Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Years from Three Rooms Press!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Juicy Burgers

With the rels in town, the TRP staff had the perfect excuse to head to midtown for a lunch time get together at our favorite hamburger tavern, P.J. Clarke's, at E. 55th St. and 3rd Ave. Every once in a while one or the other of us wakes up from a dream about P.J. Clarke's burgers, and in a world where everything seems to change for the worse, it's hard to believe that the dream could possibly be a reality. Yet, everytime we go there, the folks at P.J.'s prove again that they continue to produce the most consistent, beautiful, tasty burger known to humankind.

The only problem is that a popular joint like P.J. Clarke's is mobbed during the week between Christmas and New Year's, so if you're suddenly inspired to go--wait a few days. 

Also, for non-beef eaters, P.J.C.'s serves an awesome fish and chips, which is definitely big enough for two normal appetites, or one hungry diner. Size-wise, all those burger eaters at your table will be jealous until they take their first bite...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Listening to Christmas music on the radio

Never turn on the radio these days, it seems. But here it is, Christmas Eve and it's on. Good old solid Commercial radio playing the top 100 Christmas pop classics. CBS-FM. But it's kind of nice, in a nostalgic way. There was a lot of community that built up around radio music. I don't feel the same way about You Tube. Funny what happens when your choices are limited.

Christmas Eve in New York always feels a little lonely. You can tell on the streets: people are desperate, more foul moods, bad tempers and skells than any other time of the year. All day long. It ended with someone puking on the stairs in front of the house. 

Dad's dying this year. Makes it tougher. You notice more, perhaps, or notice more of the negative stuff. If only it were snowing.

Well, time to stay indoors until the real madness breaks loose tomorrow. But between the waves of craziness are moments--just like any other time of year--where there's a chance for magic. 

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Beckett Shorts with Mikhail Barishnikov

The New York Theatre Workshop production of Beckett Shorts sounded like it was to good to be true. I mean, how many times do you get a 5-time Obie award winning director (JoAnee Akalaitis) paired with the one-and-only Mikhail Barishnikov performing the work of the greatest playwright of the 20th century? One of the great things about New York is finding out about this production by walking down the street one afternoon, seeing a little sandwich board ad for this phenomenal event outside the theater, strolling into the lobby and buying tickets for four great seats for the first show after opening night.
Which meant the reviews were out that morning. After lavishing praise onto Pinter's "The Homecoming" three days earlier,  the same three top NYC reviewers shook their collective heads and gave an overall thumbs down to the Beckett pieces. I'm not sure why. To me they were extraordinarily performed and conceived.

From the moment you enter the theater, you're swept away into another world. A world where shapes of light shift and shake on a full stage scrim behind which, you can make out the silhouette of a low-slung desert sand dune landscape. As the scrim rises the landscape lights up to an even more bleak desert visage onto which Barishnikov is suddenly thrown in Act Without Words I. He wanders, stunned and confused. An exit appears in a side wall. From off stage, a whistle: like a dog owner calling their pet pooch. He stumbles to the exit gets part way through it, and is thrust back into the desert. A series of learned responses follows as different objects appear, each accompanied by the same whistle: that a palm tree offers shade; a pair of scissors can cut fingernails; blocks can be used to sit on; put together they can provide access to a just-out-of-reach pitcher of water. Almost. 

The force that brought us to this earth offers no guarantees about being able to maintain our happiness. All we are ultimately left with is ourselves--in the world of Beckett, everything else--even nourishment--is illusion. We live, we die, and in-between, we delude ourselves. Only a playwright of Beckett's stature could find the humor in this. And with Akalitis direction of Misha, the clear point comes across that a man, no: this man, is only able to maintain some degree of his own humanity by refusing to listen to the encouraging whistles of any exterior source, be it for food, comfort, or even a means of ending life itself.

Between each short work, the scrim lowered and images from the previous drama played across it to the accompanying Glass soundtrack, reflecting the resonating images that were playing in my brain.  Or were they focusing the scope of such images?Restraining them, perhaps? Hard to say, because, without much delay the scrim opened on new desert landscape, onto which two body-like shapes appeared like corpses under shrouds. Were they dead? No, it turns out. A giant metal arrow-like form slowly inches in from the left side, proding the first lump it reaches into action. And what action! A little stretching, a little toothbrushing, a little eating, then a look around to try to figure out how to make the cause of action happen to someone else next time. As in the first piece, it was hard to take your eyes off Barishnikov as he provided the physical dialog of a man willing to endure suffering in his life if out of nothing more than habit and the sometimes comical instinct to survive.

The next short brought actual dialog into the mix--or rather, it brought the dark poetic musing of Beckett's mind into speech, and allowed the incredible Barishnikov to speak, as an itinerent blind violin player talking to an occsionally mad, wheelchair bound Bill Camp. Like two clowns, the pair illustrated the idea that, given complete free will, few will accept or even seek out beauty or peace, for the sole reason that it is more effort than it's worth, and that to endure the tyranny of day-to-day routine is preferable, because it is predictable.

Beckett's "Eh, Joe," the only piece Beckett ever wrote specifically for televion, closed the evening with an incredible four-dimensional staging that brought to the forefront the power of live theater. Barishnikov, seated on a bed in a squalid room with the voice of the woman he drove to suicide. This time, the dialog was pure poetry, and different from anything I've ever imagined could be on television. The sexual imagery was shrouded like death is in life: hidden, yet present; structuring every move. While I agree with reviewers that the physical onstage presence of the woman--Karen Kandel--was unnecessary (Beckett's script calls for a voice only), her acting, with an economy of movement, was mesmerizing. 

The front scrim stayed down during this piece, and every movement of Barishnikov's face was enlarged and projected on it. Or was it a live projection? Audience members I spoke to afterwards were all certain it was a "live" projection, I swear, I saw a few minor differences between the projected images and the man on stage, which made the experience that much more stunning. Also images projected on the rear walls, which at first glance appeared to be the same as the extreme enlargement on the front scrim, at times, they were a little different as well. 

The question arose: What is reality? The voice in your head? the image you project to other people? the reflection you see of yourself in a mirror? No, the only reality is the actual person sitting there, breathing, living on the bed. Everything else is illusion. That is why the presence of the woman took away from what was otherwise an extraordinary piece. Because she was present, and speaking, her voice itself had to be defined as reality as well, and the idea of the solitary experience of life was somewhat blurred. 

Still, when this last piece built to its climax, and the lights went out, I couldn't leave my seat for a long while. It was a rare and extraordinarily moving theatrical experience that I only wish was possible on the stages of New York more often.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bukowski Tribute Friday, January 4th at Cornelia Street

For the first Son of a Pony reading of 2008 at Cornelia Street Cafe, we're going to do something a little different and have a tribute reading to Charles Bukowski, in addition to the open reading. In case you don't know him, poet Charles Bukowski was truly one of the few and far between: a champion of the outsider, the lost and lonely, the outcasts from society. His work resonates well in the post-holiday drip that we feel each year, especially since his passing in 1994.

