The Fall Café was packed– I’d say “standing room only,” but there was barely standing room. Late arriving, I stood by the door and witnessed a strange Faulknerian play by two people sitting near me. I listened to the first reader, Kristi Maxwell, who’s just finished her MFA thesis. There were good lines which promised me that when she’s out of the MFA program her poetry might be revitalized, but as it was, it sounded like it had been sapped of most of its interesting material to keep up with the weird nothingness toward which many MFA programs seem to propel their students. Like Kristi, the final reader, Laura Goode, is being put through the MFA wringer, but she somehow got out with lines like “this version of your hands has octopus dexterity.”
With the second reader, Kate Shapira, I was totally entranced, and I should have known I would be given that her work has been recommended to me by the Flim Forum editors (like me, she’s in A Sing Economy) and she’s friends with Bronwen Tate (a kindred spirit). I loved the themes in her work– the beauty and terror of the organic, childhood– and drooled over her tiny chapbook Case Fbdy., available from Rope-A-Dope (pics here).
Restraining myself from too much commercial and emotional demonstration of appreciation for this reading, I made my way through a disgusting downpour to St. Mark’s to see the Lil Norton reading.
There I remet Marie Buck (Ed., Model Homes) and Sara Wintz and met Anne Tardos and Tao Lin. I met Sara last time I was at the Poetry Project, but this time we’d figured out who we were, and I was happy to know the other half of The Press Gang (I met Cristiana Baik while living in Birmingham last Spring). I was excited to finally meet Tao. There was a good crowd in spite of the time (10p on a Friday) and weather– maybe 30 people.
Anne Tardos’s reading combined break-up language with Kama Sutra and clinical descriptions of pathology and sex, a sort of relationship travelogue. These aren’t really my interests (not that sex isn’t my interest, but you know… there are particular things I enjoy hearing about in poetry and sex generally isn’t one of them), but I liked it particularly as a response to a certain generation of male poets who couldn’t stop talking about their bodies and penises. Anne’s reading started the evening, which was ended by a new generation of such male poets. It’s one thing when Anne Tardos does it– it’s another thing when you’re the 500,000th 20-something male poet writing about sex. When you’re a 20-something male writing about sex it sounds like you just don’t have anything to write about.
A previous boyfriend once told me, “don’t write about God, love, or Nature. Those things have been done to death.” So I tried not to. I tried very hard not to. Now, I write a lot about love and Nature, but I still feel this restraint: “don’t write unless you have something new to add to the pot and a unique way of saying it.” This isn’t to say that anyone should stop writing, only that they should perhaps give more thought to their subject matter, especially if they’re in a demographic that’s expected to write about a certain topic.
Some positive comments: I liked the Americana, gender issues, people-watching in Laura Elrick’s fragments, which reminded me of Twin Peaks (some parts seemed to channel the Log Lady); I liked issues of class/gender/pop culture brought up by Kevin Thurston’s office poems (and thank god he was able to get something out of that horrible job), as well as his use of the performance space (St. Mark’s has this huge space for the reader to work with, but s/he’s usually paralyzed by the small podium and stationary mike).
Some quasi-positive comments: I liked Eddie Hopely’s use of the space with his constellation reading/performance, but I couldn’t always make out what he was saying. Karim Estefan set the bar high for himself by reading a variety of work: I enjoyed the lyric emotive value of his first piece (written in response to the ongoing conflicts in Israel/Palestine), and his second piece got me thinking. For some of this second piece he was able to maintain an good impression of a computer talking, which fit the piece. But I wondered why he didn’t just use a computer to read the poem. Then I wondered if we could program a computer to read in The Poetry Voice. I think we should. Generally speaking, I liked the use of the machine in Karim’s reading but I wanted it more of it– unrelenting machinery. The lyric poem was very lyric. But the machinery poems could be more machinic.
In the subway on the way home I saw Anne Boyer’s NYC doppleganger. It’s a big city. There are duplicates.