Monday, April 28, 2008

Guest Fest 2008

No poet, no poems get me so hot to write as well as Barbara Guest and hers and for that I will be forever in her debt. As a self-proclaimed color monger I feel a pretty intense kinship with Ms. Guest. I've been aware of a desire of mine to eat colors for a few years now and was blown away to find a line from her poem "La Noche Entra en Calor" in the collection Fair Realism that described the very sensation that I've experienced: "he feels color scratching his tongue". For the full context of this line I highly recommend reading the whole dang poem, it's real good. Of the NY School poets, she best captured a viewer's experience of color in visual art and was then able to reproduce that experience in her readers via her poems. Reading or listening to Guest's work is a full body, full contact experience because she hits every sense, or rather gently places her finger here, here, here lighting up nerves as she goes. She's able to bring out the textural and tactile elements of words. One can almost feel them vibrate together, creating colors and sounds all their own.

So, it was a pleasure to hear her work read aloud at St. Mark's Poetry Project on Saturday. Granted, I love the recordings of Guest reading her own work, found on Penn Sound, especially those from The Location of Things. Her voice mesmerizes with its semi-aristocratic pronunciation that is both precise and sensual. I'd love to get her voice down pat and do a reading as her, same goes for James Schuyler who's voice is actually a bit easier to mimic. In any case, as much as I love Guest reading Guest, I enjoyed hearing her poems interpreted by other poets and hearing some pieces that were entirely new to me. Marjorie Welish injected a spooky and ethereal quality that was oddly fitting though not readily apparent in the work. Anne Lauterbach's reading was an equally personal take that seemed to emphasize the musical cadence of Guest's poetics. Charles Bernstein read from an essay on Guest and made the point that Guest "used no hooks", no cop-outs, no immediate crowd pleasers. I call that integrity. Unfortunately, I missed the first half of the reading (dang L train!) thus missing Mei Mei Berssenbrugge, John Ashbery, Rena Rosenwasser (SPD board member) and several others that I would have loved to see. Everyone read beautifully and paid due tribute.

This was my first exposure to St. Mark's and I must say, well, well done, like char-broiled guys. The reading was held in the main hall lending the reading a bit of a funereal air. I noticed a slightly cleaner area where a large cross must have hung on the altar wall before St. Mark's was converted to the poetic devotions. I have to say it felt a bit like church for poets and I personally enjoy the connotations that that association might incur, at least this time around.

Oh and the refreshments were delicious!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bah! So man readings!

Dang dude, there are a lot of poetry events this week. The Flarf Festival started yesterday, Thursday and will last 'til Saturday. Ugly Duckling hosts a reading at their workshop in Brooklyn tonight. Charles Alexander and Ron Silliman read tonight at CUE Arts in Chelsea. I believe there's a reading at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn as well. More tomorrow and Sunday. Wowee. This country (San Francisco) girl's head is spinning. "Shooot, these buildings sure are tall!" = "Boy oh boy there sure are a lot of readings this week!"

Be assured that I'll have somethingto say about any and all readings I do end up attending.

I want to say that I realize that this blog has a flagrant dirth (sp?) of image content and I just want to say, if you're patient, you'll be pleasantly surprised and rewarded. I brought with me my favorite camera ever, a Nickelodeon 35mm camera that takes four pictures on one regular 35mm frame with which I have been snapping away. The camera itself is a great conversation starter as it is purple plastic with a splash of green slime, very attractive. Once this film is developed, you'll be so stoked you won't know what to do. We're talking chaotic, absurd, random pictorial narratives including some of your favorite small press stars. Just you wait.


Okay, so I was wrong Schwartz and Roffé did not read at The Bowery last night, it was a book release party only. Mr. Schwartz has a new book out from Chax press and a chapbook from Ugly Duckling and Ms. Roffé has a new book out from Shearsman. They will both read with Erin Moure at McNally Robinson Bookstore on Thursday, May 1st @ 7 pm.

The party was a big blast from the past for me, it being hosted by an Evergreen College class. I counted four kids from my poetry program, which was pretty teeny tiny. They're all living in New York, kicking serious publishing tukas and poeting too. The new crop of Evergreen students looks very promising, good kids, I think.

From Left: Michael Barron, Holly Melgard, Leonard Schwartz, Maxwell Heller, and me at bottom.

Anna Maschovakis and Matvei Yankelevich of Ugly Duckling Presse were there with their GORGEOUS chapbook by Mr. Schwartz. Both Anna and Matvei will read at the Bowery next Tuesday, April 29th at 5pm.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ugly Duckling Presse!

I stopped by UDP on Monday and had the pleasure of folding, awling and sewing some of the chapbooks with Matvei and Michael McCanne. Matvei and Michael designed the gorgeous, did I mention gorgeous? chapbook all in-house.

This here is Matvei. Michael, I have to apologize that your photo didn't make it here because my janky little Nickelodeon camera is thoroughly busted.

Let me just say that walking into the UDP workshop brought on a sense of immediate euphoria. Maybe it was just the thick combined smells of ink and cigarette smoke that met me at the door which always conjures raving bohemian associations for me, but I don't think so. UDP is housed in a big building that they share with several other presses and creative studios out in Brooklyn near the Gowannis Canal. Ahhh...(I sighed) this is what small press publishing looks like. Yes. This feels good, real and immediate. The presence of charming men didn't hurt either. Soon I was bone folding with the best of them, comparing Bay Area and NY poetry scenes and singing the praises of dear, dear SPD champs Brent Cunningham and Neil Alger. All in all, UDP is rocking its own socks and mine, and those of many others by any measure. That day, Monday was the awards ceremony for Aram Saroyan who won the William Carlos Williams award. UDP recently published his Complete Minimal Poems and Matvei was on his way to the ceremony when I left. Hooray for Small Press Literature and hooray for UDP. I was a fan before, from afar but now I'm a...uh....huge fan.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reading Tomorrow @ Bowery Poetry Club

Tomorrow, April 22nd, Leonard Schwartz and Mercedes Roffé read at The Bowery Poetry Club at 5pm (Free) as part of the Evergreen College Reading Series. Evergreen is my alma mater and Mr. Schwartz was my professor. Should be good, should be good. I'll be there with bells on.