At this special tribute reading, you are welcome to bring your favorite Bukowski poem, or read an original poem that was inspired by Bukowski. We'll be showing videos of Bukowski, giving away books and other prizes. So please be sure to come on down and join TRP poet and Son of a Pony Host with the two-toned pencil, Kathi Georges.

What: Charles Bukowski Tribute Reading
Where: Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia Street, between West 4th and Bleecker)
When: Friday, January 4th, 6-8 pm (sign up for open reading starting at 5:45)
Admission: $7, includes free house drink

Truly Alien Beings

Just when you thought it was safe to go shopping: we spotted these creatures down at Rockefeller Center and thought we better warn you. Though they were friendly enough, with aliens like these, you just never know...

See The Homecoming at The Cort Theater

Harold Pinter's masterful work, "The Homecoming" just opened at The Cort Theater, and it is definitely a not to be missed event. With strong performances throughout, the dark humor of the 1967 play shines link onyx, and all the beauty its horror unfolds right there before your eyes.

I've read the play 100 times, seen the 1973 filmed version with Paul Rodgers, Vivian Merchant, Ian Holm 25 times, and directed a solo version of it at San Francisco's sorely-missed Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theater. Yet seeing this version was fresh, exciting and a real treat.

Even brought along a couple of Pinter neophytes, to balance my extremely-biased favorable opinion of it. At intermission, one friend leaned over, puzzled, and asked, "This is really your favorite play?" By the end of Act 2, when all hell had broken loose, and all preconceived expectations were eclipsed, she was extremely moved herself, and kept thinking about the play for (so far) days.

Read the review. Buy tickets. Go. It's just that simple. It's the most positive, glowing review Ben Brantley has written for a while, and it's well deserved, for a stunning 40 year old.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

This Friday: The Bass Player from Hand Job

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Philip Schultz: New Poems "Failure" is anything but

Philip Schultz, founder of the estimable Writers Studio, launched his new book, "Failure" last night to a packed house of students, fans and poetry admirers. The response was expected: after all this was an audience of believers in Schultz, whose tireless work as a promoter and teacher of the craft of poetry has earned him a well-deserved reputation as one who practices what he preaches. Yet, the work in "Failure" is so touching, moving and harmonious, that Schultz probably could have read to a group of geese and held them spellbound. His poetry packs magic with every line, and "Failure" is highly recommended. Here's a brief excerpt from the title poem:


To pay for my father's funeral
I borrowed money from people
he already owed money to.
One called him a nobody.
No, I said, he was a failure.
You can't remember
a nobody's name, that's why
they're called nobodies.
Failures are unforgettable.
An uncle, counting on his fingers
my father's business failures--
a parking lot that raised geese,
a motel that raffled honeymoons,
a bowling alley with roving mariachis--
failed to love and honor his brother,
who showed him how to whistle
under covers, steal apples
with his right or left hand. Indeed,
my father was comical.

Also on the bill was the remarkable Gerald Stern (pictured), who packs a wallop with his "biting" sense of humor and his incisive slicing off of the facade of everything he speaks or writes about. I think the word "charming" was invented to describe him! Edward Hirsch, who got his first job from Stern teaching poetry in the schools, hosted the evening. Talk about a beautiful night! Whew!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Not Beautiful Enough: Women on Violence

Three Rooms Press poets Jackie Sheeler and Kathi Georges joined forces with Magdalena Alagna and Phyllis Talley to create an incredible poetry/perfomance piece "Not Beautiful Enough: Women on Violence," that played at Living Theatre this past Monday evening.

Performing solo and in groups, the four women took the stage by storm to a nearly-full house and cranked on a series of pieces dealing with violence, usually associated with the great crime of simply being a woman. Violence was looked at from many angles. Georges' opening piece "I am Woman" was take on violence women perform against themselves to meet the false demands of the commerce-fueled Beauty Myth. Wearing a strapless short velvet dress, 4-inch heels, and bondage handcuffs, Georges took on the persona of a deluded Third Wave feminist, lambasting her feminist mother for burning her bra, while praising her own "decisions" to get breast implants and wear shoes that cause permanent back problems, all of this over a midi version of Helen Reddy's classic "I am Woman." Wobbling off-stage--still in bondage--as the song faded, Georges' character muttered, "Sometimes, I wonder if it's worth it. Then, I just pick up a magazine and schedule another appointment. Someday, I'll really be beautiful."

From there, the show exploded with a series of personal accounts of violence and subordination, including Sheeler's "Wolf Whistle," Talley's "Fix Your Face," and Alagna's "Gothic Heroine of the Suburbs." Mid-show, the women joined forces in improvisational variations of "No man will want you if you (fill in the blank)," exposing how mothers often help lure their daughters into the very societal confines that brought them to their knees, often literally.

But the show was not just one long complaint. Rounding out the evening was an exploration of real beauty--the opposite of the kind caused by or causing violence, highlighted by Alagna's belly dance to Alanis Morissette's take on the Fergies' "My Humps," an odd choice that--in perfomance--proved to be truly inspired. Talley's piece "Talk to Me," a conversation between a woman and her own heart, was also enthralling. And Sheeler's closing piece, "Meat Loaf" examined a revelatory moment in her own violence-filled childhood that served as a basis for her breaking of the multi-generational practice of meeting disagreement with violence, and also illuminated the idea that the very violence that inspired the show need not be a permanent feature of a more enlightened society.

The show was so well-received it may be replayed at either The Living Theatre or another venue. In addition, plans are underway to have regional versions of the show performed, then collected on a website. Stay tuned for details.

Pictured (from left): Performance curator Dorothy Friedman with performers Kathi Georges, Phyllis Talley, Jackie Sheeler and Magdalena Alagna.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Been so long...

Looking back at the date of the last entry (September 8, 2007!) you'd think that life was probably sedate and uneventful for Three Rooms Press during the weeks since. Ha! Not true! In fact things have been so eventful, the blog has been sadly neglected.

They say you can't go home again, they say you can't go back in time, but hell!--we're going to give it a good shot, and get the TRP fanbase caught up on all the fun things that have been going on in Our World. So get ready! Won't be long now.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Peter Carlaftes Electrifies the Cornelia St. Reading

There was a feeling in the air before the poetry reading yesterday that something fantastic was about to happen. And it did, as Peter Carlaftes electrified the audience with a reading featuring six incredible, mostly unpublished poems that bridged the themes of NYC street life with the desire to create.

