Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three Days at the Poetry Project: John Ashbery, Anselm Hollo, Eileen Miles and Anne Waldman

John Ashbery
The rain couldn’t keep the masses away from John Ashbery’s solo reading in the main hall of St. Mark’s Church this past Wednesday night. People old and new to the Project filled into the great hall and quickly found their seats for the 81-year-old poet (who doesn’t look a day over 55) smiling and excited. Ashbery took the stage after a warm introduction from Anselm Berrigan and read new poetry and prose from recent collections including: Where Shall I Wander (2005 Ecco)and A Worldly Country (2007 HarperCollins) amongst others. Ashbery read for a good 45 minutes and then retried to the Parish Hall to sign miscellaneous books for collectors and fans. Other poets who came to hear Ashbery included: Simon Pettet, Anselm Hollo, Lee Ann Brown, Joe Wolff, and Marcella Durand, to name a few.

Anselm Hollo, Eileen Miles and Anne Waldman

This Friday night reading was something special, with all three performers bringing their "A game" to the stage. Eileen Miles (in from San Diego) kicked off the reading with new poems from Sorry, Tree (poems) recently out this April from Wave Books. Reading for a good 20 to 25 minutes, Eileen set the stage with a particular flare after being introduced by her former student, Corrine Fitzpatrick. Getting up to the podium, Miles thanked her student and began the reading (as she called it, a gay reading) with poems describing her relationship with her lover and their lives in California and abroad. Miles’ antidotes were well received, as with her poems inciting laughter and applause.

Anselm Hollo, who took the stage after a short introduction from Anselm Berrigan (who he is named after), spoke softly saying “Anselm is the author of over thirty books, all of which are fucking great”. Hollo, who is regarded as one of the elite translators and poets of his or any other generation, did not disappoint. Reading and giving dates for two poems written for his dear friend Robert Creeley (May 21st. 1926, Arlington, Massachusetts — March 30th. 2005, Odessa, Texas) and his son Hannes Hollo (1959-1999). "The Mopping-Up Operations of Septuagenarians" for Creeley (Broadside 2005 farfalla press) and Guest of Space for Hannes Hollo (Coffee House Press 2007), clearly moved the crowd, his soft voice felt in the rafters. Not so much that we had known these people but that in Hollo’s voice and poetics one gets the point all too well of loss and triumph.

In Memory Hannes Hollo, 1959-1999 by Anselm Hollo

Fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
"What is man?" asked the King
Alcuin’s reply: "A guest of space." And time yes time:
The past lies before us, the future comes up from behind
Walking on Primrose Hill or Isle of Wight beaches
Iowa City streets scrambling up snow-covered deer track
To Doc Holliday’s grave in Glenwood Springs
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees
He fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
Strong & resourceful on his best days,
Patient kind and presente
Returning those with him to here & now
But just as we settle in with our Pepsi and popcorn
THE END rolls up too soon always too soon

"'What is man?' asked the King": Pippin, son of Charlemagne, 9th century C.E. "His helmet now . . . ": George Peele, Polyhymnia.

From Guests of Space by Anselm Hollo. Copyright © 2007 by Anselm Hollo. Published by Coffee House Press.

Anne Waldman, the nights last reader came to the stage with new poems including, interestingly enough, one about her three husbands (Lewis Warsh, Reed Bye and Ed Bowes). Waldman moves across her life from the early days with Warsh on St. Marks Place (their old apartment is now a tattoo parlor) to the mountains of Boulder with Reed Bye, to her life here with the filmmaker Bowes. This poem is a little longer than some of the recent work Waldman has generated. As a result her rhythm and pace inside the poem build to a climatic middle and end, a poem as well-written as “Skin, Meat, Bones “ one of my favorites in her collected work. Waldman read sections of Iovis Book III (Coffee House Press 200?) her epic poem approaching 1000 pages and brought her nephew on stage for a series of collaborations using his saxophone. One in particular, “Manatee,” resonated through the halls in an uncanny resemblance to the animal. Waldman’s reading closed out the night with people crowding into Parish Hall again for comfort and wine and dialog. All three poets holding court to their friends and fans.

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