I may also try to catch this event tonight at The Bowery. Shoot, there's also Kate Greenstreet and Frank Sherlock at St. Mark's Poetry Project tonight. Whew! Decisions, decisions.

Spoonbill and Sugartown Books

Yesterday, after a gigantic breakfast, I went to Spoonbill and Sugartown Bookstore in Brooklyn. I'm positive that I placed orders with them over the phone on a few occasions while working with SPD. They have a good selection of art books and magazines and a smattering of used and new of everything else. The big, fat, black cat, Hayes (or Haas or Haze or Heys) stood out as the store's best feature but then, I'm biased toward cats. Still no digital camera so sorry, no pictures of him. Myopic Books, in Chicago, also featured an excellent cat though I didn't catch his name. After chasing Hayes I bought a copy of the music magazine Yeti and a postcard of a hotdog cart. Lou Rowan, author of Sweet Potatoes will be reading there tomorrow, April 22nd.

All in all, excellent bookstore and excellent cat.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How I Feel

This is how I feel about New York so far:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hello to you, New York

Sitting here in the office of George Braziller Publishers in Manhattan with dear dear Maxwell Heller, associate editor. It is a G-Orgeous day, can hardly believe it. Big plans afoot for the weekend. Big plans afoot for the next three weeks here. Much to do, much to see. Will keep you posted, with posts, of course.


--Stay tuned for a belated Chicago post still beavering away on my desktop.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chicago/Patrick Durgin/Kenning Editions

Ah, Chicago. You cold blustery place you. This past Thursday, April 10th got me the wettest and coldest I'd been in quite some time, it also happend to be my sweet Grandfather's birthday. I took the train from Lombard into Chicago to meet with a dear friend of SPD's, Patrick Durgin, poet, professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and editor of Kenning Editions ( ). According to Mr. Durgin, Kenning goes well. Hannah Weiner's Open House, edited by Patrick, has sold well and garnered a number of reviews. I am personally a huge fan of this book, especially Weiner's work with The International Code of Signals. The most recent volume of Dolores Dorantes', Dolores Dorantes called SexoPuroSexoVelos, which was co-published with Counterpath press (another SPD press) has also sold well and has received much praise (see: ).

New projects in the works include: A history of Poet's Theater (up to 1990)edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil. A chapbook by Kyle Schlessinger (due out in the next couple of months). A new collection by Pamela Liu (in composition stage). Dolores Dorantes is currently working on Volume 4 of her serial poem Dolores Dorantes.

Patrick described the poetry scene here in Chicago as feeling diffuse and lacking community or a figure or figures to rally around. Chicago does not have the same poetic history or tradition of poetic community that the Bay Area or New York are known for and by extention lacks identity. It would be interesting to find out which poets have lived here and attempted to build a community here in the past. By Patrick's assessment there are several poets doing interesting work here but everyone seems to work independently without a cohesive scene.

What does it take to create a poetic community? What components are necessary? Thoughts?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Reading Series = New Fun

I haven't even left San Francisco yet and my literary adventures have begun. Very exciting indeed. K. Silem Mohammad and Lyn Hejinian read at The New Reading Series (yet to be named) hosted by Alli Warren and Brandon Brown at the 21 Grand in Oakland on Sunday. Such a great evening. The lack of provided wine was hardly a problem and everyone was brown-bagging it in style.

Bill Luoma introduced Kasey by way of a great sort of Flarf collage befitting the occasion. Kasey read from his new book Breathalyzer from Edge Books and from an ongoing series of Sonnegrams in which he anagramatizes Shakespeare's sonnets in iambic pentameter according to Elizabethan rhyme scheme leaving any remaining letters to make up the title. My personal favorite line: "Those bitches know that Ivanhoe's the best ho".

He's well known for his involvement in Flarf which described as, ( and I'm crudely paraphrasing) "Poems derived from the results of google searchs + soul." If the internet is an unregulated distillation of culture, then Kasey's Flarf poems act as a further distillation and crystallization of our culture with the added filters of intention, an incredibly keen ear for language and like he said, soul.

David Brazil introduced Lyn with another sort of collage, this time of quotations, indicating her position and interest in a poetic community and that community's relationship to politics or lack there of. I'd met Lyn a few times at SPD when she came to drop off cases Atelos books but this was my first time hearing her read. She has a striking presence of calm and steady purpose that commands respect and attention. The fact that she cracked herself up in the middle of a poem really tickled me too.

After a reception including ambiance provided by ipod DJ Stephanie Young (great idea by the bye) we moved on to Lukas bar. I was in the middle of complaining about my former position as a Medieval Studies professor at Yale before being fired because I was too "real" for them and because the fact that I spoke Middle English made the other professors feel inadequate when David Brazil whipped out a book of Middle English verse that he happened to have with him and handed it to me, effectively taking the joke further than I could trail after. I really shouldn't have been surprised. Then, Kasey Mohammad leaned over and began to read to us from the Middle English, accent and all and translate as he went. It was a strange and beautiful moment in poetry.

Thanks to all for a great evenin. I dub The New Reading Series a huge success and a damn good time in Poetryland. I'm sad that I'll miss the next two readings in this series but I expect all of you who can go will, and will tell me all about it. I want details.

Bye for now. I'm off to Chicago!