Tom Raworth | School of the Art Institute, ballroom | Literary Events | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Wed., Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. 2008
Phone: 312-899-1229
Price: $8-$10
When experimental, New York School-style poetry gets caught up in its own clever in-jokes, it can quickly degenerate into boring gibberish. Tom Raworth doesn't always escape this failing: the title poem of his 2007 volume Caller and Other Pieces is an interminable and unreadable string of disconnected words and phrases: "age of exponentials / kurdish women / carry brush." Yeah, whatever. At his best, though, Raworth takes poetry's most enduring resources--lyric, doggerel, rhyme, repetition--whacks them with a blunt instrument, and comes out with oddly limping, inappropriately giggling clumps of meaning. In "Spime" UFOs like "panama hats / spin across the continent," trailing technobabble in their wake. In "Coda" he compares his heart to a turd and imagines his love's ass dragging him by his tongue as she walks down the aisle. My favorite poem of Raworth's, though, is still the first one I read. Published in The Relation Ship (1966), "You’ve Ruined My Evening / You've Ruined My Life" actually lives up to its goofily lyric title. A kind of fractured sestina in which dreams, glass, fruit, and elephants stumble into each other in an aphasic haze, it seems to envision life as a still series of frames, sporadically flipped and animated. "i would be eight people and then the difficulties vanish," he opens that poem; probably more than one Tom Raworth will show up for this Poetry Center of Chicago reading, and a fair percentage of them will be worth listening to. --Noah Berlatsky



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