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.