Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Years from Three Rooms Press!

2007 has been a busy year at Three Rooms Press. At the beginning of this year we pledged that this year we would Flourish! and Grow! And indeed we did both here, in many ways.

A Powerhouse Year in Poetry Publishing
During 2007, Three Rooms Press published four new poetry books, including Slow Dance and 120 Beats A Minute and Punk Rock Journal by Kathi Georges, to[o] long by Jackie Sheeler, and most recently, Splitting Hairs by The Bass Player from Hand Job. We also reprinted several classics from our catalog, including The I Can't-o Cantos, Nightclub Confidential, Sheer Bardom, Drive by Brooding and The Bar Essentials, all by Peter Carlaftes.
Plans for next year include launching a journal of experimental poetry and fiction, along with a weekly one-page poetry magazine called One Sheet. If you're interested in assisting with either of these, please get in touch immediately!

Readings and Performances Galore

A big highlight of this year was a surge of readings and performances by Three Rooms Press associates. Pictured left, is TRP creative Kathi Georges with former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand, who did an amazing reading at the Son of a Pony series at Cornelia Street Cafe on November 16. Many other performances and readings made the year shine. In addition to the daily miracle, some of the numerous highlights included:
  • Tone Poem, organized by the incredible Susan Scutti, with featured readers including Felice Belle, Peter Carlaftes, Erich Christiansen, Kathi Georges, John S. Hall and Clare Ultimo at Bowery Poetry Club, on May 20th.
  • The Incredible 2-Book Release Party, featuring the launch of Punk Rock Journal and to[o] long with readings by Karen Hildebrand, The Bass Player from Hand Job, Gary Glazner, Peter Carlaftes, Jackie Sheeler and Kathi Georges at Bowery Poetry Club, July 30th
  • Dueling Karaoke, featuring the Dynamic Duellette Peter Carlaftes and Kathi Georges, at Bowery Poetry Club, August 25th
  • Lenny Bruce: Dead and Well, performed by Peter Carlaftes at Cornelia Street Cafe, November 7th
  • Son of A Pony at Cornelia Street Cafe, now regularly including hosting by Kathi Georges with featured readers including Peter Carlaftes, Karen Hildebrand, Gary Glazner, Richard Loranger and Mark Strand
  • Not Beautiful Enough: Women on Violence, a spine-tingling poetic ensemble play written and performed by Magdalena Alagna, Kathi Georges, Jackie Sheeler, Phyllis Talley, performed at The Living Theater, November 26th.

In between publishing and performing, we also found time to sneak off to Kythera and Paris, and work on new material for next year! This year, we're starting off with an intensive workshop in Cape May, New Jersey. But first: January 4th is the Bukowski Tribute at Cornelia Street with videos, book giveaways and a chance to share your favorite Bukowski poetry.

So Happy New Year and look forward to 2008!

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

The Bass Player from Hand Job is the punk poet incarnation of a well-known New York musical figure. He lives in the shadows observing and watching, storing and processing, crunching numbers and making calculations. Grinding it all out into a poetry so unique, you'll rework your definition of the genre. At this special reading on Pearl Harbor Day, TBFHJ will be featuring material from his new book, Splitting Hairs (Three Rooms Press).

Joining him at C-Street will be hostess Kathi Georges, whose unbridled enthusiasm for the exciting world of live poetry has no boundaries and no equal!

What: Son of Pony Poetry Reading at Cornelia Street, featuring poet The Bass Player from Hand Job. PLUS NYCs greatest open reading series, which warmly welcomes YOU (limited space, sign up early!)

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

Cost: $7 (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.)

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. Plus you never know who will show up. I had a dream that David Byrne read there. Was this a premonition???

Do they have food?
Do they ever! The food at Cornelia Street is fantastic. Check out the menu in advance if you like!

December 7: On this day in history
0043 -BC- Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman writer, gets his head & right hand chopped off by Mark Antony's soldiers
0185 Emperor Lo-Yang, China sees supernova
1917 US becomes 13th country to declare war on Austria during World War I
1941 Japanese attack Pearl Harbor (a date that will live in infamy)
1994 Radio personality Howard Stern talks a man out of attempting suicide
2007 Bass Player from Hand Job reads at Cornelia Street Cafe

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!