Thanks again to the organizers of the London Open Mic Poetry Night for recording each performance. My reading from this November is a trio of lovish, loveqsue poems. The third of these is forthcoming in a special issue of BafterC (spring 2016). The second is excerpted from a chapbook manuscript, Tower, which I’m very happy to announce has been adopted by Anstruther Press for release in the summer of 2016. The first poem’s not that bad.
In late September, a crowd of good-looking literati and the 6 sweaty weirdos converged on Reunion Island Coffee to celebrate the launch of Desert Pets Press‘s two inaugural chapbooks: the gorgeously designed poems from Still by E. Martin Nolan (you may know him as Ted); and the too-hip-to-be-square anthology 300 Hours a Minute: Poems about YouTube Videos.
If you’re jealous of this cover…
Thanks to Catriona Wright for (let’s say) commissioning my contribution to the anthology, “On Watching ‘Makin’ Bacon Pancakes (10 Hour Version).'” She may not remember insisting that YouTube poems are “the only kind of ekphrastic poem that counts,” but it was a pretty polemical pitch. Fastforward seven months: I was overtired and also ‘tired,’ so when I read “On Watching…” at the launch, I failed to read its title (yup), synopsize its source YouTube video, or explain its kid’s-table-seat at the venerable feast called durational art. But the Desert Pets Press website has gone live! And you can order this chapbook now! So here:
How to Write Your Own (10 Hour Version) YouTube Poem:
- Read the Vice interview with Benjamin Bennett, YouTube’s livestreaming meditation Lothario.
- Complete a statistically insignificant random sample of Bennett’s four-hour videos to determine that, yes, he’s sat motionless and smiling for a total of [updated as of posting] 596 hours.
- Stare at Tom Friedman’s “1,000 Hours of Staring” for 1 minute.
- Consider you’re staring at your screen, which has already suffered
- (calculate this quickly) some 10k hours of your eyeball beams.
- Read the comments section below the picture of Friedman’s sheet of paper, attending carefully to this apt deflation of literary criticism: “The fact that ‘art has no definition’ allows people to get obscene amounts of money and fame for staring at paper. Shameful.”
- Read the comments section below the KnowYourMeme entry on 10 hour videos to find one deemed the ___-est (e.g., an eleven-second clip of Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog making excellent use of musical diegesis, not to mention bacon pancakes, looped 3273 times).
- Bid your live-in partner farewell / call in sick / file your living will.
- Watch for 10 hours straight, taking notes toward your poem.
- Confess. Confess.
Another video, this time from the June 3rd edition (and season closer) of the London Poetry Open Mic Night. My thanks again to the organizers and to videographer Sebastian Rydzewski.
At the beginning, I’m responding to an earlier reader who mentioned a line famously misattributed to Valéry: “A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.” Open mic host Joan Clayton polled the crowd on whether they finish or abandon poems. I ‘think too much,’ so I abstained and then, in this video, point out that the line is a gloss of Valéry from Auden’s Collected Poems foreword.
Valéry wrote roughly this: “A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.” Valéry’s examples of “accident” do suggest abandonment, but I prefer the ambiguity of “accident” itself. I like to think my poems exile me for causes beyond my control.
Here’s also Kelly Creighton reading “Day One” and, hilariously, refusing to parse it afterward. Unfortunately, this video’s audio dampens the hypnotism (which is Creighton’s forté), so have a drink first, I suppose, then watch it with your eyes closed.
Although I’ve only just glimpsed into the windows of London’s poetry community, I think it’s a testament to that community’s seriousness (and its generosity toward less acclaimed poets) that the organizers of the London Open Mic Poetry Night record each performance and post the videos online. My thanks to them.
Here’s me reading “Counting Half The World” on Feb 4th (with stuttering preamble). (Note I’m reading directly out of the Hart House Review’s Winter Supplement, where “CHTW” was published last month.)
It was an impressive night, so check out the other videos on the account–particularly Poetry London blogger Kevin Heslop‘s “On the difficulty of describing bill bissett”:
Current Western University Writer-in-Residence Gary Barwin was the evening’s featured reader, and his first poem, “inside,” got me thinking about political poetry (and the politics of the politics of literature, and the politics of aesthetic prescriptivism in the guise of anti-prescriptivism) in a way that informs an upcoming post of mine on the Town Crier. The video below is cued up to (just before) Barwin performing “inside.”
or, How I Became a Poetry Pimp (and You Can Too!)
