Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Straggling and Dragglings: Why I Keep Missing Readings

Most of the time the font is too big, so I have to make it
smaller, but then I can't read what I've written.

Tonight there was a thing about women, and it seemed like the kind of thing
people who would like that kind of thing would like to attend,
and I considered myself one of those people, but I marked the calendar
and then forgot the address. I left it behind like a treasure map for someone
else to find,
maybe they made it there, but it would have been nice
to remember once I'd gotten out of the subway.

I would have seen Eileen Myles read
again and maybe would have found something to say about it
this time, but the awe would have remained. And I could have heard from Maggie Nelson
about the things we all were hearing,
and why, and where they founded all of this sound. And Wayne Koestenbaum
might have read from Hotel Theory, or Hotel Women, or both, and it would have been something I could have noted. Last time I waited too long and as I've mentioned, there was a lack in regards to the notes, and the notes which weren't would have shared this, that there was a great pleasure in discovering Rebecca Curtis. I discovered her sitting next to me. And tonight I could have brought a magazine with Kim Gordon and her husband on the cover, and I could write about it, like I wrote about him, or their guitar player, and then I would have only needed one more of the sonic youth and I would have been able to get out of this chair.

The chair has become uncomfortable.

But there was not the time.
There was not the time behind the book.
There was not the time within the project.
There was not the time for single parts gravity.
There was not the time for gypsy harpers.

Holding my eye in my hand
i move my legs, i rise to the balls
of my feet, and I take it on faith,
the show is in the bottle,
I just need to pop the cork.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It was a write-a-thon to beat all a-thons!

You can read the original review and see some pictures here at Gather.com.

You know that rush, the pure thrill and exhilaration, you get when you’re in a crowd at a concert, right as you and everyone else realizes the band just started playing a song everyone knows and loves, and you just feel that up swell in momentum. Well it’s the same thing when you put a 100+ writers in a room and tell them to “Write Their A**es Off", and I know this because it just happened this past Saturday at the New York Center for Independent Publishing (formerly the Small Press Center) in New York City.

The New York Writer’s Coalition (NYWC), a non-profit organization which coordinates writing and outreach programs for at-risk teens, abused women, formerly incarcerated individuals, the homeless, and other over-looked elements of our population put together the Write You’re A** Off marathon, a seven hour tour de force of keystrokes, pen-strokes, scribbling, illegible handwriting, and lots and lots of coffee. By raising $27,000+ for the NYWC, the herd of writers who gathered in the library at 20 West 44th St, home of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman, earned the chance to dedicate in true writerly fashion hour after hour of their Saturday to the most elusive of creative pursuits. Once NYWC founder Aaron Zimmerman gave everyone a bit of wherewithal regarding the space, poems were written, essays were crafted, and bits of flash fiction were ballyied about.

During lunch, Chris Baty, a man who, as founder of National Novel Writing Month, is to other writers what the Ultra-Athlete is to triathletes, took the stage as the guest of honor. He had been seated in the main hall all morning, at times tuned in through his earbuds to whatever music source he ran with on his laptop, writing away with a practiced objectivity; here was a man who knew writing marathons. He went from determined wordsmith to charming cheerleader with no more than a sip of water. He spoke and people laughed, and made you feel better than you already did about being in the room and taking part in the proceedings. He focused his pep talk around the importance of high-velocity writing, letting everything else slide for 30 days to focus on writing, and marathons of writing. He laid out three important reasons why a person should engage in the occasional furious bout of writing:

1.The more time you give yourself, the less likely you are do it

2.Writers are horrible at remembering how to write

3.Writing is a fantastic social activity

The business of writing that day found people filling the main lobby of the library, a balcony on the second floor, and classrooms on the fourth. They were seated around tables and desks upon which notebooks and laptop computers, pens, cups of coffee, ipods, and the tote bags of goodies all the participants received, part of the reward for raising the $100 in donations required for admission. They wrote and erased, talked, sipped, and snacked their way through paper and ink. Workshops were held throughout the day to offer refuge from the being there of having to inspire yourself. Prompts were announced at the beginning of each workshop and then you were off to the races for 20 minutes. Then guidelines were laid out and if you wanted to read your 20 minutes of brilliance you could, it was your choice. You had already done your part if you'd made it to that point. You raised money for a very worthy cause.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut

For this:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind." --God Bless You Mr. Rosewater

and this


When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

and this

eight rules for writing a short story (from Bagombo Snuff Box):

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

and finally, "Well if this isn't nice, what is."

You've done your part, fulfilled your duty. You've earned your rest, but ye will be missed.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Up is Up but So is Down at the Poetry Project

Maggie Dubris

Richard Hell

Eileen Myles


There were supposed to be 5 readers at this event celebrating the release of the awesome Up is Up anthology. This made the reading unique in and of itself, but even more interesting was that I had seen each of these readers before, and the prospect of seeing all of them again was pretty exciting as they are all pretty incredible, and it still blew the doors off with only three of the five being there. It was a pretty evening all around.

I'm not even going to try and dissect these folk's readings at this point, because they are all so exacting and intricate. Let me just say these cats know what they are doing up there, and if you want to get a good, osmosial lesson in how to give a reading, I'd start looking for where they are going to be next (the Poetry Project is a good place to start). Maybe after I see each of them read a few more times, and can sit long enough to overcome my rapt awe at their coolness, I'll give a hand to trying to pick apart the mechanics.

As an aside, there appear to be some swell events coming up at Issue Project Room, which you folks likely all know as "The Silo".

