It was an onerous night just as today was born a cold morning.
I’m wearing a scarf indoors (wrapped around my neck like a bow tie), and as some of you know I was to do a short reading on Wednesday night at a bar in my Greenwich Village… as much as I’d honestly like to hence inspire you with a tale of my easily gained success, a receptive and awed audience – it did not go over well.
The morning of the reading I looked over my material and chose the pieces that were to be recited. I was not hungover, thus I was capable of logically considering the manner in which the pieces would rise and morph into one another seamlessly; each continued where the former left off. The strong, brewed coffee helped as it was meant to do, as it usually does.
The decision was made to first read “Youth”: a piece that is light and usually goes over well with people that remember a time when they were radical juveniles skipping school to smoke pot and drink cheap beer with other wayward adolescents on the sand of Coney Island, or Brighton, or Manhattan beach discovering sex and small rebellion; people that remember that brief feeling of freedom before it was stifled by the coming responsibilities of adulthood.
Next was “Sunflowers”. A piece that is one of my sentimental favorites. Easily accessible and sweet, with a couple of great lines that sound pleasing when orally recited – even by someone as mushmouthed as I sometimes become once begin my ritualistic inebriation prior to performing.
The closing piece I chose was one that I do frequently in short readings because of its dark, anthemic presence: full of mockery, consideration, criticism and my sincere love for all the various aspects NYC that have been hidden under the couch cushions like smut. “I want the night sky” was going to be climax, the empty peak – meaningless, except for the brilliant view.
But, also – before I was going to get off the stage – I wanted to have a strong conclusion to my recitation; a sordid, but strong epilogue to my short reading. I came up with this during the afternoon of pre-reading cocktails with friends:
“So before I go, I’d like to say something about us poets, artists, creators, beautiful perverts and the aficionados of acute perception:
We are spilled wine and bounced checks
We are rekindled cigarette clips and second hand books
We are mangled smiles and cardboard homes
We are warm winters and savage summers
We are expired food sold at a discount
We are the rusted water from the tap
We are the humiliation of empty pockets
We are the loosey spot down the block
We are the fear of insurrection
We are the suffering undefeated and unimprovable
So, listen to us a little longer… while we’re still around”
I cockily thought to myself: that’s some strong shit (no need for anything to be cut with baby aspirin). I thought that I was ready.
… and then I accidentally, inadvertently crashed the GLBT night of the particular series of poetry readings within which I was to be participating. Surely an unforeseen turn of events, to be sure – but you have to play with the cards you’re dealt (if I may be allowed to use this particular cliché as an avid poker player). So thus, completely unaware of the type of reception that I would get, I watched the other performers before me: a middle aged comic, also clueless about the various underlying contexts of the reading, was the first to perform and was the first to be booed off the stage after a couple of jokes which were perceived as remotely politically incorrect. The following readers were alright, with two standout readings by young female poetesses about their individual adorations for some women close to their hearts.
I read seventh. Got cut off after the first two pieces by the hasty promoters who realized that I wasn’t exactly blending in with the chosen themes of the night. No caterwauling or boos to send me from the dais, just applause – but still I left with a nagging hurt in my chest, because though I didn’t recite any poetry about my first lesbian experience in summer camp or about the prejudices of the outside world; I did recite words which by their own nature makes them important. That’s what it’s supposed to be all about, boys and girls. Not about any central meaning that you’re trying to impart, not about your personal agenda or even your underlying intentions for the world – it’s supposed to be about celebrating the words which make all that come alive, even the slights of maxims.
I do want to thank anyone that enjoyed my work at the reading. Sorry if I didn’t stay around for another drink. This was a disappointing end to a long week for me.
Now that I am back to editing and some boozeless sleep, I do want to share something in the manner of post-script.
I had to recharge my batteries the next day, and realized that tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms should be an annual ceremony because it truly gives the mind a bit of necessary spring cleaning. Once a year or so you deserve to meet with your friends, find a comfortable spot around the living room, cover yourself in warm blankets and watch Yellow Submarine: you can sing along to all those songs that remind you of your childhood and watch an animated film where the Beatles basically go around being dicks to everyone. You’ll be giggling throughout while having seemingly revolutionary thoughts intermittently on the cultural merits of contemporary society. It is an invigorating experience.
I’ll be doing a lot more readings in the city, so please check out further updates in the Upcoming Events section. They will likely turn out much better. But also, if you yourself are getting back into reciting your work: be steadfast against difficulties presented – there will always be someone like me in the audience who will care about the words and will cheer you on like a drunken father at your little league game.
More work will be coming from your dear old Jack soon as well.