Features for this reporter included "Ambling," which deals with the idea of meeting the "successful" version of yourself on the street, replete with polyester suit, good job, fantastic family, and a name tag which, in Carlaftes' case, read "Hello, I'm Peter Carlfates." Oddly, this poem is based on a TRUE incident!--Carlaftes, apparently being set up by a buddy who thought it would be funny (it was, in the poem!). But can you imagine? We all have periods of doubt in life during which we wonder about whether or not changing one decision or another would have led you in a different more socially redeeming direction. But to actually see the manisfestation of the "successful" you in the flesh? What a trip! Carlaftes made the most of the incident, getting across the shock and the post-revelation joy in tightly worded prose poetry that the crowd obviously enjoyed.

And for me, this wasn't even the ultimate highlight of the show.

That came late into the set with the rare public reading of the masterful modern day Greek tragedy "The Diner after the Bar Closes"--a series of verses inspired by classic Greek drama, retelling the story of a man in a madcap search for happiness and love in a bouquet of oddball adventures in some of the numerous 24 hour Greek diners of Manhattan. Oddly, most of the diners mentioned in the poem have now been shuttered. However, despite the societal shifts brought on by the Internet and the post 9-11 world, the search for love remains, as ever, an endlessly fascinating foible full of intrique, heartache, heroics and--occasionally--the purest form of beauty.

I left the reading feeling like the world had changed, or rather, my way of looking at it had.

And this is good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Peter Carlaftes Rocks Cornelia Street This Friday

Even though summer may be essentially over, we got Mr. Sunshine himself--the great NYC (and Three Rooms Press) poet Peter Carlaftes--featured at Cornelia Street's Son of Pony reading this Friday, which will be hosted by the ever-grateful and enthusiastic poet hostess, Kathi Georges. It's guaranteed to be a raucous and wonderful reading, so come early to catch a good seat and groove on the ever-inviting vibes of the basement at Cornelia Street Cafe.

Here's the details:

What: Son of Pony Poetry Reading at Cornelia Street, featuring poet Peter Carlaftes. PLUS NYCs greatest open reading series, which warmly welcomes YOU.

When: Friday, September 7, 2007, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (doors open 5:45)

Cost: $7 (which includes a glass of wine or a beer)

Where: Cornelia Street Cafe, 28 Cornelia Street (between W. 4th St. and Bleecker, just off 7th Ave.)


Who is dis guy, Peter Carlaftes? Peter Carlaftes is a Bronx-born Greek-Italian poet, playwright, actor and director. Five collections of his poetry have been published including Nightclub Confidential, The Bar Essentials, Sheer Bardom, I Canto Cantos and Drive-by Brooding. Nine of his plays have been staged, to critical acclaim, among them Anity, Frontier-A-Go-Go, Spin-Dry and Closure. He recently performed Off-Broadway in "Ashtrays for Vodka" and his own Dueling Karaoke to rave reviews. Along the way to becoming a writer, Carlaftes performed as a stand-up comic and taught improv courses in his native New York, laid bricks, cracked safes, sold cable and tended bar, acquiring a unique ability to blend classic themes with tragi-comic street reality throughout the body of his creative work.

Is he any good?
You better believe it. Carlaftes is the real deal. He'll have you laughing one second, crying the next and all the while feeling the power of his work in its terse descriptions of the good, bad of ugly of the streets of The City. Prepare to be electrified!

Can I read in the open reading?
Yes you can! All you do is arrive early, and put your name on the list. You are allowed to read up to 2 short poems (3 minutes maximum). The number of people allowed to read is limited, so if you really want to read be sure to arrive before 6. Doors open at 5:45 pm).

What if I don't want to read?
While we encourage people to read at Son of Pony, we also encourage lots of people to just come enjoy the show. The variety is truly amazing! The place has launched the careers of such famed poets and musicians as Suzanne Vega, Poez, Eve Ensler and more. Something about hearing the work read at Cornelia Street gets you charged up and excited about life. I recommend it highly! You never know who will show up.

Do they have food?
Do they ever! The food at Cornelia Street is fantastic. Check out the menu in advance if you like! I'm drooling just thinking about it.*

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dueling Karaoke was Fabulous!

The Three Rooms Press sponsored Dueling Karaoke New York event, held at the Bowery Poetry Club last week was a huge success. TRP poets Kathi Georges and Peter Carlaftes, decked out in White Stripes-esque red and black, hit the stage in high gear, pumping through a 45-minute set that featured songs sung together, like Brandy and Ride Captain Ride, plus a high-speed, ack-ack-ack delivery of very funny bits about the ups and downs of pop music. Favorites included "Burning Manilow," a take on Barry Manilow's hit "Copacabana" with a Burning man theme. To hear this gem, please go to You won't regret it!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dueling Karaoke New York hits The Bowery Aug. 25 at 7pm

Three Rooms Press presents Dueling Karaoke New York an hilarious romp through the bright and shining world of top pop music featuring the Dynamic Duelette of Peter Carlaftes & Kathi Georges at Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery (Between Houston and Bleecker), New York, NY. Admission: $10

Join Peter Carlaftes and Kathi Georges as they rip the light fantastic and remix the auras of the icons of the pop music industry. From Bing to Sting, Abba to Avril, The Bee Gees to Beyonce--the Dynamic Duelette creates the ultimate hyperlinks in the biz, in this extraordinarily fast-paced, funny-as-all-get-out, downright wacky comedic extravaganza. If you’ve ever listened to pop music and wondered “Why?” this is the show for you.

As a special treat, TRP friends The JDs, featuring Bob and Jake Musial, will play their final New York performance before Jake heads off to college the following week. The JDs will play promptly at 7:00, so don't be late!

For reservations, please email Peter Carlaftes at

Friday, August 17, 2007

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Murray

New York painter Elizabeth Murray, who, according to the New York Times "reshaped Modernist abstraction into a high-spirited, cartoon-based, language of form" died Sunday. Murray was the wife of Bob Holman, well-known New York poet and founder/owner of the Bowery Poetry Club. Our deepest condolences go out to Bob and the entire Bowery Poetry Club community.

To celebrate her life, the BPC is hosting an Elizabeth Murray Praise Day on Saturday, August 25, from 4-7 pm.

Following the memorial will be a Three Rooms Press sponsored event, featuring music by The JDs, as well as the comedy duo stylings of Peter Carlaftes and Kathi Georges in Dueling Karaoke. Tickets are $10. For reservations, please email

Photo courtesy New York Times.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Found poem (taken from poems read at Cornelia St. Cafe, 08/10/07)

The Night Closes In
dedicated to Richard Loranger

Lips slightly open
and close on one syllable.
I try not to flinch, move my head to the glass.
My dear, you've bleached your hair in despair.

I'd like to think it was kinship felt.
So lovely the way she combs her hair.
Yes, Yes, Yes. I'm wishing you well.

Hate on-duty flared up, but only sputtered out,
"To love and be loved is better than a quiet life."
There's nothing like the way he kisses.

