by James Sanders
For the past several years, I’ve been increasingly drawn to “situated poetry”– poems designed to be performed or composed for specific sites or occasions (though by no means restricted to those sites or occasions). Jackson Mac Low’s Pronouns and performance scores, David Antin’s and Steve Benson’s improvisatory pieces, Gertrude Stein’s operas and plays, and the art of Alexander Calder and Robert Smithson are just some examples of work that has pushed me in this direction. “How is choir” is a poem written for a large multi-media piece called “Island Boy Live” designed and produced by filmmaker Anna Winter and composer-performer Luke Leavitt – both based in Denver. Hovering between music video, sound art installation, and experimental film, “Island Boy Live” pursues connections between Denver’s local dance subcultures and the landscapes – natural, social, and economic – that incubate them. “Island Boy Live” began as a song by Leavitt, which I then used to create the poem here. Performances of the poem were recorded and then mixed into the song, and accompanying video was created. A dual channel video for “Island Boy Live” can be found here: http://www.swigview.com/Y14mswC.
That video served as a basis for a live performance at Monkey Town in Denver (http://www.monkeytown4.com/) earlier this year. The performance consisted of Leavitt playing the “Island Boy” song live with his keytar, with “How is choir” taped on the ground around him and used for some vocal improvisations, all backgrounded by the video. Leavitt also had four bottles of red-dyed soy sauce, wielding them as a weapon of sorts– a playful splash on the ‘high-dining’ atmosphere of the Monkey Town events (which are curated by professional chefs). A few bottles– and a diner’s carafe– were accidentally smashed in performance. Some diners complained that the smell of the sauce ruined the food, others claimed it enticed their appetites! Some scattered shots of the performance can be found here: https://vine.co/v/MJ90mqwWzOp and http://instagram.com/p/m1QeJjw2Kn/.
James Sanders is a member of the Atlanta Poets Group, a writing and performing collective. His most recent book is Goodbye Public and Private (BlazeVox). His book, Self-Portrait in Plants, is forthcoming in 2015 from Coconut Books. The University of New Orleans Press also recently published the group’s An Atlanta Poets Group Anthology: The Lattice Inside.