This monthly series features highlights from the Cross Cultural Poetics archive. Cross Cultural Poetics is one of the longest-running radio shows in America focused on contemporary poetry and poetics. Based at The Evergreen State College and hosted by Leonard Schwartz, the entire archive, running from 2003 to the present, can be accessed on PennSound.
For February, I’ve chosen an episode that originally aired in 2004 and features poet, labor activist and founder of The Collapsible Poetics Theater, Rodrigo Toscano. Toscano reads from his fourth book, To Leveling Swerve, as well as two other poems, “Twelve Riddles in Spirit, Crook in Hand” and “Memories of Somewhere to Somewhere Else.” He and Schwartz discuss the intermixture of discourses in Toscano’s work, and the privileging of materiality over the spiritual dimensions of a word. Toscano, who grew up speaking both Spanish and English, talks about “code switching” as more of a survival mechanism than sheer poetic technique, and reads from his dynamic and quick-witted multi-vocal works—poems that bring to the fore the materiality and relational nature of language. As he put it, “I try to invite people through the course of a half-an-hour of reading not to be afraid of letting go of meaning.”
Rodrigo Toscano’s newest book of poetry is Deck of Deeds. His previous collection, Collapsible Poetics Theater, was a 2007 National Poetry Series Selection. He was the recipient of a 2005 New York State Fellowship in Poetry. His plays have been performed at the Disney Redcat Theater and the Ontological-Hysteric Poet’s Theater Festival. His poetry has been translated into French, Dutch, Italian, German, Portuguese, Norwegian and Catalan. Toscano works for the Labor Institute, in conjunction with the United Steelworkers and the National Institute for Environmental Health Science. He works out of a laptop, tethered to a Droid, residing in airports, occupying poetics in midflight.