Jonas Mekas, 7x7 reading at the International Bar, photo by Gary Parrish.
I left my house in Brooklyn a little early to meet up with Jeff Wright at Grassroots on St. Marks and have a few drinks before the reading. Jeff lays on me a copy of Live Mag! A mimeo style poetry journal that looks beautiful, has a little stencil by Banksy on the back not to mention a fantastic lineup of poets: Gary Indiana, Basil King, Bob Holman, Patricia Spears Jones to name a few. Jeff also hooks me up with two little chapbooks, Radio Poems and The Battle Of Chico Mendes. Let me share one poem of Wright’s from Radio Poems:
LET IT FLY
For Anselm Berrigan
They call me a tracer bullet
buckaroo. They call me
a dirty word hurdy-gurdy,
a night grind marathon.
I’m leaving enough time
to erase all those flaws
that make auditors frown.
All the errors your boss
would waggle a digit at.
I’m leaving enough power
to change the flash for one
last burst of memory. Dash.
They call me an ambulance.
Now we talk long distance
We talk awhile about his recent trip to Alaska and the Poetry Project in the 70’s and 80’s. Finish our beers and walk over to the International Bar for the 7x7 reading.
The premise for tonight being, 7 poets reading for 7 minutes apiece. This also being the brainchild of Stephanie Gray, our host, seems cosmic; I have almost full faith in numerology. I scope out a little table and sit down with my mimeos and poems. People are flooding in, I knew Gray had a strong line up (Lydia Cortes, Brenda Iijima, Greg Fuchs, Marcella Durand, Jonas Mekas, Phyllis Wat) but had no clue how packed this tiny bar could get. Gray hands out little pamphlets with a poem by each poet to the already streaming crowd (later, 10 minutes into the reading they start to turn people away).
So where I’m angled at in my chair is perfect, literally right next to where the poets will be reading. Gray makes a short announcement and settles the crowd down, reads one of her poems (her gift is in her repetition of syntax and rhythm of word placement, not to mention being able to use image in fresh, matter-of-fact talking language). I’m hitting leadoff for this reading, a little nervious, but read three or four poems after a short introduction. Here below is Cartoon Logic from the pamphlet:
Under a sonata of pale nimbuses
the soft brim of dawn arises
to awake Donald Duck
Rumpled white feathers brushed under
a peabody coat reveals clumps of earth
shaped in a yellow web.
On a black bed of roses springs Tigger
bouncing on a spotted orange coil.
Molecular montage of German music
& radio, jars of honey stacked to the roof.
A single bee suspended in amber on the wall.
Outside a North Jersey parkway
a sombrero with a red sash
is tilted over the lap of Speedy Gonzales.
The New York Post reports rain southeast 15mph
causing the print to run over the hood of a Volvo.
Lydia Cortes takes the reins as the next reader and smoothes in the crowd. Her reading and voice is meditative, I notice that the people are getting comfortable, I also notice that people are now on the roof of the building grilling something. Tiny papers of ash are falling down on the crowd, they look like fireflies.
Cortes finishes and Gray introduces Brenda Iijima, who I had never seen read before. At the house we have a few of her books from yo-yo lab, one from pressedwafer. Iijima is pure style; she looks like a mix between a 1930’s farm girl and a New York starlet from the future. Her poems are cutting into new space of poetic intention, bright and brilliant. I’m listening to her poems in my right ear, picking up and digesting her dichotomy between images.
We keep rolling with Greg Fuchs, whose book Metropolitan Transit is easily one of the best chapbooks of poetry put out last year. When it first came out, I saw him read from it with the poet Buck Downs at a little underground bookstore in Brooklyn. Fuchs has a feel for the city that is comparable to Frank O’Hara. I know that gets thrown around a lot in New York poetry circles but in this case, who could argue. A short poem from the book follows:
For Carol Mirakove
New York: it’s like any town just more
Developers waited two years for Jones Diner
Surrounding it with old retaining walls
Drove up gloaming Lafayette Street
So few have survived but nostalgia
Is a useless emotion for an often useless
World that enjoyed no such golden age
You could be naming animals in a garden
Thunder in the window
Siren off a highway
The next battle in a history of battles
Defining new boy tastes for gadgets
A helicopter in the sky
Every attendant at the gas station looks up
Buy a pig nose from Halloween Adventure
To be General Porky Franks tomorrow
Evil minds that plot destruction
Recycled railcar cheap lunch demolished
Incoming chic downtown luxury loft living
Marcella Durand takes the stage and this is a real treat. Her voice and speaking pattern like Mei-mei Berssenbrugge haunting almost, like an orchid sings a song. She reads from Area, a new title from Belladonna. I was lucky enough to have attended her book release at Dixon Place a few months ago and heard some of these poems first hand and new.
In Jupiter a room and into rooms,
closet, doorway, and an asteroid orbiting
in bits of ice, rooms, and Jupiter, occupies
a space even as inside that gaseous sphere
a room, and redness beneath delineations
and spun into circulation by gravity
immense, as liquid becomes solid, and
become a denser sphere
definition and occupying a space
as you would push others
into orbits, your circular asteroids
as small planets circle you,
creating space within space as you
take space around yourself and liquid
become gravity, holding yourself
to yourself, to Jupiter, and inside you element
as we would circle you as even gazing
inside you, your core invisible, Jupiter,
you move in and out of visible range,
your largesse and equator, monster.