Morgan Ritter

Live Reading
Swan Island, Portland, Oregon
February, 2021

Residency Earth Interview with Morgan Ritter

Stephanie Berzon

What are you reading from on Swan Island?

Morgan Ritter
Free Charger: Select Writing from 2007-2018

How does it feel to read aloud a collection of thoughts that were pulled into poems across eleven years of your conscious life on the Willamette River; or how does it feel ever?

I did enjoy delivering the work at a physical threshold, it sort of felt like we were at an edge of civilization, on a cloudy, blustery day during a worldwide pandemic, seeing some residue of life in the form of litter or lost objects now weathered and dilapidated. It was really fun in a sort of risky, almost teenage-feeling way, introducing wildly new energy there. I kept wondering if security guards from some otherwise vacant, neighboring corporate buildings would tell me/us we were breaking the law or something.

For some of the more recent poems, it felt like it made perfect sense to read them there. In voicing them, I felt I was at as much as a destitute edge as the place was, so I wasn’t alone in that way.

Oh also!! A lot of the work is sourced from auditory transmissions through running water or dreams! I know that sounds intense, but it’s simply true! Somehow I sometimes hear phrases when I am running faucets. It always feels lucky.

I love how you relate that rushing river to consciousness and now I wish I was more attentive to the river itself...but I think my awareness of the environment was more secondary to the poems’ needs. I imagine that each poem is its own distinct object that has its own rules, parameters, sing-songy or plain spoken ways, pace, and I guess it feels like its own desires of how it wants to live in the world. I am in service to these works, and want to obey what I feel they want, as I understood them when they came through.

Maybe that is not true though, maybe I was on some level fully aware of the river and maybe it did change me. I can easily feel sensitive to the point of overstimulation by the life force of all matter, and I think it helps me to slow down by breaking the environment down into distinct objects.

I imagine these auditory transmissions in some world are in connection to auricular therapy in Chinese medicine; particularly the organization of acupuncture points on an ear which form the shape of an inverted fetus resting in a womb. Let's sit here— I would love to expand more on how your brain-ears work.

For some reason the sound of water coming out of faucets has brought language with it, aside from auditory materials from dreams. Once I heard my pee say the word, “everything.” It’s not unilaterally true though, like I don’t hear words everytime I use the sink. There have been times I have really believed I heard words through animal sounds too. I guess I haven’t talked about this in the past explicitly very much. There is precedence for this kind of spontaneous sourcing of language, like in poet Hannah Weiner’s “clair-style” work. As a child I believed a lot in the life of materials around me. I remember I thought I saw a miniature pink picket fence move by itself and had a really profound reverence and caution around it.
I think this all just means I am “sensitive.” Maybe like most artists, what I observe and experience becomes material to work with (responsibly), even if it seems ephemeral like a feeling or a sound. I guess some people would say it is our human brain’s intrinsic work to make sense out of senselessness, or to find meaning. That’s true and I have also always felt instantaneously epiphanous or like BOOM lucky when language came forward in this sudden delivery, transmission, meaning-making or otherwise.

What are you reading now?

What am I reading is different than what books do I carry from room to room or sleep next to. What am I reading is admittedly, like, not so cool. Honey bottles, cheese cracker boxes, recipes. It turns out I am pregnant :) and working FT so the books I am reading are more self-soothing, less intellectually stimulating or expansive. The books i’ve been simultaneously dipping into the past few months include:

-nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen as a reference book
-Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation, and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah by Rabbi Jill Hammer for mystic backbone
-The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk to have more reverence for the container of the body
-An obscure book about goddesses and cult images as a bathroom book
-Birth: An Anthology of Ancient Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories edited by David Meltzer as a bathroom book
-Understanding Bipolar Disorder by Aimee Daramus to help me better care for loved ones

If I had more time and capacity, I would like to read Keller Easterling’s Medium Design, explore the work of Cedar Sigo, dig into some more obscure Bernadette Mayer works, and revisit All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.

back to Forest Music