New Year’s reading at St. Mark’s. Far too sprawling to ever fully experience, which is part of its appeal. If you stay for five hours it’s still just a window on a much larger event. Friends visiting town, so I couldn’t hang and sell food as I usually do. In and out.
Normally the audio in the main hall would be siphoned off into the parish hall via a single speaker for preparers and sellers to hear everything. It’s a great feeling, like a radio show being broadcast from twenty feet away. Alas no channel could be spared this time around, so I missed much while in the back, readying cymbals and tomtoms for a quick staging. I got there late -- post-Patty Smith. She usually hits at 9:00 with standing room only, and people swarm out of the place after she’s done. That still leaves the house with several hundred people, though, who were still there when I split around 1:00.
The backstage activity is where the real show is. Rapid intersections of people. Poets you haven’t talked to in years, people you see often, people you’ve read but never met, all mingling. Friendly talk and the inevitable prickly exchanges. Strobelike conversation. A lot of flip-flopping between contradictions: excited and exhausted, open and wary. On stage it’s a mass encouragement vibe. Everyone gets a lot of clapping.
Gary and Nada read a duo google thing on the word ululations, and talked about the tidal wave and dedicated the poem to the people killed. Many people talked about and dedicated poems to John Fisk and Jackson MacLow. I thought of my many conversations with John -- how we would get on some parapolitical riff and three hours would go by in a blink. I also thought of an evening walking home with Jackson and Alan Davies after a concert at Riverside Church. Talking about intonation etc. The air crystal-clear. A special feeling. Jackson -- interesting, interested and kind.
Hal Sirowitz cracked me up with his perfectly calibrated stupidity. A lot of it is the delivery, too, and the look. Marcella Durand played drums behind Douglas Rothschild reading Ezra Pound -- really great stuff. It was Joe Elliot’s kid’s drumset actually, which I helped Dug tune before he went on -- I love feeling useful!) Great to see Marcella playing drums. CA Conrad used a portable tape player as part of his performance back and forth dialogue and interruptions -- simple and effective. He has a good stage presence --- balanced hamming and nervous energy very nicely, not so easy to do. Frank Sherlock knocked out a strong, straight-ahead reading, no bell or whistles, which is actually one of the hardest things to make work in this context, but he pulled it off. Eddie Berrigan sang w/ guitar -- much more contour to the vocal melody than last time I heard him. Am I hearing some Devendra Banhart influence?
Wish I could have seen more people but what can you do. The marathon, as tiring as it can be, always leaves me with a good feeling -- like having moved through a briefly uncovered massive ambient poetic social texture.