08 April 2007

Mac & cheese out of the wall

It occurs to me that I should spend some time doing some writing while I'm here in NYC. There's this constant impulse to be out, walking somewhere, poking into some bookstore or gallery. But I do love my little hotel room and should produce some poems therein.

Saturday's highlight was the Kenward Elmslie reading at the Bowery Poetry Club. He sat on the stage in front of a music stand and a small table, while paintings, collages and photographs were projected on a screen behind him. Some of the visuals were by Joe Brainard, and in fact the images ended with a great picture of Brainard, with really long hair and a very dapper suit.

Elmslie's reading was fast-moving, even though he reads slowly and articulates with care, in that deep and magnificent voice of his. His stuff is playfulness incarnate: incredibly clever, self-mocking, and full of delight in the weird words of our language. It's been a slow process getting into his poetry over the past couple of decades: there are some pieces I really like and some that are just too clever. But I feel like I'm finding my way in. There is no one else who writes like him. For me, the high points of the reading were the two songs he sang: the lyrics have some sentiment, which I don't find as often in the poems. And his tunes are so moving and heart-warming, his voice so goddamn rich, even now, at 76 or 77.

Opening for Elmslie in the packed room was a poet I'd never heard of: CAConrad. A very big young man with very long hair and sparkly-painted fingernails, he read some lovely stuff, alternatingly gentle and forceful in his delivery. After the reading, I bought his book, Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), and had him sign it. He spent an awful long time, pen in hand, book open to the title page. I just now looked at what he wrote: "Stuart — thanks! CAConrad" ... Had a look, too, at the Library of Congress CIP subject entries: "1. Marginality, Social -- Poetry. 2. Working class -- Poetry. 3. Gays -- Poetry." The book ranges from sweet sentimental little pieces to great, gonzo explosions.

Of Elmslie's, I picked up a hardcover copy of the old Z Press book Moving Right Along and a huge book Z Press book called 26 Bars, in collaboration with Donna Dennis. When I approached him for signatures, he seemed pretty tired after his masterful reading. Conversation was pretty much out. He asked me what the date was. I told him I thought it was the 7th, but I wasn't sure. In one book he wrote, "THE 7th," and in the other, "around the 7th." No month or year, though.

Had a brief but nice visit earlier in the afternoon with Kim Bernstein, who I met a couple years back in the Padgett workshop I took at Poets House. Had wanted some of her excellent poetry for Syd & Shirley, my poetry mag, but that didn't pan out, and neither has a second issue of my mag. The other thing that dissipated when I stalled with my mag was an interview with Elaine Equi. Ah well.

At St. Mark's later on, because I just don't have enough books, I picked up something that had a promising review in the Poetry Project Newsletter: Amanda Nadelberg's Isa the Truck Named Isadore, plus a gift for Dana, since I feel so guilty being in NYC while she's toiling away in Toronto. And at Kim's Video, I found a really nice two-DVD set called Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinem of the 1920s and 30s, with stuff by Duchamp, Ray, Eisenstein, Welles, and others. Gonna dip into that later tonight.

Oh yeah, I also "ate out of the wall," as they say in the Netherlands, where such an activity has been going on for decades. It's new here, though: a small place called BAM or something like that has opened up on the East Side: it's a sort of alcove with these vertical columns of glass-door-covered little chambers along the wall: you put in a buck or two and take out some godawful food. I had a macaroni-and-cheese croquet. In Holland they're called "krokets." It was pretty yummy. It didn't taste at all of wall.

Over and out.


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