Coming soon: Lucifer invades Asheville
The Lucifer Poetics Group, that is – and who else would invite them but the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. If there’s something devilish to be done in the world of poetry, look for the Center to do it.
The Lucifer Poetics Group is a group of loosely affiliated experimental poets based in the Research Triangle; their main point of affiliation, other than geography, may be that they all subscribe to the Lucipo listserve, where discussions of poetry and poetics flourish day by day, and even in the dark of night. The Internet has begun to change radically – as it has changed so many things - the way poets get together, hang out, and learn from one another.
The geography, though, the fact that they run into each other at readings, bars, grocery stores, on the street, is also, in the mind of Ken Rumble, founder of the list, important. As he wrote last year in a post on poet Ron Silliman’s weblog :
I think that the quality of the discussion on Lucipo is directly related to the fact that the original members of the group and many of the people that have since joined all live in fairly close proximity to one another. Our meetings are sporadic (as they've always been), but whether it is at readings, meetings, or just the bar, we see each other around. There is a flesh avatar for the virtual personalities we experience via the list.
So a shared physical community informs the list’s back and forth, and gives it the neighborly tone that anyone who’s been on a more contentious listserv (and even the world of poetry has them) might find positively striking.
Why Lucifer, you might ask? Soon after the list was formed, Rumble asked members to propose names for the group:
Among the almost-weres are the Adz Murderers, Boomslang, Fat-head Sillyface, Workshop for 'Liscious Poetry (WoLiPo), Party Pitch Poetics.
Argh. Fortunately, Joseph Donahue, an early member, remembered the lines in the first of the Pisan Cantos of the great Modernist poet Ezra Pound in which he addresses
You who have passed the pillars and outward from Herakles
when Lucifer fell in N. Carolina.
The standard gloss on the passage is that Pound referred here to a meteor shower that appeared from his vantage point, the literal cage in Pisa within which he was confined at the end of World War II, to be headed down the western sky toward our state, falling angels. The group had a name.
As with any such group, every now and then even the members of the Lucipo list ask themselves what the group, after all, is. Chris Vitiello, an early member of the group, had this take on it in 2005:
The answer would probably be something like "Lucipo isn't a single ideology or style or idea. It's a name for a community that draws its strength from a mutual interest in contemporary poetry with an emphasis on avant-garde, post-avant, innovative, and experimental poetry. And this interest is sincerely non-competitive." That certainly sounds like an answer.
But really we're all too busy asking and answering the question by getting together to read and talk late into the night.
Collaboration seems to be one of the hallmarks of Lucipo’s experimentalism. It’s not unusual for a member of the group to post, say, the first four lines of a poem and invite the other members of the group to help him or her complete it; days later the poem’s scores of lines long, and has traveled through many counties the initial proposition didn’t, in all likelihood, dream of exploring. It’s often (I confess, I’m a member of the list myself) great fun.
None of the Lucipo folk mention this, but Lucifer is also an ancient designation for the planet Venus when it appears as the morning star, and Lucifer in that case stands revealed in its literal signification, “light-bearer”, acting as it does as the herald of the Sun. So the very name of the group, like so many words in poetry, is rich in possibilities for meaning. That seems appropriate for a group of poets who want to carry on – and extend - the experimental approach to writing that Pound’s work helped define early in the last century.
They’ve read in Philadelphia and DC, and now Rumble will be bringing the howling denizens of Lucifer Poetics to Asheville for their first event in the mountains. He’s suggested online that they form collaborative cells for their performance here, and groups have been hashing out their plans for the reading on the list – and, no doubt, off it as well. No telling what they might come up with, but it’s bound to be mighty interesting. Most likely mind-bending. And perhaps insidious.
The horde of Luciferians who plan to be here, aside from Mr. Rumble, includes the aforementioned Chris Vitiello, Todd Sandvik, Jenny Maness, Brian Howe, David Need, Randall Williams, Lori Reese, Ted Pope, and perhaps another tormented soul or two. They’ll be joined by local Lucipo poets Tim Earley, Jonathan Fisher, and Chall Gray.
The beachhead of their invasion will be (where else?) the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 56 Broadway, in downtown Asheville. It’s scheduled for Saturday, February 24th; the reading, or performance, or … whatever will kick off at 8:00 PM. There or square. Word. The last thing you’d want to do, after all, is tick off the King of the Underworld.
For more information, see www.blackmountaincollege.org, or call 828-350-8484.
This post appeared in different form in the February, 2007 issue of Rapid River.
2/10/2007: Updated with an additional link.