Last night was a treat. A small crowd of us got to hear Debrah Morkun perform work from all three manuscripts she's worked on: Projection Machine, published in April by BlazeVox; Ida Pingala (in-progress and nearly done, Morkun tells us); and Hera Calf (also in-progress). Morkun's reading style is a kind of chanting, the output in lockstep with the input, where the input, or performativity of the text, stems from writing while performing particular breathing exercises--the Ida Pingala one of them. Her intonation approached chant as, with manuscript pages lined up on a long table at which she sat, close to us, she would pick up one excerpt from a manuscript, read, and then with nearly no pause, pick up the next, and read, and so forth. Where again, the reading was/is a kind of chanting, where, noted Morkun "the hope is to reach a kind of trance." A few of us, myself included, noted that we "tranced out." I thought it was the meds plus the really studied, brilliant poetry plus the way Morkun's voice sounds--itself calming--but no, this time it was not the meds!
Morkun's work concentrates on the long poem, doesn't stray from the long form: "the short poem is outmoded for what I want to do," she told us, emphasizing "what I want to do," not just here but with each question she would respond to after the beautiful reading. Her presence both calming, that is, AND humble: her founding the really productive/important New Philadelphia Poets "is just us sharing in what we love to do" (no: it's a really successful, vital series that has reached out and formed collaborations with the other collectives/series' in Philly); and her work "just comes out" (Morkun, a Naropa poet, and former coordinator at the Bowery Poetry Club spends hours editing work that is driven by carefully choreographed somatic exercises, the latest performed with CA Conrad and now up at Conrad's (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises blog.
It was a wonderful and inspiring reading of unique poetry and discussion. My only desire is that next time Morkun read longer--we all, I think, left wanting more. But of course that's often a good sign, and here, a very good sign. Many thanks to Morkun and to the students & faculty who came out for this reading, which unfortunately, landed on the day that was the 1st day of classes of the new academic year.