Maureen McLane’s 7 Poets on the Verge

Poet & critic McLane writes on seven poets, including me, for Vela Magazine:

Alice Lyons, the American poet, essayist, filmmaker, and curator, has just returned to the U.S. after eighteen years in Ireland. Lyons has a wonderfully bi- or tri-focal perspective on poiesis—on “making,” in its broadest sense—and her several inheritances (American, Irish, and European) make themself felt in her forthcoming book, The Breadbasket of Europe (out March 2016). Breadbasket is both lyrical, in the traditional sense, and conceptual. (Lyons’s title is, by the way, a common epithet for Ukraine.) Throughout the work, Lyons dynamizes the page itself—at times it functions as a field, other times it seems a screen, still other times, a “page,” as one might conventionally understand it, a surface for print.

Breadbasket contains a remarkable long section, “furthermore New York,” (where we trace—among other things—the poet-emigrant’s earlier brief return to the U.S.). The book features episodes in Ireland and a section, “Fell,” that tracks the poet’s own ancestry and “fallings” (we might say) through generations of women: this particular movement culminates in a wonderful section in which a grandmother’s handwriting moves boldly, touchingly and perhaps a bit pathetically across the page. “Furthermore New York” offers a strong and surprising turn on family inheritance, U.S. and Irish relations (in all senses), linguistic cruxes, what’s traced and traceable. Breadbasket is especially concerned, then, with migrations, personal and transpersonal; the book is punctuated in its last movement (the “Whaling Log” episodes) by a rollicking Melvillean sea-voyage—which reminds us that the Pequod was itself a ship of many nations and voices.

Lyons’ extensive and intensive work in poetics, video, criticism, animation, and the archive mark her as a most unusual artist, scholar and curator. Her work in all registers is delicate, cumulatively powerful, at times elusive, yet also coherent in its means and preoccupations: the feel of the contemporary, the question of place and identity, how to map oneself and others, how to inscribe—provisionally—a place, or simultaneities of placings. (Read—and hear her read—her poem, “Developers.”) Lyons wrote an impressive PhD thesis (soon to be a book) on the experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton—and there she argued that Frampton achieved a lyricization of cinema. Her own work in Breadbasket suggests a cinematics of lyric, with its discrete yet related sequences, its montage-like compositional logic. Look for this work, and for more from Lyons, soon.”

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Pigeons released carrying my poem for Eileen Gray from rooftop in Berlin

Last week the latest version of Irish artist Sarah Browne‘s project Remembering Gray was realised at Haus Huth, Berlin. This work consists of the transmission of the poem ‘something permanent’ by Alice Lyons. This poem was commissioned in lieu of a formal eulogy or obituary existing for Eileen Gray, the Irish designer/artist/architect (1878-1976).
 
Produced with the intention of being translated into Morse code, previous versions have included a light intervention at Grazer Kunstverein and a shortwave radio station at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. On this occasion, the poem is being distributed by homing pigeons from the topmost balcony in Haus Huth – the only building in the Potsdamer Platz area of Berlin that survived the bombing of WWII.
 
Pigeons will be released periodically throughout the run of the exhibition From a Poem to a Sunset at Daimler Contemporary, which happens to coincide with the spring / summer pigeon racing season, and will conclude on August 30th.  Photo by James Brady.