A few notes on poetry readings (gotta make it quick today):
Here is a taste of Lynn Emanuel:
from Dream in Which I Meet Myself
Dear Diary, here in New York City,
the snow descends. The days go on forever.
Hash made my mind from my fingertips stream out.
My brain was tapped, under surveillance
by the eyes of the traffic lights jewelling the foreheads of the avenues.
Inside my red dress I was a sunset.
I lingered and blinked in the gold windows of NEW WORLD FETISH
at the nun in her rubber habit.
I tried on her wimple of lurid beauty and it fit.
Then suddenly back in the cold I was stolen upon
by the voice of an unemployed actor
who was walking me home to my small room, bruised
floorboards, more (blonde) hash, lurk of heat from the snickering
serpentine radiator and I drank six
inches of black Barolo until I didn't have to think
about the hyper-privileged and under-subverted,
until I was too buzzed to be devoured
by these cannibalistic times,
until I became a blizzard of nothingness.
from Noose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
and Martha Rhodes:
I liked sitting in our room
by the early morning window.
I'd watch him stretch his legs
just shy of violent cramp until
he'd wake, the bed's smell
an immense blend of sex so that
I'd rush back to him.
This blank room's smell
is like that, persistent, as I rest
against the wall; I'm merely
passing through, to visit
someone, though I am not
quite sure who, actually, and if
I am to say hello, or goodbye--
from The Beds (Autumn House Press, 2012)
...It will be a good reading.
Hearing the poem or reading the poem
Speaking of poetry readings, in pursuit of an answer to the eternal question, "Why do people go to poetry readings?" (which I explored on this site a couple of years ago), I keep returning to a point my friend and brilliant co-curator/co-host at KGB, poet Matthew Yeager, made about the existence of a poem (or a poet) on two planes: on the page and out loud.
Matt was speaking in the context of the National Book Awards. Every year, the week the awards are presented, a big reading is held for all nominees in all categories, giving them a chance to share some of their work. I attended one year -- it's a bit of a marathon, but it's especially fun to see non-fiction writers get their moment in the sun (i.e., read their words before an appreciative live audience), and the poets kind of kick everyone's ass. The judges of the awards (prominent writers in their genre) get together that week, too, to make their final decision... but they're not allowed to go to the reading, for fear that the performance might sway them. Matt found this ban objectionable in the context of poetry, arguing that often a poem's true existence is out loud, much more so than on the page. The awards, then, are recognizing or privileging any given poet's work on the page... This discloses an implicit definition or philosophy as to what a poem is, and who is more likely to be awarded.
Matt's insight made me realize that a reading is the only place you will get access to the poem incarnated as speech, as breath. There is only that live moment, those minutes of the writer living the words, and then it's done.
(There are videos, but, I am willing to confess, I don't particularly want to watch YouTube videos of poetry readings. I did hear a recording of Berryman reading "The Ball Poem" once that completely changed the poem for me. Maybe audio only is better? Oh hey, I tried to find it (no luck) and came across these audio archives at the Academy of American Poets. Here he is reading the first Dream Song.) A poet whose work changed for me after hearing him read it live is Jeffrey McDaniel. Hearing him read is an emotional experience, he gives each rendition his all.
Informal, accidental poll of American singles who read poetry
* Speaking of Jeffrey McDaniel, in attempting to find one of his poems online couple of days ago, Google spit out an OKCupid page with every single person who had mentioned Jeffrey McDaniel in their personal profile (this was without me having an account or logging in in any way). How quickly one turns from virtuous poem-seeker to creepy creeper looking at people's dating profiles....
This may come as heartening news for those fearing for the future of poetry: a lot of young single people, ranging in ages from 21 to 35, from Hawaii to Missouri to Long Island, like and appreciate the work of Jeffrey McDaniel, and of many other poets (Sharon Olds, Frank O'Hara, Marie Howe, Neruda, Bukowski, Anne Sexton...). They appear to be a healthy, good-looking bunch, with varied interests, and rich internal lives. Maybe they're all creative writing students, or maybe they're all poets, but still, it appears to be a critical mass... I was tempted to see how other contemporary poets fared among Internet daters (that would be interesting metadata to crunch!), but refrained. Although those profiles are public, they also seem intimate in their way. Note to OKCupid users: check your privacy settings!