I'm glad I stopped drinking. Shall I be
your angel? And not a force of life and light?
Still a stretch to go through...

No one knows why the money was important.
I can't predict that it's getting hotter.
Rachel would have had something witty to say.

Catching the occasional glimpse of light from above.
It isn't easy. The cross roads lay before me.
The pasture is matchless.

Richard Loranger's Farewell NYC Reading at Cornelia St. Cafe

Last night at Cornelia St. Cafe, poet Richard Loranger officially said goodbye to New York City with one last poetry reading before heading west to San Francisco. It was a beautiful thing.

Throughout the open reading, poets playfully warned Loranger about the evils of San Francisco. As TRP poet Peter Carlaftes noted, "In New York, nothing works, and everything matters. In San Francisco, everything works, and nothing matters."

In addition, poets Christopher Martiny and Fred Yannantouno -- among many others -- paid tribute to the beloved Loranger with poems written for the occasion.

Loranger, an 8-year Brooklyn resident, took the warnings and poems in stride. Turns out, he's already lived in San Francisco, as well as Austin, Boulder, and Ann Arbor. In fact, in San Francisco, Loranger helped create the infamous Cafe Babar poetry series, though exactly how that series was created is subject to some debate.

According to longtime Babar poet Joie Cook, "I was the first person to read at the Babar, the story goes that I had a reading at the Meat Market Cafe and they were closed so q.r. hand knew this jazz dude (Alvin who now lives in France) who then owned the Babar. So q.r. drags ME and a bunch of people there (maybe Richard L. was in the pack, don't remember)...and a "movement" was born."*

Loranger's reading itself was magical. He read just two poems--but what poems! The first one was a rant begging for a free, loose spirit to return to the poetry scene. In the piece, Loranger lamented the lack of unfettered joyfulness in most poetry readings these days. He derided poetry for being either too academic and structured, or too adherent to the "rules" of the Poetry Slam circuit. His own piece was neither--it was a sheer beauty to behold.

Loranger's second poem (unpublished) was a longer, more insightful piece that traced the footsteps of the narrator's descent into momentary madness, brought on by the oppressive nature of urban living and modern life. Like a modern-day Dante descending to hell, Loranger put on his boots, crossed the Grand Army Plaza and wandered into a park, only to be am"bushed" by a platoon of evil bushes bent on destroying his spirit and soul. His way out of this mess? Developing a new form of spiritualism call "Boot-ism," which equates the equilibrium of the soul with the willingness to remain in motion.

Of course, this is just one reporter's opinion, based on hearing the poem one time. Those interested in studying this bible of "Boot-ism" for themselves can leave contact info in the comment section of this page, which TRP will then pass on to Loranger in his SF haunts.

Bottom line is: the inventiveness of Loranger will be sorely missed. Goodbye, Richard, and good luck!

*To get the more details on the legendary Cafe Babar beginnings, Cook recommends visiting, which offers the book New American Underground Poetry Vol. 1: The Babarians of Sanfrancisco - Poets from Hell, an anthology that includes the Babar story in full. The site also features books by living and dead Babar poets such as Andy Clausen, David Lerner, Eli Coppola, Vampire Mike Kessel, Sparrow 13 laughingwand, q.r. hand, and Cook herself (whose new book, Beatitude, is one that TRP highly recommends.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Peter Carlaftes shines Off-Broadway

The play that TRP superstar Peter Carlaftes performed in last Saturday, "Ashtrays for Vodka," by David Sirk, was so well-received that audience members and the artistic director of the theater voted that it should continue to the "Wild Night" of the Strawberry One-Act Festival at the Off-Broadway theater company Riant Theater, providing another opportunity for the play to continue to the finals.

And, may we add, Carlaftes was definitely part of the reason for its success. His solid performance in the tough role of a bar buddy to a man ignoring his responsibilities gave the play an edge of authencity that made the heavy story line of the piece (ex-wife with breast cancer) easier to take, turning a melodramatic tear-jerk potential into a solid slice of life.

Congratulations to David Sirk, for creating a solid piece of work. And TRP wishes him best of luck in his future endeavors. No matter what happens in the theatrical world, credits and kudos count for a lot.

Pictured: Playwright/actor David Sirk, left, with Peter Carlaftes in "Ashtrays for Vodka"

Friday, August 3, 2007

Frank O'Hara Tribute w/Billy Collins & Paul Violi

Madison Square Park has a great summer reading series, "Mad. Sq. Reads" which recently featured a tribute to the great NYC poet Frank O'Hara, led by former poet laureate Billy Collins and possible future poet laureate Frank Violi.

The event coincided with the relocation of 21-year-old Max to NYC, so I brought him along. The day was hot, but The Mad had a nice breeze blowing by the time we got there. I sat Max down in one of about 75 chairs and wandered off to the merch table to check out the poets' books: four titles by Collins, one by Violi and NO FRANK O'HARA BOOKS!! Borders kindly ran the table, no doubt giving the two featured poets 100% of the profits. The 60+ year old man at the table was nice enough--hell, he was way too nice! When I buy books, I don't want to be hit on! Yes, I'm busy tomorrow, and Saturday, and for the rest of your life, as well as my own! Plus he gave me incorrect information--always a BIG minus in getting me on a pity date--telling me that the shrink-wrapped book was Billy Collins most recent, when, in fact, the book, "Questions About Angels," was published in 1999. Oh, well. I bought Questions, along with Violi's 2007 tome "Overnight" despite the Borders salesman, and rejoined Max in the now-packed audience.

Collins came on first, praising O'Hara as the master of the "having a Coke" genre: poems that create beauty out of the most banal of incidents, like having a Coke at the local diner. Drawing from the astounding "Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara," Collins seemed genuinely like he was rediscovering O'Hara with each new poem, as was the captivated audience--including non-poetry-fan young Max! But when Collins quit the O'Hara and began reading his own O'Hara-inspired "having a Coke"-type poems, my mind drifted, as did a few audience members. Max began staring at the chics squatting on the edge of the fountain. It was revealing to me--maybe it was too hard for the human mind to transition from the voice of one powerful poet to another. Or maybe some poems are just better on the page. Reading through Collins book later, I was blown away by the power of the work.

Take, for example, the last few stanzas in "Forgetfulness," which demonstrates Collins at his best:

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Fortunately, to wrap up, Collins presented the masterful "The Art of Drowning (1995)" which works on-stage and on-page with equal impact. A short excerpt:

But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.

Googling the "fragile cotton dresses of the poor" line, I found one website with a beautiful sunrise photo, and another one with the quote accompanying a picture of a barefoot Kate Moss getting out of a car (! I love this planet!

