By JH Phrydas
The Jack Kerouac School hosted the final installment of the What Where Series last week, which featured readings by Chris Pusateri, Serena Chopra, and Khadijah Queen.
MFA student Liz Knauz introduced Chris, who read from his project on surveillance called The Liberties. While living in London, Chris dedicated himself to riding (and writing) the underground subway to each and every station. His poetry muses on the political implications of living in the constant eye of the police camera. As a silent observer, he plays the role that government implicates: “it is our duty / as actors of the state / to observe and interpret.” And yet, armed with pad and pen, Chris becomes caught in the double positioning such surveillance enforces: “most camera operators cannot differentiate / threat from eccentricity, so both / become criminal.” He asks, how to tell the difference? Are we any safer?
Next, I introduced Serena Chopra who read from a collection of new work. Her body moved with the energy of her incantatory poetry, reflecting her background as performer and dancer. He words flowed out from her swaying hands and shifting feet, images of bodies traversing space, writing architectures, trajectories, bodies opening and shedding themselves. From Livid Season she writes: “what I feel is / a new body / a death / and everything more thickly intricate than words.”
Khadijah Queen finished the night after an introduction from MFA student Sarah Richards-Graba. Khadijah read from her award-winning book of poetry Black Peculiar: a look at socially and psychologically structured identifications of self. With a firm, resonant voice she read: “He contorted my body, my emotions, my tongue into the bloom of a silk tree, making the buds trace the broken plates of his lips, tasting after origins, information, black holes.” Multi-genre and complex, Khadijah’s work focuses on how to be in the present moment: “alluring figures :: Derridean abundance :: interference.” It is this abundance, this unstable position in language that allows the possibility of empowerment.
JH Phrydas is a current MFA candidate in Writing and Poetics in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. He is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and does not have a southern accent. Phrydas received his B.A. in English Literature from UC Berkeley and was saved from a life of bartending and wayward travel with generous grants from the Endeavor Foundation for the Arts and the Anne Waldman Fellowship at Naropa. He now resides in Boulder, Colorado exploring “how to write the distance between two hands, nearly touching.”