The dark containers (PoemTalk #117)

Larissa Lai, 'Nascent Fashion'

Left to right: Colin Browne, Daphne Marlatt, and Fred Wah.


Larissa Lai’s poetry here “is on the move between things,” as Fred Wah puts it in this episode of PoemTalk, for which Al Filreis also gathered Daphne Marlatt and Colin Browne to discuss Lai’s long poem Nascent Fashion (published together with several other long poems in Automaton Biographies). Fred, Daphne, and Colin were on tour together as a Western Canadian trio for readings and events along the US east coast. Fortunately for PoemTalk and Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia was one of their stops.

The discussion, following that sense of moving between things, grapples with Larissa Lai’s talent for writing that “pushes borders,” forcing nouns into verbs (thus socializing and even politicizing them), experimenting with the collective pronoun, and reanimating intense (at times despairing) confrontations with a linguistic history of slavery, involuntary emigration, mass killing. Verse here is a racialized discourse that helps assert by strong constant implication that pushing language is indeed pushing borders. “Mastercarding” is a political verb, all four PoemTalkers aver, as they moved from understanding this nascent fashion as “social” to reading it as political in its perception of the way economics supports human dislocation.

Larissa Lai performed parts of work pubished in Automaton Biographies at Banff, Alberta, in February of 2010 — at the “In(ter)ventions” conference co-organized by Fred Wah. (Al Filreis was present at Banff then, too, and attended the reading.) PennSound’s Larissa Lai page includes a ten-minute recording of her reading from Nascent Fashion.

PoemTalk episode #117 was recorded and engineered by Annie Fang and Zach Carduner in the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House. PoemTalk’s editor was once again Zach Carduner. PoemTalk is grateful to Elizabeth and Nathan Leight for their ongoing support of this podcast series and of digital poetics projects at Kelly Writers House generally. We also acknowledge our partners at the Poetry Foundation and, of course, PennSound — which is the source of all recordings used in PoemTalk.

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