Sunday, September 18, 2005

Coming up for air (before I go down for the third time).

As some of you know, I began a new job in late July - the first full-time job with benefits I have had in quite a long time. While this is a welcome development, the job has required extremely long hours and has been quite stressful. If you are one of the numerous people who have tried to get my attention via phone or email, only to be met with silence, please accept my sincere apologies. It has been a rough time of constant 10- to 12-hour days, but I intend to get my personal life in order once my professional life (there's a construction I never thought I'd use) evens out a bit.

I recently participated in two readings, each of which was simultaneously rewarding and bizarre. Last Thursday I read at Freebird Books & Goods, a very cool bookstore in an area of Brooklyn known as the Gowanus Waterfront (they carry both of my chapbooks, how cool is that?). Joining me for the reading was co-editor of the tiny, Gina Myers.

Gina is the real deal: she's well-read, sensitive, intuitive and connected to a wide range of poets, journals, and the like. She is also quite simply one of the nicest people I've ever met (we were classmates at the New School). In attendance at our reading at Freebird was Sam, co-proprietor of the establishment, and poet Daniel Magers (another of our New School classmates, and a very nice guy himself, though I couldn't say I know him well).

And that was it; two readers, and two audience members (it's on occasions such as this that I am reminded that there really is no shame in shameless self-promotion). But what was destined to become a truly depressing situation was brilliantly transformed into an intimate community affair. Gina and I took turns reading poems, essentially to each other, developing a unique call-and-response poetic conversation that I have never before experienced. I always enjoy hearing Gina read her work, and her recent poems (some of them still works in progress) were all moving and carefully rendered.

Then on Saturday, I read with Justin Marks (another talented New School MFA alum, who graduated a year ahead of me) at The Ear Inn Reading Series (poet Chris Tonelli had to bow out due to a family emergency). This is a very cool reading series co-curated by poets Michael Broder and Jason Schneiderman. Readings are held in a supposedly haunted Irish bar (where the ghost is known to pinch women's posteriors) way west on Spring Street.

The crowd at this event, including host Michael Broder and each reader's significant other, totaled 8 persons. I read from both of my chapbooks, plus some random older and newer pieces. Despite the occasional titter, there seemed to be a dreaded silence enveloping the place during my time at the microphone (but at least I, unlike Justin, was spared the performance art-esque intrusion of the Inn's cook mashing potatoes in plain site of the audience members).

All of which, coupled with The Job That Stole My Life, has me wondering: Is my poetry nothing but crap? Hey, I know that an artist creates and puts his art into the world, where it's up to the audience to decide the merits of said art. And I know that not every reading goes according to plan. And I have always known that my poetry is not for everyone. But still, after reading with poets like Gina and Justin - both of whom draw upon their past with a sense of empathy - I have to admit I felt a bit like a failed stand-up comic by comparison.

Snide humor + poetry =
Valid art form?



Blogger MsAPhillips said...

You writing is changing a lot as your life changes. I quote your stuff all the time, so it stands up to scrutiny.

Cogent, sharply observed. Bitter? Sure. But I watch people nod in recognition as you read.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Dr. Chingasa said...

We's be likin your poetry n-shit here in Kentuckiana!

Sorry, I couldn't resist. As time goes on, I'm really enjoying the 8-word poems and I find your longer poetry fascinating, and only strengthened when you read aloud.

A call-response thing between W. Loran Smith and you would shake the very foundations of The Rud.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Pearl said...

If everyone wrote the sam flavor, we would only ever need one poet, and the protege to take over. Admirable other and different aren't better and worse.

5:06 PM  

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