The Julie Patton reviews keep coming. Gerard Breitenbeck reviews her recent BathHouse reading:
Rob Halpern introduced poet Julie Patton by citing works such as Room for Opal, Using Blue to get Black, and Notes for some (Nominally) Awake. Having lived all over the United States and Europe, Patton currently resides in Cleveland where she’s involved in the Dandelion Society and other urban green initiatives. Her work defies description, Halpert conceded, but nevertheless as submitted as imperfect reductions: “Phono-linguistic pictographs, real-time choreographies and social dream-work.” Patton “explodes typographic connections on page and detours common sense off page.” She “stimulates language games, risks nonsense for new sense, making intrinsic structures volatile enough to change.”
Patton began by speaking into the microphone “Is it possible that the meaning…” letting the last word drone and extend and erode, finally picking it up “is the meaning of another kind… Like what is the language in it… Made… Mated… Aided…Hated…” This transcription obviously fails to replicate the performance, as one of the things which stands out about Patton during is the sensuality embodied in her speech as well as her movements. One gets the sense that Patton’s encounter with words is a living encounter, a real-time exploration of the acoustic parameters and attributes of the word “Made” for instance, a open-eyed stroll through the neighborhood of “Made,” interested in conversing with all its inhabitants.
In the course of her further readings, which are less separate episodes then scenes in a play, unified progressions in a singular performance, Patton employed a tambourine, bells, and one of those turning crank things, among other instruments. In addition, she was accompanied throughout by an ethereal guitar.
In the first few moments of her performance, Patton, clutching a disheveled collection of notes and pages and books, dropped a page in what appeared to be an accident. She did not pick it up, and as the performance progressed it became more difficult to discern whether it had been an accident or not. By the end of the reading, it became clear that the concept of accidents would be absurd as it’s commonly understood. Rather, the paper came free from her hands and came to a rest on the stage, and that was a good place for it, it having found it’s place there. Patton would find herself as well on the floor many times during the performance, sometimes crouched, or on her back, or all fours, sometimes crawling prone down steps, shoes long relinquished in favor of mobility.
Patton uses the entire stage—the entire theater, in fact. At one point she handed out instruments to the crowd, then called them all up in front of the stage. When she had the whole room on fire, her poetry had charged into screaming into the microphone and dancing around the stage before collapsing in orgasmic rapture.
Later, when all had quieted down again, a late coming student entered the theater, and Patton, not missing a beat, acts dramatically startled with a punctuating gasp in the middle of her poem, as though it were all carefully orchestrated and meaningful. Which, of course, in a sense, it is.