Violi was inspiring as well, though during his reading the breeze died and no amount of powerful poetry--not even from Frankie--could revitalize my flagging spirits. To check out Violi, check into his latest ("Overnight" 2007, Hanging Loose Press). From the first poem on it's a real wonder: Funny, honest, clear. Sample excerpt from "Appeal to the Grammarians":

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we're capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity...

...mainly because I need it--here and now--
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, "See, that's why
I don't like to eat outside."


As poets we need to give people words for such situations, so the temptation to use "emoticons" instead will be a cute remnant of history that soon will be forgotten.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Review: Lyndsay and Prudence's Favorite Things at Cornelia St. Cafe

On Monday, July 30, Cornelia Street Cafe's basement was transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere as employees Lyndsay Becker and Prudence Heyert took the stage with a vaudeville variety show full of hilarious sketches and sweet spots.

The duo started with a slide show and listing of their "favorite things" which actually served to dissociate them from the rest of the show. Thinking these were sweet girls into chocolate chip cookies and all the other niceties of the world, the audience was disarmed for what was to come, including a fierce game-show sketch with a no-holds-barred cat-fight between the "contestants," an interview with an actual Inuit (eskimo) featuring his gift of freshly-caught fish, and an hilarious sketch that transformed the Cornelia basement into a surprisingly realistic jumbo jet on its way to crashing, with Lyndsay and Prudence as the unlucky flight attendants. Inventive and imaginative, never going with the easy punch line, Lyndsay and Prudence kept the audience and this reviewer roaring with side-splitting laughter.

Between such funny sketches, special guests added real magic to the show, especially the fresh stand-up routing of Janine McGrath, the haunting vocals of ukelele player Nila K. Leigh, and the intense vibe-playing by jazzman Dan McCarthy.

No wonder Cornelia St. Cafe's basement always seems to offer the best in jazz and literary performances. With so many talented would-be performers on the payroll, the place exudes not just the good taste of the entertainment bookers, but the support, enthusiasm and critical approval of both the front- and back-of-house staff. It's the way you always dream a performance venue should be: a place where the people who work there enjoy the shows as much as (if not more than) the paying audience.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Frank O'Hara tribute with Billy Collins This Thursday, Aug. 2nd

Don't forget to make a big time effort to get your soul in need of something, anything, over to Madison Sq. Park at 6:30 pm this Thursday, August 2nd to experience a tribute to that renowned, fabulous, and, alas, dead, New York poet Frank O'Hara. The scoop:

A Strictly New York Joie de Vivre:
Celebrating the Work of Frank O’Hara
With Billy Collins and Paul Violi
Presented by the National Book Foundation

The poet Frank O’Hara (awarded the National Book Award for Poetry posthumously in 1972) was a key figure in the postwar New York School of poets and painters which includes poets John Ashbery and James Schuyler, and painters Larry Rivers and Jasper Johns. His deceptively straightforward poems are in fact complex representations of a revolutionary sensibility. O’Hara’s influence on succeeding generations of poets, as well as on the cultural landscape of New York City, is undeniable.

Poets Billy Collins (ed. The Bronx's only Poet Laureate!) and Paul Violi (ed., funny guy, witty poet) will read from O’Hara’s work as well as their own, and discuss O’Hara’s continuing influence on contemporary poetry and the literary culture of New York City. Billy Collins was United States Poet Laureate from 2001–2003; he has published eight collections of poetry and edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry. Paul Violi is the author of twelve poetry books and has been published widely in magazines and anthologies. His many poetry awards include grants from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Ingram Merrill Foundation. He teaches in the New School graduate writing program and at Columbia University.

Poet and critic Craig Morgan Teicher will moderate.

The really great thing is that the reading and discussion will take place by the Farragut monument! And we all remember Farragut, right. That famous line...

Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead...

Oh, you bet it's going to be great. For a great article on Frank O'Hara, click here.

Cornelia Street Open Reading July 27, 2007 Poem

This poem was created from one line of every poem read during the Son of Pony All-Open reading at Cornelia Street Cafe on July 27, 2007.

Found Poem

If one is a mirror to someone's art
Everyone's poems will be published.

The shitty truth is they'll care.

There really must be a miracle boldly
hidden somewhere around here.

It's good to be wrong.

Since you made them, you should
fix them without my consent.

Don't say nothing 'till I get out of prison.

The body is not a book to be read critically,
for every morning the waiting time lengthens.

Which reminds one of what we too must do

to become thought. You could write the very next line.
I do not say that I know what to do with you.

We must prevent the unity from crashing.

We have come to do battle. We have lost.
But the sky is about to break open.

Bye Bye Bruno's on Bleecker

It's been a tough week in the obituary column. Ingmar Bergman. Tom Snyder. Bill Walsh. In their work in film, late night T.V. interviews and the football field, they each created something unique that was widely acknowledged, praised and/or condemned. All will be missed. Life is short. Their life and death has created a sense of community because of their celebrity.

Mere men alone do not create community. It is the manifestation of the ideas of men (and women), and sometimes, the creation of a physical space to encourage the gathering of friends, family, colleagues, strangers for often nothing more than a cup of coffee and a pastry (often breakfast, lunch and dinner). Cafe Trieste in North Beach. The Onyx Cafe in Los Feliz. Bruno's on Bleecker St. in Greenwich Village. Well, the Trieste is still there at least. But Bruno's, like the Onyx and so many others, is gone.

Bruno's was never renowned as an intellectual or hipster hangout. Most of those places closed ten years ago. It was, however, a genuinely sweet place, with a particularly delectable fruit tart, a family-like atmosphere, awesome coffee and late hours. As a passing musician lamented, "This place used to be where you could get a cup of coffee at 2 in the morning. And now they're gone. New York is driving out all it's artists." Oh, you noticed?

Why is Bruno's closing? Greed (a.k.a. Rent hike). I don't know how much they paid, or what the rent went up to, but if a successful business like Bruno's is shutting down, it doesn't look like any small business on Bleecker still has a chance once their lease is up. In the words of Iris Dement, "So long, now/Kiss it goodbye." On West 4th street, not far from Bruno's, a Day Spa just closed. The new asking price for 1750 sq. feet? $30,000 a month! And Bleecker Street is so much more popular.

Last year, popular Bleecker Street grocery store Strawberry Fields closed. In its place? A Reiss boutique. The owners went to a great deal of trouble to make the nondescript place fit their hipper-than-thou requirements:

To begin the process, the firm stripped down the 5,000-square-foot space back to its bare bones and examined the interior’s existing traits—including its lackluster qualities. Ultimately, D_raw determined that balancing the industrial backdrop with organically-inspired concepts would result in a more visually-engaging space. In essence, their goal was to create an antidote to industrial overload by bringing in the natural elements of a garden.

Lackluster qualities? Industrial backdrop? Organically-inspired? How about the fact that you hardly see anyone in this hell hole of pretentious design? How many people who used to buy their eggs, milk, butter and bread in Strawberry Fields now shop there? Zero! In fact, how many people who live in the neighborhood shop there? None! Though--since I enjoy fiction so much--I'd love to see a survey.

