23 More People Who Made Me Care About Poetry in 2013 (From One of the Million People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013)
When I first moved to Manhattan in 2008, I roughly knew about three people in the entire city. I lived in a bedbug-infested apartment on 139th Street with a sugar baby, a Bubba Gump Shrimp waiter, and a digital retoucher. At the time, I thought I was going to work as an assistant in photo studios while applying to MFA programs on the side—a plan that ended up completely shifting (no MFA, au revoir photo world)—but that’s not what I’m here to write about. I knew nothing of the NYC literary world, especially that of poetry. One day I had wandered into a library near 103rd to check out some familiar books. I saw a flyer for POETRY DISCUSSION GROUP / TONIGHT’S THEME: DEATH and hung around, hoping to meet some poets. And talk about death, of course.
What I ended up was sitting in a circle with about a dozen people, myself the only person under 60. As one cantankerous woman pointed out—most of them were “sitting in god’s waiting room” & it was “foolish to romanticize death”. This lead to a shouting match between attendees. So there I sat, hands in lap, in a coven of curmudgeons, horribly embarrassed at how much I misgauged what I thought I would be participating in. This is not to say that these old folks couldn’t have schooled me. I perhaps have never witnessed a more intensely personal discussion of death with any group of strangers in such a short amount of time in such a public space. But my point is that geography is a strange creature, containing wheels inside wheels. I wanted to meet young poets in their early 20s who would show me who they were reading, where they were reading at, where they hung out. This Upper West Side library, much to my ignorance, was not that place. I didn’t find that niche for a long time, even though we all lived inside the same city. It took many misguided open mics and weird basement readings to find the people I wanted to be around.
In some ways, I’d say this year is the first year I’ve been asked to read at series that I didn’t have to creepily solicit (although I still creepily solicit). It wasn’t until my first chapbook came out last fall that people gradually stopped introducing me as “that guy who runs Moonshot“. Every day is baby steps, is one poem after the other. I think it’s important to highlight these gooey ‘writer journeys’ we hear about over and over again to show how people find their way to meeting writers and literary scenes they care about. It’s hard when you’re on the outside and suspect others are members of a literary cabal who are only interested in helping each other out. I’ve been there. I’m still there, in many ways. Not everyone who lives in NYC is geographically self-obsessed or entitled or had everything fall into their lap instantly. Does this even need to be said? It took five years just to reach a point where the lit projects I’ve started here (or been involved with) have been around long enough where it people come up to me and say they know who I am, what I do. It hasn’t gotten less jarring yet—maybe one day it will.
Perhaps this is why it’s equally surprising to find myself on a list called 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013. It’s even stranger to watch people—in response to this list—echo criticisms I’ve made of NYC’s poetry scene—white, exclusive, cliquey, centered around itself. Except, in this case, I was included on an exclusionary list. I’m now that person. Numbered lists are incredibly tricky to begin with because they seem so incredibly final, as if there are no others. Here are the 23 chosen ones. There is a glib part of me that wants to say we should take these kinds of lists with a grain of salt, that wants to point out that media sites have to churn out dozens of these insipid listicles per day—but I know that will incise—and I recognize that it’s my privilege that would allow me such flippancy.
now I am famished for peace
now I watch a 90 year old movie to
witness dead people talking singing
riding horses samsara
I’ve been walking the border of sleep to find you
dreaming around the circumference of
a hole in the ground
the bravest thing sometimes is
how the morning is greeted
fight for the money or
fight for the soul the saying goes
but another goal is to
fight for neither
Cityscapes / Jacob Steinberg Prologue
Cityscapes was edited by Jacob Steinberg. Jacob goes to NYU (does he still go to NYU?). I remember he used to bro-down with Spencer Madsen and one time they did a Ustream from the beach in Florida or something. I’ve been in many Tinychats with Jacob. I like him.
Jacob mentions Julio Cortazar in his prologue. We’re both fans of Cortazar and of Clarice Lispector, not that those are rare people to be fans of, but I feel as if we’ve e-bonded over being into those authors. Jacob asked me to be in this but my piece wasn’t really about Chicago particularly. Took place on the internet.
Frank. Yes, he’s that, ribald but also delicate—a reactionary event if only for being born. He’s the subject of CAConrad’s The Book of Frank, first published by Chax Press and freshly picked up by Wave Books, who have padded it with additional poems and a glowing Afterword by Eileen Myles. Despite steady output from Conrad, the book’s creation took over a decade.
These are not persona poems, but I’m still curious about the distance between the repressed, ever-morphing Frank, and the poet, so easy in his skin, disarming. I saw CAContrad reading at St. Mark’s Poetry Project this fall: there’s the characteristic nail polish, glittery and red; a wooden Chinese fan sways from his fingers. As he begins, a gladiola leaning against the podium begins to fall. But Conrad catches it. “This is a very unruly gladiola,” he adds, moving on to the next poem with the bloomy staff clasped in hand.
December 3rd, 2010 / 3:30 pm
I don’t think the Rust Buckle Books (more on these in Part II) beer can logo (below) is by Brian Calvin, but seeing it reminded me–via Flood Editions, where Calvin’s heads (Half-Mast, 2001, and Killer, 2006) can be found on Graham Foust’s Necessary Stranger (2007) and A Mouth in California–that “Head”, his show at Anton Kern, closes on January 16.
I’m sure New Yorkers themselves go elsewhere (where?), but “Goings On About Town” is still my first stop to find out what I get for living where else. Although there’s always an abundance in ART (the above BRIAN CALVIN, WALLACE BERMAN – Jan. 9; “FROTTAGE” – Jan. 17) and MOVIES (Tati–tonight, Trafic–at the MOMA: see also, under ART, OROZCO) that I wish I wasn’t missing, rarely does READINGS AND TALKS make me want to move.
Ever abbreviated (possibly defensible in print, but why all the white space online, where this week there were three total readings–no talks–compared to eight pages of movies?), the section is never more so than in its annual capsule announcement of the reading of the year:
A hundred and forty poets and performers, including Penny Arcade, Yoshiko Chuma, Steve Earle, John Giorno, Taylor Mead, Judith Malina, Jonas Mekas, Eileen Myles, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, gather for the thirty-sixth annual marathon reading at the Poetry Project.
What about the other 130 plus poets (from Ana Bozicevic to Magdalena Zurawski) and performers (Philip Glass) and performers (Ostashevsky)? Is there another reading anywhere that, thanks to the Project’s own Arlo Quint (and Emily XYZ) covers every letter? But I guess I shouldn’t quarrel with an alphabet that begins with Penny Arcade and ends with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Indeed I would have gone to hear the listed Ms alone: where else could you find Mead (who turned 85 on New Year’s Eve), Malina (b. 1926 in Germany, godmother of the American avante garde), the Lithuanian born Mekas (godfather of same, turned 87 on Christmas Eve), and Myles (the only Presidential candidate who’s written a speech about Robert Walser?), not to mention Machlin, Marinovich, (Chris) Martin, and Mesmer, among Many More (see list-in-progress, with links, after the leap), in one audience, let alone on one stage?
CAConrad, the poet of the year if ever there were one (when’s the last time anyone had books as good as Advanced Elvis Course and The Book of Frank come out in the same year?), has an anecdote about the most memorable line from the 2005 reading in the comments section of this to-be-revisited list. Can anyone give us some highlights from yesterday’s event? Will anything else in 2010 approach this gathering in sheer skylight? READ MORE >