Friday, September 30, 2005

(Bad) Photo: Linh Dinh

Last Sunday, a colleague and I went to see the writer Linh Dinh read with Bill Allegrezza at Myopic Books' poetry series, which Chuck Stebelton hosts in Chicago. I'd never heard Linh Dinh read before, but have been a fan of his work since Tisa Bryant sent me Renee Gladman's beautifully bound Leroy chapbook of his playful and highly original poems, entitled A Small Triumph over Lassitude.
He didn't disappoint; he read prose and verse from old and new works, a great deal of it formally straddling several genres, including the epigram and the aphorism; his one line stories were especially sharp. Many felt like snippets from pointed, yet generic narratives, though he has a way of making his fictions, however brief, quite vivid, mainly through specificity of detail, imagery, and his careful use of rhetoric. I thought of Tan Lin's thrilling readings last spring at the university, and how both writers, without explicitly mentioning that they're Asian-American in much of their work, nest moments of indeterminacy in their texts, creating zones and spaces of disruption and noise that throw off any easy, normative reception or understanding of them. Or maybe that's just how I hear and read them.

Linh Dinh finished with a raw, disjointed brand-new poem, accompanied by an audiotape (of what initially sounded like a train, but then turned into someone or people breathing heavily, as if she or he were panting, or making love, or just heaving), in sotto voce until, by its end, he was reading at full voice. He says it will soon be on Penn Poets, so if and when it appears, I'll link to it. I found the low-tech multimedia addition to the reading exciting, and wished that Bill Allegrezza, whose best poems were pungently lyrical, had added something extra to his performance as well.

I forgot to bring my camera, so I turned to my cameraphone, whose lens, I think, is now so blurry it really isn't of much use. But try to imagine that the person beneath the light, past the gleaming crown of hair, is managing, in an unassuming way, to set your mind on fire. That's Linh Dinh.

(A shout out to Hai (sp.?), who brought Linh, now heading to Britain for 9 months to teach at the University of East Anglia, to Madison, Wisconsin, to read with William Waltz in the Felix: A Series of New Writing -- Beyond Boundaries series earlier in the week.)

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