Before he moved to Singapore, C. E. Putnam was one of the most faithful contributors to Seattle's vibrant and vigorous literary scene. He helped curate the legendary Subtext reading series, he was a member of avant-poetry performance group Interrupture, and he always seemed to have two or three projects going at any moment. Singapore seems to encourage his more bookish, less performative side: On the eve of his return to Seattle, Putnam has published six separate books of poetry simultaneously.
The two books that Putnam provided to The Stranger for review, The Papier-Mâché Taj Mahal (P.I.S.O.R. Publications, $14) and Things Keep Happening (P.I.S.O.R. Publications, $16), are so different that they could almost have come from two different authors. Things is a tall book, with poems that sprawl across the page in a variety of shapes and rhythms, sometimes accompanied by illustrations. Taj Mahal is more compact, more book-shaped, with poems that more closely conform to the idea of what a poem usually looks like.
Things is the book that will appeal most to fans of experiment-minded literature. (It features a map of all the Capitol Hill "taking off & landing points" where Putnam found "textual content, creation, and nodes of post-astral transcendence.") The text that pulls you through the book, sometimes in wispy puffs of stanzas floating in the upper right corner, and other times with a more direct, dagger-shaped series of couplets slicing down the page, feels eerily like a crime novel with everything normal cut out...