30 November 2005

a day in the life of stu egg

I wonder if I'm imploding on the Lexiconjury list. Funny thing about listservs, you sometimes watch people implode. Anyway, I'm getting myself into trouble, though not by design. It's a real weird balance in the poetry community — how can you criticize someone's work when they're sincere? But there is a lot of bad sincere poetry. But you want to applaud them for trying, for putting the effort into poetry, and they might get better anyway.

Do we applaud everyone's efforts, just because they've made an effort? Do we sometimes, then, reward and encourage crap? I think George Bowering did everyone a favour my calling "spoken word" horseshit. Not only because I mostly agree with him, but because the debate is important. Just getting people to think about poetry -- that there might be good poetry and bad poetry -- is a worthy cause.

Anyway, here I am on the cusp of starting a new reading series, The Fictitious Reading Series, with Kate Sutherland, and I'm alienating people. That might be bad form. I just don't know. I don't mean, or want, to alienate people.

This afternoon, for example, I hosted a teen open mic at Runnymede Library. I had a great time, and I think the kids there did too. The library's Youth Advisory Group -- a thing that I don't think existed when I was a kid -- did a fantastic job of spreading the word, and the room was full: about 20 or so teens, and a few adults. I read a few of my poems, a couple by Ron Padgett, Joe Brainard, and Lisa Jarnot, told some anecdotes (like my first meeting with Ron Padgett), and introduced the kids who wanted to read.

There was a lot of good stuff, and there was some pretty bad stuff, too, but these are teens, and they are writing poetry, and they are coming out to a poetry reading. I encouraged them all around, with additional good words for the ones who particularly showed talent. I feel like I've come a long way in working with kids: I used to be so nervous about it — being an old guy and all — but I think I'm pretty good at it. Especially if I'm working with a group who are there voluntarily, like a teen reading, or a creative writing class, or a creative writing club.

Tonight was the Mercury Press fall book launch. Lots of great books: I bought four of them. Especially looking forward to reading the new book of art essays by Barbara Caruso, who was not there tonight. But also the Shift & Switch anthology, Gary Barwin and Derek Beaulieu's haiku variations, and the new Richard Truhlar fiction collection.

I was amazed at how many Mercury old-timers showed tonight, people who haven't had Mercury books in years: Douglas Ord, Gerry Shikatani, and Leslie McAllister, who I don't think I've seen almost at all since we worked together at NOW about five years ago. Says she's writing again, and poetry.

It was a nice night, all right, but a bit overwhelming. So many people I would just have liked to hang out with individually for an entire evening. Such is the nature of these big literary events, I guess. Oh, and I must have had about 50 people to apologize to tonight, because I've been so errant with my email lately.

I was feeling something like a writer today, because I had a big breakthrough with my novel last night. I think I can plough through the thing and finish it now: I found a way to distance myself from the largely autobiographical material that makes up so much of the thing. Well, I distanced myself by making it less autobiographical. I guess that's an obvious thing to do, but I'd had such trouble up to now doing it.

I was also feeling productive for other reasons: after a bunch of unique confusions, I got the final elements of the January This Magazine lit section in to Emily, and I sent a Hunkamooga column off to Brian at sub-Terrain.

Gotta stay in this productive mode until Chile.

Over and out.


At November 30, 2005 2:36 pm , Blogger dfb said...

stu – i find the insincere use of praise to be the most irritating problem with going out to reading. cheerleaders who host readings with schoolteacher insight that insist each and every reader is a gifted voice. fuck off. the lack of critical thinking and speaking in public about other poets work is bad news. this has allowed crop of second-rate poets (read here bad constraint/porn/star/wrestling/bowling poets) talk their way into being the next “serious voice”.

At December 01, 2005 11:51 am , Anonymous rox. said...

all true dfb all too true yet sometimes i wonder if we'd recognize the next serious voice if we heard it? just a wonder...


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