by Juleana Enright
Last month, we were introduced to a bunch of poetry game changers, aka the collective Our Flow is Hard. Formed by a local group of ladies bent on revamping the antiquated idea of poetry, these nu-poets are determined to fuck with the lit infrastructure by taking readings out of the safety of their traditional locales and into the streets, sweaty apartments, alleyways, rooftops and gutters of Minneapolis.
This week, I caught up with three members of Our Flow is Hard (OFIH) to check in on their progress and load up on the details of their upcoming reading series, set to correlate with Tarnish & Gold‘s last event in their current space. Hot on the heels of their last successful series, the Pink Swamp Poetry Reading, OFIH’s second reading, “Rustic Volcano,” promises to pack the same fierce, word-slewing flame, with a few added bonuses including a special appearance from a Portland-based traveling zine tour.
l’étoile: This event correlates with Tarnish and Gold’s last event at their current space. Do you think that will effect the tone and energy of the evening’s poetry?
OFIH: Yes. Because it is not going to be a house reading, and since it’s set in an open space (an alleyway) attached to a gallery, the volcano reading will already be a lot more “public” and community oriented than our first reading. The energy of the sun, the sweat of the outdoors, and the catlike breeze will graze the tender eyeballs and eardrums of participants as the volcano people perform. We’re excited to be sharing an event with Tarnish and Gold as well as The Flying Zine Mobile, who will add another tactile dimension to the thing. Audience members will be able to peruse their loot and exchange their with their own bookish things. We will also have our own zine/chapbooks to give away (for a small donation), so that’s also something that didn’t happen at the Swamp Reading. Since this is the last event at Tarnish and Gold, it’s also a chance to celebrate their transition.
l’étoile: When we first chatted you were heading into the Swamp Reading, the first of a series of Our Flow is Hard readings set out to manipulate the preconceived expectations of a poetry reading. How was the turn out and how will the Rustic Volcano compare to the first?
OFIH: The turn out at the swamp was great–the perfect number of people to fill an apartment space and to steam up the air into swamp-grade humidity. Rustic Volcano will hopefully have a good number also, but because this weekend is prime time for being out of town, we’re not anticipating a huge turn out.
l’étoile: Who are some of the poets involved with Rustic Volcano?
OFIH: A husband and wife team, Russ Woods and Meghan Lamb, is crawling north from Chicago for this reading. They’re are the realest deal to us. They run Red Lightbulbs, which is a great online magazine, and they’ve recently started a press, Love Symbol Press, that’s slated to let some beautiful confetti out of the cannon soon. We choose them because 1) we love their work and how much they care about supporting and talking about the literary community, and 2) because they are exceptional, jaw splitting performers. A few of us saw them read at this year’s AWP writing conference in Chi, and they just twisted the house apart. By the end, it felt like they’d eaten twelve microphones apiece.
We decided to pair one of our own, Carrie Lorig, with Meghan and Russ because her writing, like theirs, bends towards the visceral and takes big, imaginative leaps. Also, she’s loud. Carrie is working towards her MFA in Poetry at the University of Minnesota and gives every bike that passes her a once over. She misread something while rereading Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein that spurred a seizure of poems about slow pouring animals called pain cattle. Then there’s Franciszka Voeltz and the Fly Away Zine Mobile (based in Portland, Oregon). Having a traveling (zine) library present at one of our readings feels unreal, and their values align so well with ours. More literature to more people. More people making literature. More people feeling like literature is a thing they can make part of their lives.
l’étoile: Why the alleyway aspect?
OFIH: We were a little worried, given the way the heat has been clotting up and up this year. However, summer in the Midwest really is something special. The porches make it so with their creaking wood and their cracking beers. The light is the nicest fleck of gold here in these months, and we wanted to make the poems part of that. Also, the alleyway at Tarnish and Gold is large, nice, and very pretty. There are ample picnic tables and benches, and we have plans to arrange them in a big, circular shape. It’s small change to the usual way a reading is arranged, but I think it’ll pinch on that gathering feeling. It’ll feel more intimate hopefully, and it’ll be fun to watch the readers try to figure out which direction they want to read in or how/when they decide to change.
l’étoile: Tell us more about the Fly Away Zine Mobile.
OFIH: The Zine Mobile joins us as a part of their a summer tour, Cross-Pollination: A Mobile Show and Tell. Their vision of collaborative learning aligns with OFIH’s dedication to fracturing the boundaries between reader and listener. The Zinemobile is chock-full of handmade, self-published literature, from field guides to XXX to comics to Eco-feminism, etc, all of which are available for swapping before or after the reading. They even have a small lending library of acoustic instruments and probably a handful of non-human animal hairs. Voeltz, from the Cross Pollination tour, will be reading a collaborative piece called “Dear Beloveds” which will invite participation from everyone in our alleyway.
l’étoile: The Swamp Reading packed a pretty alluring afterparty. What’s on the menu for Saturday’s post-reading?
OFIH: Tarnish & Gold is so generously donating their space to us. That’s a huge favor. We don’t want to impede on them any more than we have to. We also want our readings to be partially about the neighborhood we’ve chosen to do the reading in. This time it’s in Northeast. 331 is a great neighborhood bar in NE that promotes free live music. It’s just a few doors down, and we’re planning on having some very chill drinks and literary chats there afterward with anyone who wants to join us.
l’étoile: And finally, what would you say to those who think poetry is for squares?
OFIH: Sure, we’ve attended that funeral in our black or pink or bruised bog gown a million times. We just eat the leftover flowers at this point. A little bit of looking beyond the big, tired poetry awards/titles would tell you that poetry is still trying to understand what’s going on around here, and that’s it is infecting the gaps and holes in interesting ways. I don’t think it’s our goal at Our Flow is Hard to force you to see otherwise. We’re not trying to give you a swirly in the poetry toilet. This rumor that poetry sucks, though, has been around for so long that a lot of people have stopped fact-checking it. It has to be more complex than that, and we should talk about it. Poetry is a rumble underground, a whale song all baleen stuck with human krill, that feels easily shareable and transferable to us. If poetry is dead, I guess that means we can do whatever we want with its ghost. We think that’s really exciting. Think of the noises that might result in! What’s buried has been planted and might come up at any time.
Questions answered by Feng Sun Chen, Amelia Foster, and Carrie Lorig, members of Our Flow is Hard.
Join Our Flow is Hard on Saturday, July 28th at 8 pm at Tarnish & Gold Gallery, 349 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis for the Rustic Volcano Reading Series with drinks to follow after the readings next door at the 331 Club. Click HERE for the Facebook invite.