Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Little More Middle-Aged

37 today—my last birthday before the commencement of fatherhood. Yip.

The Guild Complex reading this past Saturday was a very satisfying experience. Chicago continues to impress as a poetry center: the audience was large, diverse, and appreciative—there are genuine poetry fans here. I kicked off with "The Moth Poem" from Selah and then some poems from my recently revised and resuscitated manuscript of The Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Krista Franklin brought a wiry sort of charisma to her performance—my favorite piece was a work of 80s nostalgia, with homage paid to the deathless Def Leppard. Philip Jenks turned his self-admitted nervousness into a work of art, reading wryly funny and wryly serious poems (get a taste here. Like me, Philip is a recent addition to the Chicago scene and I'm grateful to Kristy Odelius for putting us on the same bill.

After a break, Robyn Schiff read—I'd heard her recently at Danny's but for some reason I found this reading more deeply engaging. She brings a lot of narrative to what I suspect are very long-lined poems; it's a strategy that I used to find irritating and superfluous given my mania for the pure lyric, but these days I find I'm much more receptive to it—it's a very inclusive style. More and more I'm drawn to poet's prose—not that Robyn's poems are prose, but rather that they seem to point toward a kind of cyclopedic inclusiveness of thought and subject and subjective response (I felt this when listening to Joyelle McSweeney read from her novel last week—which by the by I misidentified: it's called Nylund, the Sarcographer; her other novel, Flet, hasn't been released yet). The evening finished up with a poem-play presented by Murakami Sound Machine, an assemblage of Kristy's students who proceeded to hilariously conflate the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers with the lonely vagaries of poetry-making. You kind of had to be there.

There's lots more I'd like to reflect on here—Bolano, the film and book of Into the Wild that I first saw, then read this weekend, when I should have been doing other things; and Emerson's essays, which I'm currently teaching. But there's no time.

If you've made it this far down then perhaps you'll make it a little further—to Cleveland's John Carroll University, where my old Montana comrade Sarah Gridley and I are scheduled to read alongside Michael Dumanis and Lev Rubinstein on the evening of Wednesday, October 10. The whole thing was organized by Philip Metres (great last name for a poet, no?) whom I'm looking forward to meeting—any man who'd title a blog post about Emily Dickinson, "The Belle of Amherst Will Kick Your Ass" is okay in my book.

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