I just submitted this proposal for next year’s Association for Mormon Letters Conference. The conference theme: “Going Forth Into All the World: Mormon Literature in an International Church.” I hope it tastes international enough for the organizers’ palate.
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“Situating Sonosophy: De/constructing Alex Caldiero’s ‘Poetarium.’”
Contemporary Utah poet Alex Caldiero‘s performative mode of poetry and poetics, which he calls sonosophy, critiques conventional notions of epistemology, ethnography, language, pedagogy, performance, and poetry. It does so by maintaining what Caldiero calls a twin presence between holiness and farce, the magical and the mundane, the performance of the jester and the acts of the priest. Through this dynamic presence Caldiero aims to pivot the poet and his audience between sideshow and temple, clearing space in which to enact and to catechize the rites of language. In this space, performer and spectator at once share and disrupt simple open speech as sacrament, a subversive process that stresses the materiality of language and its origin in the physical and social relations among human bodies and communities. Caldiero consciously situates himself in this precarious position between reverence and irreverence. From this position he seeks to forge a relationship between the ridiculous and the sacred in his performances and in the minds and lives of his audience.
In this paper I will construct and briefly discuss the relational network of cultures and performance traditions in which Caldiero’s sonosophy is embedded. This network consists both of influences claimed by Caldiero and arenas within which he performs to audiences; these include, among other things: the tradition of the Sicilian storyteller (called the cuntastorie), the performance of religious rituals (specifically the Catholic liturgy and LDS temple rituals), Beat poetics (after the manner of Allen Ginsberg), and avant-garde performance movements (especially Dada). I will focus specifically on how this network is cued in Caldiero‘s 2010 “Poetarium” performance at the Utah Arts Festival* and on exploring where Caldiero fits within contemporary performance poetry more nationally. By so situating Caldiero, I intend to interpret his performative poetics as a site from which to interrogate the interrelated processes of poetry making, poetry performance, and performance ethnography and how these processes function in human terms. In so doing, I suggest that, through its whole-bodied performance of words, sounds, gestures, and images, this poetics has the potential to communicate profoundly and to influence spectators in ways not possible through less dynamic discursive structures.
*One set of this performance is available in five parts on YouTube. The intro is embedded here.