Think Globally, Write Poetry

Last Monday Poetry
Influence Music Hall
135 SE Third AV, Hillsboro, OR
Monday March 28, 7:00 pm

With the advent of niche marketing, localvore dining, targeted missile strikes it is nice to see the universal can still find a haven.  This haven is a tight spot to maneuver especially within the confines of a poem but the strange breed of writers known as poets relish this confinement.  It is also surprising to see a movement that prides itself on striking emotional chords through a strict elimination of specific time, place, brand come out of Portland.  Portlanders are a people who treasure the boutique, the weird, the personal, the excessively local.  Portland’s allegiance to Stumptown over Starbucks, to food carts over McDonalds, Jumblelaya vintage dresses over Anthropologie, Powell’s over Borders, even Les Schwab over BF Goodrich, or HUB over Bud is rooted in the adage: Think globally act locally.  The poetic movement Inflectionism takes up the thinking end of this saying.

Paramount to Inflectionism is the quest for truth.  Truth over fact not in an Orwellian sense nor asking it as Pilate to escape responsibility but as a way to discover the essential elements of human experience.  Even limiting it to the human experience chaps the hide of diehard Inflectionists like Molotkov or Williams.  Their brand of reductionism works like a black hole.  They strive to condense their truth to a point of extreme density drawing you in along with bending light and time and possibly popping the reader out into another universe.  Needless to say brevity is a key ingredient.  Often the poems are nuggets of introspection.  Take Williams autobiographical poem…

I still remember the day my father was born.

No that is not the title.  That is the whole poem and with its brevity it bends time and opens an alternate universe. 

To get to this level of density one has to detonate stars and peel away whole planets. Cutting away specific locales, jettisoning the Sierra Nevada, the Clackamas and Route 66.  Blotting out the lights of Paris, the white phosphorous of Fallujah, the Aurora Borealis.  Gone is the Douglas Fir, the Lazy Boy, the worn pair of Levi’s.  Heaven forbid the inclusion of your childhood sweetheart, Hannah Gladwell, Rupert your abuser, or the Bard.  Even Kevin Bacon’s 6 degrees will get you the third degree.  Although Mr. Molotkov jokes that New York is acceptable. 

Where does that leave one in terms of truth?  What of finding the universal in the personal, exploring the macrocosm in the microcosm, mining your own history?  Inflectionists leave that to other movements; to the poets of place, to Pastoralism, the Confessionalists.  In many ways Inflectionism is like the Symbolist Movement.  The same quest for absolute truth accessed indirectly through juxtaposition and paradox but with a renewed aversion for narrative perhaps in reaction to the Confessionalists.  There is still plenty of truth left as their growing collection will testify. 

All poetry wrestles with the devil in the details and his evil twin cliché.  Poets reside in a tough spot between the salt rusted bars of Alcatraz and a hard place.  Inflectionists demonstrate their adept skill at navigating these obstacles in their work.  Adroitly sifting the truth from the facts, polishing them and setting them on the page.  Mercilessly they remove the specific and hone open, evocative, and thought-provoking poems.  John Sibley Williams along with other Inflectionists and non-Inflectionists will speak to this process and the crucibles used to fashion truths you’ll call poetry.