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.
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!
That time I did a group reading at Populous Pudding in Willimantic, CT. I don’t remember this event very well. Judging by a letter I got back then from Charlie Krich (who organized poetry events at the space), he invited me to do an earlier reading on November 4, 1988. I only recall one reading I did there when people laughed at a line in one of my poems about “frying bologna.” But I don’t know which show that was.
Populous Pudding was a short lived DIY space that hosted art shows, poetry readings, and punk concerts. The music took place in the back of the space, said to be an old fur vault. It had a serious metal door on it with a wheel crank, like something you’d see in a bank. I saw some of the best shows there: Laughing Hyenas, Crystalized Movements, Fire Party, Fidelity Jones, Woodchipper and Bimbo Shrineheads. Since I was actually in grad school at UConn in neighboring Storrs, I didn’t get over there as much as I would have liked to.
That time I (finally) got a poem published in Baltimore’s Shattered Wig Review, a journal based out of Normal’s Bookstore (at the time), landing in Issue #17. “Folie a Deux” was one of my best pieces, IMHO. The whole issue is over the top with collages, pieces by Blaster Al Ackerman (fiction and art, plus photos of the man himself!), Batworth, Mok Hosfeld, John Bennett, and editor Rupert Wondolowski, as well as “Pretty Beaver” cartoons by my friends Mary Knott and Beppi, among lots of other wild stuff. No date on the rag, but this was definitely circa 1996.
I found this “beautiful certificate” in a folder filled with miscellaneous literary correspondence. World of Poetry ran many contests, and anyone who entered would get one of these mass printed forms. I’m not sure it inspired me to “new poetical heights,” but I did write a subversively sentimental poem for one of their contests.
Back in the 90’s, it seemed rather amusing to send stuff to them. Once I got an Honorary Mention Award, but haven’t found that yet. The company made money by compiling huge books filled with sentimental poetry and selling them to the Golden Poets who “contributed.” I could have ordered the “brass and walnut Golden Poet Plaque” mentioned below, but I never did that either. So I have nothing to “celebrate my greatness.”
Judging by a quick Internet search, World of Poetry no longer exists. That would seem to leave a huge vacancy for an organization to boost poetic egos while fleecing them of their money. I wonder what happened to Edde-Lou Cole and her poetry mission?
The 90’s called. They want their poetry slam poster back!
I found two copies of this double-sided flier in a folder of old literary correspondence. I used to regularly attend the open mic readings at 15 Minutes Club, on 15th Street in DC, run by Art Schuhart (editor of GYST journal). I developed my “surreal rant” style work to present there, reading those pieces as loud and fast as possible.
Poetry slams were a big thing in the 90s, like the grunge rock of poetry. I can’t remember if I ever participated in a slam, though. Schuhart also ran the slam team, and once asked if I wanted to join. But in my opinion, poetry is not a competition. Besides, the people who won always seemed to rap, talk about their sex lives, or tell jokes. I don’t mind any of that stuff, but my own writing never seems to come out that way.
The “reading” side may spark some interest for featuring punk poet Jim Carroll on Sept 7 (exact year unknown). DC poetry geezers may remember Dean Blehert and Miles David Moore, two prominent local writers in what you might call the “Federal School”: bureaucrats turned poets. Reston, VA-based Blehert issued a monthly newsletter promoting his own work (and lots of puns), while Moore hosted a long-running reading at Arlington’s Iota Club.
That time DC-based poetry journal Open 24 Hours published two of my poems: “All that Liberty, All that Independence” and “The History of Western Art.” These appeared in issue #11 back in 1994.
That time my poem “Cheated” appeared in Flipside #83, from March/April 1993. I’m not sure that’s how I originally had the spacing though.
Even cooler: John Brannon of Laughing Hyenas was on the cover, and there was a flexidisc single by Shonen Knife included in the magazine. I never played my copy of the record.
That time my poem “Alicia” appeared in Flipside #81, from Nov/Dec 1992. This piece is a true story based on a coworker when I worked at the American Psychological Association as an abstractor for their academic database. One of the nicest people I met there, Alicia endured the regular stream of attention rather graciously.
For those who never saw it, LA-based Flipside was a massive newsprint fanzine that chronicled underground music and culture. They ran two pages of poetry during the 90’s era when I was subscribing and submitting work to them.
That time Buck Downs published two of my poems in his DC poetry journal Open 24 Hours #10, back in 1994. According to a note I found with copies of the mag, Buck saw me reading at an open mic night at the old 15 Minutes nightclub in DC. Liking what he heard, he requested some pieces, and of those, he took “Best Left to Herself” and “The Odor of Business is Business.”
DC is not an easy town for artists to gain traction in, and Buck has long been an inspiration to me because he never gives up. Although he stopped editing O24H a long time ago, he’s still very active in the DC poetry scene with his poetry postcard mailings, running a poetry reading series, and publishing books. I always run into him in the oddest places around town–random coffee shops, Second Story Books, Bridge Street Books, DC Zine Fair–and often when I’m putting up street art! When I organized the free-improvisation ensemble Croniamantal, he served as the first bard, reading poetry to a backdrop of experimental electronics. But that’s another post!