Quite simply, I love Elaine Kahn's poetry. I especially love to hear her read it. But when I read it myself, I hear it in her voice, with her inflections, and that is enough to make me swoon, alone in my dining room.
Elaine's oral presentation of her work is an unusual thing. It reminds me of the actors Herzog hypnotized to act in his film, Heart of Glass. The way she reads flashes between detachment and deep feeling in ways that don't seem to make subjective sense. Passages that seem as though they should be revelatory can resemble shopping lists or L/A/N/G/U/A/G/E weirdness, while she lingers languorously over details that should be much more inert. It's a confusing, bewitching blend of rattled expectations, always delivering more than you anticipate and in ways you can never predict.
Elaine's poetry blends colloquial tongue-action and rigorous academic formalism better than anyone I've ever read. There may be some similarities to Clark Coolidge at times, but she is definitely her own…uh…"man". She resolves contradictions inside her work with a clarity that feels far more effortless than it must actually be. And it provides a sort of Dionysian pleasure that should be negated by its clearly Apollonian form roots.
I recall a time we were on tour together. We were doing a gig in Philadelphia with the great Dionysian, Charles Plymell. After the show, Elaine and a friend turned Plymell onto some very fine pot. Plymell got happy as hell, and was kinda dancing around the way he's prone to do. Elaine, I could see, was torn. Should she pull a Janine Pommy Vega, and go with the flow, or be a hard ass? It was a tough decision. But she eventually took Charley's challenge and laughed her way into his weird beatnick flow. That was part of her rhythm, too. And she just embraced it.
This new book is like that, too. A mix of elements so naturally unnatural they suck you in and make your brains fire in ways you could've never pictured them firing. Classic shit.
A graduate of the California College of the Arts and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Elaine Kahn is the author of Customer (Ecstatic Peace Library, 2010), Radiant Bottle Caps (Glasseye Books, 2008) and Convinced By the End Of It (Big Baby Books, 2009). She is currently assistant editor at Flowers and Cream and lives in Oakland, CA.
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