Embodying the Book Fair: The Jack Kerouac School 40th Anniversary Reading with Michelle Naka Pierce, Andrea Rexilius, and Anne Waldman, Saturday March 1, 2014

By Ashley Margaret Waterman

On a stage buzzing in an event center with over 650 exhibitors, Jack Kerouac School faculty members added to the “language, flailing about.” Occupying the sentence, marrying space and inner catastrophe, and listening into the margins, Michelle Naka Pierce, Andrea Rexilius, and Anne Waldman added to the narrative collective of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference.

Michelle Naka Pierce’s reading from Continuous Frieze Bordering Red enveloped AWP with the line, “the sounds are muffled as though submerged.” The white noise surrounding the reading placed the listener deeper into the work. Like Pierce’s words, we found ourselves “in place” and “displaced” while listening. An exploration of what it is like to be “other,” Pierce offered a contemplative space to explore the unstable borders of the language surrounding us. She asks the question, “How do you attempt being human?” Though a rhetorical question, Rexilius and Waldman each answered in their own readings.

Andrea Rexilius continued building borders, reading from Half of What They Carried Flew Away and a work-in-progress titled New Organism. Briefly reading from each section of her book, Rexilius used language to explore unknown landscapes. Taking us to a space where sky and water meet, the residences of desire, water, emanation, weather, and territory collected language, transitioning into the essay “Root Systems of Narratives: A Séance.” Rexilius embodied how narratives are collected—holding still and waiting for the pieces to be curated—while reading through the chaos of writers on the other side of the curtain. To be human is to curate a collection of narratives, much like a museum, exploring objects containing sounds.

Anne Waldman’s reading broke through the soundtrack of the afternoon. Reading from The Iovis Trilogy, Gossamurmur, and ending with Prisons of Egypt, Waldman’s language echoed throughout the book fair. “The war of hungry ghost vibrates” as did Waldman’s voice. The repetitive cry of the hungry ghost transitioned into the archive of Gossamurmur. Declaring, “the line comes, I swear it, by the breath,” the three pieces Waldman read represent remembering through telling—through collecting. From the hungry ghost, to the archive, to a spiritual, Waldman established that to be human is to be aware. We build narratives and must assure that they are heard over the drone of our surroundings.

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Ashley Margaret Waterman is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University. She is currently in her thesis semester and is interested in the naturally occurring structures of beehives and poetry.

Ashley Margaret Waterman is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University. She is currently in her thesis semester and is interested in the naturally occurring structures of beehives and poetry.