As one walked upon the scene for the release party staged at Innisfree for Ella Longpre’s How to Keep You Alive (HTKYA-press-release), one saw a throng of people wearing glittery multi-colored party hats, greeting each other like family. Moving among them was Ella herself, garbed in white showing those who had gathered how to use the projector set and headphones, gesturing toward the photos playing on a white sheet pinned to the red-brick wall. Images displayed, “existing with a technicality and only with great effort” to shut out the chatter and grind of the surrounding din, listening to her voice, “like a floating dream, waiting for a symbol to occur”.
Among the ephemera of the evening were also pages of the text, hanging on the walls, as it was originally intended to exist, hanging as curtains to the many shelves of poetry living behind them.
And it is the collective experience of these particles of a work larger than a body or a house, but, “the demonstration of time as a mentor” working to give a synesthesia of experience. A performance that you don’t need so much as an ordering of holes, filled perforations. Listening to Ella, one has a sense of poetry that is more than Poetry, but “alchemical as the sun’s light changes your fluid”. One part nostalgia-stripped Camelot, another part slope to the window of a ventricle; wholly knit tissue-screen; a technology of windows dreaming of what can keep us alive.
The evening was opened up by Brian, owner of Innisfree who knows Ella well as employer-friend-ally-comrade. In his many words of praise and appreciation for her knowledge and skill as only a book-loving barista can possess, he said, “I hope when she writes her taxes that she will write ‘Poet'”. The essence of his words led us to an elevation of her character as one who takes her path with a cultivated fortitude and humble virtuosity.
When Ella took the stage for some choice readings of the book, it became clear the power a book can have as evidence of survival. That “a mirror adds a negative room to a room”; that negative space is of a dangerous, waking lie. Violence itself is a lie and, “ecstasy means leaving our stain on a room, nervous system of a house”. So if the writing itself exposes the mirror, then her reading was a dream-window and everyone in the room a lucid dreamer.
And if Innisfree is a house (which it is to all those who find sanctuary there), then there is no doubt Ella Longpre released her first book in a place of home.
~~The Hungry Ghost~~