Linguistic Vitality

Clay Poetry series returns at Weston Art Gallery


Publico was more than a gallery, and Dana Ward is more than a poet. He’s the editor/publisher of local Cy Press poetry, an advocate at the Over-the- Rhine Learning Center and the curator of the former Clay Poetry series at Publico.

CityBeat asks this expatriated Northern Kentuckian and avid Rap enthusiast some questions about poetry, Publico and Since You’ve Been Gone at the Weston.

CityBeat: How did you get involved with Publico?
Dana Ward: Sometime in early 2004 I wanted to host a poetry reading for some friends who were passing through town and I needed a venue. My friend Joey Versoza had gone to school with Paul Coors and shown some work at the gallery and suggested that Paul would probably be interested in having Publico host. He was, and the reading was a real success.

CB: What was your role in Publico?
DW: With the exception of curating/cocurating a reading series, my role was the same as the other members — curate and install the exhibitions. I also brought a lot of the beer.

CB: What was Publico to you?
DW: The central and indispensable site of my local cultural universe.

CB: How did you get involved with poetry?
DW: I became interested in poetry by following all the routes out and around popular modernity — principally popular music and film — as an adolescent. It’s not that far from (David) Lynch to (Andre) Breton, (Bob) Dylan to (Allen) Ginsberg, Sonic Youth to John Cage.

CB: What is “poetry” to you?
DW: Despite or perhaps because of its intense banality (this) is a really interesting question. Like my answer could be, “To me poetry is a blossom falling on a butterfly’s head, nothing more nothing less.” I actually wrote a play that was performed in San Francisco last year entitled Yoda In His Youth that is something of a parody of this question.

CB: Are there certain themes throughout your works?
DW: The World, is it there or not? I always thought of this as a divinely sophisticated question, and wanted to be preoccupied by it in some unnavigatable way. What matters to me most is that my writing have some vitality in others’ lives in the present. I also discovered that writing is a total extravagance because people can read each other’s minds.

CB: What’s going on at the Weston on Oct. 5?
DW: The poets Brandon Brown, Alli Warren and Stephanie Young are going to give a reading using the “Collapsable Kiosk” aspect of the Publico exhibit Since You’ve Been Gone.

CB: Who are these people?
DW: These three poets are making work that’s among the most exciting for me in all of contemporary poetry. They each have a complicated practice that refuses easy answers about gender, politics, money and their relationship to poetic form. All three are deeply engaged in the vital Bay Area poetry community — hosting readings, writer’s talks, publishing both their own work and new works by others and facilitating the performance of plays and other hybrid media works.

CB: Why is Rap music linguistically important? And what are your favorite Rap lyrics?
DW: Rap music, Hip Hop, is just so incredible as a site of cultural analysis. It has everything — complex and often terrifying relationships to wealth and poverty, gender, glamour and intellectual property. Notions of how a voice achieves agency in the world. Its linguistic vitality is incredible. All the things that bring pleasure in poetry are there — the texture of a particular voice, complex prosody, anaphor, sophisticated rhyme schemes and explosive punning. And, if asked to choose, I’d have to say the opening verse of Biggie’s “Juicy,” as cliched as that may seem — it’s like saying your favorite song is “Yesterday” by the Beatles — just never gets old. That mix of defiance, nostalgia and the sound of his voice break my heart every time.

The WESTON ART GALLERY hosts Publico Poetry at 7 p.m., Oct. 5.

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