It would be one thing to say that market prices are driving the little guy out of Manhattan's retail businesses. But the fact is, the market itself is being falsely created. Bleecker Street's reputation as being a cluster of flagship designer boutique stores, was actively solicited, with real estate brokers deciding to create a neighborhood at far above market price. And we let them do it because, by the time we find out it's happening, you see signs about greed on the window. But how long will these oh-so-cutesy designer boutiques last? How many will maintain a presence on Bleecker Street for 70 years, as Bruno's did, not to mention the entire span of there overvalued 10 year leases? Suffice it to say--and ya heard it first, folks--not many.

Things change, sure. But who is deciding how they change? In an effort to keep NYU from razing more historic buildings to install gaudy glass highrise condos, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Historical Association is fighting the good fight. But he's saving the buildings, but not the businesses in them. Hmm... Got to do something about that.

The good news is that there's another Bruno's across town on La Guardia. The other good news is that Rocco's--that other renowned, late-night Bleecker Street bakery (which happens to be right next door to the former Bruno's--is still open and going strong. This summer, TRP has been gobbling down their delicious lemon ice at the rate of two a day ($1.50 for small, not too sweet, perfect for hot, humid conditions.

Here's a poem for Bruno's.

In Memory of a Bakery

I usually went to Rocco's in the old days,
when there was a choice. Not Bruno's.

It was nice to have a choice. But if I wanted
a fruit tart, it was Bruno's hands down.

Now there is no choice, or rather, only one.
Bruno's is gone. Bruno's is gone.

There's a sign on the window that
mentions something about greed,

and the destruction of a neighborhood
on the best block in the village.

While I stand in shock reading it, a
few people emerge from the basement

carrying the last of the giant mixers
they've just purchased at discount prices.

Well, Rocco's is still open. At least. So far.
And I usually go there anyway. So far.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Peter Carlaftes to perform Off Broadway

TRP poet/playwright/actor Peter Carlaftes is slated to perform in the world premiere of Vodka for Ashtrays, an original one-act by David Sirk. The play is slice of life piece that centers on the downfall of a man who becomes increasingly unable to handle life responsibly after one too many tragedies. Carlaftes plays one of his downfall facilitators, in the interesting role of "Joe," who has the appearance of being the funny character, while actually being the dark, evil force.

The play is part of The Strawberry One-Act Festival, Series F. The possibly only performance will be Saturday, August 4th, at 5 p.m. at The American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54th St., 2nd Floor, between 8th and 9th Aves. Tickets are $20. Reservations: 646-623-3488. Admission is for four one-acts, including Naughty Cats, H.O.V., Orphans of the Digital Era and Ashtrays for Vodka. After the performance, audience members, as well as online viewers (tapes of the plays will be posted), will vote as to which play they enjoyed most. The play with the most votes moves on to the Semi-Finals, then Finals, and then the playwright of the winning play becomes eligible to submit a full-length play for development support. During the festival, the audience also votes for Best Actress, Best Actor (here's a hint: P. C-A-R-L-A-F-T-E-S), and Best Director.

Sounds like a lot of fun! Hope to see you there. For more info, check out the Riant Theatre Website.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tonight: Cornelia St. All-Open Reading

When's the last time you've been to a totally open poetry reading? Tonight's your chance, as Kathi Georges hosts a feature-reader-less poetry reading at Cornelia Street. This one time only event is sure to be fun! Rather than have a featured reader, Georges will invite those in the room to create a poem using one line from each poet. The created poems will then be read at the end of the night.

See your own words become part of new poems! Experience the collective nature of the universe! Enjoy yourself for once already! See you tonight at Cornelia Street (29 Cornelia Street, between W. 4th and Bleecker). Doors open at 5:45, sign up to read before 6. Admission $7, includes a free beer or wine.

All poetry. No fiction. No music. No comedy. No crap.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Akashic Books' Bronx Noir Release

If you're looking for a fun read to round out your summer, check out Bronx Noir, the latest release of the Noir series published by Akashic Books. At last night's book release party, we got a preview of the fabulous tome, with excerpts read by the authors.

The Bronx is best known as the borough no one goes to, and most people try to leave, and yet somehow, everyone claims to be from! But, as Bronx Noir demonstrates, it has a wonderful charm all its own, both in the past, as in Joanne Dobson's sweet Sedgwick Ave. tale "Hey Girlie" and in the present, most notably in Abraham Rodriguez Jr.'s tough South Bronx tale "Jaguar." Editor S.J. Rozan did a great job of putting the Bronx book together, by dividing it into areas of the Bronx. Collectively, the stories cover the entire Bronx borough, from Rikers Island to Riverdale. Plus writers include unknowns as well as famed crime writers like Lawrence Block. Check it out at Akashic Books.

With 14 books already in the works and 12 more on the brink of publication, covering major cities worldwide and quickly going into translation, the Noir series is one of those screaming success stories we all dream about. Kudos to Noir series developers Tim McLoughlin and Johnny Temple, not to mention Akashic Books itself for taking the risk to begin with.

"Le secret de l'aciton c'est de s'y mettre."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You Know You're Online Way Too Much When...

This afternoon, life was perfect until--suddenly--I could no longer accesss craigslist! Yikes! You should have seen the look on my face as I pushed the reload button over and over, only to get the message Error! Every other website worked. But I didn't want every other website. I wanted craigslist, that comforting, cleanly designed source of everything from New York garage sale info to jobs, jobs, jobs.

Turns out there was a big power outage in San Francisco. In SOMA. Where the Giants play, where BART runs, where I spent nine months once--literally: for nine months, except for an occasional trip to North Beach, I never went North of Market Street! Hmm....What is the sound of Barry Bonds' record winning home run if it's hit during a blackout?

Supposedly the power is back on now. For almost everyone. But craigslist is still down. Reminds me: During one blackout there, a poor friend of mine had no power in his loft for 3 weeks! He was the last one they turned back on. Crushing blow to his ego.

Monday, July 23, 2007

And speaking of free...Eric Burdon this Friday plays free in L.I.

Get this: Eric Burdon--the legend who brought you that ultimate song of rebellion "It's My Life"--plays free this Friday at, no joke, Hicksville High School in Long Island. Easy train ride on LIRR. Showtime 8 p.m. Get your inner teenage rebel back into action. Who knows where it could lead?

2 fun events this week for Akashic Books

Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers. Sounds like our kind of publisher! Get to know them better with two cool events this week in NYC.

