I wish every poet, every Queer, every American, every human being alive in this most dangerous of times, could read this.
and please.. share this
written after a reading, August 2010, in Elfreth’s Alle
What is the concern for poetic pedigree but the archaic desire to search out the one train among all those tangled tracks that will take one’s poems into the future, whether in the echoey Grand Central Stations of sainted orthodoxy or the sidings and rickety platforms of the avant? A last gasp of the ancient infatuation with immortality. What could be less fitting for what may be the last few generations of human life on earth? What future? As for the past, if we are at the end of it all, what is there to celebrate in a lineage that’s led us lemming like to the edge of the precipice?
What I love about the interlocking circles of Philadelphia poets is their radical contemporaneity, maybe the only thing they… we… hold in common, a fierce passion for the present that I’ve come to share. A passion that finds no contradiction in flaunting an eclectic diversity of styles, in drawing freely from whatever traditions and trends succeed in exciting new work, whatever has the street smarts to survive, to stay awake, eyes wide open–and all the while, stubbornly refusing to turn off the dreams.
How like in their disregard for imagined futures the poems we read at Elfreth’s Alley–those things selected for the ‘time capsule,’ bits and scraps, memoranda and found things–covered with a layer of dirt unlikely to survive the first rain, sealed in a cookie tin a single winter will likely be enough to turn to rust. It didn’t matter. What a perfect setting for that reading, for the magic ceremony of the opening and closing moments–this colonial street, the facsimile Declaration of Independence. Words released into the summer heat. What endures, I heard—is not a fetish of the past or fancied future, but now–and not an eternal unchanging present, but its constant unfolding into this time, this place, this city of poets and the possibilities of love we can create, here and now.
I was going to a poetry thing outside the Masonic Temple but woke up all snuffly and its way hard to blow one’s nose when its this cold and I didn’t want people to see a poet with icicles dangling from their nostrils so I decided to stay home and drink hot chocolate but if you see poets outside the Masonic Temple stop and listen to them and take their handouts which will be poems and not invitations to the next demonstration though I was going to put invitations like that on the back of my poem-handouts because this is a fucked up country in a fucked up world and we have to keep coming out to the streets and shouting and chanting and making people so angry they will be almost as angry as we are and will wake up and join us and change this world which is what poetry is all about waking people up and imagining a better world so if you see poets outside the Masonic Temple north of City Hall here in cold cold cold Philadelphia stop and listen and take their handouts and then invite them someplace warm and non-corporate and buy them hot chocolate because they are very brave and dedicated poets and I love them very much and am sorry that I woke up snuffly — I wish I could be with them.
I went to a reading at the Painted Bride on Thursday. A time for remembering. For reflection. I shared a reading at the Bride in — 1966? –with the late Henry Braun. That was when the Bride was on South Street–Gerry Givnish had recently opened a gallery in what had been bridal store–hence, the name.
I was 25–a very young 25. I don’t know how I got that reading spot–it was in this bare store front space, fold up chairs. Paintings on the wall. Don’t remember if it was before or after–but I brought some of my paintings–an open invitation for artists they thought might fit their vision. I didn’t. My paintings didn’t (large oils of faces–filled the canvas–somewhat expressionist mode). I think I looked way too straight and middle class to fit in, and my paintings too over the top for their more “cool” ironic aesthetic…Philly Warhol school.
Before the reading Thursday, I took in the paintings in the gallery. Remembered. How nice, I thought–that this had come from that. A poetry reading in a gallery, surrounded by art.
Such a beautiful reading –with CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock. Not only are they both great poets, but they have exemplified with their generosity and support of poets in Philly and beyond, something as important as the poetry itself. An idea of poetry that has rejected competition, exclusion, the musical chairs of who will survive, who rise to the top–that whole fucking capitalist Darwinian struggle, refereed by literary gatekeepers. They stand for another world, another way of living and loving, the world that we dream might be. This is the poetry of the extraordinary family that I’ve come to be a part of, and I feel so fucking lucky to have lived long enough to experience and share.
I felt this deep sense of affirmation as they read–that we are committed– together– in our poems and our lives, to making a better world, to supporting one another, to a creative struggle of imagination and compassion against indifference, cruelty and submission to the lordship of money and power.
I wanted to voice my appreciation here, and my amazement, at finding myself at such a time and place, in being able to be part of this unfolding creative family.
Thank you CA Conrad, Frank Sherlock… and all the wonderful Philly poets who have informed, and transformed my life. I love you… all of you.