... &, if so, for whom? the subject? the press? Does the pan backfire on the critic &, in turn, transform itself into an unintentional rave for said critic's target(s)?
I participated in a really cool poetry reading the other night at St. Paul's in Wicker Park. Got to read pomes & riff around w/ Kurt Heintz, Kristy Bowen & Todd Heldt, &, later in the night, Charlie Newman (who curates the whole "first friday" series) ...
The series is a bit of a stalwart. Charlie had been doing it for years at Lincoln Park's DvA gallery. When DvA closed its doors, St. Paul's opened theirs. It's a cozy venue in a residential area, and has long been a benevolent patron of things cultural and artistic. Some things change & some things stay the same, I guess.
Anyhow, there was more than enough reason for me to be stoked for the night. Todd, Kristy, Kurt & Charlie are among my favorite local writers. Charlie MCs two excellent-yet-completely-different-from-one-another spoken-word series here in town, has been the host of a fabulous poetry radio show and is one of the more prolific poet-types out there. Todd and Kristy, still in their 30s (like me), have a list of reputable publications, awards, kudos etc. a mile or so long (unlike me, yet (cross wood/knock on fingers)) and may well be the next two big names in what the more pretentious may refer to as 'american letters.' Kurt has been a juggernaut in pomes performed, paged, staged etc. for decades. If these folks weren't my friends, it might be quite intimidating for an uncomely literary slacker like myself to share such a Friday night bill. As it stands, we are friends, so I suppose I just decided to put my nose to the stone & do my best to bring the old A-game ...
The First Friday crowd tends to be heavily littered with serious fans of poetry and serious writers of it, as well. The sage Tom Roby was there with copies of his latest collection (and a damned good one, at that), Shapeshifter. Lots of other local heavyweights & open-mike regulars & poetry enthusiasts were there: Michael C. Watson, Shelley Nation, The 'Waiting for the Bus' guys, Nina Corwin, Bob Lawrence, Al DeGenova, Bob Rashkow, Dina Stengel, Joe Roarty, Chris Gallinari, just to name a few. Gallinari, por ejemplo, is a relative newcomer to this whole writing poetry thing, but the guy's work improves significantly every time I read or hear it. The guy has two really good things going for him: 1. an innate desire to learn/improve & 2. a pretty good grasp on Language.
SooooooooowhatIthinkImeantosayis ... while these First Fridays may be intimate, cozy happenings, they're definitely not readings to phone into. There were also a couple other much talked-about events this night (i.e. the Chicago Calling Festival, a virtual Lollapalooza of multi-city collaboratives), so it was wonderful to see so many folks tirelessly on fire for culture in attendance. If you were there, and I didn't personally get over to you to thank you for being there, please allow this here bit o' typin' to suffice for my humble gratitudes ...
So, it was a pretty fun reading. We did it round-robin style, with Kurt kicking off a round, then Todd, then Kristy & then myself. Halfway through we took a break & invited Charlie up for round two. Those guys (& gal) definitely brought *it* and (at least from my vantage point) also brought down the proverbial house. I'm still getting emails from folks who were there, telling me what a great time they had, how much they enjoyed everybody's reading & how they thought our round-robin format kept things fresh and fluid ... alas, I may digress, and since I already mentioned all the kind, wonderful & completely positive correspondence I've received about Friday ...
sound. fury. signifying?
is this where it gets interesting, Scotty?
At some point that evening/morning, after post-event tacos & margaritas & repartee, I returned to my place to some rather interesting stuff taking place on the ol' info superhighway. You can click on the title of this post to see some of this stuff (all 4,000 words of it -- a feat in itself considering the events described therein took place roughly an hour before the piece went live). You can scroll to the end of this post to see the other stuff. From what sidewalk crack did this gnarly bile bellycrawl, I asked myself. I mean, it had been a great evening. A splendid time, as they say, was had by all ...
So, it was here I remembered. I must be blessed with that cliche 'writer's photographic attention to detail' they told me about in school, but, yes, this one dribble of minutiae from St. Paul's I'd so nearly forgotten, but, aha, now it returned plain as the moment -- the literal moment -- it happened ...
Around 8:10 or 8:15-ish, I'd just given Tom money for my copy of his book (yep, I'm always buying lots of self & independently published works) & taken my seat beside Kristy, yes, when this manic-eyeballed guy in a backwards baseball cap all but falls into the room. Everything happened so quickly, you see, and I wasn't really sure who this man was, but I looked over at the 20 or so folks in the audience and there they were, shaking their heads, rolling their eyes and chuckling. It was fairly obvious most of them knew this guy with his crazy, all-over-the-place eyes and his fingers flapping.
"Who is that?" I asked. The man looked familiar, but everything happened so quickly and, of course, my mind was focused on having a good time & a good reading.
"I think he's somebody's uncle," one of the nearby attendees said. "Only not really their uncle. I read something about it on some website."
"I'm fairly certain he's not my uncle," I said. I looked around. I quickly asked each person in the room if the man was their uncle. Most of them, the ones who heard me, anyway, shook their heads and laughed. I was certain I'd seen this man before, but where and when? Surely, my 1960s excesses had gotten the best of my selective recall.
I decided to confront the man, to inquire how, when and why we may have crossed paths. I left my seat, but he was already on his way out. He wasn't happy about being on his way out, and he attempted to make some sort of scene. I figured he must have done something somewhere sometime to have initiated the chain of events I was now remembering, but I suppose at some point in every story each of us will be or has been on his/her way out ...
Alas, nothing. My mind = cheesecloth. Who is this person? Why does he keep turning up at these events, claiming the world is out to get him? Is this your uncle?
Then again, I s'pose we ought'n't pay it any mind. Every family has one.
(the following appeared, ever so briefly, in either an email sent to a listserve, or on a website ... I'm not sure. I don't really care, but I just got a bit off my chest in which I mention it, so go on and read ahead & be sure to check out the link in the post title, too)
**Fri Oct 3: St. Paul's, 2215 W. North Ave, Todd
Heldt, Kristy Bowen, Scott DeKatch and Kurt Heintz
will fart chanel number five in what promises to
be the snob fest of the year, 8 - 9:30 PM. Given
Charlie Newman's dislike of Christians, it's odd
that he chose a church as an alternative venue
after the DvA closed, but what is even odder is
how he has completely abandoned the notion of
"mixing it up" to present this celebration of
sameness. He once joked that he wanted to throw
together a show of poets who hate CJ Laity, and
sure enough his vision has come to fruition with
this pearly white event, which will feature four
of the most stuck up individuals to stink up the
poetry scene. I'm not sure if the joke is on the
poets or on himself, but he could not have chosen
a clearer example of Chicago's poetry borg. Todd
Heldt was taught that there is only one style of
poetry that is acceptable and that style just so
happens to be his own. The last time I saw that
do-nothing Kurt Heintz was years ago when he
bombed with a piece about being a "gay man in a
burka". Huh? Kristy Bowen recently savored her
little malicious bout of CJ bashing at her blog
and no doubt earned some brownie points from the
hate club for doing it. And Scott DeKatch doesn't
think poets should pool their money to publish a
book or to put on a fest, but he has no problem
paying Kinkos to publish his own work. Donations
will be solicited for the church