This brief report on last night's successful launch reading of The Best American Poetry 2011 will be followed in days ahead with some photographic magic from Start Black. It was the eighth straight year the New School Writing Program hosted the event in the spacious confines of Tishman Auditorium on 12th Street. Kevin Young, the guest editor of the 2011 volume, came up from Atlanta. And these contributors to the book joined Kevin and me on stage: Cara Benson, Michael Cirelli, Michael Dickman, Alan Feldman, Farrah Field, Major Jackson, Jennifer L. Knox, Katha Pollitt, James Richardson, Patricia Smith, Gerald Stern, Bianca Stone, Mark Strand, Lee Upton. I concluded my opening remarks by reading "Time Pieces," the late Rachel Wetzsteon's haiku sequence, a tour de force. At my urging Kevin Young read one of his own poems -- the greatly admired "Expecting," which ran in The New Yorker last winter -- as well as two of the poems he chose for BAP 2011: John Ashbery's "Postlude and Prequel" and Erin Belieu's "When at a Certain Party in NYC." The poets then took the lectern in alphabetical order. The poetry on display was wonderfully varied in form (haiku, aphorisms, a crown of sonnets, a pantoum, prose poem, free verse), tone, and subject matter. More than one observer noted that the poets prepared the audience, with admirable pith, for what they were about to hear. They read their poems with verve and conviction. The effect, in Leah Iannone's words, was a "subdued awesomeness." You could hear the audience listening.
Dominique Nabokov was there with her camera, and other cameras were in evidence. We will post Star Black's photos of post-reading revelers anon. -- DL