compose it.  And then I graduated and entered the real world where most people don't give a shit about poetry.

A couple years ago, I compiled my poetry in a zine which I called "Poetry is For Wimps and Commies: Poems and Other Things No One Cares About."  With my poems, I tried to rattle people into self-consciousness of the fact that our culture does not nourish or foster its poets.

For someone like me, who kind of understands the importance of poetry--how it pushes the limits of language, how it strives to turn words, the stuff of everyday communication, into beautiful art, how it causes us to stop, reflect, and think deeply about things, how it urges us inward to examine the landscape of our crazy inner dreams and desires and fears, how it can sometimes inspire people to change the world, how it gives voice to silence and trauma.  For someone like me, the fact that most people don't care about (let alone seek out and read) poetry is distressing and depressing.

But all is not lost.  The truth is, I know a lot of poets.  Many of my best friends write poetry:  Brian Prince, Michael Magoski, Dan Joyce, Christine Granillo, Ricardo Gonsalves, Steve Westbrook.  The problem is that there isn't much of a "market" for poetry, and so we have a situation where even if people write poetry, it is very difficult to find an audience to share it with.

This is one of the reasons I started BOOKMACHINE books + zines in the Magoski Arts Colony.  It's a small, independent book + zine store where I carry and sell books by local authors.  I was inspired by a quote from Jello Biafra (from the Dead Kennedys): "Don't hate the media; become the media."  In a world that constantly says "No" to poets, I can be a place that says, "Yes."  I absolutely love it when I meet new writers, because I can be perhaps the only person they've met who can tell them, "I'm genuinely interested in your work.  I have a book store.  Would you like to have a book release party?"

The most recent poet I've met is Jesse Alonso, whose book An Electrotreatment for Monoemoticide is currently available at BOOKMACHINE.  What is "Monoemoticide"? you ask.  It's a word Jesse made up to describe a very real condition that his book addresses.  The first page gives a definition:

MO*NO*E*MO*TI*CIDE: 1. n. The condition of spiritual suicide by the cultivation of only a single emotion.  Usually it refers to the over cultivation of the emotion "happiness," although any emotion can be over-cultivated.  Without emotional diversity the ecosystem of the soul withers.  2. n. slang.  Describes a chemical used by corporate, government, and media powers to suppress all other emotions except the ones used to induce ravaging bouts of consumption of worthless goods, and ultimately compelling the consumer to his/her own spiritual suicide.  EX: Yo!  This mall is dusted with monoemoticide!, We lost our uncle to monoemticide., Fuck, these monoemoticidal zombie maniacs, they're fucking everywhere!

As this definition suggests, the book is interested in exploring and cultivating the full range of human emotions, including the darker ones.  In "Raindance," Alonso muses, "I have learned a deep defiance / From the dark paths I've wandered."  This theme of defiance runs through the book.  Alonso seems interested in defying the simple, cookie-cutter emotions we find in popular media.  He wants to explore both the light and the darkness of his own inner landscape, subtly urging us, his readers, to do the same,

Alonso's poems and drawings are surreal and abstract,  following the crazy logic of dreams and emotion, rather than facts and reason.  He is interested in "How the treaties signed in sleep / Prepare the coherent framework for the day." What emerges is a fascinating inner landscape that's as complicated and interesting as a Buddhist sand mandala.  Because human emotions don't often fit neatly into simple categories, Alonso is interested in making up new words, new images, to give shape to these nebulous inner feelings.  

In "Moment Dechaired," he invents the following words, or hybrid-words:


Like his poems, Alonso's drawings strive to give form to a dream-like, unconscious inner world:

To pick up a copy of Jesse Alonso's An Electrotreatment for Monoemoticide, come to BOOKMACHINE books + zines during the next Downtown Fullerton Art Wak on Friday, September 6th from 6-10pm.  We have a wide selection of very limited edition books and zines, most of them from local authors.  Hope to see you there!

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