Event 1
Bronx Noir Book Launch Party
Tuesday, July 24, 7pm

Partners & Crime Bookstore
(44 Greenwich Ave., Manhattan)

Come celebrate the latest installment in the award-winning Akashic Noir Series with editor SJ Rozan and many of the other contributors to the volume. Launched by the summer '04 award-winning, best-seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book. Brand new stories by: Jerome Charyn, Lawrence Block, Suzanne Chazin, Terrence Cheng, Pat Picciarelli, Abraham Rodriguez Jr., Kevin Baker, S.J. Rozan, Steven Torres, and others. BEER, WINE, and other refreshments will be served.

Event 2
How to Beat a Child the Right & Proper Way
by Colin Channer
Thursday, July 26, 7pm
Joe's Pub
(425 Lafayette St.; $12 admission)
The New York Times has called Channer's story a "tour de force" and this enhanced reading has been likened to the work/performance of Spalding Gray. A must-see event. Channer is the author of Akashic Books' The Girl with the Golden Shoes and editor of Iron Balloons, Hit Fiction From Jamaica's Calabash Writer's Workshop).

Both events sound great! And you can meet Akashic's managing editor Johanna Ingalls and talk up your own project! They're always looking for really good material.

E-mail with any questions, and more information can be found at

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poetry + Tree Identification Group!

We've started a new Friday group: Poetry + Tree Identification!

Our first meeting was great: The poet of the week was that great New York (West Greenwich Village) poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her poem "City Trees" was a natural for our purposes:

City Trees
The trees along this city street
Save for the traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet
As trees in country lanes.

And people standing in their shade
Out of a shower, undoubtedly
Would hear such music as is made
Upon a country tree.

Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
Against the shrieking city air,
I watch you when the wind has come,--
I know what sound is there.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the "My candle burns at both ends" Millay, but candles and trees don't mix!!

Poem in hand, we high-tailed it to the lovely Time Landscape garden (corner of West Houston & Laguardia), where we read the poem, then whipped out our handy New York City Tree Identication Guide book, and strolled the garden, correctly identifying a few elms, a cypress, and a ... hmm... um... what the heck is that tree? It looked like a Witch Hazel, but closer examination showed a more jagged-edged leaf. Two days of research by the wonderful Linda and finally, we recognized--but, of course!--it was a Beak Hazel tree.

Why the sudden interest in trees? Well, besides the fact that they're there, generally longer than most of us, Tree Identification is a great hobby that you can do alone or in groups! So, let's say your poetry group partner(s) can't make it one week--no big deal!--you just jog out to the nearest park and use that now-free time to identify trees!

We're sticking with Edna for next week's session, trying to understand her poem "MacDougal Street"--a weird piece that has multiple interwoven voices seemingly talking about completely different things. Hey, just like most conversations between two people!

If you're in the area next Friday before 5, drop by LaPalette at 50 MacDougal Street (get the connection?) where we'll discuss the poem, before moving on to the Northwest corner of Washington Square Park.

Photo by Hubert J Steed. Visit his great website full of pictures of New York City by clicking here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lew Tabackin Review

I wish I could say the Lew Tabackin show at Small's on Thursday night was out-of-this-world. Unfortunately, I was out-of-his-world: i.e., I didn't get to the show... alas...

But--hooray!--The New York Times was there! And they wrote a review of the Lew Tabackin show that made me regret not going. Hopefully, I get to the Birdland shows in early August.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lew Tabakin at Small's Tonight & Tomorrow

In the late 70s and early 80s, the Lew Tabakin/Toshiko Akioshi Big Band was--well--big! They toured constantly with the namesake (and married) front players blowing away audiences worldwide with their unique mix of sounds: Tabakin alternately blowing a big fat tenor sax or singing like a bird on flute; while Akioshi tickled the ivories playing alternately delicately and fierce. I can still recall the astounding sound of her strange chord progressions, so outside, yet so in the groove when I saw the band perform in 1978. I can also recall writing a review of the same show in which I called Tabakin's flute playing "breathy," pissing off the Tabakin-adoring members of the high school jazz band. Oh, well. In the 80s, Tabakin won multiple DownBeat awards for his flute playing. I can only assume he cleaned it up after reading my review! (Yeah, right: Listen, the man's a genius).

Now he's back with a trio, playing tonight and Thursday at Small's (West 10th St. next to 7th Ave.), as a warm up for an August 1st through 4th stand at Birdland, with special guest--you guest it!--Toshiko Akiyoshi.

I stopped by Small's tonight while the gig was in progress and chatted with the doorman. Asked him how the crowd was. "Well, know--it's jazz." How about the new music of the great Lew Tabakin? "His music has gotten a lot more spiritual." Oh? "Well, let me put it this way...I love autoharp. But not the way Alice Coltrane plays it." A-ha! A hardcore be-bop man! Must be a drummer. They always get the shaft when the front players turn spiritual. Or maybe a violin player?

Not entirely convinced, or perhaps because I'm not opposed to a dose of spirituality in music now and then, I plan to head to Small's for the Thursday 9 pm show. See Lew again. Check out his flute playing, and report back. The most exciting thing of all will be the chance to check out Small's itself, which, since being sold to piano player Spike Wilner in April has improved its sound system and its schedule, but kept the intimacy for which it's famous. It's about 1/2 the size of the Village Vanguard and has such a homey feel you get the feeling you're visiting a close friend. Admission is $20, which includes a drink. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Want My "Hang in There"

In the 70s, a popular poster featured a cute little white kitten with its paws grasping a tiny pull up par, its head barely above the bar, and the way-cute caption: "Hang In There, Baby." You'd see on bedroom walls and class room walls and office walls, everywhere. It was almost as popular as the Farah Fawcett red bathing suit poster from years later. I think the typeface was Bauhaus Extra Light.

Where do things disappear to? In the age of the internet, you would think EVERYTHING was online, and could be referenced. The only thing I can find that matches my memory is the image above, from fellow blogger Ann Althouse ( This is the one I mean! It almost made me like cats enough to get one!

Anyway, point is, all these little popisms from my youth ("Suppose they gave a war and nobody came," "Keep on Truckin'," not to mention, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you," have certainly, thankfully faded, as pop iconics tend to do. But they ARE real. And--at least in the case of the "cute-phrase" posters, they can be understood without knowing the original source.

Unlike Brands.

Being somewhat involved in the Branding business, a business which is based on being subversively psychologically manipulative in every aspect of anything related to a company, I wonder if it's possible to develop a cute, iconic item these days without it being blasted to death by the rules of Branding.

What would have happened to the little "Hang-in-There" Kitty had it been branded? Logo, color palette, website, business card. Stationery, T-shirts, dolls, coffee-cups, key chains. Cross-marketing, vertical marketing, covert celebrity endorsements. Candy, cookies, (god forbid) cupcakes, games, books, and soon...a movie. Then a musical. Then a movie of the musical. And naturally, paid-for poetry and rap references.