The Toronto Fringe Festival is the city’s great theatrical equalizer, meting out stage space by lottery to established performers and companies as well as to those new and break-seeking. This year’s festival, held in early July, saw the expansion of the Visual Fringe, an outdoor gallery space originally launched to host visual artists, providing tents in which to hawk their wares.
A few weeks before the festival, I fell in with a bad crowd: WORKhouse Theatre, a company who’d lost the stage lottery but devised a plan to pack a Visual Fringe tent to its PVC rafters with performers, visual artists, and writers. The tent, dubbed Fort Awesome, would be a site of collaboration across the arts and of playful interaction between artists and visitors. It would be your childhood clubhouse among so many market stalls. And the WORKhouse producers were open to event suggestions.
I stumbled on the Poetry Society of New York’s Poetry Brothel the way you might stumble over a small end table as it waits on the sidewalk for garbage collection and—you being six pints deep and the night demanding minor larceny—drag it home only for the morning to complain that you’ve nowhere to put it. Well screw you, morning, I found somewhere to put it. Giving full credit for the idea to the PSNY, I suggested hosting our own poetry brothel, I offered to issue a call and edit submissions, and (although I forget exactly when this happened, I like to think it did almost immediately) I earned the name Madame Andy.
Four Steps to a Brothel You
I initially conceived this post as a reflection on our brothel, an opportunity not only to record the event (and so resist its transience as performance) but also to theorize the correlations among sex work, performance, and poetry that it might foreground. While I will offer some reflection, I believe there’s more value in simply relating a process that worked for us and encouraging other small art collectives or collaborators to adapt it for their own purposes.
. . .
On Tuesday, July 31st, 7pm, I’ll be reading at The Ossington (61 Ossington Ave, Toronto) as part of a Dragnet Magazine/Echolocation Magazine double-threat. Broadsheets of “Olbers’s Paradox” will be on sale, and you will buy them. You will buy them all. Oh, you’re not in Toronto? Convenient. Convenient that you will buy them all online.
I’ll be reading with the aid of my patented ‘Illusion of Choice’ technique: I read two titles, the audience chooses by show of hands which poem I read, I disregard the audience’s selection as I see fit, I pretend it’s political commentary. Also reading that night (actually, I’m the ‘also reading’) are poet Ben Ladouceur and prosers Andrew F. Sullivan & Jamila Allidina. DJing that night is Devan Boomen.
Boomen? Verboom? Some Highlander shit will likely go down.
The Dragnetlocation facebook event is here. Invite yourselves.
For someone with limited publication experience, there’s little better than an editor asking you to submit a particular poem. It’s not exactly an ego boost (“submit that poem now thanks” doesn’t mean “you’re amazing” so much as it means “that poem won’t make my journal look bad”). But as a near miss it also prevents the extreme discomfort brought on by direct praise.
I read “Telemachy” at the floorshow, held by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, back in January 2011. Someone sat through it thinking, “Well, this isn’t entirely shit.” I’m probably being overgenerous—’not shit’ is high praise coming from an Irish mind—but the poem appeared in the inaugural issue of Bare Hands Poetry last October and is now available in audio on the Bare Hands Soundcloud collection.
I have an ambivalent relationship with readings. My preparation usually includes (1) looking up pronunciations for those words I foolishly used without having heard them muttered by another human, which should serve as an indication that my diction needs work but which I usually ignore; and (2) frantically getting drunk before it’s my turn to read. I also have an ambivalent relationship with recordings, which I use exclusively as a revision aid to defamiliarize a poem so I can better hear its rhythms, stresses, and other sound patterns you could classify blobularly as ‘assliteration.’ Yes, this involves sitting by myself listening to a recording of myself reading my own poems. Yes, that’s extremely masturbatory, which is precisely why I do it alone and delete the sound files afterward as if they were a sordid internet history.
(Poetry as a quasi-sexual experience? More on this here.)