Friday, January 26, 2007

Evelyn Reilly and Gregg Biglieri at The Poetry Project

January 22, 2007

Evelyn Reilly

Evelyn opened her reading quoting Queequeg, "We cannibals must help these christians." Pointing toward the consumption of flesh in a tone suggesting its superiority and rationality, attributes to it welcoming finality in her exploration of the ecopoetical. This consumption continued into her first piece, reading, "the word was the part of the body that could change." She articulated both of those lines, savoring the morsels as she spoke them, caring about them as she committed them to voice. Each sound she struck created a gentle nudging to the "bodies body", to the ideas and the thoughts its imaged produced, and those that emanated from them.

As she wound the long lines out she stretched them like taffy, pulling ideas and lines in fluid, flowing snaps like the taffy-man at a fair whipping a long snake of cooling sugar to kneading it to the correct shape and consistency. She thickens the mouthful of these flailing tendrils with her repetition, slapping the strands of similarity together into mass yielding the singular product, "the body was part of the world that the word changed."

With "Broken Waters" Evelyn presented ecopoetics as stirring a pool translating language, idea, context, and thought. She stirred only the surface, here, gliding over the phrases to channel the listener's consciousness toward the meniscus of what she is doing, creating awareness of tension and the depths to which the over-arching structures were driving the concepts by pressing on the surface like a water-bug, and sharing it's condition, it's amnioticity.

Gregg Biglieri

Aliens, elfs, heart monitors, and infarctions are the terra-forming inhabitants of Gregg's reading, and the implications of a world made up solely of genuine absurdity and dismissing cynicism prompt him I would imagine to open most of his readings the way he did, saying, "I'll try to be funny." I respect that simply because I am always trying to be funny and I still haven't managed it. Gregg handles the condition, in the medical sense, of existence and makes it work well with a modulated, genial deadpan tone.

His voice lets the suddenness and motion of the ideas, images, and words happen in a their own arena, like coverage of the Olympics of Thought produced by an avant-garde film-maker, where you see each event in part, always at that moment to which is given weight by its revelation. Every moment is running, sometimes violently, toward you, and it is then cut away to another near collision. The unsettling feeling is not knowing what would have happened had you been left there. Gregg pauses, diligently, giving you the feeling of slowly being removed from the ground and put back down. He places the past and the future before you on a platter covered in velvet cloth, and just when whatever is beneath the cloth moves he pulls the whole ordeal away.

A sample of Gregg's work.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Year, A New Hug

2006 has left us, and with it, the trappings of familiarity. 2007 stands before us, and we will march into it with obstinent, resolute resolve! No more will we be swayed by the cowering entrapments and accoutrements of reaction and larger contexts. NO MORE will the simple assessments of Poetry and Literary readings be drowned out in favor of vehement diatribe and bland satirical mockery. Just hop over to The Angry Hug (angryhug.blogspot.com) for that.

We admit, we got sorta sidetracked. There were elections, fires, poorly considered book deals, and a whole mess of the world eeking ever closer to possibly just up and quitting. Toothpicks wrapped in plastic with instructions on them were everywhere!

But onward, and maybe a step or two up, but nothing crazy. Just some good old fashioned critique of the reading of poetry.

And, as a, I was lame and could have made it to the Poetry Project's New Year's Reading Marathon but I just putzed around unpacking new stuff, we will repent, we will lay ourselves upon the alter of attrition (because we prefer a sense of guilt and fear induces obligation to simple resolutions), and we will do our darndest to review as many readings as possible this January. We've got 7 that we are planning on making, and hopefully more.

Now, to start things off, the Poetry Project reading given by Joanna Fuhrman and David Shapiro.

Joanna Furman reads glancing up and this makes you wonder what she finds important. If you were standing and watching her the glance would have come over the rim of her glasses while she references Rilke and Apollo and right away the MC's words, how her poetry reveals surfaces and edges, comes in the open.

Prufrock and facial expressions add stress to what she is saying, moving you in a line like you are walking along some invisible barrier. She will speak in a clear, high tone making declarations and stating what is known and absolute, then drop her voice and add a crunching and cracking saturation to her words as she draws out a long, fault-line of comparisons growing in ironic strength and taking everything she has said in a new direction.

The clear and bright remains hopeful, while the real and its reality is given a low, broken end, but her glances cause you to question which side to throw your hat onto. Those hopeful points get both deadpan, straight stares and the second-star-to-the-right, eye-rolling that makes you think she's laughing at you on the behind the round clarity in her voice. Reality comes off as too much of a joke when she's letting it seep out around the seats but occasionally she's glancing up toward the sky asking, rhetorically, "What, this is it?"

Joanna's reading takes you back and forth between the plateau and the plain. He poems are the jeep on the trail letting you see all those edges and how it all stacks up beneath the sky.

David began his reading referencing a song, in remembrance for departed friends, and immediately in contrast to Joanna there is no breaking, no disharmony, in his voice. His reading has only a few edges, and they will be used to great effect, but the entirety of his words become like a snow drift, only because you don't want to say A Wave for so many reasons, but mostly because it feels to easy to use, to cheap and frequently used.

David's lack of restraint is noticeable. He is willing to go all the way, unwilling to let gravity or the limits of the lungs stand in his way. He makes better use of repetition than advertising and marketers do, dropping sameness purposefully so that his poems can climb higher, like sandbags from a hot air balloon. He brings his voice back down, lower but just as clear, to add weight to his descriptions.

His words ring out of the front of his mouth, keeping everything up front, and again you think of the wave. You have to see the front of it to see it all. You think of water in a Buddhist sense, of its serenity and softness, and its potential for strength. His voice rocks from side to side like winding river, surprising you with the turns his words take.