A Test of Poetry

With Aisha Sasha John & Rodrigo Toscano 7:00 p.m. JOAN, 4300 West Jefferson Boulevard #1
Los Angeles, California

Due to unforeseen circumstances, A Test of Poetry has been cancelled.

Please join Triple Canopy and Fence Books for readings and a conversation with poets Aisha Sasha John and Rodrigo Toscano about the performance and place of poetry, the theater of the page, and how poetry’s recontextualization by arts institutions and other interested bodies produces differing kinds of value in and around the text.

Readers encounter poetry not only on the page, but also online, via the academy, and in performance spaces, where lines between poetic practice and criticism, scholarship and performance, and visual art blur. What demands does poetry’s circulation in these multiple networks place on the poet? How does the performance of poetry generate value, and how do institutions facilitate, amplify, distort, or instrumentalize this value? How can poets counter-appropriate or reject these working contexts?

In A Test of Poetry, these questions will frame a discussion between Aisha Sasha John and Rodrigo Toscano. Performance figures centrally for each, within and beyond their respective writing practices; John is also a dancer, while Toscano, a labor activist, makes texts to be vocalized and staged. John is the author of The Shining Material (2011) and, most recently, THOU (2014), two long narrative poems that explore the social space constructed by the word “you.” Toscano’s recent books include Collapsible Poetics Theater (2008) and Deck of Deeds (2012). His latest work, Explosion Rocks Springfield (2016), comprises eighty iterations—or, performance prompts—of the titular disaster and is newly out from Fence Books. Their conversation will be preceded by a short reading.

A Test of Poetry is a response to Triple Canopy’s Passage of a Rumor, a series of digital publications associated with a print book, On Value, a collaboration with choreographer and artist Ralph Lemon published in fall 2015. These works emerged from Value Talks, a series of private conversations organized by Lemon in 2013 and 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. They continue a meditation on the value of artworks and the labor and bodies that make them, particularly in the context of value-conferring institutions. In essays, poems, interviews, and artworks, contributors consider the allure of artworks that, by nature, resist institutional parameters; how and why performers, choreographers, and dancers might make art institutions into proper venues, even caretakers, for their works; and how race figures into conversations about value.

  • Aisha Sasha John is a singing dancer. Her solo performance the aisha of oz premiered at the Whitney Museum in June 2017, and will close the MAI’s 2017/2018 season. Aisha is the author of I have to live. (M&S 2017), The Shining Material (BookThug 2011), and THOU (BookThug 2014)—finalist for both the Trillium and ReLit Poetry Awards. In addition to her solo work, she choreographed, performed and curated as a member of the performance collective WIVES (2015–2017). Her video work and text art have been exhibited in galleries (Doris McCarthy, Oakville Galleries) and was commissioned by Art Metropole as part of Let’s understand what it means to be here (together), a public art performance residency she designed and led. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph, and a BA in African Studies and Semiotics from the University of Toronto. She lives in Toronto.
  • Rodrigo Toscano is author of Explosion Rocks Springfield, Deck of Deeds, Collapsible Poetics Theater (National Poetry Series 2007), To Leveling Swerve, Platform, Partisans, and The Disparities. His poetry has appeared in Best American Poetry, Diasporic Avante-Gardes (Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement), and in the anthology, Against Expression. He was a recipient of a New York State Fellowship for the Arts in Poetry. Toscano has been involved in labor movement politics for over fifteen years. He lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.