“in the flesh hour dead doll head / fingers near closed arc of plastic / monster gratuitous”
The “Dollbaby” performance involves a series of dolls that have been altered to become vessels for poems in various ways. Instead of reading the poems from the page, the dollbabies hold space for the poems and create an element that must be navigated to read the poem. The dolls also represent and play on the notions of masking and performative madness as they take up space in the performance literally eclipsing the role of the speaker as they engage in the play of providing poetry for the audience. Some dolls have register tapes of poems that emerge from their backs, some are in glass jars with the palimpsest of poems wallpapering the sides, one doll (Nelly) is a keeper of secrets who rocks throughout the show while listening; the intention of the work is to swerve the audience from their expectation of what poetry is or will present to them in a reading space. The doll is familiar and yet altered into an unfamiliar presence; it represents that which we make monstrous and yet feel compelled to witness.
Audience members are asked to come on stage to hold dolls that are suspended so that they too become members of the dollscape that the stage becomes as more and more dolls emerge to occupy the space. Each doll is named and introduced to the audience as having a distinct personality; the dolls reveal how they hold their poems and then the speaker shares their words with the audience. The performance invites a splitting of the notion of author and creator as the dolls allow the presence of the poet to recede into the background. Likewise, the playfulness and oddness of the dolls gives people permission to engage and feel less like a poetry reading is an event that one must sit through quietly.
My intention is to create a bridge that invites people who would normally not be interested in poetry or going to hear poetry to find interest in the strangeness that they might see and to be able to connect in witnessing something they don’t expect. This show was performed in a karoake bar in New Orleans that had a mixed audience of regular patrons as well as people there to hear the poems.