Some of us take up so much space for our shelter. Some, so little. We dwell in a landscape of foreclosed houses, those shells of shelter, and also, shelter-less people.
My investigation zeroed on the financial speculation that puffed around the housing foreclosures. Its complexity and obscurity are its power. Thus, I doggedly read, focusing less on the over-aspiring homeowner or even the real estate flipper, and more on the leveraging that was so extreme, it could collapse the economy.
Seems like a good subject for poetry. I am interested in a poetic practice that insists on inexpert inquiry, gathering ideas and ways of knowing to open a space for more collaborative inquiry. While I read, I embroidered a poem, line by line, on an 8-foot-dropcloth. I also wrote a magic show, A Tale of Money that Lost its Puff, in collaboration with magician and whistler Mitch Hider, and Jules Boykoff.
During autumn 2010, I held two Econ Salon. The first, in a studio in the Goldsmith Building in Portland’s Old Town, featured poetry readings by Jules Boykoff, Allison Cobb, and me; music by Cynthia Nelson, an economics talk by Robin Hahnel.
I hosted the second and larger Econ Salon in the Field Work art space in SW Portland. This Econ Salon featured A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff; as well as the video installation collaboration between Jen Coleman, Andrea Murray, Kristen Sheeran and me titled It’s a Wonderful Time to Buy; a talk by Ibrahim Mubarak on organizing houseless and formerly houseless people through Right2Survive; and a talk by Angela Martin on organizing people around debt. Art Installations included a Dollhouse Squat created by Right2Survive; Matta-Clark Park Series by David Buuck, and “Sheltered” by Jennifer Hardacker. I created several poetry objects, including the dropcloth poem, “Beware the Fury of the Financier,” and a small poem-structure, “A Shelter for Some Poems.”
Some aspects of the Happy Valley Project exceeded the Econ Salons. I routinely set out a sandwich poem in Old Town, pen hanging, and passersby added lines. I also created a chapbook, the roof of locked shields, as well as a broadside of the dropcloth poem, for the dusie kollektiv and a newspaper article for Street Roots on the class-action lawsuits against the Bear Stearns/JP Morgan Chase.