Usually poetry readings are only interrupted by enthusiastic but
inexperienced fans who do not yet know that the etiquette is to wait
until the end of the reading to clap (not between poems). Or by
friendly hecklers that that compare the reader to John McCain. I was
going to present you with the witty banter of Rick Barot and CAConrad.
Pretty straight forward. But after CAConrad's reading was interrupted
by a madman who threatened the readers and the audience, I'll also
include the mad man's dangerous 'banter.' I think it's the sign of an excellent reading when it ends with a brawl where the poets keep their cool.
Rick Barot, born in the Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the author of The Darker Fall (2002) and Want (forthcoming 2008). His poems and essays have been published in journals like New England Review, The New Republic, Poetry, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He's taught up and down the eastern seaboard. Barot bantered:
"I've just spent three weeks at MacDowell writing so I'm bursting with new poems. I'm going to make you suffer them."
"I keep thinking about Sarah Palin. But the Tina Fey version. So I wrote this poem ['I Want To Be The Governor of Alaska'] to exorcise her."
"Did you hear the story about how on McCain's campaign travels he accidentally addressed his audience as 'my fellow prisoners'? This poem ['Stump Speech'] is a response to his comment."
"'The Poem Is a Letter-Opener' came from a walk I was taking when I passed a barbershop with a great sign that read, "There is no crying in this Barbershop.' The sign shows up in the poem. Do you remember those Supercuts ads? 'Nothing grows out slower than a bad haircut.' That was my childhood."
"It was October in Vermont and all of the leaves kept falling and I kept trying to come up with a metaphor. So I came up with 'leaves like credit cards.' I was very proud of myself. But the leaves/credit cards reminded me of the financial crisis going on outside."
Speaking about his poem 'The Virgin of Guadalupe,' "I feel like that was my fall from religion. When I tipped over the statue and there was a hole at the base."
CAConrad is the author of Deviant Propulsion (2006) and (Soma)tic Midge (2008). The Book of Frank will be published in fall 2008, advanced ELVIS course will be published in spring of 2009, and a collaboration with poet Frank Sherlock titled THE CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems will be published in 2009. CAConard is a busy poet:
"Hello everybody. I'm going to start with a few poems from The Book of Frank."
"He's so sad."
"Ok, this one's creepier. It's almost Halloween."
"This is from a dream I had when I gave birth to a baby. I was in a car at the time. It was a cakebaby, it had icing. I fed it to the crows and the cakebaby was loving it. I woke up a little disturbed."
"I wanted to read the next poem because I grew up in rural PA and I just remember talking to people about living in the city and their justification for using less land. But the thing is that they take the [trash, by-products, etc] out of the city and dump them in the country. Endless consumption and I'm tired of their argument."
"This is the 10th Anniversary of Matthew Shepherd's torture and murder. I was going about bothering people at a gay rights event and no one knew it was the anniversary... I'm finishing a long interview with a cousin of mine who was part of the Laramie Project."
"These are poems I wrote about eating a single color of food all day. For blue I also listened to Blue Velvet on a loop."
"I really didn't believe in astro projecting. I was skeptical. But then I started astro projecting and I was convinced. I would write a whole block of text and then chip away at it."
"This is a poem that I read 108 times at the second inauguration of George W. Bush. It was really hard to read it that many times."
It was at about this point that a man went nuts, punched the bartender, and started screaming:
"He attacked me, he hit me first!"
"Show me the sign!"
"We can't wait forever. There is no infinity!"
I'll kill you all!"
"You're all gonna burn!"
"Those stairs are dangerous! I'm going to fall!"
"Let me get my coat!"
See you there next week for poetry & excitement.
-- Julia Cohen