All of which doesn't sound like that far-fetched an idea. In fact, if anyone would like to help fund an exploratory cost-benefit analysis for the project, please send your contact info to

Ain't life grand?

Wait...Now there's another idea...

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Three Rooms Press audio poems now online

Four new recordings of Three Rooms Press poets are now online including a poem each by Jackie Sheeler, Peter Carlaftes, Karen Hildebrand, and Kathi Georges.

It's interesting to hear audio versions of poems. According to Robert Pinsky in The Sound of Poetry, "Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art. The medium of poetry is a human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is just as physical or bodily an art as dancing."

In listening to the four poems now online, I think the real spirit of the poems comes through. Part of the reason, naturally, is that the poems are being read by the authors themselves, which never hurts. But the main reason is that they are four solid poems, which, if read by any human, would add to the deeper understanding of the poems.

Last Friday, while hosting a poetry reading at Cornelia Street ("Son of Pony"), several readers snuck in readings of short fiction, instead of poetry. Don't get me wrong: I love fiction. But poetry is so clearly superior as an oral form of art. The fiction was BORING (even though on the page it might have been interesting). But the images you paint in fiction are like the drawings of an engineer, as opposed to an artist. There's no music in the lines, except in the case of poetic fiction writers (none of whom were present on Friday).

It's odd that the term "spoken word" was invented to describe oral poetry. All poetry is really best read aloud; therefore, all poetry is "spoken word."

But speaking of "spoken word": If you want to know the source of the phrase, make plans to go to Cornelia Street Cafe on Saturday, July 28th for a live performance by Poez (accompanied by Stan Baker, the human television). Poez is a long-term New York street poet (long, as in 40 years as a poet), and many credit the invention of the term "Spoken Word" to him. Jackie Sheeler hosts. Should be pretty amazing.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Three Rooms Press Show Rocks NYC at The Bowery Poetry Club

With four amazing poets on its growing roster, upstart poetry publishing force Three Rooms Press rocked the house at New York's Bowery Poetry Club on Saturday, June 30 to a standing-room only, appreciative crowd of long-term punks, rebel poets and supportive friends of all ages.

The party started with a solo electronica-bass slot by The Bass Player from Hand Job, a fascinating musician who swirled loops and samples with live music and added several cutting edge snippets of original poetry throughout the show.

Up next: the delicious Karen Hildebrand, whose poems are like a literary version of Emmylou Harris, poking into the oft-hidden deep feelings underlying even everyday experiences like softball games in the park, or a bus trip across town. Hildebrand hit her stride with a wondrous piece about a woman entering the abandoned apartment of her lover, who has recently--and suddenly--passed away. The eeriness of seeing a half eaten donut, or the Yellow Pages unexplicably opened to the letter "T," is well-realized in this heartfelt work. Other work included several poems from her masterful TRP book One Foot Out The Door.

With an interlude by The Bass Player about what being "Punk" is really all about, Bronx-born poet Peter Carlaftes took the mic, and ripped into an eight-poem set that emphasized his gift for making beauty out of the horror, and doing so with an incredibly comic sense. His fictional piece about being awakened by two cops while asleep in a car parked in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge was uproarious, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the piece as much as Carlaftes himself. All the work he read is available in his FIVE books of poems on Three Rooms Press: The Bar Essentials, Sheer Bardom, The I Can't 'O Cantos, Drive By Brooding and Nightclub Confidential. All five, in their third to fifth printing, are available for a cool $20. Email to order.

Poet laureate* Jackie Sheeler took liberties with her work, by presenting it in a chillingly-effective "electro-poetic" form, in which she combined live reading of her poems with pre-recorded loops, reverb, and other vocal distortions. The effect was amazing--even more so because the work from which it stemmed, poems from her new book to[o] long (Three Rooms Press, $8). Her work is great for juxtaposing the smooth, soft things with harsh street reality. Love under the gun. The imagery in this particular book is amazing in its fresh originality. Consider:

You can have your safe, small and tight and beige, utterly spiceless, the lowest common denominator. Flat shoes, a flatline, whispers. Passing every lie-detector.

Safety is a pinned-on white carnation.

I’ll take feral eyes in the flick of a stricken match, the slick risk of one forbidden mouth, breath enough to
hurricane the flaming wall of dreams and decorate a crazy life with orchids.

Hooked into the electronic whirlwind, this piece was a call to rebellion of the individual soul. Thoughout the room, everyone sat up a little straighter, as though realizing their own secret source of inner strength to live life as they chose to.

Capping off the show was a strong performance by poet Kathi Georges, reading from her new book, Punk Rock Journal (Three Rooms Press, $8). Georges wove her poetry with music by The Bass Player from Hand Job for a fabulous rocking set that drew from her experiences as the editor of The Eye bi-monthly, a newspaper that covered the bountiful punk rock scene in the Los Angeles area in the early 80s. Each piece built from the last, starting with "Nancy on a Carpet Ride," dealing with the culture that breeds conformity; to "A Show In Light Tells Time," which explores Georges' personal point of departure from mainstream blandness to a newfound love for punk rock. The mix of words and music worked extremely well and evoked a deservedly enthusiastic response from crowd.

Click the links above to get to the first of several videos to be released on YouTube. We'll be coming out with a high-end DVD of the show, suitable for holiday gift-giving, within the next few months.

*Jackie Sheeler, Poet Laureate of Riker's Island

Photo: from left: Karen Hildebrand, Jackie Sheeler, Kathi Georges, The Bass Player from Hand Job, Peter Carlaftes. Photo by Allen Martin.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Punk Rock Journal to be Released on Saturday, June 30th, 4-6 pm at Bowery Poetry Club

Three Rooms Press will celebrate the release of TWO new books on Saturday, June 30th, from 4-6 pm at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City!

Poet Kathi Georges reads work from her new book, Punk Rock Journal, a defiant exploration of the anarchic early 80s Los Angeles punk rock scene from an insider's perspective (Georges was editor/publisher of The Eye, a SoCal music zine that featured interviews and reviews with X, The Blasters, Nina Hagen, The Minutemen, Rank and File, Middle Class, Bauhaus, Gang of Four, The Fleshtones, The Red Hot Chile Peppers, Los Lobos, Top Jimmy and The Rhythm Pigs and many more).

In addition, Jackie Sheeler celebrates the release of her first TRP book, to[o] long, a hard-hitting collection of prose poems that delve into the intricacies of urban sex, love, loss and redemption. Both poets will read to the electronic/punk swirlings of The Bass Player from Hand Job, who will also accompany TRP poets Peter Carlaftes (Sheer Bardom, The Bar Essentials and The I Can'to Cantos) and Karen Hildebrand (One Foot Out the Door).

This show will be videotaped in hi-def and shown round the world, so be sure to be there to be a part of it all. Doors open 3:45. Show runs 4-6. Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery (btwn Houston & Bleecker, across street from CBGBs).