So far, I’ve gone to two poetry readings this week: Andrew Hughes and Sara Wintz at Zinc and Ben Friedlander and Anselm Berrigan at St. Mark’s.
My aesthetics did not align with Andrew’s in such a way that I could get a lot out of his reading. I don’t have anything against Andrew personally or even against the poetry, I just wasn’t taken, although every now and then a word pair drew my attention. The tiny publishing industry would have supported the publication of these mere word pairs, which I would have liked. My roommate, Eric, loved the whole poems. He said, “It was wonderful! It was so musical!” So there you go. Consult Eric for further analysis, or check out Andrew’s book forthcoming from Book Thug, which has yet to make a bad editorial decision.
I’d recently seen Sara read in Buffalo at the Small Press Book Fair, so I thought I knew what to expect. But the poetry reading in Buffalo was a marathon where everyone got only 5 minutes, and I was wrong to think that Wintz could be properly represented in 5 minutes. At the Zinc reading she also read short of her time, but in such a way that I craved more–something that rarely happens to me at a poetry reading. My favorite of her reading strategies was a technique in which she (a very small person) seemed to contort her body with the effort of stopping and starting the poem so that one heard only fragments. The sonic effect was like changing t.v. channels rapidly, but the performative/visual effect was mesmerizing. Here is one of the poems she read like that.
Ben Friedlander was like a big brother to my generation at Buffalo, so I must like him, according to my friend. In actuality I do like Ben’s work most of the time, as well as Carla’s and as well as Ben’s editorial and scholarly production. He’s one of those good all-around poets who not only writes but maintains the community. I liked most of last third of his set, but in the first part of the set there were many poems referencing people in the audience, namely Flarf people in one quadrant of the audience, a technique that while very entertaining to those named, sometimes alienates others in the audience who aren’t “in” the in jokes. I was seated between two people who weren’t “in” and who were trying hard to pay attention but, I think, felt left out. So that is a hazard to reading poems like that– it’s hard to win over a new audience. That said, there was quite a good poem about Nada Gordon that really captured something about her– I think this was my favorite piece. I like Ben’s voice. I would like to put it on my iPod and fall asleep to it. His reading style is very much like his personality– happy, with a ready grin, but calming, fatherly, instructional like a bedtime story.
After Ben’s reading, I met some cool people so I left.