Readings on the Bowery
Reading this past Sunday at the Bowery Poetry Club & Cafe was wonderful. I got to meet some people I'd only known through their work (Matthew Thorburn & Mary Lou Buschi, and others), as well as several people associated with Four Way Books (but more about that some other day). I've now figured out the subway system, which is pretty easy but for two things: one, they change up quite a bit after 11 p.m., and two, finding the actual entrances to the subway is sometimes difficult for the novice. Since I was there from Friday through Wednesday, I had plenty of time for little walking tours (Up from 96th Street and then down through Central Park -- Central Park is beautiful right now, across Houston Street and around the Bowery, up to Union Square and The Strand, around Tribeca and then down to the Staton Island ferry, and a nice little walk around Coney Island.)
Manhattan is a crystal. There's always everything going on.
Lytton Smith took these pictures.
Picture one: The outside of the Bowery Poetry Club & Cafe (I took this one)
Picture two: John Gallaher (I think the red eyes here make me look fancy, what do you think?)
Picture three: Kimiko Hahn
Picture four: C. Dale Young
Picture five: Lynn Emanuel
Can you tell how much fun we were having? (A lot, in case you can't)
That said, here's Part Two: What They Say About Us
I’ve always been mildly shocked when anyone, for any reason, characterized anything about me. More a shock of, “huh? Someone noticed?” than anything else. Do you know what I mean? Personally as well as in poetry.
I remember the same thing back when I was taking workshops, I was less shocked by what they said about my poetry than the fact that said anything at all. I still get that feeling. At readings, this spring, David Dodd Lee and Mary Austin Speaker both said things, characterized my poetry, while introducing me, making me feel all loopy walking up to the microphone. (I don't meant this in a bad way, but in the way that people see things in my work differently than I do, so that when they say things to me it's gets me all thinking about it from this other perspective that makes me all thoughtful. That's probably a good way to be before reading, I suppose.)
The same thing happens with reviews, doesn’t it? The thought that someone actually read the book, in this age of prose . . . it’s less the positive / negative qualities than the engagement that comes out of the association. Of course, one wants such an exchange to be positive, but I’m not here thinking of my own narcissism than I am thinking of the process itself. That said, there’s been a review posted by Kevin Killian on Amazon.com of my book that has me fascinated. They're closer to home, of course, when they are about us, but it also happens that I read reviews of books I've enjoyed or disliked, and often get shocked by, not just the different take, but the completely different angle.
And on a different note, it’s always interesting for me to see the poems of mine that others tag, or mention to me, or mention in a review, or to post on a blog, or Verse Daily or Poetry Daily. It’s all so fascinating. And ephemeral as well as permanent.
And, if we read these things, or listen to them when spoken to us, what do they do to us? Do we gravitate toward wanting to be what people say of us? Do we run screaming from the room? And then, what do we think of what we’re doing? As this is a conversation in monologues, what do I, or what should I, say to myself about what I want from what I’m writing . . . or what I’m trying to do?
And then, how much overt awareness of such things is important, and how much is it distracting from the engagement of the process of art . . . or is such awareness, or attempts at awareness, the true gesture of art? Something like that?
Can I get a witness?