I've heard Jane read at various venues in NYC, but last Friday's feature at Cornelia Street Cafe was my first full-length exposure to her work. It's still impossible, two days later, to describe the impact of that reading on me. That evening many open-mic readers read good poems: striking ideas, surprising phrasing, brilliant images. But Jane's reading crushed all of us, or, at least that was how I felt.
Her poems--discontinuous, imagistic, chant-like, wide-ranging in its references, sonically dense--challenge more traditional ways of putting a poem together. She made us sound old-fashioned, more, she made us sound artificial, our tidy methodical artefacts simulacra of reality, instead of the postmodern reality caught and then broadcast like a radio signal from her poems. She does not make me want to write like her, but challenges me to write better in my own way, to prove that my style is also adequate, in some sense, to reality.
You can read her work on her website, and listen to her reading on Myspace and Youtube. None of it quite captures the electricity of her live performance. She is not merely a terrific performer; she makes the old distinction between page and stage obsolete.