"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Jess echoes Josh's comment on the UGP reading. I think, though, that it's a bit more complex than poets wanting to be rockstars and poets wanting to schmooze and drink rather than hear poetry.

First, the venue itself, as Josh noted, was not ideally suited to a poetry reading. A party, yes. And is it any wonder that people partied? Not to mention free beer, and free whiskey at the Hot Whiskey table.

So yes, offer people free liquor and all bets are off. (Witness, for contrast, the following night's LIT/Redivider party--no free booze, less schmoozing, more poetry paying-attention; or maybe that was just me.)

In any case, the two venues were different in capacity. It was a lot easier to get stuck near the tower of power potty in the rear of the UGP, and miss what was happening on stage. The view from the stage was pretty bad too--difficult to see _anything_. This, however, made it somewhat easier for me to read, addressing not people, but darkness punctuated by the occasional hoot or holler.

And then there were the people. After I read, I had a lot of strangers (er, new friends) that I had to talk to--and part of what poetry does, after all, is bring people together. Art's social function and all that. So I guess some amount of schmoozing is inevitable and desirable. Jess writes: "Ultimately it comes back to the work and not the personality." And I'd agree, but I'd also add that sometimes the personality is the best entry-point into the work and that should not be discounted.

As Jess mentions, Aaron's reading was wonderful, as was Joe's. He forgets to mention his own reading, which was pretty fabulous as well. He has a quiet chant, an incantatory hum of syllables; the poetry takes on an almost-tangible quality, like you could grab it out of the air, like slow birds, for example.


Jess said...


It is definitely more complex than I make it seem in my post. I'm all for schmoozing and free beer! I like your thought that sometimes the personality is the best entry-point into the work. What I was trying to get at, unsuccessfully, is the notion that sometimes in creating a public personality or personal mythology, that a poet can become entrapped in creating work that services this personality rather than creating something unique and other than this personality. Think of several poets who develop a voice and personality and the entire body of their work becomes this. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Either way it is limiting. Art has a socializing function that is both necessary and important, while at the same time assimilation is something that every poet has to balance (fear, really) in order to produce work that continues to be vital and unique.

Jess said...

& that's a beautiful reading description, thanks, though according to Aaron I was the loudest reader.?

Tony said...


I'm not sure if you were the loudest reader or not. I certainly had no trouble hearing you, but your reading didn't strike me as "loud" in any way. It was audible, but your reading style is so controlled, the overall effect is "quiet"--not in a pejorative sense.


John Mulrooney told me that *I* was loudest, or rather, that I "projected" well enough to reach the beer-drinkers schmoozing in the back. For whatever it's worth.

Scott Pierce said...

the thing about the UGP was not so much the venue - becuase if you noticed, we had plenty of amplification. the only thing that made it difficult to hear the poets were the fact that people congregated in the back of the space near the kegs. if you moved ten feet forward away from the mob you would have heard everything perfectly. Very loudly in fact. Anybody closer to the stage (there was plenty of room) heard everything just fine. as far as the view from the stage being bad - that's just how stage lighting works. if you are able to look out and see everything/everyone then that means you are probably not being lit properly.

All in all though, being the first night of the conference, you would guess that people would want to socialize and catch up and all that.

but as far being able to hear poets read, that part was up the the listener. If people didn't hear the poets read it's because they chose not to listen.

Just wanted to add that since I don't think the venue had anything to do with the sound quality of the event.

Jess said...

My comment about *the loudest reader* was very tongue in cheek. The sound quality was quite good, if you wanted to hear the readings, you could. I fear I'm sounding like a blow hard when I'm trying to rib people about giving these talented poets a closer listen.

That's a nice distinction Tony about the overall effect of a reading style based on things other than just volume.