Listen to Festival Poet Dave Caserio read “Forensic Love” with musician Parker Brown. His relishing of the sheer physicality of language is evident from the first through the last word of his poem.
For Caserio, poetry begins in the breath, in the body. That was where it began millennia ago, before hominids used syntax and grammar in a way that modern linguistics would even recognize as language. Long before there were hominids, coyote, frogs, crickets called, howled and sang. To this day, by ponds and forests, our summer nights are full of sounds made by other creatures that are as rhythmic as any human song or prayer. Caserio seems to believe that our love of rhythm—the foundation of song, incantation and poetry—dates far back in our DNA.
This is not to suggest that poetry is merely a visceral art for Caserio. On the contrary, his poems are deep in their allusions to myth, literature, science, history and politics, which all evolved from the first utterance as a means of trying to understand ourselves, our relationships to others, to our place in the world and to the cycle of birth and death. These attempts, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, are part of a dynamic, evolving continuum for Caserio.
A native Chicagoan from a working-class background, his study of ancient myths is at one with his attempts to record the stories of his parents and grandparents, great aunts and uncles. Essential stories are essential stories for Caserio, whether found in an ancient text, or sitting on the front stoop. So it is not at all unusual to find references to the Great Wheel of Being, Agamemnon, Copernicus and his Uncle Joe Vezzetti’s gold tooth within a few breaths of each other in the same poem.
The far-ranging inclusiveness of these poems is part of their maker’s attempt to use the full range of experience and perception, to be spontaneous and disciplined, personal and universal, emotional and intellectual, visceral and spiritual, to fully acknowledge and use our innocence and experience. The result? Come out to the Dodge Festival in October to find out first-hand.
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