Nothing kills a party mood like a poetry reading. That’s the main takeaway lesson for me after agreeing to read some of my work as part of a loft party in DC in 1993. The organizer (and loft owner) named Judy saw my featured reading at 15 Minutes Club on August 9 and asked me to come by her event a few days later on August 13, which she was calling Plaid.
The place was packed with revelers enjoying the rarity of an actual loft party in DC. A band calling itself Blue Teal Tory was cranking away at the tunes. I remember my friend Alberto Gaitan was playing keyboards, and he set me up with the microphone. Somebody (maybe me?) yelled over the crowd, and the voices slowly died down. At that point, the poetry went over a cliff like a bus full of concrete.
As soon as I shut up, the nattering resumed full force. Some guy buttonholed me to talk about Ezra Pound, convinced I was influenced by him. Or something. I actually know very little about Pound, and care even less. He’s not an influence on any of my work. But being ignored and misinterpreted are some of the penalties of taking one’s creative efforts into the public sphere.
Today, Zombie Logic Review published three of my poems: “America’s Porn Star Love,” “Life on the River, Ripened on the Vine,” and “Ouija at the Feast.” You can read them here.
The first piece has something to do with pornography. The second features Mowgli and Baloo the bear escaping civilization. The last is yet another poem featuring Ouija Board as an actual character.
That time I had my fifteen minutes of fame as a featured reader at the 15 Minutes nightclub’s poetry night on August 6, 1993. Looks like Husain Naqvi was also on the bill, and then an open mike, all for $3. This event is totally lost in time. I don’t even remember if I got any of the door money; it most likely went to support the DC Slam Team.
You can see by the poster that even in August, there was a weekly reading schedule. Even Reston, VA punmaster Dean Blehert had a shot!
Just learned that online literary journal Synchronized Chaos published one of my poems in the July issue, released on the first of the month. This issue’s theme is “Ways of Being Human,” exploring how to be a person in our world in three categories: “Inspiration and Motivation,” “Small Individuals, Big World–or Vice Versa?” and “Storytelling and light humor.” Lots of familiar names from the international outlaw poetry scene here, like J.J. Campbell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, J. D. DeHart, and Gary Glauber, so lots of good stuff to read here.
My poem “my hand is big (supersized me)” was included in the second category, with these comments from the editor: “In a more humorous vein, Jeff Bagato gives us a character who’s quite large. His body, his belongings, his self-concept – everything about him is defiantly big. This serves as a commentary on some cultures’ relentless drive to expand and grow, on the idea that ‘bigger is better.’”
I should note that this piece was actually written in 2009, so it strikes me as a bit prophetic considering the America we live in now. You can read the whole poem here.
Online literary journal Unlikely Stories Mark V has hit its 20th anniversary this year, and it’s celebrating with a massive issue. Tons of content, from visuals to videos, stories, poems and hybrid works, by a huge range of authors from the contemporary scene. I’m pleased to be a part of this one, with three poems: “Goosepimples of Death,” “The Shooting Never Stops,” and “One Shot for the Record.” You can read them here.
Yesterday, my poem “Beneath Collapse” appeared in online literary journal Soft Cartel. Subtitled “earthquake scenes 1999,” this ten-part piece came out of preparatory work for the Doom Pussy stories, where earthquakes are used as a weapon. I was reading newspaper reports of earthquakes and began cutting and slicing them, drawing out the most vivid and intense images to highlight the violent destruction and human drama. You can read the full poem here.
An online journal of experimental poetics, Futures Trading released its new issue today. Volume 6.1, this is a larger issue than usual because the journal has gone from a quarterly to biannual publishing schedule. Lots of writers from the international “scene” represented, as you can see in the masthead image above.
I’m pleased that three of my poems appear in this issue as well: “A Binary Run,” “Some Other Aztalan,” and “Ancient Americas.” All three come from my “Civilization’s Lost” series using lost cities and civilizations to examine the fragility of languages, cultures and nations in the wake of the current US regime. You can read those pieces and the whole issue here.
The New Post-literate is an online literary blog dedicated to the exploration of asemic writing–that is, writing that looks like writing, but that cannot be deciphered by the reader. Today, the journal published seven still images from my video Silenced Scribes that each appear to be a letter from an unknown alphabet. You can check out the portfolio here.
An online journal for experimental word stuffs, Brave New Word released Issue 10, part 2 today. This one consists of previous contributors to the magazine, including John M. Bennet, Hiromi Suzuki, Jeff Hansen, Peter Ganick, Neal Retke and Ferderico Federici. Lots of vispo and truly out poetry. It also includes one of my Gonch poems: “Gonallach Nang Chaal.” You can read it here.
Submitting poems to the Word of Poetry contests in the late 80s amused me, so I did it several times. Here’s the Award of Merit Certificate I received on Nov 21, 1987–when my poem “The Spoon Room” won Honorable Mention in the New American Poetry Contest. This rank was shared with hundreds of other poets. But I did receive a nice certificate, suitable for framing.
The company also asked to publish the poem in their New American Poetry Anthology. Judging by the photocopy of the form I kept, I returned the signed form authorizing them to use it. Years ago, I found one of those anthologies in a thrift store. It contained thousands of poems crammed onto hundreds of 8.5 x 11 pages, in no particular order. I could never locate any of my poems in the book.
Here’s “The Spoon Room” text on the authorization form:
World of Poetry’s business model seemed to be rewarding every single poet who submitted work with a personalized certificate or honorable mention, and then selling them encyclopedic anthologies. As a contributor, I was entitled to a discount on the $69.95 price–reducing the cost to $39.95. Poets could pay extra for including a dedication, photograph, or illustration. I didn’t have that kind of money at the time, so I never bought the book. But somewhere, World of Poetry anthologies must be floating around with my work in them.