Thursday, January 30, 2003

"Jay-Z is more important to young people than George Bush," Russell Simmons said. And today more and more young people are writing poetry. Ten years ago, he said, if he had visited a New York City public school and asked how many people wrote poetry, there would have been few hands raised.

"This new spoken-word thing is really gonna change the world," he said, to another shower of hoots and shouts, whistles and cheers from the crowd.

Change it how? Look, I'm not a fan of it, but I'll watch it on HBO if I see it on. Patiently, I listened trying to show I was interested in what my exuberant co-workers said when they told me how DOWN Def Poetry Broadway was, and since they had me on the line, they gave me the 411 on Brooklyn's spoken word tip. One more time: Def Poetry Broadway.

Poetry's big circus tent has room for more than three rings, The Bob Holman aka Baba aka Babaloo aka Ringmaster of the Bowery Poetry Bar told me. [embarrassed: haven't been there, yet]

As Carlo said yesterday, "It's only poetry."

Everynight there are poetry readings I want to check out. Group blog for poetry reading reviews? You go to the show, you tell others what they missed when they didn't go.

For example, this past Monday night, 27 January 2003: Reading Between A & B featured John Yau, Monica de la Torre, and Brett Lauer. Reading order: 1. BL; 2. MdlT; 3. JY.

1. Lauer. First line/First poem: "You move your hair from your face to your shoulder." He lost me. Can I bum a cigarette?

2. de la Torre. Monica read what I'd call a mix between Gerhard Richter/Don Hall in the Museum of Idea poems. Diptychs: snapshot descriptions followed by poet's emotional and intellectual emplacement. Hall has those Horace poems I believe that were straight translations followed by "Or say," versions. Appreciated Monica's courteous by unnecessary apologia for the darkness of the poems. "These are not happy times."* Can I get a witness?

3. Yau. Too dark for the poor guy. He could hardly read his poems. I'm sure his continual entanglement with his cigarette didn't help either. All poets should chew gum when they read. "It's just poetry." Two highlights for me. One was a sort of homage to Breton and cyborgs, but the brightest of the night was a new poem, "Soto Voce." "S.V." was a long poem wherein he tried to carry 4 story lines at once, and he did so successfully. The poem's surface held tight and clean. He never dropped out of sight, and I appreciated his effort. It looked to be 4 or 5 pages long, and I'd like to read it. There was a short poem early on, too. The coloration in the poem held a solid neutrality, and I could really see how much Jasper Johns has influenced John. It was a poem of white numbers and white flags.

Very cold. Very crowded.

*BSOTU--And her pronouncement came before Dubya's State of the Union.

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