July 14, 2007

Live from the Living Room, July 11

at the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Don Levy, the elegant host, started us off by that great summertime poem, "A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island" by Frank O'Hara, which was written on July 10 1958!

The night was "Sum Sum Summertime" theme, with no feature. I had wanted to wear a speedo, but Don dissuaded me, after all it is the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. So I wore my summertime straw hat & my Coconut Joe tee shirt & read 2 hot poems of summer, "Cutting the Lawn for the Ex" & "Park Fantasy."

Tom had shown up early, signed up, left to get something to eat & made it back to read. He did 3 poems from memory, hip-hop, driven by rhyme, the first about Hunter Thompson, then musing on living before we die by meditating (or was that just a result of the rhyme?), and the last a political rant on our culture. Lots of energy but ... I suddenly realized how close these obsessive hip-hop rhymes are to the the poems by Edgar Guest I used to read in my father's thin blue copies. I'm going to have to research this: wouldn't it be a pisser if after about 100 years poetry had come full circle through the modern then post-modern eras to 4-beat predictable rhymes on mundane, cliche topics? Who'd had thunk?

I had thought about writing about the issue of "themed readings," based on some email comments from Tim Verhaegan, then he showed up with a new poem & said he'd used the theme as an exercise (I took the easy way out & just went to my files). "Summer Theater" is an more than an "exercise," it's gay sex on the beach (sounds like a drink).

But Mimi Moriarty took the theme seriously and read one about skinny dipping, "No Moon," then "Elephant House Margate New Jersey" & one about her birthday in September that starts with the line from Paul Simon, "Summer leaves & my birthday is here."

Jim Masters had read his poems about an old clock at previous readings here, now has been inspired to write more about his current life. He read "The Banner" about Kevin Bruce's hat/banner/totem carried in the Pride parade, and intergenerational "Watching TV at the Center."

Dain Brammage showed up with compatriots from Prysmatic Dreams, Maximus Parthas & Tribal Raine (see prysmaticdreams.com). Dain read about a stand-in muse who just walks off in "Going With the Flow" -- I know the feeling -- then a series of "Activist Haiku."

Dain & Maximus Parthas performed Max's "Youth" ("I used to know you..."), & did it well. Then Max did a rant about censorship & another in which he introduced himself to us. I hope that Tom, who had performed earlier, was listening. Although Max's poems had all the standard slam-poem & hip-hop struttin' & rhymes performed from memory/patterns, there was more variation in his rhythms, more use of his own images rather than rapper cliches. Still, it was more performance than poetry, more attitude than ideas. Just check the website; each of the poets linked there have stage names, like the examples here. And in an inadvertent commentary (always the best kind) on the sameness of slam poetry, one of the poets asked Max after the reading if he was on the CD in the special Slam Poet issue of Rattle Magazine because he sounded just like one on the CD (he's not on it).

Tribal Raine performed reluctantly a piece about earning respect as a poet, starting off, "I come to spit fire...". Slam, but good slam.

I enjoyed hearing Don Levy read one of his very early poems, "Summer Sonata," with a lot of youthful alliteration & strange creatures, the "lunch bird" & the "breakfast bird." Actually a charming poem which Don should practice & read more often. He also read a section from his long poem about looking in windows as he walks by, and "The Secret Lives of Super Heroes" (come to think of it, they have funny names too, just like the Slam Poets).