Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fama Rama

big pic!

Ben Fama, in his life and his work, fancifully cultivates an aesthetic somewhere between mid-cult mystic and cosmic troublemaker. Sitting on the couch of his Brooklyn apartment, you’re as likely to find him enthusiastically watching a documentary on Aleister Crowley as you are an episode of My So-Called Life; a conversation with him about the publishing industry is likely to be speckled with incongruous references to the Twilight Saga and the films of Kenneth Anger. The earnestness with which he absorbs a psychedelic patchwork of cultural influences, and reformats them under the rubric of his personal style, eschews the twee irony of hipsterdom. Not to mention he is an exciting and kick-ass poet. Not to mention he is one of the trendiest and integral operators in the youthful Brooklyn poetics scene today.

Let me explain that previous statement. Ben is the driving force behind the Supermachine reading series, which has run at Brooklyn’s Outpost Lounge, and which has routinely featured some of the greatest, probably coolest, contemporary poets in and around the city. A list of the most recognizable names from Supermachine’s sparkly stable of featured readers include Joshua Beckman, Chelsey Minnis, James Copeland, Matvei Yankelevich, Christian Hawkey, Jen Bervin, and Dorthea Lasky. The Supermachine series has been providing a catalog of fantastic examples re what’s up in poetry today (at least on the East Coast), not to mention ensuring an array of fabulous nights for lovers of verse. Moreover, this year Supermachine launched its own biannual journal, also called Supermachine, with the purpose of presenting some dazzlingly great poetry all wrapped up in the giddy, trance-like, but impacting style that characterizes Ben’s endeavors as organizer and publisher. A few poem titles featured in Supermachine #1 might help illustrate what that style leans toward: “Do Me, Dreamlife,” “Your Mom’s a Falconress,” “Journey to the Sun,” “Two Small Vampires,” “Your Sorcery Embarrasses Me,” “Dreams in Winter,” and “When It’s Sunny They Push the Button.”

Fama’s newish chapbook is titled Aquarius Rising; it was smartly selected by Ugly Duckling Presse for their really awesome series of chapbooks. For anybody who happened to miss Fama’s earlier poetry collection Sun Come, or what he’s published in journals like GlitterPony, Pank!, and No, Dear Magazine (plus, let us not forget, Correspondence), you’re going to want to hunt this baby down. A weirdo pessimist might dismiss Ben’s shiny verse with some semi-clever put-down (“Ben Fama is the Progressive Insurance Lady of poetry,” for instance, and no I cannot recall if I made that up, or if Ben did, or if somebody actually said that), and granted: his poems have a distinct and fun lightness to them, but if you let the kid talk to you from his pages, and he will, gregariously, you will, omg, totally develop a crush on this writing. There is a sassy gravity to his lines… take this (the opener from his ingenuously and ingeniously titled piece, “Glitter Pills”): “To live a serious life / that’s a fucked up thing[.]” That really strikes me, for its honesty wrapped in playfulness, but I might as well just reprint the whole poem:

To live a serious life
that’s a fucked up thing
I would have to rent out a cabin
beneath terrible angels
if I get old wipe the dust off my tits
I should have a serious log cabin
the cabin’s name is Ben Fama
find directions on the internet
when you want to leave you can
I’ll stay there just me and my heart
bigger than the sun

That’s not the best poem in Aquarius Rising, but it’s pretty representative of his ability to mix real feeling with the unpretentiously transcendental and some trademark winking, celebratory, hyperbolic mystification of the self. He plays fast and loose here and there, but not to the detriment of the reader’s possibility to enjoy, which seems like something Fama strongly wants you to do, even if he’s dancing around other complicated emotions. So, here’s this book, little and winsome, that Ben’s given us as a sort of spirit gift. Go and play with it in the grass. Try to keep an eye on Fama himself too, as he continues to engineer stellar venues, in print and in performance, for contemporary poetry. Yay!

(Lonely Christopher, editor.)

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