OK, so early Sunday morning woke up, grabbed my bag, and made it a little early to Penn Station, early enough to run into Sean Cole and his musical instrument en route to Boston: how lovely, to run into Sean Cole early on a Sunday morning in NYC! Then Rob showed up in a pink and purple tie and black lo-top converses and we got on the train, full of discoursing and gossips and opinions, and then we wrote a poem for Rod Smith, whose birthday it was. Both Rob and I decided to write in the voice of Rod, and Rob had the cool idea of snagging some lines from Ode to a Grecian Urn, which I was able to summon up with a few caresses of my iPhone. The poem’s great, I’ve asked Rob for his perm to post it here. In the meantime:
Upon arrival Buck Downs and Maureen Thorson met us and whisked us off to an Indian buffet where we amusedly watched the Keep Fucking That Chicken video, again, courtesy of my iPhone.
I was devoured by several vicious mosquitoes with more energy than hungry I even brought to my pakoras, which were not half bad, and now my calves are polka-dotted, oh dear. From the restaurant we jammed over to the DC Arts Center, one of my favorite places to read. In attendance so many wonderful poets: Cathy Eisenhower, Phyllis Rosenzweig, Lynne Dreyer, P. Inman, Tina Darragh, Chris Nealon, Mel Nichols, Rod Smith, M. Magnus and daughter Hero, Kareem Estefan and Isabel, and several others…
Buck gave Rob a beautiful introduction trumpeting Rob’s joyful connoisseurship, mentioning a Portugese restaurant Rob had taken him to many years before on a trip to NYC. Rob read three pieces: an incisive and also very funny piece on failure that called up all of the pitfalls and problematics of conceptual work; his legendary “This Window Makes Me Feel”; and his Ben Kessler project, inspired by Vito Acconci’s stalker piece, in which he follows and corresponds with several Ben Kesslers (as well as friends of the Bens) online. He was enthusiastically applauded after each piece.
I was up next, cracking jokes about how it was so nice to be there, coming from a big city (hee hee), and putting “y’all” on the ends of sentences just like them, and saying I fancy myself a bit of a chameleon. I read several poems from my new Loquela as vigorously as I could, starting with the weird shorter poems, moving into the flarfy “Apex of the O” piece, then finishing with more extended passionate rushes. It was fun and kind of exhausting. I swigged water, saying it’s so tiring to be a romantic poet, all you proceduralists have it easy. That was kind of a joke.
We finished the evening’s entertainment by reading our poem to Rod off of Rob’s laptop. We winged the reading like total pros, not just alternating but sometimes echoing. sometimes doubling or emphasizing. This made me terrifically happy, and I reckon Rod was happy, too.
Then off to The Reef a few doors down where Hero drew me a wonderful portrait of me from the back (a bunch of hair). She was SO cool: her ambition, she said, since the age of two, has been to go to Mars. I’m guessing she’s maybe ten now? Eleven? I had lovely conversations with Maureen and Tina and Cathy and Lynne and many others.
Mel whisked us to our hotel, and dig this: THERE WAS A FOUR-PERSON HOT TUB IN MY ROOM! You KNOW I took advantage of it, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t feel like Hugh Hefner, aww yeah. Instantly thought to remodel my apartment with a FOUR-PERSON HOT TUB in my living room.
I watched the end of Kong on TV, admiring Naomi Watts, and spent a slumbery night free of galloping cats, freeway noise, spousal snores etc. Woke up to eat raisin bread and rubbery hard-boiled eggs at the breakfast buffet, then Rob and I rode the train to the Washington Mall. We looked at Phillip Guston pictures at the National Gallery, then met Buck at the Holocaust Museum. I had never been there. I thought the exhibits were amazing, but we had to rush through as time was getting short, and it was very strange indeed to rush through the Holocaust. As we left, the museum guard cheerily called out, “Come back again!” What was up with that?
So, back to hotel and then onto George Mason University for our second gig: “Poetry Goes to the Movies.” Saw Cathy Cook’s lovely film, Immortal Cupboard: In Search of Lorine Niedecker. I was to perform my Navrang benshi… minutes before I went on, I looked at my script which I had hurriedly printed out and (arrgh) the lines were running into each other in several cases… different version of Word on my work computer? Anyway… I had to blur and fudge and make do a little, but the audience seemed pleased anyway: I had to release all perfectionism… I showed my Corndog Guy movie and oh, there was much laughter. Read three flarfy poems including “I WANT TO BE INFANTILIZED BY A BUNCH OF GOONS.”
Then Rob did a multifaceted PowerPoint presentation with sections from his “War, the Musical,” (his collaboration with Dirk Rountree, who also provided the images, eerie collages that made clever use of Macintosh icons as design elements). Standout themes from his presentation: Colin Powell, E.T., James Brown Duck (and a whole litany of other ducks), Sbarro. A marvelously orchestral piece.
The audience seemed stunned afterwards. There were no questions for our joint Q and A. Did they hate us? Or were they just too confused? Anyway we had to run to get our train back to New York. Wheeling our bags so fast we almost flew: our driver was waiting: later I told Rob, that was like being the Beatles escaping from Shea Stadium! A cheeseburger on the train home, and a serious nap. Big adventure! Today so zonked I could hardly function, or only just barely enough for this writeup.
In the interests of sleep, then, I’m signing off… with more reports to come of the Advancing Feminist Poetics conference this Thursday and Friday. Beware the Advancing Feminists!