Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Night of Contemporary American Poetry

Last night Teresa and I went to a book party hosted by Gerald Stern and Ann Marie Macari for Ross Gay. Ross just had a new book published by our mutual publisher, Cavankerry Press. The book party was at Poet's House on Spring Street in Soho in Manhattan.
It was a beautiful Fall night and before the reading we had dinner at my friend Linda's restaurant Barmarche. It's at 12 Spring Street and it's a great place to eat and we very much enjoyed the meal and Linda's hospitality. All this niceness is to set you up for the event and my reaction to the event.
First, there were a number of people there. This made me feel bad because I had had two book parties and not so many people came. Second, there were famous people there. Third, when we walked in Ross' friend Stephanie asked us to sign a release because a filmmaker, Norbert, was there filming the event as part of a piece on "Contemporary American Poetry". The evil God Envy was everywhere in the room and in my heart. I mean, I only saw two or three "Contemporary American Poets" (and I know a bunch of them) at this gig and I'm a contemporary American poet or at least a man writing poetry in the United States of America right now, yet I really didn't know anybody there, except Teresa, Ross, Ann Waldman, Gerald Stern, Ann Marie Macari, Jim Haba, & Teresa told me Joan Larkin was there, who I don't know. Oh yeah, I think Merwin was there. Or at least some old guy looked like him.
But in my head I don't feel that this is what "Contemporary American Poetry" represents. So, since nobody pays attention to me I really don't think this is what it represents. I mean, how could you do a film about poetry and not include the bard of Palisade Avenue? My heart had shrivelled to a black stone by now and Satan was knocking on the door with a pen dripping blood and a contract.
What the fuck is wrong with us that we act this way? Ross writes strong solid work that will only become more powerful as he gets older. Gerry Stern is a rock who stood up for him and helped him with his work as did Ann Marie. Gerry is a poet I admire more than almost any writer of verse in America. His voice helped shape mine. His displeasure with the bullshit of poetry always makes me happy. The wine was free!!!! There was food!!!! But I'm all resentful and peeved just like I was at my brother's third birthday party.
At MY book party at the Bowery Poetry Club my friend Danny Shot got up and read and spoke an introduction to me and my work. It was heartfelt, spontaneous, and warm. It made me want to cry. Danny is a contemporary american poet. In the room was my publisher, Joan Handler Cusack, another contemporary american poet. And Teresa Carson and Eliot Katz and Nancy Mercado, all contemporary american poets. There was Mungo who was in town to record "authentic NY voices" and he was there because he thought the Bowery Poetry Club was where you go to hear authentic voices and poems.
I think the truth is that that night and the afternoon in Hoboken were two of the warmest evenings in my life. I think Ross' night, last night, with his family and friends about him, was probably one of the warmest evening of his life. I think each of us is proud of his work and each wishes the other well.
What a piece of work is man. I can say this about the party without sounding spiteful. The wine sucked. But it was free which is like a little miracle. Any poetry event with free wine is an event of consequence. Prosit!
In closing, I'm off today to the Mutter Museum to see the "Oddities of American Medicine". Pickled and stuffed and plastered relics from another time. Old musty artifacts from another world. It's supposed to be a little scary and a little thrill inducing. You might notice I may be talking about "Contemporary American Poetry"
Thank you Ross, for a wonderful night and a truly great book.

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